Some small farmers don't consider themselves farmers.

Occasionally Pat Munts runs across someone who thinks this way.

"My point is, even if you're only feeding your family, you're still farming," said Munts, small farms and acreage coordinator for the Washington State University Spokane County Extension.

The first Small Farming in the Inland Northwest conference begins at 1 p.m. April 15 at the Spokane Community College Lair and runs through April 16.

The event is a collaboration between the extension, the Spokane County Conservation District and the community college's environmental sciences department, using a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency.

The conference is held in conjunction with the conservation district's annual meeting April 16.

Regional small farmers will learn about the latest in farming techniques for the coming season, Munts said. It is also an opportunity to network with other farmers in the region.

"It's a scattered community," she said, estimating there are several hundred small farmers in the area. "It's really important for them to know there's other people out there doing things like them. They can gain just by getting together and learning new techniques that could help their farm operations grow."

Topics covered at the conference include a goat and cow dairy panel and information on insect pests, intensive grazing management, hiring labor on a small farm and getting a loan for a farm.

Sequim, Wash., organic producer Nash Huber will speak at 8:30 a.m. April 16. Munts said Huber was asked to participate because he has been using diversified farming for the past three decades and is a proponent for bringing young people into farming.

Huber believes much of agriculture will move into local production, including small farming and direct marketing, in the future.

A lot of people left agriculture production in the last 60 years, but Huber also sees quite a few returning on smaller acreages. Many of those people are trying to figure out how to make an income off the land, and how it figures into the broader economy and local food region, he said.

Huber believes food, water and energy, tied with health care, will all become bigger, inter-related issues in the next 20 to 50 years.

Munts said the hope is for the conference to turn into an annual event.

"The small farm community is alive and well," Munts said. "We have a lot of potential in this region."

Cost is $25 for one day or $40 for both.

For more information, call Munts at 509-477-2173 or pmunts@spokanecounty.org

-- Matthew Weaver

Online

Spokane County Conservation District: www.sccd.org

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