Conference Program


10th Annual Farm and Food Leadership Conference

Feeding Ourselves and Our Country – Now and in the Future

September 25-27, 2016 | Bastrop Convention & Exhibit Center | Bastrop, Texas


General Info | Registration | Lodging & Directions | Speakers | Program

Sponsors & ExhibitorsSilent Auction | Volunteering & Scholarships | Banquet


Conference Program

Sunday, September 25, 2016: Pre-Conference Workshops

Monday, September 26-Tuesday, September 27, 2016: Main Conference 

See below for a list of some of the topics.  More topics & details will be added in July.  Check out some of the speakers’ bios here.


Sunday, September 25, 2016: Pre-Conference Workshops:

On-Farm Food Safety for Produce Growers. Led by Coleen Thornton.
This full-day workshop will focus on how sustainable produce farmers can meet the FDA’s new regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in a way that makes sense for diversified operations using organic growing methods. Food safety is one of the top issues for produce farmers today. Individual consumers, retailers, and schools are all asking questions about whether their food is safe. And for those farmers subject to the new FDA regulations under FSMA, the stakes are even higher.

Coleen Thornton is a certified food safety auditor who is also a small, diversified farmer herself. This is a “don’t miss” for any produce farmer subject to FSMA!  For those who are exempt, come learn more about what you can do to improve food safety on your farm and reassure your buyers that they are getting the safest produce possible.

How to Form a Successful Cooperative. Led by Annelies Lottmann.
The business of farming and ranching can be deeply rewarding, but it also brings unique and sometimes daunting challenges. You don’t have to go it alone! By cooperating with your fellow agricultural producers, you can increase your chances of successful start-up and long-term resilience. Whether you’re looking to formally incorporate a cooperative business or just gain some tools to work together more effectively with neighboring farms, this full-day workshop will help you build the skills you need.

Participants should expect to gain proficiency in: the cooperative business model and how cooperatives incorporate here in Texas; creating a business plan; accessing capital for start-up and growth; and simple effective strategies to help independent entrepreneurs work together. Participants will also have an opportunity to explore their own ideas for collaborative business – and perhaps discover new collaborators – in a peer group.

Productive & Profitable Eco-Farming. Led by Steve Diver, Howard Vlieger, Doug Havemann, Ron Freeman, and Alan Lewis.
Spend the morning learning about regenerative agriculture. You can focus on crops (led by Steve Diver) or livestock production (led by Howard Vlieger and Doug Havemann). In the livestock session, you will learn about soil health, animal health & nutrition, rotational grazing, and the places that it’s worth spending money on livestock production. The session will include information on both 100% grass-fed and grain-supplemented operations, both small and large.

Spend the afternoon learning about marketing from 5th-generation rancher Ron Freeman, sharing the program that has been successful for his ranch. Learn to market a way of life, not just simply a product. Guest speaker Alan Lewis of Natural Grocers will discuss specific issues when marketing to grocery stores.

Monday, September 26 – Tuesday, September 27: Main Conference

Keynote Address | Monday, 9 a.m. | Dr. John Ikerd

Sessions will run throughout the day, Monday and Tuesday, with two concurrent tracks. Check back soon for exact times.

  • Hunting and Foraging for Your Own Table.
  • Growing Food in Your Backyard.
  • Sustainable Sourcing at Retailers and Restaurants
  • Nutrition & Health: Making Sense of the Options
  • The True Cost of Food
  • The Flavor of Living: For Those Who Are Hungry For More Out of Life and Work
  • Local/Grass-Fed/Natural … What Do the Labels REALLY Mean?
  • Water and Agriculture in Texas\
  • Making Local Meaningful: How do we capture the value of the brand?
  • Social Media for Activism and Marketing.
  • The Basics of Grassroots Organizing.
  • Farm Support & Disaster Programs.
  • The Latest on GMOs.
  • The Battlefronts for Food Freedom.

Farm-to-Table Banquet | Monday, 6 p.m.