As fall crops are harvested and stored, and fresh winter crops are carefully tended in high tunnels for an extended year-round harvest in the Northeast, many farmers and gardeners are eagerly anticipating the winter conference season. Numerous agricultural conferences are held during the winter months when most farmers have more time to gather, learn and assimilate the abundance of farming information available at these conferences. Conferences are typically offered through state or regional farming associations, and comprise of two to three days of presentations and workshops by many renowned and experienced farmers. Keynote speakers offer inspiration and delicious food is always guaranteed. A vendor and trade show area is also common and provides an excellent place to learn about the latest farming equipment, supplies and seeds available.
Since there are numerous conferences and many are worth attending for the diversity of information and networking opportunities, it may seem overwhelming to decide which ones to choose. Below is a list of recommendations of winter conferences located in the Northeast and Mid-West regions.
NOFA – the Northeast Organic Farming Association represents six states, namely MA, NH, VT, NY, CT and NJ, and it offers a separate conference for each state.
• One of my favorites is the NOFA-NY Winter Conference. In its 33rd year, it attracts over 1,100 participants and takes place in Saratoga Springs, NY on January 23-25, 2015. This year’s theme is ‘Soil: The Root of the Movement’ and Wes Jackson, President of the Land Institute, is the keynote speaker. Many interesting workshops are offered during the three days, including one I am giving on the latest innovations on four-season vegetable production.
• Another popular conference for vegetable growers is the NOFA-VT Winter Conference which is hosted each year at the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT and is scheduled for February 14th and 15th 2015.
PASA – The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s 24th Annual Farming for the Future Conference is widely regarded as one of the best in the East and brings together over 2,000 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, and business and community leaders in State College, PA on February 4th through the 7th 2015. With over 100 workshops, including one I am offering on four-season farming, it is definitely a conference not to be missed.
MOSES – The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service offers a winter conference February 26th through 28th 2015 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The event draws more than 3,000 farmers, advocates, educators, and students to the La Crosse Center and offers educational workshops, inspiring keynote speakers, and a two-floor Exhibitor Hall to check out the latest in farming supplies and equipment.
National Young Farmers Conference – For new and beginning farmers, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture offers an excellent conference December 3-5th 2014 in Potantico Hills, NY. Many renowned farmers including Eliot Coleman, Jack Algiere, Jean-Martin Fortier and Richard Wiswall offer outstanding presentations on farm design, technique, and the economics of farming.
MOFGA – The Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener Association’s annual Farmer to Farmer Conference typically takes place in early November and is an impressive gathering of experienced New England farmers and gardeners. Learn from some of the best in Maine!
Whichever conferences you choose to attend, the experience is guaranteed to inform, educate, connect and inspire your farming aspirations for the season to come.