The OSU Small Farms Conference: 16 Years & Breaking Records

Author: Garry Stephenson, Coordinator, Small Farms Program

Publish Date: Spring 2016

The Oregon State University Small Farms Conference is the big event of the year for the OSU Small Farms Program. Our goal is to have a day when small farmers and ranchers, food and farming non-profit organizations and agencies, and the businesses who support farmers are in the same place at the same time. This year broke another attendance record with nearly 1000 people attending. Yikes! Each year we send a post-conference evaluation to attendees. A few tidbits from this year’s survey reveal: 72% of attendees were farmers with the balance made up of farmers market managers, food and farming non-profit organizations, government and university staff, and students. Everyone went home happy rating the conference 3.6 on a 4 point scale; actually the Think with a Drink post-conference reception may have helped.

Attendee Top Seven Favorite Parts of the Conference

  1. Learning something new [90%]
  2. The low cost [87%]
  3. The lunch sourced from local farms [84%]
  4. The 30 educational sessions [84%]
  5. Networking with farmers [76%]
  6. Visiting the vendors [63%]
  7. Networking with non-profit staff, farmers market managers, government and university staff [62%]

We hear from attendees that it is hard to choose between sessions. To help, we have posted a number of handouts and videos from the conference sessions on the Small Farms website. 

Comments from our attendees:

“We look forward to the conference every year! It is very inspiring and we always learn something new.”

“Because of a connection made at the conference, I now have the land to begin my farm.”

“Great sessions this year that were very applicable to me. I really enjoyed the information about food safety, GAP, and how to effectively price your products. The gentleman from the Purple Pitchfork was outstanding at giving us tangible information.”

“I have attended this conference for 3 years. Each year was great, but this year’s conference was the BEST ever. I learned many new things. Thank you so much.”

Although the conference was a single day on Saturday, events surrounding the conference began on Thursday with the two day convergence the Oregon Community Food System Network, and continued Friday with a meeting of the Oregon Agritourism Network and the Annual Meeting of the Oregon Farmers Market Association, the conference was followed by the Friends of Family Farmer After Party on Saturday evening, and finally the Annual Pacific Northwest Flower Farmer Meet Up on Sunday. This is an impressive lineup representing a lot of influence in farming and our food system.

The low cost of the conference is based on the generosity of our financial sponsors. A big thank you to Northwest Farm Credit Services, Western SARE, Recology, Bejo Seed, and Carts and Tools.

What to expect for the 2017 conference? The usual nationally known speakers, a great locally sourced lunch, great vendors, and wonderful people to hang out with but likely a cap on registration to keep the conference a manageable size. Also returning will be “Never Throw in the Towel” Powell, “Declare it don’t despair it or you will repair it” Garrett, and the rest of the Small Farms gang. Watch for registration to open in December 2016.