OFRF Introduces Spanish Educational Guide at Latino Farmer Conference

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Larissa Hernandez, a Research Intern at OFRF, provided this recap of the 2nd Annual Latino Farmer Conference in Monterey, held on November 15, 2016.

I recently attended the 2nd Annual Latino Farmer Conference and had the opportunity to meet farmers and let them know about OFRF's research program and our resources for Spanish speaking farmers. The farmers showed interest in learning about organic practices, and many were interested in our Soil Health Educational Guide, which is now available in Spanish.

This conference, put together by NCAT and the USDA, brought together a wide range of resources and organizations, as well as lectures, learning workshops, and discussions geared toward Latino Farmers in the area. We all had the opportunity to listen to Javier Zamora, the Keynote speaker at the event. He is the owner/operation of JSM Organics based in Aromas, CA and cultivates strawberries, vegetables and many flowers. He shared stories of his interests, experiences, struggles as well as good fortune, all the while expressing the importance of using available resources at the community level and beyond. His enthusiasm and excitement for sustainable agriculture, the possibilities for learning, creating businesses, and becoming comfortable, while remaining a part of his community, was palpable.

In addition to the keynote speaker, there were a number of workshop sessions open to all the attendees at the conference. The topics ranged from farm financing, to water conservation, soil health, food safety requirements, and bee cultivation. I had the opportunity to attend one workshop on soil health. There were three main speakers, all whom explained the importance of soil health, how to assess and create/maintain healthy soil, as well as providing resources for more information and support.

Mark Gaskell, working with the University of California as a Small Farm and Specialty Crop Advisor, described the important indicators in healthy soil. This included emphasizing the physical state of the soil (porous, not salinized), the biological state (high amounts of organic material, and animal/worm activity), and chemical state (good balance of principal nutrients, pH range).

He was followed by speaker Maria de la Fuente, Monterey County Director Farms and Master Garden Advisor, who promoted and explained what makes up the soil, and its importance in the food web. This included further information on compost, how to reduce/eliminate fertilizers and chemicals within the soil, and how this in turn creates a better soil structure, helping to hold water more efficiently/create better drainage, and eliminates oils and heavy metals.

Karen Lowell, USDA/NCRS Agronomist and California Certified Crop Advisor, finished up the workshop addressing similar themes and issues surrounding soil health. These included the importance of cover crops, planting times for these crops, and how they can inhibit erosion as well as promote pollinator health, in turn creating a more sustainable environment in both the long and short term.

There were many other excellent speakers whose work and contributions are making the farming community a more integrated, supportive, innovative, and interesting field to work in. They all continue to call importance to the daily contributions of the Latino Farmer community in maintaining, and expanding sustainable agriculture meanwhile furthering the protection of our environment, and producing healthy, accessible food for all.