OEFFA Conference 2024

Cherry Valley
Conference 2024
Cherry Valley
Conference 2020
Cherry Valley
Cherry Valley
Cherry Valley
Cherry Valley
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Join us at Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference in February of 2024! The 45th annual OEFFA conference is three days full of live learning, shopping, sharing, and connecting with sustainable farmers, gardeners, and local food supporters. 

With 50+ workshops on everything from farmers markets to livestock management, a big exhibit hall for shopping and networking, a few happy hours to gather and celebrate, locally-sourced lunches, and much more, we hope to see you there!

Conference Hub

While you’re at the conference you can access the conference schedule, workshop descriptions, special events, maps, menus, and exhibitor and sponsor information using our mobile friendly conference webpage.

Conference Schedule


Thursday, February 15

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Food and Farm School*
1-4 p.m. Understanding and Overcoming the Rural Urban Divide
2-4 p.m. What is the Climate-Smart Agriculture Agenda for Small Farms?
4 p.m. Registration/Check-In Opens, Exhibit Hall Opens
4-6 p.m. Welcoming Exhibit Hall Happy Hour
6-7:15 p.m. Keynote Storytelling

Friday, February 16

8 a.m. Registration/Check-In Opens, Exhibit Hall Opens
8-9:30 a.m. Breakfast
9:15-10:30 a.m. Workshop Session I
10:45 a.m.-Noon Workshop Session II
Noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch*
1:30-2:45 p.m. Workshop Session III
3-4:15 p.m. Workshop Session IV
4:30-5 p.m. Members’ Meeting**
5-6:30 p.m. Exhibit Hall Happy Hour and Flash Demos, Farmers’ Market
Vendor Fair, Heartland FarmLink Mixer
6:30 p.m. Exhibit Hall Closes
7:30-10 p.m. OEFFA Open Mic Night

Saturday, February 17

8 a.m. Registration/Check-In Opens, Exhibit Hall Opens
8-9:30 a.m. Breakfast
8:45-10 a.m. Keynote Address with Jim Embry
10:45-Noon Workshop Session V
Noon-1:30 p.m. Lunch*
1:30 p.m. Exhibit Hall Closes
1:30-2:45 p.m. Workshop Session VI
3-4:15 p.m. Workshop Session VII


My Favorite Mistake

February 15 Keynote Storytelling

Walter Bonham, Sophia Buggs, David Kline, Mardy Townsend

Mistakes, while often painful, teach us valuable lessons. To cultivate a culture of caring, OEFFA asks four farmer leaders from around Ohio to tell the story of a mistake they made. This mistake taught something they are grateful to have learned so that others may gain from their hard-earned wisdom. After our storytellers have shared, the floor will open for attendees to tell their own stories. Together, we care for each other by sharing the challenges and gifts of farming.

Our Storytellers


Walter Bonham is an urban farmer, consultant, and a founding member of the Richland Gro-Op Cooperative. A native of Mansfield, Ohio, he works with others in his community to bridge the food insecurity gap, creating new farmers and focusing on both the local consumption and exportation of locally grown food. His mission to "Build. Grow. Feed." guides his unique approach to working so closely with his community.

Sophia Buggs owns and operates Lady Buggs Pharm, a 1.3-acre urban farm in Youngstown, Ohio. Sophia is the director of the Mahoning Food Access Initiative and the executive director of Plant It You (“Planet You”), a grassroots organization dedicated to land stewardship, food sovereignty, climate action, Black and Indigenous farmers, and food ways. She aims to regenerate her community by offering wellbeing from seed to table.

David Kline is an active recordkeeper of the goings-on on his 120-acre sustainable farm in southern Ohio. As an Amish farmer and author, he is known as an expert voice on the ways we are connected to our environment, and the joy and pleasure that come with being considerate stewards of land and food.

Mardy Townsend raises grassfed beef cattle on certified organic pasture on 226 acres in Ashtabula County, Ohio. The land is marginal—all highly erodible or wetland, which has necessitated the careful development of specific appropriate grazing management. Mardy serves on the OEFFA Board and has hosted a number of farm tours.

OEFFA thanks the Organic Vegetable Production Conference for letting us borrow this keynote concept.

Jim Embry

February 17 Keynote Address

Pathways to a Caring and Sustainable Future

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history. Humanity must choose its future: great peril or great promise. Our challenge is to more fully recognize that we are one human family. We must reimagine what it means to be human in the 21st century. Although our nation’s agriculture was founded on stolen land from Indigenous peoples and stolen labor from African peoples, our food system also represents the fulcrum point of transformational change.

Such a transformation has already begun, but the gravity of the situation demands more effective and inclusive action. Big ideas are necessary. We must think not just “out-of-the-box,” but also “out-of-the-barn” to achieve a caring and sustainable future.

The proud great-grandson of enslaved Africans brought across the Appalachian Mountains, Jim Embry regards himself an agrarian intellectual activist. As the founder and director of the Sustainable Communities Network, he contributes to the theory and practice of sustainable living at the local, national, and international levels with a focus on food systems. 

Beginning in the Civil Rights Movement, he has participated in most of the major social justice movements of his era, and now believes the sustainability movement encompasses all the other movements. In 2023, Jim was honored with the James Beard Foundation Leadership Award “for his lifelong work as a community activist advocating for sustainable living practices and Black and Indigenous rights.”


Thursday, February 15—10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Cows in a pasture

Key Principles for Regenerative Agriculture Success

To reimagine your agricultural business with a regenerative agriculture, you need a shift in thinking. Holistic Management simplifies complexity through planning and monitoring tools that aid in prioritizing and tracking lead-indicators. Wayne Knight of Holistic Management International (HMI) will introduce essential principles and planning tools to guide your decisions when starting or refining your grazing or cropping business.

A Buckeye Chicken

Raising Better Chicken with Heritage Breeds

The Cornish Cross may dominate the market for meat chicken, but there is a niche and a growing demand for slow-growing, standard-bred chicken, such as the Ohio-native heritage breed Buckeye. Learn about advanced poultry husbandry techniques, the genetic nuances of breeding and incubation, and management practices to maximize your profit potential. Get equipped with the skills to elevate your farm-to-table operation by hearing effective marketing approaches and culinary techniques specific to heritage chickens.

Organic Systems Plan Help-Shop

Writing your first Organic Systems Plan (OSP) can be overwhelming. If you are planning to certify for the first time in 2024, OEFFA invites you to bring your draft OSP and your questions to this supported work session. Experienced OEFFA staff will address common stumbling blocks farmers encounter in their first OSP, provide individualized assistance, and answer your questions so your first year of certification goes as smoothly as possible.

Wholesale for All Scales

With multiple opportunities to sell into wholesale outlets emerging, including Ohio CAN, small and mid-scale growers have new market opportunities. Hear from a specific buyer about their requirements and process, plus take a deep dive into vegetable production on two crops–cabbage and cucumbers–with three farmers on the nitty-gritty details on their crop systems. Food safety practices will also be covered.

Organic Farmer Researcher Network DIY Research

Farmers, researchers, and educators interested or experienced in on-farm organic research are invited to discuss current needs and resources. Small group work is intended to generate and refine specific farmer-led research ideas, encouraging new partnerships, ideas, and resources. This conversation started in February 2023, so new and repeat attendees are welcome to come  and move previous ideas forward and start new discussions.


Friday Workshops


Workshop Session I: 9:15-10:30 a.m.

Understanding and Overcoming the Rural Urban Divide:  Opportunities for the Local Foods Movement to Lead the Way—Anthony Flaccavento, Rural Urban Bridge Initiative

What We Learned About Data Collection and Use by Direct Marketing Farmers Who Sell at Farmers’ Markets—Christie Welch, OSU

Ecological Landscaping and Beyond—Wes Duran, Marvin’s Organic Gardens

Year-Round Salad Production—Alex Ball, Old City Acres

Overcoming the Hurdles to Organic Grain Transition—Panel discussion, featuring Carmen Fernholz, A-Frame Farm, and moderated by Eric Richer, OSU

Native Warm Season Grasses: Applications and Management for Pasture-Based Farms—Dan Borrenpohl, Chris Glassmeyer, and Matt Tomaszewski, Greenacres Foundation

Seed To Fork: The Key to Raising Farm Wages—Ryan Doan, Fresh To Morrow

Farmers Working Together: Collaborations in Marketing, Purchasing, and Equipment to Improve Your Farm’s Bottom Line—Melissa Whitt, OSU

Breaking Ground in Land Access for Landowners Community Discussion—Jerah Pettibone, OEFFA

Workshop Session II: 10:45 a.m.-Noon

Beginning Farmer Tax Credit—Lauren Hirtle, OEFFA, Sarah Huffman, Ohio Department of Agriculture

Extension and USDA Midwest Climate Hub: Partnership for Climate-Informed Agriculture—Dennis Todey, USDA-ARS, Aaron Wilson, OSU

Connecting the Dots: Regeneration of Soil, Plants, and People—Debra Knapke, The Garden Sage

Utilizing Integrated Pest Management on Your Farm—Frank Becker, OSU

The New Economics of Organics—Ryan Koory, Mercaris

Intro to Raising Buckeyes for Meat—Jim Schultz, Red Shirt Farm

The New Paradigm: Promoting Circularity in Agriculture Using Practical, Local Approaches—Charles Bethke, Margaret Cullinan, PittMoss, LLC

Insider Tips: How to do Your Books in Five Minutes a Day and Get Good Results—Shelly Oswald, Old Time Farm

BIPOC Breakout Room—Erica Powell, OEFFA

Workshop Session III: 1:30-2:45 p.m.

Leveling the Playing Field through Crop Insurance Reform—Billy Hackett, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE): What the New Rule Means for Your Operation—Kate Pierfelice, OEFFA

When Two Wheels Are Better Than Four: Walk-Behind Tractors for Small-Scale Farming—Joel DuFour, Earth Tools

Powdery Mildew: Conventional vs. Natural Farming—Donetta Boykin, Endigo's Herbals & Organics and Seven Seed Sowers Co-op

Thinking Through Diversity: Crop Rotation on an Organic Grain Farm—Thor Oechsner, Oechsner Farms

Herd Shares in Ohio: Is it for You?—Annette and David Bair, Bair-Trax Dairy

Growing Seedlings and Skills for Agroforestry: Integration of Woody Seedlings and Annual Vegetable Production—Jessica Burns, Kelly's Working Well Farm

A Farmer's Story That Hits Different—Sherifat Alabi and Joy Crumble, OSU

Breaking Ground in Land Access for Farm Seekers Community Discussion—Jerah Pettibone, OEFFA

Workshop Session IV: 3-4:15 p.m.

A New Farm Bill: Where We’re at and Where We're Going—Jesse Womack, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

NRCS Programs for All Farms: Conservation Planning and Programs and Land Preservation Easements—Barbara Baker, Mary Griffiths, Abby McClain, USDA NRCS

Benefits of Fungi with Melanated Mushrooms—Cheryl and Vernon Clements, Melanated Mushrooms

Profitable Tunnel Rotations—Dana Hilfinger, Johnny's Selected Seeds and Roots, Fruits and Shoots

Navigating Turbulent Organic Grain Markets—Carmen Fernholz, A-Frame Farm

Incorporating Silvopasture into Your Livestock Operation—Molly Sowash and CJ Morgan, MoSo Farm

Internships and Learning Contracts to Promote Farm Career Development—Katy Rogers, Teter Organic Farm

Unconventional and Innovative Farm Design—Jonathan Greer, Eden's Blessing Family Farm

Growing Seed Crops and Seed Swap!—Lindsay Klaunig, Trouvaille Farm, Kaleb Wilkins, Rooted in Thyme

Saturday Workshops


Workshop Session V: 10:45 a.m.-Noon

Bridging Perspectives—Nicole Wolcott, OEFFA

For Peat's Sake! An Exploration of Potting Soil Components—Nathan Rutz, Rust Belt Riders Composting/Tilth Soil

Small-Space Indoor Production of Microgreens and Mushrooms as a Way to Create a Viable Income and Help People Out of Poverty—Tom Phillips, StarkFresh

Fostering Best Practices for Plant and Soil Health Management While Adapting to Current and Future Climate Challenges—Pam Mack, L Marie Ltd

Farm, Mill, and Bakery: Adding Value Adds Up—Thor Oechsner, Oechsner Farms

Earning Income on Fallow with Swine—Tom Cail

Farming with Draft Animals—Gabriel Francisco, Thunderfoot Farm

Grants, Loans, and Technical Support for Urban Farmers from the USDA -- Mike Hogan, OSU

Seed Commons as a Pathway to Community Resilience—Jim Embry, Sustainable Communities Network

Workshop Session VI: 1:30-2:45 p.m.

A Seat at OEFFA's Table: Policy Agenda for Urban and BIPOC Communities—Amanda Hernandez, Leonard Hubert, L Hubert and Associates, Bill Miller, Ohio Farmers Union, Celeste Treece, AgNoire Urban Farming Association

The Craft Millers Guild: A Network of Open-Source Peer-to-Peer Learning for Millers—Michelle Ajamian, Shagbark Seed and Mill

No-Till Vegetable Production Strategies—Carlos Dandridge

From Market Garden to CSA: A Step-by-Step Crop Planning Demonstration—Marc Amante, Central State University

The Basics of Surface and Subsurface Drainage—Dave Shively, Shively Farm, Don Stinner

Grazing Management: Key Profit Drivers of a Grazing System—Michael Cox, Greenacres Foundation

African American Heritage Crop Project—Kamille Austin, Corey Higgs, Mariah Simmons, Claire Thorn, Central State University

Where am I Going to Sell My Produce?—Walt Bonham, The Food Lab

Queer Farmer Breakout Room—Jerah Pettibone, OEFFA

Workshop Session VII: 3-4:15 p.m.

Shifting the Narrative: How to Apply OEFFA's Policy Narrative and Cultivate Community—Lauren Hirtle and Milo Petruziello, OEFFA

Black Farmers and Climate Adaptation—Maritza Pierre, OSU

On-Farm Cultivation of Goldenseal: A High-Value Ohio Specialty Crop, and Other Forest Botanicals—Andrea Miller, Rural Action

Lessons from Design and Installation of an Earth-to-Air Heat Exchanger for High Tunnel Heating and Cooling—Jaden Tatum, OSU

Environmental and Economic Tradeoffs Associated with Integrating Livestock into Cash Grain Cropping Systems—Doug Jackson-Smith, Marilia Chiavegato, and Ryan Haden, OSU

Dairy Goats 101—Nellie Rowland, OSU

Leveraging Partnerships for Inclusive Climate-Resilient Community Garden Projects—Dianne Kadonaga, Sunny Glen Garden

On-Farm Realistic Expectation Setting with Scrum Project Management—Andrea Heim, Encouragemint LLC

Building a Farm Labor, Skill Share, and Volunteering Network—Erica Powell and Abbe Turner, OEFFA

We incorporate organic and/or local meats, dairy products, vegetables, and grains into our meal offerings. Given this sourcing work, a limited number of meals are available for sale. If you plan to eat a conference lunch, we recommend buying it in advance. Vegan and gluten-free meals cannot be guaranteed.

Yogurt and granola
Sausage and eggs
Veggie tofu scramble

Pork enchilada casserole -or-
Vegetarian penne pasta primavera

Tossed salad with microgreens with ranch and vinaigrette dressings
3-bean salad

Traditional beef shepherd’s pie -or-
Vegetarian sweet potato shepherd’s pie

Winter green kale salad with candied walnuts and ranch
and Ohio maple syrup vinaigrette dressing
Winter harvest roasted root vegetables
Baked apples with chef-crafted caramel sauce

Chef Craig Bigham is delighted to work with OEFFA again due to the
quality, freshness, and taste our farmers deliver to his kitchen for our conference meals. Well-versed in cooking for large groups, his background includes cooking in the United States Marine Corps as well as corporate kitchens and private events. Chef Bigham was raised on an Ohio farm and is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute.

Understanding and Overcoming the Rural Urban Divide:

The First Step in Rebuilding Our Democracy

Thursday, February 15—1-4 p.m.

Our nation is increasingly divided across economics, politics and culture. While race and class play major roles in this polarization, the divide between urban and rural is perhaps the most talked about yet poorly understood component of our divisions. The Rural Urban Bridge Initiative’s training, “Understanding and Overcoming the Rural-Urban Divide” provides an in-depth look into both the underlying causes of the divide and what people and groups can do to begin to overcome it. For the OEFFA conference, the workshop will include discussion of how farmers and food and farming advocates in particular can play a role. This event is free and does
not require registration.

What is the Climate-Smart Agriculture Agenda for Small Farms?

Thursday, February 15—2-4 p.m.

Help the USDA shape a small farm friendly approach to climate-smart agriculture. Hear about some of the key climate change impacts on agriculture in the Midwest and a regional Extension-USDA Midwest Climate Hub project, Climate Ready Midwest. Join small groups and discussions to explore the question: What
does climate-smart agriculture mean to you? This event is free and does not require registration.

Exhibit Hall Happy Hour and Keynote Storytelling

Thursday, February 15—4-7:15 p.m.

We’re kicking things off on Thursday evening with a welcoming happy hour in the exhibit hall and keynote storytelling! Reunite with food and farm friends, get a headstart on your conference shopping, and enjoy snacks and a cash bar in the exhibit hall. Can’t make it in time for the keynote? Follow us on Facebook
@ohioecologicalfoodandfarmassociation to watch it on Facebook live! Exhibit hall doors open at 4 p.m. The keynote storytelling begins at 6 p.m. Access to this event is included in both general and Food and Farm School registration.

Open Mic Night

Open Mic Night Film Screening

Friday, February 16—7:30 p.m.

Come and share your artistic side! This is a free
time to share your songs, poems, stories, skits, and more—share whatever moves you. There will be a sign-up sheet available to claim a spot on a first-come, first-served basis. An acoustic guitar will be available for anyone who needs it.

Diggin In Movie

Film Screening

Friday, February 16—7:30 p.m.

OEFFA is screening the film Digging In, which follows Masika Henson around the U.S. to understand who controls our food, who owns the land it’s grown upon, and whether our systems can adapt to a changing climate.

Heartland FarmLink

Heartland FarmLink Mixer

Friday, February 16—5-6:30 p.m.

FarmLink Mixer is a social event for farmland seekers and farmland owners to meet and connect. Farmers and landowners who have available farmland to rent, sell, or transfer can meet up with interested farmers looking for land. Land seekers are encouraged to talk to farmland owners about their hopes and plans for a farm, and find other interested farmers who may want to collaborate on a farm project. Transferring land is a big challenge—this event is to help ease some of the hurdles and bring interested parties together. This event is free and does not require registration.

Farm Market

Farmers’ Market Vendor Fair

Friday, February 16—5-6:30 p.m.

This is an opportunity to connect farmers’ markets/managers with farmers and vendors searching for direct-to-consumer opportunities to sell their products.Market managers looking for new vendors will have informational displays conveniently set up along the way to the exhibit hall, making it easy for farmers and food entrepreneurs to network with potential markets and seek out a good fit.

Breakfast Keynote

Saturday, February 17—8:45 a.m.

Delight your mind and body with a keynote presentation from Jim Embry on growing a more caring world through sustainable farming, all while enjoying a cup of coffee and your morning breakfast.

Exhibit Hall

Saturday, February 17—8 a.m.

Whether you’re just looking for information or to see the latest products available to farmers and consumers, the conference trade show will have an abundant and diverse selection of exhibitors on site to inspire you throughout the conference.

Exhibit Hall

Happy Hours


4-6 pm


4:30 – 6:30 pm

Exhibit Hall Hours

Open throughout the conference!


4-6 pm


8 am – 6:30 pm


8 am – 6:30 pm

Flash Demos


4:30 – 6:30 pm

With more than 31,000 square feet of space, the exhibit hall is a one-stop shop! Here, you’ll find businesses that can help you find your market, products to maximize your farm or backyard, services to improve your farm or homestead, quality locally-produced merchandise for your pantry and home, and useful information from knowledgeable nonprofit and educational institutions.

Location and Lodging

Cherry Valley Hotel and Ohio Event Center
2299 Cherry Valley Rd. SE, Newark, Ohio 43055
cherryvalleyhotel.com  |  (740) 788-1200

With its newly renovated rooms and thousands of square feet of space, Cherry Valley Hotel will truly be our home for the conference weekend. Parking is complimentary, and guests will enjoy their rooms being only a minute’s walk to all conference activities. There is an indoor pool, fitness center, and multiple places to eat and drink on site. 

$139.00 per night. Visit oeffa.org/stay or call and ask for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association room block rate. A limited number of rooms are available at this rate. Deadline: January 30, 2024.) 


Dawes Arboretum
Stroll through the 2,000 acres of seasonal gardens and walking trails of The Dawes Arboretum. Popular attractions include the Japanese Garden, birdwatching, and a 10,000-year-old glacier ridge.

Granville Downtown Square
Experience New England charm in the heart of Ohio by strolling

down Granville’s downtown square. Explore the unique shops and sit down to enjoy the local dining options.

Midland Theater
Catch spellbinding drama productions, ballet spectaculars, and sold-out concerts at Midland Theater, a 1,800-seat multipurpose venue in Newark.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
41 Croswell Rd.
Columbus OH 43214


OEFFA:(614) 421-2022 (614) 421-2022
OEFFA Certification:(614) 262-2022 (614) 262-2022