2016 Virginia Farm to Table Conference: Cultivating Healthy Farms and Resilient Communities

By Eric Bendfeldt

There continues to be keen interest in the health and resilience of farms and communities across Virginia. Farms and communities face a multitude of challenges today that range in complexity and urgency. Therefore, farms and communities have to continually adopt and adjust to meet new challenges. Therefore, promoting and sustaining economic, social and environmental health and resilience are critical to the long-term profitability and vitality of farms and communities in Virginia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo 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, T & E Meats, Rockingham Group, Allegheny Mountain Institute 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.’

Conference agenda and program as of November 3, 2016.

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, Rev. Nancy Yarnell of Food Security for America, 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
  • Rev. Nancy Yarnell of Food Security for America
  • Lynn Trizna of Rodale Institute and St. Luke’s Hospital 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
  • Leo Tammi of Shamoka Run Farm
  • Maureen McNamara Best of Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP)
  • Greg Knight of Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
  • Trevor Piersol of Allegheny Mountain Institute Urban Farm at Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind
  • David Sours of Public House Produce
  • Jim Hankins of Fauquier Education Farm
  • Jessi Cushman of Evergreen Acres
  • Brad Burrow of Artisan’s Hope
  • Katrina Didot of A Bowl of Good Cafe
  • Mark and Wendy Hochstedler 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
  • Regina Schweitzer of Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community’s Farm at Willow Run
  • Thora and Ed Pomicter of Teeny Tiny Spice Co.
  • John Fant of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition
  • and representatives from DC Central Kitchen, Hungry Harvest, and MisFit Juicery.

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 EARLY BIRD RATE for the conference is $40 each day through November 30, 2016. The cost of the pre-conference tour is $40.

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 is available at http://conference.virginiafarmtotable.org!

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