What a wonderful weekend I just spent in Madison, Wisconsin, at the Ograin Conference. Ograin is the sister conference to our own Organic Grain Conference. It is organized by Dr. Erin Silva, Harriet Behar, and Jody Padgham. This year, the conference theme was organic no-till. Dr. Silva has done some amazing research into organic no-till methods. She invited Jeff Moyer, the inventor of the roller-crimper, to deliver the keynote address and to present best practices and lessons learned through Rodale Institute’s own research into the subject.
The conference was held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus in a nice facility in the heart of town. The room was full of farmers from surrounding states, all eager to meet each other and learn about organic farming practices. They also had a small but mighty trade show of companies who work in the organic grain space, including seeds, fertilizers, equipment, and grain buyers.
Attending these winter conferences is such an amazing opportunity to deepen connections between farmers. I have gained friendships I wouldn’t have if it were not for these experiences. The wonderful people I meet at these events become “conference family”. We sit alongside each other, swap stories from the season, and learn from the best in our field. Magic happens at these conferences, and I am so privileged to be a part of it.
At Ograin, a deep discussion began about the integrity of the organic label. During the Saturday keynote address, a gentleman asked what can be done about fraudulent imports and relaxing organic standards. There is no easy answer to these concerns and they pose a very real challenge to maintaining the market premiums that organic producers currently experience.
The next stop on the conference circuit is TLC’s own Organic Grain Conference. At the OGC, we will be exploring these brand integrity issues at length. We have invited Dr. Francis Thicke to deliver an address “Defending the core of the organic standards” where he will walk us through the history that has led to our current situation with brand integrity in organics. His talk will be accompanied by a panel discussion exploring the recent launch of several add-on labels and their potential impacts on the integrity of the organic label. The Organic Grain Conference will also feature talks research into organic production, market forecasts, and legal issues.
Whether you attend Ograin, the Organic Grain Conference, or (hopefully) both, you will always come away with new information, and more importantly and extended conference family.
I hope to see you on February 13 & 14 in Champaign!