Farming connections

Nevada Small Farm Conference to be held in January

Western Nevada College Specialty Crop Institute project director Ann Louhela has

Western Nevada College Specialty Crop Institute project director Ann Louhela has

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The term “small farm” can be a little misleading. The farms that fit into this category include those of about a quarter of an acre and range all the way up to 400-to-500 acres.

And that includes all kinds of farming operations in a variety of settings with a variety of techniques, so the Nevada Small Farm Conference covers a diverse set of topics with 90-minute sessions and full-day pre-conference workshops in order to try to meet the needs of all of those small farmers in the state. It will be on Jan. 22 to 24, and early bird registration rates end soon—Dec. 31.

“The theme of our conference is ’Nevada, we’re growing things here,’” said NSFC chairperson Ann Louhela. “So we look at new trends in agriculture. We also look at things that are really important right now, like drought and water use. We try to keep it well-rounded. We do things on business planning and marketing and management, crop production, animal production, urban farms, rural farms.”

The conference is statewide, and there will be three speakers from Southern Nevada this year. But Louhela approximates that about 80 percent of the attendees are from Northern Nevada, and it has always taken place in the North, as well. She added that some attendees also come from areas in California and Oregon with similar growing conditions to those in Nevada. It will be at the Nugget in Sparks with the Friday Night Mixer at the Ranch House at Rancho San Rafael Park.

The workshops will take place on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and there are four to choose from—Farm 2 Glass: Sourcing for Local Breweries and Distilleries, Hoophouse Production, Maximize Your Visibility with Social Media, and Organic Certification: Stories from the Field. There are 20 90-minute sessions on Friday and Saturday, and attendees will choose five of these to attend. There will also be two keynote speakers on Friday and one on Saturday as well as the annual NevadaGrown meeting on Saturday morning.

The 90-minute sessions are all across the board. The topics range from cut flowers, berries, beekeeping and urban farming to permaculture, agritourism, marketing, conservation practices and crop diseases. Louhela said the education provided in the sessions and workshops is a great way for farmers to stay updated on the industry.

“Agriculture changes daily just like everything else,” she said.

The whole point of the conference, according to Louhela, is to get everyone talking, networking and learning together.

“To me, that’s the big thing to get out of the conference,” Louhela said. “We have all these businesses and all these consumers here, and it’s about tying all these local farms to the local foods, whether it’s berries for the restaurants or grains and different things for breweries.”

The conference started in 2003, but it did not run from 2006 through 2009. It is now put on by a committee made up of members from Western Nevada College, the University of Nevada, Reno, small farms, small businesses and government agencies. The committee expects about 200 to 250 attendees this year.