The One Percent

By Thomas Nelson, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop

Farmers, seed and equipment suppliers, food distributors and retailers, NGOs and community members from across the country, came together last week at the 32nd Annual EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar, Pacific Grove. Located in a stunningly beautiful coastal setting, propagators of a sustainable food and farming system gathered to share knowledge and have some fun.

Many farm folk from the Capay Valley presented. Rye Muller lectured on the finer points of raising pastured poultry at Full Belly Farm. Bonny Scott of Orangewood Farm shared her practitioners perspective working with Food Aggregation Hubs. I was honored to share our work in a panel on Multi-Farm CSAs.

In addition to oodles of workshops, the conference featured a number of excellent films, including The Last Crop, a documentary about our good friends at Good Humus Produce. Deborah Koons Garcia presented three wonderful, short “sonatas” from her forthcoming feature film, Symphony of the Soil.

Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Stewards of Sustainable Agriculture Award, or “Susties,” which included Carl Rosato of Woodleaf Farm and Paul Cultera of the Sacramento Natural Foods Coop. Each takes home an exquisitely decorated gourd hand-crafted by Gretchen Ceteras also of Blue Heron Farm fame.

This year’s conference theme of Raising Eco Farmers’ Voices was spot on. Perhaps the most poignant voice was that of Nevada County organic farmer Hilary Hodge delivering her talent show-winning poem, Farmers’ Lament. It begins:

“It’s hard to open up, to display my sad depression.” But indulge me for a while, as I share this history lesson:

During the birth of this fair nation, in 1790, just for measure,”90% of us were farmers, a new-born nation’s treasure,

And when someone went to congress then, it was a deal of sacrifice,” they had to leave their stock behind, say goodbye to beans and rice.”

Invited to recite her work to the full conference in Merrill Hall, over a thousand people erupted in thunderous, standing applause after these closing words:

“We are still the sacred backbone, it’s not broken, but it’s bent,” we are our nations’ farmer’s; we are the one percent.”

(Read Hilary’s full poem on her blog.) Fortunately for the farming one percent, there is a strong and growing interest among the 99% to eat fresh, local, organic and sustainably grown food that builds healthy urban and rural communities.

To see links to all the amazing farmers, films and organizations mentioned here, visit our website at

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