By Melody Meyer
The end of January heralds the annual EcoFarm conference at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, CA It’s an earthy venue attended by deep-rooted farmers, earnest advocates and practical teachers- gathering all for the love of organic and sustainable agriculture.
The Ecological Farming Association or “EcoFarm” is a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to nurture safe, healthy, just, and ecologically sustainable farms, food systems, and communities.
For the past 38 years, the event has brought together various segments of organic growing and production for three days of education and networking. The depth and scope of content that’s served up is truly amazing. Where else can you learn about carbon sequestration, nematode management, compost regulations, food sovereignty and unusual poultry practices all in one place?
This year the 2000 attendees were served a menu of 12 tracks filled with workshops covering everything from soils & water, pests and beneficial plants , habitat and permaculture to production tools, regulations and certification, policy, business and labor, food justice, livestock, seeds, health and marketing.
From the Farm Bill to Women in Agriculture or the benefits of daily drip irrigation – there was something to satisfy everyone’s agrarian hunger.
Audries Blake, the Assistant Director at CSFS at University of California Santa Cruz was one of this year’s attendees. She said she was “learning things that will help me in my job at the University Farm and Garden. This conference holds a rich diversity of perspectives that come to inform people from various places, it’s a great learning experience for everyone.”
The conference hosts a wide diversity of ages, cultural backgrounds and women in agriculture.
Gabi Salazar, the program manager for the conference said “EcoFarm has evolved a lot over the years; it’s grown from a very solid core of passionate farmers, advocates, educators and industry professionals that attracts more and more people each year.
Salazar continued, “There’s a wide range of age groups who attend and it’s a place where young farmers can find community with elders and thought leaders. Farming can be difficult because you are out there on your own and may not have people around who are farming organically. Finding that community of leaders who have been doing it for 40 years gives is a real benefit.”
A series of keynote speakers challenged attendees with new ideas from this this year’s “Sow Good” theme focusing on regenerative agriculture.
The first keynote was Regenerating Our Soils: Hope for Farming & Climate where speakers went “beyond organic”, with a story of decelerating climate change with a carbon farming revolution. Watch the video on EcoFarm's Facebook page.
Salazar said “A real strength of EcoFarm is that we aren’t afraid to being up new or controversial issues. For instance when EcoFarm first came to Asilomar in the 1980’s, organic wasn’t really in the public realm – it was small and controversial. It’s because of those early leaders that said ‘this is what we want and this is what we are going to create’ and now organic is enormous.
She added, “We hold the space for innovation and creativity so the next 30 years can be just as transformative.”
In another keynote presentation, speakers John Ikerd and Doria Robinson articulated succinctly why "eliminating hunger is the first requisite of agricultural sustainability." You can watch the video of that Keynote here
Next year EcoFarm will once again take place at the Asilomar Conference grounds January 23rd -26th.
If you are involved in organic agriculture, this is an annual gathering of inspiration, education, and celebration.