Conference Program

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September 24-26 | Historic Downtown McKinney, Texas

General Info | Lodging & Directions | Speakers | On-Farm Dinner | Registration 

Conference Sponsors | Volunteering & Scholarships | Exhibitors | Silent Auction 


Conference Program


Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017: Pre-Conference Workshops | Heard Natural Science Museum

Full-day workshops on holistic planned grazing, on-farm produce safety, and forming co-operatives. Details on the pre-conference workshops can be found below.

NEW PROGRAM ADDITION: Chestnut Square Historic Village, the venue for McKinney’s nationally acclaimed farmers market, is hosting a mixer for all conference attendees, Sunday evening, 5:30-7 p.m. Picnic-style food supplied by Buck Creek Farm of Paducah, Texas, beer, and other beverages will be served. Come and enjoy music, food, drinks, and lively conversations! Please RSVP during your online registration. (SORRY! The Sunday mixer event is “sold-out!”)

Monday, Sept. 25, & Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 | McKinney Performing Arts Center on Downtown Square 


Monday – Times subject to change

9 a.m.: Welcome

9:15-10:15 a.m.: Keynote by Fred Kirschenmann

10:30-noon: Session 1:

  • Activism at the local level. Often the greatest impact you can have is at the local level. Hear insights from people who have engaged their local communities through nonprofits, appointed boards, and even running for elected office so that you, too, can get your voice heard. Casey McAuliffe, Adrienne Haschke, Sara Albert
  • Climate change: Looking past the “cause debate” to build resilient systems. Move past the arguments about whether humans have caused climate change — learn what needs to be done for our food system, to survive and mitigate future drought and other severe weather events. Fred Kirschenmann, Lisa Bellows, Barbara Bellows, Walt Davis
  • Access to government resources for small farmers. Representatives from government and non-governmental agencies review a variety of economic, educational, and technical assistance programs for small-scale farm operations. Discover opportunities you never knew existed. Richard De Los Santos, Henry Krusekopf, Mackenzie Moore, Kevin Ellis
  • Small Group Consultation: A Q&A on Cooperatives. Get your questions answered by a leading expert on forming successful cooperatives. Annelies Lottmann

Noon-1:30: Lunch is on your own, with five farm-to-table options on the Square, plus numerous other eateries and shops to visit.

1:30-2:45 p.m.: Session 2

  • Effective legislative advocacy. If you think signing a petition actually makes an impact, you’ll want to find out why it’s probably the least effective form of advocacy out there. Learn what truly works to influence legislators and how to be the most impactful advocate possible. Judith McGeary, Russell Langley
  • Native plants & seeds: Alternatives that sustain our environment. Native plants provide beauty and value, while preserving water resources and wildlife. The founder of Native American Seeds explains how the most worthwhile contribution we can make to the environment is in our own backyard. Bill Neiman
  • Growing sustainable grains. There’s an important missing piece in most discussions of local food systems … grains. Find out how small-scale farmers are growing and successfully marketing small grains utilizing completely sustainable methods. Butch Tindell
  • Small Group Consultation: Farmers’ Market Q&A. Wondering how to tell if a market and its vendors are “green washing?” Or are you thinking about starting a farmers’ market in your community? This is the place to get answers. Amanda Vanhoozier

3:15-4:30 p.m.: Session 3

  • Farm Bill, corporate mergers, and the news from DC. The latest news on national issues including the 2018 Farm Bill, a regulatory perspective on mega-mergers like Monsanto/Bayer, the possible renegotiation of NAFTA, and other current policy developments in the agricultural spectrum. Patty Lovera
  • Activating your microbiota for health. We all know that microscopic yeasts, fungi, and bacteria all contribute to our health and wellness. Our speaker is a human nutrition expert who will explain how what we eat can either enhance or destroy the balance of those important “gut organisms.” Jonathan Clinthorne
  • How do we sustain Farm-to-Table? Chefs from some of Texas’ most influential farm-to-table restaurants plus representatives from farms and ranches that have built extremely successful farm-restaurant relationships discuss the current state of the farm-to-table movement and how to build on it. Andrew Wiseheart, Felix Florez, Michael Mosley, Josh Barton, Matt McCallister, Robert Lyford
  • Small Group Consultation: A networking session on Food Policy Boards. This is a unique opportunity for members of local food policy boards statewide to gather and share thoughts and ideas. Adrienne Haschke

6 p.m.: Farm-to-Table Dinner at Pure Land Organic Farm, McKinney, Texas (directions to Pure Land Organic)


Tuesday – Times subject to change

8:30 – 9:30 a.m.: Plenary session with Alan Lewis

9:35 – 10:35 a.m.: Session 1

  • GMO Basics. If you’re still confused about the GMO controversy, this session provides historic perspective on development of genetically modified organisms, reviews the research on the health impacts, and explains how the influence wielded by GMO-producing corporations has far-reaching implications. Howard Vlieger
  • Wild foods: A guide to foraging. Discover how to fill your plate and build entire meals around foods from “the wild.” Learn about foraging from a Dallas area chef known for her use of ingredients found in nature. Misti Norris
  • Building the ranks: Creating opportunities for military veterans & young farmers. As the average age of U.S. farmers continues to rise (along with concerns about who will replace them), greater opportunities are developing for aspiring farmers. Learn about the movement to bring young people and military veterans into farming careers, the challenges, and the opportunities. Lorig Hawkins, Erin Kimbrough
  • Small Group Consultation: Advice from a successful grass-fed beef producer & butcher. Find out what this local rancher would tell his younger self about the livestock industry … if he could go back in time. Matt Hamilton

10:55 a.m. – 12:10 p.m.: Session 2

  • GMOs: The latest developments. This in-depth look at genetically engineered foods offers important information on the most recent research as well as on continued strategies by industrial agriculture to seize control of our food supply. Alan Lewis, Howard Vlieger
  • Protecting our pollinators. Our speakers – a wildlife biologist and a fourth-generation beekeeper – help us understand the role we play in addressing declining pollinator numbers. Learn about the plants you should be growing as hosts for specific wildlife, as well as organic methods for addressing honey bee health. Ricky Linex, Danny Weaver
  • Farmers’ markets … what’s working and what’s not. Where are farmers’ markets on the horizon of local food systems?  Consumers, farmers/ranchers, vendors, farmers’ market organizers! Come tune into a much-needed discussion addressing changes in the markets, addressing new challenges and staying innovative into the future. Amanda Vanhoozier, Kim Pierce, Robert Hutchins, Doug Williams
  • Small Group Consultation; A demonstration and Q&A on fermentation. Want to save money and improve your health by making your own fermented foods? This is the place to learn! Nancy Falster

12:10 – 1:40: Lunch is on your own, with five farm-to-table options on the Square, plus numerous other eateries and shops to visit.

1:40-3:10 p.m.: Session 3

  • Water and the future of our food. With a rapidly growing population and many areas of limited rainfall, water is one of the most hotly contested resources in Texas. Learn about what can be done to safeguard the future of water, both for our communities and for agricultural use. Janice Bezanson, Judith McGeary, Sara Rountree Schlessinger
  • Food access: Getting healthy food to more people. The issue of adequate access to fresh, nutritious foods is increasingly being examined in social and political conversations. Hear from four experts on the issues of food access, learn about what solutions are working best, and find ways you can engage with this topic in your community. Clarice Criss, Justin Young, Susie Marshall, Maureen Cummings
  • Alternative revenue streams for small farmers. Hear from a panel of farmers who sought out niche markets and built unique business models around their specialized crops. Find out how to research the market in your area to identify the “sweet spot” that will enhance your farm’s bottom line. Andrea Shackelford, Doug Havemann, Marie Tedei, Megan Neubauer, Nelson Carter, Rick Wells
  • Cooking demonstration. Need help figuring out how to cook the fresh, nutrient-dense foods you’re buying from farms?  Come learn from one of the best. Nancy Falster.

3:30-4:45 p.m. Session 4

  • Texas legislative update. If you’re wondering what in the world the 2017 Texas Legislative Session was all about, you won’t want to miss this presentation. Despite several unexpected twists and turns on the road to recess, the Session offered some reasons for optimism. Judith McGeary
  • Sustainable home gardening. You want to raise your own vegetables, but you don’t know where to start … or perhaps you’ve tried and believe you’ll never have a green thumb. Join the Youngs for tips on how to set up and successfully grow healthy food in your backyard or community garden. Justin & Cara Young.
  • The outlook for local brewers & distillers. A growing number of craft brewers and distillers are finding ways to utilize local ingredients and operate more sustainably, despite uniquely complex challenges. The panelists will discuss how they deal with regulatory hurdles, limited supplies of local ingredients, and environmental concerns such as waste products and water use. Herman Beckley, Robert Likarish, Tyler Tillery

4:45 p.m.: Closing


Sunday – 9:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. (Times subject to change). Lunch is included in all pre-conference workshops.

(And be sure to join us for the mixer afterward, located at Chestnut Square Historic Village, located approximately 4 blocks from the McKinney Downtown Square.)

On-Farm Food Safety for Produce Growers: The new regulatory and legal environment make it imperative that food safety become part of our daily lives. 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. 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 to meet FSMA requirements.

Attendees will get the information they need in order to review their farms’ risks and to develop their own food safety policies, procedures, and documentation processes. After attending the entire course, 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. Download a full description of the PSA Grower Training Course. This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2016-70020-25787. Led by Coleen Thornton


Holistic Planned Grazing: Our Most Powerful Tool to Heal Our Habitat: Discover how and why grazing, done nature’s way, recreates the environment that we have destroyed over time with agriculture done poorly. There are many things to consider in creating a grazing plan, and holistic rancher Walt Davis will make sure you can identify all those essentials, teaching you how to read the land and monitor land and animals to assess your progress. You will also learn how to prepare for inevitable droughts, how to endure them, and how to recover from them.


How to Form a Successful Cooperative: Cooperation with other farmers, with customers, and with a range of community members has long been a key way small-scale producers achieve success as vital parts of the food system. Join Annelies Lottmann and other co-op development experts and practitioners from around the state to explore the many ways cooperation can build strong, resilient farmer and rancher networks as well as a committed, reliable customer base.  This full-day 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.
  • Facilitated mentoring sessions with experienced farm and ranch cooperative leaders.


Last Update: July 25, 2017