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City hosts ag conference

January 20, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

An estimated 250 farmers and agricultural professionals attended a two-day conference in Hagerstown this weekend that offered such information as ways to sell animals to different ethnic groups.

The fourth annual Farming for Profit and Stewardship Conference was held at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Friday and Saturday. The event is held to educate farmers about alternative profitable farming ventures, said Bruce Mertz, executive director of the nonprofit organization Future Harvest, which sponsored the conference. Future Harvest is based in Stevensville, Md.

The event is held in Hagerstown because of the number of farmers in Western Maryland as well as the area's proximity to Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia.

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Farmers and agricultural professionals have made changes after attending past conferences. Some, for example, started growing ginseng after a workshop was held on that topic in a prior year, Mertz said.

Greg Hood, an organic farmer from Thurmont, said he was attending the conference Saturday for the third year. He said he can find out what is new in the industry there as well as network and socialize.

About 75 people attended a workshop titled "Tapping into the Ethnic Meat Market" moderated by Susan Schoenian, the sheep and goat specialist at the University of Maryland research and education facility in Keedysville, Md.

Different cultures have different expectations and desires for meat products, she said. Some, for example, do not want animal products they buy to come from a farm where there are swine.

Some want the animals to be a different size or age, she said. Still others want to see a goat, chicken or duck alive before it is butchered for food.

People can make money by being aware of the differences, she said.

She spoke about a farm in Pine City, N.Y., whose owners let buyers examine ducks, goats, chickens, turkeys and others animals alive and then give them a choice: Buyers can butcher the animals for a fee or they can rent a "harvest shed" to do their own killing.

Permanand Raghoor told the crowd about his business, RD's Live Poultry Market in Queens, N.Y., where he sells meats to different cultures.

"You have to learn how to deal with these people," he said.

For example, some cultures like to bargain before agreeing to a sale. When people who like to bargain approach his market, his staff knows to mark up the price 25 percent, he said.

The price will come back down as the bargaining occurs, but it is not unusual for the price to end up higher than if there was no bargaining at all, he said. The buyer leaves happy because his cultural customs have been honored.

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