In a year of cancelled conferences and workshops because of COVID-19, a group of organizations came together for a virtual collaboation.
According to organizers, the coronavirus pandemic led to surging demand for organic food and products. To help farmers take advantage of that interest, a handful of organizations joined forces to present a six-day virtual conference offering the latest information on organic and sustainable farming. The Growing Stronger Collaborative Conference takes place online Feb. 22-27, 2021.
This 5-in-1 virtual event builds on the country’s largest conference on organic production—the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference—by combining it with the GrassWorks Grazing Conference, Midwest Organic Pork Conference, OGRAIN Organic Grain Conference, and the FairShare CSA Coalition-University of Wisconsin’s Organic Vegetable Production Conference. This team approach will give participants access to expertise across a broad range of organic and sustainable farming systems without the need to attend half a dozen conferences.
The combined online conference will include more than 60 workshops on specific production practices, business management topics, and broader issues facing the organic and sustainable farming community. The event also will feature many opportunities for farmers, agriculture professionals, and service providers to connect through roundtables, meetings, and socials.
“With many in-person events canceled due to COVID-19, it is more important than ever for farmers to have ways to come together as a community, share experiences, and offer support,” said Erin Silva from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and head of the Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN). “While the organic market remains strong, there is no doubt that farmers are facing challenges going into 2021, ranging from direct market channels changing due to issues related to COVID-19, to corn prices hitting the lowest they have been in recent years. In planning the organic grain workshops, we’ve brought in speakers that can address these challenges.”
Workshop topics include organic grain marketing, improving yields across the organic grain rotation, and optimizing weed management, and cover crop strategies in organic grain production.
Along with the workshop track on organic row crops, the conference will include tracks on soils, vegetables, specialty crops, livestock, business planning, and more. Mother Earth News will curate a track for homesteaders, featuring workshops on topics such as wild foraging, DIY meat processing, and alternative building. All workshops and related question-and-answer sessions will be recorded and posted on the platform during the event and remain available for 90 days so participants can view as many workshops as they want.
Keynotes will be handled in a unique way. The event will showcase two films from the Real Organic Project. The first focuses on farming and climate, featuring conversations with Vice President Al Gore, organic pioneer Eliot Coleman, and prominent names in the organic movement. The second, which closes out the Growing Stronger Conference, presents action steps individuals and groups can take to create a stronger, more socially just food system. Both films will be followed by live discussions with several of the farmers and activists featured in the films.
The trade show component of the conference will give participants the chance to connect with industry suppliers and buyers, as well as organic certifiers, agency representatives, consultants, and more. Many exhibitors will offer exclusive show specials. Exhibit “booths” will have scheduled times for one-to-one consultations and be open for participants to browse throughout the event.
The Growing Stronger Conference also provides the chance to highlight organic and sustainable farms through speed presentations created by farmers. These pre-recorded videos can show an innovative growing practice, a cool tool or farm hack, or simply provide a virtual farm tour. Details on how to submit a video are at mosesorganic.org/farmer-share-speed-presentations.
Admission to the conference is $125, with a $25 discount through December. Scholarships are available to reduce the price to just $35. See conference details at bit.ly/GrowingStronger2021.