The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society invites farmers and ranchers, consumers, university researchers, agricultural professionals and others to “Join the Sustainable Agriculture Conversation” at the 2014 Healthy Farms Conference in Kearney on Feb. 14-15.The conference will be held at the Younes Conference Center. Online registration for the annual event is open at www.nebsusag.org/conference.shtml.
“The Healthy Farms Conference provides a foundation for farmers and aspiring farmers to go back to their farms and communities and provide a quality of life for their families and communities,” said William Powers, Executive Director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS), based in Ceresco.
The 2014 Healthy Farms Conference will feature four keynote addresses:
• Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States (www.humanesociety.org) based in Washington, D.C., will open the conversation on animal welfare within agricultural production.
In a state where livestock animal welfare is fraught with controversy, Pacelle will dispel myths and misunderstandings of what his organization is trying to do. Conference attendees can take this opportunity to discuss agriculture’s role in the statewide animal welfare discussion, including finding local market solutions.
• Leigh Adcock, Executive Director of the Women, Food and Ag Network (www.wfan.org) based in Ames, Iowa, will speak on the importance of supporting women farmers and ranchers. Women are the largest demographic within sustainable farming, and the demographic—and therefore support needs of women—are only expected to grow as local foods opportunities become more established.
• Lindsey Shute, Executive Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition (www.youngfarmers.org) based in Tivoli, N.Y., will emphasize the value in supporting young, beginning and transitioning farmers in establishing independent family farms utilizing sustainable farming practices. In order to reach these goals, Shute’s organization advocates furthermore for affordable farmland, fair labor practices, equal opportunity, farmer-to-farmer training, and cooperation and friendship between all farmers regardless of production philosophies.
• Paul Rohrbaugh, owner of Pawnee Pride Meats in Steinauer and former NSAS executive director, will lead a panel discussion defining sustainable agriculture, which farming practices enhance sustainability and more.
Breakout sessions will cover additional topics such as cooking with local foods, cover crops, forages for cattle, organic fly management, food truck innovations, growing citrus in Nebraska, high tunnels, Holistic Management, food desserts, pollinators, smoking and curing meats, starting a CSA, telling your farm story and more.
A youth track will feature interactive presentations on sustainable agricultural topics for school-agers through high schoolers. Younger children may attend with a parent.
The 2014 Healthy Farms Conference continues the tradition of the all-Nebraska dinner on Friday, Feb. 14, starting at 5:30 p.m., a meal featuring foods grown in Nebraska, a live auction, entertainment and recognition of the NSAS Farm Family of the Year Award.
“It's always great to see old friends and meet new people at the conference,” said Krista Dittman, NSAS president and co-owner of Branched Oak Farm near Raymond. “Talking over new ideas and revisiting old ones gives me things to think about for the next year! It's also one of the few conferences I go to where I can count on really good food.”
Other conference events include roundtable discussions, exhibitors’ hall and more NSAS Annual Awards recognizing a beginning farmer and agricultural educator. New this year is a movie room showing films focusing on sustainable farming and local foods, including Food Inc. There will also be opportunity to join pre-conference tours of Kearney-area attractions.
Lodging for the 2014 Healthy Farms Conference will be located at the Wingate Inn, which is part of the Younes Conference Center. Rates are $89.95 per night for a single, double, triple or quad. Call 308-237-4400 and reserve a room under the Healthy Farms Conference.
More information, including registration costs and instructions, can be found at www.nebsusag.org/conference.shtml.