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Future Harvest conference to focus on nourishing farmers

December 08, 2009|By JEFF SEMLER / Special to The Herald-Mail

With the Christmas holidays fast approaching, many people will put off their 2010 preparations until after the new year. I would like to encourage you to take a few minutes and make your reservations for the 2010 Future Harvest - Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture Conference.

The winter is often the time when folks plan their 2010 cropping schemes and take in educational seminars. The Future Harvest Conference is a great stop for education and networking. This year's conference will be held at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

The 11th annual conference is sporting the theme "Rebuilding the Real Economy: Nourishing Local Foods and Farmers." The conference begins Friday, Jan. 15, with two sessions beginning at 9 a.m.: Small Ruminant Enterprises and Cheese Making in Maryland. The full conference kicks off at 1 p.m. that day with two concurrent sessions followed by a wine and cheese social, and a dinner with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan as the keynote speaker.

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On Saturday, Jan. 16, there are five learning tracks: Grass-Based Systems, Sustainable Fruit Flower and Vegetable Production, Adding Value to Your Farm, Gardening and Urban Agriculture, and Community Food Connections. These tracks will run concurrently throughout the day.There are four sessions for each track, so you can mix and match if you have varied interests.

Saturday will also feature a keynote presentation, "Strength in Numbers: How National Policy Affects Your Farm" by Kathy Ozer.

Ozer is executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), a coalition of more than 35 family farm and rural advocacy organizations that works to secure a sustainable, economically just, healthy, safe and secure food and farm system.

Ozer has represented family farm and rural groups on a local, national and international level for the past 20 years. She serves on the board of the Citizens Trade Campaign and works with the Community Food Security Coalition. She will discuss the opportunities available to farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region to participate in policy decisions that influence their livelihood, and discuss the pros and cons of getting involved.

By their own admission, Future Harvest - A Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture works to promote profitable, environmentally sound food and farming systems throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. During the conference, it aims to educate growers and gardeners about ways to raise profits, improve environmental stewardship and connect more with their communities, demonstrate the opportunities to direct-market farm goods in the region and showcase the abundance of fresh, sustainably raised food grown in the Mid-Atlantic.

If you would like more details and a conference brochure, contact the Extension Office. Information also is available at www.futureharvestcasa.org/10conference.html.

Jeff Semler is an Extension educator, specializing in agriculture and natural resources, for the University of Maryland Extension. He is based in Washington County. He can be reached weekdays by telephone at 301-791-1404, ext. 25, or by e-mail at jsemler@umd.edu

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