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About 5,500 Farmers Head For Des Moines In Search Of New Ideas

December 1, 1986

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Farmers trying to cope with the slim difference between survival and failure in today’s agriculture economy will hear 100 ways to diversify at a special conference on the subject beginning Tuesday.

″Diversification seems to be the key to surviving right now. It’s something to look into,″ said Doug Emanuel, a North Bend, Neb. farmer who is among the 5,500 registered for the ADAPT 100 conference.

ADAPT stands for Agricultural Diversity Adds Profit Today. The 100 stands for the number of alternatives to be presented at the 1 1/2 -day conference sponsored by Successful Farming magazine.

Sessions will feature farmers who already have diversified, discussing practices such as selling produce and fowl to restaurants, charging for fishing on farms, raising deer for venison and making lighter fluid from corn. There will be sessions on raising exotic crops, such as ginseng, and exotic livestock, such as llamas.

What makes this conference different from the run-of-the-mill farm meeting is that instead of focusing on what the government can be expected to do for agriculture, it concentrates on what farmers can do for themselves.

The only plan of many farmers is ″to sit around and wait for the next government program,″ said Richard Krumme, editor of Successful Farming. ″We want to create a mindset of self-reliance.″

Karl Horn, a Lindenwood, Ill. farmer, already has diversified in traditional ways, raising corn and soybeans on about 450 acres of rented land, fattening hogs for market and raising beef and sheep.

But he said he is looking for new ideas at the ADAPT conference.

″We’re going to have to diversify a bit to make the same income to meet machinery payments and rent on the land,″ said Horn, 36, a farmer for the past 12 years. ″Everything is marginal around here. Unless you own your own land around here you have a high overhead.″

Larry Akkerman, a Wellsburg farmer, said he hopes the exchange of ideas will give him an edge.

″If you could get a step on everyone else, it’s possible to get ahead faster,″ said Akkerman, 40, who raises corn and soybeans on 1,000 acres.

None of the conference organizers expect the farmers to tear up their fields when they get home and devote their full attention to asparagus, Angora goats or Shiitake mushrooms.

And Krumme said he is not organizing a conference for farmers whose vision is limited to selling a pickup load of lumber or tomatoes, either. Participants will be encouraged to start small, experiment and find a market of their own that could grow to represent about 20 percent of their business.

″This is just something to help you decide,″ said Jeff Bisbee, who grows corn and soybeans on 600 rented acres at Carson. ″It’s not something you want to jump into at once.″

Bisbee, 29, a farmer for 10 years, said, ″It would be nice if we could keep going the way it was, but you have to keep changing. If you can’t make money the way things have been you have to try something new.″

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