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Winter Conference Highlights for 2013

Added December 9, 2013.

12th Minnesota Organic Conference
January 10-11, 2014 at River’s Edge
Convention Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota

Organized by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA),this farmer-focused conference will offer more than 30 educational breakout sessions for crop and livestock producers as well as vegetable and fruit growers. Keynote speakers will be award-winning South Dakota organic farmer Charlie Johnson (2,800 acres and certified since 1982) and National Organic Program leader Miles McEvoy. Farmers and researchers from New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin, are also on the agenda ­– along with a lot of home grown Minnesota expertise.

Dairy farmers will be especially interested sessions about detecting and treating Johne’s and lameness (Drs. Riki Sorge and Gerard Cramer, U of MN), livestock nutrition basics and formulating rations (Jeff Mattocks, Fertrell), Animal Welfare (Dr. John Deen, U of MN), and fodder production (myth or miracle?). Farmers who are new to organic will appreciate introductory sessions on standards and recordkeeping. And prior to the conference, Lisa McCrory (Earthwise Farm and Forest) will offer a daylong workshop on advanced and multi-species grazing, while Elaine Ingham, Ph.D. (Soil Foodweb) will offer one on soil health. These workshops will also be held at the convention center in St. Cloud.

Other session and pre-conference workshop topics include (but aren’t limited to!) native pollinators, dry bean production, garlic growing, ancient grains, integrated weed management, weed flaming, hoophouse production, business structures, permaculture, introduction to organic processing, bees and beekeeping, grant writing, financial planning, and being an employer.

As if all that learning weren’t enough, an 80+ exhibit trade show will provide a chance for those at the conference to talk to seed, feed, fertilizer, and fencing companies, certifying agencies, nonprofit organizations, and others. The conference offers long breaks, which afford lots of time to visit, and features organic and locally sourced meals and snacks.

Sponsors and trade show vendors can sign up now. People can learn more about the conference and/or request email updates at www.mda.state.mn.us/organic, or they can call 651-201-6616.

27th Annual NOFA/Mass Winter Conference
January 11, 2014 at Worcester State University in Worcester, Mass.

Over the years, NOFA/Mass has presented a wide array of thoughtful, engaging and important keynote speakers, including Joel Salatin, Eliot Coleman, Michael Phillips, Jean Jeavons, Karen Washington and other thoughtful leaders in the food movement. This year’s Winter Conference will offer a diverse line-up of more than 60 workshops, exhibits by numerous regional vendors, an all-day seminar, and keynote by Restoration Agriculture author, Mark Shepard.

Mark Shepard, perennial agriculture and permaculture design expert, will offer a keynote and an all-day seminar. A proponent of restoration agriculture, Shepard questions the easy availability of future staple crops, particularly in urban population centers. His work as a permaculture design expert, as well as his experience in water conservation and land restoration, will inform both his keynote speech and his three accompanying workshop sessions, listed below:

Session 1: Introduction to Restoration
Agriculture/ Farm-scale Permaculture
Presenter: Mark Shepard

The ecosystems of our planet are seriously degraded, and most are in steep decline. Forests, prairies, and savannas worldwide have been cut, burned, and plowed to make way for humankind. Clean air, pure water and rich, fertile soil are all provided by healthy ecological systems. The need for ecological restoration - for a way to rejuvenate our tired, depleted farmscapes - is greater than ever before.
At the same time, the need for reliable food crops is increasing dramatically. Around the world, the staple foods of choice are either annual grains or legumes, both of which require disturbed soils in order to grow. Learn how we can accomplish both ecological restoration and agricultural production of staple carbohydrates and proteins by imitating perennial ecosystems with productive agricultural practices.

Session 2: The Modified American Keyline System:
Earth-shaping to manage your water resources
Presenter: Mark Shepard

Plants can survive in all climates, with all manner of weather extremes and soil deficiencies, but no plant can survive without water. Learn how to manage your water resources by using the keyline design system. Keyline design uses simple, inexpensive earth shaping and cultivation techniques to optimize water distribution on the farm. Keyline design spreads water from valleys to ridges, encourages water penetration into the soil, increases soil organic matter, and increases the depth of humic layers. In addition, keyline design sequesters atmospheric carbon more rapidly than any other known technique.

Session 3: Putting it all together:
The step-by-step restoration agriculture process
Presenter: Mark Shepard

Learn a systematic approach to developing a restoration agriculture farm. Know your ecological neighborhood, and design for water optimization. Establish wooded polycultures, build fences and roads, establish agroforestry practices, and then manage for eternity.

To hear Mark Shepard talk about restoration agriculture, go to this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb_t-sVVzFO.

For more information about the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference, contact: Cathleen O’Keefe 413-387-2316 or wc@nofamass.org

18th Annual VT Grazing & Livestock Conference
Jan. 17 & 18, 2014, Lake Morey Resort, Fairlee VT

Featuring Keynote Speaker, Dr. Ben Bartlett, retired Michigan State livestock specialist and farmer. Dr. Bartlett manages 360 sheep and 200 stocker cattle on his MI ranch, participates in on-farm research, and consults on grazing and animal handling. He is a board member of Holistic Management International and uses planned grazing and biological monitoring approaches to improve soil health and help his operation be successful.

The conference will feature day-long intensive sessions on Friday January 17 covering poultry production and communication, with a keynote, and 24 workshops on Saturday, January 18.
Workshop highlights include sessions on:

  • Day-long soil health intensive—get the most from your soil
  • Building a productive, profitable and pleasura- ble farm operation
  • Implications of soil health—measuring what we see
  • Economics of grazing under different scenarios
  • Low and no-grain feeding
  • Haylage quality and feeding for pasture-based 
farms
  • Low stress animal handling
  • More sheep, less work

The event takes places at the family-friendly Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, VT just off I-91. The weekend will highlight local and organic foods, great company from over six states, and plenty of new ideas to take home, and Saturday will include a kid’s conference for ages 6-12.

The conference agenda will be available soon. Sponsorship and tabling opportunities are available. Contact Jenn Colby to learn more. (802) 656-0858 or jcolby@uvm.edu.

Conference hosted by the Vermont Grass Farmers Association (VGFA) and the Vermont Beef Producers’ Associations (VBPA), and coordinated by the UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Registration discounts are available for VGFA and VBPA members. More details about the conference as well as registration are available at:

www.uvm.edu/pasture

Contact conference coordinator Jenn Colby at jcolby@uvm.edu, (802) 656-0858 with any questions.

2014 NOFA-NY Winter Conference:
“Preserving the Past, Seeding the Future”
January 24 – 26, 2014 at the Saratoga Hilton and City Center, Saratoga Springs, NY

The 32nd Annual Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York’s (NOFA-NY) Organic Farming and Gardening Conference includes more than 80 workshops focused on organic farming and gardening.

This year’s theme—“Preserving the Past, Seeding the Future”—honors the history of the organic movement and those who pioneered the movement. The theme also calls on us to ensure that future generations have the resources they need to carry on this work. Gary Paul Nabhan, internationally celebrated nature writer, and food & farming activist, will be the keynote speaker on Friday, January 24.

Below is a listing of workshops in the Dairy Track:

Friday Half Day Intensives:

Beginner Cheesemaking
We will make simple, fresh cheeses and discuss the basic science of how to convert milk into curds. Presenter: Peter Kindel, Hawthorne Valley Farm. Friday 9am-12:15pm; Be sure to pre-register since attendance is limited.

Advanced Cheesemaking
We will make two types of cheese with very different recipes to demonstrate a variety of techniques. Presenter: Peter Kindel, Hawthorne Valley Farm. Friday 1:15-4:30pm

Saturday and Sunday Dairy & Grazing Workshop Tracks:

Production and Marketing of Raw Milk
Learn about all of the steps required to produce high quality raw milk, including proactive on-farm testing. We will also talk about our own approach to marketing. Presenter: Steffen Schneider, Hawthorne Valley Farm. Saturday 8-9:15am

Cattle Fly Management Using the 1, 2, 3’s of IPM
Fly pests can affect animal health, decrease milk production and weight gain, transmit disease-causing agents, reduce grazing time, annoy and irritate animals and more. You will learn to correctly identify and manage the most important fly pests affecting cattle in the Northeast using an integrated pest management approach. Presenter: Keith Waldron, Cornell University Extension, NYS Integrated Pest Management Program. Saturday 1:15-2:30pm

Extending the Grazing Season for Livestock
This workshop will explain how to set up a pasture grazing rotation system that will allow for pastures to be grazed into the fall and early winter, reducing the cost and labor needed to produce hay and other stored feeds.Presenter: Dave Roberts, Natural Resources Conservation Service of NY. Saturday 2:45-4pm

The Udder Basics of Starting a Small-Scale Dairy
After being given an overview on Ashlee and Steven’s experience with starting their farm, workshop attendees will be invited to choose from a number of discussion topics, including infrastructure, breeding, organization and systems, equipment sourcing, pasture management, and holistic herd health techniques! Presenters: Ashlee Kleinhammer and Steven Googin, North Country Creamery. Saturday 4:15-5:30pm

Cows, Climate and Why Grazing Matters
We’ll look at climate dynamics from a ground perspective, specifically as it relates to livestock. While livestock are often maligned for their environmental impact, proper management that situates animal behavior in a holistic context can play a key role in addressing climate change. We’ll discuss soil carbon, hydrology, biodiversity, and how new research on climate empowers organic farmers and land managers. Presenter: Judith Schwartz, author of Cows Save the Planet and Other Improbable Ways of Restoring Soil to Heal the Earth (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013). Sunday 8-9:15am

Flaxseed & Perennial Ryegrass for Improving
Milk Fatty Acids and Forage Production
This workshop will provide information about the potential benefits and limitations of feeding flaxseed and perennial ryegrass in Northeastern organic dairy farms. Presenters: Richard Smith and Andre Brito, University of New Hampshire. Sunday 9:45-11am

To learn more about the NOFA-NY Winter Conference, please go to: www.nofany.org or contact Marne Coit, Education Director, at 585-271-1979 x 503, email: marne@nofany.org.