Conference helps small-farms make the most of their operations

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An Ohio State University Extension conference Mar. 23 in Zanesville, Ohio, will help current and future small-farm owners make the most of their operations.

The "Living Your Small Farm Dream" conference and trade show are designed to help participants diversify their operations and reach new markets to improve farm economic growth and development, said Mark Mechling, an Ohio State University Extension educator in agriculture and natural resources.

"It might be a person who is new to agriculture, or someone who might have acreage that they aren’t using to the fullest, or even someone who has newly acquired land and might not know what to do with it," he said. "What we try to do with this conference is to give participants a smorgasbord of ideas that may interest them by offering a wide variety of sessions in which they can learn more in-depth about an issue, gain resources and learn how to finance a new venture.”

The conference will be at the Muskingum County Convention and Welcome Center, 205 N. Fifth St. It kicks off with a keynote address, “Planning and Goal Setting” by OSU Extension educator Mike Hogan.

Following Hogan’s address, participants can visit the trade show and choose from more than 20 sessions led by Ohio State and industry experts.

The goal of the event and the mission of the OSU Small Farms Program is to provide a greater understanding of production practices, economics of land-use choices, assessment of personal and natural resources, marketing alternatives, and the identification of sources of assistance, Mechling said.

“Participants will gain awareness and knowledge of different enterprises that they can venture into and how to begin the process of becoming an entrepreneur by exploring some of the different ideas that are out there,” he said. “Participants will learn some of the basic information needed to get started and leave the conference with the knowledge of some of the resources of how to start a new venture and what other help or sources are available.”

Topics include: maple syrup, sheep production, goat health and production, forages, livestock nutrition, direct marketing of meat, social media, Christmas trees, legal issues for small farms, soil basics, brambles, high tunnels, beekeeping, vegetables, financing/loans and tax issues.

The conference is an outgrowth of the Ohio New and Small Farm College, an eight-week program created by OSU Extension that offers an introduction to the business of small farming for those who are new to the industry. The program offers information on budgeting, business planning and how to develop a farm structure, among other issues.

Conference co-sponsors are OSU Extension's Small Farm Program; Farm Credit Mid-America; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service and Rural Development.

The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Registration, due March 18, is $50. For more information or to register, go to http://muskingum.osu.edu or contact Mechling at 740-454-0144 or mechling.1@osu.edu



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