The Iowa Organic Conference

In late November the Iowa Organic Association participated in the Iowa Organic Conference. The Iowa Organic Conference is an annual gathering hosted by Iowa State University’s Organic Program, led by Iowa Organic Association co-founder, Dr. Kathleen Delate, Professor of Horticulture and extension organic specialist at Iowa State University. The event kicked off on Sunday November 19, 2017 with a social hour and continued throughout the following day, November 20 with a full day of workshops and networking.

Hundreds of folks gathered on Monday morning for breakfast and a keynote speech by Jeff Moyer, the executive director of the Rodale Institute. Jeff is “a world-renowned authority on organic agriculture. His expertise includes organic crop production systems with a focus on weed management, cover crops, crop rotations, equipment modification and use, and facilities design. Jeff is perhaps most well-known for conceptualizing and popularizing the No Till Roller Crimper for use in organic agriculture. In 2011, he wrote Organic No-Till Farming, a publication that has become a resource for farmers throughout the world.” Jeff’s talk, “Seventy Years of Inspiring Organic Producers and Consumers,” walked through some of Rodale’s new projects, including the proposed certified regenerative organic agriculture label and their new initiative sponsoring the Organic Farmers Association. The Iowa Organic Association is a proud member of the Organic Farmers Association, a new national voice for organic farmers.

The conference featured fourteen workshops and a packed lineup of presenters who focused on topics from organic transition to local food systems marketing. IOA staff and board members attended an early presentation called “Water Quality in Iowa: Where Do We Go from Here?” Bill Stowe, Cynthia Cambardella, and Tom Frantzen all spoke about their roles in protecting Iowa’s waterways. This presentation was widely attended and prompted a lot of discussion afterwards about the role organic farming can play in improving water quality. The discussion, which included researchers and farmers, was an inclusive, holistic, interdisciplinary dialogue. Other topics included “Organic Chickens from A to Z” with Eldon Miller and Doug Darrow, “Small Grains: New Varieties and New Uses” by Erin Silva, John Wepking, and Tom Frantzen, and “Getting the Most out of Your High Tunnel” with Ajay Nair of Iowa State University.

Between sessions, attendees took time to visit with service providers in the event hall. Around forty different vendors were set up at the event. From organic seed companies, organic certification agency, organic feed suppliers, to extension agents serving organic farmers, the hall was filled with knowledgeable organic professionals providing a great opportunity for organic farmers and conventional farmers considering transition to find the resources needed to succeed in the organic market. The Iowa Organic Association used our time at the booth to talk with farmers about our upcoming education and outreach events—events that will help farmers to consider an organic transition and organic farmers to perfect their farm practices to become more successful in their work.

We’ll see you next year at the Iowa Organic Conference!

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