2018 Agriculture & Food Conference

You are viewing information about a previous years conference. View details about our 2020 conference here.


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Whether you’re a professional farmer, a backyard gardener, or just curious about locally grown food, the Ag & Food Conference is for you! Each year, the lineup includes workshops for the general public as well as info-packed sessions for farmers and gardeners of all experience levels. Registration includes a locally-sourced lunch and at the Resource Fair, you’ll learn about local organizations and businesses that provide services and products to help you grow, whether you’ve got a hundred acres or a couple of window boxes.

2018 Details:

February 25, 2018, 9am-5pm

Bristol County Agricultural High School, Gilbert Hall
135 Center Street, Dighton, MA 02715

You are viewing information about last year’s conference. View details about our 2019 conference here.

Meet the Keynote: Irene Li of Mei Mei Restaurant & Street Kitchen

Irene Li operates Mei Mei Street Kitchen & Mei Mei Restaurant in Boston, leading the industry in local & ethical sourcing and fair employment practices. The award-winning food businesses merge modern techniques and multicultural cuisine with sustainable practices and tech-savvy communications. Mei Mei has been featured in Food & Wine, Eater Boston & National, The New York Times, Restaurant Hospitality, People, Bon Appetit, The Boston Globe, and more. Irene’s background of living on an organic farm, organizing for economic and social justice, and working the restaurant line inform the direction of her creative, farm-driven, Chinese-American and menus. Above all, Irene believes food can and should be delicious, fun, and just. This year, Irene is leading her staff in a groundbreaking open book management training program in conjunction with Rethink Restaurants. She’s working to provide the entire team, from dishwashers to sous chefs, with valuable financial and business management skills in addition to an opportunity for profit-sharing. She is an Eater Young Gun award winner and three-time James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef semi-finalist.

2018 Schedule

9:00 AM – Registration
9:30 AM – Opening Remarks
10:00 AM – Keynote
10:45 AM – Workshop #1
12:15 PM – Lunch
1:30 PM – Workshop #2
3:15 PM – Workshop #3

Three (optional) things to bring to the Ag & Food Conference:

1. A bag of your favorite seeds properly labeled for our Seed Swap table.
2. A reusable water bottle or coffee mug – bring to the registration room with you and ask to be entered to win a free jug of Organic Gem fish emulsion!
3. If you’ll be attending Rhonda’s “Design 2 a T” workshop, please bring your own t-shirt.

Workshops by Category

Marketing and Business Planning

Session 1:
Value-Added Farm Products Panel
Tax Accounting & Bookkeeping

Session 2:
Farm to Family: Connect Your Farm to Early Education and Care
Risk Management & Farm Service Agency Programs

Session 3:
Beginning Farmer Land Access
Working on the Farm: Employment Law 101


Session 1:
Enhanced Soils for Carbon Sequestration with a Johnson-Su Composter
Seed-To-Vase: Managing Specialty Cut Flower Production
Nutrient Managing: Cover Cropping & Composting
What is That Growing There?

Session 2:
No-Till Cover Crops for the Home Garden
Insects, Diseases, and Weeds, Oh My!
Growing Cultural Crops
For the love of the Pumpkin

Session 3:
Beekeeping Basics
A Do-It-Yourself Greenhouse You Can Build!
Winter Growing in Unheated High and Low Tunnels
Profitable Head Lettuce Production Tips – A Direct Market Niche


Session 1:
Reducing Stress in Poultry Through Environmental Management
Beef Chuck Cutting Demonstration

Session 2:
Focus on Poultry Feed & Supplements
Animal Husbandry & Livestock: The Public Health Perspective

Session 3:
Getting Started with Meat Rabbits

Foodie & Homesteader:

Session 1:
Design 2 a Tee: The Art of Up-cycling – Indigo Dye Pot

Session 2:
Wool? Adventures in Processing for Profit
Nutrition from the Ground Up – Plant-based Nutrition

Session 3:
Navigating the Maze of Lyme Disease – Thinking Outside the Box
Corn Grinding


Session 1:
Caring and Showing Rabbits

Session 2:
Bristol Aggie Farm Tour

Session 3:
Honeybees and Me

Workshop Descriptions

SESSION 1 — 10:45 AM

Value Added Products – A Panel Discussion

Are you a farmer? Do you want to move up the value chain? Consider value-added products. Transform raw farm produce in high-value, finished products. This workshop features a panel of organizations who are involved in this process on a regular basis. Come join the conversation.

Marie Kaziunas & Chuck Currie run  Freedom Food Farm in Raynham, MA

Seth Morrison & Colin Roy help to run Commonwealth Kitchen, a shared kitchen space in Dorchester, MA

Chris  Michaud is the Director of the Dartmouth Board of Health

Beth Adoette uses her food and business experience to manage the Dartmouth Grange Shared-Use Kitchen, a 2,000 square foot commercial kitchen in rural, southeastern Massachusetts.


Accounting & Bookkeeping For Farmers

You decided to become a farmer because you love being outside, working the land and making a difference in the way we eat and farm.  When you decided to become a farmer, you also became an entrepreneur and business person.  In order to be ecologically and financially sustainable, you must understand the basics of accounting and bookkeeping. This workshop will go over some of the basics and most important aspects of running your farm in a way that ensures you can continue to make a living from your profession.

Patrick Kirby is a Farm Account Manager at Farm Credit East in Middleborough, MA working with area farmers to keep their finances in order. He also serves on the SEMAP Board of Directors as Treasurer.

Seed-To-Vase: Managing Specialty Cut Flower Production

Learn the ins and outs of growing specialty cut flowers on a small scale for wholesale, retail, and floral design markets. We’ll discuss sourcing seeds and plugs, crop planning, trialing new varieties, annuals vs. perennials, harvest and post-harvest tricks, and what fun flowers and foliages you might want to add to your home cutting garden or small farm.

Phoebe Poole has worked on a variety of farms for close to 10 years and started Weatherlow Florals at Weatherlow Farms in Westport in 2015, supplying the wedding and event industry on the South Coast and in Rhode Island with sustainably grown specialty cut flowers and foliages.


Nutrient Managing: Cover Cropping & Composting

Cover cropping and composting are two of our most important tools in managing soil nutrition on our organic farm. In this session, we’ll cover the benefits of using these tools, plus the logistics of making it happen, including planning & decision-making, application calculations, what happens with the soil chemistry, managing phosphorus levels, field prep, and the equipment we use.  

Kevin O’Dwyer is the farmer and founder of Langwater Farm, a 60-acre organic vegetable, fruit & flower farm in Easton, MA.


Enhanced Soils for Carbon Sequestration with the Johnson-Su Composter

High fungal compost can improve soil productivity while increasing carbon sequestration.  The no-mix Johnson-Su composter system enhances soil microbiology and carbon sequestration is elevated by up to 20 fold. We will discuss the principles of this simple innovation plus demonstrate composter construction and operation.

Dr. Jim Corven is a Professor of Sustainable Agriculture and Biology at Bristol Community College in Fall River, MA.

What is That Growing Over There?

This workshop will touch on some of the non-traditional crops that Coonamessett Farm have dabbled in, including ginger, turmeric, popping sorghum, taro, figs, sweet potatoes, jilo, rice, callaoo. None of these will be the crop that makes you rich but they may bring a bit of diversity to your traditional field of crops.

Stan Ingram is the Field Manager at Coonamessett Farm in East Falmouth, MA.


Caring for & Showing Rabbits

This is a workshop for children on how to care for a bunny. It will also include how to prepare and show rabbits in 4H and ARBA shows, with some lesson about showmanship and breeding. Children will get to handle rabbits and practice a few basic grooming skills.

Susan Blauss is a kindergarten and 4H leader, she has raised and shown rabbits Nationally for over 20 years and has written articles on the care and showing of bunnies.


Reducing Stress in Poultry Through Environmental Management

We will discuss how lighting, temperature, space, social, and other environmental factors affect poultry well-being, and ultimately impact the overall egg or meat quality for your flock.

Dr. Michael Darre has been the Extension Poultry Special Specialist for CT and New England for the past 37 years.


Beef Chuck Cutting Demonstration

A discussion of the different finished product options that derive from the beef chuck. We will start with a 113 square cut chuck and break it down to all the standard and value-added finished cuts. Questions are encouraged during the demonstration.

Amado Baeza is the Chief Operating Officer for TLI and will be operating their new state of the art processing facility called Meatworks in Westport.


Design 2 a Tee: The Art of Upcycling

Artist and designer, Rhonda M. Fazio from Dyer Maker Studio will set up a textile design lab and instruct visitors on how to upcycle a used t-shirt to look like new again. Participants will be encouraged to bring an old shirt to design and dye with Indigo. Ms. Fazio will discuss methods of textile design and lead a discussion on the origins of these natural resources, brought to life with storytelling, and how they connect to the culture and diversity of our shared American history. BYO T-shirt.

Rhonda Fazio, an Environmental Alchemist, is the artist and designer of Dyer Maker Studio specializing in natural color and sustainable textile design.  A traveling studio based on the South Coast, Ms. Fazio teaches the art and history of textile design to a new generation of up and coming entrepreneurs.


SESSION 2 —  1:30 PM


Farm to Family: Connecting your farm to early education and care settings

Learn about opportunities to make stronger connections between your farm and early education and care settings to grow your sales, gain greater recognition in the community, and support access to healthy, local foods for all families. Participants will learn how to access early education and care settings both for sales to the meal program and for CSA distribution to families. Participants will be able to evaluate whether these channels are a good fit for their farm business and how to promote these partnerships effectively.

Simca Horwitz is the Co-Director of Massachusetts Farm to School where she works to strengthen local farms and fisheries and promote healthy communities by increasing local food purchasing and education at schools.


Crop Insurance, Risk Management, & Farm Service Agency Programs

The workshop will focus on available disaster assistance programs available through USDA.  The workshop will focus primarily on Federal Crop Insurance and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) but also include other programs and other topics to allow attendees to gain an understanding of the various USDA programs available.

Paul Russell and Tom Smiarowski have worked with UMass Extension to provide Federal Crop Insurance and risk management information to Massachusetts farmers for the past 5 years.  Prior to their work with UMass Extension, Paul and Tom each had over 33 years of experience working on USDA disaster assistance programs with the USDA – Farm Service Agency.


No-Till Cover Crops for the Home Garden

Maintaining living plant cover is one of the essential practices of building soil health. This workshop provides practical guidance on using cover crops in a small-scale, non-mechanized, no-till context to improve soil health both for growing more nutritious food and for sequestering atmospheric carbon into the soil.
Sharon Gensler is a Homesteader/organic grower/educator of 38 yrs. Using no-till & cover crops soil building practices on small scale.


Winter Growing in Unheated High and Low Tunnels

Learn about all the basics of successful winter growing. Start off with crop and variety selection, sowing dates, planting prep, and high and low tunnel construction. Will also cover managing the crops through the winter for sustained harvests.

Mike & Kelli Roberts started Roots Farm in 2009 and grow certified organic veggies year-round on 1.25 acres in Tiverton, RI.


Insects, Diseases, and Weeds, Oh My!

Love vegetable gardening but hate dealing with insects, diseases, and weeds?  Learn how to overcome these three major gardening obstacles organically. Author, award-winning journalist and longtime organic market gardener Andy Tomolonis reveals his techniques for battling the big three adversaries — with help from Mother Nature. Andy’s practical solutions are perfect for small-scale farmers or larger-scale vegetable gardeners. His strategies include smart growing techniques, proper soil fertility, physical barriers and routines that are easy, inexpensive and ultimately more effective than harsh chemicals.

Andy Tomolonis and his wife, Val, operated a small-scale organic CSA from their suburban backyard, supplying eight families with vegetables, fruit, berries, eggs, honey, and herbs for 5 years. Andy used the experiences to write the comprehensive organic gardening text: Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space.


Growing Crops Popular Among Immigrant Communities in Southeastern Mass.

Starting in the mid-1960’s, the origin of immigrants coming to the United States has changed from mostly European ethnicities to ethnicities from more tropical regions on the word. The largest numbers are coming from Latin America and an increasing number from Asia and Africa. The Southeastern United States has experienced similar changes in immigration. For example, the public schools of New Bedford and Fall River are now 40% and 26% Latino. These newer immigrant groups want access to fresh products that are staples in their cultural cuisines. This workshop will provide sustainable production and marketing strategies popular among these new immigrant groups.

Frank Mangan is an Extension Professor of Sustainable Vegetable Production and Marketing Systems in the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Kids Tour of Aggie

A great after-lunch break for the kids! We will head off to get some fresh air, tour the farm, and see the many different animals on the Bristol Aggie Campus.

Kyle Medeiros is a Foreman at Bristol Aggie, working with the school’s animals on a daily basis, and helping to run the Bristol Aggie Student Farm.


Wool? Adventures in Processing for Profit

Processing your wool for a return on investment has many options, not just selling it at the wool pool.  From selecting hand spinning fleeces, individual fleece to whole lot processing, navigate the process from scouring to a finished product.  

Lindsey and Susan Rice operate Bartlettyarns Inc. a 195-year-old mill in Harmony, ME processing wool, alpaca, llama, and mohair fibers.


Focus on Poultry Feed and Supplements

This discussion will explore the various ingredients and supplements that may be included in a poultry ration and how they affect growth and efficiency of your laying hens or meat birds.

Dr. Michael Darre has been the Extension Poultry Special Specialist for CT and New England for the past 37 years.


Animal Husbandry & Livestock: The Public Health Perspective

The workshop will discuss the varied roles and interests of Animal Control and Boards of Health with respect to animal/livestock husbandry. The discussion will include the roles of each department and how they interact with the public and livestock owners. Additional discussion will include community trends and how regulators and animal keepers must work to together to educate the public who are otherwise unfamiliar with sound husbandry practices.  Bring your own experiences and questions to get involved with the discussion.

Chris  Michaud is the Director of the Dartmouth Board of Health

Sandra Gosselin has been a farmer and Animal Control Officer and Animal Inspector for the Town of Dartmouth for 23 years.


Nutrition from the Ground Up: How Plant-Based Nutrition Impacts Your Health and the Health of the Planet

This workshop will explore the health benefits of eating plant-based, simple ways in which you can incorporate more plant-based nutrition into your daily meals, and the impact this has on the health of our planet. A focus on seasonal and local food will be incorporated as well.

Dianna Carpentieri is a Registered Dietitian with degrees in Food + Nutrition and Psychology. Through nutritional counseling, she combines her knowledge and experience with her passion for food to assist others in achieving their health and wellness goals.


SESSION 3 —  3:15 PM


Working on the Farm: Employment Law 101

Hosted by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and the Legal Food Hub, this workshop will provide an overview of important employment issues that farmers need to know. From apprenticeships to minimum wage and overtime, an attorney who is an employment law expert will cover key topics that come up on the farm. Attendees will receive an agricultural employment law handbook.

Brian Killoy is an attorney, employment law expert, and experienced litigator at Conn Kavanaugh Law Firm in Boston.


Accessing Land for Beginning Farmers in Southeastern Mass

We will discuss the ins and outs of farmland access as it pertains to beginning and early career farmers, especially surrounding farm search strategies, leasing, and land assessment.

Jason Silverman is the Massachusetts Field Agent for the regional nonprofit Land For Good. Jason also owns and operates Windrow Farm in Conway, MA, producing hay and focusing on grass-based farming systems.


A Do-It-Yourself Greenhouse You Can Build

Have you longed to have a greenhouse to grow early spring greens or perhaps fall tomatoes and peppers? Build one! We put together a low cost, 8’x8’ cattle panel portable greenhouse ten years ago which is still going strong today.

Bette Low has been experimenting with unusual fruits, grown with organic methods, in Westport for the past 24 years.


For the Love of the Pumpkin

From large to small – learn the trials and tribulations of growing pumpkins as a crop, for agritourism, and for fun. This panel will explain some tips that can bring your pumpkin crop to the next level. It all started with a seed and a dream.

Todd Sandstrum is an Agricultural Consultant and Project Manager for Hockomock YMCA and in his free time you can find him caring for his giant pumpkins, and dreaming of paddling them down a river.

Katie Cavanaugh and her husband run Beaver Brook Farm in East Bridgewater, MA selling pick-your-own pumpkins on their chemical-free fields.

Bruce Howden moved back to the farm after his father, John A. Howden, passed away, to carry on the legacy of the one of a kind Howden Pumpkins.


Profitable Head Lettuce Production Tips – A Direct Market Niche

Growing Head Lettuce can be profitable throughout the seasons.  This workshop will focus on production techniques key to producing consistent heads from June through October.  We’ll include a focus on fertility for vegetative growth, reducing bolting with variety selection and minerals, and highlight propagation, cultivation, and effective harvest techniques.  Each summer we produce ~1/2 acre of head lettuce at Brix Bounty Farm, direct marketed through our roadside stand and CSA.  Head lettuce continues to be one our most profitable crops.  Time for Q&A and troubleshooting with workshop participants will be included.

Derek Christianson runs Brix Bounty Farm in Dartmouth, MA, selling at his roadside stand, CSA, and area farmers market. He has been farming in the Northeast for the past sixteen seasons.


Beekeeping Basics

Beekeeping Basics is an introduction to the world of beekeeping. If you are at all fascinated with the life of honeybees and what is involved with becoming a beekeeper, this is the workshop to start with. A condensed version of Bristol County Beekeepers Association Beginner’s Beekeeping Course, this workshop will cover topics of time commitment, hive placement, equipment needs, best management practices, honey bee biology, swarms and products of the hive.

Eric Pilotte is a 5th-year beekeeper, President of the Bristol County Beekeepers Association, Inc. and an instructor for the BrCBA Bee School.

Ed Lowe is an 18-year beekeeper, Treasurer of the Bristol County Beekeepers Association, Inc. and an instructor for the BrCBA Bee School.


Honey Bees and Me

This is a workshop for children to learn about honey bees and how they can help promote the healthy treatment of them. They will learn what a beekeeper does, pollination and why it’s important, what’s in a hive, types of bees, bee jobs and how to help at home! All with fun activities and we will also have a live bee observation hive!

Heidi Pelletier runs a Nature Daycare Center and loves to educate children on honey bees. Heidi has been a beekeeper for 5 years and is on the Board of Directors at Bristol County Bee Association.


Getting Started with Meat Rabbits

Learn everything that you will need to know to get started raising a few meat rabbits in your backyard.

Josh Leveque is a backyard farmer who has been raising meat rabbits since 2010.


Navigating the Maze of Lyme Disease – Thinking Outside the Box

Preventing, diagnosing, and treating Lyme Disease can be a daunting task.  This workshop will help you to understand some of the facts, fallacies and unknowns and offer up a wide range of alternative treatments to consider what might be right for you.

Barbara Sarah Smith, MSW is a clinical social worker who has worked with scores of Lyme Disease patients in their journey to wellness as well as having regained vibrant health herself through a variety of allopathic and alternative treatments for Lyme.


Corn Grinding

What is flint corn and what are Jonnycakes? A discussion of the history of the grinding and milling of flint corn and a demonstration of hand-grinding flint corn with a quern, which is a simple hand mill.

George Whitley is the Miller at Gray’s Grist Mill in Westport, MA.

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