Production in the High Plains is difficult and margins are slim, but raising certified organic crops could increase profit margins, according to Jay Norton, University of Wyoming Extension soils specialist who helped organize the February High Plains Organic Farming Conference in Cheyenne.
The conference is Tuesday and Wednesday, February 23-24, at Laramie County Community College, 1400 E. College Dr.
Registration and agenda information is at http://uwextension.wix.com/organicfarming.
In response to audience suggestions from last year, this year’s conference features presentations by six producers from Wyoming and Colorado talking about their production systems, cover crops, marketing, pest control, and other topics, says Norton.
The conference targets dryland crop, irrigated crop, and forage and livestock producers, and focuses on crop, soil, pest, and livestock management, marketing, and USDA National Organic Program updates.
“Organic production is definitely not for everyone, and the conference does not emphasize ideological reasons for going organic,” says Norton.
The certification process and transition are potential barriers to some producers, Norton says. The first day is an afternoon workshop showing how to become certified organic producers. That workshop features hands-on activities, such as an experienced organic certifier helping producers complete an application for a hypothetical farm.
The second day is a full-day conference for experienced, new, or interested producers and is open to anyone.
Norton said the conference is centered on three themes: dryland and irrigated cropping systems and livestock production. Producers and researchers will speak about each, including a rancher/veterinarian who will talk about animal health in organic production.
Research presentations include soil fertility options in organic dryland and irrigated crop production, and pest control options.
The conference ends with a panel discussion about marketing, National Organic Program-approved inputs, and other topics from the audience.
In addition to producers, speakers include University of Wyoming and Colorado State University researchers and Renee Gebault King from the USDA National Organic Program in Washington, D.C.
Organic production relies on healthy soil, so a lot of focus will be on building and maintaining soil health in dryland, irrigated, and livestock operations, says Norton.
“The market for certified organic products continues to expand, and for producers from the High Plains of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado, it may represent a value-added approach that makes their operations more sustainable,” notes Norton.
For more information, contact Norton at (307) 766-5082 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.