MOUNT HOPE — The third Organic Farming Conference will be held Nov. 10-11, 2017, at The Event Center in Mount Hope.

Unlike the first two conferences, which were one-day events, this year’s conference will be two days to meet the need for the growing interest in organic farming, gardening and homemaking. Jerry D. Miller, a Holmes County dairy farmer, will be the keynote speaker and will focus on the value of neighborly support for a successful agricultural community.

While dairy is the largest segment of organic farming in this region, organic produce growing is increasing every year. So is the interest in organic home gardening and preserving the resulting products, from making sauerkraut to canning and freezing fruits, vegetables and meat. Organic farmers and gardeners have long held to the belief that growing your own food on a healthy fertile soil is the best health insurance one can obtain.

Workshops and breakout sessions on all of the above topics are planned, plus the popular event, "The Organic Home," which focuses primarily on the homemakers, but is of interest to some of the plowboys as well. There will be a session and panel on "The Family Garden," plus demonstration tables covering a wide variety of subjects: Homemade Diapers, Root Cellaring, Dried Flower Art, Artisan Breads, The Home Dairy, Natural Cleaning, Homemade Gift Bags and more, all tied in to the idea of living creatively and sustainably.

There will be a panel discussion on beekeeping and its value to organic farming. One topic will be OTS (On-the-Spot) queen replacement in early summer, which has become a key management tool for successful over-wintering of the colony and swarm control the following spring.

The overall prospects for organic farming look promising. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition wrote that "organic agriculture is one of the fastest growing sectors ... for farmers across the country, strong demand for organic food translates into new and growing market opportunities." According to OTA’s (Organic Trade Association) CEO and executive director Laura Batcha, "The organic industry continues to be a real bright spot in the food and ag economy both at the farm gate and checkout counter."

Organic farming has seen annual growth of 12 to 14 percent since 1995 when genetically engineered seeds began to be grown on a vast scale and consumer pushback against GMOs began. The strong organic sector stayed on its upward course in 2016, gaining new market share and shattering records, as consumers across the United States ate and used more organic products than ever before. Sales in the U.S. of organic food totaled almost $50 billion in 2016, reflecting new sales of almost $3.7 billion from the previous year. Organic food now accounts for more than five percent of total food sales in this country, according to a USDA report. The USDA ends its report quite succinctly, offering no justification as to why the rise is suddenly so sharp or relevant. Regardless, the growth is being lauded by many health advocates who believe in integrating into a cleaner, greener and more organic lifestyle.

The perils of pesticide-laden food, toxic tap waterand similar environmental concerns make it more necessary for people to be diligent about what they eat, what they do and, most importantly, how they live. Opting for organic food is an advantageous choice not only for your own personal health, but for the community as well. For more information visit www.organicfarmingconf.com. For general questions, call Jeff Ramsyer at 330-749-7793 or email info@organicfarmingconf.com. Vendors can contact Mike Kline at 330-231-1741. Write to OFC, P.O. Box 214, Millersburg, OH 44654 for a brochure.