Record temperatures, droughts, floods and novel pests are becoming farming’s “new normal.” Learning how to farm with resiliency and innovation will be key to thriving in a changing climate – the good news is that no one is in a better position to adapt than Vermont’s small and family farms. Growers can improve their odds at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s annual Winter Conference – a highlight of the winter for Vermont’s farming community. Taking place on February 15-17, 2013, in Burlington, Vt., the conference includes several highlights just for commercial growers, including intensive seminars, double-session workshops and farmer networking sessions.

Farmers can jump-start the conference with one of three Friday Intensive seminars designed for commercial growers, taking place at Main Street Landing on the Burlington waterfront on Friday, February 15. Farmers of all kinds are invited to Farming for Resiliency in a Changing Climate, a full-day workshop with experts and innovative local growers. Learn strategies for managing changing weather patterns and the new pests and diseases that will come with them, and participate in a farm-specific risk management planning exercise.

Two half-day Friday workshops focus on berry production: Improving Blueberry Yields and Longevity in the morning and Increasing Strawberry Profits in the afternoon. Producers may attend either or both sessions, which feature extension staff from Cornell and the University of Maine, as well as experienced local berry farmers.

The weekend’s offerings include almost 50 workshops for commercial livestock, dairy, vegetable, crop and fruit farmers at the University of Vermont campus in Burlington. From pastured chicken to high tunnel greens, oats to efficiency, marketing to labor laws, farmers are sure to find something to improve their production and their bottom line. Lunchtime farmer roundtables are the perfect place to discuss irrigation techniques, pests and politics. New farmers can schedule a consultation with business planners from the Vermont New Farmer Network to help set, prioritize and meet their business goals. Featured conference speakers include four-season farmer Clara Coleman on Saturday and local food system innovators in a TEDTalks-style presentation on Sunday.

Preregister by February 4 for the preregistration discount. Preregistration is required for Friday intensives; walk-in registration will be accepted for the weekend. Learn more at or call 802-434-4122.

Friday Intensives

Some topics just can’t be covered in a 75-minute workshop. Go in depth with Friday Intensive seminars for farmers and locavores.

These seminars take place on the waterfront in downtown Burlington. All prices include lunch. Parking is available for $8/day in the Hilton Hotel garage.

Improving Blueberry Yields & Longevity

9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Main Street Landing

$45 members; $60 nonmembers

(Both berry workshops: $80 members/$95 nonmembers)

The profitability of blueberries depends on site selection, cultivar selection and specific cultural practices. This workshop for the intermediate blueberry grower will provide the most current research on dealing with soil and nutrient issues, establishing and renewing plants, pruning, and controlling weeds, disease and insects, including our biggest threat, drosophila. There will be time to troubleshoot with this expert panel of researchers and growers.


David Handley, vegetable and small fruit specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Laura McDermott, extension associate, Cornell Cooperative Extension Capital District Vegetable and Small Fruit Program

Helen Whybrow, owner and operator, Knoll Farm, Mad River Valley

Increasing Strawberry Profits

1:30 – 5 p.m. – Main Street Landing

$45 members; $60 nonmembers

(Both berry workshops: $80 members/$95 nonmembers)

This intermediate-level workshop will provide important organic and IPM approaches to help you deepen your understanding of this sensitive crop. Presenters will begin with a discussion of site selection and varieties, followed by nutrition, weeds, renovation, high tunnel production (briefly), low field tunnels (briefly), insects and diseases. Growers Jake Guest and David Marchant will offer insight throughout the workshop through the lens of their matted row or annual culture systems, respectively, and will present on their evolving strawberry production systems toward the end of the session. Focused questions will be welcome throughout.


David Handley, Laura McDermott, David Marchant, Jake Guest.

Farming for Resiliency in a Changing Climate

9 a.m. – 4 p.m. – Main Street Landing

$75 members; $90 nonmembers

This intensive workshop is designed to present a background on the new challenges that climate change is bringing to farming in the region and tools that can go beyond mitigation to greater on-farm resiliency in extreme weather. Presenters will offer both global and local strategies – from methods of building soil resiliency, managing weeds and enhancing crop adaptability, to enhancing buffers on floodplains and in riparian zones by using perennial crops, to using mapping systems as a tool in risk management in whole-farm planning. This workshop will also offer farmers an opportunity to apply the new information and tools to their farms in an interactive whole-farm planning session with presenters at the end of the day. NOFA-VT, in collaboration with Middlebury College, will provide demonstration of online mapping tools, as well as maps, for the participating farmers to use in a farm planning exercise in risk management that they can take away from the workshop and employ on their farms.


Dr. Lewis Ziska, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont state climatologist and professor of geography; Brandon Angrisani, Restoration Agriculture Institute; Justin Kenney, Natural Resources Conservation Service; Bill Hegman, GIS specialist, Middlebury College; Elizabeth Brownlee, UVM Field Naturalist Program; facilitated by Lynda Prim, NOFA-VT vegetable and fruit technical assistance coordinator