Tricounty News

Back by popular demand - the Minn. Organic Conf.

2011 event will appeal to organic and conventional farmers alike.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now accepting registrations for the 2011 Minnesota Organic Conference, which will be held Jan. 14-15, 2011, at the St. Cloud Civic Center. Organizers expect that hundreds will again turn out because of the conference's appeal.

Keynote speakers are award-winning public radio host and food authority Lynne Rossetto Kasper, Organic Valley cooperative founder George Siemon, and organic pioneers Martin and Atina Diffley, co-operators of one of Minnesota's first certified organic vegetable operations. The conference also includes 36 educational breakout sessions and a trade show featuring 62 seed, fertilizer and equipment dealers, organic buyers, certifying agencies, and organizations that provide information and assistance to farmers.

"I think this year's conference sessions have the broadest appeal that I've ever seen," says Lynn Brakke, who farms 2,000 organic acres near Moorhead and serves on the Minnesota Organic Advisory Task Force. Sessions will include management insights that conventional, as well as organic, producers can use, including soil biology, cover cropping, weed management, grass finishing beef, marketing, and an opportunity to "Ask the Vet."

MDA organic specialist Meg Moynihan says Minnesota now has more than 650 organic farms that range in size from just a few acres to large operations like Brakke's. These farmers are raising grains, oilseeds, dairy, beef, poultry, fruits and vegetables. Moynihan says producers curious about what's involved in becoming organic can attend several sessions focusing on legal organic requirements as well as the transition process.

The conference price includes breakfast, lunch, and snacks all prepared with organic ingredients. Early bird registration (until Dec. 17) is $100 for the two-day conference and $70 for only one day. There are further discounts for additional people from the same farming operation. Reduced hotel rates are available until Dec. 12.

The full conference program and registration forms are available at the MDA web site www.mda.state.mn.us/food/organic, or by calling (651) 201-6012.