Six Strategies to Optimize your Investment in Farm Conferences or Educational Events


 Keynote at Oahu RCandD at KoHana Distillers

The winter months usher in an inspiring annual line-up of farm conferences from coast to coast, some tailored to small farms, including EcoFarm in California, PASA’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Pennsylvania, and the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in the Midwest. And there are the Mother Earth News Fairs at numerous spots around country throughout the year, too. But add in the cost of conference fees, lodging and travel as well as time away from the farm or homestead, and the stakes are high that you want a strong knowledge return on the investment it takes to attend, especially if you are a beginning farmer with limited resources.

What’s the best resource to help navigate these conferences and make the most of your attendance? Advice from fellow farmers and homesteaders seasoned in attending such events.  I tapped into the network of women farmers I write about in Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers and via my hats leading the MOSES In Her Boots Project and Soil Sisters Wisconsin event for easy and accessible tips to maximize your investment in attending a conference or fair.

Given the collaborative spirit of our sustainable and organic agriculture community, not surprisingly, most of these ideas root in connecting with the people who are there. But don’t leave these connections to just happen. Read on for creative and strategic ways to amplify conference encounters to both harvest new knowledge peppered with new friendships. 

One key thing to remember when attending any conference: all of the costs associated with your trip can qualify as legitimate, deductible, business expenses as my husband, John Ivanko, and I write about in our book, ECOpreneuring. This is an important distinction in your evolution from hobby to business owner: education and new skill development related to your operations can be a deductible expense. From the registration fees to lodging to meals that you eat out while traveling, save your receipts and consider deducting these expenditures as an expense item on your profit and loss statement.

Here are six tips on maximizing your farm conference attendance:

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