• WisBusiness

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

GreenBiz: La Crosse organic farming conference continues to grow


By Gregg Hoffmann
A “food revolution that is sweeping across the country” is what is feeding the continued growth of an annual organic farming conference in La Crosse.

“We might surpass 3,000 participants this year,” said Faye Jones, the director of MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) and co-director of the conference, scheduled for Feb. 24-26.

“Our numbers have continued to grow despite the economy. It’s really because of a food revolution that is sweeping the country. Many people agree that our food affects our health.

“It’s been a ripple effect that has led to growth in the local food movement, farm to school programs, farmer markets and many other things. Organic is very much part of that, and out conference continues to grow because of it.”

More than 70 workshops will be offered this year at the conference. Pre-conference courses, with slightly lower enrollments, will be held on Thursday, Feb. 24. Some of the workshops have become so popular that they get 200 or more attendees, but smaller groups are also available.

“All of our workshops are very hands-on. Farmers learning from farmers has been the heart of the conference. We have researchers coming in with farmer partners for some of our workshops. We also make sure that time is built in for the farmers to talk with each other. They learn from each other, not just in the workshops.”

Jones notes that organic farming is being fed in more recent years by a couple demographic groups that are not the traditional farmer looking to convert to organic practices.

“We’ve seen a growth in early retirees who decide they want to go into organic farming,” she said. “Some have no experience, or perhaps were raised on a farm but have not done farming for years.

“The young farmers also are a growing group. These are young people in their 20s, with virtually no experience, but a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We’ve incorporated things into the conference for these groups.”

A tract of breakout sessions, and even some of the entertainment, for the conference also are geared to young farmers, just starting out.

“They’re the future of organic and sustainable farming,” Jones said. “We want to encourage and help them.”

One of the Organic University sessions features Paul and Sandy Arnold, who have tips for new farmers -- young and old -- on how to get started in market farming. The Arnolds have spent 22 years building their farm from bare land to a thriving organic vegetable and fruit enterprise.

Keynote speakers include Urvashi Rangan, director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union. She has developed a ratings system, database and web site for evaluating environmental labels. She continues to decode the meaning of “eco-labels” for consumers and advocates for credible labeling in the marketplace.

“Organic, natural, sustainable labels can be rather confusing and misleading for the public consumer,” Jones said. “Urvashi has done much to bring credibility to rating these labels and products.”

Tom Stearns, founder of High Mowing Organic Seeds, will present another keynote address titled “What Are We Waiting For? Now Is The Time to Rebuild Our Healthy Food System.” Stearns will focus on local food system development in Hardwick, Vermont, and the collaborative work among farmers, businesses and the community.

“One of the themes running through this year’s conference has been the link between organic foods and health,” Jones said. “Many consumers of organic foods say they buy the products because of their concerns about health.”

One specialized area that is drawing quite a bit of interest this season is growing mushrooms. Sessions look at the growing of oyster and shitake mushrooms, as well as other more exotic varieties. Mushrooms are being grown as value-added additions to CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and as stand-alone businesses.

The annual conference is a boon to the La Crosse area convention and tourism business during a winter month. It is a natural for the area, with Organic Valley dairy cooperative located in nearby La Farge, the preponderance of organic farms in neighboring Vernon County and other counties, and the proximity of Spring Valley, where MOSES is headquartered.

Mail registrations for the conference must be postmarked by Feb. 11. More information can be found at http://www.mosesorganic.org. Registration can be done at that web site until Feb. 16.

-- Hoffmann has written many columns and features for WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com over the years. He writes the GreenBiz column monthly.

Labels:


Comments: 0

Post a Comment

Back to BizOpinion main page

: See newer blog items : : See older blog items :

BizOpinion site feed
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

wisbusiness.com Social News

Follow Us

Site Sponsors

ARCHIVE

· January 2009
· February 2009
· March 2009
· April 2009
· May 2009
· June 2009
· July 2009
· August 2009
· September 2009
· October 2009
· November 2009
· December 2009
· January 2010
· February 2010
· March 2010
· April 2010
· May 2010
· June 2010
· July 2010
· August 2010
· September 2010
· October 2010
· November 2010
· December 2010
· January 2011
· February 2011
· March 2011
· April 2011
· May 2011
· June 2011
· July 2011
· August 2011
· September 2011
· October 2011
· November 2011
· December 2011
· January 2012
· February 2012
· March 2012
· April 2012
· May 2012
· June 2012
· July 2012
· August 2012
· September 2012
· October 2012
· November 2012
· December 2012
· January 2013
· February 2013
· March 2013
· April 2013
· May 2013
· June 2013
· July 2013
· August 2013
· September 2013
· October 2013
· November 2013
· December 2013
· January 2014
· February 2014
· March 2014
· April 2014
· May 2014
· June 2014
· July 2014
· August 2014
· September 2014
· October 2014
· November 2014
· December 2014
· January 2015
· February 2015
· March 2015
· April 2015
· May 2015
· June 2015
· July 2015
· August 2015
· September 2015
· October 2015
· November 2015
· December 2015
· January 2016
· February 2016
· March 2016
· April 2016
· May 2016
· July 2016
· August 2016
· October 2016
· December 2016
Copyright ©2013 WisBusiness.com All rights reserved. | WisOpinion.com | WisPolitics.com  |  Website development by wisnet.com LLC  | Website design by Makin’ Hey Communications