Four Nevada County farmers attended the Ecological Farming Association’s 37th annual EcoFarm Conference in Pacific Grove this past January, thanks to the BriarPatch Food Co-op. Jeremy Mineau, farmer at Super Tuber and conference attendee, was grateful for the scholarship: “It’s THE big ecological farming conference on the West coast,” he said. “It’s pretty expensive – I’ve never been before because of that. The scholarship was a great opportunity.” The three other farmers that BriarPatch sponsored were Chris Shehab (also of Super Tuber), Ken Barrett of Starbright Acres, and Jacob Benedict of Mountain Bounty Farm.
Aside from educational presentations that you might expect at a farm conference (the latest trends in cover crops, organic weed management, etc.), our local farmers took advantage of workshops ranging from how to react to the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act to the legal aspects of running a farm. Mineau left the conference feeling inspired: “A highlight for me was getting a broader perspective on what farms at my scale are doing and the steps to get to the next level of profitability and efficiency, being able to pay workers more.”
The best part, according to Mineau and Shehab, was networking with other farmers, buyers, and even funders. Mineau was able to seal a deal to sell over 1800lbs of red cabbage while he was attending the conference. The ironic part? The buyer is Mountain Bounty — a farm that is located just a few miles away from Mineau’s farm in Nevada County.
Shehab enjoyed getting to know Starbright’s Ken Barrett at EcoFarm, and learning how Ken started up his farm without a tractor and grew it into a successful business. Shehab has a theory about why it takes attending a farm conference four hours away to get local farmers to talk to each other. “Ken is working 60 hours a week – there has not been a lot of opportunity to hang out with him.”
Sierra Harvest is grateful to BriarPatch Food Co-op for continuing to support our local farmers in so many ways.