As snowdrifts bury the last remnants of the 2012 growing season, spring may feel far away. But seed catalogs are on their way, compost piles are readily decomposing and registration for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) Winter Conference opened January 2.
NOFA-VT's 31st Annual Winter Conference will be February 15-17, 2013, at the University of Vermont in Burlington. For over three decades, growers from Vermont, Quebec and beyond have come together to ignite their green thumbs, inspire their culinary arts and share the challenges and successes encountered in organic agriculture in the backyard, and the back 40.
The conference kicks off with five intensive workshops taking place on Friday, February 15, on the waterfront in downtown Burlington.
"The Saturday/Sunday conference covers so much, but some topics demand more time and more depth," Enid Wonnacott, executive director of NOFA-VT, said. "We offer Friday Intensives to maximize the time for learning and networking. These sessions are full of energy and are a great way to kick off the weekend."
Farmer and author Shannon Hayes of Sap Bush Hollow Farm, West Fulton, N.Y., is delivering one such intensive, "Stretching Your Meat Dollar." Hayes will teach several delicious and economical ways to get the most out of healthy, grass-fed animals, including techniques for grilling, roasting, braising, preparing broths and offal and using animal fat.
Other intensives include "Fermenting the Harvest," a day-long, demonstration-based workshop on the tasty biological processes and historical narratives surrounding lacto-fermented foods. "Farming for Resiliency in a Changing Climate," "Improving Blueberry Yields & Longevity," and "Increasing Strawberry Profits" are intended for commercial growers and will bring in experts from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Middlebury College, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, as well as experienced local farmers.
The Saturday and Sunday portion of the conference will take place at the University of Vermont, and the conference theme, "Generations of Innovation" will be prominent throughout the weekend offerings. Clara Coleman, daughter of organic gardening pioneer Eliot Coleman, will deliver Saturday's keynote address, as well as a workshop co-presented with her father. Like her father, she is a proponent of the "small is better" model of farming, advocating business growth through improved efficiency, innovative production methods, farmer collaboration and direct customer marketing, rather than physical expansion. She will share the inherent challenges and uncertainties of the farming lifestyle, and show how the young farmer movement continues the legacy of innovation.
Inspired by the "TEDTalks" format of brief but excellent presentations on "ideas worth spreading," the traditional Sunday keynote address will be replaced with several shorter talks featuring dynamic innovators. These include Joe Bossen, owner of Vermont Bean Crafters in the Mad River Valley, Vt.; Sean Buchanan, business development manager for Black River Produce; Scout Proft, farm mentor and owner of Someday Farm, Dorset, Vt.; and Laura Brown Lavoie, urban farmer and poet, Providence, R.I.
Whether you're interested in the economics of commercial high tunnel production or advanced garlic production, the art of home gardening or slow democracy, pastured poultry or farm-based education, sourdough baking, micro-dairies, hops, oats, oilseeds or shiitake mushrooms, this conference will intrigue you and supply you with endless innovative ideas to carry into the spring.
Conference preregistration closes on February 2, 2013. Walk-in registration will be available. Learn more about the Winter Conference at http://nofavt.org/conference
NOFA Vermont's Direct Marking Conference is also around the corner, taking place at Vermont Law School in South Royalton on Sunday, January 13. Learn more about the Direct Marketing Conference at http://nofavt.org/DMC