Five Good Reasons to Take a Seat at the 2016 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference

By Liz Kirchner, Eric Bendfeldt, and French Price

Pull up a chair. Gathering this winter, appropriately in the breadbasket of the Shenandoah Valley,  is Virginia’s fifth annual Farm-to-Table Conference inviting you to join farmers, chefs, food historians, scientists, community development specialist — an ecology of food systems thinkers and ground-breakers — to join the conversation and emerging action around local food. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, here are five more reasons why you should take your seat at the table.

f2t-collage
5) Pre-Conference Tour of Shenandoah Valley farms and farm-to-table initiatives on Tuesday, December 6.

4) Producer-Buyer Networking Event on Wednesday, December 7, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. There will be food product samples, free handouts and information, and… FREE ICE CREAM!!!!

3) Great Conversation Shared over Yummy Local Food! — A Bowl of Good will again cater the event and be sourcing as much of the food and drink from the Shenandoah Valley as possible. Expect to leave the conference feeling not just well fed, but nourished with great conversation and foods that were raised with care by farmers who are also attending the conference.

2) Ellen Kahler of Vermont Farm to Plate and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and other thought-provoking speakers and practitioners such as Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm, Chef Michael Twitty, Reverend Nancy Yarnell, and Glyen Holmes of the New North Florida Cooperative.

1) Dr. Ricardo Salvador, Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program, will be opening the conference and sharing his insights and expertise on the challenging question “Does the ‘Food System’ Need Fixing?”.

So join us at the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference and discover your own reasons!

Virginia SARE Makes Sustainable Real

By Liz Kirchner (eliza15@vt.edu)

Every morning, farmers and researchers all over Virginia – all over the nation, really – stand in their pastures, forests, vineyards, breweries, warehouses, and fields thinking, “I’ll bet I can improve my system to be more economically viable, more environmentally sound, and better not just for my own family, but for everyone in my community. What if I could make that change?”

I’m Liz Kirchner, Virginia’s education support specialist for the USDA’s Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant program. It’s grant funding like SARE’s, and the networking and technical support that come with it, that make those “What if”s realities.
sosareRight now, producers and researchers throughout Virginia are using SARE grants to explore and make evidence-based changes to their farming systems and marketing approaches. They’re improving adoption of agroforestry and silvopasture systems in the Shenandoah Valley, integrating row covers into specialty crop systems in the Coastal Plain, and investigating the profitability of organic baby ginger production in the Appalachians.

As education support and outreach specialist, my job is to improve access to SARE educational opportunities and grant funding. I come to SARE with agronomy degrees from two land-grant universities and a career in editing and communication. I’ll be shaking hands, producing multimedia content, and talking about SARE, so that farmers and researchers all over Virginia can ask those “What if…” questions every morning, then answer them, increasing our knowledge of sustainable techniques, moving us all closer to sustainable food systems that support profitability, environmental stewardship, and social well-being all over Virginia – the whole nation, really.

Contact me with questions and ideas about SARE and healthy food access at eliza15@vt.edu.

Join Us for the 2016 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference: Cultivating Healthy Farms and Resilient Communities!

Mark Your Calendars!

flyer-c

Virginia Cooperative Extension, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Agua Fund, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Food System Council, Blue Ridge Community College, Virginia Foundation for Agricultural Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VAFAIRS), Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (VDACS) Virginia Grown, Farm Credit of the Virginias’ Knowledge Center, USDA Rural Development, Chesapeake Foodshed Network, Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, Virginia Division of Energy, T & E Meats, Frazier Quarry, Rockingham Group, Allegheny Mountain Institute, Houff’s Feed and Fertilizer, and community partners present the 2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference on December 6 – 8, 2016. This year’s conference will start with an optional pre-conference tour of farms and food businesses in Staunton and Augusta County on Tuesday, December 6.

The formal conference will be held at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Development Center in Weyers Cave, Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday.

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

This year’s conference will again feature a time for producers and buyers to network and a Young/Young at Heart and Emerging Farmer and Rancher Networking Mixer on Wednesday evening.

The conference will also provide in-depth training on soil health, whole-farm budgeting, and strategic food system planning.

The working agenda is now available and will be updated periodically. A registration link to Blue Ridge Community College online class registration platform will be available in the near future. For businesses and organizations that would like to financially support the conference through sponsorship or exhibitor opportunities, please contact Eric Bendfeldt of Virginia Cooperative Extension at 540.432.6029 Ext. 106.