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Indiana Small Farm Conference prepares next generation of farmers

F

or eight years, the Indiana Small Farm Conference (Indiana SFC) has brought together farmers, educators and researchers to share knowledge and build a supportive community for those passionate about small-scale farming. While online this year, the conference convened on March 4-6 with the same goal as well as an increased focus on youth.

Alex Pettigrew, urban agriculture educator for Purdue Extension Marion County who serves on the content committee for the Conference, focused on finding innovative ways to reach Indiana youth and engage them in agriculture, such as having them present at the conference.

“Through our work in the community, we see what youth are interested in, and we have them present on that topic. I often work with my 4-H colleagues in Marion County, and I admire how they allow youth to be leaders in their community while also providing resources related to topics they are passionate about. That's what we're striving for with this track.”

These sessions explored agriculture and small farm careers including urban farming, beekeeping, backyard poultry, collegiate agriculture experiences and more.

Kedron Knobloch, 18, from Wolcott, Ind., led a session on entrepreneurship in agriculture. She discussed starting a swine business with her brothers and the transition to becoming the sole owner.

Alex Pettigrew portrait
Alex Pettigrew

“Purdue Extension is meeting the need to share agriculture with the next generation by continuing to create programs based on their interests in agriculture and training interested adults in the best practices for youth development (4-H). The youth track at the Indiana SFC is an example of how Extension is adapting to meet this need,” said Pettigrew.

Youth from around the state attended the conference along with many of the adults who work with them. An Indiana school district purchased registrations for each of their teachers because they wanted their students to learn more about farming.

“Even though the conference was online this year, we worked hard to make sure we had great content for our famers. To be able to offer programming to high school teachers and youth is a bonus. We realize that we are growing the next generation of farmers because of this conference,” said Tamara Benjamin, assistant program leader for Purdue Extension Diversified Farming and Food Systems.

“It's important to me to share agriculture because agriculture is connected to everything,” said Pettigrew. “Agriculture provides food and clothing, while also being an avenue for advancements in the STEM sciences. All things are possible through agriculture and showing the next generation what opportunities are available to them is important.”

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