2015 Soil & Nutrition Conference




The 4th Annual Soil & Nutrition Conference
Farm as Ecosystem

February 11-12 in Northampton, MA

From the beginning with the first Soil and Nutrition Conference, until today, the connections between soil health, plant health, animal health, and human health are the focus. How fitting is it then to think in terms of systems, talk about the individual parts and pieces, and by how bringing them all together, makes the whole system more important than the individual parts, and the how and the why individual parts are needed, and what could the impact be without one or more of them.

The 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference – Farm as Ecosystem, is tribute to the late Jerry Brunetti. This assembled "team" of presenters will be contributing their individual perspective and experience (part or piece) and how it relates to the whole (system). Combined, there is 100+ years of experience and knowledge with these five presenters! This is a premier Farmer-focused event, a gathering of those with like mind, which includes time to socialize, meet and greet, and network. It is the sum of the parts that make the whole Soil and Nutrition Conference a wonderful experience.



In this Issue
Conference presenters:
 •  John Slack
 •  Bryan O'Hara
 •  Mark Fulford
 •  Dan Kittredge

 Interviews with presenters

 Upcoming workshops



REGISTER ONLINE TODAY!

2015 SOIL & NUTRITION CONFERENCE
February 11-12, 2015



JOHN SLACK
John Slack of Boreal Agrominerals, Inc., Ontario, Canada (www.borealagrominerals.com), is a fourth generation miner who graduated from the Haileybury School of Mines, as mining technologist in 1979. From 1979 to 1992, John worked throughout Canada's North in the search of economic mineral deposits. This entailed extensive stream sediment, soil geochemistry, geological mapping, compilations, mine development and mine management. Though not realized at the time, this training and work would result in employing these techniques in the evaluation of agricultural landscapes.

In 1992, John left the mining industry and started farming on the family's 290 acre property, Golden Innisfree Farms, located in Erin Township. Today the farm is comprised of organic potato production and a grass based sheep dairy which is operated by his children and utilized for sustainable agriculture research.

Coinciding with farm activities, John, with his father, started to evaluate and experiment with agrominerals. Commonly referred to as rock powder and rock dust, this research resulted in developing the Spanish River Carbonatite Complex, a unique igneous (magmatic) calcium carbonate deposit. In pursuit of sales, John commenced soil auditing services that resulted in introducing soil evaluation methodologies, commonly employed in mineral exploration, to farm clients.

Today the culmination of these activities has resulted in employment as CEO with Boreal Agrominerals Inc., teaching concepts of regional Terroir, advanced soil science and the utilization of local agrominerals to a variety of sustainable agriculture education venues.

The topics that John Slack will be presenting at the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference are:
  • Soil GeoChemistry and Mineral Deficiency
  • Crop Health, and Strategies for Scientific Remineralization


"Soil can be described as a self-organizing system that adapts and transforms parent mineral material into a developed soil profile that is best suited to the landscapes mineralogical, physical, biological and climatic conditions, maximizing geochemical potential."
- John Slack




BRYAN O'HARA
Bryan O'Hara farms at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. The main crops at the farm are vegetables, these being produced under intensive methods. Multi-cropping and inter-cropping are extensively practiced with much of the soil producing three or more crops per year. Much of the land is covered with low tunnels and high tunnels, in order to produce crops in the colder seasons. The intensity of this farming demands very careful soil care. Therefore techniques such as no-till and the making of biological inoculants have been developed. The usage of compost and fertilizers are thoroughly studied and observed in order to achieve balanced growth and crop health. This has allowed crops to be grown without pesticides of any nature for more than two decades, while also maintaining farm profitability.

The topics that Bryan O'Hara will be presenting at the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference are:
  • No Till Vegetable Cropping Methods
  • Homemade Inoculants, Sprays, and Drenches


"Our attentive care of soils allows us to both learn from and assist nature in our co-evolution toward an enlightened future."
- Bryan O'Hara




MARK FULFORD
Mark Fulford of Teltane Farm, Monroe, ME (www.teltanefarm.com), is an agricultural educator and established farmer since 1979, and an independent farm consultant since 1995. He has experience in helping farms transition from conventional to organic and biological agriculture; soil, crop, and forage nutrition. Going beyond the labels, it is with his insight that he will be sharing when speaking on Revitalizing Pasture Land, and especially with what Mark refers to as Beyond Chemistry: Soil Biology and Soil Cycles.

Mark works with preparing agriculture for peaks and declines of fuels – water – fertilizer / addressing climate change and economic drift. He specializes in biological soil repair with site specific, organic compliant fertility plans and cropping methods. Living soil restorative farming practices and planning for conventional operations. Mark teaches hands-on skills in organic and sustainable orchard management, fruit tree propagation and nursery practices, organic minimum till, no-till and perennial crop production, commercial and small scale composting, as well as fundamental rural skills and small farm food preservation methods and technology. He serves as an advisory consultant to farm managers in Maine and the greater New England area, he is part of the mentoring service to the MOFGA farmer/journey person program in Maine, and is on the board of the Maine Alternative Ag Association. Mark is the principle field technician for an NRCS and Conservation district funded, three year innovative potato cropping project (2014–2017) in Aroostock County, Maine.

The topics that Mark Fulford will be presenting at the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference are:
  • Beyond Chemistry: Soil Biology and Soil Cycles
  • Revitalizing Pasture Land


"It was once said (interpreted from Masanobu Fukuoka), 'the ultimate purpose of agriculture is the perfection of human beings.'"

"If societies are in service to the soils from which they spring, there will be a regeneration of original wealth."

"The sustainability of a farm may be measured by the clarity of water down stream of its practices."
- Mark Fulford




DEREK CHRISTIANSON
Derek Christianson is the farmer at Brix Bounty Farm (www.brixbounty.com) in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. He has been farming in the Northeast for the past fourteen seasons, relocating to the South Coast from Hawthorne Valley Farm in New York. Derek and Katie started Brix Bounty Farm in 2008.

Brix Bounty Farm aims to produce and promote the production of nutrient dense foods, using sustainable growing methods which focus on improving soil health for long-term agricultural viability. Brix Bounty currently produces approximately 7 acres of vegetables, direct marketed through a roadside stand and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Central to their mission are efforts to improve food security through community projects which increase knowledge and awareness of sustainable production techniques on farms and in backyard and community gardens. Brix Bounty works with local non-profits and community groups to bridge the connection between soil, diet, and health. Derek serves on the farm committee and as a project consultant for the Dartmouth YMCA – Sharing the Harvest Community Farm, is on the NOFA/Mass board, SEMAP board, the Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance (SEEAL) board, and the town of Dartmouth's Agricultural Commission.

The topics that Derek Christianson will be presenting at the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference are:
  • Early Season and Dry Weather Production
  • Fertility Programs





DAN KITTREDGE
Dan Kittredge, Executive Director of the Bionutrient Food Association (www.bionutrient.org) and Real Food Campaign, he is the son of prominent leaders in the organic movement, and has been an organic farmer since childhood. His experience managing organic farms and developing sustainable agriculture techniques has connected him to farmers in Central America, Russia, India and the United States. Dan is passionate about raising the quality of nutrition in our food supply through collaboration with committed individuals, businesses, and organizations that support the value of people growing and eating really good food.

The mission of the BFA is to increase quality in the food supply.

Our strategy is to use enlightened self interest to create the reality we want to see. We do not feel that it is necessary to fight the forces that we see as detrimental in the food system, but to simply educate, organize and empower those who understand what it is that we are working on. "When the people lead, the leaders will follow."

At the 2015 Soil and Nutrition Conference, Dan Kittredge will be sharing an update on the Quality Research Project.




  Interviews with Presenters




Interview with John Slack who will be presenting:
  • Soil GeoChemistry and Mineral Deficiency
  • Crop Health, and Strategies for Scientific Remineralization
Q: What excites you about this topic?
A: Evaluating soil geochemistry from an entirely different perspective. Traditionally no more than 8 inches is considered, analyzing soil with weak acid digestion, in the hope that it will describe soil mineral deficiencies and requirements to overcome plant deficiencies. Doing very deep geochemistry, with total element digestion versus weak acid, coupled with the fact that microbes can accelerate rock weathering up to 1,000,000 times. Worrying about solubility with traditional soil analysis is not necessary. Must emphasize soil complexity, where life is the driving force and mineral complexity results in optimum plant nutrition. What happens with traditional soil management is over fertilization and not recognizing the full soil profile. We need to address soil health the solubility of minerals and their behavior in the soil system is not necessary. The goal is to help farmers make more rational decisions and requirements, with significant reduction of input costs.

Q: What would you say to someone who is new to farming the ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: A thorough land search utilizing the extensive government geological and soil databases.
(a) Evaluating soil landscape to ensure a naturally high geochemical footprint = most critical site pick;
(b) Equally important is the regions ecology diversity that has isolation from conventional farming, where refer to sustainable farm. Large tract of ecosystems in tact (i.e., swamps, forests and natural hydrology)
(c) Water. Ensure in area Farm is able to and continuously regenerates itself or has been identified as a "recharge." This information is within various government departments. Have very good databases of regions. Bottom line, if can't hit criteria, then walkway from that land being sold and find another area to farm. Otherwise, it may lead to increasing costs of production.

Q: If someone has several or many years of farming experience, what ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Typically farmers have worked with who are having difficulty are caught in the "commodity treadmill," where there is price fluctuation.
(a) Need to look at the opportunity in direct marketing, which is driven through local food initiatives and change in strategy crops growing. Just being local is not enough, where need to be able to differentiate.
(b) Traditional Farmers have bought into specialization is the route to take and detriment in maintaining proper sustainability, where input costs increase and high. Maybe it is time to take a look at the operation and change. Maybe the change is introducing cattle rotation, and rest into grass for some time, and maybe working with neighbors.
(c) Marketplace is expecting to produce the very best, and one may have to spend time educating and finding markets wanting and paying for higher quality.

Q: What do you expect Soil & Nutrition Conference attendees will walk away with?
A: Hope that people will come away with concepts have been describing:
(1) How to look for good farms
(2) Strategy for marketing food
(3) a) "Elephant in the Room" - niches in quality, it is one thing to broadcast am a local farm and that people should support me, but a farmer should be able to describe agricultural practices, the soil that the farmer is working with, and the increase in quality that is possible. There are growing numbers of distributors who are paying for higher quality.
b) Unique Flavor Profile
(4) Strive to be the best that one can be, increasing the nutritional content of the crops growing, whether it is beef, vegetables, eggs, etc., where these high quality products demand a premium and make farming operations economically viable.






Interview with Bryan O'Hara, who will be presenting:
  • No Till Vegetable Cropping Methods
  • Homemade Inoculants, Sprays, and Drenches
Q: What excites you about this topic?
A: Tied to overall agriculture improvement, and it is moving forward to better quality crops. All part of the movement to improve agriculture techniques.

Q: What first brought you to the understanding of the potential of what you will be presenting?
A: From necessity. Modern conditions of production, pollution, weather conditions, different quality in the crops grown that had to develop more productive techniques.

Q: What would you say to someone who is new to farming the ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Pay attention to the soil.

Q: If someone has several or many years of farming experience, what ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Stay abreast of developments and fertilizer changes.

Q: How does one stay abreast?
A: Attending Workshops, read various publications, Ag media, connect with other farmers.

Q: What do you expect Soil & Nutrition Conference attendees will walk away with?
A: From my presentation, specific details on techniques and procedures to produce higher quality and bountiful crops.






Interview with Mark Fulford, who will be presenting:
  • Beyond Chemistry: Soil Biology and Soil Cycles
  • Revitalizing Pasture Land
Q: What excites you about this topic?
A: Nutrition goes way beyond food, it is the currency of coexistence between all organisms and the environment. The loop of life - Soil limitations = nutritonal limitations = limitations of society = limited understanding of soil as life.

Q: What would you say to someone who is new to farming the ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Is one seeking a label, a profession, or a way of life? lLeave the land, watershed and community you farm for, in better shape than when you came.

Q: If someone has several or many years of farming experience, what ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Considering the finality of so many off farm inputs and resources, build in as many on farm resilient aspects as possible.

Q: What do you expect Soil & Nutrition Conference attendees will walk away with?
A: A deeper consideration of the interconnectedness of all actions that affect soil / watersheds and related economies, and some method changes to improve the way soils and crops are cared for.






Interview with Derek Christianson, who will be presenting:
  • Early Season and Dry Weather Production
  • Fertility Programs
Q: If someone has several or many years of farming experience, what ideas or thoughts to suggest thinking about and doing?
A: Every farming operation has leverage points which provide opportunities for improving farm viability and whole farm sustainability. Taking the time to critically examine our production systems and learning from our peers is one of the greatest tools in the toolbox.

Q: What do you expect Soil & Nutrition Conference attendees will walk away with?
A: The 4th annual Soil & Nutrition conference will provide attendees an opportunity to connect with others in the region who care deeply about producing healthy food, and to explore different farming systems which lead to abundance and profitability.

Q: Regarding the work you do or that summarizes your presentation, please provide some information that you would like to share.
A: Since relocating to the Southcoast in Massachusetts, we have continued to experience weather extremes, this past year (2014) was no exception. We received a 7" rainstorm on July 4th which was preceded by 2 months of dry conditions (less than 1" in the previous 60 days). Following our soil fertility protocols has helped to establish soil conditions and plant health which has minimized the impact of long-term dry spells. We'll explore some of the best practices to improve your crop productivity in dry seasons and increase returns on irrigation investments. The principals and practices essential to create early season abundance for our markets, include a focus on the critical plant establishment period for spring and summer crops, including nutrient management which promotes vigorous root growth in cool spring soils.




  Upcoming Workshops




There is still space in several of our upcoming workshops!

For the fifth year running, the Real Food Campaign, a project of the Bionutrient Food Association, will be presenting another series of workshops for the coming growing season. Our goal is to engage and build on what you already know and are doing, and to find ways to increase the bionutrient level of your soil and crops for greater yields, healthier produce and better marketability.

Participation-based with questions and answers, the workshop series is designed for farmers, growers, and gardeners of any type to learn current research and proven methods, and go step-by-step through the processes that will lead to optimum crop health and sustained yield.



Upcoming workshops
Marion, MI
February 21 & 22, 2015

Bedford Hills, NY
March 7 & 8, 2015

Oneonta, NY
March 14 & 15, 2015

Newbury, MA
April 11 & 12, 2015

Blairstown, NJ
TBD

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