OEFFA Conference Recap

We just got back from the 31st Annual OEFFA Conference in Granville, OH. It was a great weekend of learning from those who have been farming and living low-carbon lifestyles. And, it was a great opportunity to network with others about how to get started (or continue) down this path. Apparently, the conference sold out before the early bird special time period ended! I think I heard about 800 were in attendance. Some brief highlights are outlined below:

Tips for using social networks to market (R. Leeds & Dr. J Fox)

  • Get set up on Google Alerts to get an email anytime anything is posted about your business. You can then respond accordingly or just know any buzz about your business online.
  • Set up a You Tube Channel and a Facebook Fan Page (fan pages are better than groups b/c they are searchable). Add the links to your website.

Joel Salatin “Everything I Want to do is Illegal”

  • Joel Salatin was the keynote speaker on Saturday and his fired up speech left me feeling befuddled by the absurdity of the agriculture laws in this country. Twinkies are food according to the USDA, but fresh vegetables that have been washed by a small family farmer are considered a value-added product so the farmer needs to be licensed. Salatin did provide some alternatives to get through the regs, including opting out of the industrial food system and creating non-commerce ways to trade (i.e. private clubs, CSAs, cow shares/herd shares, and my personal favorite – give your product away for free and ask for donations while explaining the hypocrisy of it all! Check out Joel’s blog for details on this and other related stories.) My favorite part of Joel’s address relates to the idea that “innovation requires embryonic prototypes”. Currently, the regulations are too burdensome for small innovations to occur (i.e. you need a commercial kitchen to produce pickles and salsa, but if you want to do this on a micro scale there is no way to afford the equipment to meet the regulations in order to even get started!) He closed by saying a constitutional amendment guaranteeing freedom of food choice may be in order.

Biodynamics is another principle that was covered during OEFFA. The basic tenet of biodynamics is that the farm is an organism. Diversity of crops and animals leads to stability of the organism and helps to promote and encourage life. Farming in this manner leads to lower yields, but greater returns when you factor in the inputs (fertilizers, tractors) that are used in conventional farming methods. Good resource according to the presenter is The Biodynamic Farm.

We attended this great vermicomposting workshop as well that was facilitated by One20 Farm. Check out their site for some innovative ideas for worm bins. Also liked their tips of using coconut coir blocks for bedding along with some shredded paper. Apparently, this helps keep the whole thing from being too clumpy.

Finally, the last piece I’d like to share is about the sustainable beekeeping workshop we attended. It was facilitated by Christine Tailer of Straight Creek Valley Farm. Though she didn’t get to talking about top bar hives, she did offer lots of advice that would likely make traditional beekeepers cringe. Her session encouraged Spink to order our first set of bees for the warre hive he built a few weeks ago. Will share updates on that once they arrive.

Were you at OEFFA? What did you think?