Growing food,farms, and community is regional conference’s aim

FamilyFarmed founder and President Jim Slama, a national figure in the local-food movement, will deliver the keynote address at the second annual Farming Our Future – Growing Food, Farms, and Community conference on  February 23rd, 2013 at Taconic Hills Central School, located in the heart of Columbia County, New York.  FamilyFarmed, based in Illinois, trains small farmers in current practice, helps develop wholesale markets for them, and has a focus on the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model. Under Slama’s leadership, FamilyFarmed has played a key role in developing state policy that has strengthened local farms and  farm-based economies.

The inaugural Farming Our Future conference attracted more than 200 attendees, and organizers are anticipating more than 300 for this one. “We expect to see people from all over the northeast, including Albany, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the entire Hudson Valley,” said Karen DiPeri, co-chair of the event along with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Columbia and Greene County’s Steve Hadcock.   “Attendees can expect a day packed with workshops, networking, exhibitors and time for dialog” said Hadcock.

Farming Our Future will engage the agricultural community of local and regional farmers, educators, farmers’ market managers, agricultural students, providers of goods and services, and consumers to think about how to best “grow food, farms, and community” in the context of a rapidly changing local, regional, and global food system. “Jim Slama is a perfect fit for this conference,” said Todd Erling, executive director of the Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation. “FamilyFarmed has done in Illinois what we in the Hudson Valley are working on now, for our own farmers, which is to connect local food producers with trade buyers and consumers on a regional level.”

Jim Slama is the editor of the technical-assistance manual Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Selling, Post Harvest Handling, and Packing Produce, which has been used by more than 2,000 small to mid‐size farmers. He has created multidisciplinary expositions and conferences in Chicago and in Santa Monica, California that advance the Good Food Movement and responsible food production. Last year, he helped launch three “food hubs” that have enabled local farmers to sell to wholesale buyers. Food-safety procedures and financing are among his areas of focus.

Exhibitors and sponsorships for the conference are encouraged. Proceeds will go toward Taconic Hills’ nationally award-winning H.A.R.V.E.S.T. Club (Healthy Agricultural Resources by Volunteers & Educators inScience & Technology) and the Taconic Hills Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). The thriving H.A.R.V.E.S.T. program engages youth in the process of growing healthy fruits, flowers, and vegetables in a school-based garden. Community sponsorships are encouraged to help offset the cost. More information can be found online at www.farmingourfuture.org or by calling 518-329-0890.

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