Small Farm Conference 2017

Here you will find session descriptions and presentation slides from the 2017 Conference Sessions. Click on speakers’ names to download presentation slides in PDF format. Please note that not all sessions had slides that were used or that could be shared.  Enjoy!

Friday, March 3


Tools and Innovation on Small Farms

Collin Thompson, The North Farm, Michigan State University

Eliot Coleman, Four Season 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, empowering growers to build, hack, and refine tools to maximize efficiency on their farms. We will cover several examples of tools that we have built to address issues on our farms and discuss their impact.

Improving Season Extension Efficiencies

Collin Thompson, The North Farm, Michigan State University

Fine tuning season extension production strategies can increase revenue and quality of life. This session will cover systems, technologies, and tools that can help improve production in high tunnels and hoop houses.

Identifying and Enhancing Good Garden Bugs on Small Farms

Dr. Mary Gardiner, The Ohio State University

In this presentation you will learn how to identify the vast diversity of arthropods at work controlling pests in home gardens and small farms. We will also focus on how to increase the abundance of these good bugs to promote sustainable pest control.

Re-Building Regional Food Systems for Staple Crops in the Midwest

Bill Davison, University of Illinois Extension

Bill will discuss his work with the Grand Prairie Grain Guild. He works with a diverse coalition of partners from across the Midwest to re-build viable regional food systems. We are taking a systems-level view and working to develop solutions that address the root causes of the challenges we face. We are building trusting relationships, cooperative business models, opening up new markets, breeding open-pollinated open-source varieties of staple crops, and educating consumers about the benefits of whole food sourced directly from farmers. Our goal is to develop diverse crop rotations based on resilient crops that thrive in low input systems, and direct marketing of the products allows farmers to capture a larger portion of the food dollar.

Poultry Nutrition and Disease

Geoffrey Lossie, Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Lossie will cover a number of basic, but essential topics related to poultry health and management. The importance and implementation of proper biosecurity will be discussed as well as the 10 most common diseases seen in back-yard/small commercial poultry operations and how to treat/prevent them from occurring in your flock.

Egg Handling, Washing, and Storage

Dr. Darrin Karcher, Purdue University Animal Science

Dr. Karcher will cover basic information on proper handling of the eggs produced by your flock to ensure a high quality, safe food. The do’s and don’ts related to eggs will be covered with focus on how to collect, clean and store your eggs.

Financial Tools for Successful Farms

Dr. Ariana Torres, Purdue University

In this presentation you will learn about key financial tools and how to use them to make strategic choices in your farm business. We will also focus on how these tools add value to your farm business, enabling you to achieve long-term economic viability.

Business Tune-up for Experienced Growers

Sam Smith, Farm Business Specialist, Intervale Center

This session is for established farmers who are wondering about the next steps for their business. Topics we will cover include scaling-up, enterprise analysis, and evaluating new opportunities. We will also discuss the need for a concrete, long-term farm business strategy with an “exit” plan.

Trade Show Demonstrations

Smartphone Crop Sensing Technologies

Dr. Krishna Nemali

Dr. Nemali will share information on using Smartphone connected sensors in controlled environment agriculture.

Cover Crop Tips, Techniques and Demo

Dan Perkins

Dan dreams about cover crops, practices cover cropping on his own farm, and works as a Certified Crop Advisor on over 25,000 acres of cover crops with row crop farmers. Come to hear and see tips, techniques, and tools for seeding cover crops on your small or large farm. Q&A format after demos.

Information Session

Indiana and Georgia study on the feasibility of value-added solar drying of specialty crops for small growers

Dr. Klein Ileleji

There is a growing market for sun-dried specialty crops (fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, etc.) with a global demand of over $5 billion, of which over $1.5 billion is in the United States alone. This session introduces specialty crop growers to a recently funded USDA-NIFA project on solar drying of specialty crops using a high efficiency solar dehydrator developed at Purdue, in order to produce a high-value sun-dried product.

Keynote Session

Plant Euology, A New Approach to Pests in Agriculture

Eliot Coleman

What if we lived in a world where we had the expectation of healthy plants rather than pest-ridden plants? Mr. Eliot Coleman will discuss how the current pest control thinking in agriculture is 180 degrees backwards. One way to visualize that is to imagine an embroidered tapestry of the natural world hanging from the rafters. The conventional pest control mentality is standing on the backside of the tapestry. From that perspective, the pest controllers see difficulties, confusions, insoluble problems, and loose ends. If they could stand on the front side of the tapestry, however, they would have a clear picture of how the natural system functions. And what one learns from the front side of the tapestry is a new understanding of the relationship between plants and pests where reliance on pesticides is counterproductive. Eliot will speak about the radical perspective of Plant Euology, a plant positive approach, a biologically oriented thinking that sees our agricultural efforts as participatory rather than as antagonistic.


Saturday, March 4


Veggie Compass: A Tool to Help You Track Costs of Production and Profitability by Crop and Market

John Hendrickson, University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems

Most diversified vegetable growers produce many different crops and sell through a variety of market channels, such as farmers’ markets, roadside stands, CSA, and wholesale. This complexity makes determining the profitability of all crops a significant challenge. Veggie Compass is a free spreadsheet program designed to help vegetable growers determine cost of production and profitability by crop and by market. John Hendrickson helped develop Veggie Compass and will use this webinar to explain how it can be used to actively man-age for profit. He will discuss the data needed to use Veggie Com-pass, record keeping tips and tools, and the lessons he and his colleagues have learned from working with growers on Veggie Compass. He will also share success stories from growers who have used Veggie Compass to improve their financial performance.

Season Extension with Storage Crops

John Hendrickson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Demand for local, organic produce does not begin and end with the frost-free growing season! CSA members, farmers’ market customers, retail store produce buyers, and chefs want local produce 365 days a year. While hoophouses extend the growing season and have garnered a great deal of attention recently, another way to take advantage of this market opportunity is winter storage crops. Storage crops—such as potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, rutabaga, onions, garlic, winter squash, and cabbage —can also boost farm income and improve cash flow. These and more types of crops can be grown and sold out of storage through the winter months with careful planning and the right facilities. This workshop will delve into the details and offer practical ad-vice on structures and facilities for winter storage, costs and pricing, market potential and profitability, storage crop production specifics, and tools and resources.

FSA Overview: What Growers Should Know About Loans, Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and More

Eric Peterson, USDA FSA – FSFL

This session will include a brief explanation of the Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to include what it is, what it covers, whom it can benefit and how to apply for coverage. Also included will be an overview of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Farm Loan Programs to give attendees an understanding of what types of loans are available, who is eligible and how to apply. Included in this discussion will be an overview of our Farm Storage Facility Loan Program (FSFL) and recent changes that make the program more beneficial to small farmers and specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables.

Cultivating Customers: Direct Marketing and CSA Management

Simon Huntley, Small Farm Central

Selling farm direct-to-consumer has many advantages, but it also comes with many challenges that cannot be fixed by simply working longer in your fields. To sell via farmers markets, retail farm markets, and through a CSA, you must have intimate knowledge of your customers, start a conversation with them through your marketing, and continually forge new relationships. It is a job in and of itself! Simon has over 10 years of experience working with many thousands of farms across the U.S., Canada, and internationally on farm marketing, with a special emphasis on the role of CSA is economically healthy small and medium scale farms. In this session, Simon will cover a lot of topics: the future of CSA farming, how to better engage and serve your customers, online marketing techniques and more.

Balancing Farm and Family on a Small Acreage Farm

Dr. Tamara Benjamin with:
Jeff & Zach Hawkins, J.L. Hawkins Family Farm, North Manchester, IN
Sara O’Donnell, Pinehurst Farm, Daleville, IN
Dan & Julie Perkins, Perkins Good Earth Farm, DeMotte, IN

Balancing tasks around the farm with your family responsibilities can be challenging. Throw in an out-side part time or full time job and you can feel overwhelmed. A panel of farmers who are all working towards finding a more balanced life will share some of their strategies with you and discuss how getting their family involved helps to maintain cohesion on their farm.

Managing a Successful Family Business: Strategies and Tools

Dr. Maria Marshall, Purdue University

Dr. Marshall will discuss tools available from Department of Agricultural Economics that will help small farms manage their business more successfully. The focus is on strategic planning and increasing sustainability.

Carcass Quality and Animal Health and Production

Adam Moody, Moody Meats
Blaine Brown, Purdue University Animal Sciences

Adam will share his experience and knowledge gained from over 50-years of raising beef, pork and poultry in diversified sustainable farming, and 18-years of harvesting animals under inspection. One can tell how an animal was raised during the harvesting process: the strengths and weakness of production models that include not only feed and water, but bedding, footing, grass, pasture, woods, concrete, and micro mineral.
As supervisor of Purdue’s Boiler-maker Butcher Block, Blaine will share information related to large and small operation in production as well as harvesting across all species. In addition, he can offer information from a regulatory perspective and the mission of protecting the food system in small establishments and how it is directly related to farm production and handling prior to harvest.

Maximizing Profit per Acre with Pasture-based Stacked Enterprises

Blake Hitzfield, Seven Sons

Learn how the Seven Sons Farm utilizes innovative stacked model enterprises to add value and opportunity to their family farming operation located in northeast Indiana.

From Hobby Hens to Viable Hen Enterprise

Bruce Hitzfield, Seven Sons

The goal of this presentation is to provide guidance to help pastured hen operations become a viable enterprise that can scale. Bruce gives valuable insight by simply explaining 10 costly mistakes.

The #1 Barrier to Direct Marketing (and what to do about it!)

Blaine Hitzfield, Seven Sons

While direct-to-consumer marketing can promise substantial value-added potential, it also brings with it many new challenges and barriers. Blaine identifies the #1 barrier that they and other farmers must overcome in order to have viable and scalable marketing enterprises. Blaine will share how their farm is utilizing internet marketing concepts such as Email and Social Media to connect with consumers.

Scaling-up and Scaling-back

Dr. Ariana Torres and Dr. Tamara Benjamin with:
Nathan Boone, Boone Family Farm
Kevin Cooley, Cooley Family Farm
Richard Kremer, Little Prairie Farm
Nate Parks, Silverthorne Farm

Farmers are going through an evolution to try and figure out where they and their product fit best. Join in the discussion with our panel of farmers on how they have applied very unique marketing strategies that could support other farmers into transitioning into more wholesaling, restaurant con-tracts, changing the size of farmer markets they participate in, online sales and on farm sales. Our panel will reflect on changes they are making in their operations: from moving out of farmer’s markets; small acreage farm concentrating on wholesale accounts for vegetables; smaller farm gearing up for the larger farmer’s markets near Indianapolis; ramping down a CSA, and concentrating almost exclusively on an on-farm market for their product. What are the challenges in how they scale-up or scale-back their personal operations?

Considering a U-Pick Operation

Roy Ballard, Moderator, Purdue Extension, Hancock County
Laurie Elliott, The Pickery
Adrienne Held, Holly Berry Farm

Discussion will cover: How a vege-table U-Pick differs from a typical fruit you-pick; Urban farm vs. rural for you-picks; Insurance and liabil-ity, GAPs considerations, and other business issues; advertising; em-ployee relations; personality traits for a successful u-pick farmer; planting considerations for various vegetable crops; how the speakers run their U-pick operations; layout of their farms; role playing on greeting new customers. There will be time for questions and answers.

Indoor and Outdoor Mushroom Cultivation

Miranda Ulery, Purdue Extension
Candice Turner, Earth Candy Acres
Nate & Mark Crowson, 3 Caps

Candice will explain the process of cultivating shiitake mushrooms from hardwood logs, including using different types of wood, spore inoculation, maintenance, and harvesting.
Mark and Nate Crowson, owners of 3 Caps, not only grow gourmet mushrooms, but are also in the business of helping others grow mushrooms. They will offer guidance for setting up an indoor growing facility especially for growing gourmet mushrooms like Shiitake, Oysters, Lion’s Mane, and more.

SARE Showcase: Opportunities and Happenings in Indiana

Roy Ballard, Indiana SARE Coordinator with:
Michael O’Donnell, Purdue Extension
Natalie Carroll, Purdue Extension
Steve Howe, Howe Farms
Genesis McKiernan-Allen, Full Hand Farm

Come learn about the resources and opportunities available through North Central Region –Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) a grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture. This showcase will allow you to interact with the state SARE coordinator, learn about grant opportunities, hear from Hoosiers who have received SARE grants, learn tips from them about submitting grant proposals and about the ongoing SARE projects in Indiana.

Trade Show Demonstrations

Tool Sharpening

Al Huls

Al will demonstrate proper tool sharpening and maintenance, along with the appropriate equipment to get the job done safely, effectively, and efficiently.

Keynote Address

3 Keys for Building an Effective Farm Team

Blaine Hitzfield

In an ever changing world of agriculture and consumer demands, Blaine Hitzfield will share how his family has assembled a team of diverse human capital that has propelled their farm forward to a thriving operation that supports over 10 full-time incomes. Blaine believes that providing a fertile seedbed for human creativity and freedom of entrepreneurial expression has been the single most important step their farm has taken to increase the overall effectiveness of their operation. Blaine will leave you with three keys that you can take home and begin to apply on your operation.


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