2009-12-31 / Features

Controlling Your Dairy Destiny

PASA announces special events aimed at Helping Dairy Farmers

Tired of being pummeled by the unpredictability of the dairy industry? Interested in exploring some new ideas and hearing from working dairy farmers about how they have created profitable operations by moving beyond conventional marketing and management models? Ready to farm in ways that build soil, sanity and profits? Thinking about joining the growing number of farmers who are providing high quality, value-added dairy products to meet growing consumer demand?

If you can answer yes – or even just maybe – to any of these questions, or if you are searching for ways to weather the current dairy-farming storm, then the 2010 edition of PASA’s Farming for the Future conference is for you.

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) will hold its 19th annual conference February 4-6, 2010 in State College, Pa. As is the tradition at this very popular event – one of the largest of its kind in the nation – visionary experts in the field of sustainable agriculture will come together to support this year’s theme: The Sustainable Challenge: Providing for a Livable Tomorrow.

As in the past, opening and closing keynote speakers will frame two days of presentations by over 80 speakers, and the conference will include fabulous regional food and exhibitors from all over the country. Unique to this year, the conference will feature three dairy-specific pre-conference tracks on Thursday, February 4, each providing a full day of information, including ideas for innovation and opportunities for networking with other dairy farmers.

The Value-Added Dairy track explores the nitty-gritty of turning excess fluid milk into cash flow for your dairy operation. Frank Kipe from MicroDairy Designs and Peter Dixon of Consider Bardwell Farm will be among the presenters offering down-to-earth advice about facility planning and equipment sourcing, as well as business planning, raw milk logistics and basic cheese making.

Experienced cheese makers will fine-tune their craft and gain knowledge of how to improve their cheeses using information and experience gleaned in the Intermediate Cheese Making track. After morning sessions on caves and cultures, artisan cheese experts Jenny Harris and Jill Erber will lead the afternoon’s cheese tasting and conduct evaluations of participants’ own cheeses.

The Controlling Your Dairy Destiny track will help producers think their way to a better longterm return for their efforts by illustrating that there are multiple avenues to success. Part of negotiating those paths involves understanding how the current state of affairs has come to be. John Bunting, a dairyman from New York who writes for Milkweed, and Michael Stumo, CEO of Coalition for a Prosperous America, will give the background behind pricing structures and explore anti-trust law as it relates to the dairy industry. Learning from the experience, examples and enthusiasm of successful, nonconventional dairymen and woman will play an important role in helping participants choose a path that focuses on the goals and unique resources of their individual situations. Sue Miller, Kim Seeley, Duane Hertzler and Francis Thicke will be sharing their stories of how they each gained control of their dairy’s destiny and what they envision the future of dairy farming to be.

These three pre-conference tracks provide a very good opportunity for multiple representatives of any individual dairy operation to benefit. But this year’s emphasis on dairying also does not end on Thursday. Tucked among workshops on composting, small grain production and integrated pest management are Friday and Saturday workshops at which presenters will share their knowledge and experience about running a goat microdairy, changing raw milk regulations across the country and organic dairy production.

Successful dairy farming strategies have long been an important part of PASA’s annual conference, with the results showing in the strong and growing diversity of the dairy industry in Pennsylvania. “The average size dairy farm in Pennsylvania has about 70 cows, and fortunately, any operation that size or smaller is ideally suited for valueadded production and direct-toconsumer sales,” said PASA Executive Director Brian Snyder. He continued, “A few other states may have more total cows, or higher milk production, but we in Pennsylvania place at the very top in terms of two important indicators: the ingenuity of our farmers and proximity to the greatest number of informed consumers.” Additionally, PASA has always promoted grassbased systems for dairy farms of all sizes, even several hundred cows, as an ideal strategy for managing costs, product quality and environmental stewardship.

In existence since 1992, PASA’s membership represents more than 5,000 farmers, individuals, businesses and organizations that support local and regional food systems, and who share the mission of “promoting profitable farms that produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural environment”. The Farming for the Future conference has grown to draw about 2,000 participants from 30 to 40 states and at least half a dozen countries.

Information and registration for the Farming for the Future conference, including the preconference tracks on dairying and other topics, can be found online at www.pasa-farming. org/conference2010 or by contacting the PASA office at 814- 349-9856. Scholarship and workshare opportunities are available.

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