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Sustainable Production & Systems

Biosolarization: Harnessing the Sun and Organic Matter to Control Weeds 

  • Martin Guerena, NCAT/ATTRA; Jesus Fernandez-Bayo, UC Davis
  • Biosolarization is a new innovation in the realm of weed control. Different from the commonly known practice of solarization, which uses clear plastic sheeting on moist soil to thermally terminate a variety of pest species, biosolarization includes the use of organic matter in the form of compost, cover crops, manure or other materials such as pomace or nut hulls. The addition of organic matter can accelerate the process by encouraging anaerobic soil disinfestation. The carbon from organic material produces chemicals with bio-pesticidal activity. The combination of these natural chemicals and heat acts like a fumigant and eliminates soil-borne pests and weed species. This presentation will cover theoretical concepts as well as results from field trials.

Behind the Scenes of Organic Seed

  • Micaela Colley, Organic Seed Alliance; Ada Snyder, High Mowing Seeds
  • The goal of this session is to provide farmers with insight into the way the organic seed industry works. Although seed is one of the primary inputs on any organic farm, farmers often do not have access to information regarding where their seed comes from, how and by whom it is produced, factors that drive availability and pricing, and challenges and opportunities in organic seed production. As climate change and the unique challenges of organic farming drive farmer interest in adaptable vegetable varieties, we think it is important to shed light on what is happening in the organic seed world to meet these challenges. Topics covered will include: organic variety development and product “pipelines”, partnerships and collaborations among seed industry players, current seed production challenges, and post-COVID seed availability concerns. There will be ample Q&A opportunity to discuss organic varieties of interest with farmers in attendance and to hear directly from farmers about their experiences with seed companies and/or seed availability. 

Livestock Mortality Composting

  • Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs, Washington State University; Dr. Rachel Wieme, Washington State University
  • Composting provides a way to recycle nutrients on the farm and to create a soil-building amendment. Composting is also an effective option for recycling livestock mortalities and butcher waste. This presentation will describe how composting works, how to prepare for composting livestock mortalities, how to start it off right and stay on track. Researchers Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs and Dr. Rachel Wieme at Washington State University will teach you how to manage the process for biosecurity, environmental protection, regulatory compliance, and success.

Dry Farm Vegetable Production: Evaluating Site Suitability

  • Matt Davis, Oregon State University; Amy Garrett, Oregon State University; Alex Stone, Oregon State University
  • Dry farming is the production of crops during a dry growing season without irrigation; crops use residual soil moisture from the rainy season. Farmers are increasingly interested in dry farming as irrigation is capital- and labor-intensive and some farmers have little or no access to water. With no irrigation to irrigate up weeds, weed management costs are reduced, and for some crops like tomatoes, dry farmed fruit have enhanced flavor. In addition, as the PNW climate becomes hotter and drier, summer irrigation water will be increasingly scarce. The goal of this presentation is to give farmers the information they need to evaluate and compare farm sites for dry farm vegetable production suitability. We conducted site suitability trials on approximately 16 Willamette Valley and 3 Oregon coastal sites in each of the 2018 and 2019 growing seasons. We assessed site factors including soil physical/chemical properties at each farm and collected yield and fruit quality data for winter squash and Early Girl tomatoes. We related site factors to crop yield and quality data. We will describe the most important site factors and how you can measure them on your farm. We will also discuss how participants can participate in the Dry Farming Collaborative.

Regenerative Agriculture Practices in Central and Western Washington

  • Doug Collins, Washington State University; Jessica Gigot, Harmony Fields & Western Washington University; Brad Bailie, Lenwood Farms; Jim Baird, Cloudview EcoFarm
  • This two-part presentation will examine the effects of regenerative farming practices on soil health, plant pathogens, and weed management in tree fruit and potato production in Washington. Jim Baird (CloudviewEcoFarm) and Brad Bailie (Lenwood Farms) will first discuss the use of summer and winter cover crops and small ruminant grazing in their row crop systems. Following Jessica Gigot (Harmony Fields) will discuss an ongoing research project focused on sheep grazing in potato production systems in the Skagit Valley.

Biochar: Production and Elasticity of Use on Farms

  • Nathan Stacey, Washington State University; Cuauhtémoc Villa, Biocarbon Associates, Sonoma Biochar Initiative with Nootka Farm Collective
  • Biochar, a solid, porous material, high in carbon (C) (e.g. 80%), is made from biomass that has been thermochemically altered, often through pyrolysis.  Typically, biochar is produced at temperatures between 250 and 700 °C and the feedstock can include wood, woodchips, crop residues and various animal wastes.  Biochar production systems are varied and range from large-scale industrial pyrolysis to small-scale garden and farm kilns and cook stoves.  No matter the production system, the physicochemical properties of biochar are unique and thus, biochar has been evaluated as a soil amendment, a compost feedstock, a means to mitigate nutrient loss and a way to sequester carbon.  Because its use is varied and its production is accessible, biochar is an appealing material as a farm management tool.  As part of a Western SARE grant, soil scientists at Washington State University partnered with local producers to evaluate biochar and its elasticity across the farm. As part of their operation on Lopez Island, owners at Midnight’s farm raise cattle and produce compost and woodchips from island green waste.  A by-product of the cattle operation is manure which is then used as feedstock in the composting process.To better understand the potential on-farm use of biochar we designed three experiments, with two different biochars, to answer three questions: 1) when biochar is incorporated into cattle bedding, in situ, does biochar adsorb nutrients, specifically nitrogen (N)?, 2) when biochar is blended with manure and bedding waste, does it alter the loss of N?, and 3) when biochar is used as a feedstock in the composting process, are there observable differences in the end product?  Because composts are often used as soil amendments in vegetable production, we designed an additional experiment utilizing two other producers, to evaluate the impacts our farm produced composts have on soil nutrient cycling, crop production (i.e. broccoli) and soil health. This presentation will examine the unique properties of biochar, illustrate small-scale biochar production, and review results from the biochar composting and field experiments.

Creating a Sustainable & Productive Heritage Poultry Flock

  • Lisa Van Horn, Peninsula Poultry Breeders
  • Sourcing, breeding and successfully maintaining your own flock of production-oriented heritage poultry is a significant step in developing a truly local and sustainable food system. While industrial poultry genetics for hybrid egg layers and meat birds are proprietary and owned by a handful of multinational companies, heritage lines are "open source" birds with a tried and true record. Historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency--fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites. Yet many of these old breeds are in danger of extinction and the small scale farmer offers a crucial link in both preserving historic breeds of poultry, as well as helping in the development of a more sustainable local poultry production model. Currently, heritage chickens are a niche product. Productive dual purpose breeds supply healthy, robust hens for pastured egg flocks as well as full flavored, French-style cockerels for the table. Both of these fit into a CSA/farmer's market offering for specialty products. This presentation will provide an overview for establishing a breeding flock of heritage chickens: choosing a breed, how to source breeding stock, setting up a small scale breeding system, and how to select future breeders for egg and meat production.

Black Urban Farms: Reframing the Agricultural Narrative

  • Nyema Clark, Nurturing Roots; Anthony Reyes, 21 Acres; Ray Williams, Black Farmers Collective; Hannah Wilson, Black Farmers Collective
  • This panel will bring together Black urban farmers and organizers steeped in community, self-determination, and resilience providing a counter narrative to our current dominant consumer-based approach to agriculture. Through conversations with Nurturing Roots, Yes Farms, and Black Farmers Collective, we will shed light on the significance of urban farms as community spaces, and the importance of transitioning our collective understandings of and commitments to farms as sites that prioritize people, learning, and justice.
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