Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference moves to a bigger barn

More than 750 farmers and food enthusiasts will gather on Feb. 1, 2014 for the state’s largest sustainable farming conference.

For the first time in its 15 year history, the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference will take place at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City on Feb. 1, 2014. Despite its name, the conference hosts participants from all around the state and  has become such a popular annual gathering that according to co-chair Amanda Kik, “We needed to move to a bigger barn!” 

This year’s keynote speaker, Professor Emeritus John Ikerd from University of Missouri, will share thoughts from his book, “Small Farms are Real Farms.” A full trade show, 28 session workshop roster, youth programming and a lunch comprised of items sourced primarily from local growers round out the day’s activities.

Both consumers and growers will find educational offerings to expand their understanding of food safety concerns. Atina Diffley, one of the countries’ leading experts on the topic, and author of the wildly popular “Turn Here, Sweet Corn”, will share her professional expertise as well as draw from her more than 20 years of personal experience running a successful organic farm outside of the Twin Cities.

Workshops will cover a wide range of interests from learning about the Michigan State University Extension Firewise initiative to protect rural properties from wildfire, to how Tribal Communities in the Great Lakes region are making strides towards food sovereignty.

“Growers, whether on a commercial or backyard scale, can attend sessions on the production of beef to hops, flowers to veggies, fruit, wine, mushrooms – the cornucopia of what makes this place and this state be such a great place to farm and to eat,” Scotty Bruce, conference committee member and owner of Ellsworth’s MI Farm Market said.

As more organizations recognize the economic necessity of a vibrant local food movement, the diversity of the conference committee speaks to that spirit of collaboration. The conference is organized by community partners that include MSU Extension; ISLAND, the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design, Michigan Land Use Institute, the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments, the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians and dedicated agriculture business owners and educational consultants that help lead the year-round planning effort while they farm from Bear Lake to Petoskey. “Over the past several years we’ve seen more collaboration between community organizations and small farmers,” Wendy Wieland, MSU Product Center innovation counselor and committee co-chair said. “Our work strives towards supporting locally stated goals, like those of the Grand Vision’s Food and Farming Network, which is to have 20 percent of food that is consumed locally coming from local sources. Goals like these can only be achieved if all parties are given an open forum through which to collaborate.”

Late registration deadline ends Jan. 28. To learn more or to register, go to www.smallfarmconference.com