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The 24th Annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference

Neither rain nor snow, nor slippery interstate, the show must go on…The show was the 24th annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference held February 21st-23rd in, as usual, LaCrosse, Wisconsin. I braved the snowy interstate along with thousands of others to come together to network, share experiences, educate, and promote the entire movement of organic food. I was not disappointed (and I did not expect to be) because these determined people are swimming upstream, scrapping a living the traditional way, and willing to endure tough weather to get what they need.

At the conference you can find young and old, rich and poor, flamboyant and soft-spoken salt-of-the earth realists. They all share a common passion—the deep conviction that growing food is a collaboration of good dirt, seeds, sunlight, and water. Humans just arrange some of these things in the right proportions, get out of the way, and presto, you’ve got great food!

It really is that simple. The popular notion these days that all that other stuff like huge tractors and barrels worth of petrochemicals we’ve been told need to be there don’t really need to be there if sound natural practices occur. In fact you can now search the internet and find startling examples of organic production that prove this. Rodale Institute cited seven reasons organic farms out-perform conventional farms and you can read it here:

The conference scheduled lots of mini-seminars and trainings covering many aspects of organic agriculture and some of us from the Co-op fanned out and attended ones we thought would be useful to us.

Many of these sessions are helpful to the very people who bring us our food to sell. I saw many of these folks there. Our confidence in these fine growers is in part based on our understanding that they are equally concerned about their crops and livestock as we are. We have high standards at the Co-op, and we know good minerals and biologically active soils produce tastier and more nutritious foods. You cannot put poor fuel in any machine whether it is your car or your body.

Everyone crammed into the ballroom at the conference to hear the keynote speakers including Jeremy Seifert and Joshua Kunau who spoke about their new film project. The film is named GMO OMG and it sure looks like it will be both entertaining and educational. You can see a trailer for it at: The film covers the stark reality that GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are rapidly covering the entire planet and why we should be concerned.

There were many excellent talks on organic fertilizers, mulching techniques, pasture management, pest control without poisons, and crop rotation strategies. Knowing these talks are all available through the Organic Voices website ( is comforting since many of the sessions I could not get to are going to be available there.

I was interested in two guys from Michigan who gave a seminar on managing high tunnels for moisture levels and fertility. Using a greenhouse-within-a-greenhouse technique they have successfully kept earthworms active and composting year-round in their unheated setup, and they harvest greens and root crops throughout the entire year. Living through a winter like we have just seen, this seems to me to be a fantastic skill to develop. As our climate seems to be swinging wildly our food production can benefit from at least extending our growing seasons.

Green Thursdays
In our Green Thursdays movie series at Willy West we’ve been showing films devoted to environmental themes and recently showed the film Dive about the incredible food that is wasted in a typical American community, chiefly food discarded by restaurants and grocery stores. It really makes you thinkabout the vast tonnage of packaging associated with our food supply systems. It also calls into question the way we value “cheap convenient food.” At Willy Street Co-op we encourage you to help scale this back with our bulk aisle and our Produce departments and our encouragement to bring your own containers to shop.

Speaking of Green Thursdays, drop in on Thursday, April 4th and meet the hydrogeologist Ken Bradbury. He will be talking about what is really going on beneath Dane County where we all get our water from! He will really wake many people up to the state of our aquifer. For more details, see the Community Room calendar.