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Seedstock 2nd Annual Sustainable Ag Conference to Kick Off with Sustainable Farms Field Trip

July 31, 2013 |

Phil McGrath of McGrath Family Farm. Photo: George Simian.

Phil McGrath of McGrath Family Farm. Photo: George Simian.

LOS ANGELES, CA- The 2nd Annual Seedstock Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Conference – Farming: Fundamentals and the Future will kick-off its two-day event on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 with a field trip featuring visits to a number of Southern California sustainable farming operations including McGrath Family Farm in Camarillo.

Known for its impeccable strawberries, McGrath Family Farm sits on a 30-acre parcel of the Oxnard Plains and will be one of three stops on Seedstock’s tour of sustainable farms. Owner-operator, Phil McGrath, is a fourth-generation Southern California farmer whose great-grandfather, an Irish sheep farmer, first acquired the farmland back in 1868.

Growing up around the farm as a child, McGrath ultimately decided to dedicate his life to a lasting legacy. His unwavering commitment to certified organic farming was born of addressing both an increase in demand, along with the impact of personal loss.

“My dad died of cancer in 1995, and I’ve been certified organic ever since,” McGrath explains. Convinced that there is a connection between eating organic and longevity, McGrath supplies to “people who are educated in the fact that eating organic food is the way to live… and by that, I mean a way to keep living!”

In addition to strawberries, the farm also produces tomatoes, carrots, beets, lettuces, spinach, chard, squash, pumpkins, and haricot vert, along with an array of seasonal fruit and wildflowers, which attract healthy pollinators and beneficial insects. Mike Roberts, farm manager and spokesman, attributes successful diversity of production as essential to organic sustainable farming. “With diversity, you’re not depleting the soil of the same nutrients.  We constantly replenish and enrich our soil.”

Commendably, McGrath Family Farm employs innovation to increase sustainability. Among the most creative practices is the use of “nitrogen fixers.” Roberts explained, “When you plant nitrogen fixing plants such as English peas, fava beans, and lima beans, you’re able to pull nitrogen from the air through the plant’s root system and really enrich the soil. This way, we’re not dependent on any chemical fertilizers.” The farm also currently dedicates eight acres of land to composting, and collects used vegetable oil from neighboring restaurants, which they then convert to bio-fuel and use to power their tractors.

The sustainable farms field trip will include a tour of Houweling’s Tomatoes in Camarillo. Houweling’s is a family owned, world-renowned greenhouse tomato grower with facilities in California and British Columbia. Founded by Cornelius Houweling in 1956 in Langley, BC, and now led by his son Casey, Houweling’s is dedicated to delivering a full complement of the highest quality tomatoes. Constantly innovating to reduce its environmental footprint, Houweling’s is one of the most technically-advanced and environmentally-friendly greenhouse operations in the world.

Additionally, there will be a visit to an EVO Farm urban agriculture operation located on the site of a West Los Angeles high school. EVO Farm employs aquaponics – a food production system that merges hydroponics (soilless food production) and aquaculture (fish farming) – for sustainable food production. In a true demonstration of symbiosis, the fish (which can be edible) provide the fertilizer for the plants while the plants filter the water for the fish. According to EVO Farm, of all food production methods, aquaponics has the highest yields while utilizing the least amount of water with no waste.

“Each of these farms employ conscientious diversity in their business models and practices,” stated Seedstock co-founder, Robert Puro. “Their exemplary and unique approaches to sustainable farming continue to provide a growing supply of quality product to the Los Angeles marketplace.”

On Day 2 (Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013) of the Seedstock conference, attendees will convene at the UCLA Anderson School of Management in Los Angeles for a series of discussion panels and keynote presentations exploring solutions and business models with the potential to assist sustainable, local producers in increasing their presence in the supply chain.

For additional information visit and to purchase early bird tickets visit

For sponsorship opportunities, please send inquiries to: sponsor [at] seedstock [dot] com.  If you are interested in participating as a conference speaker, please send your request to: participant [at] seedstock [dot] com

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