Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference 2010

Fairlee, VT
Monday, November 01, 2010

Session Details

Link to information About Intensive Clinics

Link to information about Farm Tours

Link to information about Round Tables Sessions

Link to information about Workshop Sessions

Intensive Clinic Descriptions

Clinic 1: Introduction to Business Management
This clinic will provide start-up farmers with the basic knowledge they need to understand and complete a balance sheet and income statement. Participants will learn the basic of budgeting and skills to anticipate the financial needs of their farm operations. Instructors: Mary Peabody, Director of the Women's Agricultural Network and Dennis Kauppila, UVM Extension.

Clinic 2: Introduction to Quickbooks
Designed for people who have already produced their own balance sheets and income statements, this clinic is designed to help post-start-up farmers use computerized record-keeping systems to better manage and plan their operations. Join instructor Rebecca Kerin, of K5 Consulting, and learn how to use the QuickBooks software program, including setting up a chart of accounts, client databases, invoices, statements, credit card accounts, reconciling, inventory, printing statements, and more! Bring your own laptop if you have one. If you don’t, a limited number of PC computers will be available. Formerly with the Vermont Women's Business Center, Rebecca Kerin has lots of experience working with small business and food businesses, helping them to set up practical bookkeeping systems for their entreprises.

Clinic 3: Human Resources Management on Small Farms
Managing labor is a key component of running a successful farm business, whether work is done by entirely by you and family members, or if you hire seasonal, part-time, or full-time employees. Good human resources management requires knowledge and skills – but pays off in terms of productivity and profitability. In this session, you’ll about and begin developing a practical management plan for your farm business. We’ll cover key steps to hiring, training and keeping good employees. We’ll write some sample farm job descriptions and role play some common, sticky situations common on farms. Bring your own laptop if you have one. If you don’t, a limited number of PC computers will be available.

Clinic 4: Savvy Farm Marketing in the Era of Facebook and Twitter
Join instructor Charlene Andersen of Kamigo Marketing for this hands-on session on using Facebook, Twitter and other Web.2 tools to market your farm and products. This session is designed for farm and food business owners and employees who have just started to use social networking and want to make better use of them to promote their businesses. Topcis include: why use Facebook as a marketing tool; differences between personal profiles and business profiles; privacy considerations; and how to avoid common pitfalls with social networking. The session will also cover setting up your account; how to engage with others; and methods to increase followers organically. Bring your own laptop, if you have one. If you don't, a limited number of PC computers will be available so you can put what you're learning right into action. Charlene Andersen is a seasoned marketing and business executive with more than 20 years of experience. Andersen works with small businesses, as well as with global corporations, teaching them how to efficiently and effectively develop their business practices, products and services to have the greatest value for their company with the least impact on the environment. Located in Nottingham, NH., Kamigo Marketing is interested in promoting a more natural, stable and sustainable marketing plan.

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Farm Tour Descriptions

Farm Tour 1: Farmland Access—The Promises and Challenges of Alternative Land Tenure
Farmland access and tenure are among the biggest challenges facing farmers. This workshop and farm tour will explore all aspects of finding and getting onto farms: tenure basics and options; non-ownership tenure (leases and landlords); financial readiness, property assessment, search strategies, and negotiating agreements. To start, we will tour Cedar Mountain Farm, a mixed vegetable and Jersey cow dairy owned by Kerry Gawalt and Stephen Leslie. The farm has four acres in mixed vegetables, 17 acres of hayland, 35 acres of pasture, 42 jersey cows, replacement heifers and steer, and four fjord horses. The fjord horses are the primary source of power for market garden, and mow and rake the hay fields. Kerry and Stephen have just finalized a written lease to use land owned by the Cobb Hill Cohousing Community, which includes the use of wooden barns and sheds and ownership of greenhouses and a large Superstructure cow barn erected on leased ground. Following the tour, we will go to the community center at Cob Hill Cohousing for a workshop run by Kathy Ruhf, co-director of Land For Good. She has worked on land access and tenure issues for over two decades. Land For Good is a New England-based nonprofit organization, specializing in farm access, tenure and succession. Kerry and Stephen will lead off the land tenure workshop by telling their farm acquisition story. There will be opportunities to share experiences, do some personal planning, and ask questions.

Farm Tour 2: Following the Value Chain—Insights from Chefs and Buyers of Locally Grown Food
Learn about marketing wholesale from the perspective of the purchaser. On this tour you will visit three locations—Simon Pearce Restaurant in Quechee, VT; the produce and meat departments of the Hanover Co-op; and the Commissary Kitchen of the Hanover Co-op—and talk with the head chefs and buyers. All three locations are actively seeking out and developing long term contractual relationships with local producers. Simon Pearce Restaurant Chef Joshua Duda is a graduate of the prestigious New England Culinary Institute, a Vermont-based culinary school with a focus on local, sustainable cuisine. Duda and his culinary team focus on creating exciting dishes featuring as many local ingredients as possible. They are long-time supporters and purchasers of local produce, dairy, local organic ice cream, local chicken, lamb and beef, and much more. The Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society is a consumer cooperative owned by more than 28,500 member households. Started in 1936, the Co-op now operates three supermarkets, one neighborhood market, and a full-service automobile service center as well as a Commissary Kitchen which supplies all of the Co-op's retail outlets with prepared foods. The Co-op has defined seven Co-op's Ends to include "The Upper Valley will have a retail source of food that is affordable, healthy, grown and/or processed locally to the fullest extent possible." As a result, the Co-op has worked closely for decades with area farmers, bakers, cheesemakers, and other food producers to provide its members and shoppers with a wide variety of locally sourced options.

Farm Tour 3: Chick to Table—Raising, managing and slaughtering grass-fed chickens.

Please note: This tour will have an additional $15 fee per participant to cover processing facility fee and instruction.

Learn about raising chickens sustainably and profitably and how to move them from the pasture to your freezer. This tour will take you to Hogwash Farm, a small family farm with a focus on rare heritage breed animals that thrive on the rough northern hillsides in Norwich, Vermont. Farmer Nancy LaRowe will show you their extensive operation, including organically grass-fed and finished beef, natural pork, chicken and turkey, organic eggs, organic horse hay, straw and Tamworth breeding stock and feeder piglets. She will talk about their methods for raising chickens on grass and strategies for chicken health and productivity. After lunch, George Eisenhardt from Spring Hill Poultry Processing will join us to demonstrate the chicken slaughter process and instruct groups of 3-5 tour participants as they work together to slaughter a chicken themselves. Eisenhardt operates a state-inspected mobile processing facility that was purchased by the State of Vermont. He has been slaughtering birds since he was 9 years old, when his father John Sr. said ” if you are tall enough to stand at the bench, here’s the knife. Don’t cut yourself.” George has taught several classes on chicken slaughtering in Vermont. Each participant on the tour will have the opportunity to join in some stage of the slaughtering process.

Farm Tour 4: On-Farm Retail & Value-Added Operations
Launching into on-farm value added businesses and on-farm retail is full of challenges. Visit two farms that are managing these risks and opportunities in unique ways and with unique products. After working in the restaurant business for 30 years together, Christine and Bruce Balch, sold their diner and came to help Christine’s father in 2004. After his death, they purchased the farm from siblings to keep it alive and flourishing. They decided to raise Milking Devon Cows and opened Bunten Farmhouse Kitchen. They now make ice cream, blue cheese, mozzarella-herb and curd, feta, yogurt and anything else they can think of with dairy. They are open for a prix fixed menu on Th. Fr. and Sat. and a Sunday Brunch, using whatever is in season and available. Robie Farm is a 6th generation, multi-generational dairy farm. Betty Sue and Lee Robie and their family produce artisan cheese, bottled raw milk, ice cream, yogurt, eggs, meats, and baked goods for their farm store. Their products are also wholesaled throughout the region. As you tour these operations learn: how they decided new ventures were worth the time/investment; how they balance running a retail establishment and running a farm; marketing strategies to encourage visitors; and the benefits, risks, and challenges to processing on the farm.

Farm Tour 5: Women Farmers Training Future Farmers—Mentoring the next generation through farm apprenticeships
Explore the ins and outs of successful apprenticeship and internship programs at two local farms. Luna Bleu Farm is a diversified organic farm in Central Vermont. Suzanne Long and her husband Tim Sanford have been farming the land since 1993. They think of their farm as a place to learn and invite apprentices to work in their farm business and share in their farm lifestyle every year. Through many years of learning from successes and mistakes, Luna Bleu Farm has developed a healthy model for farm apprenticeships. Fat Rooster Farm is a diversified farm using organic methods of production, specializing in heirloom varieties of vegetables and heritage breeds of livestock. Jennifer Megyesi and Kyle Jones, along with their son, welcome apprentices to their farm to learn all that they would like about running a small farm operation. Both farms have worked to include educational opportunities, farm swaps, and outreach to the broader community to enhance their apprentices’ experience. Learn best practices and innovative ideas for managing the complex and rewarding relationships.

Farm Tour 6: Ag Education and Service Learning—Incorporating educational opportunities into your farm plan
Do you want your farm to be a place of education, or are you already providing educational opportunities but want to expand your offerings? This tour and workshop will offer initial answers to the following questions for farmers working with young people: How do you decide who is welcome and what kind of education to offer? How do a teacher and a farmer work together to plan a field trip? Where can you find more information about offering service learning opportunities, and what's the benefit to your operation? What tasks are appropriate for different ages and group sizes? You will visit Cedar Circle Farm, a mixed vegetable and fruit operation. You'll take a guided farm tour and learn about how Cedar Circle has incorporated food and farm education into their mission. The tour will highlight ways to use the farm as a tool for educating the public about sustainability, engage in examples of farm-based learning activities, and discuss how to make farms a destination for schools and individuals while creating an income source for the farm. You’ll visit the crops, teaching gardens, root cellar, draft horses, chickens, compost pile, alternative enegy components and more. You will then go back to the conference center for a workshop with Erica Curry, Educator and Community Outreach Coordinator at Shelburne Farms. She coordinates professional development opportunities for both formal and non-formal educators teaching grades Pre-K through 12, designing programs to give educators the confidence, motivation and skills they need to integrate science, agricultural, and natural resource topics into their curricula. She and farmers she work with will talk about best practices for brining youth onto farms for ag education.

Farm Tour 7: Pasture Management and Extended Season Grazing
Discuss innovations in pasturing with farmers Amy Huyffer and Earl Ransom at Rock Bottom Farm, a certified organic 50 cow dairy with an on-farm milk bottling, ice cream and butter processing facility. Farmer Earl Ransom will give an overview of their pasture system and how it changes throughout the seasons and year-to-year. They have cleared woodlands to make pasture over the years and have pastures in different stages, from recently-cleared land that is being grazed to increase its fertility to pastures that are now lush and productive. Discuss with Earl and Amy what grazing means for their bottom line and for their marketing. After the pasture walk you will get a window tour of their milk bottling facility and a tasting of their certified organic milk products—bottled milk (homogenized/unhomogenized, Holstein/Guernsey, UHT/HTST/vat), ice cream (different butterfats and sugar levels, stabilized and unstabilized), or butter (summer/winter/Holstein). Learn how they made their choice to begin on-farm processing and what they have learned along the way.

Farm Tour 8: Wool Summit Farm and Facility Tour—Strategies for sheep management and exploring the future of fiber in the Northeast

(Due to the distance being traveled, this tour will leave promptly at 10 a.m. and return at 5 p.m. )

Sheep farming was once a significant part of the agricultural economy in the Northeast. In support of the Wool Summit hosted at the conference, this tour will explore revitalizing the sheep and wool industry from a production perspective and through exploring wool processing. First the tour will visit the farm behind the award winning Vermont Shepherd cheeses. David Major will lead a tour of his sheep operation, discussing strategies for raising productive healthy sheep.  He will also offer his views on developing a market for wool in the Northeast. Then you will travel Green Mountain Spinnery to explore processing wool and hear about the issues the staff has dealt with to keep operating over the years. Green Mountain Spinnery is a worker-owned cooperative in Putney, Vermont. Since its founding twenty-five years ago, its goals remain unchanged: to create yarns of the highest quality, to help sustain regional sheep farming, and to develop environmentally sound ways to process natural fibers. As part of its commitment to small scale sheep and fiber producers, The Green Mountain Spinnery provides a custom processing service, spinning as little as 50 lbs of raw fleece or 30 lbs of scoured fleece.

Farm Tour 9: Perennial Crops for Pick-Your-Own Operations—Managing risk and growing toward sustainability
Visit two farms running pick-your-own (pyo) operations with complimentary on-farm retail establishments.You will learn about renovating or starting strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and apples; integrating pyo into your farm business plan; and managing the challenges and risks inherent in perennial crop production. We will first visit Windy Ridge Orchard and talk with farmer Shelia Fabrizio. Windy Ridge Orchard and Christmas Tree Farm is a family destination offering quality fruits, home grown products, and positive farm experiences.  Visitors enjoy visiting the farm animals, kids' playground and adventure trail, nature trails, breakfast, lunch, and cider donuts at the Cider House Cafe, and a gift shop with locally made goods and crafts. The Fabrizios have put big farm marketing ideas into a small, rural package! The farm features pyo blueberries, apples, pumpkins, and Christmas trees. Farmer Bill Gray of 4 Corners Farm will share his experience with establishing a popular you-pick strawberry operation as well as pyo blueberries and on-site retail of their diversified vegetables and livestock products.  Whether you have an established pyo operation or are considering adding this enterprise to your farm plan, there will be much to learn from these two experienced farmers.

Farm Tour 10: Farm Mechanization —Investigating options and Innovations
The multitudes of tractors and attachments, implements and tools can overwhelm any farmer. If you are considering equipment purchases for your farm, join this farm tour traveling to Cedar Circle Farm, a flower and certified organic vegetable and berry farm located along the Connecticut River. They have 40 acres in cultivation, plus 25,000 sq.ft. in hoop houses and use a variety of tools at varying sizes and scales to supply food for their wholesale markets and 175 member CSA. Farmer Will Allen and farm mechanic John Melquist will talk about the tractors and implements they use and why. They have nine tractors-- including a 75 HP, a 65 HP a 30 HP and a 28 HP diesels, and four gas, including one IH A and 3 IH Cubs. There is also an Allis Chalmers G that was converted to electric. They have a small plot Allis Chalmers combine and many implements for the tractors and the combine. In the shop there are welders, saws, and oil press, and several other small pieces of equipment, including rototillers, sickle bar mowers, and several horse drawn implements, which are used regularly.

Tour 11: The Farm as a System
Visit Lisa McCrory and Carl Russell owners and operators of Earthwise Farm and Forest in Randolph, Vt. They raise grass-fed livestock for meat, eggs, dairy, and grow and store most of the food that they eat year-round, including the raising and on-farm slaughter of all their meat producing animals. Everything on their farm is raised using a process of intention and intuition to validate the unseen energy of Life's creative process, rather than just using evaluations of economics and scale. Production practices include organic and biodynamic methods and dowsing. The emphasis of their current farming enterprises is developing a functional relationship with the land-base and the infrastructure to support a self-sufficient 'whole farm organism', including: motive power (draft animals), renewable energy (solar and wind power), nutrient cycles, lumber, heat, food, and vital soil resources for a family or similar small group of residents. They use farmers markets and a CSA model to market a small amount of products to the broader community, and also offer educational workshops including working draft animals, raw dairy processing, and dowsing. You will see enterprises, including: a forest-to-pasture reclamation project; ecological forest management; farming with draft horses and oxen; management intensive grazing using draft horses, pigs, cows and poultry; on-farm slaughter; and home-schooling.

Farm Tour 12: Field Exploration of Soils for Growers and Workshop on Ecological Soil Management
Good earth, gardeners’ brown gold, soil—it is the most fundamental element in growing plants. Managing soils well can lead to successful farming operations. Join Wendy Sue Harper, Ph.D., Vegetable and Fruit Advisor for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, on this farm tour and workshop session as you go out into the field and focus on the basic properties of soil and soil management. Dr. Harper is a soil scientist, educator and avid gardener. Over her 20 year career, she has taught thousands of people about using ecological concepts to better understand and manage soils, compost, gardens, and sustainable agricultural systems. In the field, you will look in soil pits, discuss how the different layers and features impact growing, and determine why one soil may be better than another for growing crops. In the afternoon, you will go inside and examine ecological methods that allow you to manage your soil in a more holistic way. Have you ever wondered why organic growers focus on “feeding the soil” or building soil organic matter? Why compost is a cornerstone of organic soil management, and soil management is the foundation of organic pest management? Or how growers use preventative practices to naturally suppress insects and diseases? Come explore the wonderful world of soils and learn simple practices that unlock the secrets of ecological soil care. Plan to get your hands dirty!

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Round Table Session Descriptions

Round Table: CSA Issues and Innovations
Join CSA farmers and CSA advisors to talk about challenges, innovations and successful strategies in starting, maintaining and growing CSA farms. Based on on your interests, discussion will touch on these topics: share pricing; member recruitment and retention; balancing CSA with other markets; winter shares; workplace CSA; emerging and innovative CSA strategies. Bring suggestions for topics that are important to your farm and CSA.
Round Table: Farmers Market Issues and Innovations
This networking session will bring together vendor, market manager, and market board member perspectives on common challenges and key themes to successful farmers’ markets. Topics will include practical ideas for making individual booths and the market as a whole more appealing to customers, vendor selection and relationships, and market management strategies.
Round Table: Balancing Farm and Family
Finessing farming and family life is a challenge many women farmers grapple with on a daily basis.  Being pregnant, nursing, entertaining, educating and caring for children is not often included in the job description of farmer, but it is a reality many women embrace, enjoy and struggle with on farms throughout the Northeast.  Join this round table to talk best practices for managing your human flock-- share experiences with others who are fresh to farming with children in tow or learn from those whose chicks have flown the coop.  All experience levels welcome.  Funny stories, anecdotes, and lessons learned encouraged.
Round Table: So You Want to Be a Farmer?
This facilitated roundtable is for a general discussion between girls who want to farm and women who got help in becoming farmers, and want to mentor the next generation. Depending on interest and attendance, the discussion will touch on these questions: What kind of education is available? What questions should an internship applicant ASK? How do you identify the right farming mentor and convince them to take you on? What skills are farmers looking for? What challenges can girls and women expect in farming, and what are some challenges that everyone faces? Tomorrow's women farmers will get to speak with women farmers who were once interns, mentors, or apprentices, or are interested in hosting girls and offering hands-on training.

Round Table: Working Smarter & Labor and Time Saving Strategies
In this round table, farmers and farm advisors will share their experiences with planning for, implementing and evaluating change in our businesses and organizations. About half of the session will focus on big picture issues:  How well does your daily routine reflect your business’s or organization’s stated goals and priorities? What steps might you take to better align them? Are you asking the right questions? The second half of the session will focus on specific production, marketing and business strategies for improving efficiency and productivity in your operations. What lessons has your farm business or organization taught you? Come share what’s worked well for you and get feedback from others regarding ongoing challenges.

Round Table: Tool Talk
Using the right equipment and honing your mechanical savvy can maximize your output and help
you realize your farm goals. For women, it can be challenging, however, to find tools, equipment and machinery that fits our bodies. And, this mismatch can result in both decreased efficiency and increased risk of injury and disability. Join Liz Brensinger and Ann Adams of Green Heron Tools for ideas on ways to “gear up.” with tools, equipment and machinery that fit your body, your farm’s needs and your budget. Green Heron Tools, launched in 2008, specializes in designing and selling tools and equipment that fit women’s bodies and build on women’s strengths. Liz and Ann have interviewed women farmers from 32 states about tools how women use and adapt them to meet their needs. We’ll spend about a third of the time on hand tools and protective gear, about a third of the time on small machines and a third on tractors and mechanized implements. Bring your tool “success stories” and questions.

Round Table: Plant Variety Selection for Small Scale & Sustainable Farms

Join Heather Jerrett, trials manager at High Mowing Organic Seeds for a lively discussion of variety selection and evaluation considerations. High Mowing grows and sells over 450 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seeds. Learn how other farmers and seed breeders select and evaluate varieties for performance in their production systems.

Round Table: Leadership and Power
What does it mean to you to be a leader? What are your leadership strengths? How do you share leadership effectively? Can non-hierarchical teams survive – or even thrive -- in hierarchical environments? How can we change the leadership culture of the institutions and organizations we work in? These are some of the questions we’ll explore. This session is designed to bring together perspectives of women who work in organizations, serve on boards and advisory panels, as well as who lead farm-based businesses.
Round Table: Being the Boss
Share your success and challenges in managing employees. Depending on attendance and interest, topics can also include managing volunteers, apprentices, contractors and even family members. Learn tips and techniques other farmers use to recruit, train and retain your “dream team.” We’ll also talk about some of the common sticky situations that come with being the boss, and ways to handle them. Come prepared to share at least one example of a success as well as a challenge.

Round Table: How Much to Diversify? How much to specialize?

How do you integrate all those wonderful new ideas you have into the total farm business? Where is that fine balance between new enterprises and old? How fast do grow your ideas? And how can you phase out enterprises? Whether you’re a farm or food business owner or a manager of an agricultural organization, in today’s economy, we are routinely rebalancing our mix of enterprises. Come share and gain insight from others who are asking themselves similar questions.

Round Table: Livestock Health & Management
Join other producers and agricultural service providers to discuss sustainable approaches to livestock health and management. Depending on attendance and interest, topics will include parasite controls, feed and nutrition, and disease management, approaches to brooders, farrowing, kidding, lambing and more!

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Workshop Session Descriptions

Workshop: Soil Management as a Foundation of Pest Management.
Join Wendy Sue Harper, Ph. D.  for an overview of how healthy soils and soil management practices can help you reduce pest pressures. A soil scientist, educator and avid gardener, Wendy Sue has 20 years experience helping people build healthier soils that contribute to increased productivity and profitability.

Workshop: Engaging Your Community, Opening New Markets through Farm-to-School
Description coming soon.

Workshop: Show Me the Money

Are you looking for money to support your farm business? If so, this is the workshop for you! We will explore the range of funding sources available to you and discuss the differences between grants, loans and cost-share assistance offered by local, state, and federal organizations. We’ll talk about strategies to approach lenders, and how to best prepare for the wide range of funding available. Speakers will include Debra Heleba, Vermont coordinator of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program which provides competitive grants for farmers, and a loan officer for the USDA Farm Services Agency which provides operating and real estate loans for farmers.

Workshop: Diversified Farms--Lessons from Successful Farmers

Two farmers share the joys and challenges of managing farms that have diversified production systems and marketing outlets. They’ll share the decisions behind their production and marketing decisions, and how they balance the demands of work and family. Hear the important lessons they’ve learned, how they set priorities, and what they give back to the community everyday.

Workshop: Choosing the Right Media for Promoting Your Farm

Description coming soon.

Workshop: Creating and Sustaining Farmer Networks
Learn about the rewards and challenges of developing supportive regional networks for women farmers in this highly participatory session that integrates both farmer and service provider perspectives. Members of the Pennsylvania Women’s Agricultural Network, an organization that brought together over 1300 farmers and agriculture professionals in just five years, will share the secrets of their success. Find out how networking with other women farmers has helped women build or expand their businesses. Women farmers will discuss their experiences in belonging to a statewide woman’s agricultural network; the local networks that they have created as a result; and the positive impact these experiences have had on their farm businesses.

Wool Summit: Presentation & Discussion
The first concurrent session will focus on alternative market opportunities for Northeast wool producers. Kimberly Hagen,  a sheep farmer, an agricultural educator and inspector for NOFA-VT, will what she learned about European wool processing facilities during a recent trip to France. We’ll also hear about uses of wool for insulation. During the second session, all wool producers are invited to a facilitated discussion to sketch out a plan for expanded and alternative sheep and wool markets for Northeast producers.

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Contact Information

Payment Instructions

  • We can accept payments by credit card (Visa or Mastercard), check or money order.

    If you wish to pay by check, please click on the view/print invoice button at the end of the online registration form, and send a copy of your printed invoice along with your payment.

    Mail to: WISAC, c/o UVM Extension, 617 Comstock Rd, Suite 5, Berlin, VT 05602-9194.

    Mail-in payments must be postmarked by October 24, or a late fee will apply.


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