Small-scale farming has become an increasingly important part of Indiana’s $11.2 billion agricultural industry. According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, approximately 75 percent of Hoosier farms were less than 180 acres. Other studies show that nearly half the farms in the state are 50 acres or fewer.
The annual Indiana Small Farm Conference and trade show provides both novice and experienced small-scale producers with an opportunity to learn about the latest trends, network with fellow farmers and get practical, hands-on guidance from nationally recognized experts on a wide range of critical topics, from crop production and equipment to marketing, new business development and legal issues.
Registration is now open for this year’s conference, scheduled for March 1-3 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Complex, 1900 E. Main Street, Danville.
“We’ve experienced tremendous growth in the five years we’ve hosted the conference,” said Michael O’Donnell, Purdue Extension diversified and organic agriculture educator and one of the event organizers. “It’s very gratifying that we’ve been able to expand our educational offerings and build such rewarding partnerships to better serve the small-scale farming community.”
For many small-scale producers throughout the state, the conference has become an annual ritual, a chance to renew old acquaintances and learn new strategies to increase efficiency and profitability.
“This conference does a couple of things for me,” said Jeff Hawkins of Hawkins Family Farm, a three-generation, community-supported agriculture poultry producer in North Manchester. “First of all, I think it’s a marvelous mix of imagination and pragmatics. There are things to learn. You just love hearing how somebody tried a new way of doing something or developed a new tool and think about doing that on your own farm.”
This year’s conference begins with a series of daylong workshops on March 1. Topics include Regenerating Your Farm Using Diversified Livestock Systems, Farm Viability and Financial Management, and On-Farm Food Safety for Fruit and Vegetable Growers: Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training. There will also be an off-site farm tour focusing on four-season production using hoop houses and other methods.
Educational sessions March 2-3 will cover topics ranging from urban agriculture, crop diversification, disease management, weed control and specialty crops to farm finances, marketing and employee relations.
The March 2 keynote panel will include:
* Greg Gunthorp, operator Gunthorp Farms in LaGrange and a prominent advocate for small farms, small processors, rural development, sustainable operations and antibiotic-free animals.
* Martha Hoover, owner of Patachou Inc., an Indianapolis-based group of 12 locally-sourced restaurants, and founder of the Patachou Foundation to provide healthy meals to Indianapolis children living in a food-insecure environment.
* Chef Tyler Herald of Patachou, Inc. Herald is responsible for menu development, ingredient sourcing and overall kitchen management for all Patachou locations.
The keynote speaker for March 3 is Chris Blanchard, host of the Farmer to Farmer
podcast. Blanchard has more than 25 years of experience as a farmer and educator and provides consulting and coaching for farmers, food businesses and institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada.
For those who register through Feb. 5, cost is $75 for one day, $135 for two days and $190 for three days. Admission for children age 12 and younger is $20, $35 and $45. After Feb. 5, the cost will be $90, $162 and $228.
For more information or to sign up, visit the Indiana Small Farm Conference website at https://www.purdue.edu/dffs/smallfarms/. Follow the conference on Twitter and Instagram at @SmallFarmPurdue or on Facebook at @PurdueExtensionSmallFarms, #PurdueSmallFarms.