The 33rd annual Eco Farm Day is organized by volunteers of the Ottawa-St Lawrence-Outaouais Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers (COG OSO). The focus is on practical techniques and management skills that work in our area, with an emphasis on sustainable organic stewardship of land, food and fibre. As a highlight event of the season for organic (and organic curious) farmers, each year brings new opportunities for learning and building new connections.
This year’s theme is The 3 R’s for Organic Agriculture: Restorative, Responsible Resilient. To fit the theme, we have aptly invited as keynote speaker world renown permaculture educator Mark Shepard, author of Restoration Agriculture: Real World Permaculture for Farmers. Shepard’s New Forest Farm in Wisconsin is considered one of the most ambitious and mature permaculture projects in the USA. His approach emphasizes the importance of raising livestock, growing crops and managing forests in a symbiotic relation to each other to prevent erosion and ensure water retention and carbon sequestration while still earning profitable returns. Central to his thesis is the well-being of the people working the land, and their ability to increase the monetary value of their property while at the same time providing a legacy of good stewardship for future generations. His practical approach to sustainable farming will appeal to new and veteran farmers alike.
“What’s exciting about Mark Shepard is that he demonstrates how permaculture can be economically viable as well as ecologically sound,” says Erin Krekoski, a Gatineau area sheep farmer and one of Eco Farm Day’s organizing volunteers. “Other permaculture proponents tend to emphasize subsistence. While Shepard includes this idea into the equation, he also views his permaculture farm as a business that needs to support a livelihood.”
Other workshops on the Saturday will concentrate on a variety of related topics: Women in Organic Agriculture, Monitoring Fecal Counts in Ruminants, the Importance of Rural Abattoirs, Getting More out of your Greenhouse, Growing and Marketing Switchgrass as Bedding and Mulch, Transitioning to Organic, Biodiversity, Weed Control, Cover Crops, and more.
This year there will also be Sunday programs with separate registration. Mark Shepard will be back to host a full day participatory session. He will be offering practical strategies for designing and implementing permaculture techniques on new and existing farms. Participating farmers will be encouraged to not just listen, but bring their case studies to see how their farms can evolve: essentially a collaborative consultation and learning experience.
In addition, there will be a full day Introduction to Organic Certification workshop for farmers interested in exploring a transition to organic production and enrolled in COG’s Organic Success Project. The Organic Success Project will overcome barriers that prevent farmers from transitioning to organic by assisting them through the transition process with training, demonstrations, consultations, financial support and even busting rampant myths about organic certification. Farmers interested in participating in the Organic Success Project must start by attending this workshop. For more information and to enroll in Organic Success, contact Rachael Muller at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-888-375-7383.
Remember, Eco Farm Day is more than just the presentations. There is also a vibrant trade show with over 30 exhibitors including organic certifiers, input suppliers, seed dealers, and farm organizations, to mention a few. And don’t forget the Saturday organic buffet lunch provided as part of your conference registration. This always gets rave reviews, and adds to the community atmosphere of Eco Farm Day.
Please note that Eco Farm Day is on February 25-26, 2017; the last weekend of the month. Once again it will be held at the Ramada Inn, 805 Brookdale Ave, Cornwall, ON. To register for Eco Farm Day or get more information, visit www.ecofarmday.ca. Updates can also be followed on COG OSO’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/cogosochapter and on Twitter at twitter.com/ecofarmday. Email queries can also be sent to email@example.com or call 613-487-2257.