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Ag conference highlights strategies for success

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With a three-state draw, the Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum enters its sixth year with workshops on sustainable agriculture Jan. 25-27. Registration is now open at www.foodfarmforum.org.

The conference theme, Strategies for Success in Demanding Times, draws on the expertise of a diverse set of innovative "founding farmers and ranchers" who have successfully weathered the ups and downs of agri-business. Bruce Talbott, a fifth generation orchardist, Dan James of the James Ranch, George Whitten of San Juan Ranch, and longtime orchardist Santiago Barajas will share key strategies that have enabled them to survive and thrive.

This year's conference brings new elements to the conference such as a farmer-to-farmer invention convention with cash prizes, an affordable produce safety certification class, and bilingual farm worker to ag entrepreneur sessions designed to inspire and provide resources for beginning farmers.

Headlining the conference is Temple Grandin, PhD., world-renowned expert in decoding animal behavior. Considered the most accomplished adult with autism in the world, she will present a special evening Jan. 27 at the Montrose Pavilion, open to the public via separate registration. A book signing and community reception follows her presentation. In total, 22 workshops designed for advanced to beginning producers include sessions on maximizing season extension, cover crop selection, innovative livestock management, soil health, the current state of hemp, livestock and crop certification options, bio-control of pests, whole farm risk management, labor management, scaling up for wholesale markets, aged cheese making, honey production and more.

The National Young Farmers Coalition and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union host a Produce Safety Training Certification Course Jan. 25 and 26. "This FSMA required training is one of the most affordable in the state," says organizer Harrison Topp. Two additional half-day workshops presented by Kirk Gadzia on Managing Nature as a Whole for Healthy Land, People and Profit, and Dan Hobbs on Advanced Scaling Up for Crop Producers provide in-depth learning opportunities.

Attendees receive discounts when they attend both the pre-conference workshop and the forum. Scholarships are available by application to FFA, 4-H, and beginning farmers or ranchers.

The Valley Food Partnership, CSU Extension, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, National Young Farmers Coalition and Shavano Conservation District organize the conference collaboratively. For a complete list of topics or to register please visit foodfarmforum.org or call 970-249-3935.

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