The 14th annual Food and Growers Association Winter Conference, “Diversity From Farm to Table,” is Saturday, Feb. 1, from 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Batesville Middle School.

“I believe this is our third year at the middle school,” reports FGA President Missy Watkins. “They (BMS leaders) have been great to work with, and we are very thankful for the use of this space.”

She encourages everyone to attend because “there is a little something of interest for all. The winter conference has two tracts with speakers who will give presentations that pertain to either growers/producers or consumers, depending on which focus area interests you.”

When choosing the speakers, “we look at topics that are relevant to what is going on today, think of areas that are tough for growers, take ideas from our surveys and look at topics/speakers from years past. Then we look for speakers who are experts in their field.”

This year’s keynote speakers are Liz and Nate Brownlee from Nightfall Farm, Crothersville. They will address both consumers and producers. “They are an amazing couple who are running their own farm while working hard to support our young Hoosier farmers,” Watkins says. They will discuss “Where we all fit in a Diverse and Thriving Food System.”

Liz grew up on the farm, and Nate’s first job was on a farm, and neither thought they would grow up to be farmers. However, after learning more about where food comes from, the Brownlees realized the best way to control the food they ate was to produce it. They gained experience farming throughout New England and returned home to Liz’s family farm to put those lessons to work. Now they sell food through their 55-member meat CSA (community-supported agriculture), three farmers and three chefs. They raise meat chickens, laying hens, pigs, lambs and turkeys on pasture, using rotational grazing.

Four sessions are aimed at growers:

• Hans Schmitz will speak about “Weather Weirdness and Implications for Diversified Agriculture.” He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in agricultural meteorology from Purdue University, working for the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study during his time in college and after graduation until his hiring into Purdue Extension. He has had official roles in five southwestern Indiana counties and currently serves in Posey County as the ag and natural resources educator. During his tenure, he assisted in the development of the “Dynamics of Climate,” teaching curriculum and a series of Purdue Extension publications on basic climate science. He co-chairs the North Central Climate Collaborative, a 12-state team of extension professionals with climate expertise. Schmitz lives in Cynthiana and assists on the family farm, a sixth-generation grain operation.

• Liz Yetter will discuss the basics of what invasive plants are, how they spread and the damage they can cause. The Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasive Management regional specialist is working on the Indiana Invasives Initiative project, which works with landowners and citizens to increase awareness of invasive species and acts to reduce and prevent their spread. The upstate New York native attended the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources management. She spent three years in Minnesota, one with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa and two with Three Rivers Park District working mostly in invasive species ID, removal and management.

• Susann Wendel will speak about agri-tourism. Phil and Susann Wendel began as grain and hog farmers in 1973, but in 2000, they decided to share their love of farming with others. Wendel Farms, which is located on the state line in both Butler County, Ohio, and Franklin County, Indiana, offers visitors a unique farm experience of education and fun. The Wendels are still grain farmers, producing corn, beans, wheat and hay, but have also added pumpkins, fall mums and a multitude of animals.

• Erika Tebbens will discuss marketing. The Ann Arbor, Michigan, resident is a business consultant and sales coach focused on teaching entrepreneurs how to make more money without complex systems or sleazy sales tactics. As a former farmer and farm manager, she’s passionate about teaching farmers and producers how to run thriving, profitable businesses.

Four other sessions are for consumers:

• Atina Rozhon will present information on food preservation techniques. The Jennings County Purdue Extension director and health and human science educator has a food science degree from Purdue University. She has taught a variety of food safety classes in the last 14 years, including ServSafe and Mastering Home Food Preservation.

• Matt Nobbe will talk about the many ways to plant a garden. The Five Oaks Garden Center owner has gardened his whole life and is a knowledgeable resource for the Batesville community. He also raises pumpkins, corn and corn meal, popcorn and wheat.

• Braden Trauth will speak about permaculture in your own backyard. He has been training people in permaculture design, sustainable design and sustainable living for over a decade. With the Cincinnati Permaculture Institute and other institutions he works with, he is always looking for partners to build more robust mutualistic systems that enhance collective sustainability.

• Dr. Trent Austin will discuss the effects of solar cycles on growing food. The sun is descending into a period of decreasing activity, and farmers are struggling to plant and harvest. He will explain what changes to expect and how persons can thrive during the Grand Solar Minima.

Watkins reveals, “We are having the winter market again this year.” Hours are 9-11 a.m. and 12:30-1:30 p.m. It will be open to the public, not just conference attendees. “We are still lining up ... vendors, but expect to have a little bit of everything from locally grown or locally made products to informational booths. We will be highlighting vendors on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/FoodandGrowers), so keep an eye out for that.”

“Right now, we have an early bird special. If you purchase tickets by Jan. 18, you will receive the discounted pricing listed (after that date, ticket prices increase by $5). Included in the ticket price is a locally sourced lunch catered by Izzy’s at Hillcrest. It’s a good deal for a day of education with lunch included.”

Seating is limited. Tickets at $30 for members, $50 for member couples, $40 for nonmembers, $70 for nonmember couples and $15 for students can be purchased at foodandgrowers.eventbrite.com.

Annual FGA membership fees are $30, community; $40, grower and producer; $75, $150 or $500, farm-to-fork advocate.

“We are very excited about the winter conference. This is our main fundraiser,” says the president of the Batesville-based nonprofit. “Our board members put a lot of work into organizing this event. They are a great team. Attendees will learn new things and connect with people of common interests. I think people will be glad they came.”

In addition to Watkins, who lives in Batesville, board members include Deanna Hookway, Kris Reynolds, Cindy Weisenbach and Jerilyn Lowery, Batesville; Pam Rieke and Brad Sieber, Cincinnati/Sunman farm; Olivia Fledderman, Brookville; Ali Hountz, Lake Santee; and Tracy Jaeger, Liberty.

For more information on the organization and the conference, please visit www.foodandgrowers.com.

Diane Raver can be contacted at diane.raver@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, ext. 220114.

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