Published Jan 19, 2012

PFI conference: small town feel

By Teresa Opheim

“Small town feel, big town offerings”…

… said one attendee to the Practical Farmers annual conference that finished Saturday. We had a whopping 510 show up, including a large crop of “first timers.” This was a 135-person increase from last year–Wow.

Among the highlights:
–Our first ever short course before the conference, Soils 101, attended by more than 100 people. We plan to bring back the short course format next year.
— Food service company CEO Fedele Bauccio gave a passionate account of his company’s efforts to buy locally. “I started Bon Appetit as a culinary act not a political act. I just wanted flavor on our plates,” Fedele told the crowd.
–Francis Thicke presented the PFI Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award to Fred Kirschenmann, who was eloquent in his acceptance. “I fell in love with you in your second year,” Fred said, speaking about Practical Farmers. Fred was presented a basket of food grown by PFI members.
–Beginning farmers Sara Hanson and Ryan and Janice Marquardt shared their complete business plans and received feedback from two lenders and an investor.
–And much more!

Biggest complaint: Too many sessions to choose from. We recorded several of the sessions this year and will let you know when they are available.

Yesterday we sat down with board president Tim Landgraf and de-briefed about what went well and what needs to be improved with the conference. We will add to that next week when the evaluations have been analyzed. (More than 125 gave us detailed comment—I have already read every word!)

We are digging out—putting away materials, entering the evaluations, doing the accounting follow-up and even discussing conference space and speakers for next year. We also are celebrating: Staff member Suzi Bernhard is getting married, and we just held a “stock the pantry” party for Suzi and her groom-to-be Jim….

Thanks to all who came to the conference. For those of you who had to miss: We hope to see you next year Jan. 10-12, 2013, in Ames.