Sunday, February 7, 2010

Conferences, Tomatoes and Farm Heroes

This last week has been one of the coolest ever. I attended my first farm conference, the Missouri Organic Association annual meeting in Columbia. The MOA is an association of farmers, chefs, gardeners, health professionals and consumers who advocate organic food. I met many experienced organic farmers and look forward to getting to know all of them better. There were workshops on Organic advocacy, high tunnel production, pest and soil management as well as marketing using social networks. I picked up some Amish made organic tea that I am going to dilute and feed my seedlings with. They had planned to hold a “silent” auction for a fund raiser when one of the Amish members volunteered to actually call the auction. The Amish are well known for their farming skills and their produce auctions. When the auctioneer pulled out a 2.5 gallon of Hummus Tea, I could not help but bid on it. One can’t help but wonder how many pounds of tomatoes this fine gentleman has sold. The
MOA members are clearly part of the “early adopters” in organic farming and were happy to share their insights with this rookie.
I would be remiss if I did not offer my thanks to Jody Hardin for inviting me to join him at this conference.

This leads me to the Farm Heroes section of this post. The MOA members referred to many of their members as “farm heroes” for their contribution in helping fellow farmers. Making it to my second year as a farmer would not have been possible with out the help of one of my farm heroes. Jody Hardin with the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market has committed his life advocating for the small farmer. He was a speaker at the MOA conference, is obviously very well respected by his peers and his vision for Arkansas small farmers helped created the states premier farmers market in Argenta. Jody Harding has probably forgotten more about farming than I ever hope to learn.
The Jacksonville Military Museum hosts a War Stories Lecture Series and recently featured Lt. Col. Keith Moore with the Arkansas Army National Guard. Lt. Col. Moore is leading the Arkansas Agricultural Deployment Team to Afghanistan.
He detailed their plans to help rebuild local agriculture in a country that has lost much of its knowledge base to over 30 years of war. I have to admit that I was very skeptical so I planned on attending this event to learn more details. History has not been kind to foreign armies in that country. Lt. Col Moore was the first to say that we are not going to teach farmers who have been farming since the beginning of time how to farm. Their plans are to help rebuild irrigation infrastructure, assist with building markets and do what it takes to rebuild local agriculture as a means for economic development. Lt. Col Moore and his team of volunteer guardsmen many of whom are farmers are doing this under the most challenging conditions imaginable with little to no resources. This will keep our local agricultural challenges in perspective.

Finally I am proud to announce that our seed germination is in full swing. Our spring tomato crop has been transplanted from their germination flats to 2x2’s, and our spring spinach has been transplanted into the ground in Wilma. We have started our cucumber, pepper, lettuce and melon seeds and look forward to filling our ebb/flow growing tables with these youngsters. I have some very nice Amish tea I am sure they are gonna love.

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