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Growing More Organic (02/15/2006)
The 17th annual Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference will be held at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on February 23-25. Conference organizers from MOSES, the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, anticipate attendance to exceed the 1800 people that attended this event in 2005, as a growing number of Midwestern producers attempt to satisfy the growing consumer demand for organically produced food.

The conference has become known as a key educational event in the organic farming community in the U.S., not only because it is the largest conference of its kind in the U.S., but also due to its practical, how-to workshops designed to help farmers make the transition to organic farming.

According to Faye Jones, executive director of the Spring Valley, Wisconsin-based MOSES, this year's theme ‘Growing More Organic!' echoes the dramatic increase in consumer demand for organic food in the US and around the world. Jones says, "It is abundantly clear that we need more Midwestern organic producers, whether it be for dairy, meat, poultry, produce, or livestock feed and grain. The demand for organic food is still way ahead of our current supply, and there is a significant on-farm price premium for organically grown products."

Jim Riddle is an organic farmer, inspector and certification trainer from Winona, Minnesota that was recently named as the University of Minnesota's new outreach coordinator for organic agriculture. Riddle says, "The Upper Midwest Conference is really the premier place for farmers to come in order to learn from one another, and connect with the organic suppliers and infrastructure necessary to make their farm organic." Riddle is the immediate past chairman of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board.

This year's conference features 59 workshops, 130 exhibitors and keynote addresses by Michael Ableman, author of the critically acclaimed From the Good Earth: A Celebration of Growing Food Around the World; Michael Sligh, with the Seeds & Breeds Project; and Leslie Duram, professor of Environmental Management at the University of Illinois Carbondale, author of Good Growing. On Thursday, February 23, 2006, the conference hosts the Organic University, nine separate all-day seminars on specific production methods. New this year, Chef Monique Hooker hosts Coulee Chefs Cook Organic! on Saturday afternoon, Feb 25th. Participants will enjoy fine cuisine made with local organic food and join area restaurateurs and local celebrity tasters in a presentation of excellent cooking.

Registration is $165 for the conference, which includes activities on Thursday evening, all day Friday and Saturday, as well as breakfast and lunch. Food and drink at the conference is organically and locally produced whenever possible. For complete information, visit www.mosesorganic.org or contact the MOSES office at 715-772-3153. 


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