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Home > Food from Farm to Table > Organic Agriculture > Organic Conference > Breakout Sessions

2018 Minnesota Organic Conference Breakout Sessions

Thursday, January 11, 2018

9:00 AM   |   1:15 PM  |   3:00 PM

Friday, January 12, 2018

8:00 AM  |   9:45 AM  |   2:00 PM


Thursday 9:00 AM Sessions


Biological Management and Composting on the Farm

Jacob Krieger, Abundant Biology LLC
Soil is a living being, and Jacob will talk about maintaining its health. He will share ideas on how to incorporate compost production and biological management on the farm, and how to identify and overcome challenges. Discussion will include the basics of materials handling, thermal windrow composting, and farming with biology.

Best Practices in Organic Swine Production

Yuzhi Li, West Central Research and Outreach Center, University of Minnesota
Ross Duffield, Rodale Institute
Jim VanderPol, Pastures A Plenty Farm & Co.

This session brings together farmers, farm managers and scientists to discuss systems-based best management practices for organic pig production. Panelists will share successful experiences and lessons learned when managing sows and young pigs—with or without access to pasture. They will also discuss strategies for biosecurity, disease and parasite control, and the U of M’s newly awarded USDA Organic Swine Planning Grant.

Tomatoes Big and Small (and their Uncommon Cousins)

Courtney Tchida, MISA & University of Minnesota Cornercopia Student Organic Farm
Tomatoes come in every size, shape and color of the rainbow, and the U of M’s student-run farm Cornercopia has grown 100s of varieties. Courtney will share students’ favorite heirloom, hybrid, open pollinated and high tunnel varieties along with their most successful trellising, growing and marketing methods. Cornercopia also grows uncommon nightshade varieties like wonderberries, otricoli berries and unique ground cherry varieties—come learn more about growing these uncommon fruits.

Seed Purity in Organic Agriculture

Mac Ehrhardt, Albert Lea Seed
Seed is a vital input in any organic farming operation. With GMO contamination across the country and increasingly stringent purity requirements by grain buyers, food manufacturers and consumers, what is a farmer to do? We'll discuss the relevant issues pertinent to seed purity, pipelines of seed availability, and steps companies like Viking Seed are taking to ensure seed purity for the future.

Pesticide Drift

Dan Dvorak, Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Each year the MDA receives dozens of pesticide drift complaints. Even if pesticides are carefully applied, drift can happen and can pose human health risks as well as damage to crops, fields, livestock, wildlife and the environment. Find out what steps you can take to avoid pesticide drift, how to register a complaint if drift occurs, and the steps that MDA agriculture chemical investigators use to investigate a complaint.

Keep the Next Generation Farming

Bonnie Haugen, Springside Farm LLC & Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship MN
Vance Haugen, Springside Farm LLC & UW Extension

Vance and Bonnie have begun the process of transferring some management and ownership interest of their dairy business to their son, Olaf. They will share their personal story plus experiences and observations from farmers they have worked with. Bonnie has also trained as a Farm Succession Facilitator and will talk about that.

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Thursday 1:15 PM Sessions


USDA Organic Grain & Feedstuffs Market Report Update

Heath Dewey, USDA Ag Marketing Service
Heath will talk about the current market conditions for organic grain, how the current USDA market reports will be changing, and other resources USDA might offer in the future. Join him for a market update followed by an open Q&A discussion.

Crop Insurance for Organic Farmers

Wayne Triplett, Crop Revenue Management/Diversified Services
Jerry Westrom, Crop Revenue Management

Organic crop insurance is still relatively new. Jerry and Wayne will present risk management products organic farmers can buy and will talk about how to leverage crop insurance in order to maximize revenue. They will share information about revenue protection, contract pricing, and specialized written agreements.

Growing Ginger Without a Hoophouse

Melissa Driscoll, Seven Songs Organic Farm
Courtney Tchida, MISA and U of M Cornercopia Student Organic Farm

Melissa ran out of room to rotate ginger and turmeric in her single hoophouse, and wanted to find out if these high value crops could be grown successfully without buying another one. With help from Bossy Acres’ Karla Pankow, Melissa and Courtney designed an experiment to find out. Join them to learn about temperature tolerances in air and soil, mini tunnel design and functionality, and the trials and tribulations of growing a tropical crop in Minnesota.

Farm to Rural Grocery to Wholesale: Backhauling as a Market Access Strategy

Naomi Olive, Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships, U of M
Join Naomi in a discussion about the movement of organic produce through backhauling, a new model that helps farmers access wholesale markets. Backhauling leverages the existing network of rural grocery stores and their wholesale suppliers to ship locally grown produce on empty wholesale trucks for distribution. The U of M is testing and developing this new model’s economic, logistic and regulatory feasibility, and welcomes your input!

Demystifying Organic Regulations

Harriet Behar, National Organic Standards Board
Organic regulations have detailed requirements that are part of a common sense approach to an environmentally beneficial farming system. Learn the specifics of how to achieve organic certification by implementing both the practices and documentation necessary. Harriet will talk about approved inputs, completing an organic application, and what to expect at your annual organic inspection. For those transitioning to organic, and those who want a refresher on the rules, this session will help you find easy ways to make organic requirements part of your farm routine.

Rotational Grazing on Organic Farms

Travis and Angela Scherping, Scherping Family Farm
Cattle have been grazing on the Scherping family’s farm for 25 years. Travis and Angela will share the story of their farm’s evolution using rotational grazing, from permanent paddocks to automated equipment, in order to capture all phases of the growing season.

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Thursday 3:00 PM Sessions


Digging In: Gaining a Better Understanding of the Soil on your Farm

Heather Darby, University of Vermont
This soil primer will provide you with practical information to build healthy soils on your farm. Heather will start by helping you demystify soil tests and giving you tools to prioritize and manage fertility on your farm. She will also cover organic matter (OM), its role in the soil, and OM management strategies that will enhance soil health on your farm.

Telling Your Farm Story

Ruth Buck, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative/Organic Prairie
Learn how to tell your unique farm story with passion, energy, and humor so that you can bring it to life through your words! Ruth will talk about modifying your story for the time you have and highlighting what might be important to the audience you are talking to. She will share some examples of farm stories, and then you will spend time creating YOUR story!

Season Extension: Year-Round Production in Cold Climates

Collin Thompson, Michigan State University North Farm
Don't hang up your harvest knife when the snow flies! Using appropriate technologies and techniques, cold climate growers can continue to produce throughout the colder months of the year. This strategy can generate revenue, increase customer and employee retention, and stablize a farm's cash flow. Collin, who farms in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, will cover topics including high tunnel production, variety selection and crop scheduling.

Specialty Foods: New Market Opportunities

Jan Joannides, Renewing the Countryside
Andrew Sauter Sargent, Spirit Creek Farm
Chris Duke, Great Oak Farm LLC

Kimchi, shrub, and charcuterie! Specialty food products are a growing segment of the marketplace and some manufacturers want to buy ingredients from small and mid-sized farmers. This session will share best practices identified by the multi-state "Beyond Fresh and Direct" research project. You'll also hear directly from a farmer supplier and specialty food manufacturer who have developed a win-win relationship.

Mechanical Tools for Ecological Weed Control

Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Steel in the field” remains one of the strongest weed control methods available to organic row crop and cereal grain farmers. However, making these tools work requires an understanding of the what, how, and when of each piece of equipment. In this session, Erin will talk about the array of cultivation equipment available to organic grain farmers, and how the use of these tools fits into an ecological weed management strategy.

Ask a Vet

Sarah Slaby, DVM, Dr. Sarah Slaby Veterinary Service
Never get enough time with your vet? This is your opportunity to ask Dr. Sarah your animal health questions.

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Friday 8:00 AM Sessions


Integrating Cover Crops into Organic Row Crop Systems

Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Cover crops are an invaluable tool in a holistic, ecologically-based organic management system. They contribute to soil health and fertility, weed management, and insect and disease suppression. Learn about innovative ways to integrate diverse cover crop species into organic row crop production, including intercropping, aerial seeding, and cover crop-based no-till.

Digital Marketing and Social Media for Busy Farmers

Lisa Baker, Bakers' Acres
Your customers spend 20 hours each week on the internet and social media—so meet them where they already are. This session will teach you how to use a little bit of strategy along with some digital marketing and social media skills to sell your farm's products. Topics include a digital and social marketing overview (SEO, platforms, media channels, hashtags, etc.), understanding your customers and what they want, telling your story in a genuine way through tidbits and photos, getting positive reviews, and paying for advertising where it makes sense.

Five Long Years With Spotted Wing Drosophila: What We Know and What We Don't

Mary Rogers, University of Minnesota
Spotted wing drosophila was discovered in Minnesota five years ago. Since then, its economic cost has steadily increased; it is particularly devastating for organic berry growers. In this session, Mary will discuss what we have learned regarding the biology of this invasive pest, organic management strategies that are showing promise, and summarize ongoing research.

Animal Welfare and Organics: Pigs and Poultry

Meggan Hain, DVM, Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative/Organic Prairie
Consumers are looking harder at animal welfare issues when buying meat and poultry. What do we mean by “welfare” and how can farmers, animals and consumers all benefit from increased attention to it? Aren’t the organic rules enough? Meggan will discuss current and proposed organic animal welfare rules, and how they compare to programs such as “Animal Welfare Approved,” “American Humane Certified,” and “Certified Humane.”

Growing Organic Fiber and Oil Crops

Heather Darby, University of Vermont
Heather will talk about organic production of fiber and oilseed crops including hemp, flax, sunflower and several others. She won’t stop with agronomy, but will talk about small scale oil pressing, fiber characteristics and other aspects of value-added production.

Urban Agriculture: Creating a Viable Business In or Around the City

Michael Ableman, Foxglove Farm & Sole Food Street Farms
This interactive session will tackle the key elements, strategies and techniques for creating a viable agricultural enterprise in an urban or peri-urban environment. Michael can address a wide array of topics including community development, goals and visioning, planning and design, working within municipal codes, challenges, opportunities, techniques, and marketing.

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Friday 9:45 AM Sessions


What is going ON up there? The Landscape of Organics in Canada

Jill Guerra, Canada Organic Trade Association
Canada's thriving organic sector represents nearly 2% of Canada's farmland and more than 5,000 certified-organic producers, processors and handlers. Jill will share the latest statistics and trends on consumer preferences, retail sales, production and trade. Comparisons between Canadian and U.S. data and organic histories will help differentiate the trends and opportunities in these highly interconnected countries.

21st Century Farming with Your Mobile Device

Lisa Baker, Bakers' Acres
Courtney Tchida, MISA & U of M Cornercopia Student Organic Farm

Most of you have a computer or smart phone, but do you get the most out of it? Courtney and Lisa will show you the apps they use to make their farms run smoothly. They will cover everything from recordkeeping for organic certification to employee management, sales, social media, daily tasks, monitoring the weather and more! Find out more about these time-saving tools that farmers of all ages can learn to use.

Mastitis Treatments in Organic Systems

Sarah Slaby, DVM, Dr. Sarah Slaby Veterinary Service
Improving milk quality can increase profits during this time of milk oversupply. Learn the ABCs of developing good protocols to prevent mastitis, increase milk quality and boost profit. Dr. Sarah will also cover protocols and organic treatment plans for dry cow management, mastitis treatments and high somatic cell count.

Tools and Innovation on the Small Farm

Collin Thompson, Michigan State University North Farm
Having the right tools for the job is essential, but sometimes those tools don’t yet exist. This session will discuss the design process for farm tools and equipment, enabling growers to build, hack and refine tools to maximize efficiency on their farms. Collin will cover several examples of tools he's built to address issues on the farm he runs, and what kind of impact they've had.

Creating Farm Habitats for Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Karin Jokela, Xerxes Society/Natural Resource Conservation Service
Beneficial insects that prey upon crop pests are the unsung champions of the agricultural world. In this session, Karin will explore the theory and practice of supporting these animals on working farms. She will highlight case studies about habitat projects like hedgerows, beetle banks, flowering field borders and cover crops. She’ll also talk about Farm Bill programs that can help you fund pollinator habitat installations.

The Top Ten Estate Planning Tips for Farmers

Barbara Heen, Attorney at Law
Barbara Weckman Brekke, Brekke, Clyborne & Ribich LLC

Estate planning advice is everywhere! The trick is to find out what is right for you and your situation. This session will provide you with tips and advice specific to estate planning for farm families.

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Friday 2:00 PM Sessions


Using Advanced Technology in Organic Row Crop Systems

Jeff Buyck, C & B Operations LLC
Jeff will cover some of the options available to enhance every pass through the field, such as guidance (auto steer) equipment that keeps tractors and implements on the same line, reducing compaction. He will even bring in some equipment for you to look at. Find out how this technology might help you better manage your inputs, time and energy for a more efficient and profitable crop.

Food Safety, FSMA, GAP Audits—Oh, My!

Annalisa Hultberg, University of Minnesota Extension
Ben Doherty, Open Hands Farm
Lillian Otieno, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Food safety practices on your farm can improve the quality and safety of your fresh produce and help you enter new markets. Come to this engaging session for the most recent information about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Produce Safety Rule, and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audits, plus find out what resources are available to help you move from food safety fear to confidence. Hear from certified organic Open Hands Farm about how they developed a culture of food safety, passed a GAP audit, and have started selling to wholesale markets as a result.

Elderberries: From Hobby to Commercial Production

Christopher J. Patton, Midwest Elderberry Cooperative
Paul Otten, Berry Communications & Midwest Elderberry Cooperative

Join Chris and Paul as they talk about the challenges of and progress being made in growing, harvesting, processing and selling certified organic elderberries and elderflowers. Learn about emerging markets for these products and how the Midwest Elderberry Cooperative is working to improve horticultural practices, research potential products and markets, and buy/sell elderberries and elderberry products.

Recordkeeping: An Essential Tool for Farm Success

Harriet Behar, National Organic Standards Board
Documentation is more than a requirement for organic certification; it is an essential tool that can help you manage your farm for long-term success. Tracking your own activities for historical reference will help you make production and economic management decisions now and in the future. Harriet will present various recordkeeping system ideas and sample forms so you can develop a system that works for you (and your certifier).

Breeding and Genetics on Organic Dairies

Brad Heins, University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center
Brad will talk about breeding and genetic considerations for organic dairies and the latest research in cross breeding. Find out how common dairy breeds (and crosses) compare for calving, production, components and economic performance. Brad will also discuss the latest news from the U of M's organic dairy in Morris.

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