My first assessment after looking through the Small Farms lecture schedule was that the Florida County Extension Agents were doing most of the talks. Where are the farmers? It would be a good idea to get a keynote speaker as well. There are numerous resources out there that we can tap in to, but none were present this year. I heard from people who had attended the first two conferences that John Ikerd and Will Allen were the previous keynotes. That is great! What happened?
The talks I attended were:
Protected Agriculture - This was about shade houses. I was hoping to pick up designs for practical small shade structures to sprout seeds and propagate in. This talk was geared more towards large shade house to grow crops under that are acres in size.
Beginners Cooperative - I see tremendous benefit in forming a cooperative. I would love to form one here locally in Palm Beach County with Organic farmers so we can afford to buy amendments in bulk. We must be creative to get better pricing. This talk was helpful in understanding the different types of Coops.
Do I need a Permit - Here the USDA did a great job of defining their payment schedule. We learned a great deal about the new Cottage Act and permits for raising chickens, which is helpful because I am starting a free range flock of hens.
Small Farm Equipment - This was great and helpful to see what one farmer is doing and how he is doing it. Worden Farms presented here and delivered a fine presentation of his equipment.
So there you have it, I attended four talks and three were given by extension agents. I would have liked to have seen talks about biological teas, compost, or worms. You never hear anyone talking about building soil. They did have the token Mychorrizae talk, but there is lots more out there for Natural Process Farming.
I was told that there were 700 registered for the farm conference, but I don't think I saw more than a couple of hundred. I was shocked that out of all the Extension Agents I saw at the conference none came from Palm Beach County. Come on guys, we are the largest ag county this side of the Mississippi. I guess that's just it, they are too big for the small farmers.
Overall my experience was positive from the conference. The best, as always, was the people you meet, the stories, the experiences, and the resources shared. The vendor turnout was good. I know in time this conference, with awareness and understanding that we must become sustainable, will be great!
Final note the food was delicious and plentiful and the social event was a very good time. We were able to taste all the different wines from Florida along with a few local breweries. I am very grateful for my experience and glad to be in this wonderful state.