Helping beginning farmers start and grow their operations is the focus of a six-part workshop track, which is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 38th annual conference, Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow. The event will be held Thursday, Feb. 9 through Saturday, Feb. 11 at the Dayton Convention Center.
“Our goal is to help early career and aspiring farmers increase their knowledge and skills, find leads on farmland, and make business and professional connections,” said Kelly Henderson, OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator.
Six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of education, will cover a range of topics from choosing the right equipment to developing a successful business:
- Start with the soil: Establishing a first-year fertility program — Raymond Yoder, Jr., Green Field Farms (Friday, February 10, 8:30-10 a.m.)
- Starting your own farm business from scratch — Richard Wiswall, Cate Farm (Friday, February 10, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.)
- Farming the farm bill: FSA programs and how they can support your farm — Matt Kleski and David Drake, USDA Farm Service Agency (Friday, February 10, 2-3:30 p.m.)
- Farmland access 101: Options for landowners and growers — Krista McGaw, Tecumseh Land Trust (Saturday, February 11, 8:30-10 a.m.)
- The path to organic certification: Lessons from farmers — Julia Barton and Patrick Turner, Octagon Acres (Saturday, February 11, 1:30-3 p.m.)
- Walk-behind tractors for small farms — Michael O’Donnell, Purdue University Extension (Saturday, February 11, 3:30-5 p.m.)
In addition to the begin farming workshop track, the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will offer other opportunities geared specifically toward beginning farmers, including:
- A full-day pre-conference intensive workshop on Thursday, Feb. 9, “Farming smarter, not harder: Tune up your farm business and increase your net profit.” Long-time organic farmer and author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, Richard Wiswall, will explore ways farmers can plan to increase their farms’ net profit, market their products strategically, and meet their long-term business goals.
- A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception on Thursday, Feb. 9 designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers looking for employees, retiring farmers interested in a transition plan, and landowners with land to sell or lease.
To help budding farmers access these educational opportunities, OEFFA is offering a limited number of full scholarships for early career farmers. The application deadline is January 7.
In addition, the conference will also feature:
- More than 70 other workshops on topics including sustainable farming, gardening, cooking, livestock, business management, and policy;
- Keynote speakers Jim Riddle and Robyn O’Brien, presented by Horizon Organic;
- Three other full-day Thursday pre-conference intensive workshop options on niche fruit production, bionutrient rich food, and pastured broilers;
- A three-day trade show featuring dozens of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies offering an array of food, books, products, and services;
- The Contrary Farmers’ Social on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 2nd Street Market featuring food, drinks, and a remembrance of Ohio’s Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon, led by David Kline of Farming Magazine;
- The Cream of the Crop Banquet on Friday, February 10 featuring a dinner celebrating Ohio’s farming community;
- An Old MacGyver Had a Farm discussion and reception and an OEFFA oral history discussion on Thursday, February 9;
- A kids’ conference for children ages 6-12; a playroom for young children, and a teen conference for teenagers ages 12-15; and
- Locally-sourced, from-scratch lunches; raffle; book table; morning yoga and tai chi; book signings, and much more.
For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2017. Online registration will be open until January 23.