Hubby and I had the wonderful opportunity to hear about this conference and attend over the end of last week and the weekend. We were thrilled about going!
Our goals in attending were:
- To get a feel for the state and future of small farms in Indiana (we are mostly big ag with corn and soybeans here)
- Meet other small farmers so we have people to ask questions to
- To clarify what we want to be “when we grow up”– Farmers or not (and what does that mean for us)
All these goals were met and more!
Outlook for small farms in Indiana? Great! There is extensive support from Purdue extension and others to support small farmers. Not just with information but with money and technical support (meaning they will visit your farm).
An exciting initiative is Indiana Grown. We are already seeing this in our stores and it will be spreading.
There are several “levels” of this for folks growing, producing, and packaging products here in Indiana. I found out that many of my Farmgirl Unleashed products would qualify as “produced in Indiana”. So goal one was answered– small farms are on the rise AND supported!
We wanted to meet others and boy did we. We met farmers from all across Indiana – some up the road just a bit and some a couple hours away. Purdue Extension is sponsoring several tours of small farms in 2016 and we will be on those tours. For the conference, most of the workshops were led by small farmers.
Some of the great presenters I heard and then talked to were Liz from Nightfall Farms (we actually got our turkey from here in November). Nathan from RiverRidge Farm shared on tunnels along with Ben Hartman from Clay Bottom Farm. Ben and Nathan’s workshop confirmed for us that we want a high tunnel to grow in. We have successfully grown on a small scale for 12 months using covers and cold frames. Expanding this would be perfect in a tunnel.
We also met and shared with many others. A hop grower up the road that supplies hops to a favorite brewery of ours. A lovely woman that is up the road from us that has been growing veggies and flowers for over 10 years and selling in Farmers Markets (her hubby is a corn producer). And I could go on and on. The great thing was they all SHARED so much and were anxious to chat or invite you to come see what they are doing.
Ben Hartman is also the author of The Lean Farm. This book is all about processes and being more efficient. It is based on Toyota methodology. This book has really got me excited. As a business analyst I am all about process. You cannot imagine my excitement as I started reading this book. The “process geek” in me is really coming out!
Saturday we were treated to Mary Dee Berry as our Keynote speaker at lunch. She is the daughter of Wendall Berry who you just might have heard of. 🙂 She is now the Executive Director of The Berry Center. Honestly I just felt honored to have listened to her and the passion and love that she expresses regarding farming.
Oh did I mention the food? This was not typical conference fare. This was locally produced food from small farms and it was fantastic. The Juniper Spoon provided our feasts and we highly recommend them if you are in their service area. It was incredibly yummy!
Back at the hotel each night we had much to look at. We were so excited to explore and dig in!
Our last goal for the conference was clarification. What do we want to do here? We ruled out hops growing although it is really, really interesting! BUT we ruled in high tunnel, year around growing. We are getting estimates on our high tunnel this week.
The really important question of what do we want to be when we grow up OR “do we want to farm to sell?” was answered and that answer was a resounding YES!
We have made the leap and we did incorporate Big Sky Acres this week! We are Small Farmers and will call ourselves that proudly. We have infrastructure and procedures to set up but we are making the leap. Our dream of being a farmer is now becoming reality.
Keep coming back to hear about our journey and PLEASE share your experiences with us!