Farming ideas grow at trade show

Small-farm trade show highlights changes in agricultural industry.
Sunday, November 6, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:58 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Ever eaten rabbit jerky? Ever wondered what it would take to turn those five acres out back into an organic chicken coop?

The National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference gave attendees a chance this weekend to taste new flavors, brainstorm ideas and share tricks of the trade. Billed as the largest event of its kind in the nation, it wrapped up its 13th year Saturday at the Boone County Fairgrounds, drawing visitors from 23 states, Canada and Mexico.

The variety of goods showcased at the event helped show that small farming is more than just conventional farming on a smaller scale.

“Everybody know the prices on corn and beans aren’t too hot,” said Ron Macher, a Missouri farmer who also edits and publishes “Small Farm Today,” which sponsored the event. “People are looking for new ideas.”

One such idea is that small farmers can raise more than just food to make a living. Sam Wiseman raises 25 varieties of sunflowers and dozens of other kinds of flowers on her farm in Beaufort. She sells the flowers to nearby florists, and also grows pumpkins, gourds, tomatillos, sorghum and Christmas trees.

Wiseman, now in her third year of farming, is one of a growing number of women taking up small farming full time. Her husband works long hours for an automotive company, she said, and she wanted a job that would give her the freedom and flexibility to spend time with him in his off hours.

“The prediction is that in the next 10 years, 75 percent of the farmland will be owned by women,” Macher said.

With a bag full of literature in one hand and a clipboard for note-taking in the other, Wiseman was at the show to learn. She said this was her fourth year attending the show.

“This is a great place to refresh yourself,” she said. “You see all these people who are going through the same things you are.”

The next step for her farm, she said, is partnering with a neighboring small farmer who raises livestock in an effort to attract more tourists.

“I’ve paid my dues on starting to make a profit. It takes a while,” she said. “You can’t just look at the money. It’s hard work, but you have the freedom to get out and work when it’s nice.”

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