ACORN Conference Program

All Workshops

The Business of Farming

Monday, November 26, 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM   

Do you know what you don’t know when it comes to the business of your organic farming enterprise? I do. Ronda will share her observations from 30 years working directly with farmers on farms of all sizes and descriptions. She will talk about how the records you keep and the data you routinely collect on your farm can provide insight into how your business is actually performing.

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Farmer-to-Farmer Breakfast - Danny Bruce

Tuesday, November 27, 7:00 AM - 8:00 AM   

Looking for some company over breakfast? Join Danny Bruce, of Bruce Family Farm (NS) and others for a morning conversation. Bring your questions and ideas about farming. Livestock farmer with questions about waterers?  Veggie grower with pest and insect questions? The conversation is up to you! Space is limited so please arrive early to ensure you get a seat. Held at Private Dining Room in the Hotel Restaurant

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  • TBA

Plenary Speech: Making Good Food Accessible

Tuesday, November 27, 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM   

Gillian Flies is the co-owner of The New Farm, a profitable organic farm that sells vegetables to speciality retailers and many of the best restaurants in southern Ontario. But she realized early in her farming career that she wanted to be more than just a purveyor of salad to the 1%. What started as a small fundraiser in the barnyard in 2010 has grown into a multi-faceted program to make quality organic food accessible to all, a deep partnership with Community Food Centres Canada, and a fundraising effort that has now raised more than a million dollars. Learn how increasing accessibility can grow profits for small farms and strengthen the entire food system.

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Innovative Farming: Newest Tech & Tools

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Come to this session with the “top 5” tools and tech you cannot live without on your farm, and hear from others what gear makes their farm tick. Be ready to share ideas, learn from others in the room, and maybe even see some good video descriptions!

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  • TBA

Livestock & Grazing Management Part 1

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

With nearly 400 slides, Joel walks you through the farm, from forestry to water systems, to pigaerating. He’ll take you through haying, grazing management, pastured pigs, pastured poultry, portable infrastructure, irrigation, and pasture cropping. Heavily how-to with a liberal dose of why, this is as close to a farm visit as you can get from a conference classroom.

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Making Good Food Accesible: Community Panel

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Representatives from The New Farm, Abegweit First Nation, and Hayes Urban Farm

Attendees will learn about distinct and effective approaches to making good food accessible in local or marginalized communities through education, self-determination, and community building. Hayes Urban Farm in New Brunswick will share their experiences and goals getting a teaching farm operational in an urban environment. Youth members of the Abegweit First Nation in Scotchfort will talk about their role in addressing food insecurity in their community.

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Cover Crops for Resilient Organic Farms, from the Soil Up

Tuesday, November 27, 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM   

Klaas and Mary-Howell bring a unique combination of the theoretical and practical to every session they lead. In this workshop, the Martens' will talk about strategies for cover cropping in organic rotations. They will explain how they target cover crops for effective weed control and pest management; what different species accomplish; how cover crops can also be used as forage crops, and some of the benefits cover crops provide in longer rotations.

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Weed Management & Economic Thresholds

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 AM   

Using on-farm examples, Klaas and Mary-Howell will share their own experience and current research on effective weed management strategies. They will talk about specific tools and equipment modifications, the importance of understanding weed biology and economic thresholds especially as it pertains to soil health. They will also focus on designing effective crop rotations, the use of cover crops and allelopathic crops, high quality seed and adapted varieties.

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Scaling Up for Wholesale

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM   

Brent Preston has abandoned the direct-to-consumer marketing model favoured by most small farms and built a profitable farm business by selling exclusively to wholesalers. Join Brent for a detailed description of the steps necessary to serve the

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Livestock & Grazing Management, Part 2

Tuesday, November 27, 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM   

This session is a continuation from Part 1. With nearly 400 slides, Joel walks you through the farm, from forestry to water systems, to pigaerating. He’ll take you through haying, grazing management, pastured pigs, pastured poultry, portable infrastructure, irrigation, and pasture cropping. Heavily how-to with a liberal dose of why, this is as close to a farm visit as you can get from a conference classroom.

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Soil Health and Fertility Management in an Organic System

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Many transitioning organic farmers worry about maintaining soil fertility without chemical fertilizers. Klaas and Mary-Howell will explain how in an organic system, soil biological activity is the main source of soil health, and therefore of fertility.  Using real-farm examples, they will show how soil health is dependent on cover crops and crop rotation that improve soil tilth, increase soil organic matter, increase soil microbial diversity and activity, and protect the soil from erosion. They will discuss amendments, nutrient budgeting  and timing in a multi-year crop rotation. This session will include basic guidance on interpreting soil tests results and current research on soil health management.  

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Effective & Efficient Labour Models

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30PM - 3:30 PM   

Brent Preston has utilized a number of labour models on his farm near Creemore, Ontario - volunteer, part-time, unpaid interns, paid local staff and offshore workers. He now farms with a crew of seven full-time employees from Mexico. This workshop will explore the ethical, legal and financial questions surrounding small farm labour models, and how farmers can provide fair, safe and meaningful employment while maintaining profits.

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Ecological Design for On Farm Water Security

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

This presentation will begin by discussing the unique hydrologic cycle on PEI, including some natural drawbacks and benefits. Topics also discussed will include using surface water and groundwater on the farm, proper well construction and maintenance, erosion control/surface water management, and some new engineering methods to treat drainage effluent and sprayer rinsate.

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Irrigation How –To: Knowing when and how to apply water

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

This session will focus on irrigation scheduling geared towards producers. It will discuss basic soil and crop irrigation principles and some common ways to both measure irrigation water needs and to apply water to the crop.This is a Farmer-to-Farmer session on irrigation scheduling geared towards producers. It will discuss basic soil and crop irrigation principles and some common ways to both measure irrigation water needs and to apply water to the crop.

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The Farm Ecosystem

Tuesday, November 27, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM   

Believing that a farm is not truly sustainable until it supports two salaries from two different generations, Joel starts with the couple, then adds children, then adult children, and then non-family members. How to get along when you can't get away, how to add labour without employees, how memorandums of understanding and building fiefdoms all create complementary community.  

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Post-Harvest Quality Management; A Buyer Perspective

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

Mary-Howell and Klaas will share their experience as organic grain buyers, discussing the concerns that buyers have when purchasing direct from farmers. They will cover important differences between the feed-grade and food-grade markets, emerging market opportunities, grain quality, advances in grain cleaning, shipping, and mycotoxins.

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New Organic Products in the Canadian Market: Trends, marketing claims and innovations.

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

This presentation will examine the latest consumer research to reveal the most recent trends and new organic products being introduced into the Canadian marketplace and their attributes. Further analysis will look at how this translates into opportunities for organic producers.

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Certified Organic & Other Certifications as Part of Developing a Brand

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

In this facilitated session, share ideas with other farmers about how to use other certifications and branding to promote products, build public trust, and commit to the basic pillars of organic production.

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  • TBA

Market Opportunities & Economic Viability

Tuesday, November 27, 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM   

We've all heard the adage "the middle man makes all the profits."  If that's the case, then why not be one? Realizing that most farmers do not like people, Joel patiently explains how processing, marketing, and distribution add resilience and stability to production dollars. This session addresses the assets and liabilities of different marketing venues and relationships, protocols for sales, and where trendlines in food interface.

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Program at a Glance