Scalable ecology, farm-life balance, youth programming highlight 2020 Indiana Small Farm Conference

From strategies that can help strengthen Indiana farms to inspired ideas for agricultural audiences of various ages, the Purdue Extension Indiana Small Farm Conference connects producers across the state to expert information and to each other.
calendar icon 10 December 2019
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The eighth annual conference and trade show will be held March 5-7 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Center, 1900 E. Main Street., Danville. Registration for the conference is now open.

Since 2013, the conference has featured a full slate of programming about diversified farming and local food systems, bringing together novice and experienced small-scale farmers to:

  • Gain practical, hands-on guidance from leaders and experts at workshops and breakouts.
  • Join discussions and demonstrations of what’s new and what’s next in small farming.
  • Attend a trade show with over 50 vendors of equipment, marketing and more.
  • Network with fellow farmers to cultivate Indiana’s small-farm community.

The annual conference is planned by the Purdue Extension Small Farm Team – an interdisciplinary group made up of representatives from Purdue University’s College of Agriculture and Indiana farmers.

“The Small Farm Team was created in 2004 to reinstate purpose and potential for a portion of the farming population that continued to grow but felt like it didn’t really have a seat at the table,” said Tamara Benjamin, assistant agriculture and natural resources programme leader and diversified agriculture specialist for Purdue Extension, and a conference organiser.

“Our work has helped to rejuvenate the small-farm community in Indiana and surrounding states. We’re proud to present a hub at which people in Indiana and across the Midwest can continue to learn, network and improve agriculture.”

New this year is a track of sessions targeted specifically for younger audiences at the conference.

“As we look to the future of small farms, we must take steps to inspire our next generation,” Benjamin said. “We’re excited to engage younger participants at the conference through topics of specific interest to them and sessions that help them envision what they can achieve now and for years to come.”

The 2020 Indiana Small Farm Conference begins on March 5 with daylong workshops and tours.

Workshop topics include “Livestock 101: A Beginner’s Guide,” “The Indiana Farmers Market Forum” and “Finding Balance and Growing Your Farm: Holistic Goal Planning for Small Farms.”

Tours include a visit to several of Marion County’s urban agriculture enterprises to learn about products, production methods, challenges and future plans; and a tour of This Old Farm and Dandy Breeze Creamery, where participants will observe a blend of livestock production, value-added products and strategic clientele marketing.

Breakout sessions March 6-7 will cover a variety of topics, including vegetable and livestock production, farm management, sustainability, marketing, social media, tools and equipment, grazing strategies, CBD and hemp products, community alliances, mental health, high tunnels, and food safety.

Keynote speakers for the 2020 conference are:

  • Jean-Martin Fortier (March 6) is a Canadian farmer, educator and bestselling author of The Market Gardener, which has inspired hundreds of thousands of readers worldwide to reimagine ecological human-scale food systems. With his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, Fortier founded Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognised 10-acre micro-farm in Quebec, Canada, specialising in organic and biologically intensive vegetable production.
  • Darby Simpson (March 7) is a Martinsville, Indiana farmer who will address the ways in which agricultural producers can create operations that works for their lives (and no one else’s), with an emphasis on realities, contexts and profits during the journey.

Fortier and Simpson will also present their own breakout sessions at the conference.

Vendors will display a wide range of agricultural equipment, products and services during a trade show March 6-7. Those interested in exhibiting at the conference can find more information or register as an exhibitor online through Feb. 14.

A March 7 poster session will focus on local foods, diversified agriculture, and small-farm production and education. Anyone wishing to present a poster should submit their proposal online by Jan. 27. Accepted proposal authors will receive a $25 conference registration discount.

For conference attendees registering before Feb. 7, admission is $75 for one day, $135 for two days and $190 for three days.After Feb. 7, admission prices rise to $90, $162 and $228.

Admission for children age 18 and younger is $25 (one-day), $40 (two-day) and $50 (three-day) before Feb. 7. After Feb. 7, youth admission prices rise to $30, $48 and $60.

A detailed conference schedule will be available in early 2020. For more information – or to sign up – visit the Indiana Small Farm Conference website at Follow the conference on Twitter and Instagram at @SmallFarmPurdue or on Facebook at @PurdueExtensionSmallFarms, with the hashtag #PurdueSmallFarms.

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