Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference Sessions
(All session times are subject to change)
Saturday, January 26
SESSION 1: 9:00 to 10:15am
Seed to Seed—Closing the Gap in Sustainable Farming: Saving seeds is an essential practice for maintaining a sustainable 'closed circuit' farm operation. Local food is only as local as the seed supply. Seeds are just as vital as healthy soil, clean water and market access. Regionally adapted and locally grown seeds are paramount to a secure food system. This presentation explores the benefits and challenges of incorporating seed saving into a small farm operation.
Raising Pigs on Pasture: This presentation will provide in-depth information on raising pigs on pasture, from farrow to finish. We will go over the basics of raising pigs how they were meant to be raised—outside on grass. Different heritage breeds will be discussed as well as shelters, waterers, sourcing other feed options, rotational grazing, herd management and how to get the pigs to a finish weight and market them for wholesale or retail. Lastly, we will cover parasite cycles and how to manage it in rotational grazing.
Crowd Funding for Small Farmers: This workshop provides practical advice on crowdfunding for small farm operations, with step-by-step instruction for the planning and running of successful donation and investment-based crowdfunding campaigns online. In preparing a campaign, we will discuss how to target prospective donors, set realistic funding goals, and match a farm's needs with prospective donors' aspirations. Farmers will learn how to build a campaign, tell their story in text and video, generate content for social media, and how and when to post that content for maximum benefit.
Susan Odom; Lauren Silver, Jeanne Suggate; Michelle Sweeten; Greg Zimmerman
Stories of Stewardship from MAEAP Verified Farms: This panel of four Northern Michigan small farmers will share their farm stories including how they began farming, their current operations, their successes and challenges, and their visions for the future. Each MAEAP verified farmer will also describe how they practice environmental stewardship and how the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program has benefited them in that regard.
Vicki Morrone and Sieg Snapp
Soil Health and Nitrogen Return from Cover Crops: Three aspects of using cover crops will be presented in this session: An overview of nitrogen fixing cover crop varieties that can be grown on the farm, the science of how nitrogen can become available to crops in the current season and next, and practical approaches to grow legume cover crops to supply nitrogen. This information will help build a farm plan that includes more cover crops and ‘best bet’ mixtures of cover crops to assist growers in building a soil health plan.
Erin Caudell, Adam Montri, Trent Thompson
How to Price Produce for Farmers Market Sales: Sponsored by MIFMA: Pricing your produce for farmers market sales isn't always an intuitive process, as it often involves many variables. The experienced farmers in this session will teach you how to set fair prices that are true to your production practices, while still yielding positive farmers market sales and customer relationships.
Dion and Molly Stepanski
Establishing a Brand in Rural Communities: Establishing markets in rural areas can be challenging. While interest in local foods and the support of local businesses is growing in all parts of the country, rural areas can often be difficult to pierce. In this workshop, we will discuss small vegetable farm marketing and branding, as well as the production systems that support the establishment of a successful brand and farm business.
Overview of Ridgedale Farm: Ridgedale Farm AB is a high-quality local food producer and pioneering educational site. Here at 59°N in Sweden we demonstrate and teach Farm Scale Permaculture Design, Regenerative Agriculture, Keyline Design, Agroforestry, Pasture-based livestock enterprises, Holistic Management, No-Dig Market Gardening as well as operating our own on-farm poultry processing facility. Our foremost responsibility is regenerating our landscape, ecosystem processes and soils through resilient, replicable, scalable and profitable farm enterprises. Our secondary function is to educate, facilitate, inform and empower people into action through regenerative design, enterprise and holistic decision-making that fosters and stimulates local community, economy and resilience.
Top Bar Hives: This workshop will introduce the Kenyan top-Bar bee hive, provide a construction design, and describe management techniques unique to this production system.
Greg and Libby Hiser
Farmer to Farmer Session—Veterans in Farming
Information coming soon!
SESSION 2: 11 to 12:15pm
Whole Farm Revenue: Information coming soon!
Why Solar Energy Works for Farms: Solar Energy is a popular and now cost-effective energy source that can be applied in almost any scenario. This workshop will explain why solar energy specifically works best on farms and rural businesses, how solar energy works in general, and next steps to take for your own farm to “go solar”.
Creating a Strong Brand Through Collaboration: By collaborating with a community of makers who knew the ins and outs of their craft, Lisa created True Blue blueberry products featuring her blueberries. With some branding basics and collaboration how-to’s, this session can demonstrate how to showcase your farm’s unique features and bring products to market. All it requires is an understanding of what makes your farm—its history, location, or special features–unique in the marketplace.
Pain-Free Organic Certification: This workshop will demystify the process of organic certification and explain what to expect during your first organic inspection. Decision-making tools will be discussed to determine if and when organic certification may make sense for a small operation, and seemingly onerous record-keeping requirements will be parsed out in plain language and shown to be a valuable tool for informed farm management.
Grass Finishing Basics: This session will cover the most recent information in the field of grass finishing livestock as recorded by the Michigan State University AgBioResearch Center in Lake City. Learn from eight years of ongoing research and gain information on where the industry is headed.
Dion and Molly Stepanski
Salad/Lettuce Mix: Details From Seed to Sale: Salad/Lettuce mix is a fundamental part of many small market farm systems. This workshop will discuss a nearly year-round multileaf head lettuce production system. This will include a focus on building efficiencies including the implementation of a paper pot transplanting system, planning, planting, harvesting, and washing methods, as well as how theirfarm has marketed and branded a consistent product. Dion and Mollie will go through every step of their lettuce mix production system from seed to sale.
Julia Darnton; Sarah Tomac
Interacting with Customers at Farmers Markets: Sponsored by MIFMA
As one of many vendors at a given farmers market, positive customer interactions can help set you and your brand apart. In this session, we will discuss the visual marketing strategies, display practices, and customer service interactions that can help you build great first impressions and lasting success at the farmers market.
Integrative whole-systems design for small farms: This session will be an overview of how we approach design. Themes will include, holistic management, keyline design, tree and woody crops, low cost infrastructure development, integrated animal systems, a no-dig approach to market gardening and regenerative enterprise.
The Advantages of No-Till and the Disadvantages of Tillage:
Much of the interest in no-till farming comes from avoiding the negative effects of tillage. So before we talk about how people are doing no-till, I think it’s appropriate to frame the issue with why people want to go no-till in the first place. Negatives associated with tillage include soil compaction, stirring up weed seeds, burning up organic matter, and taking a lot of time and equipment. Positives of good no-till systems include carbon sequestration, labor savings, increasing soil life and diversity including the important fungal component of the soil, and increasing the water holding capacity of the soil.
SESSION 3: 1:30-2:45pm
New (old) Crops for Cold Climates: Lesser known crops that may be common in other parts of the world but not widely known in the US will be explored in this session: yaćon, cucamelons, moringa, skirret, land adapted rice, bitter melons, edible canna lily, perennial greens and cold hardy banana leaves to name a few. Many non-traditional crops grow well in temperate climates. This session will focus on these rare and unusual vegetables that have shown potential in Green Thistle Farms test trials and will include tips and tricks to adapt them to existing farming practices.
Vermicomposting: Learn how red worms can turn your compostable food wastes into worm poo—a natural fertilizer for your gardens. Also learn how to use this sustainable fertilizer and get directions to make your own Worm Box.
Barn School: This session will cover guidelines and training for barn owners to assess the condition of traditional barns in order to identify structural issues and set priorities for repair and rehabilitation into the future. A checklist and workbook will offered to introduce attendees to barn structures, vocabulary, typical trouble-spots and basic actions for stabilization and repair. Effective for individual knowledge and help for owners with building/construction skills, and to build knowledge preparing owners to talk with and select contractors to do work.
Study-A-Farm Visit 20 Michigan Farms in an Hour: Each year, aspiring farmers in the MSU Organic Farmer Training Program visit dozens of sustainable and organic farms throughout Michigan. Join us to see photos, insights and innovations from farms near Lansing, Detroit, Traverse City, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. Expect to see a quick snapshot of the areas where each farm really excels. We will share info from the fields on crops, harvesting, wash/pack, mechanical cultivation, composting, irrigation and other topics. We’ll also touch on farms that shared their unique approach to finances, labor, record-keeping, marketing, etc.
Novice Farm Business Management: This workshop is designed for farmers that are novice in their financial management skills, unorganized in their farm record keeping, or want to learn fairly simple procedures to analyze farm profitability and strength of the business. The workshop starts with simple procedures to collect and organize financial records to be used in farm accounting. The next section covers the importance and procedures of completing year-end balance sheets and finally covers the use of accounting records and balance sheet to determine farm profitability.
Managing Farm Stress: With all of the variability in agriculture, there are times when farmers can become overwhelmed and stressed more than normal. One powerful factor that we always have the opportunity to control, however, is our mindset. Having the right mindset can help increase productivity and resiliency, so we are better prepared when times are tough, and better able to manage our farms and take care of our families and ourselves. This workshop will provide participants with mindset tactics to assist farmers in managing stress, staying healthy, and saving time and energy to get the most of what they do.
High Mowing Seeds
Stewarding Organics: This session will present the on-going work in the organic seed world that is helping to ensure high quality varieties ideally suited for organic agriculture can continue to be available for growers who choose to cultivate with organic practices. The session will include topics such as: why organic seed is important; sourcing/understanding where our organic seed comes from and why communicating sourcing is important; why seed companies may drop beloved varieties; the challenges of organic seed production and distribution; how organic seed companies help organic seed growers with successful productions; current innovations and private/public partnerships that help to meet the unique challenges of organic seed production and distribution; farmer participatory trialing and breeding projects.
Michelle Gagliardi; Kim Martin
Food Safety at Farmers Markets—What an Inspector is Looking For and What a Customer Sees: Sponsored by MIFMA
Farmers market vendors are subject to food safety guidelines from various regulatory agencies, as well as consumer expectations for quality, sourcing, and transparency. Our experts will help you understand the legal requirements and customer service best practices for ensuring confidence in your product from inspectors and farmers market shoppers alike.
How Growers Are Doing No-Till:
Almost 15 years ago, Andrew worked on a no-till research farm, only to realize that the method he learned did not scale down to the size of his farm at the time. When he realized that growers had developed their own smaller-scale no-till systems, he set out to interview 18 of them for the book. In this presentation Andrew will talk about the important differences between conventional (herbicide dependent) no-till, and organic, and then outline the broad methods for doing organic no-till: mulch grown in place (i.e. roller crimper method) vs. mulch applied to the soil (compost munchers, deep straw munchers, and cardboard mulchers), how to decide on a method and how to do them.
SESSION 4: 3:30-4:45pm
Caleb Boge; Pepper Bromelmeier
USDA Service for Small Scale Farmers: The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides assistance to owners and operators of agricultural operations of all sizes. Examples of USDA assistance include farm operating loans, microloans, conservation planning, financial assistance for conservation activities like cover crops and nutrient management, beginning farmer loans, financial assistance for high tunnel (hoop house) purchase, farm ownership loans, and more. Workshop participants will receive an overview of the services provided by local USDA Service Centers and begin the process of accessing USDA programs.
Information coming soon!
Planning for Profit: How do you plan and measure profitability on your farm? Joannee will share records she keeps that helps her farm decide if a crop is profitable. We will walk through a simple tool to create a harvesting and pricing structure for profitability. Then we will dive in deeper to show how Joannee creates enterprise budgets and system comparisons to clarify a crop's profitability.
Building and Sustaining Pollinator Habitats: Pollinators play a crucial role in our society. This workshop will teach the fundamentals of building a pollinator habitat and ways to improve upon a current habitat. Creating habitats to combat pollinator decline is a key to helping pollinators both survive and thrive. Also learn key concepts to help educate others about the benefits of creating and maintaining pollinator habitats.
Cary and Brian Urka
Choosing Tools for a Farm Shop: This session will help remove some confusion and help with some recommendations about which tools are needed for the small farm. Tools such as welders, drills and hand tools and others will be discussed. They have some bargain picks to help meet the needs in some farm shops especially for those starting out.
Grafting Fruit Trees—Leave with a Tree: With grafting you can duplicate your favorite fruit tree growing on your own land or a nearby site. This workshop will cover basics of dormant bench grafting and summer bud grafting. We’ll discuss the basics of rootstocks including choosing the best rootstock for your region and for your management plan. We’ll also discuss the basics of scions including ordering scions and cutting your own scions. We will cover grafting materials, basic grafting cuts and wrapping, and post-graft handling of trees.
Beef Cattle and Soil Carbon Sequestration: Can beef grazing sequester soil carbon, and does it matter? Beef Cattle have been oft criticized for increasing environmental emissions and climate change. However, a more nuanced discussion is warranted. Learn about a grass finishing beef cattle footprint and determine if you can enjoy your burger and sleep well at night too.
Amanda Shreve; Rebekah Faivor
Finding a Farmers Market that is a Good Fit For You: Sponsored by MIFMA
With over 300 farmers markets in Michigan, how do you choose markets that will be a good fit for your business? Presenters will take you through the basics including finding your local farmers markets, navigating market policies, securing solid insurance coverage and licensing for farmers market sales, and more.
Farmer Yoga: Supportive Practices for Working Bodies: A healthy farmer is a happy farmer. Learn about the toll that farm work can take on the body and how yoga can help by increasing internal awareness, alleviating pain, reducing stress, and encouraging focus in this hands-on workshop.
Download the Registration Brochure (coming in mid-October) for full agenda, session descriptions, and speaker bios in a printer-friendly format.