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2016 Acres U.S.A. Conference ─ Complete Agenda


The knowledge shared in the lectures and workshops is nothing short of amazing. The goal is both to pass along practical advice for your eco-farm and to “connect the dots” for you with the many interconnected dynamics of nature. Here's an early look at the planned talks . . . so far. We'll have a few more surprises in coming days and weeks, so check back for that news plus more in-depth details of these talks. But beyond the formal talks, a great deal of the value of the conference is who you will meet in the hallways, the knowledge you'll pick up from the innovators in the Trade Show, and the time you spend in dialog with the speakers in the consulting halls. Trust us . . . the lectures and workshops are only the beginning.


2016 Acres U.S.A. Conference

Wednesday, November 30 - Friday, December 2, 2016

Omaha, Nebraska



WEDNESDAY, NOV. 30


Eco-Farming 101
Dean Craine

Learn the basic techniques and technologies of eco-agriculture. A good overview for people new to the concepts; good review for the experienced. The presenter, a seasoned Midwest crops and soil consultant will present an overview of the toolbox of techniques and technologies available to modern ecological farmers.
Blackstone B, 2-3 p.m.

Grazing 101
Will Winter, D.V.M.
There has never been a better time to jump into grass-based livestock production, and few people have guided more producers into successful programs than Will Winter, D.V.M. He’ll try to part the clouds of confusion and show you how to avoid the common pitfalls and financial black holes. Learn the basics of optimal livestock selection, fencing, water systems, mineralization, herd health plans and stored forage options, and then review an array of intensive grazing systems so that you can easily find the one that best fits your unique operation.
Blackstone B, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Opening Keynote: Why are Consumers of Organic Products as Sick as Consumers of Conventional Products?
Dr. Arden Andersen
In this keynote presentation this renowned eco-farming consultant and physician explains why people living on cleaner fare still get sick. Learn the pitfalls of modern diets including food choices, lack of variety, lack of foundational nutrition, etc.
Before Arden Andersen became a doctor treating human health he was a leading eco-ag consultant coaching large-scale growers worldwide on growing high-Brix, nutrient-dense, pest- and disease-resistant crops. He understands both the cause of disease and the latest conventional and natural treatments.
In his practice he sees people seemingly doing all the right things but still falling ill. There is much more to healthful food than the lack of toxicity in its production. In this insightful opening session Dr. Andersen will challenge us all to look at food differently.
Blackstone A-B, 7:30 p.m.


THURSDAY, DEC. 1


A Journey Into Our Food System: Looking Beyond Short-Term Yields to a Regenerative/Organic System
Jeff Moyer
This experienced organic farmer will explore some of the issues of our current food production system which was created using short-term yields as the primary, or in some cases the only, measurement for success. He’ll discuss alternative resource management practices that can not only improve the model, but in many cases reverse the current trend balancing out our need for high-quality and abundant food with our need to improve soil and human health. He will expand the conversation to include scientific data, social and political ramifications and discuss the role each of us plays in the success or failure of long-term food production and the impacts our decisions have on our personal health and the wellbeing of the planet.
Blackstone A, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Glyphosate and Transgenic Crops and their Impact on Soil Biology and Ecology and the Environment
Robert Kremer, Ph.D.
Current conventional crop production relies heavily on transgenic, glyphosate-resistant cultivars. The presenter will discuss the impacts of glyphosate on soil biology as well our environment as a whole. Field studies conducted looked at the effects of glyphosate applied to tolerant soybeans and corn in terms of root colonization and soil populations of Fusarium and selected rhizosphere bacteria. In this session he will discuss the science — and farm-level implications — of this chemical in terms of interactions and direct and indirect effects.
Blackstone B, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

How to Make a Living on One Acre
Ben Hartman
Ben Hartman and family make a living on a small farm ... a very small farm. The entire operation comprises less than 1 acre in production (they own 5 acres), with 9,000 square feet under four greenhouses. The farm is in Goshen, Indiana, midway between Detroit and Chicago. Through efficient production management, very deliberate crop selection, and effective marketing they are making a living on this small plot of land, selling to CSA customers as well as restaurants and at a farmers’ market. He’ll share his blueprint for success in this session.
St. Nicholas A, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Beyond Organic: Understanding Nutrient-Dense Food
Glen Rabenberg
More and more talk among growers and consumers alike is turning to crop quality over mere bins and bushels. Drawing on his years of experience in animal science and agronomy, Glen will discuss how balanced nutrition in the soil can be echoed in nutrient density of a crop and the balanced nutrition and health in animals and humans. The soil is a living organism and its health can be tested in the same way we test human health. Glen will be focusing on using chemistry, biology, and physics and how they combine to produce nutrient-dense food.
St. Nicholas B, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Building Your Soil While Building Farm Profits
Gabe Brown
Imagine rapidly building soil on more than 5,000 acres. That’s what Gabe Brown is doing by merging back-to-basics agrarian practices with innovative, science-based, sustainable farming techniques on his multi-thousand-acre diversified family ranch in North Dakota. Learn how his diverse practices of converting all cropland to no-till, constant seeding with a cocktail of dozens of cover crops and mob grazing of diverse livestock species all combine for continued improvement of his farm’s greatest resource, its soil.
Blackstone A, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Weeds and Soil Fertility
Neal Kinsey
Insightful agronomists have long seen a correlation between soil deficiencies and specific weeds appearing. Neal Kinsey draws on his own experience with diverse crops from around the world to illustrate connections between weeds and soil fertility. With weeds consistently ranked farmers’ top problem, consider this added element as part of the weed control equation. Neal Kinsey is the world’s foremost trainer and practitioner of CEC-based soil fertility management as first espoused by Prof. William Albrecht.
Blackstone B, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

The pH:CEC Ratio: A New Tool for Predicting Agronomic Potential
Paul Deckard
Soil pH adjustments and plant nutrient ratios based on cation exchange capacity have been used successfully for many decades to support more sustainable approaches to crop production. Recently, the mathematical relationship of soil pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and stable soil organic matter content of soils has been successfully applied to predict the potential for agronomic productivity for soils. The calculated results appear to have predictive value for crop production when bio‐compatible inputs are used to correct mineral imbalances. CEC and pH will be explored in the context of regenerative soil systems where the interaction of microbes, plant roots, clays, organic carbon substances, carbon dioxide and biomineralization contribute to thermodynamically favorable energy transfers through soil systems.
St. Nicholas A, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

People, Nature and Agriculture: “In the Shadow of Green Man”
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin
This agricultural consultant, system engineer, and dynamo of social and economic change will share his own journey growing up poor and hungry during Guatemala’s civil war, lessons he learned from folk wisdom and nature, and how he is applying that to change the lives or farmers worldwide.
St. Nicholas B, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Natural-Organic Insect and Disease Control
Howard Garrett
Anyone who has read any of Howard Garrett’s many, many books on organic gardening, landscaping and farming will understand the depth of his knowledge on dealing with real-world problems. In this class he will share the big-picture concepts essential for organic success, but also discuss specific tricks, tools and tactics to contract insect destroyers and plant disease without resorting to toxic, dirty technology. Sure to be an inspiration- and fact-filled presentation.
Hill, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Carbon-Smart Farming to Sequester Carbon and Grow Nutrient-Dense Food
David Yarrow
Building soil carbon pays big dividends for any farm. Learn how to increase measured carbon up to 9% in one year. Benefits include adjusting major minerals and trace elements and care and feeding of the soil food web. Gain an understanding of how biochars, cover crops, inoculants and rotations all work toward your soil carbon goals. In this very special session this researcher who has been called “the biochar wizard” will make sense of soil carbon and the benefits and techniques available to eco-farmers.
Blackstone A, 12 noon-1:45 p.m.

The New Biological Farmer: 15 Years of Learning
Gary Zimmer
Fifteen years ago Gary Zimmer shored up the foundations of eco-farming with his landmark book The Biological Farmer. In the years in between GMOs arrived, along with increased herbicide use, superweeds, and a host of other conventional farming ills. In this whirlwind talk he’ll address what has been learned and discuss the current state of the art — and state of the science — of modern biological farming. Learn the lessons role model farmers have to teach about effective, profitable organic/biological farming for the 21st century.
Blackstone A, 2-3 p.m.

Iodine and Selenium: the One-Two Punch
Dr. Richard Olree
This modern-day mineral master will detail the little-known roles of iodine and selenium in life functions — crops, animals, humans. Often relegated into the realm of trace elements and not “majors,” science and observation tell a very different story for these essential elements. Iodine touches most everything in a living organism and has enemies both within the body and in the environment; it is particularly known for its anti-cancer properties. Selenium, long held to be a toxin, is a key trigger for tumor suppressing genes. These two vital minerals have similarly important roles in crops. Dr. Olree will “connect the dots” and bring obscure chemistry into actionable information.
Blackstone B, 2-3 p.m.

Achieving Large-Scale Organic Crop Quality
Robin Brekken
This northwest Minnesota farmer transitioned his 3,300-acre family farm to organic production 15 years ago. He and his family have raised many different crops including alfalfa, yellow corn, spring wheat, oats, barley, millet, rye, soybeans, navy beans and yellow field peas. Certified organic in 2001 after a difficult three-year transition, he now sees superb quality in alfalfa and other crops and utilizes many of the tools of modern ecological agriculture. In this presentation he will share his methods, difficulties and successes.
St. Nicholas A, 2-3 p.m.

Silica and Balanced Nutrition for Disease and Insect Control
Noel Garcia
Nutritional demands of many crops vary widely throughout the growing season. If crops are not properly fed, either from the soil or from fertilizers, they end up being malnourished, resulting in yields and quality often far below their potential. And even worse, crop malnourishment results in a stressed crop, making it vulnerable to diseases and insects requiring insecticides and fungicides — and requiring more water, making it more susceptible to drought and heat — and to hail damage and to cold (late frosts). This advisor will share lessons learned on farms across North America and reveal some miracles in crop nutrition.
St. Nicholas B, 2-3 p.m.

Organic Grains: Production Issues & Profit Potential
David Vetter
David Vetter, award-winning organic farmer, heads Grain Place Foods, a renowned Nebraska-based organic grain processor. He will discuss his philosophy, practices, challenges, and future of farming sustainably, with particular focus on the growing potential of organic farming. Grain Place’s mission is to provide grain products that are grown and produced in an ecologically sustainable and socially responsible manner — with the conviction that how food is produced does matter. This presentation will surely share valuable insights from an organic pioneer.
Hill, 2-3 p.m.

Water Control on the Farm: Keyline and Beyond
Mark Shepard
Whether your land is flat or hilly, there are sophisticated options for optimizing water-holding based on keyline design and other principles. This Wisconsin farmer will explain the various techniques as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Learn the shortfalls of traditional contour farming, grassy waterways and USDA terraces as compared to Australian-borne keyline design and the presenter’s modified American Keyline methods. Shepard, author of the book Restoration Agriculture, will show how shaping the land on his own farm has produced benefits for two decades.
Blackstone A, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

The Sugar Solution: Plants & Microbes
Bob Yanda
Sugar, molasses, and other sources of energy have long been in the toolbox of innovative eco-farmers. This experienced Midwest consultant will translate the “buzz” behind sugar into actionable steps. He will discuss the many types of sugars, their sources, forms and uses. The role of sugar in plants will be explained with an eye toward understanding the role of sugars when applied in the growing season. He will further speak to what happens in a plant when sugars are applied.
Blackstone B, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Synchronizing Nutrient Release from Organic Sources with Plant Needs for Maximum Crop Performance
Larry Zibilske, Ph.D.
This experienced scientist and consultant taps into the many tools and techniques of modern crop nutrition and up-to-date organiculture to connect the needs of the plant with organic sources of nutrition. Learn how to discern and time crop feeding with organic material nutrient release for optimal crop health and performance.
St. Nicholas A, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

A Farmer’s Guide to Natural Beekeeping
Leo Sharashkin
In this whirlwind overview master beekeeper Leo Sharashkin will introduce his methods of natural beekeeping which promote hive health and productivity with virtually no labor from the farmer. The seminar will touch on an understanding of how bees live in nature, keeping bees naturally without interfering in their lives. He will discuss how to build low-maintenance, bee-friendly hives, particularly explaining horizontal hive models and their advantages. Whether for landscape restoration, crop pollination or the sweet harvest from the hive, the time has never been better for farmers to consider adding some hives to their farm.
St. Nicholas B, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Evening Keynote: A Place at the Table and in the Field
Denise O’Brien This Iowa farmer will share her thoughts on emerging leaders in the science and practice of sustainable and organic agriculture with a particular intention on growing the next generation of leaders.
Denise O’Brien worked in agriculture long before she co-founded the Women Food and Agriculture Network in 1997. She has farmed in southwest Iowa for 37 years with her husband Larry Harris, and operated a CSA farm called Rolling Acres that includes 3 acres of fruits and vegetables and 6 acres of apples. She also raises organic chickens and turkeys.
She has been involved with community volunteering and policy work in the agricultural sector. Denise lobbied with the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition, directed the Rural Women’s Leadership Development Project of PrairieFire Rural Action, Inc. and was president of the National Family Farm Coalition; she has served on numerous boards and committees focused on economic justice in agriculture. From 2011 to 2012, Denise was a USDA advisor in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
On her life work Denise says, “My dream is that the landscape of industrialized agriculture will change as women become the decision makers on their land. To that end I will devote my time on this earth to women, prairie restoration and seed saving.”
Blackstone A-B, 7:30 p.m.


FRIDAY, DEC. 2


Failed Promises, Flawed Science: An Update on GMOs & Glyphosate and Soil, Plant, Animal, Human Health
Prof. Don Huber
Dr. Don Huber returns to the podium to update conference-goers on the new science further condemning this dangerous, but ubiquitous, herbicide and the genetically modified crops which have quintupled its use. Don Huber is professor emeritus of plant pathology at Purdue University. His agricultural research the past 50 years has focused on the epidemiology and control of soil-borne plant pathogens with emphasis on microbial ecology, cultural and biological controls and physiology of host-parasite relationships. He is internationally recognized for his expertise in the development of nitrification inhibitors to improve the efficiency of N fertilizers, interactions of the form of nitrogen, manganese and other nutrients in disease, herbicide-nutrient-disease interactions, techniques for rapid microbial identification and cultural control of plant diseases.
Blackstone A, 8:30-11 a.m.

Hair Mineral Analysis and Nutritional Balancing: An Opportunity to Enhance Livestock Performance
Peter Norwood
Hair analysis is a non-invasive soft tissue mineral biopsy used to detect mineral levels. It provides a reading of the mineral deposition in the cells and interstitial spaces of the hair over a 2-3 month period. This Australian consultant utilizes this test and a modern understanding of minerals’ role in animal performance to improve individual and herd health and productivity. Hair testing can provide an assessment of an individual animal’s stage of stress and oxidation rate. The oxidation rate provides a tremendous quantity of information very quickly. Hair testing can also provide indicators of endocrine activity, liver and kidney function, and carbohydrate tolerance and protein utilization. Rebalancing nutritionally allows stabilization of the metabolic rate and allows the digestive system, liver and kidneys to function to allow the excretion of toxic heavy metals and produces improvement in animal health and feed conversion.
Blackstone B, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Building Soil Health and Soil Biology
Dennis Warnecke From large farm to small, from organic to conventional, any farm can cultivate good soil biology and build healthy soil while continuing its own preferred agricultural practices. This longtime consultant will discuss common misconceptions and mistakes made in the application and cultivation of biology and share the tools and information needed to ensure our biological programs truly benefit our soils and plants, and not just waste our time and money. He will share experience stemming from his own work on crops including apples and other tree fruits, melons, hops, wheat, corn, soybeans, potatoes, alfalfa, grass hay and most other row crops.
St. Nicholas A, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Pasture-Raised Hogs: Fencing, Forages and the Future
Ross Duffield
Locally and ethically raised pork is a market that is growing every year. Many farmers are looking at ways to add diversity to their farming operation and hogs are a great option. Pastured hogs have the ability to add to a farmer’s income, but the techniques on how to manage these animals can be a challenge. The Rodale Institute’s hog facility allows for pasture research that can shorten the learning curve for farmers who have limited experience with pigs and provide insight into what these animals need while on pasture. This presentation will look at forages and fencing ideas that will help farmers utilize land that is currently in production by adding a new option to their system.
St. Nicholas B, 8:30-9:45 a.m.

Lessons Learned from Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial
Emmanuel Omondi, Ph.D.
This scientist will share some of the results of the Rodale Institute’s research over the past several decades that can help organic farmers improve their farming systems and that show the advantages of organic production based on scientific data.
The Farming Systems Trial at Rodale Institute is America’s longest-running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. After more than 30 years of side-by-side trials, Rodale Institute has demonstrated that organic farming is better equipped to feed us now and well into the ever changing future.
Blackstone B, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Soil Health Relative to Sustainable and Organic Systems and in Natural Ecosystems
Robert Kremer, Ph.D.
Ecological farming conserves and improves soil resource and protects environmental quality by using organic or natural resources without the application of synthetic chemicals. The assessment of soil quality demonstrates the extent to which farmers can optimize soil productivity and maintain its structural and biological integrity. This multi-disciplined researcher will explain how organic systems can impact fundamental biochemical characteristics of soil which are indicators of soil health. He will explain the science of soil health and steer attendees toward farming methods that build soil health.
St. Nicholas A, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Improving Soils and Pasture Productivity
Ron McLean
This New Zealand consultant will relate dramatic results seen through implementation of Albrecht-/Kinsey-style soil fertility balancing on pastures there. Through effective and proper soil fertility element balancing in the soil farmers there have seen improved pasture health (doubling pasture growth over a six-year period) and resultant livestock health and productivity. Moving beyond the prevalent NPK-style fertility management has brought tremendous gains to his client farmers.
St. Nicholas B, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Understanding the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act
Judith McGeary
The Food and Drug Administration’s final rules implementing the Federal Food Safety Modernization Act are in force, covering farmers who raise fruits and vegetables, sprouts and nut growers, food processors, food hubs, and many more food businesses. Find out if you’re covered and what these rules may mean for you in this session presented by organic farmer, attorney, and small-farm advocate Judith McGeary.
Hill, 10:30-11:45 a.m.

Nuts and Bolts of Poultry-Centered Regenerative Agriculture
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin
Learn how the simple chicken — the world’s most universal unit of farm production — can yield a truly global impact rooted in the power of local, small-scale farming enterprise systems. Learn how strategically designed enterprises based around pastured poultry promote healthy local economies and meet food and nutrition needs, all while relying on naturally occurring biological-physical-chemical processes for energy (nutrient) transformation as the basis for economic returns and wealth building. Through this long-form lecture this innovative farmer/consultant/systems designer can share specific details of the sustainable systems he is so masterful at designing.
Blackstone A, 12 noon-1:45 p.m.

A1-A2 Milk: Update on the Science and Global Happenings
Dr. Richard Olree
This talk will update attendees on the current state of science surround the differences between so-called A1 and A2 milk. Learn about the research behind morphine in the milk. The speaker will share the results of several years of A1-A2 gene testing. Learn about specific breeds, the nature of the milk produced, the “closed herd” concept, how testing is accomplished, as well as updates of activities surrounding A1-A2 milk in China, New Zealand and Germany.
Blackstone A, 2-3 p.m.

Humic Products in Production Agriculture: State of the Science
Dana Dinnes
Some time ago it was observed that humic products affect plant root and shoot growth and yield. In order to better understand these natural compounds a USDA team in Iowa has been conducting disciplined field trials using these materials. This talk will update attendees on the past years of research on humic products’ effects on Midwestern corn and soils. Measures of in-season plant growth and harvest yield have indicated significant effects of the humic products compared to control treatments.
Blackstone B, 2-3 p.m.

A Primer on Entering the Organic Market: Beyond the Rules
Grace Gershuny
This longtime organic grower and inspector will share her perspective on finding small-farm success in the organic marketplace. From planning and growing to inspections and marketing, each step can prove daunting for the uninitiated. But under the guiding hand of an experienced teacher who has walked the walk confusion falls away into promise.
St. Nicholas A, 2-3 p.m.

Beekeeping In-Depth: Capturing a Hive of Local, Adaptive Bees & Appropriate Hive Design
Leo Sharashkin
In this in-depth session master beekeeper Leo Sharashkin will cover more specifics on how to get started and find success in beekeeping. He will cover the power of local bees (catching your own swarms of adapted bees instead of buying commercial non-resilient stocks; choosing appropriate hive design and managing hives in a non-invasive way, which is good for the bees and easy on the beekeeper. He will touch on biodiversity of nectar plants and give practical advice which can show how easy and fun beekeeping can be, while also finding success.
St. Nicholas B, 2-4:30 p.m.

Feed the Plant or Feed the Soil?
Doug Gunnink
This longtime farm consultant will dive into the age-old question still teasing agriculture: feed the plant or feed the soil? Drawing on his experience with Upper Midwest crops and pastures Gunnink will relate the art and science of obtaining a crop while optimizing for production and building toward the future.
Blackstone A, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Add Perennial Diversity to Your Farm
Mark Shepard
Attendees will gain insight into the basic skills to begin the transition from annuals to a permanent, perennial agriculture incorporating everything from nuts and berries, to livestock and fruits and vegetables. Shepard’s talk will introduce the concept of ecosystem mimicry for crop selection. He will also showcase specific tactics row-crop farmers can use to test the waters with a small plot of perennials on an affordable, manageable basis. Rather than an all-or-nothing premise, Shepard will teach evolving methods to start safely and slowly and build crop diversity over time.
Blackstone B, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Organic Certification 101: Transitioning, Inspections and Record Keeping
Angie Tunink & Cindy Elder
OCIA is a non-profit, member-owned organization providing organic certification to producers, processors, handlers and Community Grower Groups worldwide, for over 25 years. OCIA staff will talk about transitioning to organic, what to expect during an organic inspection, along with the paperwork and record keeping documents necessary for organic certification.
St. Nicholas A, 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Evening Keynote: Organic Revolutionary: the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing, and Human Liberation
Grace Gershuny
A true elder of the organic farming movement, this author/farmer will share tales from early days, discuss the future of the clean food movement and reflect on its past. Having served in the USDA when the organic rules were written, Grace Gershuny has a unique vantage point of the “sausage factory” and the resultant product, the rules organic farmers are living under.
Co-author of the seminal book The Soul of Soil, Grace Gershuny has made contributions to the organic community as a farmer, activist, instructor, rulemaker and inspector. Throughout her career she has recognized soil is the basis not only for all gardening and farming, but for all terrestrial life. She brings this sensibility into her perspectives and visions for an organic future.
Grace Gershuny is widely known as an author, educator and organic consultant. A back-to-the-land Vermonter since 1973, she began her longtime involvement with the organic grassroots movement by organizing regional conferences and developing an early certification program for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA).
In 1994, USDA recruited Gershuny to serve as its lead organic standards specialist where over the following five years she helped lay the foundations of the National Organic Program. Her new book is entitled Organic Revolutionary: A Memoir of the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing and Human Liberation. Still raising her own vegetables and chickens, Gershuny currently teaches the Green Mountain College online masters in sustainable food systems program and serves on the board of the Institute for Social Ecology.