Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Monday, March 10, 2014

lessons learned from the VABF conference, part three...

Our last day at the Virginia Association for Biological Farming conference...

This was the day that I knew exactly which sessions I wanted to attend. 

Workshop:  A Bio-Intensive Market Garden presented by Jean-Martin Fortier of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, Quebec, Canada, and author, The Market Gardener: a successful grower's handbook for small-scale organic farming

My favorite main conference workshop!  Loved Jean-Martin's practical advice and his efficiency mindedness.  Loved his wit.  Loved that when we chatted as he signed my copy of The Market Gardener he asked about my little urban homestead and he was genuinely enthusiastic about it.

Takeaway Tidbits:   
   - Efficiency in farming is everything... because you want to have a life!
   - Bio-intensive, example: grow onions in bunches of 3 instead of just one = more harvest, quicker planting
   - Permanent raised beds, 30" wide (easily worked with hand tools without causing back strain), 100' long (quick production calculations, efficiency in ordering materials that come in 100' lengths), and 18" between rows (because, as Jean-Martin put it, you don't want your ass in the cauliflower behind you while you're working the row in front of you).
   - Cover the rows with black tarps 2 - 3 weeks before planting or transplanting to kill weeds and prep the garden with a no-till method.
   - MUST check out the propane flame weeder!  www.flame-weeders.com

Next:  Edible Landscaping.  This workshop was one I was excited about.  It was not what I expected, but a great deal of fun!

Workshop:  Edible Landscaping presented by Michael McConkey of Edible Landscaping, Afton, Virginia
Michael McConkey
Michael is a loveable nut!  He started with an amazing ode to edible plants, singing and playing guitar.  His smiles were infectious.  He even took a couple of cell phone calls during the presentation, making them a part of the workshop and including the audience and the caller.  He knows his plants and it's obvious that he loves them dearly.

Takeaway Tidbits:
   - Recommended Surround spray, a kaolin clay-based product for apples and other fruit trees to keep worms and/or larvae such as plum curculio, oriental fruit moths, and codling moths from your fruit.  A happy item for those wishing to grow fruits organically!  Also, pheromone twist ties are helpful during the last 120 days of fruit growth.
   - So many edible plant suggestions were favorites:  che fruit, Regent juneberry, weeping mulberry, Eddie April apple... too many to list!
   - Blueberries love to grow in mulch and lots of rotting vegetation.  Put a couple of inches of mulch around them each year.  Container (20 gallon pot) blueberries need to be wet to be hardy.
   - Figs:  plant on the south side of the house.  These are not fussy about soil.  Cut figs with 1/4" of the stem attached... if it bleeds a milky substance, it's not ripe.  Stretch marks on the fruit skin are a good ripeness indicator.

Instead of attending the Simple Farm Structures workshop, I chose to slip away and take my son to lunch.  What a treat!  You can find the presentation notes for Simple Farm Structures, as well as many other workshop presentation files, by visiting the VABF website HERE.
my amazing son
I got back to the conference in time to pick up Lanette, make sure the Jeep was filled with all good things (seeds, chick feed, compost, luggage, notes, and snacks), and set the GPS for home.  The trip home was quick and free of traffic snarls and tunnel clogs.  I arrived, kissed the hubs, and then drowned him in notes and information!!!

Now, a last note.  I don't own a farm.  We work the soil and keep bees on 1/5 acre in the middle of a large city.  But we grow intensively and beyond organically and harvest much of our diet from our garden.  I am very curious about all things organic, farming, homesteading, and foodie.  Was I the likeliest candidate for this conference?  Maybe not.  But I learned SO MUCH and met so many people with the same 'loves' as mine who shared generously with me in lines, over dinner, and in workshops.  It was a wonderful experience that I won't forget.  Start looking at conferences that interest you and take the leap!!! 

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