Rural Advantage/Healthy Farms Conference Feb. 13-14 in Grand Island

Rural Advantage/Healthy Farms Conference Feb. 13-14 in Grand Island

January 21, 2009

Nebraskans looking for new ways to use their agricultural products, develop new ideas or just plan benefit from living, working and raising a family in the country, can learn more at the Rural Advantage/Healthy Farmers Conference Feb. 13-14 at the Midtown Holiday Inn in Grand Island.


Family and Acreage-Owner Workshops

Added value workshops for farm families and acreage owners include:

  • Beekeeping with Marion Ellis, UNL Extension entomologist;
  • Food Entrepreneurship, Jill Gifford, UNL Food Processing Center;
  • Organic Vegetable Gardening, Tom Tomas;
  • Nut Production, Larry Martin, Nebraska Nut Growers Association;
  • Dwarf Fruit Tree Trellising Production, Jim Hruskoci, UNL Extension educator;
  • Returning to the Farm and Beginning Farmer Programs;
  • Wildlife Damage Control for High Value Products;
  • Diversified Agriculture and the 2008 Farm Bill;
  • Introduction to Holistic Management;
  • Aronia Berry Production Processing and Marketing; and
  • an Agritourism Panel.

Producer Workshops

Workshops for farmers include:

  • Mechanical Weed Control and Field Preparation;
  • Agriculture Enterprises Outside of Nebraska such as Europe and Agricultural Enterprises in New Zealand;
  • Healthy Farms Index;
  • Monitoring the Ecosystem;
  • Research Update on Weed Control with Flaming;
  • Low Input Sheep, Beef and Meat Goat Production;
  • Grazing Principles; and
  • Introduction to Holistic Management.


"This is a great conference to attend for farmers looking to diversify their operations, acreage owners wanting to produce extra income and teens looking for money-making projects that they can do on their farm," said Liz Sarno, UNL Extension educator and organic project coordinator.

The conference offers a variety of interactive educational opportunities for adults and youth, Sarno said. It begins each day at 8 a.m. with registration and commercial and education exhibits. Youth programs start at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 13 and at 9 a.m. Feb. 14.

"We really hope FFA and 4-H leaders spread the word about our youth programs," Sarno said. "This will allow kids and teenagers to explore agricultural opportunities right on their farm."

Youth topics include: "Make Some Green Growing Orange: How to Raise and Sell Pumpkins," "Wildcrafting for Profit," "The Magic of Beekeeping," "Organic Gardening" and "Pasture Poultry."

In addition, participants will be able to network with experts, university faculty and fellow agricultural colleagues.

A silent auction and an All Nebraska Dinner also are part of the conference.

"One of the highlights is the All Nebraska Dinner at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 because it is made predominately with Nebraska grown products," Sarno said. "It gives you a unique occasion to taste the elements of Nebraska, and is a great pre-Valentine's Day dinner that your sweetheart will love."

Melinda Hemmelgarn, clinical dietician, "investigative nutritionist," and award-winning journalist, will be the keynote speaker. She will start the conference with her presentation: "Feast or Famine: A Fork in the Road and the Crucial Farmer-Consumer Connection" at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 13. She will discuss the "cracks along the road" caused by America's supply of fast, cheap, safe and abundant food.

Following her address participants can choose one of three topics being presented during eight eight concurrent sessions. Presenters include UNL faculty and representatives of private industry.

Programs for parents and NEP educators include: "Organic Food Nutrition;" "Food Sleuth: Using Media Literacy to Find Food Truth" and UNL classes on sustainable agriculture.


Early registration before Feb. 7 is $70 and includes two lunches, breaks and an information packet. Registration after Feb. 7 is $80. Additional adult family members can attend for $60 per person and additional youth family members (grades K-12) for $35 per person. However, the family will only receive one information packet. Single-day registrations are available at $45 and include one lunch, breaks and an information packet. The All Nebraska Dinner is an additional fee and can be attended separately for $25 for adults and $12 for youth.


To register for the conference, exhibit or sponsor visit, contact Sarno at (402) 584-3837 or Gary Lesoing, UNL Extension educator, at (402) 274-4755. For additional conference details visit

The conference is sponsored by UNL Extension in the university's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Nebraska Sustainable Agricultural Society.

Sandi Alswager Karstens
IANR News Service

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