Small farm conference

An upcoming conference will focus of small farm issues.

Cultivating the Harvest, the 20th annual Inland Northwest small farm conference, will be March 1-2 in Moscow, Idaho.

Topics include finding and keeping labor, pollinators, regenerative grazing for small dairies, no-till and minimum till practices for vegetables, access to new markets and strategies for when the weather is unpredictable, said Colette DePhelps, area community food systems educator for University of Idaho Extension.

Those needs are also cited by larger farms, DePhelps said, but smaller farms might use roto-tillers or small tractor implements, which come with a different set of management challenges and research questions.

“The technology is so different on small farms,” DePhelps said. “There are total similarities (to larger farms), and we want to bridge that scale. We don’t want a small farm-large farm divide.”

On the Palouse, some small fruit and vegetable operations can see pest pressures from other farms, DePhelps said. How smaller farmers manage for pests can be specific, she said.

The event begins at 1 p.m. March 1 with several workshops and tours, including Washington State University’s bee lab and UI’s meats lab.

The agenda includes performance in the evening of the play, “Map of My Kingdom,” by Mary Swander, commissioned by Practical Farmers of Iowa, about farm families deciding on a succession plan.

The next day begins at 8:30 a.m., at the Pitman Center on the University of Idaho campus.

Keynote speakers include Beth Robinette of the Lazy R Ranch in Cheney, Wash., and LINC Foods cooperative in Spokane and Laura Garber of Homestead Organics in Hamilton, Mont. Both have experience forming cooperatives, DePhelps said.

Bill Snyder, Washington State University entomologist, will speak about on-farm research.

“On-farm research is a very useful tool for improving your production system on your farm and answering questions that you have,” DePhelps said.

DePhelps expects 100 to 150 people, weather permitting.

A panel discussion will cover lessons learned over the last two decades.

The conference celebrates 20 years of small farm programming, an increased number of small farms and ranches and gains within the local food system, DePhelps said.

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