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September 19, 2020

EcoFarm bus tour rolling through Pajaro Valley

WATSONVILLE—Three organic Pajaro Valley farms will be featured in the 2020 EcoFarm Conference bus tour Wednesday—and a handful of seats are still available. Participants will visit Lakeside Organic Gardens, JSM Organics and Coastal Sun Cannabis/Moon Berry Farm during the tour, which kicks off the four-day conference in Pacific Grove. 

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EcoFarm, which is organized by the Soquel-based Ecological Farming Association, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The conference aims to connect farmers, ranchers and others while promoting organic and regenerative agriculture. 

“EcoFarm is a great resource,” said tour organizer and committee member Sam Earnshaw. “It is a wide-ranging conference for many different aspects of agriculture, for large and small farms, local and international growers.”

Earnshaw and wife Jo Ann Baumgartner attended their first EcoFarm Conference in 1983, and that experience kickstarted a dive into the world of organic farming. They opened Neptune Farms, which was one of the few organic farms in Santa Cruz County during the late 1980s. Both have remained in the industry—Earnshaw founded Hedgerows Unlimited and Baumgartner now directs the Wild Farm Alliance in Watsonville.

EcoFarm, Earnshaw said, has been an important part of their lives through it all. 

“It’s kind of where it all started for us,” he said.

The EcoFarm bus tour, which Earnshaw and Baumgartner will lead along with UC Cooperative Extension’s Richard Smith, has been held for nearly as long as the conference itself. Participants load into a fleet of buses at the conference grounds in Pacific Grove and take off to local farms, where they learn about various aspects of organic farming.

This year, the tour will start at Coastal Sun Cannabis/Moon Berry Farm in Watsonville. The farm produces Certified Organic blueberries along with Enviro-Organic Certified cannabis.

“I don’t know that much about cannabis, so it’ll be a learning experience for us, too,” Earnshaw said. “[Coastal Sun] is doing some incredible things there.”

The owners of Coastal Sun Cannabis/Moon Berry Farm will lead people on a tour of its production areas and touch upon the subject of hydroponics and organic container planting.

Javier Zamora of JSM Organics will also host the tour, giving insight into the work being done at his farm in Royal Oaks. Lunch will be prepared and served by Jim Denevan of Outstanding in the Field at the farm’s cooler. A trip to Lakeside Organic Gardens, the largest family-owned and operated organic vegetable grower/shipper in the U.S., will round out the event. Owner Dick Peixoto will speak about the importance of soil maintenance in organic farming.

The EcoFarm Conference will be held Jan. 22-25 at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove. More than 70 workshops and speakers, along with a marketplace, a “seed swap,” prepared food and drinks, live music and other entertainment is scheduled during the four-day event. 

Keynote speakers will include entomologist and agroecologist Jonathan Lundgren, author of “Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land,” Leah Penniman, Bob Quinn of Montana Flour & Grains and world-renowned scholar and educator Vandana Shiva.

This year’s theme, “20/20 Vision: 40 Years and Growing,” touches upon the evolution and future of organic farming in the U.S. and beyond.

“Organic agriculture is constantly changing,” Earnshaw said. “It has evolved a lot since the early ‘80s. Before, coming out of EcoFarm into the ‘real’ world was like a shock. But now [organic] is a lot more prevalent. It feels like we’re going through a big shift.”

For information and to register for EcoFarm and the 2020 bus tour visit eco-farm.org.

Johanna Miller
Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business and agriculture.

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