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


Thanks to everyone who made the 2016 Conference such a success! Check back here soon for news about our 2017 Conference, to be held Sept. 24-26 in McKinney, Texas. In the meantime, here’s what happened at the most recent event.


Conference Program

Sunday, September 25, 2016: Pre-Conference Workshops | 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Full-day workshops on produce safety, forming co-operatives, and productive & profitable eco-farming.  Please scroll down for more information. 

Monday, September 26, 2016 (Note: Times remain subject to change.)

8:45-9 a.m.


9-10 a.m.

Track 1. The Flavor of Living: For Those Who Are Hungry for More out of Life and Work. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question, “Is this all there is to life?” or “How will I ever get it all done?” this talk is for you. Learn how to create genuine satisfaction by infusing your life and work with true flavor as you discover how food builds community. Sandra Lewis

Track 2. DC Update: Free Trade, the Farm Bill, and More. The latest news on national issues including the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, fair competition regulations, and other current developments. Patty Lovera


Track 1. Growing Food at Home: Backyard Gardening for Abundant Food Production & Health. Learn the importance of soil biology and fertility, along with bio-intensive and broad-scale cultivation methods, to produce beautiful gardens that yield nutritious home-grown foods. Steve Diver

Track 2. Profit Plus Integrity: Building a Robust Local & Sustainable Food System. How do we bring meaning to the words “local” and “sustainable?” Find out what’s keeping the segment at less than 3 percent of the market and how we can change that. Sue Beckwith, Errol Schweizer, Curt Nelson

Noon-1:30 p.m.

Keynote Address | Dr. John Ikerd | Lunch

1:30-3 p.m.

Track 1. Sustainable Sourcing at Retailers and Restaurants. What is the importance of sourcing local, including the impacts on the supply chain? The panel discusses how much local sourcing is happening now and what challenges exist in making it more widespread. Brad Stufflebeam, Reed Shelger, Alan Lewis, Stephen Paprocki

Track 2. The Future of Water in Texas & Its Impact on Agriculture. Water is essential for all life, but also for economic activity. Texas faces immense challenges with a rapidly growing population and increasing pressure on a limited resource. Learn how you can safeguard the future of water (and food) in Texas. Robert Potts, Susana Canseco, Judith McGeary

3:30-5 p.m.

Track 1. Nutrition & Health: Making Sense of the Options. This session won’t be about telling you WHAT to eat or espouse a specific diet, but it will provide basic steps to reduce toxins and increase nutrition in your diet as well as how to assess what’s right for you individually. Trevida Trevino, Rhadia Gleis

Track 2. Grassroots Activism: Organizing for Change. Want to make a difference but don’t know where to start? Do you feel that one person’s voice doesn’t really matter? Learn how to use your voice to become an effective advocate for the causes you care about most. Patty Lovera

5-6 p.m.

Social Hour Plus Cooking Demonstration (Sandra Lewis) & Beekeeping Demonstration (John Swan/Wicked Bee)

6-7 p.m.

Documentary Screening | “Written on Water: A Modern Tale of a Dry West”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016 

9-10:30 a.m.

Track 1. The True Cost of Food: Why Should You Bother? Local and sustainable food is too often viewed as an elitist movement of the wealthy paying for the prestige of eating organic.  Learn about why real food costs what it does and why paying more for local and sustainable food is truly a long-term investment in your health and the health of future generations. Dr. John Ikerd, Patty Lovera, Pati Jacobs

Track 2. Farm Financials: Government Programs & Private Funding Options. Discover resources available to farmers facing financial pressures. Learn about government programs, including new forms of whole farm insurance, and avenues for private investment to help farmers survive disasters and grow. Judith Canales, Mike Morris, Jarred Maxwell

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Track 1. The Facts and Myths of Food Waste and Abundance. How and why does so much food end up wasted? Find out the implications for the food system as a whole and what we can do about it. Josh Blaine, Susie Marshall, Melody McClary, Dr. Robert Young

Track 2. The Latest on GMOs. Science, economics, and politics: learn what’s happening with genetically engineered crops and the associated chemicals.  In the wake of the DARK Act, what comes next?  Howard Vlieger, Alan Lewis

12:30-1:30 p.m.


1:30-2:30 p.m.

Track 1. Industrial Agriculture: Sustaining the Unsustainable. How and why the world continues to support Big Ag and the price we all pay as a result. Dr. Doug Constance

Track 2. Food Freedom & the Upcoming Texas Legislative Session. What’s the latest with raw milk in Texas and an update on farm and local food bills to be introduced during the 2017 Session. Judith McGeary

3-4:30 p.m.

Track 1. Hunting and Foraging for Your Own TableFilling your table with foods from “the wild.” Jesse Griffiths, Susan Ebert

Track 2. The Missing Piece: Local, Sustainable Grains. While talk about local food often focuses on produce and animal products, what’s the role of grain, a staple in the diet of so many? Learn about the latest methods of raising, processing, and marketing sustainable grains in Texas. Butch Tindell, Shahar Yarden

Check out the speakers’ bios here.

Pre-Conference Workshops | Sunday, September 25, 2016 | 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. (Lunch Provided)

On-Farm Food Safety for Produce Growers. Led by Coleen Thornton.

The new regulatory and legal environment make it imperative that food safety become part of our daily lives. Find out how you can smooth the transition to regulatory and third-party audit compliance, deal with auditors, and make food safety part of growing your business. Coleen Thornton, GLOBAL G.A.P. Food Safety Auditor, farm food safety consultant, and farmer, will provide the “why and how” of managing your risk assessment, food safety standard operating procedures, and documentation.

During the morning session, you’ll get the information you need in order to review your farm’s risks. During the afternoon, you will build on the morning’s knowledge to develop your own food safety policies, procedures, and documentation processes to take home and put to work, reducing your business’s product liability risks. Emphasis will be on ways to meet regulation and third-party scheme compliance within your normal work flow, keeping documentation easy and convenient (so that it gets done), and developing processes that will get you through an audit, with as little disruption to your business as 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, Don Davis, and Ron Freeman.

Spend the morning learning about regenerative agriculture. You can focus on crops (led by Steve Diver) or livestock production (led by Howard Vlieger and Don Davis). In the crops session, you will learn about optimizing an organic crop production system with an emphasis on market farming. Topics will include weed management, soil fertility, and the latest approaches that improve soil biology and health. 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.