2018 Conference Program


October 14-16, 2018 | Historic Downtown McKinney, Texas


General InfoSpeakers | Program 

Conference Sponsors | Silent Auction 

Plans are being made for the 2019 Farm & Food Leadership Conference. Until plans are finalized, take a look at our 2018 schedule for a sampling of what this annual conference offers.

Conference Program

(Times remain subject to change.)

Sunday, October 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.:

Pre-conference workshops for producers:
(Details on each workshop are below.)

  • How to form a successful cooperative
  • On-Farm Food Safety for Produce Growers
  • Food Safety Training for Processing Facilities

Monday, October 15, 8:30 a.m.-5:20 p.m.:

8:30 a.m. – Welcome

8:45-9:45 a.m. – Keynote by author and geologist David Montgomery.

9:55-10:55 a.m., Session 1

  • Track 1: Health Freedom (Scott Tips). Learn about the issues affecting your freedom of choice in health care, from taking supplements to seeing alternative practitioners.  Get an inside view on Codex Alimentarius, and the impact of international policies on your health choices.
  • Track 2: Bees: From honey bees to natives (Ryan Giesecke). Learn about modern beekeeping and threats to our honey bee population, real honey vs. food fraud, species diversity, the value of native bees, and how to maintain a native-bee friendly yard or farm.
  • Track 3: Funding Our Foodshed, The Rolling Roadshow/Part 1 (Jarred Maxwell, Eric de Valpine, Tim Traister). Presented by Austin Foodshed Investors and Capital Farm Credit. Regardless of what type of business you run – farm, ranch, food manufacturing, waste recovery, whatever – all businesses need solid financial systems. Join us as we discuss a simple financial tracking and reporting system, and how that system will have you more prepared when going after capital. We will discuss all of the funding sources available to ag and food entrepreneurs – The Funding Ecosystem – and how to utilize each source appropriately.
  • Workshop: Fermenting your own food (Nancy Falster). A small-group consultation on fermenting all types of foods, with a fermenting demonstration and time for questions and troubleshooting.

10:55-11:20 a.m. Book signing with David Montgomery and Anne Biklé

11:20 a.m.-12:35 p.m., Session 2

  • Track 1: The case for and against GMOs (Howard Vlieger, Neil Walter). What are the pros and cons of GMOs? Hear from a farmer who uses GMOs, and one who doesn’t, about the reasons for their decisions and the results for farmers, consumers, and our society.
  • Track 2: Soil health and rangeland management (David Montgomery, Wylie Harris). Why does soil health matter to farmers & consumers? Experts in soil and range management discuss the why’s and how’s of managing livestock to build, rather than degrade, your soil.
  • Track 3: The Austin Foodshed Investors Rolling Roadshow/Part 2. (Jarred Maxwell, Eric de Valpine, Tim Traister). Once your finances are in order, how do you know if you’re “bankable” or “investable”? What do those term even mean?  We’ll discuss the finer points of debt, how loan decisions are made and what type of companies are ready for investment from private investors. We will have a Q&A session with our panel of speakers, with representatives from as many funding sources as we can wrangle, so bring your questions.
  • Workshop: Making bone broth (Joanne Bondy). Known for her gourmet stocks and broths, Joanne demonstrates how and why you should make your own broth, including how to start with the very best ingredients to boost nutrition and gut health.

Lunch will be “on-your-own,” with plenty of great options right on the Square. Click here to see the selections.

2-3:30 p.m., Session 3

  • Track 1: Food as development: Economic, social, and environmental (Darryl Birkenfeld, Tiana Suazo, Eva Szalkai Casky). The word “development” may connote shopping centers and housing sprawl, but this panel looks at how food systems can promote economic, social, and environmental development.
  • Track 2: Local alcohol: From farm to glass (Toby Thomason, Robert Likarish, Eric Herm, Brandon Ade). More farmers are discovering (and filling) a demand for heritage and sustainably grown grains, particularly from maltsters, brewers and distillers. Is there room for more growth?
  • Track 3: Marketing for small producers (Wylie Harris, Robert Maggiani, Casey Cutler). How can small-scale producers get their products to consumers? Learn about farmers’ markets, co-operatives, and other creative ideas for how to effectively market your goods.
  • Workshop: Getting started with beekeeping (Ryan Giesecke). If you’re considering keeping bees, Ryan will talk you through the reasons to give it a try, the considerations and concerns involved, how to prepare for your first colony, and where to source them.

3:50-5:20 p.m., Session 4

  • Track 1: Food sovereignty: How can communities reclaim control over their food? (Tiana Suazo, Candace Thompson, Alex Racelis, Amelia Soto-Sanchez). Cultural and economic issues intertwine in the complex issue of who controls the way food is produced, traded, and consumed at the local level. What does “food sovereignty” mean in different communities?
  • Track 2: What is good food and how to find it (Brett Tolley, Alan Lewis, Amanda Vanhoozier)
  • Track 3: Diversifying income streams for farmers (Megan Neubauer, Jennie Herm, Sean Wall, Brad Stufflebeam). Learn how to know what’s really in your food and where it came from, from seafood to produce, at groceries and at farmers markets and beyond.
  • Workshop: Growing the “farm” in “farm-to-school” (Beatrice Watson). If you are a farmer or rancher looking for a new marketplace for your products, consider school food service. From the cafeteria to the classroom, your products are used to educate students about where food comes from and generate excitement for trying new, healthy, farm fresh foods. Join us as we share success stories, challenges, and explore ways to dig into new partnership opportunities with schools.

6 p.m.: On-Farm Dinner

Tuesday, Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m.-4:50 p.m.

8:30-9:30 a.m. – Keynote by author and biologist Anne Biklé

9:30-9:45 a.m. – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Forum

9:55-10:55 a.m., Session 1

  • Track 1: From TPP to tariffs: The impact of trade on farmers and eaters (Patty Lovera). What is the real impact if China (or any other trade partner) closes its markets? How did we get to this point, and how can we move forward in a way that supports both farmers and consumers?
  • Track 2: Organic home gardening (Howard Garrett). Hear the latest developments in organic methods for the home garden, presented by “The Dirt Doctor,” from plant selection and soil health to pest and disease control.
  • Track 3: Changing people’s buying habits to impact our food systems (Brett Tolley). Shifting people from the industrial food system poses a significant challenge. Hear how family fisheries are changing buying patterns of restaurants and large institutions, and then is using that new consumer base to push for political change.

10:55-11:20 a.m.: Book signing with Howard Garrett, Jesse Griffiths, Sean Wall, Pam Walker, Eric Herm)

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m., Session 2

  • Track 1: Outlook on the upcoming Texas legislative session (Judith McGeary). What’s the outlook for food and agriculture in the 2019 legislative session? Come hear about what FARFA has in the works and share your opinions to help develop bills that will allow local food producers to thrive.
  • Track 2: Small-scale poultry production: From backyard chickens to small farming (Cameron Molberg). Whether you’re just wanting fresh eggs (or meat) for your family or looking for income production by raising poultry, this session will provide you with the basics on regulations, breed selection, health and sanitation, feed, and processing.
  • Track 3: Meat: What’s on your plate? (Patty Lovera). Lab meat, plant-based meats, conventional meat – learn what industry developments could mean for local & grass-fed producers as well as consumers.
  • Workshop: Selling locally produced foods to retailers (Alan Lewis). Our speaker, who supports the development of small local food producers for Natural Grocers, shares insight into how to work with food retailers,  whether they’re small markets or national chains. Learn what you need to do to get prepared, both in your business and your marketing.

Lunch will be “on-your-own,” with plenty of great options right on the Square. Click here to see the selections.

1:45-3 p.m., Session 3

  • Track 1: Beginning farmers: Challenges and opportunities (Thomas Locke, Jeff Bednar). As concern grows about who will replace our aging farmer population, what do we need to do to cultivate new farmers? Learn more about both the opportunities and challenges faced by new farmers, and explore how we can bridge the gap from interest to success.
  • Track 2: Nutrition, your gut, & your health (Anne Biklé, Lexi Brown). Join this session to first get the basics on nutrition – and then dive deeper into the science underlying the role of the microbial world in food, diet, and health.
  • Track 3: Foraging & hunting for your food (Jesse Griffiths, Sean Wall). Jesse (a chef known for serving wild game and fish) and Sean (a wildlife specialist who provides half his family’s meals using foraged plants) will help you fill your table with foods straight from nature.
  • Workshop: Managed grazing techniques (Ricky Linex). Learn more about how to be a good rangeland steward, how to manage your grass for the long term and changing land management techniques benefiting livestock and wildlife. Bring your questions about your farm and ranch to this small-group discussion.

3:20-4:50 p.m., Session 4

  • Track 1: Water for everyone: How can we get there? (Ruthie RedmondHugh Fitzsimons, Judith McGeary). Water for drinking, washing, farming, and our environment – how do we meet all these needs, now and in the future?  Texas rivers, lakes, and aquifers are already overextended thanks to dangerously short-term thinking.  Learn more about what is happening, and what we need to change to provide a sustainable future.
  • Track 2: Chefs’ panel: Working with local producers (Robert Lyford, Misti Norris, Jesse Griffiths, James Brown, Ryan Farnau). Chefs who are dedicated to sourcing locally and two producers who have built strong businesses selling to restaurants discuss what makes a successful producer/food business partnership.
  • Track 3: Scaling up sustainable livestock: Why & how … and why not & how not! (Matt Hamilton, Taylor Collins). How can we move more of our food system to sustainable livestock production, for meat and dairy?  What are the pitfalls, both ecologically and economically?  What are good – and not so good – ways to address the issues?

Sunday, October 14, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; full-day workshops for farmers and producers.

1.  HOW TO FORM A SUCCESSFUL COOPERATIVE: How can a small-scale farmer or rancher access the same economies of scale and achieve the same market saturation as their much larger competitors? By Cooperating! Cooperation — with other farmers, with customers, and with a range of community members — can help farmers achieve success as vital parts of the food system. Led by   Annelies Lottmann, co-op development experts and co-op founders from around the state will explore the many ways that cooperation can build strong, resilient farmer and rancher networks as well as a committed, reliable customer base. This full-day interactive workshop will address the following topics:

    • Reducing expenses and increasing market access through co-ops.
    • Start-up process basics.
    • Roundtable discussion with existing Texas agricultural co-op participants.
    • Co-op business planning and design.
    • Worker cooperative farms and cooperative land trusts.
    • Legal and tax considerations for cooperatives.

2.  ON-FARM FOOD SAFETY FOR PRODUCE GROWERS:  This official PSA Grower Training Course will smooth the transition to regulatory and third-party audit compliance, and make food safety part of growing your business. Your trainer will provide the “why and how” of managing your risk assessment, food safety standard operating procedures, and documentation to meet FSMA requirements. Participants will be eligible to receive a certificate from the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) that verifies they have completed the training course.

3.  FOOD SAFETY TRAINING FOR PROCESSING FACILITIES: Many food manufacturers, co-ops, food hubs, and even some farms are now subject to FSMA’s “facilities rule,” which requires a food safety plan addressing Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls.  The FSPCA Preventative Controls for Human Food training will give you the information and resources needed to write your own food safety plan rather than hiring a consultant.

The new FSMA regulations require every processing facility to have a trained individual who has completed a specialized, two-part course. This person will oversee implementation of the facility’s food safety plan and other key tasks. The first part of what’s called a “blended course” is online. Our workshop fulfills Part 2 of the course. You must first complete the online Part 1, after which you will receive an email that will be your entry pass for this Part 2 course. Registration for Part 1 is available at https://apps.dasnr.okstate.edu/fapc.okstate.edu/preventive-controls-blended-course-online. (Note: businesses that gross less than $1 million in sales of all food annually are exempt from the requirement.)