Build Skills, Expand Networks at Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference

With its emphasis on farm-based learning, practical skill-building sessions and networking opportunities, the 2010 Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference promises to be a unique and engaging conference for beginning farmers from around the Northeast.

To be held Nov. 1-3 in Fairlee, Vermont, the conference will bring  together farmers, ranchers, educators agricultural consultants and activists. The conference goal is to help participants build production, marketing and business skills, share educational strategies and forge connections that will expand the success of farm women in the Northeast US and beyond.

The conference is open to anyone, but offerings were specifically designed to meet women and beginning farmers’ interests in farmer-to-farmer education and hands-on, skill-building sessions.

For that reason, the conference will devote most of November 2 to small group farm tours and intensive skill-building clinics. November 3 will feature workshops and roundtables. For the full conference program and registration information, please visit http://www.uvm.edu/wagn/?Page=conference/index.html&SM=conference/sub-menu.html

As part of the conference a special Wool Summit track has been developed.  On Nov 2, a tour will travel to the VT Shepherd Cheese farm owned by Dave Major to learn best practices for managing sheep.  The tour will then travel to Green Mountain Spinnery to learn about the opportunities in small scale fiber processing.  On Nov 3, presentations and round tables will further explore the future of wool processing in the Northeast.

“Our goal is to bring together any and all folks interested in developing ideas for wool products and markets,” explains Kimberly Hagen, a member of the Vermont Grass Farmers Association Board and long-time fiber producer. “Some very interesting and promising new developments for wool have happened in the last few years and producers in Vermont and the rest of New England could certainly benefit if they were to jump into the discussion and get involved. I know many producers are keen to see a market for wool and wool products.”

Farm tours will visit some of the most innovative, sustainable farms and agricultural businesses in Vermont and New Hampshire. Traveling by van, each tour will visit one or two farms or food businesses to learn about the innovative production, marketing and business approaches they employ. Farm tour topics include:

  • Farmland Access-The Promises and Challenges of Alternative Land Tenure
  • Following the Value Chain-Insights from Chefs and Buyers of Locally Grown Food
  • Chick to Table-Raising, managing and slaughtering grass-fed chickens.
  • On-Farm Retail & Value-Added Operations
  • Women Farmers Training Future Farmers-Mentoring the next generation through farm apprenticeships
  • Ag Education and Service Learning-Incorporating educational opportunities into your farm plan
  • Pasture Management and Extended Season Grazing
  • Wool Summit Farm and Facility Tour-Strategies for sheep management and exploring the future of fiber in the Northeast
  • Perennial Crops for Pick-Your-Own Operations-Managing Risk and Growing Toward Sustainability
  • Farm Mechanization Farm -Investigating options and innovations for tools on the farm
  • The Farm as a System
  • Field Exploration of Soils for Growers and Workshop on Ecological Soil Management.

Intensive clinics will be hands-on sessions during which participants both learn and start implementing farm financial, marketing and business skills. These sessions include: Introduction to Farm Business Management, Introduction to Quickbooks, Human Resources Management on Small Farms and Savvy Marketing in the ERa of Facebook and Twitter. Our goal is that each clinic participant leave the clinic having accomplished something new — whether it’s constructing a balance sheet, starting to use Quickbooks, writing a job description, or developing the beginning of a web presence.

Depending on the conference options you choose, fees range from $70 to $150. A limited number of reduced-cost passes are available for students and apprentices. Additionally, some scholarship support is available from the Vermont Farm Women’s Fund.

To go directly to the conference registration site, visit:
http://www.regonline.com/women_in_sustainable_agriculture_conference

Funding for the conference is being provided  by the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education, the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture; USDA Risk Management Agency; the USDA Farm Service Agency; USDA-FSA State Offices in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania; The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Farm Viability Program; Land for Good, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center at the National Agricultural Library.

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About UVM New Farmer Project

The UVM Extension New Farmer Project draws together information and resources within Extension and the broader Vermont Agriculture community to assist new farmers in creating successful ag businesses.
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