23rd Annual Virginia Association for Biological Farming Conference Starts January 6


The Virginia Association for Biological Farming is holding it’s 23rd Annual Conference the weekend of January 6.   The Association has 400 to 500 member organizations and farms from around the state.  Brent Wills is the current President on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Association for Biological Farming.

“It’s been around for a little over forty years, officially, and it started out as a true grass roots, regional, kind of thing where a bunch of the folks that were following more organic and biological farming methods would get together and eventually culminated into an annual conference,” says Wills.  “Our membership is made up of people who want to farm biologically.  That doesn’t necessary mean that they are certified organic through the USDA Program, but it means that they are thinking about things like soil health and regenerative practices, not using the same harsh chemicals that maybe the conventional system does.  But it’s really bigger than just a no chemical thing, it’s more about a philosophy of sort of a bigger world view about how to grow food or animals.”

Brent Wills has had his own farm for almost twenty years.

“I have a degree in agriculture, as well as a degree in environmental science, so I kind of was steeped in this from the beginning, but the type of agriculture that I learned mainly about in college wasn’t really this sort of more natural and biological approach,” says Wills. “To be perfectly honest with you, the main reason that I wasn’t following sort of the conventional methods back then was because I was too cheap.  I didn’t really have the money to buy fertilizers for my hay land and things like that.  So, I started thinking about other ways to do it, making compost, and using animals a little more wisely, moving them around.  We started raising meat chickens, as well as egg laying chickens, pretty early on and so we started using the birds in rotations to really help build the health of the soil and provide the nutrients and that way I didn’t have to, literally, I didn’t have to buy any fertilizers.  I kind of fell into it backwards, and I’ve got a conservation background anyway in agriculture, so it made sense to me to really start paying attention to how we manage the land itself and how we can, instead of just reaching for the band aid this year to fix whatever problem or pest or disease or weed pressure we might have, to think about the bigger picture and how the biological system and the cycling of carbons in that system really imparts the health on our plants. “

The Virginia Biological Farming Conference is January 6th  through the 8th  at The Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center in Roanoke, Virginia.  The conference will offer over sixty sessions and up to 600 people are expected to attend.  You can register for the conference at vabf.org

“I’d also like to put a plug in for the Taste of Virginia Marketing Expo, which is basically a one day event that’s going on during our conference, but its kind of off to the side,” says Wills.  “It’s open to the public, so anybody can come to it free of charge.  We invite our member businesses and farms, distilleries, wineries, craft breweries, artisans, bread makers and folks that have a commercial kitchen that can sell value added products, craft folks, woodworkers and blacksmiths and all kinds of really cool things.  Just a really good time for these vendors to get their name out and talk to folks in the public.”

Taste of Virginia is January 7th from 2 until 9 pm at The Roanoke Hotel and Conference Center in Roanoke, Virginia.  You can get more information at https://vabf.org/taste-of-virginia-expo-market-23/#!form/TasteofVA2023

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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