Preconference Workshops Offer Information for Experienced Farmers


Full-day preconference workshops on food safety and grazing on Friday, February 15, are part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's (OEFFA) 34th annual conference--Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change--in Granville, Ohio.

"While our two-day conference covers a wide range of topics geared toward farmers, gardeners, and consumers, our full-day preconference workshops are able to drill deeper, giving specialty crop growers and livestock farmers the skills they need to take their businesses to the next level," said Renee Hunt, OEFFA's program director and the event's lead organizer.

Farmer and food safety expert Chris Blanchard will lead the first preconference workshop, "Postharvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm." The workshop will teach participants how to establish or improve food safety practices. Blanchard will review postharvest handling practices and share methods for meeting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) documentation and record-keeping requirements in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

"Food safety is not just a legal responsibility, but a moral and ethical obligation you have with your customers," said Blanchard.

As the owner and operator of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa since 1999, Blanchard manages 15 acres of vegetable, herb, and greenhouse production for a 200-member community supported agriculture (CSA) program, food stores, and a farmers' market. In addition to farming, Blanchard provides education and consulting for farmers and others through Flying Rutabaga Works.

The second preconference workshop, "From Our Grazing Experience," will delve into the intricate art of grass farming with "The Grass Whisperer," Troy Bishopp, and a panel of experienced graziers, including Eric Grim of Grim Dairy, Gene DeBruin of DeBruin Family Dairy, Michael Putnam of Grassland Dairy, and Doug Murphy of Murphy's Grass Farm.

Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season using a grazing chart, specific grazing and feeding strategies, and balancing ecosystem processes with business profitability. This comprehensive workshop will also cover soil health, animal nutrition, transitioning to organic production, and maximizing profitability in pasture-based systems.

Troy Bishopp has been a passionate promoter and practitioner of grazing management for more than 26 years. He contract grazes certified organic dairy replacements and grass-finishes beef on his fifth-generation New York family farm. Bishopp is also a grassland conservation professional with the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) Professional Development Program, as well as a freelance agricultural writer.

"I've found real value in building profitable, environmentally friendly grazing strategies and tricks of the trade through good planning, observation, using my noggin, remaining flexible, and sharing these experiences amongst other farmers," said Bishopp.

Both preconference workshops will take place on Friday, February 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St., Granville, Ohio. Preregistration is required.

The preconference workshops are offered as part of the state's largest sustainable food and farm conference on February 16-17, an event that draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. In addition to the preconferences, this year's conference will feature keynote speaker George Siemon on Saturday, February 16; keynote speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman on Sunday, February 17; more than 90 educational workshops; a newly expanded trade show; a fun and educational kids' conference and child care area; locally sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

To register, or for more information about the preconference workshops or the conference, go to