sealPurdue News

February 12, 2002

Conference helps small farms earn bigger profits

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Small farms make up the vast majority of agricultural operations in Indiana. They also represent an industry segment fighting to maintain financial viability.

Finding new or different ways to improve cash flow is the aim of an annual conference sponsored by a small farm advocacy organization. Four Purdue University agricultural specialists are among the speakers.

The 2002 Midwest Small Farm Conference and Trade Show takes place Feb. 22-23 at the Tippecanoe County 4-H Fairgrounds in Lafayette, Ind. Conference hours are 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

"The conference is intended for farmers who are having a tough time with profitability issues," said Steve Bonney, president of Sustainable Earth, the West Lafayette, Ind.-based organization sponsoring the event.

"Seventy-five percent of our farmers are classified as small farmers. They're looking for niche markets, but there are hundreds of niches. It's a very difficult decision for farmers to make about what their next move might be if it's out of cash grain farming. We're providing the kinds of information farmers will need to consider when making decisions on how they're going to farm in the near future and far future."

The conference program includes two keynote addresses and 24 workshops, covering such topics as on-farm retailing, livestock health, beekeeping, woodlot management, direct marketing and raw milk marketing. Speakers represent innovative farmers, agribusinesses, education, agriculture groups and the Purdue Cooperative Extension Service.

Purdue speakers and their topics are:

• Ed Heckman, educator, Purdue Extension Wayne County – "Grazing Basics: Getting Started."

• Bob Oneil, associate professor of entomology – "Strategies for Increasing Beneficial Insects."

• Bruno Moser, professor of landscape and nursery crops – "Cut Branches for the Florist Trade."

• Eileen Kladivko, professor of agronomy – "What Makes a Healthy Soil."

Keynote speakers are Joan Dye Gussow, emeritus professor of nutrition at New York's Columbia University, and Ann Clark, professor of plant science at Canada's University of Guelph. Gussow will address the benefits of eating locally produced food. Clark's speech will outline the benefits of grazing for farmers and consumers.

The conference offers something for everyone in farming, Bonney said.

"We try to cover the various interests of farmers, given the divisions within farming nowadays," he said. "Those interests include specialty areas farmers find useful, no matter how they farm, such as how do you increase soil health or how do you control weeds with fewer chemicals?

"We have a continuing agenda for marketing, because that seems to be the obstacle to change on the farm. We've really emphasized dairy this year, because dairy markets have been so up and down. For the conference we're bringing in farmers who've opened a retail store on their own farm and even bottled milk on their farm."

The trade show features companies that sell machinery or products to assist farmers in producing specialty crops.

Two-day conference registration is $45 per person or $65 per family. Single-day registration is $30 per person or $50 per family. Those fees apply to registrations received by Feb. 20. All registrations after Feb. 20 are $10 more per person or family.

To register or receive a conference brochure, contact Sustainable Earth at (765) 463-9366 or by e-mail at Information also is available on the Sustainable Earth Web site.

Sustainable Earth is a not-for-profit membership organization committed to the development of sustainable farming and community food systems that support family farms.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415;

Source: Steve Bonney, (765) 463-9366,

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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