AMES, Iowa – The 16th annual Iowa Organic Conference will be Nov. 13-14 on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The conference is a joint effort of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability. Producers and experts from across the country will share tips for transitioning into organic production and methods to enhance organic operations.
“The market for organic products in the United States reached $43 billion in 2015 and the demand for organic grains and produce continues to exceed supply,” said Kathleen Delate, professor and extension organic specialist at Iowa State University.
“Growers everywhere are encouraged to consider the potential for organic production. With worldwide interest in perennial systems that retain cover on the land, our conference theme is ‘Perennial Passion: Building Resilience into Organic Systems’ to highlight how organic practices -- including pastures, buffers and perennial plants -- have been critical for preserving pollinator habitat and reducing erosion,” Delate said.
To complement this theme, Monday’s keynote speaker is Fred Iutzi, president of The Land Institute. Mr. Iutzi is an alumnus of Iowa State University’s graduate program in sustainable agriculture, where he studied the benefits of forages in enhancing biodiversity in Iowa.
The conference begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13, with a roundtable featuring organic farmers who will answer questions about organic production. A keynote talk by Caroline Halde, assistant professor in sustainable agriculture at the Université Laval in Québec, Canada, will follow at 4 p.m. Halde will present a slide show on local food producers who use successful organic practices to meet market demand.
A reception featuring local and organic food and drinks begins at 6 p.m. in the UI Memorial Union, followed by the movie “What’s on Your Plate,” which explores the benefits of local and organic food production in the food system.
The conference lunch on Monday afternoon highlights local and organic produce, meats and dairy products assembled into a gourmet meal by award-winning UI Executive Chef Barry Greenberg and his team.
Monday’s break-out sessions include transitioning into organic farming, weed management, organic livestock health, organic no-till for grain and vegetable crops, and growing small grains. The conference also includes information on soil and water quality research, crop insurance for organic producers, economic and financial assistance for organic producers, and local food system initiatives such as food hubs and Grow Johnson County. Farmer-mentor roundtables will offer farmers interested in transitioning to organic, or who have specific organic questions, an opportunity to meet one-on-one with organic farmers and organic certification experts.
“The Iowa Organic Conference is the largest university-sponsored organic conference in the country,” said Delate. “Last year’s conference brought more than 50 exhibitors, ranging from organic seed sales to local food system nonprofits to government offices working with transitioning and certified organic farmers. Despite the challenges of wet weather during planting and the early weed management period this year in many parts of the state, organic farmers are anticipating successful organic yields with organic soybean prices currently averaging $19 per bushel and organic corn at $8.50 per bushel.”
Conference registration is available online at www.signmeup.com/116550 .