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Wanted: A Few Good (not tall) Farm Tales

Apply now! Deadline is December 1, 2014.

Got an amazing farm tale to tell? We’d love to hear it! At our Practical Tools and Solutions For Sustaining Family Farm Conference this January in Mobile, we’ll have an evening of farm stories and music. “Tales from the South”, a public radio program, will be taping talented farmers at our conference reading their own true stories. We’re looking for tales ranging from hilarious to touching, from everyday occurrences to life-altering experiences. 

Submit your story for consideration for the show!

Those selected for the show will receive a FREE conference registration.

Click here for submission details. Deadline for submissions is December 1, 2014 and you must be able to attend the Saturday evening recording.

Below is an example to get your creative writing juices flowing.


Call for Posters Deadline Approaches

Deadline for abstract submission is November 15, 2014.

Attention Researchers and Agricultural Service Providers:

We are pleased to announce the Call for Posters for Southern SAWG’s 24th annual Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference. Those interested in displaying a poster(s) at this event must first submit a brief abstract for each poster. Members of the Southern SAWG Scientific Committee will review all submitted abstracts and make decisions regarding acceptance. 

Details available here.

2015 Conference Program Now Online!

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We’re heading to the coast again this winter for Southern SAWG’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference! This popular event draws over 1,000 farmers and local food advocates from across the nation. With our outstanding “field-tested” presenters and full slate of hot-topic conference sessions, pre-conference courses and field trips, you won’t want to be left out in the cold this January! Click here for details!

Growing Farm Profits Is Now Online!

Have you been hearing people mention the great stuff they learned at one of Southern SAWG's Growing Farm Profits trainings and the useful tools they got for free, such as the amazing Veggie Compass? Been wishing you had access to this to help you improve your farm profits? 

Have you participated in one of our many GFP trainings around the region and wish you could take a refresher course now that you’ve gotten back to the farm and started concentrating on increasing your farm profits?

Well, aren’t you the lucky one?!  Our new Growing Farm Profits online course is the next best thing to attending a live training.   Many of the GFP training materials are now available to you right here on our website!

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(NEW!!) We have created 8 short video tutorials to demonstrate how to use the free Veggie Compass Whole Farm Profit Management tool.  Ellen Polishuk, a vegetable grower in Virginia, walks you through Veggie Compass, using her own farm numbers to demonstrate how you can use this tool to determine the profitability of each of your crops in each of your market channels.  She shows how Veggie Compass can be used to help you locate your farm’s inefficiencies as well as profit centers and how you can use this information to manage for profitability.

Let us know what you think! 

Members of Food Hub Learning Network Share Expertise on Recent Webinar

“Focus on the areas where you can do a good job,” advised Kathlyn Terry.  And build collaborations with others.

“For partnerships to work, they must be mutually beneficial,” according to Tina Prevatte.  “They have to be win-win to be sustainable.”

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Collaborations and mutually beneficial partnerships were common themes discussed by all three presenters on the recent Southern SAWG webinar titled: “So You Think a Food Hub is Right for You: How to help food hub organizers and prospective farmers make informed decisions about food hub options.”  Designed for the Southern SAWG Food Hub Learning Network, the webinar covered some of the key questions facing community members who are exploring the possibility of starting a food hub or regional food value chain business.  

Tina Prevatte of Firsthand Foods, Kathlyn Terry of Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), and Eric Bendfelt with Virginia Cooperative Extension provided experienced observations on some of the critical first steps of development by addressing these questions:

  •    How can you assess your local food system and make an informed decision about an   
       entity or service that can fill a needed gap? 
  •    How can you figure out how to position yourself in the local food system and what roles
        or services to take on? 
  •     Once you have an idea of your position, what are the options for business models that
        might suit your role or service well?
  •     How can you create strong, mutually beneficial relationships with local farmers? 
  •     How can you communicate truthfully about the benefits and expectations of marketing
        through this business?

Research is critical before you jump into a business.  Eric Bendfelt said, “Research informs the strategy for the services you will provide, and identifies your niche in the market.”

Webinar participants were advised to assess the local landscape to determine what services are most needed to support the local food system.  Getting to know your existing infrastructure will prevent you from recreating something that is already there and will shed light on areas where you can collaborate and partner with existing services.  As Kathlyn Terry stated, “Owning and operating infrastructure (particularly trucks) is costly, risky, and to be avoided if at all possible!”

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Appalachian Harvest, the food hub program under ASD, sells and then transports conventional and organic produce to distribution centers.  First Hand Foods partners with existing slaughterhouses and existing trucking companies, and shares warehouse space with another food hub.

“The most important thing in maintaining good relationships with farmers is paying them well and paying them often,” according to Tina Prevatte.  In the final section of the webinar, she explained several methods used by Firsthand Foods to strengthen their relationships with producers.

This 70-minute webinar is now available for all to view on the Webinars section of the Resources page of the Southern SAWG website.

For further information about the Southern SAWG Food Hub Learning Network, contact: Keith Richards, Program Director, (479) 587-0888, keith@ssawg.org.  This project is funded with support from the Southern SARE program.

Exciting New Changes at Southern SAWG

The Southern SAWG Board of Directors has announced the hiring of Steve Muntz of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, as the Executive Director of the organization effective April 1, 2014.

Board President Stephan Walker points to Steve's 30 plus years of working with organizations and producers in the Southern Region as strengths he brings to the position. In a recent announcement, Walker invites all of our friends/members and partner organizations to join us in extending a warm-hearted welcome to Steve.

Muntz takes over from Jim Lukens who is retiring to the farm after holding the Executive Director position for six of Southern SAWG's twenty-three years.


Dear Sustainable Agriculture Colleagues:

JimLukens

I have enjoyed serving as Southern SAWG's Executive Director for the past six years, and now I am looking forward to more time on the farm and less time at the computer. I am leaving the Executive Director position, and, weather permitting, on April 1st I will
be fixing fence instead of sitting behind a desk.

I am excited that Steve Muntz is stepping into the Executive Director role, bringing skills and experience that will allow him to successfully guide the Southern SAWG team over the coming years. The economic, social, and political environments for this work continue to change. In recent years the Southern region has experienced tremendous growth in the number and strength of organizations working toward a sustainable farm and food system. I am confident that Steve and Southern SAWG's capable and experienced staff, with guidance and support from the Board of Directors, will continue to shape programs and the annual conference to encourage and strengthen that growth, and to increase the effectiveness of the collective effort in the region.

I have appreciated the opportunity to work within the sustainable farm and food movement as a Southern SAWG employee. I look forward to continuing to work within the movement, although from a position that more frequently involves a tractor seat.  

-Jim
JimLuke@ipa.net


Dear Friends of Southern SAWG,

SteveMuntz

I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as the new Executive Director of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Southern SAWG has been an important part of my life for most of the last two decades.   As a small farmer, I have been inspired and empowered by the work of Southern SAWG. The annual conference always re-energizes me to try out new approaches on the farm and to encourage other farmers I work with to do the same. It is an amazing opportunity to stretch and sharpen my thinking by interacting with so many great farmers and organizations working to build a better food and farming future. While I am less familiar with Southern SAWG's other programmatic activity, outside of the conference, I am learning quickly about the exceptional efforts that are underway and being planned.

 My hat is off to Jim Lukens and his team for the great work they have been doing! As I take my turn in the leadership of the organization I hope to build on the foundation they have laid while listening to our board and partner organizations as we look to the future. Building a sustainable food and farming system is a very expansive mission and I believe that Southern SAWG needs to look closely at our leadership role for this goal in the South. Are we doing what is most needed by our other partners to foster the movement? How can we better coordinate, communicate and cooperate to gain momentum? Resources for our work are very tight these days. How can we find the resources needed to do this work without competing with our closest allies?

 I have a great deal to learn as I begin my new work. Communication with our partner organizations and farmers will be a critical part of my learning. I look forward to visiting with many of you over the next several months as we chart the new way ahead for Southern SAWG. Thank you for all the support you have given us in the past. I will do my best to earn your continued support for the future.

Steve Muntz
stevemuntz@ssawg.org
(859) 498-0678