Food summit to address impact of local agriculture

What portion of the $300 million-plus spent on food in the Bartholomew-Jackson County region is spent on locally-raised items? When Ken Meter and the Crossroads Resource Center studied this in 2013, the answer was $747,000.

We’ll get an update next month when Meter joins us again, this time for our area’s first local food summit, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at Donner Center, 739 22nd St., Columbus.

Local food summit

The summit is intended to help identify the next steps in developing the local food economy that — among other things — helps to keep more of those food dollars local. The objectives of the summit:Establish connections within the local food system.Learn about current activities, opportunities and best practices.

Identify next steps for local food in the Columbus area.

Meter will update us on the state of our local food economy, and Emily Toner, the Purdue Extension Urban Agriculture Educator in Marion County, will explain the purpose of a local food council. Topic tables in the afternoon will offer discussion on growers guilds, farm-to-school, food councils, shared processing and food safety practices.

A wrap-up will — we hope — put people together with tasks that will advance our local food economy.

The cost is $10 — lunch is included — and registration closes on Feb. 16.

Beginning farmer meetings

Meeting demand for local food requires local producers willing to raise it, and we seem to have them. While we have start-ups on smaller properties, we also see larger operations diversifying small sections of a farm.Purdue Extension’s plan to address the needs of new, beginning and veteran farmers includes the Indiana Small Farms Conference, now in its third year, and county, regional and even national-level learning events. A 2016 calendar will be released soon.In our own county, small/beginning farmer meetings will begin at 10 a.m. Jan. 25 at the Purdue Extension Bartholomew County office at 965 Repp Drive, Columbus. At each meeting, producers will have a chance to network over coffee and pick up ideas and best practices.

The indoor meetings will continue in February, March and in the fourth quarter of the year. The meetings will be informal farm visits from April through September. Among producers, sharing tips, tools and equipment can make a big difference, especially when getting started, and these visits will help to facilitate that while minimizing time away from crops and livestock during the busy growing season.

For larger farms

Two programs aimed at larger producers are slated for Feb. 19. Starting at 9:30 a.m. at the Bartholomew County 4-H Fairgrounds Family Arts Building, applicator training offers continuing credits for both commercial and private pesticide applicators. This training enables those applying pesticides on farm and non-farm properties to keep current with the laws and best practices that help to minimize risk to land, water and people.Presenters will include the irrepressible Fred Whitford on cleaning spray tanks, Robert Zupanzic on weed control in forages and yours truly on pesticide poisoning in livestock.Following a local-beef chili lunch, the Code Red program will be presented from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Code Red is a spreadsheet-based method of capturing critical farm information — accounts, passwords, insurance policies — that could help to keep a family farm running should something happen to a key member of the team. This information is an important step in managing the business, or preparing to pass it to the next generation.

Attorney Ken Roney from Farm Bureau Insurance will be on hand with some motivational real-life stories. Participants should bring a laptop if they have one. Registration closes Feb. 12.

Information, to register

For more information on any of these events, go online at extension.purdue.edu/Bartholomew/Pages/default.aspx or the Bartholomew County Extension Agriculture Facebook page.

To register, call Purdue Extension Bartholomew County at 812-379-1665.