Gear up for 2020 at the Indiana Small Farm Conference

Erin Robinstine
Farmers Advance

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – As you combat the cold, Indiana Small Farm Conference organizers want you to remember to “Think spring.”

“The busy season is just around the corner,” says Tamara Benjamin, assistant agriculture and natural resources program leader and diversified agriculture specialist for Purdue Extension, and an organizer of the Indiana Small Farm Conference. “The Indiana Small Farm Conference is a great way to learn what’s new and what’s next in production, marketing and other areas to make the most of your 2020 efforts and beyond.”

Featuring keynote speakers Jean-Martin Fortier and Darby Simpson, the eighth annual conference and trade show will be held March 5-7 at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds and Conference Center, 1900 E. Main St., Danville.

Registration for the conference is now open at

Early-bird registration rates are available — through Feb. 7 — at $75 for one day, $135 for two days and $190 for three days. After Feb. 7, prices are $90, $162 and $228.

“We encourage you to register early,” Benjamin said. “Space is going fast.”

The 2020 Indiana Small Farm Conference begins on March 5 with daylong workshops and tours. Workshops include a beginner’s guide to livestock and poultry production; holistic goal planning; and a farmers’ market forum. Tours include a visit to Marion County urban agriculture enterprises to learn about products, methods, challenges and future plans; and a tour of This Old Farm and Dandy Breeze Creamery, which will encompass livestock production, value-added products and strategic clientele marketing.

New this year are Saturday sessions on March 7 catering to middle school and high school audiences. These hands-on, interactive sessions include discussions about square-foot gardening, agricultural careers, and a crime-scene investigation activity with plants. Michael Claycamp, owner of Aquapon, LLC, will deliver a youth keynote on March 7 titled “Using Your 4-H / FFA Experiences to Create a Career for Yourself.”

“We’re excited to offer these sessions — some presented by Purdue agriculture students — to inspire our next generation,” Benjamin said. “Small farm futures depend on our ability to help young people envision what they can achieve now and for years to come.”

Conference admission for children age 18 and younger is $25 (one-day), $40 (two-day) and $50 (three-day) before Feb. 7. After Feb. 7, those prices rise to $30, $48 and $60.

Indiana Farmers Union is offering limited scholarships for youth to attend on March 7. For more information call 317-275-9274 or email

The conference will host nearly 40 different breakout sessions on March 6 and 7 — covering sustainability, livestock, marketing, hemp, cover crops, biosecurity, mental health, animal welfare, social media, high tunnels, food safety, storytelling, diversity and more.

Keynote speakers for the 2020 conference are:

• Jean-Martin Fortier (March 6) is a farmer, educator and best-selling author of The Market Gardener, which has inspired hundreds of thousands worldwide to reimagine ecological human-scale food systems. Fortier co-founded Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a 10-acre micro-farm in Quebec, Canada, specializing in organic and biologically intensive vegetable production.

• Darby Simpson (March 7) is a Martinsville, Indiana farmer who will address the ways in which agricultural producers can create operations that work for their lives, emphasizing the journey’s realities, contexts and profits.

Vendors will display a wide range of agricultural equipment, products and services during a trade show March 6-7. Those interested in exhibiting at the conference can find more information or register as an exhibitor online through Feb. 14.

Since 2013, the conference has helped novice or experienced small-scale farmers to gain practical, hands-on guidance from leaders and experts; join discussions and demonstrations of the latest in small farming; attend a trade show with 50-plus vendors; and network with fellow farmers to cultivate Indiana’s small-farm community.

For more information, a full schedule, or registration, visit Follow the conference on Twitter and Instagram at @SmallFarmPurdue or Facebook at @PurdueExtensionSmallFarms, with the hashtag #PurdueSmallFarms.