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2016 Eco-Ag U ─ No-RiskTransition to Organic

Two Days: Designed as a two-day continuum, but attend either day or both

Gary Zimmer, Bob Yanda & Leilani Zimmer-Durand

1 day, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 ─ open to All-Access and Conference-Plus registrants
Badge pickup at 8 a.m. Class begins promptly at 8:30 a.m.

Gary Zimmer & Grace Gershuny

1 day, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016 ─ open to All-Access and Conference-Plus registrants
Badge pickup at 8 a.m. Class begins promptly at 8:30 a.m.

With conventional prices for corn, beans, wheat and dairy low, and both prices and demand for organic products high, a lot of growers are thinking about transitioning to organic. For most growers, one of the biggest deterrents to going organic is the 36-month process of transition, during which time you can only use organic approved inputs and practices, but the crops, milk or other farm goods produced can’t be sold as “organic” and receive the price premium.

Organic is a system of farming that can produce yields just as high as conventional farming with healthy plants and few pest and disease problems, but you need to learn the principles of how to play the game. Investing two days with longtime organic farmer/consultant Gary Zimmer and his co-presenters could help ensure economic and agronomic success and literally prevent years of costly mistakes. In this two-day seminar, divided into issues of production and issues of management/certification/marketing, you will understand the key considerations before switching to organic farming.

Several detailed strategies for a successful transition to organic farming will be discussed in detail, including:
• Changing materials used, but farming as you have been.
• Accelerating the system, focusing on balancing and building soils while getting a good return off of the transitional acres.
• Growing cover crops like oats or rye for seed for building soils and reducing weed and pest problems.
• Growing an alfalfa or forage crop during transition to help to reduce the weed seed bank and add nitrogen to your soil.
• Grazing cattle on the transitional acres.

Learn why chasing profits is not the right reason to go organic, and there is more to it than not adding prohibited inputs and getting paid more for your crops. Being a successful organic farmer requires a different mind-set, and the best time to figure out your approach to organic farming and set yourself up for success is during the transition period.

If you’re considering going organic, the first thing you should do is sit down and think about why and then think about how. If your answer to why is that you are doing it for the money, maybe it’s not for you. Being an organic farmer is not an easy “get rich quick” scheme. You have to have the right mind-set to be a successful organic farmer. This is a different way to farm. If you’re doing this because you think it’s right and it’s the best path for the future of your farm, you’re on the right track. Organic farming takes more knowledge, it takes new and different tools, and it takes a better understanding of soils. You need to manage the nutrients you are putting on, but you also need to really understand the role of the soil’s physical structure and its biology. These become your new focus. Focused discussion will take place on confronting the two biggest changes you’ll have to make as you switch from conventional to organic production: weed control and nitrogen management.

Organic is a system of farming that can produce yields just as high as conventional farming with healthy plants and few pest and disease problems, but you need to learn the principles of how to play the game. If you are just after the higher prices you may be disappointed with your results. Are you willing to do what is necessary for success?

As if growing an organic crop wasn't hard enough, there is a new world to consider in management, organic certification, and marketing. Accordingly, the second day of the seminar will be focused on these vital topics and finding market and financial success through the process.

You will learn about what the National Organic Program standards cover, how they are established and amended, and what you need to know to achieve certified organic status. Multiple programs are also available to help in the organic transition process, including technical assistance, cost share programs, and a new “transitional” label that can help you gain access to certain markets while you make the transition. We’ll walk through the certification process step by step, and identify what information you need to include in your Organic System Plan as well as what records you need to maintain and have available for the inspector.

About the Presenters

Gary Zimmer
Gary Zimmer is co-founder, president and chief visionary officer of Midwestern BioAg. Known as the “father” of biological agriculture, Zimmer is an internationally known author, speaker, and consultant. He owns Otter Creek Organic Farm, a family-operated, award-winning 1,000-acre farm near Lone Rock, Wisconsin, and has been on the board of Taliesin Preservation Inc. since 2011. Zimmer is the author of two books, The Biological Farmer and Advancing Biological Farming, and numerous articles on soils and livestock nutrition. Zimmer holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in dairy nutrition from the University of Hawaii.

Bob YandaBob Yanda is a farm consultant and agri-businessman with over 25 years of experience working with soil health, fertilizers, and complete farm fertilizer programs. As vice-president of growth and development of Midwestern Bio-Ag Yanda uses his on-farm expertise to help guide the company's strategic plans. Before merging his business with Midwestern BioAg in 2014, Yanda operated an independent dealership, Iowa BioAg, for over 20 years. He has lectured on plant nutrient efficiency and accelerated soil biological processes throughout the Midwest and Canada. He is particularly experienced in organic and sustainable production of corn, soybeans and other major Midwestern crops.

Leilani Zimmer-DurandLeilani Zimmer-Durand is vice-president of education, training and outreach of Midwestern BioAg where she heads the training and education programs. Since joining the company in 2006, Zimmer-Durand has authored a biological farming book with her father, Gary Zimmer, and speaks both nationally and internationally on the connection between healthy soils and healthy, high-yielding crops. Before joining Midwestern BioAg, she spent 13 years attending graduate school and working in endangered species management in Hawaii. Leilani holds her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a master’s degree in tropical ecology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Grace GershunyGrace Gershuny is an internationally known author, educator and organic consultant. In the 1990s she served on the staff of USDA’s National Organic Program, where she helped write the regulations. Doing business as GAIA Services, Grace works as an independent organic inspector as well as consulting for private and non-profit clients on all aspects of organic certification, developing related standards and certification systems, and training programs. She currently teaches in the Green Mountain College online Masters in Sustainable Food Systems program and serves on the Board of the Institute for Social Ecology. She has a Masters in Extension Education from the University of Vermont, with a self-designed concentration in Ecological Agriculture. Grace has written extensively about soil and compost, and is co-author of The Rodale Book of Composting and The Soul of Soil. Her latest book is Organic Revolutionary: A Memoir of the Movement for Real Food, Planetary Healing, and Human Liberation. She lives in Barnet, Vermont where she grows her own veggies and chicken.

Learn More About the Presenters and their Methods

Gary Zimmer speaking at Albert Lea Seed in 2012.
Bob Yanda's keynote address at the "Farmers Toolbox 2014" meeting.
Grace Gershuny, organic revolutionary.

The Biological Farmer
Biological farming does not mean less production; it means eliminating obstacles to healthy, efficient production. It is a safe and sustainable system designed to keep production up. Once the chemical, physical and biological properties of the soil are in balance, you can expect optimal outputs, even in bad years. Biological farming improves the environment, reduces erosion, reduces disease and insect problems, and alters weed pressure — and it accomplishes this by working in harmony with nature. Skilled biological farmers learn how to take care of soil life — they nurture it, feed it a blanced diet, and use tillage tools and methods to enhance soil life. Biological farmers learn proper fertilizer uses to correct mineral and nutrient imbalances to feed plants and soil life. This is the farming consultant's bible and Zimmer knows how to make responsible, sustainable farming work. More information.

Advancing Biological Farming
One of the leading authorities on biological farming, Gary Zimmer is recognized for improving farming by restoring soils. Arguing that an optimally productive soil contains a balance of inorganic minerals, organic materials and living organisms, he relies less on modern improvements than on "the things we’ve learned by improving fertility in a natural, sustainable way over many years." This book offers invaluable scientific support for committed organic farmers as well as conventional farmers who'd like to reduce chemical inputs and use natural processes to their advantage. Advancing Biological Farming updates and expands upon Gary Zimmer's classic, The Biological Farmer. Technically precise yet written in friendly language, this book is for everyone who wants a future in biological farming. More information.

Cancellation Policy

No refunds. We will issue an 80% credit for cancellations received through Friday, November 11, 2016 to be applied to Acres U.S.A. subscriptions, books and videos, audio CDs or future conference fees. Your registration can be transferred to someone else’s name if you cannot attend; please contact our office. If attendance is uncertain, play it safe and wait to register or, for the main conference, register on-site. Sorry, no cash or credit card refunds.

Go to Registration Page

See either All-Access or Conference-Plus registration options to take part in this all-day seminar. Pre-registrations only. Sorry, walk-ins will not be accommodated. As the event date draws near, please call our office for last-minute availability.

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