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Conference to offer tips to small, new farmers

The Inland Northwest Small Farms Conference in Spokane Oct. 19 offers a variety of tips for new and small farm operators. Course topics include dealing with nuisance animals, effective irrigation and locations of wells and septic tanks. Small acreage coordinator Pat Munts says the conference may help small producers who are just starting out to make better decisions.
Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

Published on October 8, 2013 10:00AM

Small and new farm operators in the Northwest will convene next week to learn ways to improve their operations.

The Spokane Conservation District and Washington State University Spokane County Extension hold the third annual Inland Northwest Small Farms Conference from 8:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Oct. 19 at Spokane Falls Community College, located at 3410 W. George Wright Drive in Spokane.

Pat Munts, small acreage coordinator for the district and extension, said the conference provides a quick, expansive education to local small farm producers and residents moving to the country.

The conference is primarily aimed at small farmers throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho, and beginning landowners.

“I really applaud those people if they come to the conference, because they’re starting at the beginning,” Munts said. “Maybe something they learn at the conference will help them do whatever they decide to do the right way instead of saying, ‘Oh, I shouldn’t have spent $50,000 on that barn when I needed it somewhere else.’ It’s just a way of helping people make better decisions.”

The conference theme this year is “Country Living with Purpose and Profitability,” focusing on adding economic value to a farmer’s operation, Munts said.

Course topics include dealing with nuisance animals, a discussion panel of restaurants and grocery stores to help farmers expand their production into other markets, integrating animals into an operation, managing soils on small farms, effective irrigation, agricultural tourism, vegetable varieties for the Inland Northwest and wells and septic systems.

The courses are divided into three separate tracts – living in the country, increasing profits and beginning farming – but attendees can move in and out of tract sessions.

“Particularly for people who have been piecemealing their property together or they are new landowners, placing wells so they aren’t contaminated and siting septic fields so they don’t interfere with farm operations,” Munts said. “Some people plunk them in the middle of the pasture, and that’s not the best idea. It’s not really a good idea to have your animals walking around on top of your drain field.”

Munts pointed to Spokane’s efforts to develop an urban agriculture ordinance and a food policy council, which recently met for the first time. Those efforts may bolster awareness of agriculture and of the conference, she said.

“We want to make it easier for people to grow food, whether it’s in their own backyards or on vacant land,” she said, noting the group wants to remove existing barriers to allow small lot selling.

Munts is hoping for 125 participants at the conference.

In the future, the conference could develop to focus on younger and beginning farmers and expand into a trade show, Munts said.

Cost is $35 per person or $60 per pair. For more information, contact Munts at 509-535-7274 or pat-munts@sccd.org




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