November 12-14 was the 2009 Alabama Food Summit in Birmingham. About eight New College students made the drive to meet organic farmers from all over the south and learn about the technical and philosophical aspects of sustainable agriculture as well as the marketing side of having a farm. We were able to make relationships with the farmers and learn from their stories of failure and success.
Some of the workshops included:
- Cover crops
- Health and nutrition
- Food advocacy
- Cooperative marketing
- Future of seeds
One of the farmers that stood out the most was Jeff Poppen from Red Boiling Springs, TN. Living up to his title as the “barefoot farmer,” Jeff rocked a long, dreaded beard and possessed an aura of simplicity. His appreciation for the Earth was contagious as he delved into the advantages of biodynamic farming and shared personal stories of life on his farm. He was extremely generous with his farming tips, sharing compost recipes and handing out the organic sweet potatoes from his farm. Jeff talked about the benefits of urban gardens, which are essentially a product of a nearby “mother” farm.
Jeff talked about the benefits of urban gardens, which are essentially a product of a nearby “mother” farm.
He gave us an apparently magical fertilizer recipe:
- 25 gallons of cow manure
- 2000 grams of egg shells
- 1000 grams of basalt
- mix with shovel for 1 hour (Jeff has “stirring” parties with his friends), and put in a wooden, bottomless barrel buried in the ground.
- One cup of this stuff mixed with 3 gallons of water (stir for 20 minutes) is enough for one acre of land, sprinkled during the evening as the dew falls.
Jeff also went on a tangent about the moon cycle and it's effect on crops. He swears that the moon can be used a device in determining the best time to plant, weed, and harvest crops.
Overall, the Food Summit was a success, and students left with a packet of information, a more extensive knowledge about farming, and the knowledge that we will always have a welcoming home in Boiling Springs, TN with Jeff the barefoot farmer.