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Conference Focuses on Small Farm Production, Management

11 December 2012, at 2:19pm

US - Small farms are a big deal, and a Purdue Extension conference will provide the tools to successfully operate them.

The Indiana Small Farm Conference will take place March 1-2 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds in Danville. Sessions will focus on issues related to management, production, processing and marketing.

Registration is $150 per person for both days or $100 per person for one day. Fees include a lunch and banquet on March 1 and lunch on March 2, all featuring Indiana-raised foods.

Three keynote speakers are scheduled: David Swenson, Iowa State University community economics researcher; Michael Hamm, professor of sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University; and Ed Bell, a Hagerstown strawberry farmer who has overcome physical disabilities.

A trade show is planned both days.

To register, visit the Purdue Small Farms and Sustainable Agriculture Extension Team website at

"This is the first such conference we've conducted," said Steve Engleking, LaGrange County Extension educator and a conference coordinator. "It's intended for anyone who is currently involved with, or interested in, small farms in Indiana. That could be farmers, Extension educators, agricultural agency people or students. We hope to bring together a wide variety of people who have a passion about small farms."

Small farms, defined by the US Department of Agriculture as farms with $250,000 or less in annual agricultural commodity sales, account for 91 percent of farms in the United States and more than half the nation's farmland. The USDA's 2007 Census of Agriculture reported nearly two million small farms nationwide, an increase of 18,467 from the 2002 Census. Farms with annual sales of $10,000 or less are the fastest-growing segment of small farms.

The Purdue conference will devote separate workshop tracks to crop and livestock production, as well as marketing/processing, energy and small farm management. Speakers include Extension educators and specialists from Purdue, Iowa State and Michigan State universities, agricultural industry professionals and small farm owners.

"For those whose primary interest is growing their farm business to reach new markets such as restaurants, wholesale buyers and institutions, I would highly encourage them to attend the 'Wholesale Success' sessions on Friday that are part of the marketing/processing track," said Roy Ballard, Hancock County Extension educator and a conference coordinator. "That track will not only foster their understanding of the requirements of those markets but also put them directly in touch with a variety of those buyers at the end of the day."

Highlights of other conference tracks include:

  • Livestock Production: "Beginning Animal Production," "Basic Feeding of Cattle," "Understanding Animal Behavior" and "Indiana Meat Processing Regulations."

  • Crop Production: "No-till Vegetable Production," "Vegetable Varieties for Indiana," "High Tunnels," "Specialty Crops for High-End Restaurants" and "Urban Agriculture."

  • Energy: "Small Wind Energy," "Biomass Thermal Furnaces," "Solar and Battery Storage for the Farm," "On-Farm Biofuel Production" and "Going Off the Grid."

  • Small Farm Management: "Farm Records," "Organic Farming: From Transition to Certification," "Business Structures and Liability" and "Business Planning."

Additional information is available at the Purdue Small Farms and Sustainable Agriculture Extension Team website or by calling the Purdue Extension hotline toll-free at 888-EXT-INFO (398-4636).

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