WV Small Farm Conference, Day 3

It’s difficult to believe, but we passed up Tom’s Top Ten Tax Tips (sorry, Tom) and began day three with Farm Woodlot Management.  Two very interesting presentations – Dave McGill from WVU Extension on woodland management and the WV Woodland Stewards then Guergen Wildman from the WV Division of Forestry provided information about Forest Stewardship. Both gentlemen talked quite a bit about invasive plants endangering West Virginia forests; more information about that can be found here

Well, you know, we had to give our peeps equal time, so our next session began with Managing the Small Scale Layer Flock presented by Jerry Ours, WVDA.  Jerry advised the class how to make an operation more efficient and a layer flock more profitable. It was educational, but now I have to say that the next speaker was definitely the rock star of the conference.  Wes Davis, FFA member and entrepreneur,  gave his presentation – My Own Laying Flock, sharing his experiences producing eggs.  Young Wes runs a thriving free-range egg business called Turkey Hill Farm in Mason County.   He was a delightful speaker, and everyone was talking about him after class and throughout the rest of the day.  He is an aggressive marketer, and even carries a cooler to school to deliver eggs to his teachers.  Hats off to this young man.  As the ladies waiting in line at the restroom were saying, “That young Wes is going places!”
While one of the Shepherdess/s next attended Nutrient Enhanced Eggs & Affordable Broiler Production from the Backyard Flock, the other went to 50 Best Agritourism Ideas.  Both classes were great, but the Shepherdess that went to the agritourism class got to churn butter, make a chia pet out of a sock and play a pumpkinized version of cornhole.  Lots of wonderful information from both classes, but I think maybe someone got the short end of the stick there.
Don Kretschmann of Kretschmann Farms spoke at lunch about establishing his organic farm over 30 years ago and becoming one of the first to offer a CSA program.  Don, also, is a thoughtful and  inspirational speaker.  Honestly, we can’t say enough about the first-rate job that the staff at the Small Farm Center does in putting together a top-notch group of speakers and a wide variety of classes. It’s hard to believe but while we were attending the classes mentioned here there, were five other classes that could have been chosen – six classes running simultaneously- all day long . Many thanks to Tom and his staff for such an educational and memorable conference.
(And thanks to all of you for your patience in our conference ramblings.  Many times we also use this blog as a personal reference tool.  So thank you for bearing with us, we will be back to more pictures in the morning.)

WV Small Farm Conference, Day 2

Courtesy of G & N Ramp Farm

We started day two of the conference with Forest Non-Timber; it began with a West Virginia legend, Glen Facemire,   He and his wife, Noreen, run G & N Ramp Farm in Richwood, home of the Feast of the Ransom.  Industrial/residential development and over-harvesting are putting our beloved ramp in some danger, so here is some of Glenn’s advice:
— better to harvest and plant than let the ramps go to seed; they have a better chance of survival
— they like to be planted near rocks
— dig the big clumps and leave the twos, threes and singles
Glen is a great speaker and very informative.  We could probably do an entire post on just his class, but instead we will direct you to his book ‘Having Your Ramps and Eating Them Too’.  If you can’t dig your own, or buy roadside ramps, you can buy them from Glen.
Paul Goland of Hardscrabble Enterprises was next up in the Forest Non-Timber class and gave a very educational talk and demonstration on Shitake Mushrooms.  Paul is in his 80’s and is a master at what he does.  Just two of his many pieces of advice – shade and temperature change are essential, and if you are having slug problems sprinkle some agricultural salt around the base of your logs. Paul does not have a web-site so if you would like contact information just let us know.
Next up, Beekeeping with Paul Poling, West Virginia’s State Apiary Specialist, presenting all the steps necessary to get started.  It was very informative, as we took well over a dozen small pages of notes.

Liberty Hill Farm’s RoBeth Holstein Herd courtesy of their website


The lunch time speaker was Beth Kennett from Libert Hill Farm in Vermont.  Beth is an energetic and dynamic speaker, and shared her family’s inspirational story of running a Dairy Farm with a Bed and Breakfast.  She ended her talk with a story about a young mother, her son and farmer super heroes.  Suffice it to say that the Shepherdess/s and most of the room had tears in their eyes by the time she was done. 
It is difficult to believe, but the class following lunch featured another great speaker, Mimi Hernandez.  Mimi is the Outreach Coordinator for the Appalachian Center for Ethnobotanical Studies, and presented Medicinal Plants from the Farm and Forest Floor.  She covered everything from making Chickweed Pesto to preparing a spit poultice from Plantain, the herbal bandaid.  Mimi is traveling the state presenting her Mountain Roots workshops.  It would be well worth the effort to hear her speak.
We rounded out the day with Brad Smith’s Small Ruminant Management.  He spoke about efficient and sustainable sheep and goat production.  We take every opportunity we can to attend anything about small ruminants, and always walk away with new insight, some tidbit of information or that feeling of why didn’t we think of that before.  And… well,…you know…we just love to talk about sheep.
I almost ended without mentioning The Great West Virginia Pop-Off! and the Local Food Celebration & Banquet.  We will save that for another day, another post devoted just to the food because that was the theme of the conference – “It’s all about the food!”

WV Small Farm Conference, Day 1

Gosh, where do we begin… We had a great time at the WV Small Farms Conference!  Day 1 was spent in a Cheesemaking seminar.  In the morning there was a presentation by Brian Stone from Northboro, MA.  Brian has traveled the world helping farmers make better cheese.  He reviewed all the dos and don’ts, the rules and regulations.  We learned, for example – Raw Milk cheese has to be aged 60 days or longer according to FDA rules;  there is a PMO – Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (who knew); and to sell cheese from your own milk, you must become a certified Grade A Dairy.
After a wonderful lunch, we had a brief visit with Beth Kennett from Liberty Hill Farm in Vermont.  This would be the first of three times that we heard Beth speak.  She is a remarkable lady, but more about her in a later post.  This is after all.. all about the cheese. 

Spring Gap Mountain Creamery Tomme Cheese (their photo)

The afternoon session began with a panel discussion with Brian; the WVDA; the Health Dept; Callie and Ben, start-up cheesemakers; Vince, maker of Mozzarella, from Hancock County; and Penny and Jurgen from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery, in Paw Paw.  This was really interesting as they talked about their operations, mistakes they have made and the challenges of being Artisan Cheesemakers.
We were a little disappointed that the seminar was not more hands-on, but we signed up for a follow-up seminar that is to include the actual making of cheese.  We ended the session with, of course, a cheese tasting!  Talk turned to wine and cheese, but Brian informed us that real cheese tastings are accompanied by beer.  We shared some of Vince’s Mozzarella balls, several cheeses from Trickling Springs Creamery and a couple from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery.  They were all delicious, but the favorite of both Shepherdess/s was the Tomme Cheese from Spring Gap Mountain Creamery named Shenandoah Sunrise.
We spent the evening at the Winter Blues Farmers Market – good music, lots of local food – pretty much the perfect ending to a pretty much perfect day.

We are leaving you with not much more than a pretty picture today, as the Shepherdess/s are off to the WV Small Farm Conference.  Today we are attending a day-long workshop on Cheesemaking!  Yes, Cheesemaking!  We have been very excited about this.  Oh, I know, we don’t have any dairy animals at the moment, but we grew up on dairy farm, have been talking about dairy goats for several years, and have been longing for a little Jersey milk cow, well, for forever.  We are also planning to spend a little time this evening at The Winter Blues Farmers Market.  It should be a great day.  Hope yours is every bit as good!

Restore Yourself

The final day at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference began with a very educational presentation from Linda Whaley from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health about food safety, especially at Farmers Markets. She sure cleared up a lot of things we were wondering about. Following Linda, Chef Dale Hawkins, a strong advocate for local foods presented information about several research projects he is working on.

And then the presentation we were really looking forward to, “How to Prevent Pain and Restore Yourself”. Margaret Carr, a certified Iyengar yoga instructor from the Inner Life Yoga Studio, had us all up stretching, breathing intentionally and opening our minds. Wow, it really was refreshing!

Margaret Carr compliments of Inner Life Yoga Studio

Pam West of West Farms in Lewisburg spoke about a “Small Farm in a Small Town”. (Could not find a website for West Farms, but then again it doesn’t sound like Pam has time to eat or sleep let alone manage a website) This woman had us all wondering about how much time we must waste. Her accomplishments are amazing; done with one seasonal helper. A SARE educator, she shared her imaginative sustainable management techniques using high tunnels, crop rotations, and her 100 head of sheep among other things.

To top things off for us, Dave Miller from Mountain Diamond Longhorns told us about his farm operation in Tunnelton. This was a treat because we always enjoy seeing Woody at the Buckwheat Festival.

A huge thanks to Tom McConnell and the staff at the West Virginia University Extension Service for this great conference! We are heading back to the farm refreshed, renewed and inspired!

Of Strawberries, Soil and Animals

Back to the West Virginia Small Farms Conference today! Again, a very educational day. First up, Steve Groff from Cedar Meadow Farm speaking about “Soil Health / Cover Crops and Management Techniques”. Steve has traveled extensively sharing information on his “Permanent Cover Cropping System”. He shared knowledge gained from French farmers on their cover cropping techniques. Who knew that tillage radishes could be so interesting.

Photo compliments of Cedar Meadow Farm

Willie Lantz gave a presentation on “Growing Summer Strawberries for the Fresh Market”. His research for the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Office was very exciting. We might have to give this one a try. (Hey, did we mention that we buy chicken feed from Willie’s dad?)

Louis and Megan Roy from White Oak Ridge Farm provided information on “Raising and Processing Pastured Poultry”. This is another venture we have been very interested in so it was great to see what they are doing on their farm. It’s nice to know that there is a family-operated, USDA (almost) approved processor so near by.

Several West Virginia University professors gave presentations ranging from “Ask the Meat Specialist”, “Nutrient Cycling” and “Soil Health” to “Grass Fed Beef” and “Too Far From the Vet”. All in all, another exciting and educational day!

Burning Up the Road

We are attending the West Virginia Small Farm Conference this week. Today is all about energy. Among others, Matt Sherald from Power in My Backyard gave a presentation about ‘Small Wind and Solar Applications for Farm and Home’ that was very educational. We got a lot of information from the USDA, REAP, NRCS and even the IRS (all the relevant acronyms).

One of the most entertaining speakers was Wayne Keith from Alabama, speaking about his “Bio-Truck”.

He actually drove it all the way from Alabama without using a drop of gas. After his presentation we all trudged outside to take a look at it. Pretty cool!