By Kathleen Delate–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
AMES, Iowa — The annual Iowa Organic Conference will be held virtually this year on Monday, Nov. 23, in keeping with COVID-19 regulations. A half-day of presentations and interactions with industry experts will take the place of the normal meeting.
The conference, now in its 20th year, is a joint activity between the Iowa State University Organic Ag Program and the University of Iowa in Iowa City. The usual trade show of vendors will be replaced with a virtual show of exhibitors and sponsors, including organic grain buyers, organic seed purveyors, local food system nonprofits, and government offices working with transitioning and certified organic farmers.
“The U.S. market for organic products reached $55.1 billion in 2019, and even with 5 million certified organic acres in the U.S., the demand for organic grains and produce continues to exceed supply,” said Kathleen Delate, professor and extension organic specialist in horticulture with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Growers everywhere are encouraged to consider the potential for organic production to reap premium prices and environmental benefits.”
The keynote speaker of the virtual conference is Tom Harding, an international expert in organic marketing and trade. Harding brings a message of hope for surviving the pandemic through organic practices and will discuss how the general public is purchasing more organic products than ever.
Other speakers include Joseph Heckman, soil scientist from Rutgers University and an organic farmer, talking about ways to keep your soil active and productive to support bountiful organic crops and livestock.
Participants can register for the event at https://www.regcytes.extension.iastate.edu/iowaorganic/ and be provided log-in instructions for participating that day.
This session will be a tribute to a long-time Iowa organic soil science researcher and favorite conference speaker, Cindy Cambardella, who recently passed away.
Also speaking will be Jordan and Whitney Clasen of Grade A Gardens, a certified organic farm in Johnston, Iowa, famous for its vegetables and COVID-conscious Farmers’ Market in Des Moines this year.
A well-anticipated tradition of past Organic Conferences was the conference meals prepared by UI award-winning executive chef, Barry Greenberg, and his team. This year, Chef Greenberg and Anne Watson will present a virtual cooking demonstration, using local and organic produce, meats, and dairy products assembled into a gourmet meal.
“The Iowa Organic Conference has been the largest university-sponsored organic conference in the country,” said Delate. “We are hopeful that viewers will see the benefit of logging on and learning about innovators in the industry and celebrate the goodness of the organic harvest this year, despite the tremendous challenges from COVID-19, the drought and the derecho.”