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Symposium to Present Opportunities and Challenges in Dryland Organic Agriculture

YAKIMA, Wash. – In association with the 2011 Washington Tilth Producers Conference, Washington State University has organized a special, day-long symposium for those interested in exploring the challenges and opportunities of organic agriculture in dryland ecosystems. This symposium is slated for Nov. 11 at the Yakima Convention Center.

The symposium addresses agronomic and economic issues specific to dryland organic production and brings together speakers and attendees from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. The keynote speaker is Bob Quinn, an organic grain farmer from Big Sandy, Montana and founder of Kamut International Khorasan Wheat. Topics covered include building a growers’ cooperative; finding new market channels; the nuts and bolts of organic dryland farming; and how to build a system that really works.

“Agriculture in the Pacific Northwest’s drylands is at a crossroads,” said sustainable agriculture researcher Lynne Carpenter-Boggs. “Dryland farming in our region faces serious threats from erosion and loss of soil organic matter. Farmers and industry professionals in dryland organic agriculture want to farm sustainably, but they face unique challenges, including low rainfall, short growing seasons, and cool evening temperatures that limit productivity. Organic agriculture can address those concerns, but for these systems to be economically sustainable, producers need consistent markets for their products.”

A series of speed networking sessions is also scheduled. These sessions will bring together business professionals who trade or process organic products and who are looking for producers who will understand the needs of specialty markets. “We are expecting 80 to 100 producers to attend,” said Carpenter-Boggs, “so business people and producers will have plenty of opportunities to conect and initiate mutually beneficial business relationships.”

Carpenter-Boggs said that, despite the challenges, there is plenty of good news to share with growers and business owners. “Organic producers, researchers, and early adopters are discovering what works in marketing organic crops, weed management, soil conservation, control of pests and diseases, design of organic agro-ecosystems, and conversion to organic farming.”

“The time is right to develop sustainable agricultural systems for the special needs of our region,” Carpenter-Boggs said. “The conference will focus on relevant topics using lectures and discussions so that information is immediately incorporated into planning. This conference will establish a strong communications network among producers, marketing organizations, processors, researchers, and extension educators. University and USDA personnel will obtain valuable input on how research and extension can better serve organic dryland farmers.”

More information on the symposium is available on the CSANR web site at http://bit.ly/qlDYkW. Registration through the Washington Tilth Producers will be available in early September. Check http://bit.ly/qKcNpm for more information on the main Tilth Producers Conference Nov. 12 – 13. Business people interested in speed networking should register at http://bit.ly/roDMim.

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