OAK 2023 CONFERENCE AGENDA

The 12th Annual OAK Conference Rooted in Resilience: Growing Healthy Soils and Opportunities for Kentucky Organics agenda is below, and updates will be made as additional sessions are finalized. The 2023 Conference offers Pre-Conference workshops on January 26, followed by two full days of sessions on Friday January 27 and Saturday 28. View all 2023 speakers hereRegistration is open and scholarships are available.

 

Registration Details

 

 

Thursday, January 26th Pre-Conference Workshops


Growing and Selling Profitable Greens Year-Round (8:30am - Noon ET)

Ray Tyler - Rose Creek Farm 

Join this half-day workshop with well-known master grower Ray Tyler as he teaches the art of growing diverse crops and selling 52 weeks a year in zone 7b. His unique growing system of growing on 1 acre of vegetables under a mix of low-tech caterpillar tunnels and high tunnels makes him a whopping $500,000 a year. In this course workshop, Ray will teach his complete systems of the following: *Till and no-till methods. *Building and maintaining fertile, living soil. *Selecting proper varieties for all 4 seasons. *Consistent germination 52 weeks a year. *Creating a no-weed growing bed system. *Creating a permanent irrigation system that will change your life. *Selling what you harvest. Ray will provide a detailed workbook for you to fill out and take home, ensuring you leave with the best current practices and knowledge for your farm that will help you select, grow, and sell more greens from your farm than you could ever imagine.

 

 

 

 

Beyond Compost: Nutrient Budgeting for Small Organic Farms (8:30am - Noon ET)

Krista Jacobsen - University of Kentucky; Christopher McKenzie - Grow Appalachia

In order to farm sustainably and profitably, and to meet organic certification requirements, it is important to keep track of the nutrient levels in your soil to avoid over or under applying amendments like fertilizer and manure. Krista and Christopher will share the essentials of nutrient management for crop needs and walk through nutrient budget templates in a digestible manner for beginners and experienced growers alike. Come learn how to develop your own nutrient budget for your farm and how to factor in cover crops, manure, compost, and other amendments into your nutrient plan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Forest Farming: Almost Everything You Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask (8:30am - Noon ET)

Andrea Miller - Rural Action; Robin Suggs - Appalachian Sustainable Development

Imagine growing a profitable crop underneath a forest canopy! This workshop offers an introductory overview of forest farming in the Appalachian region. Join Andrea and Robin to learn about commonly-produced Appalachian forest botanicals, how to choose and prepare the best site for success, an overview of growing market trends and possibilities for these crops, and a glimpse into the Appalachian Harvest Herb Hub in Duffield, VA. Expect interactive discussion regarding markets, sourcing of planting stock, and cultural requirements. Hands-on demonstration is likely, based on weather; please dress accordingly. This outdoor demo is optional, will occur at the end of the workshop, and will require a 5-minute carpool and moderate walking down and back up a hill.

 

 

 

 

 

High Tunnelling to Profit: Managing Your Crops, Soils, and Structures (1 - 4:30pm ET)

Matt Kleinhenz - Ohio State University; Paul Wiediger - Au Naturel Farm; Annette Wszelaki - University of Tennessee

High tunnels provide an extension to the growing season that can boost income to year-round profits; raise crop yields and quality; and help support local food systems in every month of the year. This information-rich workshop will provide information, tools, and resources you need to grow for market, especially Fall through Spring. Join this expert team of presenters for interactive discussions and demonstrations on growing under cover, including crop selection and rotations, soil management, structural considerations, and more. Regardless of your experience level or farm size, you'll walk away with a better understanding of your high tunnels and next steps for making them work best for your farm. Every participant will leave with a copy of Walking to Spring: Using High Tunnels to Grow Produce 52 Weeks a Year (enduring high tunnel wisdom; out of print) 

 

 

 

 

Optimizing Your Farm Sales Funnel - Marketing Success! (1 - 4:30pm ET)

Corinna Bench - Shared Legacy Farms / My Digital Farmer

Are customers and leads getting lost in your business? Do you have a repeatable marketing strategy that turns browsers into paying customers and repeat buyers? In this half-day intensive farm marketing workshop, we'll build out a “sales funnel” for one of your farm’s direct-to-consumer enterprises; learn the 8 stages of the “Sales Funnel Framework;” perform a self-audit of your own farm’s sales process; and explore two examples of sales funnels in action to see how they work in practice. By the end of the workshop, you'll have a clear roadmap of what you need to improve to optimize your sales funnel this winter.

  

 

 

 

 

 

Is There a Grant for That? Focus On Your Farm Funding (1 - 4:30pm ET)

Myrisa Christy and Cara Stewart - KCARD; Jamie Ponder - NRCS; Christopher McKenzie - Grow Appalachia; Joni Nelson - Kentucky State University; Melanie McPartlin - KY Dept of Agriculture; Bryce Baumann - Lazy Eight Stock Farm

Funding opportunities can breathe life into a farm, whether at the start-up phase or in scaling-up systems and infrastructure. Join us to hear a single farm's journey of effectively using grant funding, then work through your own farm's business needs. Two panels of funders and resource providers will discuss funding opportunities and how they can be used to boost a farm's success. Working with funding providers and other farmers, you'll have a chance to determine the next steps to create the funding success your farm needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday January 27th Conference Sessions

KEYNOTE: Farming Towards a Healthy Future (8:30 - 10:00am ET)

Nazirahk Amen - Purple Mountain Grown / Purple Mountain Organics

As a naturopathic doctor and Chinese medicine practitioner, Dr. Amen practices in harmony with the Hippocratic view of food as medicine. Processed foods are the greatest contributor to the obesity and chronic disease epidemic we are witnessing. Sustainable, locally grown, nutrient-dense foods are the solution to much of what ails America. He not only encourages his patients to eat organic foods but to establish relationships with farmers and grow their own foods when feasible. With the recognition that human health and soil health are interconnected, over 100 years of soil degradation and demineralization is at the heart of poor nutrition and health which is sinking our disease care system. Dr. Amen sees a new farming paradigm emerging that embraces improving soil biology and creating healthy microbiomes as the foundation for nutrient-dense foods which improve human health. In this way, organic farmers who embrace this biological farming model are part of a healing network for both humans and the planet. Regenerative biological farming systems are the way towards a healthy future with balanced humans living in harmony with nature as nature. And as humans, harmonious relationships with nature can put us in touch with the deepest aspects of ourselves and our purpose. Dr. Amen is looking forward to sharing these insights, techniques, and challenges of this unique medical view and peri-urban farming operation.

 

 

Livestock Systems Promoting Soil Health and Biological-Based Fertility (10:10 - 11:40am ET)

Greg Halich - University of Kentucky; David Burge - Justamere Farm

Join this conversation from two cattle farmers who rely almost exclusively on biological farming techniques. The primary objective will be to show how to build highly productive and resilient pastures and livestock production systems without using chemical inputs. The broad goal will be learning how to work with nature instead of fighting her. Topics will include grazing management, soil fertility, how to promote soil nitrogen mineralization, inter-seeding, creating specialty pastures, how to incorporate forbs to promote natural cattle health, bale grazing, benefits of soil organic matter, how organic matter is built in grazing systems, pros and cons of mob grazing, using clipping as a tool to build soil fertility, and related topics.

 

 

Outdoor Mushroom Inoculation (10:10 - 11:40am ET)

Michael Beck and Joana Amorim - Sylvatica Forest Farm

Mushrooms are perhaps the least known kingdom in our natural world. The fungi world is gigantic, weird and full of potential, not only for our personal health and well-being but also for remediation of toxic waste sites, renewable and biodegradable packaging and general ecosystem improvement. At Sylvatica Forest Farm, we have been growing a variety of mushrooms outdoors for around six years now and want to share our story and learning journey with you!

 

 

Pathways to Organic Transition and Organic Careers: PANEL DISCUSSION (10:10 - 11:40am ET)

Keith McKenzie - Knob Hill Farm; Kenya Abraham - Slak Market Farm; Eymlin and Anthony Brooks - TurnerBrooks Farm; Marcus Bernard - Kentucky State University 

Join the conversation with this panel of African American farmers as they discuss the process, challenges, benefits, outreach, and projects in Kentucky that are focused on organic certification, becoming a trained organic inspector, and conducting research to increase organic production and access to organic markets for minority farmers.

 

 

Corralling High Tunnel Arthropod Pests through IPM (1:30 - 2:30pm ET)

Jonathan Larson - University of Kentucky

High tunnel agriculture offers us lots of benefits, hence its popularity with people. Pest insects and mites also find them appealing unfortunately. Join Dr. Jonathan Larson of UK Entomology for a session focused on understanding the various types of pests you might find and the best ways to prevent, avoid, monitor, and suppress them.

 

 

Costs and Benefits of Integrating Poultry into Vegetable Rotations (1:30 - 2:30pm ET)

Viktor Halmos and David Gonthier - University of Kentucky

Join this session to dig into the results of a three-year project studying the integration of poultry into vegetable rotations, including how integration impacts soil health, subsequent vegetable yields, food safety, and profitability. The discussion will be expanded to highlight the knowledge and practices of integrated growers across the country following the results of a national grower’s survey. Finally, an open discussion with the audience will aim to spark conversations around integrative innovations and challenges to successful adoption.

 

 

Hickory Grove FARM TOUR: Using Diverse Revenue Streams to Scale-up Sustainably (2:00 - 5:00pm ET)

Ryan Burnette - Hickory Grove Farm

Hickory Grove Farm based is a historic diversified family farm in Shelby County farmed since 1786. As a diversified meat and produce farm, Hickory Grove produces pastured Berkshire pigs, Suffolk sheep, cattle, heritage-breed turkeys, chickens (eggs, too!), value-added products, and certified organic vegetables for their on-farm store, Lexington Farmers Markets, and meat and vegetable CSA programs. Join Ryan Burnette to learn how Hickory Grove integrates livestock and mixed vegetables to scale-up and create year-round income. Walk and talk with him through their strawberry beds, winter crop production, cover crop plots, livestock pastures, and farm infrastructure and equipment yards.

 

 

Elmwood Stock FARM TOUR: Diverse Vegetable Production and Integrated Ruminant Livestock (2:00 - 5:00pm ET)

John Bell - Elmwood Stock Farm

Details coming soon for this tour to a sixth-generation, certified organic family farm in Scott County.

 

 

Small-Scale Grain and Dry Bean Production (2:45 - 4:15pm ET)

Nazirahk Amen - Purple Mountain Grown and Purple Mountain Organics

Nazirahk Amen and family operate Purple Mountain Grown, a 20-acre peri-urban farming venture that features grains, dry beans, and specialty crops. From dryland rice and artisanal wheat varieties to lentils and adzuki beans, Purple Mountain uses regenerative and biological farming techniques which strive to create nutrient dense outputs. Nazirahk will discuss the ins and outs of this operation including logistics and small-scale grain harvesting, drying and processing techniques and equipment which allows Purple Mountain Grown to deliver grains from farm to table. Whether a backyard gardener, small homesteader, or vegetable operation looking to expand your offerings, this lecture may provide some jewels and insight into small-scale grain and dry bean production.

 

 

Electric Fencing for Serious Graziers: Setup and Management (2:45 - 5:30pm ET)

Chris Teutsch and Morgan Hayes - University of Kentucky; Jeremy McGill - Gallagher

This 2-part session offers an indoor portion on the Fundamentals of Electric Fencing, including system layout and design, and then shifts into a hands-on demonstration (outdoors, weather permitting) focusing on Installation and Troubleshooting. Please dress accordingly. 

 

 

The Basics of Tomato Grafting: What, Why and How (2:45 - 4:15pm ET)

Rachel Rudolph - University of Kentucky; Cortney Moses - Good Thymes Farm
Rachel Rudolph will guide participants through the background of grafting, why it can be useful, and considerations that should be made when deciding whether grafting is right for them and their farm. Rachel will also discuss her research conducted in Kentucky on tomato grafting in high tunnels. Cortney Moses will provide a grower perspective of how she was able to successfully implement tomato grafting on her farm and what considerations she made. A hands-on demonstration will follow the presentation where participants will be given instructions on how to graft and will then be able to practice grafting four certified organic tomato plants. Each participant will be able to take their grafted plants home. NOTE: This session is limited to 50 participants for the hands-on demonstration portion. Reserve your spot for this session in advance through the conference registration form.

 

 

Cover Crops for Soil Health and System Resilience (4:30 - 5:30pm ET)

Hanna Poffenbarger and Danielle Doering - University of Kentucky

Healthy soils make farming systems more productive, resilient, and resource efficient. Cover crops are one way to build soil health and manage nutrient cycling. This presentation will provide research-based insights on how cover crops and other soil health practices affect soil nitrogen supply, soil water dynamics, crop yield, and resilience in Kentucky. It will also highlight management considerations for how to get the most out of your cover crops.

 

 

Harold R. Benson R&D FARM TOUR:  (4:30 - 6pm ET)

Megan Goins, Shawn Lucas, Joni Nelson, and KSU Staff - Kentucky State University

Covering nearly 300 acres and conducting research in small ruminants, soil management, organic agriculture, ornamental horticulture, livestock nutrition, honeybees, conservation biological control and beneficial insects, agroforestry, and urban agriculture, KSU's Demonstration and Research Farm offers more than we can see in one day! KSU's Farm Manager, Faculty and Staff will highlight a few of our host farm's work, including the goat herd and small ruminant research, pawpaw orchard and research, organic production and research, and KSU Mobile Fruit and Vegetable Processing Unit and Thorobred Mobile Nutrition Kitchen.

 

 

 

 

Saturday January 28th Conference Sessions

Farm Bill - What's in it for you? (8:30 - 9:30am ET)

Kimmie Ishmael and Laurie White - Community Farm Alliance (CFA)

There is a new Farm Bill in the works and with it comes the potential for significant shifts in farm policy and funding. Join CFA staff for an overview of this enormous and influential piece of legislation. We'll look at Farm Bill content and process, including what is in the Farm Bill and what isn't, and how it all comes together. Look with us at platform issues of major national farming organizations, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Organic Farmers Association. Be informed about how you can communicate with legislators about what's up for grabs for farmers in the 2023 Farm Bill.

 

 

Inside Peek at Two Kentucky Farmer Sales Funnels (8:30 - 9:30am ET)

Corinna Bench - Shared Legacy Farms / My Digital Farmer; Rae Strobel - Barr Farms; Melissa Ballard - Bluegrass Beef

How do successful farms find new customers and keep them coming back to buy more? Well, they build a sales “funnel” with specific milestones that move the customer deeper into their brand. But what does a farm sales funnel look like in practice? In this interview-style discussion, farm marketing expert Corinna Bench asks two profitable Kentucky farmers to spell out the specific elements of their sales funnel. We’ll unpack how these farms are using the sales funnel framework to get results, and along the way, we’ll tease out the common features they all share (and why they work). You’ll walk away with specific ideas to create a simple sales funnel for your own business.

 

 

Adding Energy Efficiency to the Family Farm (8:30 - 9:30am ET)

Josh Bills - Mountain Association; Seth Long - SouthDown Farm

Join us to learn how to reduce your farm’s climate impacts and your energy costs substantially with added efficiency and distributed energy resources like solar. Hear how Kentucky farmers are receiving assistance to add solar and other energy improvements to their operations and discover incentives available and steps to implement for your farm - you might be surprised how little up-front capital is required!

 

 

Tips and Resources for Beginning Farmers (9:45 - 10:45am ET)

Maggie Wilder and Melinda Wilder - Wolf Gap Gardens

In this session, participants will learn about a variety of information resources helpful for small scale farmers. In addition, various grant funding opportunities will be discussed. Examples of grant proposals and funding applications from a thriving market farm will be shared with the participants. There will be time for participants to brainstorm information avenues and funding sources for their needs.

 

 

Agroforestry 101: What It Is and How to Incorporate It onto Your Farm (9:45 - 10:45am ET)

Darren Bender-Beauregard - Brambleberry Farm; Jody Thompson - Kentucky State University

Agroforestry utilizes woody perennials in an agricultural setting such as directly growing farm products or supporting other farm enterprises. Benefits of agroforestry can include erosion control, buffering from weather and nutrient runoff, new products for niche markets, shade for livestock and humans, increased carbon sequestration, increased wildlife habitat, and the aesthetic value of seeing trees on the landscape. Join this session to learn the basics behind agroforestry systems, what others are doing, and more reasons to add these practices to your farm.

 

 

Kentucky State Cost Share and Ag Water Quality Plan Basics (9:45 - 10:45am ET)

Jay Nelson - Kentucky Division of Conservation; Debbie Apple - River Cottage Farm

Learn how River Cottage Farm made use of an Ag Water Quality Plan (AWQP) and available cost share programs to improve the farm's natural resources and operational efficiency by addressing pasture management, upgrading existing forage, and installing fencing and water facilities. The session will also provide a brief, general overview of what is, and how to complete an Ag Water Quality Plan (AWQP) and information on the Kentucky State Cost Share Program.

 

 

KEYNOTE: Reconnecting with the Roots of Organics (11:00 - 12:30pm ET)

John Ikerd - University of Missouri (Emeritus)

The modern organic movement is rooted in the early 20th century work of Franklin Hiram King, Rudolph Steiner, George Washington Carver, Sir Albert Howard, Lady Eve Balfour, J. I. Rodale, Booker T. Whatley and others. To these organic pioneers, farming was a “sacred trust”—to produce healthful food that would sustain the health of society. Healthy foods were a consequence of healthy soils on healthy farms that were managed as living systems within larger social and ecological systems. Fertile soils were seen as the first condition for a permanent agriculture and the foundation of a permanent society. Over time, however, farming and food production became mechanistic, industrial processes managed by corporate entities with no sense of responsibility to anything other than the economic bottom line. The sustainable agriculture movement emerged as a rejection of this industrial agri-food system. Sustainable agriculture is a quest to reconnect with the ecological and societal permanence of organic agriculture. The roots of organic agriculture are also shared with biodynamic, ecological, natural, holistic, and regenerative agriculture as well as permaculture, agroecology, and food sovereignty. The food system is far more complex and disconnected today than in the days of Howard, Steiner, Rodale and the others. However, the sustainability of agriculture and the health and sustainability of humanity depend on finding ways to reconnect with the ecological and societal roots of organics.

 

 

Open Daily: Operating a Farmer-Owned Retail and Aggregation Outlet (1:30 - 3pm ET)

Armonda Riggs - Four Flags Farm LLC / Rose Hill Farm Stop; Mike Record - New Ground Farm / Rose Hill Farm Stop

This session will discuss how a cooperative of small, local farmers in Indiana began Rose Hill Farm Stop in Bloomington, IN, and through the Farm Stop are working to build a stronger local food system in south central Indiana. Farmers Mike Record and Armonda Riggs will discuss their roles and journey with Rose Hill Farm Stop. 

 

 

Agroforestry 201: Nuts and Bolts of Adding Woody Perennials to Your Farm (1:30 - 3pm ET)

Darren Bender-Beauregard - Brambleberry Farm; Jody Thompson - Kentucky State University

At its best, agroforestry is a seamless integration of trees and shrubs into a farm system, where it adds to product diversity and provides myriad services to other farming enterprises. Whereas trees and shrubs can be incorporated without adding much extra work, poorly implemented agroforestry creates significant problems in the form of new barriers to activity flow, unwanted shade and nutrient demand, havens for pest and disease, or unproductive work for farmers. Come learn how to properly incorporate trees and shrubs into your farming operation and steer your agroforestry system design towards synergy, while avoiding many of the pitfalls. This session will include a hands-on outdoor component, so dress for the weather. In case of heavy rain, there will be an alternative hands-on session held indoors.

 

 

Cover Crop Strategies for Small-Scale Farms (1:30 - 3pm ET)

Jesse Frost - Rough Draft Farmstead; Susana Lein - Salamander Springs Farm

Cover crops can benefit a healthy mycorrhizal food web, build organic matter and soil carbon, contribute to nutrient-dense crops, reduce or eliminate outside fertilizers or irrigation, and provide weed suppression - yet learning how to work them into a garden rotation, which varieties to choose, and proper termination of the crop can be a challenge. Join these two experienced growers to learn how they maximize cover crop use in their systems. Jesse will share his experience incorporating cover crops into small-scale, diverse, market garden production including how to choose the right cover crop, how to terminate and some options for replanting into cover crop residue. Susana will highlight her 25-year journey with year-round cover crops for no-till production of vegetables, staple grains & dry beans, including broadcast seeding, contour farming and "relay cropping" strategies. This session will allow ample time for Q & A with Jesse and Susana.

 

 

Sankofa: Rethinking Growing Food in the South (3:15 - 4:15pm ET)

Obiora Embry and Irucka Embry - Getting Back to Nature™

Sankofa is an Asante Adinkra symbol that means “go back and get it,” and for the purpose of this session, we are saying “let’s resurrect ideas and thoughts from the past as we move forward.” We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in which food growers are at a fork in the road and have to decide which way to go: to either continue on the trajectory of depleting the remaining nutrients in the soil or bring back ideas from the past. In this session, we will talk about traditional/biological agriculture and how we are resurrecting those practices by improving the health of the soil through the usage of polycultures, agroforestry, and increased native biodiversity. As engineers by training, we bring technical and scientific knowledge along with Nature observations & an innate desire to help others re-think how food is grown.

 

 

Obstacles and Achievements (aka "Do and Re-do") in Field and High Tunnel Grown Flowers (3:15 - 4:15pm ET)

Anna Bynum - Bellaire Blooms

Explore our successes and failures as beginning flower farmers. Learn about crop selection and production, pest management, post-harvest handling, and farm infrastructure. Focuses will be on high tunnel growing, sales outlets, mental health and what has worked well for our little operation. 

 

 

Strategies and Practices for Building Soil Health on the Modern Organic Farm (3:15 - 4:15pm ET)

Shawn Lucas - Kentucky State University

This discussion will focus on soil health on organic farms (and beyond). Soil organic matter is the most important soil component that producers can manage to build soil heath. We'll focus on building soil organic matter through crop rotations, cover cropping, careful use of organic inputs, and tillage (or no-tillage) strategies.

 

 

Helping Grow Local Markets (4:30 - 5:30pm ET)

Birch Bragg - Locals Food Hub and Pizza Pub

Learn firsthand information that is helpful when selling to a small wholesale grocery or exploring new restaurant markets. Has your business outgrown direct to consumer retail sales and ready to add wholesale channels to diversify your market stream? Can you invoice and accept payment online? Do you have a logo and label making ability to sell your product in retail packaging to a wholesaler and grow your brand awareness? Do you want to take the role of a local food systems ambassador in your community to help spread the message of the importance of supporting our regional local food systems? If you answered yes to these questions, let's talk about what products you grow best (and most profitably) that could be scaled to satisfy additional local market outlets and how we as producers can become advocates for local food in our communities!

 

 

On-Farm Vegetable Breeding: Developing Varieties Uniquely Adapted to the Southeast (4:30 - 5:30pm ET)

Megan Allen - Care of the Earth Community Farm; Jared Zystro - Organic Seed Alliance

As was established in Organic Seed Alliance’s 2012 Seed Survey of the Southeast, there is an “urgent or very important” need for vegetable seed varieties that can resist the pest, disease, and weed pressures as well as the heat and humidity unique to the Southeast. This need has only grown over the last 10 years with climate change. Megan Allen will give a brief overview of the decline of public vegetable breeding and the subsequent lack of vegetable varieties suited to organic production in the Southeast before discussing in detail three of her breeding projects: butternut squash, muskmelon, and kale (species napus). Megan will also give brief updates on other on-farm breeding projects around the Southeast. Jared will join virtually to share some step-by-step tips on starting on-farm breeding projects. These tips include: how to select parents, how to set up a breeding trial, and different methods of selection. There will be time for Q&A and discussion at the end.

 

 

Time To Become A Climate Nerd: Implications Of A Wetter And Warmer Climate For Kentucky Agriculture (4:30 - 5:30pm ET)

Megan Schargorodski - Kentucky Climate Center; Matt Dixon - UK Ag Weather Center

Agricultural management and production related decisions are largely based on short-term weather conditions throughout the growing season, but what about long-term trends? Our most recent decade has shown a shift to a warmer and wetter climate across the Ohio Valley. This presentation will focus on the agricultural implications of this shift, with the hope of prompting some thoughts on future crop production and management practices. In addition, the audience will be introduced to a wide array of climate resources, including the Kentucky Mesonet, to help facilitate the decision-making process.