Annual OSU conference offers how-to advice for small farmers

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Farmer Frank Morton harvests lettuce seed plants. He spoke at OSU's Small Farm Conference in 2013. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)
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An estimated 6,000 people have attended since its inception

For more than a decade, Oregon State University has been hosting an annual conference that helps aspiring and established small farmers get ahead.

Attendees have included cattle ranchers, vegetable growers, suburbanites, homesteaders, greenhorns and seasoned farmers. A record 800 people attended in 2012. Over the years, participants have learned how to harvest rainwater, market meat products, develop a business plan, sell products to schools, graft vegetables and lease land.

Caitlyn Menne, of Goat Song Farm and Dairy, attended in 2012 and wrote: "My pen was madly writing everything from slug control to greenhouse styles; kale varieties to planting dates to running a full-diet, year-around CSA. Totally inspiring! I was filled to the brim with ideas and schemes."

Oregon was home to 38,553 farms in 2007, almost half of which reported sales of less than $2,500. Almost 14,000 were "residential/lifestyle" farms in which the main operator's primary occupation was not farming. About 9,500 had less than 10 acres.

Sources: Garry Stephenson, the coordinator of OSU Extension's small farms program; U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2007 Census of Agriculture.

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