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Prep for the 2021 season with the Indiana Small Farm Conference


WEST LAFAYETTE, IN. – Organizers of the Indiana Small Farm Conference remind farmers that it’s never too early to gain new insights ahead of the growing season.

“The longer and busier days will be here soon enough,” says Tamara Benjamin, assistant agriculture and natural resources program leader and diversified agriculture specialist for Purdue Extension and a conference organizer. “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 efforts in 2021 and for years to come.”

Featuring keynote speakers Richard Perkins and Dan and Julie Perkins, the ninth annual conference and trade show will take place March 4-6, with live and on-demand content delivered through the interactive Microsoft Teams application. All content will remain available to participants after the conference is over.

Registration is open, and the fee to attend all three days of the conference is $35 per person. This year’s conference offers several tracks, from which attendees can choose sessions that best align with their farming operations and goals:

• Advanced Livestock, with a focus on pasture renovation and management, as well as breakout sessions on beef, goats, sheep and poultry.

• Advanced Vegetable Production, with panels on leafy greens, soil health and cover crops, and on-demand crop-update/growing technique content.

• Beginning Farmer, which will help newcomers set themselves up for success through sessions on developing farm stands and diversifying enterprises.

• Farm Business & Marketing Plans, with suggestions from successful vendors to increase sales, presentations on e-commerce and tax benefits and more.

• Regenerative Agriculture, featuring a grower panel and a presentation by Ray “The Soil Guy” Archuleta, a soil scientist with over 30 years of experience.

• Urban Agriculture, with a variety of sessions covering urban farms, soil health, pest management and community engagement.

A youth track will offer sessions on careers in agriculture and small farms to middle school and high school audiences. On March 5, an Exploring Agriculture and Small Farm Careers panel will showcase interactive discussions about careers in horticulture, organic farming, livestock farming, agricultural entrepreneurship and more. Saturday’s Show-and-Tell sessions will feature presentations on beekeeping, horticulture, livestock management and more. The Purdue Ag Ambassadors and Purdue chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) will discuss their collegiate agriculture experiences.

“It’s exciting to see the next generation, including Purdue Agriculture students, take the lead on Saturday,” Benjamin says. “The future of farming depends on inspiring young people to consider what they can achieve now and in the years ahead.”

The Purdue Extension Farm Stress Team also will provide pre-recorded on-demand videos and resources related to mental health, including resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the unique challenges of 2020 added to existing stress for agriculture professionals, it was essential to offer focused content about mental health and well-being,” Benjamin says.

The 2021 Indiana Small Farm Conference begins March 4, with on-demand availability for virtual tours of such Indiana farms as Four Flags Farm, Freedom Valley Farm and Maple Hills Farm. Testimonials from farmers about how they have persevered through COVID-19 also will be available on demand.

Keynote speakers for the 2021 conference are:

• Richard Perkins (12:30-1:30 p.m. EST, March 5) is the co-owner, director and lead designer of Ridgedale Farm AB in Värmland, Sweden, author of the internationally renowned Regenerative Agriculture, and producer of the series “Making Small Farms Work.” Blending dynamic instruction and down-to-earth pragmatism, he promotes a philosophy of permaculture in farming — design strategies to capitalize on patterns and resilient features in natural ecosystems. He will discuss how focusing on regenerative agriculture can empower small farm enterprises to be resilient, entrepreneurial and profitable.

• Dan and Julie Perkins (12:30-1:30 p.m. EST, March 6) operate Perkins’ Good Earth Farm, an organic vegetable farm on 20 acres in DeMotte. After balancing a career in soil and water conservation with farming on the side, the Perkins family made a transition to full-time farming in 2019. Dan and Julie will discuss their experiences in “the beautiful, sometimes chaotic, get-your-hands-dirty, oh-so-satisfying working of the land.”

Due to the popularity of the Indiana Small Farm Conference, credit card payment is strongly recommended. Attendees will receive Microsoft Teams login information for the conference only after payment is received.

A detailed conference schedule will be available several days before the event, and currently scheduled sessions are subject to change. For more information, or to sign up, visit the Indiana Small Farm Conference website at purdue.edu/dffs/smallfarms/small-farm-conference-2021.