While the number of farms with less than 50 acres of land has declined slightly in recent years according to 2012 Agriculture Census data, small-farm operators with specialized farms, particularly organic farms, have experienced substantial growth in recent years, the same data shows.

That’s not surprising to Tony Nye, an Ohio State University Extension educator who coordinates OSU Extension’s Small Farm Program. Nye said he continues to see “a huge interest” in small farm production, particularly among farmers who are new to agriculture.

“Whether they are small farmers wanting to make their farms work better or landowners who are new to agriculture and are looking for ways to utilize acreage,” Nye said, “there is a strong interest in learning more about methods for diversifying their opportunities into successful new enterprises and new markets as a way to improve economic growth and development on their farms.”

To that end, Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences will offer “Opening Doors to Success,” a two-day conference and trade show March 13-14 at Wilmington College’s Boyd Cultural Arts Center.

“The conference, which will feature multiple workshops and a trade show for landowners and small farmers, is designed to help landowners and producers learn techniques to make their small farm operations more successful, which can in turn lead to increased profits,” said Nye, who is also the conference organizer.

Researchers and educators with OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, as well as industry experts, will conduct the workshops. OSU Extension and OARDC are the outreach and research arms, respectively, of the college.

“Small farmer” typically describes individuals who are practicing agriculture on a small amount of land, usually less than 100 acres, Nye said.

The overall goal of the conference and the mission of the OSU Small Farms Program is to provide a greater understanding of production practices, economics of land-use choices, assessment of personal and natural resources, marketing alternatives, and identifying sources of assistance, he said. 

The March 13 session is from 2-5 p.m. at the Wilmington College Academic Farm, 1590 Fife Ave. in Wilmington. The event features hands-on workshops focusing on:

  • Pastures and fence.
  • Specialty crop production techniques including hoop house management, irrigation and grafting.
  • Woodlands management.  

The March 14 session is from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Wilmington College’s Boyd Cultural Arts Center, 1870 Quaker Way. This session will feature workshops by Ohio State and industry experts, and a trade show. 

Topics to be addressed during the March 14 session include:

  • Farm management.
  • Livestock production.
  • Foods business and marketing.
  • Forages and pastures.
  • Vegetable and fruit production.
  • Organics.

The conference is an outgrowth of the Ohio New and Small Farm College, an eight-week program created by OSU Extension that offers an introduction to the business of small farming for those who are new to the industry. The program offers information on budgeting, business planning and developing a farm structure, among other issues. 

Registration for the conference is $20 for the March 13 session and $60 for the March 14 session, or $70 for both days. The deadline to register is March 5.