WATSONVILLE — The 39th annual EcoFarm Conference returned to Pacific Grove this week, and with it came the annual bus tour of local organic farms.
EcoFarm, put on by the Ecological Farming Association, features an extensive schedule of events regarding organic and regenerative agriculture, including workshops, speeches, exhibitor marketplaces and culinary fare. The bus tour, which was this year held on Wednesday, kicks off the conference.
This year the tour centered on the Pajaro Valley, visiting farms in Watsonville and Corralitos. Each stop on the route gave participants insight into the organic farming industry.
High Ground Organics, located off of Harkins Slough Road in Watsonville, was the tour’s final stop of the day.
“There is a lot of diversity this year,” said conference-goer Garrett Pierce of Bakersfield, “in both the farms and the participants.”
Pierce said he also noticed there seemed to be an emphasis on relatively smaller growers, such as High Ground Organics.
“It’s great to see that EcoFarm is passionate about promoting small-scale farms, who have some pretty big competition these days,” Pierce said.
Joel Kirksey, also from Bakersfield, agreed, adding his take on the increasingly complex issues surrounding the industry today.
“Organic can mean something different to everyone,” Kirksey said. “You have to learn to work with the ecosystem, the people, and also be aware of permits and other logistical concerns.”
High Ground Organics’ owners were on hand to answer questions about their farm’s production, as well as give a history of the surrounding land. Participants then followed owner Stephen Pedersen on a walking tour around the property, as he explained various equipment and the type of soil they work with year-round.
Elissa Olimpi from UC Davis gave a presentation at the farm about her USDA-funded study on the impacts of certain bird species on strawberry growing systems.
“It’s a two-way street,” Olimpi said. “We want to understand how the birds impact crops, but also how they are affected by farming as well.”
The experiment, which was in part set up at High Ground Organics, yielded relatively neutral results. The study hypothesized that perhaps it had more to do with the types of insects the birds were feeding on, Olimpi said.
Proceeding their stop at High Ground Organics, tour-goers on Wednesday visited Blossom’s Biodynamic Farm in Corralitos, Dirty Girl Produce in Watsonville and learned about Monkeyflower Ranch in Royal Oaks from its owner, Rebecca King.
The 2019 EcoFarm Conference, headquartered at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, will continue through Saturday. On-site registration on Saturday will be held from 7-10 a.m.
For information about the Ecological Farming Association, visit eco-farm.org.