Organic Farming Conference to be showcase for innovation

Organic Farming Conference to be showcase for innovation

Stefan Sobkowiak, an educator, biologist and owner of Miracle Farms in Canada, will be one of the keynote speakers at the eighth Organic Farming Conference at The Event Center in Mt. Hope Nov. 9-10.


Organic farming continues to create new and innovative ways for farmers to prosper, and many professionals will be on hand under one roof to examine some of these concepts.

Stefan Sobkowiak will be one of the keynote speakers at the eighth Organic Farming Conference at The Event Center in Mt. Hope Nov. 9-10.

Sobkowiak is an educator, biologist and owner of Miracle Farms, a 12-acre property located in Quebec’s Western Monteregie, about an hour southwest of Montreal, in Cazaville, Quebec, Canada. The orchard is in USDA hardiness zone four. The farm was originally developed as a commercial monoculture apple orchard and transitioned to organic production when Sobkowiak purchased the orchard in 1993. It was certified organic in 1996. It is now the largest commercial permaculture orchard in Eastern North America.

Eventually, Sobkowiak understood the limitations of the organic model originating from monoculture. Since 2007 four acres were converted to a permaculture-inspired “u-pick” orchard. This orchard now offers over 80 cultivars of apples, in addition to several types of plums, pears, cherries, and countless other fruits and vegetables.

You’ve heard the term permaculture, but what is it? In short, this is its point: The conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems that have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and nonmaterial needs in a sustainable way.

In other words permaculture is a holistic, living-in-harmony-with-nature worldview, as well as a technical approach for how to do so. Sobkowiak will address the how-to part of permaculture. He has planted these orchards using a NAP pattern (NAP stands for nitrogen mixer, apple and plum/pear). One characteristic of this pattern is no fruit or nut tree is next to its own species in the row or in between the rows. Therefore, if any tree gets infested with pests, it is less likely to pass the problem to another tree of its kind.

Although one-third of the orchard isn't fruiting trees, mixing in nitrogen-mixing trees among fruit trees is essential because it helps to create fertility and eliminates the need for external inputs of fertilizers, resulting in a circular ecosystem that virtually takes care of itself. No fertilizer has been used on Sobkowiak’s orchard since 2007, and the fruit trees keep giving as much yield as conventionally grown trees. In Sobkowiak’s case, nitrogen mixers are honey locusts, and they also act as trellising for vines, kiwi and grapes.

The primary goal is to increase diversity of crops and reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers and pest and disease-control products. Everything is organized by following what Sobkowiak calls a “grocery aisle” concept, whereby everything in one row will be ripe and ready to harvest within a 10-day window.

Despite the diversity of species, this allows for efficient harvesting. Customers can walk down the row and gather most of the fruits and vegetables they require in one go. The grassy lanes between the rows are grazed by chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, ducks and geese. In his "u-pick" operation, Sobkowiak has built up a customer base willing to come and pick the produce themselves, thus cutting down on labor costs. In doing this, members benefit from getting fresh, organic food for up to 50% lower costs. Sobkowiak thinks this region of Ohio would be ideal for organic fruit production because of the cheese plants and the resulting whey, which he believes to be essential for organic orchards.

Registration for the two-day event is $25 per person per day or $40 per person for both days.

For information, vendor and registration, email, call or email Aaron at 330-749-6678 or, or call or email Joel Kurtz at 330-397-7069 or

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load