Purdue Extension finds new ways to enrich ag knowledge base

 By Kris Medic

»If you’re paying attention, and you probably are, you notice that agriculture continues to change in large and small ways. Large-scale production systems are getting more technical, the baby-boom generation of farmers continues to farm into old age or retire, and the supply of new farmers may or may not come from a farm background.

These and many other factors figure into the offerings of Purdue Extension. If you participated in the 2014 Community Forums and Listening Sessions, you may have helped to identify current issues that Purdue Extension now works to address under its strategic plan. To see that plan, check ag.purdue.edu/plan/Pages/extension.

Addressing many of those technical issues in large-scale production, we now have the Center for Commercial Agriculture. It offers webcasts through the year that cover topics such as crop insurance decisions, managing financial risk, crop outlooks, cash rents and land values. The webcasts are archived, so they can be viewed at your convenience.

The Center for Commercial Agriculture also offers the Top Farmer Conference and many other resources. See ag.purdue.edu/commercialag.

For farmers raising grain who don’t go online for webcasts, and you know who you are, there are programs such as the 2017 Crop Management Workshops. They are offered in four locations this winter, come up every year, and offer Private and Commercial Applicator credits.

In Bartholomew County, we hold programs offering these credits at least twice a year. Two are coming up in February, and you are invited. Contact our office for more information.

A new sub-program area established in the past year is Diversified Food and Farming Systems, which addresses emerging and rapidly changing aspects of agriculture at multiple scales. There are six disciplines within DFFS:

• Urban Agriculture provides training, and even a farm incubator. While the incubator is in Marion County, the programs are available to all who would farm in town. Urban farming is active in Indianapolis, and Columbus has seen some growth in community gardens as well as commercial businesses raising produce on available land.

• Local Food provides assistance for those developing their local food economy. Whether you are a producer or buyer, you may be interested in the Columbus Area Local Food Summit planned for Feb. 22 at Donner Center.

• Organic Agriculture gives support and guidance to producers who are establishing organic farm enterprises, or transitioning land to organic.

• Beginning Farmer helps entry-level farmers find appropriate training, resources and guidance for a new farm enterprise. For some veterans returning to civilian life, farming has become a welcome vocation, and this program gives them support in finding the right niche. Through a grant obtained by the Beginning Farmer program, Purdue Extension took pairs of farmers and extension educators on study trips to farms in Wisconsin, Maine and Vermont last year. This included seven farmers who sell or farm in Bartholomew County. Watch for programming based on what we learned last year as well as the chance to apply for this year’s trips. In 2017, we will visit livestock operations in Missouri and diversified organic operations in upstate New York and Quebec.

• The Small Farm Team produces the annual Indiana Small Farm Conference – coming up in March – along with other programming.

• Student Farm: Student Farms are standard on agricultural campuses now, generating both produce and experience. Students may enroll in a Small Farm Experience class or volunteer as a member of the Purdue Student Farm Organization. Products are sold in CSA shares or commercially to dining halls, caterers or grocers.

Whether you are farming large or small, there’s always the need to plan for business succession or to make an estate plan. This is where our workshops on estate/succession planning come in. We offer these locally about once a year.

To jump-start the process, consider Code Red training, which provides a spreadsheet setup for getting your farm’s asset and financial information in one place. We will offer Code Red from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at the Bartholomew County Fairgrounds. For more information on that, see our website extension.purdue.edu/bartholomew.

Regardless of how you farm or what you raise, Purdue Extension is called to help with research-based expertise. The knowledge base on campus is deep and wide, and the specialists are outstanding resources. While the educators in the counties each have their areas of expertise, we are good at accessing those resources. Let us know how we can help you.

Medic,-Kris-BOXBYKris Medic is Purdue Extension Bartholomew County’s educator for agriculture, natural resources and community development. Her family farms are in Pennsylvania and Croatia. She can be reached at 812-379-1665 or kmedic@purdue.edu.