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Idaho Farmer-to-Farmer Exchange Honors Pioneers

by Jennifer Miller — last modified Feb 14, 2014 01:10 PM

Farmers committed to organic and sustainable agriculture aren’t the new kids on the block, anymore.

In recent months, conversations across the nation have highlighted the need to learn from pioneering farmers in the organic and sustainable agriculture movement, some who first launched thirty, forty or more years ago. (See this New York Times article and this panel from the Tilth Producers of Washington annual conference)

Inspired by this dialog, NCAP kicked off its farmer-to-farmer exchange with a panel of organic and sustainable agriculture pioneers in Idaho. The five farmers had a combined 197 years of experience: Janie Burns of Meadowlark Farm in Nampa, ID; Fred Brossy of Ernie’s Organics in Shoshone, ID; Nathan Jones of King’s Crown Organic Farm in King Hill, ID; Mike Heath of M&M Heath Farms in Buhl, ID, and Tim Sommer of Purple Sage Farms in Middleton, ID.

 Pioneer Panel 2, Grower's Own, 2014

Left to right: Mike Heath, Janie Burns, Nathan Jones, Tim Sommer, Fred Brossy 
Moderated by Cinda Williams with the University of Idaho.

The panelists provided perspective on the changes that have been made, the challenges they had to overcome, and what inspires and motivates them to this day.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to honor these pioneers,” says conference co-organizer Beth Rasgorshek of Canyon Bounty Farm. “They have invested so much in Idaho agriculture, which allows all of us who follow to pursue our dreams of farming and growing healthy food in this state.” 

The day continued with small group discussions covering the nuts and bolts of pollinator and beneficial insect habitat; tools and support networks needed to grow new farmers; book keeping methods; high tunnels; livestock grazing for weed management; methods for driving farmers market sales; ways to tell the story of being certified organic; and several other topics.

Sustie 2014

Nathan Jones (left) and Mike Heath (right), two of the pioneers in Idaho organic and sustainable agriculture, were honored with a Sustie award. Fred Brossy (middle) presented these awards Friday evening at the Grower's Own Conference.

NCAP appreciates the active participation of all the farmers who convened sessions, shared their experiences and voiced their struggles, thus making the farmer-to-farmer exchange such a success. We especially thank Beth Rasgorshek as a co-organizer and co-host of the Grower’s Own Conference.