As a horticulturist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Barbara Storz says she’s often approached by landowners with questions about small-scale farming.

“People with less than 10 acres of land want to know what they can do with their properties to make some money,” she said. “Fortunately, there are several ways to go, but the first step is for landowners to gather information and meet people who can help them.”

To educate and network small landowners, Storz has helped organize the 8th Annual Sustainable Ag and Organic Gardening Conference. The two-day program will be held Jan. 30 and 31 at the Echo Hotel in Edinburg. “This conference is for people who have thought of going into farming on a small scale,” Storz said. “Maybe they are backyard gardeners who want to expand, or maybe they’re interested in growing and selling organic vegetables. Or maybe they want to start a small citrus orchard or grow high-value crops like starfruit.”

Storz said the conference is an excellent opportunity for small landowners to gain knowledge from experienced producers, researchers and farm industry professionals.

“Growing organic vegetables can be very profitable,” Storz said, “but becoming certified as an organic grower is a process. We’ll have experts on hand to explain that process, as well as organic suppliers who can provide landowners or even commercial growers with the products they’ll need to go organic.”

The conference begins Friday at 8 a.m. with a tour of the City of McAllen’s composting facility, an organic citrus farm and the Borders Farm and Packing Shed in Edinburg.

After the tour, the speakers program begins at 2:30 p.m. with talks on organic pecan production, soil minerals and fertilizers.

“We’ll also present two case studies on sustainable pastures and sustainable watermelon production,” Storz said. “A trade show will be open with very informative booths by the Texas Department of Agriculture and others, followed by a buffet dinner.”

Saturday’s program begins at 8:30 a.m. with talks on tropical fruit orchard maintenance, organic nematode and disease control, high-density citrus production and how to become a certified organic producer.

Growers can receive three continuing education units to help meet pesticide license requirements, Storz said.

“This one-stop event will offer something for anyone interested in sustainable or organic farming and gardening, especially the small landowner,” she said.

The conference is sponsored by the Sustainable Agronomic Education Association, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, AgriLife Extension, Texas Plant and Soil Lab and Earthwise Organics.

The registration fee for both days is $80, or $40 for Saturday’s program only.

For more information, contact Storz at 956-383-1026, or e-mail b-storz@tamu.edu.