Free conservation field tour to be held Thursday

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 | 6:22 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — On Thursday, local farmers will have a chance to learn how to make money — or at least improve their operations — for free.

Community members are invited to participate in Conservation Field Tour, a free event held tomorrow from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at Jefferson Farm & Gardens, located at 4800 E. New Haven Road.

Attendees will be able to take an hour-long tour either by wagon or by foot to see demonstrations about conservation.

A variety of speakers are scheduled on topics such as water quality, soil conservation, rain gardens and pond management to benefit both farmers and curious community members. One of the speakers, an MU professor, Bob Pierce, will discuss establishing wildlife habitats. 

The event will be headed by Rob Myers, founder and director of programs at The Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute. Myers, a former MU professor, has also worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a program director for national education and research.

"The number of American farmers have been in decline," Myers said. Farm operation costs have been increasing, making it more difficult for smaller farms to continue to operate, he said.

Hoping to address the industry's challenges, the Conservation Field Tour plans to focus on sustainable agriculture to help up-and-coming farms and to teach family farmers how to stay in business and compete with larger operations.

Pamphlets from several different organizations also will be available at a booth in the information tent by the main parking lot.

For those who can't attend, Myers offered a basic tip: Mix it up.

"Research shows that farmers with three or four types of crop tend to have less pests," Myers said. "There's a need for farmers to diversify the crops on their farms."

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