The words “local” and “farm-to-table” seem like they’ve been part of WNC’s lexicon for years, thanks in part to the efforts of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. One of the organization’s key programs, the Business of Farming Conference, will hit the 10 year mark in February. Since 2004, the conference has fueled farms across the region, providing resources to ramp up production and thrive in the new food economy.
“It’s been exciting to see the conference grow,” says Julie Mansfield of Mountain Harvest Organics in Hot Springs. Julie and husband Carl Evans have been a part of the conference since the beginning, when the participants were mostly small farmers selling produce through tailgate markets and CSAs. “Today, even larger farms with much of their business from wholesale orders are represented,” says Carl.
The Business of Farming Conference connects farmers with buyers, helping growers both large and small make invaluable contacts. Representatives from grocery stores regularly attend, helping farmers make the leap from small to large-scale. In addition to making new contacts, growers can take workshops on QuickBooks, improving websites and creating direct marketing opportunities. “Connecting enterprising farmers to the right information and to one another not only builds a strong sense of community and network, but it directly impacts on-farm profitability,” says Debbie Hamrick, Director of Specialty Crops for NC Farm Bureau.
The conference takes place Saturday, Feb. 23 from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. at Warren Wilson College. Topics include food safety certification, promoting CSAs, selling to wholesale buyers and agritourism. The conference is open to farmers of all sizes and a list of programs can be found here. Registration is $30 per person before Feb. 1 and $35 after Feb. 1, with a discount for multiple farm registrants.
2012 attendees tour Warren Wilson College’s farm. Tours of WWC’s farm and garden will take place during lunch again this year.
A farmer-buyer meeting in action! A local farmer meets with Winter Sun Farms CSA to learn about selling their products to the frozen fruit and veggie winter CSA.
Inside a workshop session on getting GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified, which remains a hot topic and will be covered again in a food safety workshop this year.