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Make the Most of the 2016 Acres U.S.A. Conference

Omaha, Nebraska
Eco-Ag U: Tuesday, Nov. 29-Wednesday, Nov. 30
Main Conference: Wednesday, Nov. 30-Friday, Dec. 2

Be an Acres Conference All-Star:
Catch a flick: We work hard to bring exciting, informative films to each conference for your viewing pleasure. The films are shown around lunchtime, so check the conference schedule and don’t miss out. This year’s selections include: Seed: The Untold Story and Circle of Poison.
Meet the Author! We hold numerous book signings throughout the conference. Check the schedule, buy the books in our on-site bookstore, meet the author and get your copy signed.
Get your questions answered in Consulting Halls: Meet with top eco-ag consultants in a small-group setting…a rare opportunity to obtain valuable advice specific to your farm’s needs.
Trade Show: Don’t forget to visit the more than 100 vendors of high-quality eco-inputs and innovations in our Trade Show. Whether you are looking for a specific product or want to pick someone’s brain, the trade show delivers.
Nutritious eats: No need to leave the hotel in search of quality food (although there are lots of great options in Omaha…we’ll highlight a few later) with Creative Cuisine Catering.
Continued learning: Each conference keynote speech and all lecture sessions are recorded live. The recordings are available during the conference as they are produced and full sets of CDs and MP3s are available after the conference.
On-Site Bookstore: Take advantage of excellent prices on all our titles…without worrying about shipping!
Top-Tier Keynoters: Treat yourself to a mind-expanding session each evening at 7:30 p.m. including organic pioneer and author Grace Gershuny, health authority and author Dr. Arden Andersen and farmer and activist Denise O’Brien.

What to bring:
Pens/Notepad/Notebook (You’ll want to take lots of notes. It also helps to write your name on your notebook in case it gets left behind in a session.)
Business/Contact Cards (You will be meeting people with the same farm interests/business needs and ideas — take advantage!)
Reusable Water Bottle (The warm air can be pretty dry indoors in the wintertime.)
Backpack (Many folks find this useful to help bring their supplies, especially if they are leaving and coming back to the hotel throughout the day.)
Badge (When you check in, you’ll receive a name badge. Please don’t misplace your badge, and remember to wear it each day as you’ll need to display it for admission to all conference events and the trade show.)
Conference Program (When you check in, we’ll give you a nifty tote bag designed for this year’s meeting. Inside the bag will be helpful resources including a full conference program including the list of events, times and locations as well as information about the speakers, a map of the Trade Show with information about each vendor and more. Keep it handy!)
Comfortable Shoes (Trust us on this one.)

Hilton Omaha, 1001 Cass Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68102, phone: 402-998-3400.

Getting to the hotel:
Airport Transportation, by Taxi
One-way fare between the Omaha Airport and downtown is about $11. Upon arrival at the airport, proceed to ground transportation by the baggage claim. There should be cabs waiting. Following are the taxi companies in Omaha:
• Happy Cab ─ 402-333-TAXI (8294)
• Checker Cab ─ 402-333-TAXI (8294)
• Yellow Cab ─ 402-333-TAXI (8294)
• Safeway Cab ─ 402-333-TAXI (8294)
• City Taxi ─ 402-933-8700

Driving from the Airport
From airport, take left onto Abbott Drive. Left at 10th Street, to Cass Street. Turn right. Hotel is on the left.

Self parking: $14.00 (Garage Parking)
Valet: $20.00 (Event Valet: $15)

Dining in Omaha
Here are a few recommendations:
Block 16:
Avoli Osteria:
The Grey Plume:
Kitchen Table:
The Blackstone Meatball:
LOCAL Beer, Patio and Kitchen Old Market:
Lot 2:
Modern Love:
V. Mertz:

Want more information? Check out our Conference FAQs:

Nitrogen Fertilizer’s Long-Lasting Legacy

Aerial of intersecting roads in rural IndianaDangerous nitrate levels in drinking water could persist for decades, increasing the risk for blue baby syndrome and other serious health concerns, according to a new study published by researchers at the University of Waterloo. Nitrogen fertilizer applied to farmers’ fields has been contaminating rivers and lakes and leaching into drinking water wells for more than 80 years. The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, reveals that elevated nitrate concentrations in rivers and lakes will remain high for decades, even if farmers stop applying nitrogen fertilizers today. The researchers have discovered that nitrogen is building up in soils, creating a long-term source of nitrate pollution in ground and surface waters. “A large portion of the nitrogen applied as fertilizer has remained unaccounted for over the last decades,” said Nandita Basu, a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The fact that nitrogen is being stored in the soil means it can still be a source of elevated nitrate levels long after fertilizers are no longer being applied.” Their paper presents the first direct evidence of a large-scale nitrogen legacy across the Mississippi River Basin. Professor Basu and her group analyzed long-term data from over 2,000 soil samples throughout the Mississippi River Basin to reveal a systematic accumulation of nitrogen in agricultural soils. In many areas this accumulation was not apparent in the upper plow layer, but instead was found 25-100 centimeters beneath the soil surface.

This article appears in the May 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Camelina Cover Crop Benefits Honeybees

story70_d3502-1-660x430pxCamelina is an herbaceous, yellow- flowering member of the mustard family whose oil-rich seed and cold tolerance has piqued the interest of USDA scientists for its potential as both a winter cover crop and biodiesel resource. Now, in the process of studying this plant, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have found that its flowering period can provide honeybees and other insects with a critical, early spring source of nectar and pollen that’s usually unavailable then. This is especially true in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, where about one-third of the nation’s managed bee colonies are kept from May through October.

This article appears in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Large-Scale Community Farming — PrairiErth Shares Strategy, Lessons on Organic Transition

Large-Scale Community Farming

The team at PrairiErth Farm includes (from left): Annette McKeown (apprentice), Jon Clayschute (crew leader), Cassidy A. Dellorto-Blackwell (apprentice), Carly Ambrose (apprentice), Leslie Gravitt (harvesthand), Craig Tepen (farmhand and wholesale coordinator), Katie Bishop (farmer/owner) Hans Bishop (farmer/owner), Graham Bishop (“pig guy;” helps Dave with chores and manages the pigs) and farmer/owner Dave Bishop.

by Tamara Scully

PrairiErth Farm’s 400 acres of Illinois fields are home to corn, soybeans, oats, wheat and alfalfa. They are also home to a diversity of livestock, 10 acres of vegetable crops, 10,000 square feet of hoop house growing areas and beehives. And they are certified organic. The farm, nestled within the Big Ag world of the Midwest, promotes a globally local food system. Their stated mission of “working to develop sustainable life systems on the farm,” extends well beyond the farm. Not only do owner Dave Bishop and his family promote sustainable agriculture to local politicians, the family regularly advocates in Washington, D.C. They continually work to develop a food system in which organic agriculture, independent farmers, regional processors and local agricultural systems work together to grow food transparently, fostering lasting connections between farmer and eater.

“I believe a diverse mix of plants and animals is the foundation of a sustainable farm, and the emerging globally local food systems offer the best — and perhaps ultimately the only — real path into a food secure future,” said Dave Bishop. Continue Reading →

Interview: Forging a Better Path — Texas Farmer Jonathan Cobb Embraces Shift from Conventional to Biological-Based Practices

Jonathan Cobb Interview

Jonathan Cobb

Jonathan Cobb interviewed by: Chris Walters

This month’s interview swings our focus away from storied veterans to a newcomer, a young farmer trying to forge his way in the middle of Texas. Like a lot of others who dedicate themselves to rational agriculture based in soil science, Jonathan Cobb left his family’s land for a while, getting an education outside the ag school monolith, getting married and trying out urban life before coming full circle back to the land in 2007. He encountered an event in recent Texas history that felt apocalyptic at the time and still strains belief — the summer of 2011. As the worst Texas drought in about a century kicked in with a vengeance, temperatures exceeded 100 degrees for nearly three months, the land turned into brick and reservoirs dropped like a second-term president’s approval rating. As he relates, it forced a fresh look at all sorts of things. Along the way, a business Cobb ran with his wife, Jennifer Brasher, had to be folded, and he began a momentous transition away from row crops and into livestock. It also bears remembering that despite the influence wielded by the liberal enclave of Austin a mere hour away, rural Texas is not known for its open embrace of progressive ideas. For Jonathan’s refreshingly candid account of how he meets his challenges, read on.

ACRES U.S.A. Tell us about your neck of the woods near Rogers, Texas.

JONATHAN COBB. It’s Blackland prairie; really good, really rich, deep soils with a long history of farming there. My great-grandfather was a sharecropper since around 1900. My grandfather farmed it and then my Dad stayed. He was the youngest, and he stayed on the family farm. We were all gone when I decided to come back about eight years ago. I had been in Fort Worth doing landscape design and then came back and started farming. Continue Reading →

Interview: Extending the Growing Season — Organic Farmer, Author Eliot Coleman Shares Strategies for Successful Year-Round Growing

Eliot Coleman Interview

Eliot Coleman

Eliot Coleman interviewed by: Chris Walters

Anyone attempting to grow fruits and vegetables in the winter will likely come across the work of Eliot Coleman. A tireless innovator and skilled communicator, Coleman began writing about organic growing an astonishing 39 years ago. Along with fellow writer and wife Barbara, he was the host of the TV series, Gardening Naturally, on The Learning Channel. He and Barbara currently operate a commercial, year-round market garden at Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, where he conducts the experiments he describes in this interview. He served for two years as the executive director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and was an advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture during their landmark 1979-80 study, “Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming.” Coleman’s books include The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Handbook.

ACRES U.S.A. Didn’t your wife, Barbara Damrosch, play a large part in your story? Not only personally but professionally?

ELIOT COLEMAN. No question, she is the best thing that ever happened to me. We’ve been married 23 years this December. She writes a weekly column for the Washington Post called “A Cook’s Garden,” and she has written two books by herself and one with me. I’ve written three by myself. When my first book, The New Organic Grower, came out in 1989 my publisher told me the competition for it was something called The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. After I moved back here in 1991, I was down at Helen Nearing’s place, helping her tie up tomatoes in her greenhouse, and this very attractive brunette wandered in to visit Helen. I invited her to go for pizza, and we were married six months later. She had heard about my book, and obviously I’d heard about hers. She said she had always wanted to live on a farm, so I tell everybody that she stalked me.

Continue Reading →