2018 Conference Sessions

Updated Jan. 24, 2018

A Skeptic's Guide to Crop Insurance - Mike Morris and Scott Marlow - San Gabriel J

Within the past three years the USDA has rolled out new federally-subsidized crop insurance products for diversified and organic farms, as well as those selling directly to consumers. What are these products and are they worth the money? This provocative workshop will explore and challenge the skepticism most TOFGA members feel about buying crop insurance, while taking a sober and realistic look at the new options to consider.  If you think you're too small or too diversified to buy crop insurance, or don't know the first thing about it, this workshop is for you!

Activism at the Local Level - Adrienne Haschke and Sara Albert - San Gabriel J

Often the greatest impact you can have is at the local level. Hear insights from people who have engaged their local communities through nonprofits, appointed boards, and even running for elected office so that you, too, can get your voice heard.

Ag Valuation - David Braun, Scott Howard, and Glenda Beasley - San Gabriel J

Agriculture valuation is part of the larger conversation around all property taxes in Texas. As the conversation continues, farmers, ranchers, and advocates need to understand the place of ag valuation in the overall discussion. This session will discuss pros and cons for agriculture and the broader community, as well as what the arguments may look like during the next Texas legislative session.

Applied Weed Ecology & Practical Weed Control - Steve Diver - Belfort

This session will review weed management strategies in organic vegetable production in two parts: 1) Applied Weed Ecology and 2) Practical Weed Control Methods with Living Mulches and Cover Crops. Topics will include: why weeds grow, ecological succession, weeds as indicators of soil conditions, weeds as mineral accumulators, soil management strategies to offset weedy succession, bed forming and field layout, mechanical cultivation equipment, and using living mulch cover crops.

Backyard & Small Scale Composting - John Ferguson - San Gabriel H

Learn about the fundamentals of making good compost for your garden or farm. We will discuss best practices around what goes into compost, how it is processed, and ultimately how to use it to improve your soils to grow better food.

Biodynamic & Regenerative Farming for the Future - Errol Schweizer - San Gabriel H

Biodynamic Farming is a century old agricultural standard that influences many modern sustainable systems, including organic, permaculture, and regenerative farming. The popularity of clean, healthy, and nutrient-dense food, as well as a renewed interest in the broader concepts of biodynamic farming, pollinator health, biodiversity, soil regeneration, and pastured animal products, has put this farming system into the spotlight again. As food producers look at ways to mitigate climate change and store carbon in the soil, biodynamic agriculture has taken on critical relevance.

Cover Crops in Organic Row Cropping Systems - Jake Mowrer - Belfort

The difficulties of fitting cover crops in to an organic cropping system can be difficult to manage. Obstacles to incorporation of cover crops include the need for mechanical tillage to control weeds, access to organic certified cover seeds, and the timing of operations necessary to fit two crops into a growing season. This session will cover some of the challenges and successes of work with organic crop producers in Texas and their efforts to be both organic and conservation practitioners.

Crop Planning - Rebecca Hume - Belfort

Great years start with great planning. We’ll discuss factors to take into consideration to optimize your farm’s crop plan. Record keeping, succession planning, and more!

Cultivate a Successful Community Garden - Sari Albornoz and Sabrina Santos Joplin - San Gabriel H

Community gardens are vibrant shared spaces for growing fresh food, learning, and building friendships. Create or strengthen one in your neighborhood! In this interactive session, we will discuss locating community support and resources for your garden, organizing a strong garden team, garden management, and more. You’ll hear from a community garden leader about their experiences starting and sustaining their garden.

Direct Marketing or Wholesale: Which is Better for You - Adrienne Elise Haschke,  Dana Tomlin, Andrew Puglia, Margaret Smith - Ames

This panel discussion will cover direct to consumer sales opportunities like farmers markets and farm-to-work programs, the grocery retail market, and institutional markets and wholesale opportunities. There will be time for questions as well.

Economics of Raising Pastured Pork - Michael Marchand - San Gabriel G

Raising pastured pigs is well worth the effort! We’ll discuss the economics of using light and mobile infrastructure, equipment and processing options, as well as revenue and the trade-offs of various sales channels. This is an intermediate to advanced level session for people with basic knowledge and experience raising pastured/forested pork.

Farm Bill 2018 - Judith McGeary, Scott Marlow, and Sara Albert - San Gabriel J

The Farm Bill affects many lives in various ways. This wide-reaching legislation is up for reauthorization this year. Your voice is important in advocating for what is important to you, but how can you connect to the bill and to the process? Come hear what has been proposed to support family farms, local food systems, and food access, and learn some ways that you can participate in the process.

Farmers Markets Today - Amanda Vanhoozier and Alex Canepa - Ames

Where are farmers markets on the horizon of local food systems? Come tune into a much-needed discussion about challenges, profitability, marketing, and staying innovative into the future. Producers, vendors, market organizers, and customers – this session will help you plan for the upcoming season.

Farmland Preservation - Blair Fitzsimons and Kyle Garmany - San Gabriel J

Texas Agricultural Land Trust and The Texas Nature Conservancy discuss models and projects that link land preservation and sustainable farming practices. Issues of water conservation, land preservation, and farm-based education will be discussed. Moderated by Errol Schweizer.

Food Access - Caroline Mueller, Patrick Lillard, and Clarice Criss - San Gabriel J

Access to fresh fruits and vegetables is an issue in many places in Texas. While conversations are happening on community and policy levels, many organizations in Texas are working on solutions to meet immediate needs. This session will provide three program perspectives from different parts of the state. Come hear what’s working, what’s not, and what might work in your community.

Food Systems from the Farmer View: USDA Food LINC in Texas - Sue Beckwith, Ava Cameron, and Rebekka Dudensing - San Gabriel J

“Oh! I know someone who could help you with that…” As the local food movement expands beyond direct markets, Texas farmers and ranchers must establish more complex relationship networks in order to thrive. Leads, contacts, business and personal connections needed for growth are not easy to discover. However, there are people and organizations that provide this "soft infrastructure" - value chain coordinators (VCCs), acting as the catalyst for making good matches. The USDA's Food LINC program is funding and studying 13 such organizations around the country, including the Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF). You will learn about the resources TCLF provides and how farmers and ranchers can be involved.

Growing Farm Profits: Risk Management Tools - Stephen Carpenter and Carlos Lago - Ames

This session will discuss both a farm management tool and crop insurance for diversified farms. Veggie Compass is a management system consisting of a comprehensive spreadsheet used to analyze farm production, sales, costs, labor data, and profitability of various market channels such as CSA, farmers market, wholesale, and retail. We will also discuss issues with crop insurance in general, and in particular the ways that crop insurance – including Whole Farm Revenue Protection – might be useful for diversified farmers and ranchers in Texas.

Heirloom Allium Bulb Saving & Seed Saving - Tim Miller - San Gabriel H

Learn what it takes to raise selected alliums for food and nursery stock material. You’ll also learn how to maintain your growing beds without taking up a lot of space while providing a diverse revenue source from leeks, green onions, and garlic. Selected seed saving of heirloom tomatoes and horned mustard will also be covered.

Land Leasing & Acquisition to Start Your Ranch - Josh Eilers - San Gabriel G

Joshua Eilers of Ranger Cattle shares insights into how he started ranching with his unique land-lease model. While keeping overhead and leasing costs low, Josh was able to start and scale his ranching operation quickly, focusing on high-quality, high-value Wagyu beef. Learn about how Josh got his ranch started, how he found his land, how this structured his business, and how this might all apply to your own ranch or farm.

Low-Cost Post-Harvest Infrastructure Tools & Designs - Billy Mitchell and Todd Eittreim - Belfort

As farms prepare to design or improve on their post-harvest area pack sheds and produce wash stations, a few main questions come up. How do we design it effectively, keep it food safe, and build it at a cost that won't break the bank? This session will examine multiple different solutions for hand washing stations, produce washing stations, pack shed designs, and cold storage options.

Managing Healthy Poultry Flocks - Kevin Ellis - San Gabriel G

Recent outbreaks of the avian flu have emphasized the need for biosecurity on farms to ensure the health of poultry flocks around the state. Learn about proactive steps you can take to increase biosecurity on your farm by planning ahead of your chicks’ arrival and through day-to-day management. Topics to be covered in this presentation include biosecurity, setting goals, flock sourcing, equipment, housing designs, and poultry health.

Marketing Small Ruminants for Meat - Ty Wolosin - San Gabriel G

Ty will discuss raising ruminants in Texas and what breeds do best in different regions. He’ll cover marketing methods and pros and cons of different forms of sale (whole animal, direct to customer, etc.). The session will conclude with a discussion of the hurdles to overcome in order to be successful.

Multi-Farm CSA: A Cooperative Model - Annelies Lottmann and Frankie Bayne - Ames

This panel discussion will highlight the opportunities and process of starting a multi-farm CSA in Texas. We will examine the cooperative business model in general and follow up with a overview of how the Central Texas Farmers Cooperative was formed using this model. We will discuss how this model was applied during a pilot season of operating a multi-farm CSA.

Online in 2018: Where You Need To Be - James Buratti and Ada Broussard - Ames

Gone are the days of buying a web domain, paying a “geek” to build a website, and waiting for Google and your customers to find you. We’ll discuss the process of getting online in 2018 - starting a new website, claiming your business listings on Google and popular sites, implementing social media marketing and advertising, and building an online following, and customers too!

Pasture-Raised Turkeys: High Risk & Big Rewards - Travis Krause - San Gabriel G

This session will give an in-depth exploration into raising turkeys, including production, processing, marketing, and distribution.

Pest Management in Organically-Grown Strawberries - Russ Wallace - Belfort

Growing organic strawberries can be difficult due to high disease and insect pressures and lack of effective control products. Through funding from a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, TOFGA, Prairie View A&M, and the University of Arkansas are conducting research on organic, commercially-available biocontrol products for strawberry pest management. Results from Texas and Arkansas will be presented during this session.

Regenerative Pasture - Joseph Van Dyck - San Gabriel G

This session will explain how to regenerate degraded rangelands to create an abundant and profitable farm ecosystem. You’ll also learn how to understand the important role of native plants and how they can be utilized in a regenerative grazing operation. Learn about a variety of strategies, the different costs involved, the expected outcomes, and real life examples of pasture restoration.

Regulations Compliance for Livestock Farming - JoAnn Smotherman - San Gabriel G

Presentation of the rules and regulations regarding the processing and selling of meat in Texas. Target audience is farmers who are venturing into value added meat products such as broths, cured products, custom butchery and ready-to-cook meals. Secondary audiences include farmers who transport and store meat and meat products and farmers who process poultry for sale. As the presentation will cover regulations regarding commercial kitchens it may also interest produce farmers interested in building and utilizing a commercial kitchen. The goal of this presentation is to increase meat safety and to increase compliance with meat safety regulations.

Season Extension - Jamey Gage - San Gabriel H

Practical methods and strategies for season extension will be discussed in this session with a focus on high-value crops.

Show Me The Money - Nelson Daniels, Bertha Venegas, Tim Traister, Jarred Maxwell - Ames

This panel discussion will focus on funding opportunities for small-scale agriculture financial needs. The focus will be on how producers, value-added companies, and others can find and secure the capital they need to grow their businesses.  

Small-Scale, Local Grains & Milling - Butch Tindall - Belfort

While local, sustainable produce and meats are increasingly available, sustainable and heirloom grains are not. In this workshop, Butch will share his experiences growing wheat, corn, and other grains as well as setting up a milling operation and marketing locally produced heirloom and sustainable grains.

Soil & Water Conservation for your Garden or Small Farm  - Kirby Fry - San Gabriel H

Soil and water conservation is the cornerstone of permaculture design.  Learn more about wind breaks, alley cropping, the use of a key line chisel plow, cell grazing, and conservation terraces, and how these can be employed to restore soils and renovate pastures on a working farm and ranch. Through good design we can eliminate the possibility of waste and create abundance instead.

Soil Testing & Mineral Balancing to Produce Nutrient-Dense Crops - Steve Diver - Belfort

This session will emphasize the importance of amending your soils with a suite of minerals and trace elements to produce nutrient-dense crops that possess flavor and promote pest resistance. Learn about soil testing laboratories that offer a holistic soil test, how to interpret soil test results, and how to apply a blend of balanced soil minerals. Learn why soil mineralization and soil biology management have a synergistic effect on soil, crop, and human health.

Value-Added Processing for Farmers - Jonathan Hogan and Sue Beckwith - Ames

Can I make money processing my excess farm crops? How do I know the rules for what I can make and where I can sell it? Panelists will share their stories about value-added processing and resources to help you decide whether value-added processing is right for your farm. This session will also discuss the Texas Cottage Food law, and the importance of selecting the right items to process and sell.

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