AMES, Iowa -- The keynote presentation at the ninth annual Iowa Organic Conference has special significance for Iowa State University’s Organic Program. The featured speaker will be Jerry DeWitt, whose work at ISU helped establish the nation’s first organic research program at a land grant university more than a dozen years ago.
DeWitt, who now directs the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will present “Lessons from Farmers in the Field,” at the program’s annual conference December 4-5 at the Scheman Building in Ames. His presentation will include photographs he has taken at numerous organic and sustainable farms throughout the world.
The conference is expected to attract several hundred people from Iowa and neighboring states. Kicking off the event will be a Friday night presentation at the Iowa Organic Association annual meeting by award-winning journalist and dietitian Melinda Hemmelgarn. Her speech, “Food System Literacy: Road Map for True Sustainability,” will be at 7 p.m. at the ISU Seasons Café in the Maple-Willow-Larch Dining Complex at Lincoln Way and Beach Avenue.
Saturday's activities will move to the Scheman Building and will begin at 8 a.m. The keynote will be during a local lunch featuring honey-roasted ham from Organic Valley and throughout the day exhibits will showcase organic seeds, fertilizers, equipment and educational information. Organic experts from Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, California and Canada will present at 15 breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon covering topics from how improve farm productivity and marketing strategies to new techniques and research results.
Horticulture and agronomy professor Kathleen Delate directs the ISU Organic Program and coordinates the annual conference. She said this year’s event will honor DeWitt on his retirement in early 2010 after 37 years with Iowa State University.
“We thought it was fitting to highlight the work that Jerry has done in organic agriculture,” Delate said. “He helped bring land-grant scientists to the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) conferences and boards, which has led to a much higher rate of land-grant research in organic agriculture.”
Delate added that DeWitt’s experiences on organic farms, shown in photographs published in at least two books, have inspired many people. “I can personally say that his support has meant a great deal, particularly when I was one of the few organic researchers in the country, and Jerry brought the support of countless organic farmers into the university setting.”
Also during the conference the Leopold Center will present its annual Spencer Award for Sustainable Agriculture to Francis and Susan Thicke, who own and operate an on-farm organic dairy near Fairfield.
For more information and to register, check out the conference web site: http://www.ucs.iastate.edu/mnet/organic09/home.html.