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Farming and the Local Food Scene: Highlights of the 2012 Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference

October 27th marked both the end of my first season on a farm and my first trip to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) annual conference. Having a conference like this—full of learning, networking, and inspiring farm people—came at a perfect time for giving me quite a bit of information to think about throughout the winter.

One of the highlights was attending a pre-conference workshop at Olga and Tradd Cotter’s Mushroom Mountain. About twenty minutes southwest of Greenville, South Carolina, the farm and homestead is located in a typical southern, rural neighborhood. I thought I was lost until I nearly drove past the mailbox adorned with painted mushrooms. A group of about twenty people interested in mushroom production were there to learn from the mushroom master—Tradd Cotter. He’s worked with mushrooms for around twenty years, and is still in awe of the mighty fungi. He encourages others to “think like a mushroom” in order to better understand them.

Tradd walked us around his mushroom farm and taught us about different varieties (from easiest to most difficult to grow) and also a bit about different production methods. There were edible mushrooms growing everywhere at his place—in the woods, in the greenhouse hanging from the ceiling in 5-6 foot growing bags, and even in pots. Tradd has an extremely inquisitive mind and explores each and every possibility that mushrooms have for creating a more sustainable world. He does this by creating a profit, remediating contaminated soil, pest management, and educating his community about the multi-faceted value of mushrooms. He’s currently working with Clemson University to continue his scientific research on using mushrooms for remediating contaminated land. As a testament to their work in studying mushrooms and teaching others about how to grow and make a profit, Tradd and Olga were the winners of CFSA’s Young Farmer of the Year Award.

Another highlight from the conference was Michael Phillips, a rock-star orchardist from Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire. He was particularly captivating on the subject of growing fruit in a holistic manner. As an opening to his presentation, he stated “I am a community of one trillion.” It was a rather eye-opening introduction to the world of fruit growing—realizing that we’re all made up of complex interactions between bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic creatures. I attended two of his presentations at the conference, and taking in all of the information he shared will admittedly take time and experience working with fruit. I’ll also continue to read and refer to his incredible book The Holistic Orchard throughout the years of my fruit-growing life.

These are simply a few of the incredible presenters and people involved in sustainable agriculture in the Carolinas—I encourage you to attend the next CFSA conference in Durham, North Carolina on November 15-17th, 2013.

Laura Stephenson is an environmental science graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she focused in environmental and community health. She is currently working full-time at a small, organic farm outside of Hillsborough, North Carolina called Maple Spring Gardens. Laura writes the Farming and the Local Food Scene series about her experiences with local farms and farmers around the Piedmont area of North Carolina.


Posted on: November 13, 2012, 6:00 am Category: Farming and the Local Food Scene Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

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