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Hagerstown hosting Future Harvest conference

January 08, 2007

The Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture will hold its 2007 "Farming for Profit and Stewardship" Conference Friday and Saturday at the Sheraton Four Points in Hagerstown. It is the eighth year for the conference, which brings together many farmers in sustainable agriculture, as well as nationally known researchers. More than 200 people are expected to attend.

More than 20 seminars will be offered during the conference, as well as a panel session about farming profit. Participants will learn strategies for improving production, ways to market products and ideas for new enterprises. Seminar topics will include grazing, vegetable production and crop rotation. In addition to the seminars, there will be an annual membership meeting and election of board officers, a wine and cheese reception, a dinner and an ice cream social.

"It's the biggest farm-education program in the state," said Michael Heller, director of Future Harvest and manager of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's demonstration farm near Upper Marlboro, Md. "It's aimed primarily at the farmers of the future. Young people who want to move into farming can learn from people already in the industry."

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"This is an exciting event to be held in Washington County," said Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Washington County has a rich agricultural heritage and our community welcomes the conference attendees from throughout the mid-Atlantic for this significant conference."

The keynote speaker for this year's conference will be Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm in Graham, N.C. He will discuss "25 Years of Building a Farm." Since 1981, he and his wife, Betsy, have worked to turn their 5-acre farm into a profit center. They grow 80 varieties of 23 vegetables and 164 varieties of cut flowers. Each of their acres returns a minimum of $20,000 a year.

Other scheduled speakers include Phyllis Kilby, Mary Ellen Taylor, Chuck Mohler and Bernadine Prince. Kilby is the operator of a third-generation, 400-cow dairy farm in Cecil County who found it more profitable to turn her product into ice cream than to sell it as milk. Taylor, co-owner of End Summer Harvest in Purcellville, Va., will discuss the growing of lettuce, greens and herbs in a state-of-the-art, year-round greenhouse. Mohler, a crop and soil sciences researcher with Cornell University, will talk about the ecology of weeds and how to manage them in an organic system. Prince is the founder and co-director of FreshFarm Markets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about food and farming issues, providing vital economic opportunities for farmers, and celebrating the Chesapeake Bay watershed region's agricultural heritage and bounty. She will share her observations and ideas about farmers market producers.

Registration fees for the conference start at $75 for one day for alliance members. Rooms have been reserved at Hagerstown's Sheraton Four Points at a special rate for conference attendees. Check-in is 8 a.m. Friday; the first workshops begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday's events start at 7 a.m. with a continental breakfast and registration. The first workshops start at 8:30 a.m., and the program runs all day. The price of admission for both days is $55 for students, $95 for members of Future Harvest and $150 for nonmembers.

Sponsors of the 2007 conference are the Maryland Cooperative Extension, Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, The Rural Maryland Council and the Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center.

Future Harvest - CASA is based in Eldersburg, Md. For more information, go to www.futureharvestcasa.org/conf.html or call 1-410-549-7878.

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