Category Archives: Announcements

2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference Schedule and Registration Now Available!

We hope you have your calendars marked and plan to attend the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference. The most up-to-date conference schedule is available!

The program will be updated as needed in the coming weeks. Registration links are available at http://conference.virginiafarmtotable.org/register/

flyer-cFor registration, Virginia Cooperative Extension is working closely with Blue Ridge Community College’s Workforce and Continuing Education to strengthen the college’s efforts and course offerings in the area of agriculture and farm-to-table careers.

 

Cultivating Healthy Farms and Resilient Communities

Save the Date_2016To learn about healthy farms, resilient communities and more food system topics from farmers, practitioners, and researchers, plan to attend the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference. For the 5th year, Virginia Cooperative Extension, in partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, Virginia Food System Council, Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research Education (SARE), Virginia FAIRS, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit of the Virginias’ Knowledge Center, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), Virginia Division of Energy, Eastern Mennonite University and community partners, present the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference December 6 – 8, 2016 at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Development Center, Weyers Cave, VA. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Cultivating Healthy Farms and Resilient Communities.’

The conference will feature engaging and inspirational speakers with broad experience and knowledge of food, farming and pressing environmental issues including Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Ellen Kahler of Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund,  Chef Michael Twitty of Afroculinaria and the Cooking Gene, Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm, Glyen Holmes of the New North Florida Cooperative and other great panelists.

Confirmed resource speakers and panelists to-date include the following:

  • Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program
  • Ellen Kahler of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
  • Chef Michael Twitty of Afroculinaria
  • Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm
  • Dr. Morris Henderson of 31st Street Baptist Church
  • Glyen Holmes of the New North Florida Cooperative
  • Jenna Clarke of Project Grows
  • Tony Kleese of Earthwise Organics
  • Dr. Marcia DeLonge of the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Dr. Andrea Basche of the Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Maureen McNamara Best of Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP)
  • Trevor Piersol of Alleghany Mountain Institute Urban Farm at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind
  • Brad Burrow of Artisan’s Hope
  • Katrina Didot of A Bowl of Good Cafe
  • Wendy Wenger Hochstetler of Wenger Grapes
  • Christy Huger of Mountain View Farm Products
  • John Garber of Red Front Supermarket
  • Andrew Wingfield of George Mason University and the Virginia Sustainable Food Coalition
  • Representative of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s Farm at Willow Run.

There will be three specific concurrent session tracks as part of the conference where producers and practitioners share their local and regional expertise on 1) Practical Applications of Soil and Water Health, 2) Making Money in the Middle: Finding Your Niche, and 3) Local Food for All. Additionally, there will be in-depth (3 to 6 hours) trainings on crop and whole-farm budgeting offered by Tony Kleese of Earthwise Organics and food system training on collective impact and other topics  by Ellen Kahler of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund.

What is unique about this year’s conference?

• There will be a full day pre-conference tour of local farms and agribusinesses on Tuesday, December 6 for a close-up look at and discussion with farm and food businesses in the Staunton and Greater Augusta County area. This chartered tour will offer insight to the successes and challenges by local farms and agribusinesses that are stepping outside the traditional box. Join us for an informational and fun experience!
• On Wednesday evening, the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition will host an informational and networking mixer. This FREE event will be off site at a restaurant in the Staunton area the evening of Dec. 7th.

Look forward to friendly conversation, networking, and a chance to learn more about the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition. Open to individuals looking for support in the very beginning or early stages of their farming trajectory, or seasoned producers that also want to network and mingle. Refreshments will be available from 7-9 PM. Come join the networking fun!

Anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of community, local and regional food systems should plan to attend.

The cost for the conference is $40 each day. The cost of the pre-conference tour is $25.

In addition to a full day of mind-opening ideas from the speakers on food system topics, you will also:
• Network with other like-minded growers.
• A great meal made with food from local farms.

We are currently inquiring about continuing education credits for nutrient management planners and crop advisers.

The full schedule and a link to registration will be available soon at http://conference.virginiafarmtotable.org!

Why Continue to Promote Farmers Markets and Local Foods?

Agriculture is Virginia’s largest industry with an annual economic impact of $52 billion, creating nearly 311,000 jobs for the state (VDACS). With such a strong agricultural industry, why is it important to continue to promote farmers markets and local foods in Virginia?

Market_produceToday, many people are two or three generations removed from farming and actual day-to-day food production. Farmers markets are often the first farming and agricultural enterprise people who did not grow up on a farm relate to in a real and personal way, particularly as they get to know and interact with market growers and vendors on weekly visits. Of course, more can be done to educate people about agriculture and the challenges of farming as a livelihood, but these market relationships are a good starting point for additional conversations.

Farmers markets showcase the sights, smells and sounds of the community, while giving a glimpse into agriculture and local food and farm production. Markets also encourage social and community interaction. A study by the Project for Public Spaces reports that customers have on average 10 more conversations at a farmers market than at a supermarket.

Okay, so why promote locally grown Virginia foods? With the competitive nature of agriculture, it is important to optimize and utilize all markets available to Virginia producers from local and regional scale to national and international scale. Do you know that Virginia households spend over $20 billion buying food each year, including about $12 billion to eat at home! Additionally, tourists to Virginia spend another $5 to 6 billion purchasing food. However, even with Virginia’s strong and diverse agricultural economy, Virginia producers are only able to capture a small portion of these food dollars. Also, it is hard to know what ingredients are actually grown and procured in Virginia.

Therefore, promoting local foods is about trying to capture some of the food dollars that are already out there — even if it is a small bump in the current percentage and amount. The definition of local food can be a bit confusing in how to define a specific geographic boundary, but local food is more about relationships and connections to farming; the story and community; freshness and taste; local economies; seizing the opportunity; enhancing resilience and diversity.

2015 USDA FMPP  LFPP Workshops in VirginiaIn Virginia, there are many people who have good ideas to promote farmers markets and local food system development, but a continuing issue is finding funding to get things moving in the right direction. Also, writing a grant can seem daunting. Virginia Cooperative Extension, in partnership with USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Regional Rural Development Centers and Penn State University, is offering three upcoming grant writing workshops in eastern, central, and western Virginia. The workshop materials and resources have been developed and focused to improve the funding success rate of applicants from Virginia and other states to USDA-AMS grant programs, specifically the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP).

The workshops are FREE of charge and all are welcome to register and attend these workshops. Please share the attached flier and announcement with producers, farmers market managers, organizations that would be interested in learning more about and submitting grant applications to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services’ (AMS) Farmers Market and Local Foods Promotion Programs.

ONLINE REGISTRATION REQUIRED: http://tinyurl.com/vagrantworkshops
Participants should register for only one of the workshops. The workshops will contain the same instruction and training materials
Producers and attendees can review past awarded grants for inspiration and ideas:
USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) Awardees: http://tinyurl.com/fmpp-grantees
USDA Local Foods Promotion Program (LFPP) Awardees: http://tinyurl.com/lfpp-grantees

Again, the workshops are FREE and all are welcome to attend.

Farming and Community: A conversation with David Kline

“The true test of a sustainable agriculture will be whether we can romance our children into farming. In order for that to occur three things are crucial: 1. Our farms must be profitable; 2. We cannot be overwhelmed by work all the time, and; 3. It must be fun.” ~ David Kline, Letters from Larksong: An Amish Naturalist Explores His Organic Farm

Virginia Cooperative Extension, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and community partners have planned a conversation with David Kline for those interested in farming and community for Tuesday, December 2, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Center in Weyers Cave, Virginia as part of this year’s Virginia Farm to Table Conference. David Kline will discuss organic dairy farming, community, nature, place, and care of the earth.

If you are unable to attend Tuesday evening, David Kline will also be a featured speaker Wednesday morning as part of the full 2014 Virginia Farm to Table Conference.

1891133_10204567046563773_8801974184919159611_nDavid Kline is an organic dairy farmer, naturalist and author. He and his family live on a 120-acre farm in Holmes County, Ohio. He has authored several books including Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal, Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm, Letters From Larksong: An Amish Naturalist Explores His Organic Farm and other essays. Kline is also editor of Farming Magazine: People, Land Community.

We kindly request that you register by calling the Virginia Cooperative Extension, Northern District Office at (540) 432-6029 Ext. 106/117 before November 28. The cost of this community event is $15.

More details about the evening conversation and the 2014 Virginia Farm to Table Conference can be found at http://conference.virginiafarmtotable.org/

Directions to Blue Ridge Community College Plecker Workforce Center: From I-81, take Exit 235. Turn to go west at the top of the exit ramp (Rte. 256). In a very short distance, Rte. 256 ends onto Rte. 11. Turn left at the stoplight, Rte. 11 South. BRCC is about a half-mile on the left. Parking for the Plecker Workforce Center may be accessed by using the south entrance, beside the Criminal Justice Training Academy.

Save the Date! 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference

Please save the date and spread the word about the upcoming 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference and In-Depth Soil Biology Training with Dr. Elaine Ingham scheduled for Tuesday, December 2 and Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Center in Weyers Cave, Virginia, and Thursday, December 4, 2014 at Virginia State University’s Douglas Wilder Building in Petersburg, Virginia.  The conference theme is ‘Nutrition, Health and Sustainability from the Ground Up’ and will be featuring an in-depth soil biology training for two days in two locations.

A fresh heirloom tomato.

A fresh heirloom tomato.

The in-depth soil biology training will be led by Dr. Elaine Ingham of the Soil Food Web and coordinated by Chris Lawrence of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The conference will be of interest to producers, buyers, school and university officials, community and agricultural development officers, legislators, administrators, and other key food system stakeholders. The conference will encourage collaboration, conservation and community in strengthening community, local and regional food systems.

On Tuesday afternoon and evening, there will be a Buy Fresh Buy Local Producer/Buyer Meet-n-Greet as a networking time. The Meet-n-Greet will be from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. and encourage business conversation and networking among Virginia producers and buyers, and will celebrate locally-grown Virginia foods.

Mr. David Kline will speak after the networking time on the topic of ‘Farming, Community, Nature, Place and Care for the Earth.’

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr. Elaine Ingham – Soil Food Web and the The Rodale Institute
  • Ms. Ann Karlen – Executive Director of Fair Food Farmstand
  • Dr. Amy Tucker – Preventative Cardiologist, University of Virginia Health System
  • David Kline – Author, naturalist and organic dairy farmer
  • Dr. Elizabeth Dyck – Founder, Organic Grower’s Research and Information Sharing Network
  • Mr. Jack Bricker – State Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Dr. Brian Calhoun – Associate Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Dr. Allen Straw – Area Specialist, Horticulture, Small Fruit, & Specialty Crops, Virginia Tech
  • Mr. Clif Slade – Virginia State University’s 43,560 Project and VSU Small Farm Outreach Program
  • Mr. Chris Lawrence – Cropland Agronomist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Mr. Chris Mullins – Extension Specialist, Greenhouse and Specialty Crops, VSU
  • Mr. Danny Boyer – Owner, Four Winds Farm
  • Mr. Eric Walter – Owner, Black Bear Composting
  • Ms. Andrea Early – School Nutrition Director, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
  • Mr. Rick Felker – Owner, Mattawoman Creek Farms
  • Ms. Amy Hicks – Owner, Amy’s Garden
  • And others.

For more information about the 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference and Buy Fresh Buy Local Meet-n-Greet, you can contact Eric Bendfeldt or Lauren Arbogast of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Office at 540.432.6029 Ext. 106/117 or Kathy Holm of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service at 540.434.1404.

More conference and registration information is available at 2014 Virginia Farm to Table Conference.