VA Association of Biological Farmers holds conference at Homestead

Farmers never really get a break, but a large group of them who work hard all year joined together for a little comfort and education at the Omni Homestead two weeks ago. The Virginia Association for Biological Farmers hosted their annual conference right in Hot Springs January 9th through 11th, and I think it’s pretty safe to say, “A good time was had by all.”

Ryan Blosser, of Augusta County is the current President of VABF. I know Ryan from his former position as executive Director of Project Grows, and I asked him how he had gotten familiar with VABF.

“We were looking for some continuing education and sad, ‘Let’s go there.’ And we went, and had a great time, and every year we kept coming back, and myself, and Sam our farm manager, and our whole staff, Jenna, and Lisa, the whole crew kept getting better and better. It improved our farming; it improved our networking, developing our sense of a team.” Now Project Grows is a very established community farm whose production and services to local youth increase every year.      Most of farmers at the conference, however, were there as independent operators. The courses and workshops offered ranged from Duck Husbandry and Hog Butchery to Managing Labor and Beginning Beekeeping. There were over forty different opportunities led by experts, authors, and above all fellow farmers. I asked Ryan if he was happy with the impressive list of subject matter, and their presenters.

“Yes, for a farmer nerd like me, and four-hundred others, it’s like head candy.”

I was able to listen to good advice from a few different sources, and will share some of that in the second part of this pair of stories. Just after he and Emilie Gooch of Palmyra, Virginia led a discussion on Permaculture, I asked Ryan if there were anything he would like to share with listeners about their time at the conference.

“What a wonderful time we’ve had here. I mean the people here, helping us out, and, I walked in, and I was intimidated because of the size and the grandeur and the history, by staff that were just cool, you know, not cool because they were here to be cool to us, but authentically cool. And it was like, all right, I’m ok, I’m not gonna get kicked out ‘cause I got flip flops on in January.”

I had heard about permaculture techniques before, but was unfamiliar with the principals behind them. Emilie and Ryan’s presentation outlined the principles that guide design, and above all emphasized the importance of going slow to go far. The first few are 1. Observe and interact, 2. Catch and store energy 3. Obtain a yield. For the longer list and more in depth descriptions of the ethics and principles behind permaculture techniques look to David Holgrem’s book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability. In part two of this pair of stories, we’ll hear little more from a couple of the presenters, and something about their subjects that will have us all looking forward to Spring.



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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