Despite a growing demand for locally sourced foods, West Virginia’s small farm community still faces plenty of ongoing and new challenges. To continue supporting our state’s producers, the West Virginia University Extension Small Farm Center will host its annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference on Feb. 21-24, at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in Charleston, West Virginia.
“Our small farms face trials and triumphs every year, but with effects of the pandemic and rising costs, the last few years have posed a lot of additional challenges as farmers tried to keep up with demands,” Lisa Jones, WVU Extension Small Farm Center program coordinator, said. “For 20 years, we’ve been providing opportunities for learning and building connections, and we are so excited to keep the tradition going and bring our state’s farming community back together this year.”
With a variety of classes available, attendees will learn how to adapt their enterprises to meet the rising demand for local foods. There also will be more traditional offerings to help small farmers increase the profitability of their operations, from vegetable production to value-added products.
“Farmers from West Virginia and beyond are invited to take advantage of this opportunity to participate in the conference and learn more about how they can run their operations more efficiently and profitably,” Jones added.
For adults, the cost of attendance is $100 per day on Thursday and Friday and $75 on Saturday. For students, the cost is $50 per day on Thursday and Friday and $38 on Saturday.
Youths are welcome to attend the conference with their family for a flat rate of $15 per child. Interactive learning activities will be available to youths of all ages, giving them a chance to have fun with agriculture, too.
At the start of the conference, a variety of specialized add-ons are available. On Wednesday, the Food Safety Modernization Act produce safety alliance grower training will be available at a cost of $100. Conference attendees also can participate in the inaugural Health and Farm Vitality Forum on Wednesday at no additional cost. On Thursday, attendees can opt to participate in the USDA Certified Organic track at a discounted cost of $50.
Registration information and other conference details be found at https://extension.wvu.edu/small-farm-conference.
The cost of attendance includes all conference meals, which are prepared with locally sourced ingredients from West Virginia farmers, further demonstrating the values at the heart of the conference.
This year’s conference trade show will be free and open to the public. Trade show exhibitors will be available on Thursday, Feb. 22 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 23 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
The popular Winter Blues Farmers Market, a collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, also takes place during the conference and is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24 from 1-6 p.m. The public is invited and encouraged to attend the Winter Blues Farmers Market.
The conference also focuses on partnerships, not only from farmer to farmer, but also farmer to supplier and agriculture service provider. Many sponsors have helped make the conference possible, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service, West Virginia Department of Education, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program.
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