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Farm conference attracts 500

Arlington farmers Mark and Patricia Lovejoy visit with fellow farmer Katrina Djberof at the  Focus on Farming conference at the Lynnwood Conference Center Nov. 22. -
Arlington farmers Mark and Patricia Lovejoy visit with fellow farmer Katrina Djberof at the Focus on Farming conference at the Lynnwood Conference Center Nov. 22.
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LYNNWOOD — Arlington farmer Patricia Lovejoy took a break from reading seed catalogues to join more than 500 farmers and agriculture advocates at the fifth annual Focus on Farming Conference at the Lynnwood Convention Center Nov. 20.

“My eyes were crossing from reading all about the different seed options,” Lovejoy said before sitting down for a locally grown feast at the conference.

“It’s a constant challenge to figure out what works best in our dirt.”

Titled “Breaking New Ground,” this year’s conference featured renowned speakers David Montgomery, author of “Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations,” and Bob Gore, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Montgomery entertained the crowd during lunch, analyzing the growth and demise of civilizations through time in comparison with the quality of soils.

“We’re doing the same things today that ancient civilizations did, which undercut their long-term viability,” he said, adding that more money should be spent on subsidies for conservation practices such as no-till farming.

Montgomery, a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship winner, is a professor at the UW Department of Earth & Space Sciences where he studies the evolution of topography and the influence of changing landforms on ecological systems and human societies.

His most recent studies have taken him around the world, only to discover that humanity’s most necessary natural resource is most likely its soils. Yet, current mechanized agriculture has eroded much of the land, putting this society’s future at risk.

At his opening remarks, Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon stressed the importance of protecting farmland and treating farming as a business.

“We must continue to build up farming as a viable economic opportunity in Snohomish County,” Reardon said after the conference.

“Today’s attendance shows us how important the farm is to society and this community.”

Participants had access to many different workshops presented by successful farmers, with discussions on new techniques and lucrative advice from regional experts.

The day ended with a wine-and-cheese tasting featuring local vintners and producers.

Patricia’s husband, Mark Lovejoy, founder of Arlington’s farmers’ market, found the conference valuable, but maybe not as fruitful as the one he attended the week before.

“I got two good contracts out of last week’s Tilth conference in Bellingham,” he said. He will be supplying locally grown organic produce to the Tulalip Casino and Hotel and also the Bellingham Food Coop.

“I’m planning to get five new greenhouses this winter,” Mark Lovejoy said.

“That will double my production capacity for extended growing seasons.”

Lovejoy said he will give the farmers’ market one more year. He still has fresh beets, tomatoes, carrots and his famous sweet greens mix available at his store at Garden Treasures near Island Crossing.

The Lovejoys are also selling Christmas trees before they head to Mexico for the winter.

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