NCO brings the Farmers' Convergence to Ridgewood Ranch
Friday, March 2, 2018
North Coast Opportunities was integral in bringing the Sixth-Annual North Coast Farmers’ Convergence to Ridgewood Ranch on February 20th & 21st. This annual event brings together food producers from Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties, along with local food retailers, chefs and food advocates from across Northern California.
Attendees will came together at Ridgewood Ranch, just south of Willits, for two days of skill sharing, education and inspiration facilitated by the MendoLake Food Hub and the School of Adaptive Agriculture. The Farmers’ Convergence was an opportunity for the larger food community to gain access to resources, people, and programs they may not have known existed, and was a celebration of growing resilient local food systems and the vital profession of farming.
“I love getting all the ideas, and those little nuggets help launch me into new ideas for the next season,” said Laytonville farmer Irene Engber of Irene’s Garden (of last year’s event).
Local legend Doug Mosel of The Mendocino Grain Project kicked Tuesday (2/20) off with an inspiring welcome. This year’s keynote speakers were Gloria and Stephen Decatur, founders of Live Power Community Farm in Covelo. Founded in Round Valley in 1973, Live Power Community Farm is a 50-acre, solar electric and horse-powered, diversified, certified Biodynamic farm. Four acres are devoted to an intensive vegetable garden hosting some 60 varieties of vegetables and herbs. Live Power's animal husbandry includes draft horses, dairy and beef cows, feeder pigs, sheep, and laying hens.
This year’s Farmers’ Convergence included an impressive lineup of experts and innovators in the agricultural community who lead breakout discussions and workshops on a wide range of topics. Evan Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) moderated a panel “Climate Smart Farming in the Real World,” a conversation with speakers Paul Kaiser, from Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol; Gowan Batist of Fortunate Farm in Caspar; and Adam Gaska of Mendocino Meats in Redwood Valley.
Eric Shramm, renowned mushroom expert and owner of the world’s oldest solely wild-mushroom company, Mendocino Mushrooms, explored the connections between mycelium, the earth, and all of us in a fascinating talk “Man, Mushrooms, and The Earth” says Shramm, “Life wouldn’t exist without fungi doing what they do. Under one footstep is 300 miles of mycelium. It breaks everything down to the carbon molecule.”
West Company was also be on hand to offer farm business consulting to attendees, with helpful information on accounting systems, farm labor, taxes, and other nuts and bolts that are important in operating any business.
Other breakout sessions at this year’s event included:
- Small Equipment Workshop with Hunter Flynn of Tequio Community Farm.
- What Kind of Commercial Kitchen Do You Want? A discussion of local food processing models with Fontaine McFadden, of NCO.
- Seed Saving Workshop & Swap with Ava Ryan, Manager of the NCO Gardens Project & Jen Lyon of the Yokayo Seed Project.
- Common Vegetable Pests & Integrated Pest Management with Glenn McGourty of the UC Cooperative Extension.
- Ranching with Wildlife with Dr. Kim Rodrigues Director of UC ANR Research & Extension Center.
- Humane Poultry Slaughter and Butcher with Ruthie King of the School of Adaptive Agriculture.
This year’s Day 2 workshop (2/21) was led by Kali Feiereisel, farmer and Food Safety Specialist with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), who shared current information on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). An overview of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) was also be discussed, as well as best practices for retaining high quality produce through effective and safe postharvest practices. This training was half in the classroom and half on Tequio Community Farm, discussing real farm examples of how to integrate practical, useful, and effective "right-sized" food safety on the farm.
More information on these and other workshops can be found at https://www.ncoinc.org/convergence/.
According to participants, successful outcomes of the day included forging successful connections that will enhance our local economy, linking farmers with needed resources and an opportunity for North Coast farmers and buyers to meet and develop relationships that will lead to future sales.
The 6th Annual North Coast Farmers’ Convergence was made possible by the generous support of our sponsors, including North Coast Opportunities, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op, Surf Market, Mendocino County Farm Bureau, Sonoma Clean Power, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Savings Bank of Mendocino, UC Hopland Research & Extension Center, MendoLake Food Hub, School of Adaptive Agriculture, Good Farm Fund, Yokayo Seed Project, Church of the Golden Rule Association and West Company.