Lincoln farmer learned efficiency at Sustainable Food and Farm Conference
Sustainable Food and Farm Conference
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Nevada Union High School
Keynote speakers: Elaine Ingham, Greg Judy and Ben Hartman
Events: Farm tour and mushroom workshop (Friday, sold out); keynote speakers and Food and Farm Expo (Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.); food and farm workshops (Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.)
Four-and-a-half years ago Tammi Riedl bought the farm — in a good way.
Making six figures in the corporate world as a financial controller, she purchased 10 acres in Lincoln. Just like that, Lincoln Hills Farm was born.
Three years after buying the land, Riedl left the corporate world. For the last year-and-a-half, she’s been operating the farm full time. This summer was her first of commercial production.
For the second year in a row, Riedl will attend Sierra Harvest’s Sustainable Food and Farm Conference Friday through Sunday at Nevada Union High School. Organizers expect more than 500 people to attend the three-day event.
“For me, there’s still so much to learn,” she said.
The seventh annual conference, founded by farmers for farmers, begins with a tour of area farms and ranches on Friday, continues with three well-respected industry expert keynote speakers on Saturday, and wraps up Sunday with a variety of workshops.
Sierra Harvest, a nonprofit farm and food education organization, is producing the event for the second straight year.
For years Riedl’s been dipping into her savings, but she said she’s leveling out and moving toward profitability. Last year’s conference was her first, and she said she’s taken a lot of what she learned and applied it to her own farm.
One of last year’s keynote speakers, Jean-Martin Fortier, who wrote the book “The Market Gardener,” had a huge impact. She currently farms about one-quarter acre of her property. On such a small-scale farm, efficiency is critical.
She listened to Fortier, who specializes in organic and biologically intensive cropping practices, read his book and attended his workshop, where she learned to make the most of her land.
“We were expanding our farming area … and we learned a lot of things related to efficiencies,” she said. “When you’re a small-scale farm, every bed and everything you do has to translate into the revenue and the profits of the farm. You can’t waste a lot of time.
“As a new farmer, it’s exciting and you kind of want to grow a lot of different stuff. We’ve only got so many beds, so how do we make this a profitable farm?”
She learned about properly mapping out her farm, crop rotation and crop planting. She learned silage tarps on dormant beds are critical for weed control.
“I also learned I should have bought a walk-behind tractor,” she said, noting she uses no equipment and does everything by hand.
“I think the conference inspired farmers how to use their land,” Sierra Harvest co-founder Amy Retzler said. “With someone like Jean-Martin Fortier, he explains it can be as simple as, ‘This is where I’m storing my tools, so I’m not spending my time looking for tools.’
“I do think farmers in this area, they’re always looking for ways to get more out of the acreage they do have.”
This year’s conference will feature Greg Judy, Elaine Ingham and Ben Hartman.
Judy and his wife Jan run a grazing operation on 1,520 acres in Missouri. They went from near bankruptcy in 1999 to paying off a 200-acre farm and house within three years.
“I’m going to cover all the different subjects it takes to get started for taking a raw piece of ground and turning it into a profitable operation,” Judy said. “That’s kind of our story.”
Ingham is a leader in soil microbiology. She founded Soil FoodWeb Inc. and is a key author of the United State’s Department of Agriculture’s Soil Biology Primer and author of “The Compost Tea Brewing Manual.” Her research on the microbial life of the soil essentially explains why organic growing works.
Hartman is a market farmer who wrote the book “The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work.”
“He’s used the Japanese automotive principle of manufacturing and he’s applied that to farming practices,” Retzler said. “I think that’s fascinating.”
Hartman is the speaker Riedl is looking forward to hearing most this year.
“He calls (his approach) ‘Leaning up on the farm.’ For me, I’m a visionary and I get a really big idea and the next thing we’re doing this and we’re doing that. And you can be too thin and not really be good at anything.”
To contact reporter Stephen Roberson, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4236.
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