EcoFarm 2018 Digs Deep Into the Soil

December 12, 2017 – As any farmer can tell you, it all begins with the soil. And that’s the focus of EcoFarm Conference 2018, coming up in the last week of January: renewing and regenerating the ground beneath our feet.

The 38th annual conference at Asilomar, Jan. 24-27, will focus on what is called regenerative agriculture, a recent and growing movement that combines time-honored practices of caring for the soil with new science that proposes to rebalance the global carbon cycle and slow climate change. And the theme, “Sow Good,” nods to the impact that farmers can make in aiding the environment.

This year, workshops on the elements of healthy soil, how to create it, and how to put carbon back into soils are an essential part of the EcoFarm conference. Likewise, the opening night keynote address, “Regenerating Our Soils: Hope for Farming and Climate,” emphasizes the link between agriculture and a healthy Earth.

This year’s theme came from input from the EcoFarm community, according to program and development associate Isabelle Jennicles: “There was a lot of interest in climate change and soil building as a response to the climate crisis.” Keeping carbon in the ground and not in the atmosphere is one way in which farmers can be part of the solution.

Throughout its history, EcoFarm has been helping farmers—and indeed, anyone who is passionate about organic practices—find the right path. As the oldest and largest organic farming event in the West, EcoFarm is a prime networking and educational hub for farmers, ranchers, activists, researchers, and educators.

But the conference also mixes in fun with the more serious subjects, with an exhibitor marketplace, live entertainment, a seed swap, mixers, and tastings of beer, cheese, wine and cider on the schedule.

The 70-plus workshops also include a wide range of topics, from tips on growing heirloom apples to ways for farmers to utilize social media. In addition, attendees can take advantage of some fascinating pre-conference experiences, including a bus tour of San Benito County organic farms and several all-day intensive workshops.

At least 1,600 are expected to attend this year’s EcoFarm Conference from the United States and around the world—a far cry from the initial event in 1981 which attracted 45 people. Since then, EcoFarm has grown into a broad network of grassroots leadership and facilitated an exchange of knowledge for more than 60,000 people. 

The ever-growing international influence is reflected in the exhibitor marketplace, which this year will show products from Europe and other regions, according to marketplace manager Dina Izzo.

Likewise, EcoFarm cuisine will also have a worldly flair. Asilomar executive chef Greg Lepesh creates the menus for the conference, with items made almost entirely with produce donated by Monterey Bay-area farmers, Izzo says, and dishes from Cuba, Mexico and other countries are being planned. “I can’t give enough props to chef Greg,” says Izzo, who says the meals focus on seasonality and simplicity. “We’re very proud of that aspect of the conference.”

“As we diversify our food, we want our meals to also reflect that…eating food that’s locally grown, organic, and prepared with care, lends itself to meaningful conversations and community building.”

To register online, and for a complete listing of events and workshops at EcoFarm 2018, go to go to eco-farm.org.

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