CALDWELL, Idaho — Organic farmers will have a chance to learn from each other and discover how they can support beneficial insects Feb. 7-8 during Idaho’s 4th Annual Grower’s Own Conference.
The highlight of the conference is a farmer-to-farmer exchange in which organic producers can share their experiences and learn from other growers.
Conference attendees pick the topics that will be discussed during the farmer exchange.
“It’s truly a farmer-to-farmer exchange that is driven by the interests of those who participate in the conference,” said co-organizer Jennifer Miller of the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides. “It really draws on the experience of the farmers in the room.”
Co-organizer Beth Rasgorshek, who started the conference, said that for organic farmers in Idaho to be strong and have a voice, they needed to get to know and talk to each other.
“We needed to have a sense of ourselves, to gather together, get to know each other and support and learn from each other,” she said. “I really think we have so much to learn from each other.”
“We’ve all had our various experiences, whether they were successful or not,” added Rasgorshek, owner of Canyon Bounty Farm in Nampa. “Why not keep sharing those experiences with each other so we can build on those successes or avoid the failures?”
The conference is open to any farmer but focuses on organic production.
It kicks off Feb. 7 with a special short course titled, “Bring on the Bugs; Farming with Beneficial Insects and Pollinators.”
Miller said that course is a good opportunity for producers to learn how to attract and preserve beneficial insects on their farm. “Beneficial insects really are the workhorse of organic farms for pest management.”
Rasgorshek said she’s excited to learn more about how to sustain beneficial insect populations.
“As organic farmers, we need to pay close attention to having them in the field and creating the plantings necessary to get them to do some of the work we need them to do,” she said.
Virtual tours of three of the region’s organic farms will follow the short course on Feb. 7.
The conference continues Feb. 8 with a presentation on a new Farm Service Agency loan program that supports local food, and group discussions on a variety of other topics.
Participants will vote on which topics they want to discuss when they register.
Some of the 26 topics to choose from include multi-species cover cropping, the nuts and bolts of habitat installation, agritourism, high tunnels, mechanical cultivation, sales strategies for farmers markets, food safety, starting livestock production and value-added products.
The short course and conference will be held at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. Cost is $40 for the short course, $55 for the Grower’s Own conference or $80 for both.