Registration is open for the annual Local Food & Healthy Farms conference

Registration is open for the annual Local Food & Healthy Farms conference
January 3, 2024
Registration is open for the 2024 Local Food and Healthy Farms Conference, which takes place Jan. 25-27 at the River’s Edge Conference Center in Columbus, Neb.

For over 40 years, the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society’s (NSAS) annual conference has been a mainstay event for farmers to connect and share knowledge. For the third year, the conference is a collaborative partnership with University of Nebraska Extension and Nebraska Specialty Crop Growers to provide the most dynamic and comprehensive farming and local food systems conference in the state.

 “Combining both Extension and NSAS’ efforts has allowed the organizing team to think creatively about how we engage this audience and build connections across the food value chain,” said Ben Jewell, a Nebraska Extension educator and lead for the Nebraska Regional Food Systems Initiative. “Our attendees come from a wide range of backgrounds, as farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, advocates and researchers—this diverse group being together over two days allows for more robust conversations that get at the root of the challenges facing our local food system.”

The conference invites attendees to learn, connect, and collaborate for a more resilient food future.

Conference highlights include:

  • More than 30 sessions on topics that span the agricultural and local food system spectrum, including farm financial and transition planning, farm skills, field crops, livestock, farm and food policy, urban agriculture and local food access, and more.
  • New Thursday pre-conference workshops that will provide more in-depth training in regional food systems, communication, and farm/ranch resources.
  • Keynote addresses from Nancy Williams, Co-Founder and CEO of No More Empty Pots in Omaha where she and her team have advocated and put into action their mission to improve self-efficacy, regional food security, and economic resilience of urban and rural communities; and Michael Foley, co-owner and operator of Green Uprising Farm, a small (very small), diversified, family farm in Willits, northern California. He is Director of the School of Adaptive Agriculture, also in Willits; market manager for the Willits Farmers Market; and President of the Mendocino County Farmers Market Association. And he is author of Farming for the Long Haul (Chelsea Green, 2019).
  • Several opportunities to network with other farmers, researchers, sponsors, service agencies, and consumers including a Friday evening reception and exhibit hall.

“One of the main pieces of feedback we received from attendees at last year’s conference was that there wasn’t enough time for networking and engagement,” said Jewell. “Our planning team this year has been intentional about building in extra time between sessions and eliminating talks during meals to allow for more in-depth engagement and connection among attendees. With around 220 stakeholders present at the 2023 Local Food and Healthy Farms conference, this event is a rare opportunity to build relationships across the food value chain in Nebraska.”

Many of the sessions are developed and led by local farmers, focused on topics that are most relevant to small and mid-size food and farming operations. Other sessions focus on tribal food systems work in Nebraska, indigenous Mayan regenerative agriculture practices, and how chefs incorporate seasonally available local foods into their menus.

“A highlight of this conference is the local food dinner that is served on Friday evening,” said Jewell. “Conference organizers work with chefs at the venue to plan a meal that is entirely sourced from local producers. Everything from local beef, small batch cheeses, fresh greens, and even local grains are featured in this meal.”

The cost is $80 per day or $150 for both days, and includes meals and access to all conference events. Scholarships are available. Register by January 13, 2024, at the Sustainable Nebraska website.

The Local Food and Healthy Farms Conference is supported by several sponsors, including Rodale Institute, Center for Rural Affairs, Roberts Seeds, Viking Blue River Organic Seed, Acres USA,_Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska.

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) is a nonprofit organization serving farmers across the state for over 30 years with resources and networking opportunities including farm tours, grower gatherings and our keystone annual conference.