Organic grain farmers to keynote Ohio Ecological Food and Farm conference

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GRANVILLE, Ohio — Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens made the transition from conventional farming to being one of the leading experts in organic production. They will share their knowledge as keynote speakers at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 32nd annual conference, Inspiring Farms, Sustaining Communities, Feb. 19-20 in Granville, Ohio.

Farming organically since 1993, Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens raise about 1400 acres of corn, soybeans, small grains and other crops as well as heifers, pigs and chickens.

The Martens’ venture into organic farming led them to start an organic grain business in 1996. Lakeview Organic Grain has expanded to supply more than 300 organic farmers in central New York and is the state’s only dedicated organic feed mill and organic seed operation.

Accomplishment

The Martens are the Northeast Region winners of the 2008 Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture. They helped found New York Certified Organic, and the Northeast Organic Network, an innovative consortium of farmers, researchers, extension educators, and grassroots nonprofits working together to improve organic farmers’ access to research and technical support.

The Martens’ keynote address, Living Upstream: Decision-Making on an Organic Farm, will take place Feb. 19 at 4 p.m. They will share their philosophy on soil health management, crop rotation, weed control and marketing.

The Martens will also be presenting two workshops earlier that day. The first, Weed Management in Organic Grain Crops, will take place from 9:30-10:25 a.m. Klaas and Mary-Howell will describe how they incorporate management strategies such as soil health, variety selection, nutrient management, crop rotations, and mechanical cultivation in organic weed management and how their approach has evolved over time.

Their second workshop, From Amber Waves to Market: Successfully Selling Your Organic Grain, will take place from 1:45-2:40 p.m. The Martens will discuss how successful marketing of organic grains relies on attention to detail throughout the entire crop production process, from growing, harvesting, storing and handling grains, to being attentive to both new and existing customers.

Workshops

The conference will also feature more than 70 other educational workshops and cooking demonstrations.

The conference workshops will also feature a grazing track. Designed for producers and resource managers, this grazing workshop track follows the long established Ohio Grazing School Program, and will be presented by Jeff McCutcheon, OSU Extension; Bob Hendershot, USDA NRCS; and Paul Dutter, OEFFA Organic Certification Program.

A certificate will be given to those that attend the entire track, which will be honored by USDA-NRCS for points in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Other features

This year’s event will also feature keynote speaker Joan Dye Gussow; a kid’s conference offering a variety of exciting workshops for children ages 6-12; a playroom for children under 6; a book signing by Joan Dye Gussow and The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; an exhibit hall offering information, products, services and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture; a non-denominational Sunday service; and Saturday evening entertainment.

Pre-conference

This year’s event will also feature a one-day pre-conference titled The ABCs of CSAs. This workshop will provide guidance for farmers interested in Community Supported Agriculture including information on the challenges and benefits of CSAs, planning, record-keeping, membership recruitment and management and more.

The pre-conference will take place Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Granville, Ohio. The workshop will be led by Beth Knorr, who spent nine years co-managing one of Northeast Ohio’s most successful CSA operations at Crown Point Ecology Center with her husband Tim, and currently manages farmers markets and provides educational workshops for the Countryside Conservancy.

To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshops, speakers and a schedule, visit www.oeffa.org/conference2011.php or contact Renee Hunt at 614-421-2022, ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. Last year’s conference sold out, so early registration is encouraged.

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