As you know in November, I went to a conference in North Carolina. I go to this conference every year, and I love it. For the first time this January, I attended the North America Strawberry Growers annual conference. It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a chance for strawberry growers all over North America to get together and talk about strawberry growing. The conference is held in January every year, but the location moves all over North America.
This year it was held in San Antonio, which is a very cool town all on its own. Add to that a 100 or so growers of strawberries from all over the place, and it was a blast. Since this was my first time attending, I didn’t know any of the other growers. But like all the other farmers I have run into, they were friendly and welcoming.
I met growers from Arizona*, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, Alaska, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Oklahoma, Washington, Idaho, and Arkansas. Every conversation was captivating.** I wish the conference was a week long instead of just a weekend. I want to hear more about growing strawberries in 5 feet of snow, or how even though the season is short in Alaska it works because the days are so long. All of it was fascinating,
Because the conference was held in San Antonio and my farm is only several hours away, I was invited to talk about my farm for 20 minutes or so. Since I can talk about my farm endlessly this was not hard. I had a blast and apparently my talk was engaging! I received my first ever compliment on my public speaking skills.***
Like many conferences there are talks that you find more relevant than others. One presentation was about the best cultivars of strawberries to grow in greenhouses. While very interesting, not particularly relevant for me. More relevant was the lecture on crop rotation. I am not going to go into detail here about crop rotation because I am going to do a whole post on it.
However, the most exciting of all was the presentation by Tric Robotics. This is the future of farming. And I Can Not Wait! I have seen and read lots of potential New Things that are going to Change The Future of Farming. But this I believe will actually make a difference. So there is super cool research out there about how UV-C light radiation kills fungal infections in fruit plants without mutating the plant. The problem of course is how do you get UV-C light radiating out into the middle of a six acre field (or one acre as the case is on my farm). It is one thing to take a dozen plants and stick them in a chamber in a lab and expose them to this light. It is another thing entirely to make this a practical application in the field. This is where Tric Robotics comes in. They are a start up of mostly college students who are working on making a programmable robot that drives through strawberry fields exposing each plant to the needed amount of UV-C light. THIS IS SO EXCITING!!! It is a low impact, totally organic good for the soil, good for the farmer, good for the consumer way of treating fungal disease which are some of the most difficult to treat, often requiring the heavy use of chemicals. I love it! I have signed up to be a test site, but sadly that is at least a year a way, most likely more. I am seriously so so so looking forward to this.
Until next time,
*the only farmer growing strawberries in Arizona as far as I can tell.
**This is probably only true if you farm strawberries.
***This is particularly hilarious as I completely blew off my public speaking class in college since I figured I would be working with plants all of my life and had no intention of talking about them.