A Midwest farmer with an innovative approach to managing his operation to produce high quality organic dairy products will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference.

Francis Thicke will discuss how he uses nature’s ecology as a model to design and manage his farm to improve the health of soils, forages and livestock at the March 10 conference at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center. Thicke and his wife, Susan, operate Radiance Dairy, an 80-cow certified organic farm in Fairfield, Iowa. Thicke has a Ph.D. in agronomy and soil fertility and is currently serving on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards Board.

University of Vermont (UVM) Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s Organic Dairy and Livestock Technical Assistance Program are joint sponsors for the conference, which costs $25 to attend. Lunch is included for all registrations received by March 3.

Registrations will be accepted online or by mail. Checks, made payable to University of Vermont, may be mailed to UVM Extension, Attn: Organic Dairy Conference, 278 South Main St., Ste. 2, St. Albans, VT 05478. Anyone requiring a disability-related accommodation to participate is asked to contact Susan Brouillette at (802) 524-6501, ext. 432, by Feb. 25.

In addition to Thicke’s talk, the morning program will include a presentation by Sabrina Greenwood, UVM Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, on her research on feeding strategies on organic dairies to optimize nutrition management and animal productivity. Ryan Patch, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, will provide an update on the agency’s new Required Agricultural Practices.

Following lunch, a panel of “next generation” scientists will share their research. Keena Mullen, a postdoctoral scholar at North Carolina State University, will discuss the results of her research evaluating herbal treatments to treat and/or prevent mastitis. UVM doctoral students Melissa Bainbridge and Caleb Goossen will talk about their research on the effect of pasture and other fresh forages on animal production and the fatty acid profile of milk.

They are followed by a farmer panel on soil improvements, led by Heather Darby, UVM Extension agronomist, who will present the latest UVM research on fertility management on organic dairy farms. The farmers will discuss their strategies to build farm soils to yield high quality and quantity feed for their cows.

Support for the conference has been provided by several sponsors including Organic Valley/ CROPP Cooperative, Morrison’s Custom Feeds, Stonyfield Organic, Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Yankee Farm Credit and the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency and National Institute for Food and Agriculture.