Conference to feature alternative crops, goats |

Conference to feature alternative crops, goats

“Money-Making Alternative Agricultural Enterprises for Farm Families” is the theme for the Annual Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference.

The conference is set from 8:45 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 3 at Western Nebraska Community College in Sidney, Neb. Pre-registration is due by Nov. 23.

The agenda includes: goats, alternative crops such as hops and mint, sidelines such as bee-keeping and agronomic practices such as controlling weeds with propane flaming.

The Western Sustainable Ag Crops and Livestock Conference was initiated by farmers who saw the need for a conference to bring research-based, alternative and value-added agriculture information to farmers and ranchers in western Nebraska. The annual conference provides information for a growing group of farmers and ranchers who are looking for new ways to keep their operations sustainable, according to Nebraska Extension Educator Karen DeBoer, one of the conference organizers.

On the evening before the conference, Nebraska craft beers will take the stage during a tasting session for brews from the Cornhusker State. The tasting begins at 7 p.m. in the Best Western Plus, 645 Cabela Drive, and is sponsored by the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society.

Keynote speaker Ron Godin’s topic is “Improving and Maintaining Long-term Soil Health.” Godin, of Delta, Colo., coordinates Colorado State University’s soil health Initiative in western Colorado, a farmer-initiated project involving 30 area farmers, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and CSU personnel.

Godin said he started working with the soil health initiative about six years ago. In an area that receives 8-10 inches annually, the crops are irrigated, and many of the farmers involved raise continuous corn.

Godin will also present two workshop topics related to hops, an alternative crop used by craft and commercial-scale beer brewers. UNL is conducting statewide variety trials in Nebraska, and Godin has been involved with hops for more than a decade in western Colorado.


Intro to hops production: Godin will address all the aspects, from trellising to harvest, drying and baling. Hops are a promising profitable alternative crop, but present their challenges and are labor intensive.

Goats: how they fit into your farming operation: Experienced goat producers Clint Andersen of Rushville and Donna Corfield of Ogallala will explain how to get started raising goats, including marketing, health issues, hoof care, fencing and pastures.

Commercial mint production for western Nebraska: Dipak Santra, alternative crops breeding specialist with University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff, is the presenter. Mint is grown primarily for the oil it produces. The climate in western Nebraska is similar to major U.S. mint-producing areas and commercial production of high quality mint oil is possible. The goal of this project is to identify peppermint and spearmint varieties to promote commercial mint production in western Nebraska.

The nuts and bolts of producing quality hops: Godin will explain the importance of pruning and training times, using Integrated Pest Management to keep insects and disease at bay, and how to tell when hops are ready to harvest including drying and conditioning, which is the trickiest and most crucial part of the production.

Utilizing propane flaming for weed control in row crops: Strahinja Stepanovic, Nebraska Extension in Grant, will speak about the principle of propane flaming for weed control; sensitivity of crops and weeds to different propane doses; ability of different crops to tolerate multiple flaming treatments; comparisons of flaming treatments to hand weeding and between-row cultivation; significance of flame-weeding equipment designs in row crop production; and application of flame-weeding in vegetable and fruit production. Organic farmer Larry Stanislav will discuss how he is using the AFI flamer for weed control in soybeans.

Small-scale beekeeping: Presenter will be Ted Slagle of Ogallala. Many locations that supported large bee operations in the past have switched from legumes to grain crops and are now unacceptable to beekeeping. GMOs, more spraying, new pests, colony collapse and other problems have increased beekeepers’ workload so much that they need to understand location limitations and how to handle the problems presented to them.

— Courtesy of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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