2014 Iowa Organic Conference
The 14h Annual Iowa Organic Conference was held Nov. 16-17 on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City, as a joint effort between Iowa State University and the UI Office of Sustainability. Producers and experts from across the country shared tips for transitioning into organic production and methods to enhance organic operations.
“The U.S. market for organic products reached $31.3 billion in 2012 and the demand for organic grains and produce continues to exceed supply,” said Kathleen Delate, ISU organic agriculture specialist. “Growers everywhere are encouraged to consider the potential for organic production.”
The conference keynote speaker was Mary Berry, daughter of Wendell Berry, novelist, poet, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer Ms. Berry speaks all over the country as a proponent of agriculture of the middle, in defense of small farmers, and in the hope of restoring a culture that has been lost in rural America. Her works promoting soil conservation and an ecological agriculture are echoed in one of her sayings: “A society that is satisfied with short term economics while destroying the source of its own survival [the soil] cannot last.”
A reception, featuring local and organic food and drinks kicked off the conference on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. in the UI Memorial Union, followed by the movie, “Fresh” at 7 p.m., which explores the growing influence of local and organic markets in the U.S. The conference lunch on Monday afternoon highlighted local and organic produce, meats and dairy products assembled into a gourmet meal by UI award-winning Executive Chef, Barry Greenberg.
Sessions for those interested in learning about the latest techniques for transitioning into organic farming, or improving organic operation, included lessons on weed management, nutrient management, pest management and livestock integration. The conference also included information on how to begin farming, soil and water quality initiatives and government programs, crop insurance, compliance with food safety regulations, alternative energy projects, and markets for organic grain, vegetable and fruit crops. Organic farmers, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists, government agency staff and others with unique experience related to organic agriculture and sustainable living also spoke at the conference.
“The Iowa Organic Conference is the largest University-sponsored organic conference in the country,” said Delate. Last year’s conference brought 50 exhibitors, ranging from organic seed sales, to local food system nonprofits, to government offices working with transitioning and certified organic farmers. Despite the challenges of extreme weather this year, organic farmers are anticipating successful organic yields with organic soybean prices currently averaging $17 per bushel.
Conference information is available online at http://sustainability.uiowa.edu/2014-iowa-organic-conference/
Conference partners include Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, New Pioneer Co-op, Organic Valley and Practical Farmers of Iowa.