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More practicality, same community at farm and food conference in Nevada County

Sam Corey
Staff Writer
Moose Garin, of Vital Garden Supply, talks to Nevada City's Donna Levitt, during the 2017 conference.
Photo by John Hart


WHAT: Ninth Sustainable Food & Farm Conference

WHO: Hosted by Sierra Harvest

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 7-10

WHERE: Various locations in western Nevada County

INFO: http://www.foodandfarmconference.com or 530-265-2343

The term “foodie” might be somewhat diluted as it’s permeated common vernacular, but the original devotees to food — the growers, harvesters and distributors — are around, and convening this Thursday at select venues for the ninth year in Nevada County.

The annual Food and Farm Conference, running Feb. 7-10, is geared “to broaden the base of knowledge for our local farmers by bringing in nationally recognized leaders in the sustainable food and farming world to create a space for networking with other farmers,” said Malaika Bishop, co-director of Sierra Harvest.

While the attendees will collaborate for many of the same reasons, appreciating food and agriculture, this year’s event will also include added hands-on practices.

“One thing is we have a lot more extra field days and events happening around the conference,” said Bishop.

Those field days will occur Thursday and Friday at different locations, including an alpaca farm, vineyard and winery, and a cheese-making ranch. At Friday’s end, there will be a screening of the film, “Symphony of the Soil,” which details how to maintain “healthy soil creating healthy plants, creating healthy humans, living on a healthy planet,” the conference’s website states.

This year’s conference will also include an array of keynote speakers Saturday. Among them is Doniga Markegard, author and farm operator of Half Moon Bay’s Markegard Family Grass-Fed.

Markegard works with her husband, Erik, to leverage regenerative agriculture, which is a holistic farming approach to preserving the land and promoting diversity among a farm’s livestock and soil, while maintaining fair labor practices. As Markegard explains, regenerative agriculture is “a way of ranching where we are thinking about our environmental, social, and financial impact.”

Ken and Alita Barrett frequently attend the conference. Having run their Starbright Acres Family Farm for 10 seasons after moving from Seattle to be closer to family, the couple enjoys not just with agriculture, but also the community that comes with it. It is, in part, their motivation for returning to the conference each year.

“A lot of it is the camaraderie,” said Alita Barrett. “Farming is extremely challenging. It’s nice to make contacts with other people in the same industry who are trying to make a go of it.”

Contact reporter Sam Corey at 530-477-4219 or by email at scorey@theunion.com.


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