High Plains Organic Farming Conference, Cheyenne WY


Cheyenne conference illustrates organic certification, production systems

            Production in the High Plains is difficult and margins are slim, but raising certified organic crops could increase profit margins, according to the University of Wyoming Extension soils specialist who helped organize the February High Plains Organic Farming Conference in Cheyenne.

             The conference is Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, at Laramie County Community College, 1400 E. College Dr., said Jay Norton, UW Extension specialist.

            Registration and agenda information is at http://uwextension.wix.com/organicfarming.

            In response to audience suggestions from last year, this year’s conference features presentations by six producers from Wyoming and Colorado talking about their production systems, cover crops, marketing, pest control and other topics, said Norton.

            The conference targets dryland crop, irrigated crop and forage and livestock producers, and focuses on crop, soil, pest and livestock management, marketing and USDA National Organic Program updates. 

            “Organic production is definitely not for everyone, and the conference does not emphasize ideological reasons for going organic,” said Norton, an associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

            The certification process and transition are potential barriers to some producers, Norton said. The first day is an afternoon workshop showing how to become certified organic producers. That workshop features hands-on activities, such as an experienced organic certifier helping producers complete an application for a hypothetical farm.

            The second day is a full-day conference for experienced, new or interested producers and is open to anyone.

            Norton said the conference is centered on three themes: dryland and irrigated cropping systems and livestock production. Producers and researchers will speak about each, including a rancher/veterinarian who will talk about animal health in organic production. 

            Research presentations include soil fertility options in organic dryland and irrigated crop production and pest control options.

            The conference ends with a panel discussion about marketing,  National Organic Program-approved inputs and other topics from the audience.

            In addition to producers, speakers include University of Wyoming and Colorado State University researchers and Renee Gebault King from the USDA National Organic Program in Washington, D.C.

            Organic production relies on healthy soil, so a lot of focus will be on building and maintaining soil health in dryland, irrigated and livestock operations, said Norton.

            “The market for certified organic products continues to expand, and for producers from the High Plains of Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, it may represent a value-added approach that makes their operations more sustainable,” said Norton.

            For more information, contact Norton at 307-766-5082 or at jnorton4@uwyo.edu.

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