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Fun Times at Chesapeake CRAFT's Summer Solstice Conference

Sophia, our Education Coordinator, and I went to the Chesapeake CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) Summer Solstice Conference last Monday. Red Wiggler Farm in Clarksburg, MD hosted the event. It was great to meet farmers from all over the Chesapeake region!

CRAFT is a cooperative effort among farms from different regions to enhance educational opportunities for farm apprentices through farms visits and opportunities to connect with farming peers.

Chesapeake CRAFT “brings together the community of new and aspiring farmers in Northern Virginia and Maryland for farm tours and potlucks throughout the growing season. These simple gatherings are fun, informative, and build networking amongst the farming community,” their website states. 

Throughout the day, there were four sessions of different discussions. Sophia and I split up for almost every session and took notes to gather as much information and insight as possible.

We both went to the session on “Seed Saving and Plant Breeding” with Graham Calloway from Open Book Farm. I have always understood the importance of seed saving, but it was interesting to hear actually how to do it.

I learned that wind-pollinated plants (corn, spinach, etc.) are hardest to save seeds from. Self-pollinated plants (peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, beans, etc.) are easiest to save seeds from. You should use an isolation distance between plants. If distance is not possible, you can use netting. In terms of storing saved seeds, the dryer they are, the longer they will store well. The seeds should be stored in a cool place (the speaker actually stores his in the fridge).

The second session I went to was called, “Medicinal Herb Basics” with Molly Meehan from Centro Ashé. I had no previous knowledge of herbal medicines, but this discussion genuinely sparked my interest!

I learned about how most modern medicine treats one ailment per pill, dosage, etc. Modern medicine puts a band-aid on things; whereas, herbal medicine looks deeper. Every herbal medicinal dose treats a broad range of issues. Take a plantain—it can help with topical ailments like bee stings, can be used as a laxative, for stomach aches and diarrhea, and it is also great for the digestive tract. 

Molly told us to look around—medicinal plants are everywhere. She noted that herbalism is medicine for the people and signifies tradition. Today, 80% of the world still relies on herbal medicine. This is a way for everyone to participate in his or her own healthcare! Infused tea and tinctures are great ways to start participating in herbal medicine. A tinture is pictured on the right.

I also went to discussions on “Homestead Scale Dairy” (learned about what goes into a small scale grass-based cow dairy and goat dairy farms) and “How to Sell Those Veggies! A Marketing Panel.”

Overall, I liked this event because I saw things from the perspective of the farmer. It is great to believe in a sustainable food system, but the farmers are the ones who make our access to real food possible. I gained a new appreciation for what goes into the production of food. This all links back to Brickyard Educational Farm, where we try to teach kids where their food comes from and learn about the importance of sustainable and thoughtful production. 

Lastly, CRAFT events are super fun and you should check them out!  If you’re interested in working on a farm next spring, CRAFT can connect you with farms! 


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