2016 Conference Program

2016 Conference Program

Our conference is over, but check out the most recent program below to get a taste of everything this event offers.

For 25 years, the Southern SAWG annual conference has been providing the practical tools and solutions you need. The program is tailored for those producing organic and sustainable food on a commercial scale and for those in our region working to improve local food systems. We'll have two full days of pre-conference activities starting Wednesday morning, including an excellent variety of courses and field trips. Check out the incredible pre-conference and general conference offerings below.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016 and Thursday, January 28, 2016

This year our pre-conference activities include short courses, mini courses, an off-site course and field trips. You must register to participate in these and pre-registration is strongly recommended, as space is limited in each.

Intensive Short Courses

Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, January 28, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

These 1 ½ day short courses are high-value learning experiences that provide you comprehensive, and in-depth information, with practical lessons from some of the most experienced experts in the region. Plus participants will get an invaluable collection of useful take-home materials for continued learning.

Short Course #1
Start-Up Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing

Instructors: Cathy Jones, Perry-winkle Farm (NC) and Daniel Parson, Oxford College Farm (GA) 

Short Course #2
Advanced Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing

Instructors: Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm (NC) and Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Gardens (AR)

Short Course #3
Growing Farm Profits by Managing for Profit

Instructors: Ellen Polishuk, Potomac Vegetable Farm (VA) and Jim Munsch, Deer Run Farm (WI)

Short Course #4
Developing a Food Hub — for Beginning and Emerging Food Hubs

Instructors: Anthony Flaccavento, SCALE (VA) and Devona Bell Sherwood, Wallace Center (VA)


Off-site Course

Thursday, January 28, 2016, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

This day-long course will go out into the community to see examples of farm to cafeteria work and will discuss some of the next stages in this work.


Mini Courses

Thursday, January 28, 2016, 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

These ½ day courses give participants an opportunity to spend an afternoon learning what the experts know and getting valuable practical tips.

Mini Course #1
Pastured Poultry Profits

Instructor: Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm (VA)

Mini Course #2
Extending Your Sales from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day

Instructors: Alison and Paul Wiediger, Au Naturel Farm (KY); Cathy Rehmeyer, Four Petal Farm (KY); Krista Jacobsen, UKY Dept of Horticulture; Leeann Slaughter, UKY Food System Innovation Center; and others TBA


Field Trips

Thursday, January 28, 2016, 12:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. 

We are offering more field trips than ever before this year, for those who learn best by seeing other farms!

Field Trip #1
Work Smarter: Equipment, Machines, and Structures for Increasing Efficiency

University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, South Farm
People to Know: Steve Diver, Krista Jacobsen, and Mark Williams

Field Trip #2
Fertile Land: Growing Vegetables and High Yield Organic Soil

Elmwood Stock Farm — Vegetables
People to Know: Ann Bell Stone and John Bell

Field Trip #3
Rotational Grazing: Raising Animals in an Rotational Organic System

Elmwood Stock Farm — Livestock
People to Know: Mac Stone and John Bell

Field Trip #4
Resilient Communities: Engaging the Urban Dwellers in Foodsheds

FoodChain, Seedleaf Inc., and Greenhouse 17
People to Know: Becca Self, Ryan Koch, Jim Embry, Diane Fleet, and Jessica Ballard

Field Trip #5
Warehouse Farming: Up-scaling for the Organic Retail Market

Lazy Eight Stock Farm
People to Know: Bryce, Carla, Anna, and Lothar Baumann

Field Trip #6
Sustainability Stalwart: Cultivating Small-Scale Farmers

Kentucky State University, Research Farm
People to Know: Marion Simon, Steve Skelton, Eddie Reed, and Louis Rivers

Field Trip #7
Permanent Culture: Creating a Commercial Permaculture Farm

Salamander Springs Farm
People to Know: Susana Lein


Special Activities

Voices from the Field: 25 Years in the Field
Thursday evening, January 28, 2016
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

This will be the first of a series of activities this weekend to reflect on and commemorate the achievements in our field over the last 25 years. The sustainable food movement has come a long way in the past 25 years through the work of you, me and tens of thousands of others working at all levels — farm, community, state, regional and national. With this 25 Years in the Field event, we’ll hear from a sample of those who, through a diversity of avenues, have a long history of contributing to the growth in sustainable and organic agriculture and local foods. We are honored to have Wendell Berry, author and farmer (KY); Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm (NC); Janie Simms Hipp, Univ. of Arkansas School of Law (AR); and Andrew Williams, The United Christian Community Association (AL) sharing their unique perspectives with us. We’ll learn what keeps them laughing, motivated and inspired.

Door Prizes! To add to the celebratory mood, we’ll give away 25 exciting door prizes over the weekend, the first few will be given out during this event! Must be present to win.


Book Signing
Thursday evening, January 28, 2016
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Wendell Berry, Joel Salatin, Laura Lengnick, Pam Dawling and other presenters TBA will be on hand to sell and autograph their books for you immediately following the 25 Years in the Field event.


Thursday evening, January 28, 2016
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Yes, there will be a cash bar stocked with local brews on Thursday evening!

Meet up with your buddies and make new connections. Participate in our interactive timeline commemorating 25 years of achievements in the field. We’ll provide the materials for you to post the milestones most important to you, including your own achievements, on our Voices from the Field Timeline display. Then watch it grow! We’ll show a digital version of the timeline you help create at the Saturday evening banquet dinner.

We’ll also have an interactive Voices from the Field Memorial, commemorating those from our field who have passed on, but whose voices are not forgotten. We’ll provide the materials for you to post memories of your local food hero on the memorial on display throughout the weekend.



Friday, January 29, 2016 and Saturday, January 30, 2016

The general conference, with over 100 expert presenters offers a wide variety of sessions. We have sessions for those with years of experience and for those who are new to the field. The line-up includes a whopping 58 educational sessions, plus a state networking session for each of the 13 states in our region, along with 15 information exchange/crowdsourcing sessions where you get to exchange ideas and information with those who share your interests. Also built into the general conference schedule are a trade show, research posters, Taste of Kentucky banquet dinner and special Voices from the Field activities.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Trade Show | Poster Display
Voices from the Field Timeline | Voices from the Field Memorial
Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Expanding Your Market — Are you interested in expanding your marketing so you can increase production, but either afraid or unclear about how to reach more customers? Learn proven techniques that will help you gain confidence. Based on his experience at Polyface Farm, Joel Salatin will encourage farmers to embrace team players, electronic technology, symbiotic production and value adding. Hear the reasoning behind his refrain, “All the gifts necessary to expand your market don’t grow on one pair of legs.” Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm (VA).

New Times, New Tools: Cultivating Climate Resilience on Your Farm As we enter the 21st century, farm and food businesses face unique challenges created by climate change. Weaving practical lessons from the field with the latest climate science and resilience thinking; author, educator, scientist and farmer Laura Lengnick draws on the adaptation stories of 25 sustainable farmers to teach about successful farming strategies for managing increased weather variability and extremes. Increase the sustainability of your farm and improve the country’s food security. Learn how to assess your climate risk and use adaptive management tools to cultivate climate resilience on your farm. Laura Lengnick, Warren Wilson College (NC). Will be repeated.

Organic Pest Management for Vegetable Production Implementing an ecologically-based pest management program for diversified vegetable production can be a huge challenge, especially for new farmers. In this session, the coordinator of the Clemson Sustainable Ag and Integrated Pest Management programs will review the principles of organic pest management and present a realistic management approach. He’ll discuss general preventative practices that can be incorporated as part of an overall farm plan, and more targeted practices for specific pests that can be deployed when problems occur. Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University (SC).

Forty Years of Perseverance: Growing Fruit Trees Organically in the South Growing fruit organically, especially tree fruits, can be a daunting task in the South because our climate supports a myriad of pests and diseases that seem to defy organic management. Yet it can be done — with due consideration of fruit species, varieties, scale and eco-system. With over 40 years of experience and education, Guy will alert you to the pitfalls of organic fruit production in the South and then provide you with the information necessary to successfully grow a wide variety of perennial fruits. Guy Ames, Ames Nursery and NCAT (AR).

Holistic Animal Health: Embrace Prevention to Avoid Problems True animal health involves more than just curative treatment; it takes preventive measures to build the health of animals holistically. Learn to take a “whole-istic” view of your farm to help improve the health and welfare of livestock and sustainability of your farming operation. Farmer and veterinarian Wendy Weirich will discuss how good husbandry, nutrition and stress reduction can help prevent problems and improve profitability. Participants will come away with practical tips that can be put into immediate action on your farm. Wendy Weirich, Weirich Animal Welfare Services and Animal Welfare Approved (VA).

Understanding Food Safety and GAP Certification Consumers are increasingly seeking assurances of food safety and more buyers are requiring GAP certifications. In this session, we’ll discuss food safety requirements for small farms and demystify the GAP audit process. Come learn about GAP audit experiences, and gain a better understanding of what is expected when preparing for and undergoing an audit. Participants will find out how much it costs, possible options for group certification, and how to utilize GAP certification as a marketing advantage. Patricia Tripp, Artisan Food Solutions & NC Growing Together Project (NC) and Mary Courtney, Courtney Farms (KY).

Why School Markets Matter: For Farmers, Students and Communities — Over 40,000 schools now participate in Farm to School programs — nearly half of all schools in the U.S.! Learn how these programs are fulfilling multiple goals of the sustainable food movement, as well as expanding markets for local farms. We’ll discuss the increase in institutional and government support for these programs and the amount of local food sales. We’ll also discuss how farms benefit through increased sales, farm publicity, and outreach to new customers. Jessica Sparks-Mussulin, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (NC); Sunny Young Baker, MS Farm to School Network (MS); and Eric Simpson, West Georgia Farmers Coop (GA).

Between Farm Bills: What’s Happening on Capitol Hill Every five years the sustainable agricultural community organizes around the farm bill. However in those in-between years there are pieces of legislation just as important to the work of farmers and farming organizations. Join our panel as they discuss what legislation we should pay attention to now and why. Shavaun Evans, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (KY); Judith McGeary, Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance (TX); James Robinson, RAFI-USA (NC); and Gabraelle Lane, Southern SAWG (GA).


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Friday, 9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Managing Plant-Soil-Microbe Relationships for Better Soil Fertility This advanced soil session will cover the keys to optimizing the amount and quality of soil organic matter for improved soil function. Learn how to better manage plant–soil–microbe relationships in order to enhance soil fertility, emphasizing legume nitrogen fixation and rhizobia bacteria. Julie Grossman, University of Minnesota (MN). Will be repeated.

Intensive Vegetable Production on a Small Scale Learn techniques for raising large amounts of food on small acreages. Pam Dawling, who raises vegetables for a 100-person community on 3.5 acres, will discuss direct sowing and growing of transplants, close spacing, raised beds, irrigation, disease and pest management, and season extension techniques. This session will be valuable for small market farmers and urban farmers who want to maximize production with limited space. Pam Dawling, Twin Oaks Community (VA).

Sustainable Squash Production Learn organic production techniques for summer and winter squash from experienced organic growers. This session will provide information on best varieties for fresh markets and recommendations for production practices in the field. We’ll also cover some of the latest research on cucurbit production to help you control pests and disease. Rachel Bynum and Eric Plaksin, Waterpenny Farm (VA) and Mark Williams, UKY Horticulture Research Farm (KY).

Raising Multiple Species on One Farm Diversified farms are usually more economically and ecologically resilient. Hear how one farm is raising cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry with systems that create a more sustainable environment. Hear how they strive to develop efficient ways to get the most out of their land and livestock without compromising the health and welfare of either. They will discuss the advantages and challenges of multi-species grazing, processing and marketing. Del and Debra Ferguson, Hunter Cattle (GA).

Essential Digital Tools for Farms and Food Ventures With the myriad of online tools available to use (and confuse) you, what really works for farms and farmers? This workshop will highlight several digital tools that farm and food businesses are using to manage their operations and promote their products. Learn about mobile apps, social media, websites, and web-based platforms designed to help farmers reach new markets, increase sales or more efficiently manage their business. While a part of the Vermont Digital Economy Project, Rob Fish helped over 150 nonprofits and farmers use online tools to become more effective, efficient, sustainable, and resilient. Rob Fish, Wholeshare (VT).

Take a New Look at Revenue Insurance for Your Farm With the new Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) program, insurance is now a more realist option for organic farms, diversified farms, livestock producers, and horticultural and specialty crops. Learn more about this insurance designed to protect revenue on a farmer’s whole farm (not just one crop), and hear about improvements made to the program for 2016. We’ll discuss how you can determine if the value of this insurance is worth the cost and effort for your farm. We’ll also point out key issues such as the record-keeping required. James Robinson, RAFI-USA (NC).  

Sales Incentives for Farmers Markets and Other Direct Markets Farmers markets, CSAs, mobile markets and farm stands are increasing their sales by accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Learn how Farmers Market SNAP incentive programs can provide families with access to affordable fresh produce and increase revenue for small and mid-sized farms. We'll explore efficient systems and practical tools used by two statewide SNAP incentive program networks, including how to get an EBT/SNAP terminal, incentive options, strategies for strategic partnerships, outreach, fundraising and evaluation. Carmen Franz, Florida Organic Growers (FL) and Sara Berney, Wholesome Wave Georgia (GA).

How Can We Achieve Food Justice, Food Sovereignty and Food Security If Small Farms Can’t Survive? Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: why aren’t most small farms surviving without major subsidies from off-farm income? If new farmers can’t afford land then how will they succeed? If stricter regulations like food safety drive up the cost of doing business, how can small producers make a living wage? Confronting the practical realities of achieving these goals can be frustrating, complex, and make everyone’s eyes glaze over — but with the collective energy of our movement, solutions are within our reach! Janie Hipp, Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, will lead this hard-hitting discussion with other long-time players in the food movement. Janie Simms Hipp, Univ. of Arkansas School of Law (AR), Savi Horne, Land Loss Prevention Project (NC), and Stephen Carpenter, Farmers’ Legal Action Group (MN).


Voices From the Field: The Everyday Work, Friday Edition
Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Have things changed in the last 25 years? You bet they have! The sustainable food movement has come a long way through the work of you, me and tens of thousands of others working at all levels — farm, community, state, regional and national. Hear from four individuals, who just by the everyday work they do here in the South, are contributing to this remarkable progress. Be inspired by their work and by the fact that this is just a small sampling of the many important activities people are engaged in across our region. We are everywhere and we are bringing about significant change! This is our time to reflect, commemorate and celebrate! Today we’ll hear from Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm (VA); Owusu Bandele, Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (LA); Kate Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald-Canepa LLC (DC); and Sara Clow, GrowFood Carolina (SC). Facilitated by Pam Kingfisher, Southern SAWG (OK).

Door Prizes! To add to the celebratory mood, we’ll give away 25 exciting door prizes over the weekend, with a few being given out during this event! Must be present to win.


Friday, 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Pre-order for $15 our Kentucky lunches to be served at the Lexington Convention Center or dine on your own.


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Friday, 2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.

From Fields to Market Helen and Joseph Fields own and operate a 50-acre certified organic farm in the low country of SC. They grow almost every kind of vegetable that can be grown in the region, as well as strawberries and some tree fruits. Their markets include several farmers markets around the area, an on-farm stand, a Pick Your Own, a small CSA, and local groceries and restaurants. Hear how this couple, featured in Southern SAWG’s Natural Farming Systems in the South video series, manages their farm enterprise and all of these markets. Joseph and Helen Fields, Joseph Fields Farm, LLC (SC).

Crop Planning for Diversified Southern Farms In the South, we are blessed with the potential to grow year round, and challenged by planning for four distinct seasons. Good crop planning is tedious work which takes a lot of research and record keeping. For every crop, the first plan is an educated guess that you adjust and refine year after year. Learn what questions you need to answer, where to find the answers, and how to put all that information together into a whole farm plan. Find out about tools used to organize and track all that information so you can make good decisions for next year. Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm (NC).

Permaculture Designs for Small Farms Save energy and resources using highly functional bio-integrated permaculture patterns on your farm. Shawn Jadrnicek, author of The Bio-Integrated Farm, will present new insights into permaculture, moving beyond the philosophical foundation to practical advanced designs based on a functional analysis. He’ll provide examples of new techniques for greenhouse construction, nursery ponds for freshwater prawns, heat and carbon dioxide extraction from compost piles, and rotational grazing systems for chickens. Shawn Jadrnicek, Clemson Student Organic Farm (SC).

Getting Great Starts Vegetable transplants are an important part of a successful vegetable farm, and the systems you use for getting them started and into the field can have a significant impact on quality and cost of production. This session will cover some of the best systems for getting transplants started in heated tunnels or greenhouses, including tips on transplant trays, benches, potting soil mixes, and seed treatments. We’ll also discuss systems for planting out, including transplanters, bed prep, fertility, and more. Mila Berhane, Greenhand Nursery (LA) and Stephanie Elwood, Southern Ag Center (LA).

Poultry Processing: Barriers and Breakthroughs Processing continues to be one of the biggest hurdles to sustainable poultry production in the South. Learn from three different kinds of processors — on-farm, a mobile processing unit, and a private plant — about the barriers they faced in their operations and how they found solutions. A pastured poultry producer will moderate the discussion and provide insights about farmers’ concerns. Together they’ll share lessons that can inform producers and processors across the South. Del Ferguson, Hunter Cattle (GA); Tim Mracek, SS Enterprises (KY); Steve Skelton, Kentucky State Univ; and John Patrick, Foggy Hollow Farm (TN).

Starting and Scaling Up a New Farm Steven Beltram and Becca Nestler started farming on 1/8 acre in 2008, selling produce at tailgate markets. By 2015 they had grown to 11 acres of production, raising produce and pastured poultry that they sell wholesale to unique specialty markets. Hear about the decisions they made, and how those decisions impacted their income, quality of life and sustainability as they grew. They’ll discuss land and financing, infrastructure, markets (direct vs. wholesale), labor (interns vs. hired help), and more. Steven Beltram and Becca Nestler, Balsam Gardens (NC).

Put Organic Research Results into Practice There is a growing body of organic research that is available to farmers. Learn how you can find out current research results that you can use. In this session, we’ll highlight results on production practices, breeding, and economic trends from USDA-funded and OFRF–funded research from the past decade. Participants will learn who funds major organic research and where funds have been spent. We’ll also have an interactive discussion to gather input about future organic research needs. Diana Jerkins, Organic Farming Research Foundation (VA).

Break the Policy Barriers to More Local Food Sales to Schools Now that more schools are looking for local food, some state and institutional policies are still creating barriers to sales. This session will provide an overview of some of the key policies regarding school sales in Southern states. Then we’ll present examples of policies that have been changed by action from dedicated individuals and explain the impacts. Learn how you can change policy barriers in your state and local school system. Katie Mularz, Louisiana Farm to School Alliance (LA); and Sarah Fritschner, Louisville Farm to Table (KY).

The Healing Power of Sustainable Agriculture We know that gardens can be powerful tools for building community and justice through production of healthy food. Sustainable agriculture can also play an important role in healing the land, community, body and mind. Hear about local Kentucky efforts that use gardening and farming to: 1) help women heal, 2) provide youth with a sense of purpose, 3) develop skills for inmates, and 4) restore and reforest strip mined land. Jim Embry, Sustainable Communities Network (KY); Diane Fleet, GreenHouse 17 (KY); and Obiora Embry,EConsulting™ (KY).


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Friday, 3:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Scaling Up or Scaling Down: Lessons from 40+ Years of Market Farming Delvin Farms is one of the oldest organic farms in TN. In over 40 years of farming they’ve transitioned from conventional to organic production. They’ve gone from wholesale marketing to marketing through a mix of wholesale (to organic grocers) and direct sales (that includes farmers markets and an 800-person CSA). In this session Hank and Cindy will discuss the decisions they’ve made and lessons they’ve learned, especially in terms of scale of production and marketing methods. Don’t miss this chance to hear from two of our organic farming elders. Cindy and Hank Delvin, Delvin Farms (TN).

New Times, New Tools: Cultivating Climate Resilience on Your Farm As we enter the 21st century, farm and food businesses face unique challenges created by climate change. Weaving practical lessons from the field with the latest climate science and resilience thinking; author, educator, scientist and farmer Laura Lengnick draws on the adaptation stories of 25 sustainable farmers to teach about successful farming strategies for managing increased weather variability and extremes. Increase the sustainability of your farm and improve the country’s food security. Learn how to assess your climate risk and use adaptive management tools to cultivate climate resilience on your farm. Laura Lengnick, Warren Wilson College (NC). Repeat.

High Tunnel Cropping and Management for Profitability Now that you have high tunnels on your farm, how do you use them effectively? Learn from an experienced grower who produces multiple crops of small fruits, vegetables and cut flowers in four high tunnels and an unheated greenhouse for 10 months of the year. She’ll discuss how to choose crops that are most productive and profitable, timing of crops to hit market windows, management tips for maintaining fertility and lowering disease, and more. Pam West, West Farm (WV).

Organic Strawberry Production for the Humid South Learn some of the best organic practices for strawberry production — including plenty of tips for production in humid conditions — from someone who has worked with east Texas organic producers and researchers for years. He’ll cover soil preparation and amendments, cropping systems, companion plants, pests and beneficials, harvesting and season extension, as well as symptoms of something gone wrong. He’ll also discuss how to choose the best varieties for different situations. Justin Duncan, NCAT (TX).

Using Livestock for Soil Fertility Management Elmwood Stock Farm uses advanced rotational practices on their 550 acres of certified organic land to produce vegetables, grass-fed beef, lamb, poultry and eggs. After decades of rotating crops, livestock, and fallow fields, they have continued to increase the fertility and critical mycorrhizae in their soil. Learn how they rely primarily on livestock — mostly ruminants — as the main driver of their farm’s fertility program. John Bell will explain their system of continuous rotations along with grazing and haying techniques that are keys to their soil management. John Bell, Elmwood Stock Farm (KY).

Basic Business Tools for Busy Farmers You know that you need to get a better understanding of your farm’s finances. This session will show you basic tools for gathering financial information, what records you need and why, and how to make better business decisions based on your data and not your intuition. We’ll show you one-page tools for business plans, financial plans, risk management plans and cost benefit calculations, and point you to other resources for further learning. This will give you a start on developing your own business management system. Gary Matteson, Farm Credit Council (DC) and Peyton Fair, Farm Credit Mid-America (TN).

Starting and Growing an Urban Farm Urban farms can serve a unique role in the food system by educating community members about food security and inspiring neighbors to make healthy food choices, all while operating as a commercial enterprise. The founder and director of an urban farm in Little Rock will discuss the horticultural know how, financial management, relationship building and marketing skills required to develop, operate and sustain an urban farm enterprise. He’ll share lessons learned in balancing the multiple roles of farm as production center, education center, good neighbor, and catalyst for the development of a local food system that is sustainable, just and profitable. Chris Hiryak, Little Rock Urban Farming (AR).

From Local to National: How State and Regional Grassroots Efforts Fuel National Movements Many of our national policy battles take root in local and regional grassroots campaigns. Join our panelists as they discuss how regional organizing informs the work of national organizations. Shavaun Evans, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (KY); Heather Hyden, Community Farm Alliance (KY); and Sophie Ackoff, National Young Farmers Coalition (NY).


State Networking Sessions
Friday, 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Gather with those working for sustainable agriculture and community food systems in your state to learn what's happening, how you can benefit, how you can be involved and how you can make a difference. We'll provide a room and a facilitator for each of the 13 Southern states. You make the discussion useful.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trade Show | Poster Display
Voices from the Field Timeline | Voices from the Field Memorial
Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Saturday, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.

Lessons for New Farmers from Young Farmers There’s a lot of critical decisions to make when starting a new farm. In this session, three farmers will share experiences on how they secured land, access capital and gained farm experience, and where they go for support. They’ll also discuss decisions they made regarding their choice of enterprises, scale of operation and markets. This will be a facilitated discussion with time for participants to ask follow-up questions. Eric Plaksin and Rachel Bynum, Waterpenny Farm (VA); Ben Abell, Rootbound Farm (KY); and Will Reed, Native Son Farm (MS).

Managing Plant-Soil-Microbe Relationships for Better Soil Fertility This advanced soil session will cover the keys to optimizing the amount and quality of soil organic matter for improved soil function. Learn how to better manage plant-soil-microbe relationships in order to enhance soil fertility, emphasizing legume nitrogen fixation and rhizobia bacteria. Julie Grossman, University of Minnesota (MN). Repeat.

Growing Fresh Ginger and Turmeric for Market Ginger and turmeric are great specialty crops to add to your mix and fairly easy to produce. They need similar growing methods and both are very popular for use in cooking and healing. Learn the techniques for growing baby ginger and turmeric as additions to your fall offerings. This session will cover pre-sprouting, feeding, amendments needed, harvesting, marketing, and more. Paul and Alison Wiediger, Au Naturel Farm (KY).

Farming with Terraces on Hillsides Learn methods for profitable vegetable production on sloping ground without losing any topsoil to erosion. An experienced commercial grower will share his secrets on layout, construction and maintenance of terraced fields. He’ll also offer tips on choosing the right tools for efficiency, discussing the benefits of hand tools, walk-behind equipment and riding tractors on terraces. Bob Due, Terraced Gardens Farm (TN).

Goats from Field to Freezer Goats provide a potential lucrative market for many small-scale producers. They have broad diets and are relatively inexpensive to produce, provided farmers can manage pest and parasite issues. This session will present best practices for managing goats, along with ideas for marketing goat meat and value-added goat products. Learn how to take goats all the way from your field to the freezers of local customers and regional markets. Angela McKenzie-Jakes, Florida A&M University; and David and Frances Martin, Gotcha Goat (GA).

Marketing Your Farm Products with “Labels” There are lots of labels you could use for your farm — such as certified organic, certified naturally grown, GMO-free, Arkansas Grown, Kentucky Proud, Animal Welfare Approved, etc. How do you know which labels are important to your customers? How can you weigh the costs of using the label vs. the benefits? This session will present decisions on labeling as part of a holistic marketing and branding approach for your farm rather than an isolated action. Charlie Hopper, Missouri Dept. of Agriculture (MO).

Reflections of a City Farmer: To Grow or Not to Grow Although urban farms are getting more popular, it’s a huge challenge to create a farm in an environment and mindset that isn’t structured for agriculture. What are the key issues to deal with? How do you find and secure land, negotiate fair lease agreements, fit into city regulations, and build neighborhood support? Building soil fertility and maximizing space for production are the “easy” parts. Can you balance profitability with community goals? Drawing on 5+ years of urban farming in Atlanta, Jamila Norman will share some of her accomplishments and lessons learned. Jamila Norman, Patchwork City Farms, LLC (GA).

Farm to School Myth Busters Although school cafeterias are one of the fastest growing markets for local food, there is a lot of mystery and false information about how farmers sell to schools. In this session we’ll de-mystify the process. You’ll hear straight talk about certification, inspection, insurance, sales volume, pricing and much more. While all schools aren’t the same, this will give you a better feel for how to sell to your local school. Bring your questions and we’ll provide answers. Sunny Young Baker, MS Farm to School Network (MS) and Andrew Carberry, AR Children’s Hospital Research Center (AR).


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

A Sixth Generation Renewing Their Relationship with the Land Because of racism and discrimination, land ownership and retention has been a challenge for African-American farmers. Hear about land near the coast of Georgia that has been in the Raiford family for 140 years, and the journey of two siblings — Althea and Matthew — who returned home in 2011 to farm that land. Their great, great, great grandfather Jupiter Gilliard held onto 476 acres of land in 1874 with a tax payment of $9. Now they are working on 28 of those original acres, raising vegetables, fruits and heritage animals. Hear how they are re-energizing the farm and their lives through their relationship to the land. Althea and Matthew Raiford, Gilliard Farms (GA).

Create Exciting Market Bouquets from Spring Through Fall Learn how to produce and market beautiful floral bouquets that vary with the season. A long-time organic grower will review the most vigorous, proven varieties every flower grower should have as part of their repertoire, discuss special production techniques, timing of plantings and successions, and season extension into the winter months. He’ll also provide information on bouquet making, market presentation, and wedding/special event work. Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Garden (AR).

Dealing with Tomato Diseases and Disorders This session will start at the ground and move up, discussing keys to distinguishing various fungi, bacteria and nematodes that can cause problems as well as several disorders that can develop due to environment and growing conditions. We’ll focus on how to properly identify the problem and how to get help if needed. Then we’ll go through tools and techniques that can be used to manage problems, such as altering water and nutrients levels, employing disease resistant cultivars and varieties, using grafted plants, applying selective crop protectants, and saving seed and seed treatments. Bring a sharp pencil and your questions. Joe Kemble, Auburn University (AL).

Producing, Processing and Marketing Lamb The Tavalins raise several hundred Katahdin sheep per year on pasture, and market lamb direct to consumers, to restaurants and through a specialty butcher. In this session they’ll provide information on choosing breedstock, nutrition, rotational grazing, and sustainable production techniques. They will discuss equipment they feel is essential for raising sheep. They’ll also share tips for working with processors for ensuring quality and marketing through several different channels. Amy and Brandon Tavalin, Tavalin Tails (TN).

Improve Your Post Harvest Handling and Food Safety Learn methods to improve the efficiency of produce handling and packing shed operations while also increasing food safety. Learn how to carefully monitor postharvest activities, particularly water sanitation and product handling practices during sorting, grading and packing, while maximizing efficiency of product flow. This session will show you good food safety practices that can flow with the work on your farm, rather than existing as a separate set of mandated tasks. Patricia Tripp, Artisan Food Solutions and NC Growing Together Project (NC); and Cassandra Benfield Bare, Harvest Farm (NC).

Does Equipment Pay? How can you determine if an investment in a piece of equipment will give your farm a financial boost or be a drag on your bottom line? Learn how to weigh the costs vs. the benefits of investing in equipment for your farm. In this session, we’ll walk participants through the process to determine when and if it might "pay" to invest in a particular piece of equipment. Join us for a lively learning discussion. Ellen Polishuk, Potomac Vegetable Farm (VA) and John Hendrickson, Center for Integrated Ag Systems (WI).

Farmer Collaboration to Access Larger Markets Want to sell to schools, institutions or local grocers, but don’t have the time to do marketing or the volume to make it worthwhile? Learn how other farmers are working together on production, aggregation, marketing and distributing in relatively low-cost and innovative ways. You’ll hear three examples of collaborations with different structures and levels of infrastructure. Eric Simpson, West Georgia Farmers Coop; Corina Common, Kentucky Blueberry Growers Assoc.; and Jamie Ager, Hickory Nut Gap Meats (NC).

Assisting Farmers to Serve on Policy-making Committees There is a rampant history of discrimination in the U.S. that has disenfranchised farmers from the services of government agencies and farm policy. In response, RAFI has begun the Farmer Leadership Network to support underserved North Carolina farmers in serving on policy-making committees, particularly Farm Service Agency (FSA) county committees. Come learn about the leadership network, how you can be involved in your community, and share your experiences of these committees. This session is geared towards farmers. Kavita Koppa, RAFI-USA (NC) and farmer TBD.


Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Preorder for $15 our Kentucky lunches to be served at the Lexington Convention Center or dine on your own.


Voices From the Field: The Everyday Work, Saturday Edition
Saturday, 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Have things changed in the last 25 years? You bet they have! The sustainable food movement has come a long way through the work of you, me and tens of thousands of others working at all levels — farm, community, state, regional and national. Hear from four individuals, who just by the everyday work they do here in the South, are contributing to this remarkable progress. Be inspired by their work and by the fact that this is just a small sampling of the many important activities people are engaged in across our region. We are everywhere and we are bringing about significant change! This is our time to reflect, commemorate and celebrate! Today we’ll hear from Cindy and Hank Delvin, Delvin Farm (TN); James Hill, Ft. Valley State Univ. (GA); Sunny Young Baker, Mississippi Farm to School Network (MS); and Chris Hiryak, Little Rock Urban Farming (AR). Facilitated by Jovan Sage, Southern SAWG (GA).

Door Prizes! To add to the celebratory mood, we’ll give away 25 exciting door prizes over the weekend, with a few being given out during this event! Must be present to win.


Concurrent General Conference Sessions
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Better Practices for High Tunnel Use With the increased use of high tunnels on small farms, there’s a growing body of knowledge about sustainable production practices. Join horticulture specialist Lewis Jett as he presents practical information that can be put to use by commercial growers. He will discuss topics such as crop choices, scheduling crop production, variety slotting for seasons of the year, irrigation, and postharvest handling of high tunnel crops based on results of research and demonstration projects conducted in West Virginia over the past six years. Lewis Jett, West Virginia University.

Integrated Ecological Weed Management: Examples from Organic Farms in the South One of the greatest challenges for organic growers is managing weeds while maintaining soil quality. Hear about specific mechanical and biological strategies that three farms use to control some of their most persistent weeds, such as Bermuda grass, large crabgrass, goosegrass, nutsedges, and hairy galinsoga. Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm (NC); Jennifer Taylor and Ron Gilmore, Lola’s Organic Farm (GA); and Mila Berhane, Greenhand Nursery (LA).

Growing Fall Brassicas for Market Learn some of the most successful organic production practices for transplanted kale, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. A long time sustainable grower will walk you through the season from starting seedlings in summer to post-harvest handling in the fall. She’ll discuss transplanting, fertility, pest and disease controls, and weed control, as well as expected expenses and income from these crops. Ellen Polishuk, Potomac Vegetable Farm (VA).

Creating Multiple Profit Centers with Pastured Livestock Hear how Jamie and Amy Ager have created several thriving enterprises and a branded meat company around their small fourth generation farm in the mountains of NC. From a production base of raising 100 percent grass-fed cattle, pasture-raised pigs, chicken, and turkey; they’ve added a farm store, a kitchen and butchery that offers catering and custom cut meats, and multiple agritourism activities. They’ve also created a regional grazing and production model with like-minded producers to produce and market their branded meats. Learn how they planned their business while in college and about key decisions they’ve made in 15 years since. Jamie and Amy Ager, Hickory Nut Gap Farm (NC).

Walking Tractors for Small Market Growers For small acreages, walk-behind farm equipment can fill a middle ground between hand tools and four-wheel tractors. Learn about the applications and availability of this type of equipment. Joel Dufour, who has been using, selling and servicing walk-behind tractors for over 35 years will help you assess if a walking tractor is right for you. He’ll discuss everything from appropriate terrain and scale of operation to the human energy required to run and maintain one. Joel Dufour, Earth Tools (KY).

When Does Wholesaling Make (Dollars and) Sense? Direct sales are generally higher dollar sales, but what if you can’t generate enough income selling direct or don’t want to do your own marketing? When does it make sense to sell a higher volume of organic or sustainably produced products to a market like a food hub, local school or specialty grocer? This session will help you analyze wholesale markets for your farm — and if you choose to pursue them — get the most out of those markets. John Hendrickson, UW Center for integrated Ag Systems (WI).

Farm to School Lessons from Kentucky Hear about some of the innovative programs in the Bluegrass State. With the help of a local grower, Pikeville Elementary started a winter garden that contributes food to school lunches and creates customer awareness of local food. Perry County Schools are purchasing local food in the summer and processing it in their school cafeteria for use during the school year. And the Ky. Department of Agriculture has developed a mini-grant program that supports schools and peer networking in the state. Tina Garland, KY Dept of Agriculture (KY); Liberty Campbell and Linda CampbellPerry County Schools (KY); Traci Tackett, Pikeville Elementary (KY); and Cathy Rehmeyer, Four Petal Farm (KY).

Marketing Local Food: We’re Making Progress, but… The growing appeal for healthy local food has increased market demand, yet look at how little of the food at your local groceries and restaurants is actually locally produced. In this session, we’ll have an honest discussion about what’s working and what isn’t to increase local food sales. Hear from two people who work in the trenches — a director of a regional food hub, and a community value chain coordinator. They’ll discuss some of the barriers beyond price, quality and quantity, and provide thoughts on how we can build on our momentum to substantially increase the volume of local sales. Sarah Fritschner, Louisville Farm to Table (KY) and Sara Clow, GrowFood Carolina (SC).

Information Exchange: Crowdsourcing Knowledge
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

These facilitated group discussions provide you the opportunity to build on what you learned during the conference by exchanging ideas and information with your peers from around the region. Come prepared to ask and answer questions, share your experiences and listen to others.

New at Farming Continue the conversation with new(ish) farmers about the critical decisions you need to make in the early stages of operating a farm. How do you secure land and get financing? How do you choose your enterprises and scale of operation? What’s the right mix of markets? Share what’s working for you and throw your questions to the group to get advice.

Military Veterans Entering Farming Connect with other veterans. Hear from veterans who are successful farmers. Discuss your unique challenges, and share contacts and resources.

People of Color in Farming and Food Systems Work How can more People of Color start farming or become part of the sustainable food and agriculture movement? What are the barriers? Share ideas on what can be done to make the movement more inclusive of all.

Pastured Poultry: Production and Processing What are the best processing options in our region? Share insights from your state. What production problems are you experiencing? Share practical tips for raising birds naturally and increasing profitability.

Cut Flowers as Profit Generators Discuss how to use flowers to generate more sales and profit for your farm. Share ideas for how can you compete with other small flower growers. What are key varieties and marketing tricks? When is it feasible to go into marketing bouquets for special events?

Solutions for Common High Tunnel Problems Join producers and researchers for a discussion of some common issues encountered in high tunnel production. Come ready to discuss challenges like fertility management, heat regulation and crop rotations, and share solutions.

Essential Farm Tools The right tools can make the difference between a day of drudgery and efficient, joyful work. What is one tool you can’t live without on your farm? How do you use it? What is a tool you wish someone would invent? This is a chance to swap great tool ideas.

Capturing and Managing Water on Your Farm With increasingly erratic weather patterns, and droughts followed by floods, strategies for water management have become critical for successful farms. Share management techniques and tools that you use for water catchment, storage and efficient usage. How can you make your farm more water resilient?

Making Money at Farmers Markets Spending several hours a week at a farmers market is a huge investment for a small farm. Discuss how you can make this investment pay, especially when you are new and competing with established farms. Share tips for choosing crops that fit your market customers and are profitable for you. How can you sell yourself and sell your products? What are innovative marketing ideas?

Standout CSAs The field has gotten crowded! What makes new and returning customers choose your CSA over other CSAs, subscription services or farmers markets? Share tricks and techniques for making your CSA stand out.

What’s the Next Stage in Food Hub Development? Discuss the ongoing food hub experience. What is working, what isn’t? What are the lessons learned and where do we go next? Share ideas on specific challenges and how to overcome them.

Educational Farms: How Are We Preparing the Next Generation? Discuss key challenges and successes of different educational models — including independent teaching farms, farms at colleges and universities, and those affiliated with other institutions. Share how you balance agrarian idealism with the practical realities of today's food system. How do you measure success? How can you help students access land and capital?

Farm to School Programs Networking Across the South Build on the networking that you’ve done over the past few days. Learn how you can access and share information through the National Farm to School Network and their regional leads. Discuss what’s next for your school and for your state. Identify the issues where you would like support.

Tools and Strategies for Collaboration Collaboration is essential in order to build sustainable food and farming systems in the South. Discuss what tools and strategies are effective for bringing individuals and organizations together inclusively and powerfully? What technologies might make collaborative efforts more efficient? What makes collaborations nimble and responsive to emerging priorities?

Southern SAWG Policy Working Group Interested in working for fair food and agriculture policies in the South? Then join this meeting to discuss key opportunities and make recommendations about Southern SAWG policy activities for 2016.


Taste of Kentucky Banquet
Saturday, 6:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

In celebration of our 25th, the chef is preparing a special dinner using 25 ingredients produced by sustainable and organic farmers in Kentucky! This plated dinner Saturday evening will include a brief trip down a digital 25 year timeline you helped us create. We’ll be commemorating 25 years of all of us working together to bring about the tremendous growth in local foods and in sustainable and organic agriculture. We have accomplished much together and are making much better food available to the citizens in our communities, while protecting our precious natural resources! Please join us for this special time to reflect and to celebrate. Each conference registration includes a ticket for the Taste of Kentucky banquet dinner.

Door Prizes! To add to the celebratory mood, we’ll give away 25 exciting door prizes over the weekend. Drawing for the grand door prize will be during this event! Must be present to win. Don’t leave early!


Mixer/Celebration — Live Music and Cash Bar
Saturday, 8:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

This is our time to celebrate together and make connections before returning home for the season. Hang out and relax with your buddies while enjoying live music and local brews.


Conference Concludes