Iowa Organic Conference highlights perennials and their benefits

September 30, 2016

AMES, Iowa--The 16th Annual Iowa Organic Conference will be held Nov. 13-14 on the University of Iowa (UI) campus in Iowa City, as a joint effort between Iowa State University and the UI Office of Sustainability. Producers and experts from across the country will share tips for transitioning into organic production and methods to enhance organic operations.

"The U.S. market for organic products reached $43 billion in 2015 and the demand for organic grains and produce continues to exceed supply," said Kathleen Delate, ISU organic agriculture specialist. "Growers everywhere are encouraged to consider the potential for organic production. With worldwide interest in perennial systems that retain cover on the land, our conference theme is 'Perennial Passion: Building Resilience into Organic Systems' to highlight how organic practices, including pastures, buffers, and perennial plants, have been critical for preserving pollinator habitat and reducing erosion." To complement this theme, Monday's keynote speaker is Fred Iutzi, president of The Land Institute.

On Sunday, Nov. 13, the conference begins at 2 PM, with Farmer-Mentor Round-tables (farmer experts to answer questions on organics), then a keynote talk at 4 PM by Caroline Halde of Quebec, who will share a fascinating slide show of extraordinary local food producers who use organic practices very successfully to meet market demand. A reception, featuring local and organic food and drinks, will be at 6 PM in the UI Memorial Union, followed by the movie, "What's on Your Plate" at 7 PM, which explores the benefits of local and organic food production in our food system.

The conference lunch on Monday afternoon highlights local and organic produce, meats, and dairy products assembled into a gourmet meal by UI award-winning Executive Chef Barry Greenberg and his team.

Monday's break-out sessions include transitioning into organic farming, weed management, organic livestock health, organic no-till for grain and vegetable crops, and growing small grains. The conference also includes information on soil and water quality research, crop insurance for organic producers, economics and financial assistance for organic producers, and local food system initiatives, including food hubs and Grow Johnson County. Farmer-Mentor Round-tables will allow farmers interested in transitioning to organic or with specific organic questions, to meet one-on-one with organic farmers and organic certification experts.

"The Iowa Organic Conference is the largest University-sponsored organic conference in the country," says Delate. Last year's conference brought over 50 exhibitors, ranging from organic seed sales to local food system non-profits, to government offices working with transitioning and certified organic farmers.

Despite the challenges of wet weather at planting and the early weed management period this year in many parts of the state, organic farmers are anticipating successful yields with organic soybean prices currently averaging $19 per bushel and organic corn at $8.50 per bushel.

Conference information is available online at: The link to register for the conference is:

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture was established in 1987 through the Iowa Groundwater Protection Act. It is a research and education center at Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative farming impacts and to develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources. The Center's competitive grants program awards funds to researchers and investigators across Iowa, extending more than 500 competitive grants since 1988. For more information about the Leopold Center, visit the website:



Kathleen Delate, (515) 294-5116,

Shelly O'Neal, (515) 294-5116,

Carol Brown, communications, (515) 294-5272,