Thursday, February 1, 2018

2018 Healthy Farms Conference Breakout Sessions!

2018 Healthy Farms Conference Breakouts Sessions!

Friday, February 9th

10:30 am
A. The Feasibility of Hops Production in Nebraska: Hops are a growing  specialty crop in Nebraska and the surrounding Midwestern region. As the interest increases to establish acres, an understanding of the agronomics, economics, climatic, processing, and diseases challenges must be taken into consideration. I’ll be on hand to discuss why hops can be grown in Nebraska, and the different efforts of the UNL Hops program.

Katie Kreuser is the Hop Program Coordinator for University of Nebraska Extension. She is a native of Bristol, Tennessee, and is a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama with a B.S. in Biology, and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York with a masters degree in horticulture and non-profit management. Katie became involved in hops three years ago as a research technician, focusing on buffalograss and hop breeding projects in the Agronomy & Horticulture Department at UNL. Early in 2017, she began her role with Nebraska Extension, focusing on direct communication with hop growers in Nebraska and the surrounding areas in the Midwest region, helping them address questions and challenges in hop production, providing timely educational resources, including written publications, workshops and hands on learning events, and managing the annual Nebraska Grower and Brewer Conference.

B. Holistic Financial Planning: Financial success is not something we typically just “stumble into”. There are far more ways to lose money than make it. Holistic Management has successfully helped people focus on their aspirations and reach their goals profitably. This workshop introduces you to some of the key aspects of Holistic Management Financial Planning, with an emphasis on Gross Profit Analysis. Planning is a skill that is honed with practice. Come join us and see where your financial planning skills need to be honed!

Ralph Tate: Ralph is an engineer, served a career in the Air Force and worked in the aerospace industry for over 12 years. Ralph became interested in sustainable agriculture after a friend shared Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm. Since then, Ralph has read extensively on sustainable agriculture, health and nutrition, and the importance of nutrient dense foods, such as grassfed beef. Ralph and his wife, Carolyn, are graduates of the first Nebraska Farm Beginnings class in 2006. He became a Holistic Management Certified Educator in 2010. During his CE training, he developed grazing planning software following Allan Savory’s approach to planned grazing. This software is now offered through Holistic Management International and has been purchased around the world. Ralph is currently a member of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and a beekeeper. Carolyn comes from a family who has farmed in Jefferson County for over three generations. Ralph and Carolyn bought part of her family’s farm, had it certified organic in 2008, and use it to custom graze cattle. They have four children and four grandsons.

C.  Understanding Soil Health and dual purpose cover crops, By Aaron Hird, NRCS/USDA.  Soil Health is a broad concept that encompasses biological, chemical, and physical soil properties that sustain productivity, environmental quality, and support healthy organisms.  The four Soil Health Management Principles are to keep the soil covered, disturb the soil less or not at all, keep a living root in the soil 10 or more months, and allow for lots of plant and root diversity.  Integrating these principles with a livestock grazing management system can create an opportunity for a dual purpose cover crops.  Discover multiple short and long term benefits for yourself.

Aaron Hird: Is the State Soil Health Specialist in Nebraska and have worked for the USDA/NRCS for 10 years. I grew up on a ranch, near Litchfield, in central Nebraska. I attended Chadron State College in western Nebraska where I graduated with a Bachelors of Environmental Biology, and minors in Plant Sciences and Wildlife Management in 2006. I primarily worked with the State Range. In 2016 I was selected for the new position of State Soil Health Specialist and am now located in Lincoln, NE. Initially I have guided the development, administration and inventory of 12 EQIP Cover Crop Adaptive Management Demonstration Farms across the state, as well as the worked to build partnerships with others promoting Soil Health in Nebraska

12:00pm  Lunch

1:30 pm

A. Exploring New Ideas In Sustainable Agriculture: Including Novel Crops, Fungi Cultivation, Education, Outreach, and Future Goals through Pangea Nursery. Pangea Nursery: An Experience Exploring and Implementing New Ideas in Sustainable Agriculture from Novel Crops to Fungi. Contact Information: Andy Waltke, or

B. HM Biological Monitoring: Gaining a solid understanding of soil health and fertility is foundational to successful agriculture. This workshop explores the writings of one of America’s greatest soil scientists, Dr William Albrecht. Come listen to some of the key findings Dr Albrecht discovered over 50 years ago that are just as relevant today!

Ralph Tate

C. Impacts of Soil Health in Livestock & Cropping Farms
Larry Strite is a the Founder/CEO of Restora-Life  Minerals Inc. which was established in 2004. Their main objective is sustainable approaches for farming and landscaping.  Mr. Strite's expertise lies in examining the depths of soil to make determinations regarding sustainability. Restora-Life manufactures products for soil, animals and poultry to attain healthier crops.  This is accomplished by using the Albrect Theory of complete soil testing to determine the best type of soil for their clients' crop planning.  Additionally, the use of higher protein, more minerals and plant tissue testing are essential to this process.  The products sold by Restora-Life also help to keep the immune systems of farm animals at peak levels.   Mr. Strite's experience prior to Restora-Life was with Strite's Waterhouse which was established in 2004.  He credits his three mentors, Dr. Dale Schurter, Dr. Sheldon Norris and Dr. Norman Curtis with the success of his career.  They were instrumental in his training for the programs of the day regarding his industry. 


3:00 pm

A. A visit to Slow Food Nations Denver 2017: Collectively, American food values need to change, both for our bodies and the planet.  On the Slow Food ‘Menu for Change’, what’s the role of the Producer, Retailer, and Consumer? Slow Food Nations highlights the joy of Good, Clean and Fair food for all by combining the energy of a street food festival, the rigor of an academic conference, and the inspiration of a cultural exchange.   Jerry and Renee will walk you through their observations and experiences at the event, as producers, culinarians, and eaters.  We’ll wrap up with a discussion of potential paths forward in Nebraska.

Renee Cornett, Chef/Owner grew up in Maryland and was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy in 1990 upon graduation from the US Naval Academy with a BS in Mathematics.  She completed flight training in 1993 earning her designation as a Naval Aviator.  She flew the H-46 helicopter in HC-5 based in Guam and deployed to numerous locations in the Pacific.  She served in various squadron and staff positions through her 11+ years of service concluding with an honorable discharge in 2001.  After several tours as a military spouse, she graduated with an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts with Honors from Metropolitan Community College, Omaha NE in May 2008.  Most recently the family was stationed at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania. The many travel experiences throughout the world allowed her to experience flavors and ingredients in their native environment – from fresh mangoes in the groves of Indonesia to Ono grilled and served pier-side in Guam, and young wines out of the cask in Tuscany.  These opportunities reinforced her appreciation for the ‘terroir’ of ingredients and culminated in a month-long ‘stage’ at a restaurant in northern Italy.

Jerry Cornett, Farm Manager/Owner of Lakehouse Farm, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduated from University of Nebraska, Omaha in 1990 with a BS in Political Science. He was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy upon completion of Aviation Officer Candidate School and earned his designation as a Naval Aviator in 1992. He proceeded to fly the H-60 Seahawk helicopter for 10 years and over 2800 flight hours. During his 21-year career he served in San Diego, CA; Vicenza, Italy; Yokohama, Japan; Bellevue, NE and his final tour was Defense Attaché/Senior Defense Official at the US Embassy in Tirana, Albania.   He retired from active service in August 2011 with the rank of Commander. Lakehouse Farm started growing certified organic fruits and vegetables in 2012 and provides most of the produce for Prairie Plate Restaurant, as well as selling at the Old Cheney Road Farmer’s Market in Lincoln and other restaurants in the Omaha and Lincoln area.

B. Estate Planning for Sustainable Planning for Farming & Ranching: An hour-long discussion of estate planning basics, including triggering issues and concerns, incapacity planning, taxation, transfer timing and tools, forms of ownership, asset protection, and complicating factors.  Time permitting, there will be an estate planning decision-tree discussion. 

Joe Hawbaker is an agricultural law attorney in the Law Offices of Joe M. Hawbaker in Omaha, Nebraska.  Joe has been representing farmers and ranchers in Nebraska since 1994, primarily in the areas of estate, business and succession planning, commercial transactions, debtor/creditor law, and administrative law.  He also works as a consultant to the Nebraska Farm Mediation Service and the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline.  Joe regularly conducts legal clinics and succession planning workshops for farmers and ranchers throughout the state.  He is the author of numerous articles on topics of farm and ranch interest.  A native Iowan, Joe received his BA from Grinnell College, an MA from the University of Chicago and his JD from the University of Michigan Law School

C.  Impact of Soil Health on Market Gardening

Larry Strite

Saturday, February 10th

9:30 am 

A. Increasing Farm Productivity: Do you find your biggest limit is lack of time?  Does the end of the day come before the end of the work?  As entrepreneurs, farmers and ranchers have to wear so many hats it can become overwhelming.  The initial joy and passion that brought you into this business can be lost under a wave of burnout and frustration.  When it ALL has to get done, what can you do?  In this presentation we will look at some planning techniques and online tools that can help you track your priorities, eliminate unnecessary work, and use your time more efficiently.

B. How the application of a biological solution, sea minerals, or a product containing both, contributes to the health of soil in pastures: We have been raising bison south of Broken Bow since 1994.  We direct market the meat through our log cabin mobile store.  Several years ago we converted to 100% grass-fed.  We are certified through A Greener World (formerly Animal Welfare Approved) for grass-fed bison.  In 2015 we applied for and received a grant from NCR-SARE.  The purpose of the grant was to compare the effects of applying a biological solution (fish emulsion and raw milk), sea minerals, or a combination product on pasture production.  This was a 2 year study; these products were applied in 2016 & 2017 along with a portion of the pasture left untreated for a control.
Martin & Karen Bredhauer, Straight Arrow Bison Ranch

B. II. Veterinary Feed Directives; FFA Presentations

B. III. Diversified Livestock SAE; FFA Presentations

C.  Biochar for Soil Health: Biochar is a simple solution to complex environmental issues. It offers a unique opportunity for long term soil improvement using locally sourced and appropriate materials. Produced from waste (agricultural or forestry), it can be used alone or in combination with compost, manure, or agrochemicals to enhance local soil conditions. The resistance of biochar to decomposition also serves as a carbon sink, sequestering carbon in the soil long into the future. The presentation
will cover biochar basics as well as the Nebraska Forest Service’s initiative to expand biochar production and utilization in the Great Plains Region.

Heather Nobert is the Forest Products Marketing Coordinator for the Nebraska Forest Service. She received a Master of Science degree in forestry from West Virginia University and her bachelor’s degree in biology from Albion College, in Michigan. Heather’s primary professional interest is in the field of biochar. She has five years’ experience in the United States and Peru using biochar for mine land reclamation, sustainable agriculture, and forest management. In addition to soil health, she is also interested in the capacity of biochar to improve water quality and sequester carbon as a way to combat climate change.

11:00 am

A. Farm Accounting: Accurate financial records are important to the success of a small farm.  Being able to track cash flow and know what your bottom line is, are crucial skills that help you make intelligent decisions about your operation.  Accounting software need not be daunting, and there are now some good online options that weren't available just a few years ago.  In this presentation we will walk through how to use Wave, a free, online accounting package that let's you securely access your records anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Gary Fehr is co-owner of Green School Farms, now entering its third year of production.  The farm supplies food grown with organic principles through several channels including CSA, direct school sales, and online distributors.  Gary's involvement in local food and related groups include: active in organizing Farm to School activities, Steering Committee of Lincoln Lancaster County Food Policy Council, President of Wachiska Audubon, member of Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, member of Nebraska Farmers Union, and a former officer of the Nebraska Food Cooperative.  In 2014 he completed the Farm Beginnings course sponsored by Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society.  That same year he also completed an internship on an area organic farm.  His plan is underway to transition from a previous career in software engineering to full-time organic farming. 

B. Healthy Livestock from the ground up! Creating a holistic health plan for your farm. In this session we will cover how to create a farm environment that fosters health and an overview of the major alternative remedies to turn to first to reduce your vet bill. We will discuss the importance of a healthy microbiome and the connection between our soils and our animals, framework for natural parasite control, and overview of probiotics, herbal, homeopathy, and chiropractic. 

Crystal Powers is co-owner of Darby Springs Farm near Ceresco.  They raise 100% grassfed Guernsey dairy and pastured poultry. They have used natural remedies as their primary care for eight years.  She also works as an environmental engineer with a focus on livestock impacts on air and water quality.

C.  "Getting City Folks To Be More Than Just 'Eaters' -- The Importance of Urban Agriculture to Food Security": Seventy years ago, 98% of the food Americans ate was local and organic and home gardening was a given.  Today, 98% of the food we eat is non-local, non-organic and city dwellers in particular wouldn't dream of growing food when you can get it from 'The Store.'  With the onset of climate change and the peril it poses to the security of our food supply, though, urbanites' days of just being 'eaters' are numbered.  Growing fresh produce inside the city limits -- from edible landscapes to neighborhood gardens (like Lincoln's "Hawley Hamlet") to commercial urban farms -- is now front and center in the drive to re-localize our food system. 
Nebraska native and 1979 UNL alum Tim Rinne has spent his entire career in the field of politics, working variously as a community organizer, political party official, legislative aide, campaign manager and the state coordinator of Nebraskans for Peace — the country's oldest statewide Peace & Justice organization.  Long interested in environmental and climate issues, from 2004-2013 he was the Political and Legislative Chair for the Nebraska Sierra Club.  His interest in food security issues was instrumental in the creation with his neighbors of the "Hawley Hamlet" — a neighborhood garden in his city block that was featured in the April-May 2014 issue of Mother Earth News and the subject of his TEDxLincoln talk, "Growing Food, Growing Community: The Example of the Hawley Hamlet" which was broadcast statewide on NET Television.  A founding member of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Food Policy Council, he has delivered talks dealing with climate change and the importance of rebuilding our local food supply for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska-Kearney, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Creighton University.

1:30 pm

A. Purchasing a Small Farm; You're thinking about buying a small farm to pursue your dream.  That's great, but how to find it and how to purchase?  We will cover how to locate land, but more importantly, once located, what steps to take to make a successful purchase.  This includes aspects such as negotiating a price, preparing a legal purchase contract without expensive realtor commissions, proper transition if it is currently leased to tenants, drilling a well, and many other considerations.  The presenters have recently completed a several-year search and closed on a small farm in 2016 that will allow them to take their vegetable operation to a permanent home.

B. Grazing Management: Raising Cattle on Grass!: In this session Paul will share what has learned in over 37 years and also focus on questions the group may have

Paul Rohrbaugh: I started farming in 1980.  We started with 12 bred heifers and 6 old, but pregnant ewes.  We also did about 160 acres of diversified cropping.  It didn’t take us long to decide that we loved grazing and grassland management.  I have three sons and a wife that share my passion.  My grazing management over the first 8-10 years was kind of rotational grazing, w/o regard to what I was doing to my pasture. In 1990 I along with one of my sons we attended our first grazing school, taught by Jim Gerrish in Linneas, Missouri.  That lit our fire.  We came home and started laying out paddocks, trying to provide water but without a large financial commitment, and trying to respect the plants in our pasture and observe their recovers.  This worked well for us and we proceeded to seed our marginal land to grass.  The rest is history.  Our land is now all in grass, water in each paddock, and we are using kind of a modified, high intensity, short duration grazing.  We started direct marketing of pasture poultry, lamb and grassfed beef in 1991.  To us this is a good and satisfying way of life.

C.  Food, Farm, Faith: Patterns and Tools for Transformation: This session will give you a framework and grounding center for the internal and external hard work of restoring people and place. Metaphors and symbols ground and awaken us for the celebration, labor, and rest necessary for a fruitful and sustainable life.  If you are someone working towards a better world, you are a person of faith no matter what your background. Come ready to learn and leave empowered to heal your world.

Jonathan Dodd is the executive director of Kepios, a non-profit focused on restoring people and place, and is the owner at New Earth Farm & Goods, in Papillion, NE.  After completing his MDiv at Regent College, he began working with the rural coffee farming community of Santa Martha de Loma Azul, Nicaragua where his heart of mercy and justice for the poor met agriculture, sustainability and community development.  Jonathan is an entrepreneur who has started and managed 2 farms, started a permanent organic market, a coffee company (twice), and a non-profit. Over the past 6 years he has worked in three different bioregions, including: tropic, sub-tropic and temperate climates. During that time he has continued to teach workshops on soil, gardening and design. After completing a PDC course at Midwest Permaculture, Jonathan has sought to create sustainable and replicable models of abundance at New Earth Farm, inner city Omaha, and Nicaragua, as well as all the other fanciful models in his head. He loves homesteading  with his spouse Catherine and 3 children, where they have planted thousands of trees, grow lots of food, and manage a diversity of animals.

3:00 pm

A. Food Safety 101 What to Know and How to Stay Safe: Almost daily we here of a food recall or food safety making headlines. It’s impossible not to worry about food poisoning, whether it is caused by ecoli or salmonella. Recent food recalls leave us vulnerable to a food born illness. What can you do? The best defense is an offensive. Attend this workshop and educate yourself about different infections, symptoms, how long they last, and what you steps you can do to protect yourself and your family whether at home, or dinning out.
Chef Fraire is a certified Proctor and Instructor for Serv Safe, a National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

B. Pigs and Pasture: Learn how pigs can turn grass into meat.

Chris Marlowe is a father of 2, graduate of Wayne State College, Master Carpenter and Cabinet Builder and of course, Grass Farmer and NSAS Board Member. On the farm they have raised grass finished beef, pasture raised pork and poultry, grass finished lamb, and kept bees.

C.  Graze Master Genetics:

Del Ficke is the manager of Ficke Cattle Company – Graze Master Genetics® and the Green Acres Cover Crops Dryland Research Manager. He is also managing-partner of the Nebraska Region Modern Woodmen. With more than 35 years of experience as both an agriculturist and cattleman, Del has developed a one-of- a-kind trademarked breed of composite cattle, the Graze Master. Del has spent the last several years transitioning his farming operation back to what he calls, “a more holistic, sensible and profitable approach that is both modern and historically-based in both concept and philosophy.” He is restoring the soils to their more natural state and has transformed commodity-driven cropland back into native pastures as well as adopted a mob-grazing approach to cattle raising.Del and his wife Brenda live on the fifth-generation farm near Pleasant Dale, Neb. with their daughter Emily, son Austin and his wife Alyssa and their daughter Attley.

Register online today!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Weekly Events & Opportunities in Sustainable Farming & Foods!

Connecting Health Insurance and Ag Viability

Tuesday, October 10 at 9:00 am CDT. Health, access to care and health insurance affect the vitality of agricultural enterprises and farm and ranch families, according to results from a national research project funded by the USDA. Designed for Extension, tax, loan, health and other agricultural advisors, this webinar will provide an overview of the research findings and introduce some practical tools educators and advisors can use to help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions for their businesses and households.

Interseeding, Precision Planting and Management of Cover Crops in a Corn and Soybean Rotation

October 10
This free, one-hour webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS Soil Health Division. At the conclusion of this webinar participants will be able to develop a prescription for interseeding cover crops, understand the potential benefits of the practice, and describe situations where it will have the most potential for success.

Urban Soil Quality

Wednesday, October 11 at 11:00 am CDT
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What are the contamination risks to be aware of when growing in urban soil? How should you test for soil contaminants? How do you interpret the test results? What treatment and management options exist? Which of those are practical? If you're interested in the answers to any of these questions, tune in to this webinar.

Building a Cold Frame

October 11. Omaha. This hands-on class will teach you to build a cold frame and how to use it for season extension in your garden. Instructors: Rebecca Reagan and Shannon Gennardo. More Info.

Creative Animal Tour: Sustainable living & a tiny house

October 12. 5:00 pm. UNL's  Hardin Hall. Contact,  Elyse Watson, The School of Natural Resources is hosting the Creative Animal Foundation U.S. Tour. The event is free and open to the public. Guests can meet Stephanie Arne, host of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and wildlife artist Tim Davison as they bring their sustainability message to the university and the Lincoln community. 

#CommunityFood: Investing in the Future

October 12. Online. This "Investing in the Future" webinar from the National Good Food Netword, the second of a four-part #CommunityFood series based on the findings of the report, will feature two organizations doing extraordinary work with youth. Dig into the nuts and bolts of how these organizations are teaching and inspiring the people they work with, uncover the best practices and lessons learned along the way, and share helpful resources.

Postharvest Handling

October 12
The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative has developed a series of food safety webinars designed to help Native American farmers, ranchers, and food producers to begin to understand the importance of food safety and what is necessary to reach compliance under the FSMA. This webinar will discuss standard operating procedures and the importance of maintaining strict controls on biological, chemical, and physical food-safety risks on the farm and in the packing and shipping areas of the business. It will discuss general packing-area maintenance and principles of sanitary design and controls.


Diversified Crop Survey

NCAT, as part of a USDA NIFA grant, is conducting along with our partners is conducting a survey concerning  how crop insurance is used by and could be improved for for organic, diversified, and specialty crop growers.

Help Wanted

Grain Place Foods, an organic grain handling facility located in Marquette, NE is looking for a qualified person to fill our Compliance position. The ideal candidate will have experience in topics such as FSMA, HAACP/HARPC, USDA organic standards, GMP or some other related compliance background. Generous benefits offered include medical, dental, life, IRA and more. Please drop off or send resumes and salary requirements to: Grain Place Foods, 1904 N Hwy 14, Marquette, NE 68854. 402-854-3195 phone

Health Insurance in Agriculture Survey

How does health insurance affect farmers and ranchers? Help influence rural health policy in upcoming survey. Farmers and ranchers: How does health insurance affect you? Help influence rural health policy by participating in an upcoming USDA funded survey. Your responses will help researchers understand how health-insurance policy affects farmers’ and ranchers’ decisions to invest, expand, and grow their enterprises. Selected participants received a letter about the survey in February. If you would like to participate follow this link:

Resource Available

Rural Food Business Toolkit - this resource was designed by the Center for Rural Affairs alongside a USDA Rural Development project in northeast Nebraska which provided in person instruction and support. The toolkit provides resources to growers, processors and food business owners to help them succeed. It can be found and downloaded here:


Organic Seed Production Part 6: Seed Contracting, Economics and Policy

Tuesday, October 17 at 1:00 pm CDT. Register for the 2017 Organic Seed Production Webinar Series at: the second year in a row, the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) are presenting a series of six webinars on organic seed production. The webinars cover everything from planting to harvest, to the economics of seed production. The series is part of an organic seed internship program organized by OSA and MESA, but the free webinars are open to everyone. Advance registration is required--registering just once will allow you to attend all the webinars.

Community-based Pollinator Conservation in Cities

October 18. Online. This free, one-hour webinar is part of The Ohio State University's Bee Lab series. No registration is required.

Value Added Producer Grant Program Webinar

October 18. Online. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and USDA Rural Development are teaming up to host a two-hour webinar on the current cycle of the Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG), to help farmers and ranchers learn more about the program and whether it is a good fit for their value-addd enterprise dreams. No pre-registration required.

Composting and Compost Use Webinar Series: Equipment

Friday, October 20 at 1:00 pm CDT. Location: Please join us for the fifth webinar in our Composting and Compost Use series. In this webinar, the presenter will provide an introduction (including description, pros and cons, and cost) to equipment useful for processing and handling feedstocks, building piles, monitoring piles, turning and aerating piles, watering piles, screening and bagging compost, and more. There is no charge for this webinar, but registration is required.

Mother Earth News Fair

October 21-22
Topeka, Kansas
This sustainable-lifestyle event offers more than 150 workshops over the course of the weekend. Keynote speakers include Dan Chiras, Joel Salatin, and Howard Garrett. Also look for regional and national vendors and demonstrations.