Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms
The Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism and Organic Conference will be held Jan. 12-13 in Springfield. This is a must do activity for growers of specialty crops in Illinois, regardless of size of your operation. Even if you're just contemplating growing for the first time this conference will help you make your decision. The program features 4 pre-conference sessions, followed by 2 days of educational sessions split into 6 different tracks: Agritourism, Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Organic and Emerging Issues.
The pre-conference sessions (Jan. 11) offer something for any grower or marketer, and there are 4 of them scheduled: Scaling Up Local Food Systems (moving your operation beyond farmers' market sales); Getting Started (guidelines for new growers) Expanding Farmers Markets Opportunities (for farmers market managers); Legal Issues for Specialty Crop Producers. These pre conference sessions have become very popular with attendance at these sessions as large as the conference.
The remainder of the conference consists of educational sessions in 6 different tracks, and you can pick and choose to attend any or all of the 6, depending upon topic of interest during the course of the conference. There will be over 100 different speakers. The majority of the speakers are from the U of I or other Midwestern Universities, but also include many producers and marketers. Current research in fruit and vegetables is shared and the chance to meet one on one with the speakers is probably one of the best opportunities you'll have to get your individual questions answered. Plus you'll meet many other growers from across the Midwest. Sometimes these informal discussions between growers in the hallway during the conference break can be invaluable.
The trade show is huge (over 50 exhibitors) and features a wide array of tools, equipment, agency, seed and supplies for specialty growers as well as educational exhibits. The conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield. You can register on line or at the door (on site registration is $15 more) http://www.specialtygrowers.org/
On another note, we've got a couple of risk management sessions planned for growers (or potential growers) of fruits and vegetable, and they will start in mid January. These sessions are designed to help you identify, assess and address potential risks that may threaten or prevent you and your farm from achieving its maximum potential. Risks are a natural occurrence, but knowing how to properly identify and reduce your risk exposure can mean the difference between a viable business and a failed business. And small farms are a business. Some topics to be included are: Evaluating risks; insurance; marketing and production; business and financial risk management; human risk; estate planning, etc.
There are four sessions for the webinar- Jan. 23 and 30, Feb. 6 and 13. There is no cost for the "Don't Worry, Be Savvy: Risk Management Seminar" but you must pre register for the sessions, to be held from 6:30-8:00pm at the U of I Extension office in Quincy. web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps