Small farms, ranches discussed
Topics include marketing options, farm management
By TIM HEARDEN
Hundreds of small farm and ranch operators will converge on Fresno, Calif., soon for the 26th annual California Small Farm Conference.
The event March 10-12 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center will feature field tours and workshops aimed at existing and aspiring farmers as well as farmers' market managers.
Funded through grants from the USDA and California Department of Food and Agriculture, the conference will include study tracks related to marketing, production, farm management, specialty crops and emerging issues, conference board member Shermain Hardesty said.
"There is such a broad array of topics, and they don't have to stay in one track so they can really pick and choose what they want to hear about," said Hardesty, the University of California small-farm program leader.
Billed as the state's premier gathering of small farmers, agricultural students, farmers' market managers and others in the industry, the conference typically draws between 300 and 500 enrollees each year, said Penny Leff, agritourism coordinator for the UC Cooperative Extension.
Leff is leading one of several field trips on the conference's first day, which will be followed by an evening tasting reception featuring lots of locally produced foods and local chefs.
On the following days, 25 different workshops will focus on such issues as pastured poultry management, food safety, crop selection, how to get access to land and how to start a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.
"We have well informed speakers," Hardesty said. "For people who are thinking about getting into farming, it's really a great introduction to all the issues and a way to meet up with key people in the industry."
A program during the conference called "Face to Face" enables people to sign up for 20-minute appointments with 15 different industry experts. And a trade show will highlight publications and supplies for farmers as well as market managers, Hardesty said.
"I think there's something for everyone," she said. "There's lots to pick from."
California Small Farm Conference: http://www.californiafarmconference.com/