Virginia Association for Biological Farming Conference 2014 – Day 1

Today was the first day of the VABF Conference. Toni (my boss) and Betsy (my teacher) convinced me that it would be worth my time, since I’m interested in starting my own farm.

The first session was a little disappointing, to be perfectly honest. It was a discussion about what a food hub can offer farmers. I guess I’m just not at the point that I want to consider selling product to a food hub and that was why I had difficulty feeling like it’d be worthwhile. I don’t really know. There were a lot of statistics and talk about what food hubs and huge co-ops/CSAs were doing, but it didn’t really feel applicable to me, I guess.

The second session was a plenary session (everyone attended the same thing). Ray Archuleta from the NRCS was talking about soil health and how, instead of applying all kinds of manufactured things to improve the soil, we should go back to doing things the way they’ve always been done (keep the soil covered; don’t disturb the soil, but let cover crops and decomposition improve the soil; etc). It was an interesting talk, but it had two very different feels to it. At the beginning, it felt overly scientific and there were parts that I feel like a degree in soils would be really helpful in understanding everything. On the other hand, it felt overly simplistic and hand-wavy: “If you do this, magic will happen.” I’m not really sure what my conclusion on that talk is, but it looks like you can get to all kinds of information from him, so I may go back to try to listen or read again.

The third session was really interesting though. Renard Turner from Vanguard Ranch was talking about raising meat goats. He was mostly talking from personal, practical experience about raising goats for meat. While I felt like there could have been more specifics, he had energy (which I needed at 3:30 in the afternoon after not having had much to eat all day) and accessible information. I really enjoyed the presentation and feel like I learned some things I’d be interested to try and some things that, while I won’t try them, are making my brain think.

After the third session, we finally had time for a break. We were fortunate enough to have enough points for me to get a room at the hotel that is hosting the conference. It was amazingly nice to get to the room and just chill. I was completely overwhelmed. The break gave me a chance to recover. I was able to enjoy dinner and go to the final presentation of the night a little less exhausted than I was in the early afternoon.

The last presentation was just weird. There were things that I liked about it – a system that works together to support itself. Overall, though, I felt like went off the deep end and stayed there. But people seemed to like it, so maybe I was just too tired to appreciate it or something. I don’t know.

After dinner, we had drinks (I’m boring and had milk) and I hung out with Toni and one of her friends until they left. I have to say, I’m really appreciating that I didn’t have to go more than five flights up the stairs tonight. I’m wiped out.


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