Speaker Highlights at Acres USA 2010

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Cody-Holmes

Cody Holmes of Missouri's Rockin H Ranch fields questions.

Part 2 0f 2

by Guest Blogger, Stephen Scott, Terroir Seeds

Photo Credit: Acres USA

Neal Kinsey started things off with Exploring Biological Stimulants. He examined the three factors of soil content- physical, chemical and biological. His phrase was to build the house for the biology, meaning that the physical and chemical properties of the soil must be in place for the biology to work. The soil must have good structure that supports proper aeration and drainage, along with the proper mineral elements in sufficient quantities before the biology can start to work on everything in order to make it available for the plants.

Jerry Brunetti was next with a look at the Rainbow Effect, or the impact secondary metabolites have both in the soil and plant health. This is phytochemistry, or the colors of the plants and the compounds they produce to increase their health by strengthening the pest and disease resistance in the soil and the plants. His extensive research has found that by strengthening the soil and the plants, pests and disease decimation are eliminated. He has found that heirloom plants have a far greater ability to adapt and overcome pest and disease pressures than those of the modern hybrids. Healthy soil with sufficient minerals create potent enzymes to boost plant defenses that in turn create greater primary nutrition. This is easy to see in healthy plants by the rich, vibrant colors that they show.

That evening’s keynote presentation was by Shannon Hayes titled “Real Cows in a Parallel Universe.” She compared and contrasted her locally based lifestyle with that of the conventional consumer based culture prevalent in today’s world. It was enlightening to see how the locally based life has less external dollar demands built into it, and therefore less extraneous stress. They are far more comfortable, nourished, educated, and entertained on far less money than the majority of Americans. At the level that most people are struggling to stay afloat on, they are able to take multi-week trips to Argentina to research native beef and cooking methods. Did I mention that they are happy?

The next day started with Cody Holmes presenting his ranching journey in Ranching Full Time on 3 Hours a Day. He works with Holistic Systems on his 1000 acre ranch, and enjoys seeing the improvements in the soils, grasses and animals every year since starting to work with the natural systems and interaction of animals and grasses. He has a significantly higher stocking rate of animals than anyone around him, and he doesn’t have to work off of the ranch. He gets a real kick of waiving to his neighbors driving to their jobs in town, even as they say his systems can’t work!

Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute presented Local Direct Marketing, which was a short presentation that lead to some great discussions and sharing of positive experiences of the audience. He showed how to assess your unique strengths and competitive advantages as a small farmer or local grower, and how to exploit them against the larger competitors. One subject that kept coming up was the authenticity and personal connection of the local grower over the mass merchandising of the large supermarket.

There was a three hour workshop on Heirloom Grains Growers School by Heather Darby and Jack Lazor. Heather is an ag extension agent and Jack is a long time heirloom corn grower. They detailed the process of breeding and growing new stocks of heirloom wheat and what is involved. Over four years, they started the process of breeding a new variety of open pollinated, heirloom wheat with much help from several experts in WA state. The process is still ongoing, as they are just starting the selection trials with local growers in their area. The workshop was very informative and educational as to how traditional plant breeding used to happen prior to the days of hybridization, which many plant breeders call “a good start, but an unfinished project”.

Temple-Grandin

Dr. Temple Grandin Signing her Book

Dr. Temple Grandin was the keynote Friday evening, giving a great view of where she had been working and improving systems in the largest industrial, commercial agriculture businesses around. It was truly impressive to see the changes this one woman with severe autism has been able to accomplish in some of the industries least open to outsiders and to change. Down to earth and unwaveringly straightforward, she told it like she saw it.

We spent much of the day Saturday roving the exhibitor’s booths, talking with folks and learning more about how to integrate and incorporate some of the larger scale sustainable agricultural practices and tests into the home gardener’s scale. There are some truly innovative people out there making some incredible tools available today.

Phil Wheeler presented a discourse on the President’s Cancer Panel report and it’s implications for organic agriculture. Over 450 scientific studies have documented that the level of chemicals, toxins and carcinogens in our food, water and soil point out the need for immediate increases in sustainable, organic agriculture production. Many of the health risks and diseases we are now seeing as commonplace are directly due to these contaminates.

Saturday evening’s keynote was from Woody Tasch on the innovative concept of Slow Money- Investing Because Food, Farms and Fertility Matter. He is a financier and comes from the world of investments, endowments, philanthropic foundations and venture capital. Slow Money works to build local and national networks that invest in small food enterprises and local food systems, connect investors to their local economies; and build the nurture capital industry. Nurture capital is a new financial sector supporting the emergence of a restorative economy instead of an exploitative one.

Stephen Scott, owner of Terroir Seeds, an heirloom seed company, is a new sponsor of the Real Food Media blogs. Thank you Stephen for sharing your experiences at the Acres Conference.

See Part 1 of this post: Report on Acres USA 2010 Conference

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