Conference to help bring success to small farms

By Sarah Hanson

The sixth annual Indiana Small Farm Conference will offer expert advice to owners of small farms to help them make their operations more successful. Sessions will focus on issues related to management, production, processing and marketing.

Organized by Purdue’s Diversified Farming and Food Systems Extension Team, the conference is March 2 to 4 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds in Danville.

It is intended for anyone interested in small farms — students, farmers, potential beginning farmers, agricultural agency people, researchers and Extension educators. Our goal is to continue building a statewide community of people who have a passion about small farms.

Small farms are defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as farms with no more than $350,000 in annual agricultural commodity sales. They accounted for 90 percent of farms in the nation and more than half of the farmland, according to the USDA’s 2016 Agricultural Resource Management Survey. In Indiana, there were more than 57,000 farms in 2016. A majority of those are in the “less than $100,000” economic sales class.

The conference will devote sessions to vegetable and livestock production, marketing/processing and small-farm management. Speakers will include small-farm owners, agricultural industry professionals and Extension educators and specialists from Purdue University. Participants will have an opportunity to network with expert speakers, other farmers and vendors.

The following keynote speakers are scheduled:

  • March 2 panel: Greg Gunthorp (pasture-based livestock farmer in northeast Indiana), Martha Hoover (Patachou Inc. restaurant owner) and Tyler Herald (chef with Patachou Inc.)
  • March 3 panel: Chris Blanchard (consultant and educator to farms and food businesses)

Other features included in the conference:

  • Screening of “Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry.” This documentary shows the difficult choices Kentucky farmers face that impact their relationship with the land and their community. Sustainable farming and land stewardship have been replaced with capital-focused and industrial agriculture. This film blends interviews with farmers and community members with scenes of farm life throughout the four seasons. This will screen repeatedly March 2 and 3.
  • Evening social, March 2: Light fare and beverages from local suppliers will be catered by the Juniper Spoon, and music will be provided by an Indianapolis-based swing band. The social is open to all attendees that register for March 2 admission.
  • North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Farmers Forum, March 3: The Farmers Forum is a traveling annual event giving farmers, ranchers, researchers and others the chance to share information about sustainable agriculture practices with a national audience. These presentations focus on research, demonstration and education projects that promote profitable practices that are good for the environment and community.

Registration is $190 per adult for three days, $135 for 2 days or $75 for one day. Youth under 13 can attend for $45, $35 or $20, respectively, for the three-, two- and one-day day packages. Fees include conference materials and a lunch each day, featuring Indiana-raised foods.

Interested organizations that want to exhibit in the trade show, be a sponsor, and/or present a poster can contact us as well.

For more information, including how to register for the conference and pre-conference workshops, visit our website at purdue.edu/dffs. Information also is available by calling the Purdue Extension hotline toll-free at 888-398-4636.

Sarah Hanson is the Purdue Extension Johnson County director and the agriculture and natural resources educator. Send comments to editorial@therepublic.com.