Winter Work, Part 1

Winter sunsets are the best sunsets. In the foreground we have a cover crop of winter rye and in the background we have our garlic crop under protective row cover

As market season wraps up and we deliver our final CSA shares of the year, I am often asked what do farmers do in the winter. I’ll spend the month of February blogging about just that! First up: education! As first generation vegetable farmers, the work educating ourselves is never done. From reading books to attending workshops, there is always opportunity for us to learn.

All over the country sustainable agriculture organizations are hosting their annual conferences- which typically take place in the winter. This is when farmers have time to step away from the fields and into their offices, or in some cases cars to travel to in person events. Perhaps it’s because we’ve been in a bit of an isolated period the last couple years or find ourselves in need of a boost of info after 15 years of operating Mile Creek, but this winter Ben and I are popping into more conferences than any previous winter. Ben just wrapped up the 2022 Organic Vegetable Production Conference, an online event of 4 chockfull mornings of workshops put on by University of Wisconsin extension, University of Iowa extension, and FairShare CSA Coalition. Topics covered vegetable intensives like broccoli and sweet potatoes and people managing workshops covering both being good to employees and to ourselves! Farmers tuned in from all over the country but the majority were located in Wisconsin and neighboring states.

Ben had an enjoyable time learning, and seeing the plethora of upper midwest farmers in attendance inspired him to want to go to the MOSES conference this year. MOSES is the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service and they promote and support organic farms through education. Every February they host a 3 day conference. As long as we’ve had Mile Creek farm we’ve thought about making the trek to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, to attend the conference but never have. Well in a couple weekends Ben will get to take a little working vacation and attend the conference. We’ve had more and more disease issues pop up with our crops so Ben is especially interested in a one day plant pathogen bootcamp intensive.

But first we have The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association’s conference to attend right here in Dayton, OH. The theme of this year’s conference is Rooted and Rising. I highly recommend the conference both for farmers, aspiring farmers, and interested and concerned citizens. There are workshops on policy and creating a better food system and workshops that focus on small scale growing like raising backyard chickens and large scale growing alike. In addition to the in-person event Feb 18th and 19th there is an online workshop on the 12th. Online registration, which covers both weekends, ends in a couple days on the 10th! If you are interested check out the event page here. I am really looking forward to the online event’s Keynote speaker and speech. Mary Hendrickson’s talk is called Corporate Power and Our Food Systems’ Future. Mary Hendrickson is a rural sociologist who focuses on community food systems, rural development, and sustainable agriculture. I have to confess I’m not familiar with her work but my interest is certainly piqued. For me these conferences have always been part education part inspiration and I’m eager to learn and get motivated!