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Virginia Association of Biological Farming Conference: Uniting with our Neighbors

By Sarah Merfeld, Phase II Fellow

This past weekend AMI Senior Fellows and staff attended the Virginia Association of Biological Farming conference at Smith Mountain Lake. We spent the weekend amongst hundreds of organic farmers, policy makers, and activists attending workshops, socializing, and enjoying delicious locally grown food. The conference was a way for us to gain inspiration from the innovation of our neighboring farmers as we enter the upcoming growing season.

Some of the workshop targeted technical aspects of farming such as the ins and outs of cover cropping, organic pest management, row coverings, livestock management, and techniques of growing specific crops. Other talks were more conceptual, discussing topics like economic and ecological prosperity through permaculture, the importance of seed stewardship, and food policy.

In addition to the more formal educational structure of the conference, we learned a great deal from our fellow conference attendees while enjoying local, organic meals together.

Of course, we always learn from the ecological environment. The conference was located on Smith Mountain Lake and we had time to explore the property in-between sessions. Senior Fellow Katie Gilman stumbled upon this relic of past during her midmorning adventure in the woods.

One of my personal takeaways from the weekend is that as a group organic

farmers we are swimming upstream together, working against the challenges posed by big agriculture. I was touched by the free flowing exchange of ideas amongst farmers both new and seasoned, regardless of race, gender, or age. Together we can push towards creative solutions and further innovation united in a common goal rather than growing apart through competition.

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