EcoFarm Conference Educates Both Seasoned and Beginning Farmers

Reader Contribution by The Mother Earth News Editors
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The agricultural community is facing a huge shift: seven out of ten farms in the United States are set to change hands by the year 2030 and forty-percent of farmers are age 55 or older. The Ecological Farming Association (EFA) is preparing for this transition by educating and inspiring beginning farmers and ranchers at the 33rd Annual EcoFarm Conference, Feed the World You Want to Live In, at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, January 23 through 26, 2013. As the oldest and largest ecological agricultural gathering in the West, the EcoFarm Conference offers more than sixty workshops featuring an array of educational sessions for beginning and seasoned farmers, ranchers, distributors, retailers, activists, consumers, students, and educators. Through a beginning farmer workshop track, office hours with nonprofit experts, and endless networking opportunities, beginning farmers will be provided the opportunity to learn, participate, and join the large organic and sustainable farming community at the EcoFarm Conference.

The Ecological Farming Association (EFA), along with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), the Community Alliance for Family Farmers (CAFF), and the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), received a $665,000 grant from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) for a project titled “Building a Foundation for New Farmers: Training, Resources, and Networks.” Part of the grant provides for eight fellowships for beginning, central coast farmers. The fellowships feature complimentary registration, lodging, and meals for all four days of the EcoFarm Conference, plus providing an ongoing support network to help their farms and businesses thrive.

The EcoFarm Conference- supported in part by Clif Bar & Company, Full Belly Farm, Nutiva, Driscoll’s, and Veritable Vegetable – will feature pre-conference farm tours and a butchery skills seminar and workshops on production, marketing, business, ecological conservation, finance techniques, and much more. Some of the workshops in the Beginning Farmer workshop track include business planning, organic marketing, introduction to biodynamic agriculture, finding your niche market, starting your CSA, and wise words from well-seasoned farmers. EcoFarm offers single and multi-day passes with lodging and meal options featuring products from the EcoFarm community’s own food producers.

New this year, EcoFarm will be offering a chance to speak one-on-one with nonprofit experts during office hours. Representatives from The Xerces Society will meet with farmers to talk about pollinator and beneficial insect habitat restoration. California FarmLink staff will discuss farm financing or accessing land. Community Alliance for Family Farmers will be there to discuss Food Safety issues. Jim Leap, the farmer mentor funded through the USDA BFRDP, will be providing consultations regarding a range of topics related to small-scale organic vegetable production.

Bringing over 1,500 participants to Asilomar, the EcoFarm Conference will host artisanal food tastings, live entertainment, an Exhibitor Marketplace showcasing over fifty organic and ecologically-based businesses and organizations, farmer mixers, an awards ceremony, and farmer roundtable discussions.

The Ecological Farming Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, nurtures healthy and just farms, food systems, communities and environment by bringing people together for education, alliance building, and celebration. Over the past 32 years, the EcoFarm Conference and EFA’s education programs have reached more than 76,000 participants, supporting grassroots leadership and regional solutions to increase and promote healthy,sustainable farms and food systems.