2016 EcoFarm Conference to focus on water, soil health

Attendees of last winter's EcoFarm Conference take a bus tour to farms on California's Central Coast in January. This winter's conference will be held Jan. 20-23 in Pacific Grove, Calif.

Capital Press

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — Replenishing water sources and keeping soils healthy will be key themes of this winter’s 36th annual EcoFarm Conference, set for Jan. 20-23 at the Asilomar Conference Grounds here.

With the theme, “Regenerating Our Lands and Water,” the Ecological Farming Association’s annual gathering will include workshops on irrigation efficiency, composting, managing crop nutrients to control plant disease, supporting bee health and other topics.

“I think what we’re really highlighting this year is the relevance of our theme ... within the scope of the current issues we’re facing with drought and soil health,” conference spokeswoman Emily Summerlin said in an email. She noted that 2015 was designated the International Year of Soils by the United Nations’ General Assembly.

“We have a soil and water ‘track’ that goes along with the theme, with several pre-conferences and workshops that cover irrigation solutions, composting” and related topics, Summerlin said. “We are presenting these organic and ecological farming practices as a solution.”

Farmers, marketers, activists, educators and others attend the yearly conference, one of the West’s largest for organic and environmentally conscious producers. While the first gathering drew only about 50 people, about 2,000 now attend the conference and it has grown every year, organizers say.

Among the dozens of presenters lined up for this year’s conference will be Purdue University professor emeritus Don Huber, who will discuss what he considers the “failed promises” and “flawed science” behind genetic engineering, and Andre Leu of IFOAM Organics International in Australia, who will discuss pesticide residues in food and children’s health.

The Ecological Farming Association, or EcoFarm, is a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1981. The group gets funding through various activities and projects, donations, grants, memberships and business sponsorships, according to its website.

At the heart of the group’s calendar is the conference, which also features tastings of local wine and beer, live entertainment and an exhibitor marketplace. Pre-conference activities include a bus tour of local organic farms and workshops on organic agricultural research, succession planning, compost and soil health and other topics.

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