Over 150 current and potential organic producers gleaned practical information shared by UC agriculture and natural resources experts during the “Introduction to Small-Scale Organic Agriculture” workshop held virtually on December 15, 2020. While most of the attendees came from within San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and Orange counties, a handful
Farmer Grace Legaspi shared tips on growing microgreens.
“I attended this workshop and it was very helpful to hear different aspects of organic farming from experienced people,” said a participant from Sri Lanka in an email.
Gail Feenstra, Director of UC’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP), and Deputy Director Sonja Brodt kicked off the day with a presentation on the program’s goals and resources. SAREP supports the objectives of producers by developing more sustainable agricultural practices and efficient regional food systems. They described a new, self-directed, online training program for organic specialty crop farmers in California and those in transition at https://ofrf.org/beginning-farmer-training-program. They also discussed marketing and business management.
Houston Wilson, director of UC ANR’s new Institute of Organic Agriculture, gave an overview of the program and noted that organic farming is growing across California and includes more than 360 products. UC ANR will continue to play a leading role in the development and extension of research and extension in this important sector, he said.
Rachel Surls, Sustainable Food Systems Advisor at UC Cooperative Extension, discussed legal bases such as permits, licenses and regulations. UC Cooperative Extension organic farming specialist Joji Muramoto spoke about the importance of soil health, a very popular and important topic. Other UC cooperative extension presenters covered nitrogen management (smallholder advisor Margaret Lloyd), irrigation management (irrigation specialist Amir Haghverdi), integrated pest management (IPM advisor Cheryl Wilen) and plant diseases (plant pathologist Alex Putman).
“Thank you for the great workshop and resource links you provided for workshop materials and beyond! I have already downloaded and started incorporating information from some of the UC ANR’s pest management guidelines and legal and marketing links, ”wrote a participant from Chino. “Peer advice is always great too. “
During the afternoon of the workshop, five Californian organic farmers shared tips from their experiences. Carol Hamre (123 Farm, Cherry Valley) spoke about her trials and successes in vertebrate pest control and drip irrigation. Grace Legaspi (Tiny Leaf Micro Farm, Temescal Valley) spoke about the art and science of growing microgreens. Lisa Wright (RD Flavorfull Farm, Riverside) discussed the importance of planting the right varieties in the right seasons. Arthur Levine (Huerta del Valle, Ontario) stressed the importance of collaboration and synergistic teamwork, as well as the importance of inclusion in all practices. Richard Zapien (‘R Farm, UC Riverside) shared inspiring stories and opportunities regarding the popular and successful UC Riverside community garden that he manages.
“I am very happy to attend this workshop as a Bangladeshi woman,” wrote a grateful participant from halfway around the world. “Really, I learned a lot about organic farming in this workshop. I work in the nut sector in Bangladesh but I only have one plantation and one cashew processing factory…. I want to create an organic farm on 25 acres of land to grow vegetables, fruits, livestock and fishing. Thanks again.”
After the workshop, a comprehensive list of UCANR and external resources on the topics covered during the workshop was provided to participants. https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/RESOURCES_/.
“I wanted to thank you for such a great webinar,” responded another attendee from Southern California. “I am a farm advisor with the non-profit Kitchen Table Advisors and have learned a lot myself. Thank you for providing this list of resources. I look forward to the webinar recordings and slides, which I hope I can share with some of my farmer clients.
The efforts of our co-sponsors also led to the overall success of the workshop. Mandy Parkes, District Director of Inland Empire Resource Conservation (IERCD), co-moderator, discussed the district’s irrigation and soil testing resources and handed out gift certificates throughout the day. Evelyn Hurtado from IERCD volunteered to translate workshop recordings into Spanish and Maggie O’Neill shared information and resources on members of the San Bernardino County Farm Bureau. Other co-sponsors included the Riverside County and Orange County agricultural offices. The California Certified Organic Foundation promoted the workshop and increased awareness of UC ANR’s organic farming programs and activities.
The PowerPoint presentations and English recordings will be posted on the UCCE San Bernardino County website: https://ucanr.edu/sites/smallscalefarming/ before February 15, 2021, and the Spanish translations later this winter. Next year, conditions permitting, actual farm tours will be included.