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January 8, 2009

Marshalltown, IA – In a tough economy, people looking for new careers may be considering farming. Linda Barnes, farmer and coordinator of the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture program at Marshalltown Community College says agriculture may be the future.

While other parts of the economy sour, agriculture continues to offer tremendous opportunities for those already in the business and to those thinking of a change. To that end, beginning farmers and those switching to more diversified operations can get some help at the annual conference of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, which starts Friday. Barnes says it's not just young people who are thinking about farming as a career.

"I have students who are 50 and interested in a different kind of agriculture. So sometimes it's a matter of consumers becoming farmers."

She says conventional farmers are discovering that diversifying to include crops that can be direct-marketed to local consumers saves on the energy costs of planting and cultivating, and also makes them less vulnerable to swings in the market.

"The more diverse the farm is the more stable it is, and it isn't quite so dependent on the price of grain or the price of seed or the price of fertilizer."

This year’s conference is being held at the Marshalltown Community College, and Barnes says it offers a diverse line-up of workshops, ranging from holistic veterinarian practices to how fledgling farmers can get a start.

For more information on the conference, visit Dick Layman/Elizabeth Grattan, Public News Service - IA