For the thirteenth year, the West Virginia University Extension Service Small Farm Center is presenting the West Virginia Small Farm Conference to help agricultural producers around the state learn about making their operations more efficient, connected and profitable.
For either $70 per day or $190 for all three, producers can attend the annual offering at the Charleston Civic Center from Sunday, Feb. 12 through Tuesday, Feb. 14. Discounts are available for students and military veterans.
Organizers claim that it’s shaping up to be the largest and most successful conference yet, with more than 130 sessions spread out across three days taught by both industry professionals and local producers who have found their own paths to success.
“We really want to help West Virginia’s 22,000 small farm families develop a successful farming enterprise that’s a keystone of their local community and an important part of the state’s food system,” said Tom McConnell, program leader of the WVU Extension Service Small Farm Center. “Last year, we had roughly 750 people attend and 97 percent of them indicated they’d make plans to return again this year so that means we’ve got a successful, valuable education model.”
He added that no matter how large or small the farm, or experienced the farmer, attendees can broaden their knowledge on a variety of business practices, everything from animal production to specialty crops, agritourism to marketing.
Learning primarily takes place through in-depth classes and demonstrations on topics including producing, processing and marketing West Virginia farm products. However, there is ample time to network and mingle with fellow producers and for those in the industry to expand upon classroom experiences.
Conference-goers can also experience the Winter Blues Farmers Market, where producers from all over the state will gather to sell their winter-hardy food, goods and products. This free event is also open to the public and will include a dine-around where local chefs will offer pay-as-you-go dishes featuring locally grown and prepared entrees.
Taking place during the conference is also a trade show, a silent auction, a seed swap and the Great West Virginia J.Q. Dickinson-Salt Works Pop-Off — a popcorn competition that pits locally grown popping corn varieties against one another and attendees vote on a crowd favorite.
The conference is presented in part by the event sponsors, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the Capitol Conservation District and the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Child Nutrition.
To register, or for more information, schedule and course offerings, visit smallfarmcenter.ext.wvu.edu/events/conference or call the Center at 304-293-2715.
Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service
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