I would like to thank the performers for their great shows, and thank Robin for organizing the forum as well as being a great MC. The facilities were very comfortable, and conveniently located near some gardening areas!
Today's Microfarmer forum started with a presentation called "Improving Marginal Soil" by Alain B. This was incredibly valuable to me since I considered our dirt to be marginal soil, but it turns out that we really just have sand - and marginal soil is what I used to consider beautiful topsoil. He covered various composting, mulching, and organic fertilizing techniques. Basically the solution to my soil issues will require the addition of clay and compost to my dirt in the hopes changing it from sand into soil. He briefly touched on the soil testing process for getting your farm certified organic, and included a photocopy of the initial soil test report for his farm. It was mentioned that Alfalfa pellets are an extremely efficient fertilizer for the garden, and that someone in the creek has several extra bags of organic alfalfa pellets they are selling for a very good price.
Robin W. mentioned a couple of local labour resources that are available to small farms. One is mental health patients who are individually matched with you and your task. Another labour resource involved high school kids that learn about growing food by helping to grow the food.
Introducing Non Timber Forest Products with Tim B. from Royal Roads University. Seeing the forest beneath the trees: http://cntr.royalroads.ca/ He discussed the large market ($100 million) for NTFP's that was mostly composed of holiday wreaths/decorations and forest mushrooms. The holiday wreath business seems like somewhat viable winter pastime for farmers, requiring a $2000 machine for wrapping the wreaths, resulting in the capacity of building lots of $10-$50 wreaths per day. There is a nice buyer and sellers guide at http://www.buybcwild.com/ I thought I heard him say that they would be glad to add anyone selling NTFP's to the list...
Delicious lunch - I went back for seconds... and then Robin gently coaxed us back inside out of the sun after lunch - it was similar to herding cats!
Improving Farm Efficiency/Winter Veggies with Marika N. from Sooke BC. She shared many great tips on what, when, and how to plant winter crops. One great idea stood out for me: they have local calendar sharing workshops, where local farmers get together and discuss what plants they start growing and most importantly when. Marika recommended having three experienced growers copy their calendars for everyone, and then everyone can use those a discussion starter. Perhaps this is something that could be incorporated into future Seedy Saturdays? I am relatively new to "farming" and any crop schedules that are specific to this part of the coast would be extremely helpful. I guess we just have to wait for Robin's next book to come out ;). We also got a demonstration of soil blocking, where you use a nifty device to make soil blocks (like ice cubes) that you place in a tray (48 per) and then deposit seeds into automatically prepared depressions in the top of each block. Soil blockers at Johnny's Selected Seeds: http://www.johnnyseeds.com/catalog/subcategory.aspx?category=292&subcategory=616 After the plants are established the blocks separated very easily for transplanting. We also got to take home samples of the certified organic seeds they produce over at http://fullcircleseeds.com/ She also displayed a couple of excellent book resources: "Year-Around Harvest: Winter Gardening on the Coast by Linda Gilkeson ( http://www.saltspringseeds.com/catalog/books.cfm ) with great information on timing winter crops, and "Park's Success with Seeds" by Ann Reilly (out of print) - great book with colour pictures of the plants as tiny seedlings.
Microclimating and space efficiency on a small farm by Robin W. The concept is simply brilliant in that you just keep an eye out for various conditions around your yard specifically for zones that would be more ideal for growing types of plants and moving the plants from your garden to that location. e.g. The hot dry zone by the south side of your house would be well suited to supporting your mediterranean herbs that need dry hot conditions for optimal growth.
The Pros and Cons of Value Added - D'Arcy D. C. We got to hear about D'Arcy's blueberry farm dreams, which spurred a lively discussion about small growers and the ever tightening regulations surrounding small scale agriculture and the looming danger of a major dependence on Agro-Bandits. Several people mentioned that the "Omnivores Dilemma" by Michael Pollan ( http://www.michaelpollan.com/ omnivore.php ) discusses these topics. "What’s at stake in our eating choices is not only our own and our children’s health, but the health of the environment that sustains life on earth."
It was nice to meet and interact with a group of really nice people that are all on similar wavelengths, thank you all for coming to the forum!