1st annual North Olympic Peninsula Farmers Convergence & Mixer Post Convergence Report

Folks gathered at the 1st Farmer Convergence/MixerThe Farmers Convergence & Mixer on December 3, 2017 was a success so we anticipate it will become an annual event. I estimate that 250 people came through during the day and evening.  I was surprised that the peak crowd was late afternoon and not the evening dance so a lot of people came specifically for the networking and discussions.  The band was great and there was a continuous roar of conversation and laughter along with the music and dancing. 

We had an opening circle at 2:00 with about 80 people.  About 10 people came up and talked for the open mic period. About 15 Awards were given out and about a dozen door prizes. 

A great group of fascinating people. Between all of us there were a lot of conversations. Each of us got a snapshot of a very big event. 

We learned some things this time and so the next one should be even better.

In all the commotion one thing we didn’t do is to record who received Farmer’s Awards, who contributed and won door prizes and who all had a display.  We will make sure to have that done next time and have a designated staff photographer.  If anyone would send us some photos that would be great.  Especially of the door prize table and the farming awards board.

Terry Du Beau and Karen Wyeth set up a children’s area and were around for the children who wanted to hang out and do projects.  It was nice to have something there for the children.  7 generations.

Did anyone take photos they can send us?

We had people raise their hands were they were from during the open mic period and not surprisingly Jefferson County was most represented.  Clallam and Kitsap County both had big contingents. Hardly anyone from Mason County.

Amy Rosen, Environmental Specialist and Farm Planner from the Mason Conservation District sent an email the day after the event. “I wasn't able to make the Farmer Convergence, though it sounded like a great event.  I did though want to send a thank you for including Mason County!  I've been working hard to cultivate more farmers and farm community here and hope Mason County will be represented at the next go-around!”

We only had about 100 people actually sign in on the registration list, which means more than half didn’t sign in (or we lost some sign in sheets).

Of those who signed in: 50 checked they were farmers, 8 checked they were farmworkers, 6 checked they were interns and 21 checked that they worked in the food system industry.  (This means we probably had around 75 farmers attend).

Thank you to our sponsors!

Friends of the Trees Society, Nash’s Organic Produce, Jefferson County Local Food System Council, Port Townsend Food Coop, Olympic Peninsula Regenerative Agriculture Alliance, Abakis Music, Finnriver Farm & Cidery, WSU County Extension, and Oatsplanter Seeds.

Some of the farms and groups represented (the ones we know of) include:

Joy Farm, Sequim Farmers Market, Flourish Flowers, Nash’s Organic Produce, USDA FSA, Kodama Farm, Dungeness Valley Creamery, Jefferson County Local Food Systems Council, River Run Farm, Short’s Family Farm, Earth CPR Supplies, Duckabush Mushrooms, Jefferson County Herb Guild, Friends of the Trees, WSU County Extension Jefferson County, Mountain Spirit Botanical, Abundantly Green, Sweet Thyme Gardens, Sunshine Farm, Mystery Bay Dairy, Dharma Ridge Farm, Heron Botanicals, Root Cellar Society, White Lotus Farm, David Scott Farm, Mystery Bay Farm, Finnriver Farm, Cedarroot School, B Collective, Solstice Farm, Wild Edge Farm, Organic Seed Alliance, Oatsplanter Seeds, Inside Passage Seeds, Farmstand Local Foods, Moonlight Farm, The Morel Compass, Jefferson County Planning Commission, Three Peas Farm, Sunshine Flower Farm, Laughing Crow Farm, Bainbridge Vineyard & Winery, Seed Dreams, Blossom Consulting Service, Tree of Life Education & Retreat Center, Port Townsend Food Coop, Midori Farm,

Awards included:

Linda Davis of Solstice Farm, received two “Best farm mentor” of the year awards from Kodama Farm and another young farm couple.

Len Horst of Earth CPR Supplies in Sequim received an award for best organic fertilizer supplier in the region. 

Laura Llewellyn, Port Townsend Food Coop produce manager received an award for buying so much local farm produce.

Michael Pilarski for bringing farmers and others together.

There were other awards.  Please send me them so we can update them on the web report. 

Door prizes included donations from Short’s Family Farm, Friends of the Trees Farm, Seabrook Gardens, Sweet Thyme Gardens, Mountain Spirit Botanicals, Thunderbull Productions. There were other door prizes.  Please send me them so we can update them on the web report.  

The discussion groups were well attended.

Government Ag policy, 45 people. Nicole Witham facilitated. Big group with lots of interest. Nicole’s report will also be posted on OPRAA’s website (Olympic Peninsula Regenerative Agriculture Alliance.)

Notes from the Government Policy Discussion Group

recorded on the flip chart

What regulations have encumbered your farming efforts?

* Buffers/critical areas/drainage

* Loss of value

* Use of land pasture vs cultivated crops

* Food processing/on site/kitchens, water/septic

Shared resources?


Commercial kitchen

Michael suggested looking into the Portland group “Recoding” which works with government to alleviate onerous regulations.


Illegal operations

As necessity. How can these be

Pilot Project options?

Legal liability/ Funding Resource?

Communiy kitchen spaces/leasing

Legal meat processing

Meat packing law? USDA vs WSDA

Communicating sector needs

Cold storage collective?

Farm tour for elected officials

JC, Farm Policy Committee

Grange Community resource

June 30, Comp Plan due

2 hearings. Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners

Community Feedback.

See further attachments with this report.

Herb Cooperative. 35 people attended. Ellen O’Shea and Michael Pilarski reported on the progress so far. Ellen wrote up some great documents and had them on display.

               One goal is to have a co-op dryer, processing facility and commercial kitchen.

               Denise Joy of Mountain Spirit Botanicals offered to give advice on FDA compliance. The hoops increase if you ship out of state.

There was support for setting up an herbal school, herb growing and wildcrafting training. Denise Joy has an education program.

It was mentioned that there was support in Jefferson County Port to have an herbal facility on Port property at the Airport.

The co-op is in its formative stages but it hopes to evolve into a hub for marketing herbs grown in Nw Wa for local and distance markets.

It was recommended that we look at the Port townsend Grain Co-op for ideas.

Mia has talent to share on running non-profits.

Equipment sharing.

Greenhorns, Growing together.

Labor sharing.

* Anyone interested should get on the coop email list.  Send to Michael at [email protected]         

Menu for the Future. 15 people. Judy Alexander is setting up many discussion groups to discuss the food systems we want to see. 

North Olympic Peninsula Farmer Convergence: Local Seed Break-out Session

North Olympic farmers interested in growing their seed knowledge kept long-time producers overtime during the Local Seed breakout session at the Farmer Convergence on December 3. Tessa Gowans of Seed Dreams and Steve Habersetzer of Oatsplanter Seed were peppered with questions and provided strategies and advice on topics ranging from how best to store saved seeds to germination challenges of specific varieties.  Forest Shomer of Inside Passage Seeds and Native Plant Services asked farmers to identify their purpose in farming, and encouraged them to consider native plant rescue and propagation.

Tessa and Steve recommended that farmers store fully dried seeds in glass, and to freeze those prone to seed-borne diseases briefly before long term pantry storage.  They advised to always let the glass reach room temperature before opening stored seed containers.  Questions around cross pollination of certain varieties evoked practical solutions, such as Steve’s suggestion to grow just one kind of kale each year, and for squash growers to plant one Pepo, one Maxima, and one Moschata type, as the different species will not cross with one another.  Because the seed is viable (if stored properly) for up to 8 years, a farmer can still build a nice collection of kale varieties using this strategy. One farmer asked if anyone is tracking who is growing what seed in Sequim.  While some local pin-mapping is being done, Jadyne Reichner suggested that Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) track seed production for Jefferson and Clallam County.  The need for a community drying facility, both for seed and herbs, was raised; OSA is exploring options to develop such a facility in collaboration with Finnriver.

With collective wisdom of over 100 years of seed experience in the room, the dozen attendees kept the questions and discussion going well past the hour allotted.

Cara Loriz

Organic Seed Alliance

We had a writing board for people to leave Ideas, Proposals, Offers, etc.

Here is what was written on it.

Our farm hand would like to know if there is interest from farmers in the area in a CSA delivery service.  Eric P. 206-427-5442.

Does anyone want to partner or patronize a larger scale herb and fruit drying service in east Jefferson County? Eric P. 206-427-5442.

I own a sawmill and I am interested to know if anyone has experience, interest or other ideas relating to forming a sawmill co-operative. Spencer 360 -301-6109, [email protected]

I’m looking for a honey producer for our micro distribution company. Austin, [email protected]. [Austin runs Farmstand Local Foods in King County.]

TOOL LIBRARY. Natalie & Niall, [email protected]

Appropriate technology to gain independency.

Like the arrival of industrial & petrochemical agribusiness in the 20th century and the intrusion of gmos in recent decades, …

Those who care about Mother Earth & sustainable organic farming must now become informed about, and mobilized to resist, the rising techno-tsunami of Artificial intelliegence, driven robotic ag-automation…from robot harvesters to swarming ”intelligent” mini-drones to high-rize urban produce factories where plants and people never see the sun. [check out ‘Gizmodo’ mag Feb. 2015 by Adam Clark Estes (not your friend)]

We need to discuss this looming technological assault… before it’s too late. 

Tree of Life Education/retreat center (Port Hadlock). 360-344-8350. [email protected] 

Community plant medicine garden(s) to use for educational purposes and to stock community apothecaries.  [email protected]


End of Idea Board writing.

Biochar Discussion.  35 people attended including quite a few local and visiting experts including Francesco Tortorici who orchestrated the discussion, Norm Baker and Gary Kline. Afterwards they did a biochar burn and stood around the warm glow.  Francesco has written up a splendid report.

Francesco Tortorici (who led the biochar group) sent this email the day after the Convergence.

I want to thank everyone who attended yesterday’s discussion at the Farmers Convergence.  A special thanks to those who had questions or shared your experience with biochar.  

Everyone that gave me an email expressed interest in the NW Biochar mailing list.  This list is administered by Ken Miller and Norm Baker who were there yesterday.  Occasionally topics of interested to the group are posted on the list. Anyone can post items or ask a question.  I believe there are close to 400 members.  Many of them have quite a bit of experience so it is a great resource.  Here is a link to sign up, just follow the instructions.  If you have any problems, let me know

https://lists.bioenergylists.or g/mailman/listinfo/nwbiochar_l ists.bioenergylists.org 

For those that were not at the burn after the discussion here is a video of the workshop Bryan and I attended on Orcas  - https://www.youtube.c om/watch?time_continue=10&v=h5 kSST6I1Tw 

and another - https://vimeo.com/205544939   (From Restore Char) 

Here are some websites that may also be of interest:

While the NY Times article I refereed to yesterday does not specifically mention biochar it supports everything you all are doing and biochar is another piece of the puzzle.  Here is the link:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/1 2/02/opinion/sunday/soil-power -the-dirty-way-to-a-green-plan et.html?rref=collection%2Fsect ioncollection%2Fopinion&action =click&contentCollection=opini on&region=rank&module=package& version=highlights&contentPlac ement=6&pgtype=sectionfront 

If anyone has any questions, please do not hesitate to email me.  If you start making and/or using biochar please let me know.   I love to hear what people are doing in our area.

Francesco, [email protected]

A letter from Norm Baker, one of the biochar folks at the convergence.

I want to encourage everyone in attendance at the farmers convergence to join the Pacific Northwest biochar blog - https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en#!forum/pnw-biochar. That blog has been somewhat inactive in recent years but now, Ken Miller and I have been appointed as administrators. Frankly, the Pacific Northwest is becoming something of a hotspot for biochar and, we are going to make the blog more active. Everyone in Biochar Olypen has already been added to the Pacific Northwest biochar blog.

I was really pleased by the farmers convergence. It was a lot of fun and it was great to connect with all of the permaculture people. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to spend time with Michael Pilarski. Both of us were so busy it was almost impossible.

At our discussion group on biochar led by Francesco and Bryan, the question of loading biochar to make it active in our soils came up. Francesco posted a really great video on how to do that. I have to add a few comments. In the early days of biochar the term "activation" meant exposing the biochar to water to create chemical carboxyl groups on its surface. Gradually that term has come to mean "loading  or charging" the biochar with all sorts of plant nutrients simply because the biochar is going to be exposed to water when you quench it after pyrolysis or after exposure to weather or soil. Obviously, water is pretty much everywhere in an outdoor environment.

All of the methods described of loading or activating the biochar in the video work. However, why make it more complicated than it needs to be? Aerobic piles of green waste loaded with biochar when you build the pile seems to be the number one method that works the best. Simply cover the pile so that rain does not wash out the nutrients. Add any organic amendment  or fertilizer you think is necessary for your soils to create tasty nutrient dense food. 

Several people were interested in the biochar urinal research going on here at my place. Let me tell you the overview of what we are planning. We have a septic system because the county building codes require a septic system for waste disposal. This is a huge waste of nutrients that should be going into our soils. All we have to do is manage  human waste properly so that it is not a problem for human health or and environmental pollutant.

We had a composting toilet when we built a home here. Unfortunately, the unit was not designed to take biochar as a composting ingredient. Eventually we took that unit out and connected the toilet to the septic system. However, there are better ways to handle human waste. The best way to handle human waste is to install a urine diverting toilet. This means the septic system could be used to handle gray water alone. In that context the septic system should last just about forever without a need to pump it out. The urine diverting toilet will separate the urine from the poop and allow us to recover the nutrients from both and use them appropriately. The poop goes to a composting toilet known to work well. Several are available commercially. The urine should go to biochar. A small flexible tube coming from the toilet is generally gravity fed to an outdoor location. There, the urine is deposited, as it is created, into a large container filled with biochar. That container will need to be monitored so that you know when the biochar is fully loaded, or stated another way when the biochar is fully charged with nutrients in urine. Unfortunately, no one has really adequately investigated how much urine biochar can hold. The first problem to be addressed is the water in urine. The best solution is to let it evaporate. I personally like some sort of a screen container filled with biochar. It should be covered to protect it from rain and it should be in a location where extra or excess urine and water can drain safely to the ground with out creating a cesspool spot. Unfortunately, no one has researched the amount of biochar, per person per time period necessary to be labor efficient and effective without causing problems. Unfortunately, no one has published any research on how much biochar loaded with urine is appropriate for garden application. That said, I definitely recommend at least a month between putting urine loaded biochar into the garden and beginning to harvest vegetables. This is one of those situations where basic research is not quite caught up with a really appropriate application. But, a few of us are working on the issue.

~ Norm

Thank you for your warm hearts and all of your efforts to build a caring farm community.

Further questions, comments, suggestions, etc should be sent to;

Michael Pilarski



MICHAEL “SKEETER” PILARSKI is a life-long student of plants and earth repair. His farming career started in 2nd grade and his organic farming career began in 1972 at age 25. Michael founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and took his first permaculture design course in 1982. Since 1988 he has taught 36 permaculture design courses in the US and abroad. His specialties include earth repair, agriculture, seed collecting, nursery sales, tree planting, fruit picking, permaculture, agroforestry, forestry, ethnobotany, medicinal herb growing, hoeing and wildcrafting. He has hands-on experience with over 1000 species of plants. He is a prolific gathering organizer and likes group singing.