Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 25, 2014

Agriculture Forum: Conference scheduled for TC

BY STAN MOORE Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — About 750 farmers, eaters and food enthusiasts will gather Feb. 1 for the state’s largest sustainable farming conference to be held in Traverse City for the first time in its 15-year history.

The Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference will be held at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Despite its name, the event will hosts participants from all around the state, and it has become such a popular annual gathering that, as co-chair Amanda Kik said, the conference had to be moved “to a bigger barn!”

This year’s keynote speaker is John Ikerd from the University of Missouri, who will share thoughts from his book, “Small Farms are Real Farms.”

A full trade show, 28-session workshop roster, youth programming and lunch comprised of items sourced primarily from local growers round out the day’s activities. Atina Diffley, one of the nation’s leading experts on the topic and author of the wildly popular “Turn Here, Sweet Corn,” will share her professional expertise and draw from her personal experiences running a successful organic farm outside of the Twin Cities.

Workshops will cover a wide range of interests from learning about MSU Extension’s Firewise initiative to protecting rural properties from wildfire and how tribal communities in the Great Lakes region are making strides towards food sovereignty.

“Growers, whether on a commercial or backyard scale, can attend sessions on the production of beef to hops, flowers to veggies, fruit, wine, mushrooms…the cornucopia of what makes this place and this state be such a great place to farm…and to eat,” said Scotty Bruce, conference committee member and owner of the Ellsworth Farm Market.

More and more organizations are seeing the economic necessity of a vibrant local food movement and the diversity of the committee speaks to that spirit of collaboration. The conference is organized by community partners including Michigan State University Extension; ISLAND, the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design; Michigan Land Use Institute; the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments; the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians; and dedicated agricultural business owners and educational consultants that help lead the year-round planning effort while they farm from Bear Lake to Petoskey.

“Over the past several years we’ve seen more collaboration between community organizations and small farmers,” said Wendy Wieland, from MSU Extension and committee co-chair. “Our work strives towards supporting locally stated goals, like those of the Grand Vision’s Food and Farming Network, which is to have 20 percent of food that is consumed locally coming from local sources.”

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Stan Moore is with the MSU Extension Dairy and is an agriculture human resources educator.