The 2010 California Small Farm Conference, a three-day educational conference held in Del Mar, included on-farm tours, focused workshops, general educational sessions and opportunities for peer networking.
The event, the state’s premier gathering of small farmers and those who support them, started with A Taste of San Diego, which showcased the area’s culinary landscape and featured local farms, chefs, wineries, breweries, bakeries and other food purveyors. Citrus and exotic fruits from local growers, dried fruits, cheeses, fish, meats, dips, baked goods and much more were enjoyed at the reception. Live cooking demonstrations with special guest chefs turned local agriculture products into tasty dishes for sampling.
San Diego area wines and brews were also served with Ramona area wineries represented by Edwards Vineyards & Cellars, Milagro Farms Vineyards & Winery, and Woof N’ Rose Winery. Other back country wineries there were La Serenissima, Shadow Mountain Vineyards & Winery, Gloriosa Vineyards, Sunfresh Vineyards/Twin Oaks Winery, Rock Canyon Vineyards and South Coast Spa & Winery from Temecula. San Diego’s Stone Brewing and Alesmith Brewing Company were also there.
The conference was started more than 20 years ago by the Small Farm Center at University of California Davis and a coordinating council of organizations working with small farmers. It was believed that many of the needs of the small scale farmers are unique and there were few forums where these needs and their solutions were discussed and experiences shared—especially experiences of those farmers who were finding success in coping with small farm issues.
More than 1,000 attended the conference, which ended on March 2. Break-out sessions were packed. There were optional tours focusing on topics such as Organic Certification and Production, Water Conservation Strategies, and Value Adding to Farmers’ Markets.
Victor and Beth Edwards of Edwards Winery in Ramona took the tour called Diversifying Farm Operations though Agritourism. This included a stop at Chino Farms, the Carlsbad Flower Fields, Fallbrook to hear about the Avocado Festival and Orfila Winery in Escondido.
“The USDA has kicked off a ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ campaign, and it is apparent that a growing number of city dwellers want to know more about their local farms, traveling 1 to 2 hours for the country experience,” said Beth Edwards. “Ramona with its varied agricultural offerings and blossoming wineries is perfectly poised to build an agritourism industry, drawing from San Diego, Orange and Los Angeles counties.”
The Grand Ballroom area of the Marriott Del Mar was packed with exhibitors offering information on various products and services aimed to help the small farm. From Archi’s Acres Inc. offering sustainable agricultural training, to Zenith Insurance Company, every aspect of starting, owning and growing a farm was represented.
Norm Case from Chinook Vineyards in Ramona came away from the conference with a bag of information. He said he was particularly interested in the free consulting and planning services offered by SDG&E, and the many credits, grants and financing incentives to farmers wishing to build green and sustainable facilities.
Complete details on the participants and exhibitors from this year’s conference, as well as information on next year’s California Small Conference, may be obtained at www.californiafarmconference.com.