By Liz Kirchner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Right 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 email@example.com.
Mark Your Calendars!
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.