Author: Garry Stephenson, Small Farms Program, Oregon State University

Publish Date: Spring 2015

It had everything: a big crowd of farmers and organizations that support farmers, great educational sessions including in-depth tracks, an excellent locally sourced lunch, networking while “thinking with a drink,” and a farmer “killing it” on a carrot clarinet. All that. 

The 2015 OSU Small Farms Conference set a record for attendance. Based on some registration tweaks that allowed us to make more efficient use of space, we allowed attendance to exceed our normal cap of 800. Instead, 900 attended.

Lunch included dishes made from locally purchased ingredients including dried bean salads, leafy salads, ham, cheeses, and sandwich bread. Farms supplying lunch items included Lonely Lane Farm, Denison Farms, Lonesome Whistle Farm, Gathering Together Farm and more.

Starting the day with a song no one will forget was Bryon Dickerson of Dancing Roots Farm. As we set out to organize the conference, we had a goal of having a farmer create and play a carrot clarinet. Bryan took the assignment seriously. Faced initially with inadequately sized carrots, Bryan experimented with parsnips but at the last minute he was able to locate the perfect carrot. Take a look at the video:
https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153066701502570

In depth educational sessions were led by nationally known practitioners, scientists, and farmers including Jean Martin Fortier (Les Jardins de la Grelinette), Ellen Polishuk (Potomac Vegetable Farms), Guy Ames (Ames Orchard and Nursery), Rex Dufour (NCAT-ATTRA), and Matt LeRoux (Cornell University). Enhancing the sessions were local farmer speakers Lorrie Conway (Conway Family Farms), Christine Deck (Deck Family Farms), Randy Kiyokawa (Kiyokawa Orchards), Nick Gunn (Wandering Aengus Ciderworks), Jeff Bramlett (Pitchfork & Crow), and Elizabeth Miller (Minto Island Growers).

Thanks to our conference sponsors: Northwest Farm Credit Services, Western SARE, the ChambersEisgruber Fund, and the Oregon Farmers Market Association. Our friends and partner organizations deserve a lot of credit too: Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Tilth, Adelante Mujeres, Huerto de la Familia, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).