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​​Conference to build on successes of Indiana
small farms
rural landscape

By  Keith Robinson 
December 30, 2013

A Purdue Extension conference will give big help to small farms, which combine for some considerable heft themselves in accounting for nearly nine out of every 10 farms in the state.

The 2nd annual Indiana Small Farm Conference will offer expert advice to owners of small farms to help them make their operations more successful. Sessions will focus on issues related to management, production, processing and marketing.

The conference, Feb. 21-22 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds in Danville, follows on the successful Indiana Small Farm Conference last March, said Steve Engleking, LaGrange County Extension educator and a conference coordinator.

"It's intended for anyone who is currently involved with, or interested in, small farms in Indiana," Engleking said. "That could be farmers, Extension educators, agricultural agency people or students. We hope to continue building a statewide community of people who have a passion about small farms."

Small farms, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are farms with no more than $250,000 in annual agricultural commodity sales. They accounted for 91 percent of farms in the nation and more than half of the farmland, according to the USDA's 2007 Census of Agriculture, the latest available. It reported nearly 2 million small farms nationwide, an increase of about 18,500 from the 2002 census.

There were 53,539 farms in Indiana with less than $250,000 in sales in 2007. They comprised nearly 88 percent of the 60,938 total farms in the state.

Nationally, farms with annual sales of $10,000 or less were the fastest-growing segment of small farms. Such farms typically would be on the low end of size in acreage. The census shows that from 2002 to 2007 the number of Indiana farms with less than 50 acres - considered very small - increased by 21.7 percent during the period, from 24,031 to 29,253.

The conference will devote workshop tracks to crop and livestock production, marketing/processing and small-farm management. Speakers include Extension educators and specialists from Purdue University, agricultural industry professionals and small-farm owners.

Three keynote speakers are scheduled:

* Sarah Aubrey of Monrovia, Ind., owner of Prosperity Consulting, a funding opportunities firm that assists entrepreneurs and small farmers in securing funds from a variety of foundations, agencies and other organizations.

* Diana Prichard, a mother, author, blogger, speaker and small farmer from north of Lansing, Mich.

* Tom McConnell, small-farm program leader at West Virginia University. He will bring his perspective on the importance of small farms in West Virginia, where 98.2 percent of the farms are small farms. That is the highest percentage in the nation.

Registration is $150 per person for both days or $100 per person for one day. To accommodate families, there is a discounted fee for additional attendees from the same family, and youth under 13 can attend for free. Fees include conference materials and a lunch each day featuring Indiana-raised foods.

A new feature will be two pre-conference workshops on Feb. 20

* Growing Organic Workshop, covering many questions fruit and vegetable growers have about growing organically.

* Dairy Meat Processing and Direct Marketing Tour to Trader's Point Creamery in Zionsville and Moody's Meats and processing in Ladoga. Participants will hear from the owners on topics such as production, processing and direct marketing to consumers.

An additional fee of $50 for participants of the pre-conference workshops ($30 for each additional family member 13 and older) will cover lunch, workshop materials and transportation.

For more information, including how to register for the conference and pre-conference workshops, visit thePurdue Small Farms and Sustainable Agriculture Extension Team website at http://www.ag.purdue.edu/smallfarms. Information also is available by calling the Purdue Extension hotline toll-free at 888-EXT-INFO (398-4636).

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