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New Mexico State University

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Organic conferences to meet in Las Cruces Feb. 27-28

LAS CRUCES - The New Mexico Organic Farming Conference, the southwest's premier conference for organic and sustainable agriculture, will be held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 27-28, at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, 705 South Telshor Blvd.

The two-day conference will include more than 30 production and marketing workshops, an organic/local food luncheon on Saturday and a large exhibition hall.

The event is organized by New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission and Farm to Table. The registration fee is $100 or $65 for one day. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. each day. For more information call Le at (505) 473-1004, ext. 10, or Joanie at (505) 841-9067.

I. Miley Gonzalez, New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture, will open the conference at 9 a.m. Friday. Gonzalez' welcome will be followed by workshop sessions on a variety of topics ranging from organic fruit production to water harvesting.

At 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Paul Johnson, former chief of the USDA's Soil Conservation Service, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Aldo Leopold in New Mexico with a talk on "Aldo Leopold's Enduring Legacy to Sustainable Farming." Leopold is perhaps best known for his work as an ecologist. Less known is his ground-breaking work in farmstead conservation. In the Dust Bowl era, Leopold led an effort to stop soil erosion on farms and wrote widely on the importance of increasing biodiversity on working farms.

Keynote speaker Paul Johnson is a wildlife biologist, farmer, founder of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, and is one of the country's leading authorities on Aldo Leopold. Johnson's speech will be followed by workshop sessions covering topics from weed management to pruning and grafting.

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, pre-conference activities will include an all-day training for food processors on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) hosted by Nancy Flores, Extension food technology specialist at NMSU. And on Thursday, Feb. 26, there will be an all-day tour, including lunch, of NMSU and the NMDA, hosted by Del Jimenez of NMSU Cooperative Extension Service.

At 10 a.m. Sunday, March 1, following the conference, there will be an informal tour of the Del Valle Pecan Orchard.