Registration is open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change. The conference will take place Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 16-17 in Granville i Licking County. The state's largest sustainable food and farm conference, the event draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. This year's conference will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 educational workshops; two featured pre-conference events on Friday, Feb. 15; a trade show; a fun and educational kids' conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.
"This conference will be rich with information and networking opportunities, drawing on the expertise of both nationally recognized agricultural professionals and local farmers and educators," said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. "Whether you're a full-time farmer, backyard gardener, or local food enthusiast, this conference has much to offer you."
George Siemon -- Presented by Northstar Café
Saturday evening's keynote address features George Siemon, one of the nation's foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades. As Organic Valley's CEO, Siemon, is best known for his leadership in organizing farmers and building market support for organic agriculture.
His keynote address is titled, "Organic: Changing a Broken Food System." He will also be presenting a Saturday morning workshop, "The Cooperative Model," where he will examine the how a cooperative model works and the opportunities they offer for farmers.
In 1988, Siemon joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America with 1,700 organic farmer-owners and 650 employees who share in the profits from their company's $850 million in annual sales.
Siemon was instrumental in developing the national standards for organic certification; initiated Farmers Advocating for Organics, the only organic-focused granting fund in the U.S., and currently serves on the boards of directors for The Organic Center and Global Animal Partnership. In 2012, Siemon was awarded the Natural Resources Defense Council's Growing Green Award in the "Business Leader" category, and the Social Venture Network's Hall of Fame Impact Award in the "Environmental Evangelist" category.
Nicolette Hahn Niman -- Presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill
Sunday's keynote address, "Eating as We Farm (And Farming As We Eat)," will be provided by Nicolette Hahn Niman.
Hahn Niman is an attorney, rancher, and author of "Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms." She is an accomplished author and speaker who has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. She is a regular blogger for The Atlantic, and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Cowboys & Indians, and CHOW.
Previously, she was the senior attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance where she was in charge of the organization's campaign to reform the concentrated livestock and poultry industry, and, before that, an attorney for the National Wildlife Federation.
She lives in Bolinas, Calif. with her son, Miles, and her husband, Bill Niman, founder of Niman Ranch, a natural meat cooperative supplied by a network of more than 700 farmers and ranchers.
The conference will also feature more than 90 educational workshops and cooking demonstrations with topics including: livestock grazing and management, tree and vegetable grafting, cover crops, school gardens, weed and pest management, food preservation, urban agriculture, community gardens, agriculture policy, fruit and vegetable production, organic lawn care, food labeling, herbal medicine, wildlife exclusion, building soil health, poultry processing, homeschooling, product marketing and farm business management, composting, companion planting, transplanting systems, organic grain production, beekeeping, alternative energy, permaculture and more.
In addition, the conference will offer a four-part grazing workshop track. Jeff McCutchen of Ohio State University Extension and Bob Hendershot, retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, will educate producers in the art and science of grazing management and improving their ability to successfully manage their farm's natural resources.
The events will also offer the following featured conference and pre-conference guests:
Troy Bishopp -- Known as "The Grass Whisperer," Bishopp has been a passionate promoter and practitioner of grazing management for more than 26 years. He raises grass-grazed dairy and grass-finished beef cattle on his family's fifth-generation New York farm and is a grassland conservation professional and free-lance agricultural writer.
Chris Blanchard -- As the owner and operator of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa since 1999, Blanchard grows 15 acres of vegetables and herbs for a 200-member community supported agriculture program, food stores and a farmers' market.
Guy Jodarski, DVM -- A practicing veterinarian in Wisconsin for more than 25 years, Dr. Jodarski serves as a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley's CROPP Cooperative. He treats organic and sustainable livestock with an emphasis in dairy cattle herd health and also works with ruminant livestock producers raising beef cattle, sheep and goats.
Mark Shepard -- Shepard is the owner and operator of Forest Agriculture Enterprises, the Restoration Agriculture Institute, Shepard's Hard Cyder winery, and New Forest Farm, a 106-acre perennial agriculture forest in Wisconsin. Trained in both mechanical engineering and ecology, Shepard is a well-respected certified permaculture designer and agroforestry teacher and has developed and patented equipment and processes for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of forest derived agricultural products.
The conference will also feature two full-day pre-conference events on Friday, Feb. 15:
Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm -- Farmer and food safety expert Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm will teach participants how to establish or improve food safety practices. Blanchard will review post-harvest handling practices and share methods for meeting Good Agricultural Practices documentation and record-keeping requirements in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.
From our Grazing Experience -- Delve into the intricate art of grass farming with Troy Bishopp, and a panel of experienced graziers including Eric Grim of Grim Dairy, Gene DeBruin of DeBruin Family Dairy, Michael Putnam of Grassland Dairy and Dough Murphy of Murphy's Grass Farm. Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season using a grazing chart, specific grazing and feeding strategies, and balancing ecosystem processes with business profitability. This comprehensive workshop will also cover soil health, animal nutrition, transitioning to organic production and maximizing profitability in pasture-based systems.
The conference will also feature a kid's conference offering a variety of exciting workshops for children ages 6-12; a playroom for children younger than 6; book signings by Nicolette Hahn Niman, Mark Shepard and The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; an exhibit hall offering an interesting array of information, products, services and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture; a raffle; a non-denominational Sunday service; and Saturday evening entertainment, including a performance by The Back Porch Swing Band and a film screening and discussion of American Meat, presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill.
OEFFA's 34th annual conference is being sponsored by Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, Organic Valley, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market Columbus, Northridge Organic Farm, Andelain Fields, Albert Lea Seed Company, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Earthineer, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Horizon Organic, Lucky Cat Bakery, Raisin Rack, Stauf's Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Casa Nueva, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Metro Cuisine, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Two Caterers, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bird's Haven Farms, Bluebird Farm, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie's Old World Baklava, Green Field Farms, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Leo Dick and Sons, Marshy Meadows Farm, Nourse Farms, Sunbeam Family Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Sweet Meadows Farm and Wayward Seed Farm.
"We've worked to expand this year's conference to provide more space, more workshops, and more meals so we can accommodate more people. Given the growing popularity of the conference and local foods issues, however, we're still not sure we can meet the demand, so we encourage people to register early to avoid disappointment, " concluded Hunt.
To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers and a schedule, go to http://www.oeffa.org/2013. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at 614-421-2022 Ext. 205 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The 2010, 2011 and 2012 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.