Some of the Eden Hall Farm GAs got the chance to go to the PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture) Conference from February 4-5th in State College, PA. The theme of the conference this year was “Climate Change: Farming for the Future.” The most difficult part of the weekend was deciding which of the many intriguing workshops to attend. We participated in a variety of sessions including hop farming, fermenting vegetables, organic grains and cover crops, young ginger production, and biodynamic beekeeping. We’ll tell you a bit about our favorites!
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, who have farmed for over twenty years, and were featured in Dan Barber’s book, The Third Plate, gave a workshop on organic grains. We’ve done some experimenting with growing organic grains here at the Eden Hall Farm, including rye (for Wigle Whiskey), wheat, and corn. We took advantage of the opportunity to get advice from the experts, Mary-Howell and Klaas.
Here’s some main takeaways from the workshop:
- Leaving grains in the fields to dry isn’t always going to work in our climate (rainy and humid weather)
- It’s important to clean grains well before storage, because green material can increase moisture, leading to rot
- Diatomaceous Earth can be mixed with the first load of grain at the bottom of the barrel and last at the top to prevent worms
- Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) can be used in the top 6 inches of stored grain to prevent meal moth infestations
- Austrian Winter Peas are an effective cover crop, producing delicious shoots. In the words of Klaas, “Have your cover crop and eat it too!”
Sandor Katz (aka Sandor-kraut) led one of the very first workshops on fermenting veggies. Vegetable fermenting is an easy process that requires a few, simple steps:
First, you need to prepare your produce. What kind you may ask? According to Katz, cabbage and carrots are good starting vegetables; however, almost all veggies can be fermented. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you can even add in sticky rice, meat, or mashed potatoes. Second, massage some salt into your veggies. Katz said salt should be to taste, so no measuring is required! After you massage/pound them for a few minutes, the veggies will start releasing liquid. Finally, it’s time to pack the veggies into a jar. Make sure the veggies are completely submerged in their juices and then cover the jar with a lid. Now, all you need to do is wait and taste! You can do a quick ferment (just a few days) or a few months. Fermenting is a great way to make sure your produce lasts longer.
Mary-Howell and Klaas Martin also gave another workshop titled “Finding Your Crop Rotation Rhythm,” in which they talked about the best rotational practices for grains and cover crops. The highlight and sticking point of the lecture was to “never farm naked,” and they emphasized the use of harvestable cover crops year round, so as to never leave the ground completely exposed. We learned that weeds will give a hint as to what kinds of plants are lacking and will fill in any diversity gaps and that diverse plantings of cover crops (succotash as they cleverly called them) can withstand drought and stress better than a monocropped field might. The greatest emphasis of this workshop was on building a holistic farm system, rather than just a crop rotation.
-Megan, Anna, and Caroline