Small farms make big impact

DANVILLE, Ind. — When it comes to farms in Indiana, there is not one way to describe them all. The diversity of the farms that make up the state and the growing number of small and alternative farming operations is exactly why a Purdue Small Farm and Sustainable Agriculture Team formed.

It is because of the feedback from the small farm community wanting an opportunity to get together and network that an annual conference began, said Michael O’Donnell, co-chair of the event and Purdue Extension educator of agriculture and natural resources in Delaware County.

“There weren’t a lot of opportunities like this in Indiana for Hoosiers who are interested in alternative farming, smaller-scale farming and diversified farming to be able to make connections, collaborate and learn,” he said.

This year marked the third Indiana Small Farm Conference, which attracted more than 200 attendees. The focus of the event is both networking and education.

Because the smaller farm operations are so diverse, there is a challenge when it comes to planning what topics should be discussed.

“When talking to this group, they’re producing anything from bees, vegetables and fruit to specialty grain and livestock,” O’Donnell said. “We want to reflect that diversity in the sessions we offer.”

Tracks covered anything from pasture poultry, beekeeping and farm management to woodlands, livestock and vegetable production.

One of classes was on recordkeeping. Chris Blanchard, veteran farmer and educator, talked about the importance of managing a farm.

The Iowa native owns and operates a consulting and education firm, Purple Pitchfork, and although he no longer farms, he has 25 years of experience as a farmer to draw upon.

More and more farmers are seeking information on recordkeeping, whether it is regulatory, value-added for organic certification or compliance for taxes.

A common mistake farmers make is not making recordkeeping a part of workflow, Blanchard said.

“Farmers are standing in the firehouse of reality, and if they don’t create a system that enables them to complete these tasks, they won’t get done,” he said.

By creating a structure and making recordkeeping actionable, farmers will have success on the operation. More information can be found at

A goal for future conferences is to continue to build on the success the conference has had, O’Donnell said. The event is constantly evolving based on feedback received by the conference attendees.

“As the community grows, we hope to grow with it and continue to support it,” O’Donnell said.

More information about the Purdue Small Farm Team and the conference can be found at


Amie Sites can be reached at 317-726-5391, ext. 3, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Sites.

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