From January 22-25, the Ecological Farming Association brought together the organic community for a week of connection, learning, and celebration at the EcoFarm Conference. CCOF members and staff were active participants in the conference both as attendees and as workshop presenters and moderators, event hosts, and keynote speakers. As CCOF staff, we relish the opportunity to connect with our members and partner organizations in-person, and EcoFarm provides the perfect opportunity to do so.
Farm Tours and Pre-Conference Gatherings
The events kicked off on Tuesday with a field day at CCOF-certified Swanton Pacific Ranch, an education and research facility owned and managed by Cal Poly University. The next day an “Organic Farming on the Central Coast” bus tour stopped at Javier Zamora’s JSM Organics.
Each day of the conference featured an inspiring and informative keynote session. Farmer, author, and Ph.D., Bob Quinn gave a rousing keynote address on Thursday morning. Quinn, who will give a keynote address at CCOF’s upcoming annual meeting, gave an inspiring presentation on the future of agriculture and pathways to change. On Friday, Scott Park of Park Farming Organic was a part of a three-part keynote session given by organic farmers. He highlighted the way that his commitment to soil health and biodiversity has driven his success.
From an informative session on the history of Asians in California agriculture to a panel discussion on organic food in California schools, CCOF members and staff led a number of workshops at the conference. Robina Bhatti, professor at CSU Monterey and farmer of Robina’s Organics, gave an informative presentation about the history of Punjabi farmers in California. Bhatti and her co-presenter Larry Hirahara dove into the rich and diverse history of Asian farming communities in California, including the surprising historical presence of a Punjabi-Mexican community.
Multiple workshops highlighted policy areas covered in CCOF’s forthcoming Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report. The “Organic for Schools” and “Health Care Revolution: Prescribing Organic Food as Medicine!” workshops discussed how organic food is being recognized as a public health solution and highlighted upcoming opportunities to put this recognition into action through policymaking.
CCOF Senior Policy Specialist Jane Sooby organized a timely workshop discussing the rise of stink bugs as a pest issue in California. UC researchers and cooperative extension specialists presented updates about these pests' impact in California and shared organic crop protection strategies. Although stink bugs are not currently a high priority for most farmers, California’s 2015 experience with the Bagrada bug demonstrated their potential impact.
On Saturday, Kaley Grimmland of Sol Seeker Farm and Spencer Smith of Springs Ranch and the Jefferson Center for Holistic Management participated in an engaging panel discussion about ethical diets. The session, moderated by CCOF Livestock Certification Supervisor Kelsey Kerston, dove into the complexities of how organic ranchers can communicate the ecological value of livestock to an increasingly concerned yet uninformed public.
CCOF capped off a great week of workshops with a reception to celebrate our soon-to-be-released Roadmap to an Organic California: Policy Report. CCOF members and partners gathered for drinks and conversation to celebrate the launch of a new decade of organic advocacy in California.
Ecofarm has had an excellent 40 years and we are excited to participate in the years to come. For more info about the conference, visit ecofarm.org.