Living on a Few Acres Conference Grows

Author: Dana Martin, OSU Small Farms Program

Publish Date: Spring 2011

If numbers tell the story, the 2011 Living on a Few Acres (LOAFA) Conference in Central Oregon was bigger and better than ever. A record attendance of 230 participants enjoyed educational classes, a trade show and lunch at the March 5 event held at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds in Redmond, Oregon.

More than 30 classes were offered, covering a variety of topics in areas of livestock health and production, laws and regulations, small farm business and production, forestry and woodlands, weed and field management, farm equipment, wildlife and food preservation.

Popular topics about season extension and specialty crops packed the classrooms, including Are we limited to a 90 day growing season in Central Oregon?, where Jim Fields of Fields Farm shared tips on farming in challenging conditions. Another well-liked presentation, Raising Poultry the Natural Way, was taught by Dr. James Hermes, OSU Extension poultry specialist, who focused on producing poultry in small flocks. Classes taught by Mylen Bohle, OSU Extension agronomist, attracted people who wanted to learn about pasture management and efficient irrigation strategies while others were interested in learning about honey bees from Matt Plummer of Deschutes Honey Co. Representatives of FoodHub and Locavore shared tips on how to direct market farm products to increase profits. Many classes, such as De-mystifying the Pesticide Label, qualified for core pesticide credits for those needing to be recertified.

People traveled from as far away as Newberg, Milwaukee, The Dalles, Kimberly, and Goldendale, Washington, to join folks from Crook, Deschutes, Jefferson counties. Thanks to key sponsorships from Round Butte Seed Growers and the Deschutes County Farm Bureau, LOAFA participants enjoyed a complimentary lunch while listening to Keynote Speaker, Peter Ballerstedt, PhD. Peter introduced evidence that the fat-is-bad hypothesis was wrong, and that the growing awareness of this can impact small farms in Oregon. As a former OSU Extension forage specialist, Peter has a special interest in local, sustainable food production systems. “This speaker challenged me to think about the way we do things,” said M.G. Brown of La Pine, Oregon.

Important information was learned from the 90 evaluations returned following the event. People gave high ratings for the overall quality of the conference and most indicated that the conference helped to increase or enhance their knowledge of production strategies, animal care and/or land stewardship practices. Eighty seven percent of the respondents indicated that they intend to implement three or more ideas as a result of attending LOAFA classes.

Other interesting facts include:

  • This was the first LOAFA conference for 72% • of those who responded to the survey.
  • Size of acreage: 60 percent of the participants • live on 10 acres or less; 18 percent live on 51 acres or more.
  • 61 percent have lived on their property fewer • than 5 years
  • Age of participants: 11% are 30 years or • younger; 52% are between 31-55; 37% are 55 or older

LOAFA classes were taught by nearly 40 instructors including OSU Extension educators, business and agency professionals and experienced farmers. The LOAFA conference was presented by members of SmART (Small Acreage Resource Team) which include OSU Extension Service, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Deschutes County Soil and Water Conservation District, Wy’East Resource Conservation & Development, Deschutes County and Dancing Cow Farm.