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2020 OGRAIN Organic Grain Winter Conference set for Jan. 24-25

Farmers with interest in organic row crop and small grain production should plan to attend the fifth annual OGRAIN (Organic Grain Resource and Information Network) Winter Conference, which is set for Jan. 24-25, 2020 on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. This two-day conference will highlight issues critical to organic crop success in a changing environment.

“Farmers are being hit with so many unpredictable factors that are out of their control,” says OGRAIN program leader Erin Silva, associate professor and extension organic agriculture specialist in the UW–Madison Department of Plant Pathology. “The OGRAIN conference will focus on increasing farm resiliency, taking advantage of the diversified crops, markets, and soil-building practices that organic grain production has to offer.”

Conference attendees will hear from two featured speakers, both considered leaders in sustainable farming. Thor Oechsner, founder and owner of Oechsner Farms, will share insights gained from raising a diversity of organic grains for food-grade and craft beverage markets on 1,200 acres in southcentral New York. Iowa farmer and philosopher Fred Kirschenmann, president of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, will bring inspirational thoughts on building resiliency when times are tough.

In addition to these presentations, there will be 15 workshop sessions on topics key to organic grain success. These workshops will be led by farmers, researchers and industry representatives, and will feature a number of farmer panels to allow learning from a diversity of voices and experiences.

Planned workshops/panels include: innovative weed management tools; building fertility with nitrogen and cover crops; working with macro and micro soil nutrients; lessons from UW hemp research; alternative small grain crops; ecological management for tough weeds; harvest and post-harvest tips for long-term grain quality; optimizing organic crop rotations; turning problems into solutions; and more.

Numerous exhibiters will provide invaluable connections with businesses serving organic farmers in the Midwest, including equipment, seed and input sales, consultants, buyers and more. Networking among the 200+ attendees, speakers and suppliers has historically been rated as one of the most valuable aspects of this targeted conference.

Anyone interested in transitioning to organic or improving their organic farming systems will find something of value at the event. The conference is designed to help producers interested in exploring organic grain production transition, livestock farmers interested in growing their own feed, produce growers curious about adding grain to their system, or anyone considering or currently growing organic grain.

For more information and to register now, visit The cost is $80 for early registration (before Jan. 10) and $90 for regular registration (open through Jan. 20). A limited number of walk-in registrations will be available for $100. The registration fee includes breakfast and lunch on both days of the conference, as well as a resource manual.

For questions, please contact Harriet Behar at or (608) 872-2164.

This conference is made possible by a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. OGRAIN is a collaborative effort between the UW–Madison’s Organic and Sustainable Cropping Systems Program, Division of Extension, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Farm and Industry Short Course, as well as the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.