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Organic Conference packed with experts, food and fun

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) is now taking registrations for the 2013 Minnesota Organic Conference, to be held January 11-12 at the River's Edge Convention Center in downtown St. Cloud. More than 500 people are expected to attend.

Now in its 12th year, this farmer-focused conference offers 36 educational sessions for crop and livestock producers as well as vegetable and fruit growers. There will be special programming for farmers interested in transitioning to organic and for beginning farmers. Keynote speakers this year are Minnesota State Climatologist Mark Seeley and organic certification expert and advisor Jim Riddle. Farmers and researchers from New York, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Montana are also on the agenda, along with a lot of home grown expertise.

Sessions start promptly at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and 8:00 a.m. Saturday. In addition to the educational programs, a trade show with more than 80 booths will feature equipment manufacturers and suppliers, seed companies, fertilizer dealers, certifying agencies, agricultural consultants, soil labs, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, organic traders, buyers, and distributors, and many other resources.

Early bird registration costs $125 for the two day conference with significant discounts for those registering from the same farm or business operation. Early registration rates end December 28, 2012.One day registrations are also available. Registration includes conference snacks and meals, which draw rave reviews every year and are made with ingredients from organic farms and companies in Minnesota and neighboring states. A block of hotel rooms will be held at the Kelly Inn, which adjoins the conference center, until December 15, 2012.

The registration brochure, which contains program details and registration materials, is available now at or by calling 651-201-6012. A few trade show booth spaces are still available; interested vendors should call Jessica Miles at the same number.

The Minnesota Organic Conference is organized by the MDA with significant financial support from Ag Star Financial Services, Albert Lea Seed, Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA), Wedge Community Co-op, Organic Crop Improvement Association, and Minnesota Farmers Union, along with other sponsors.