With the thoughts of spring planting on their minds, over 200 farm producers and local agricultural staff discussed the many ways USDA can strengthen the partnership between small farmers and the USDA agencies that serve them.
Eleven different USDA agencies converged earlier this month at the Douglas Wilder Building, on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) to talk business and program assistance. From topics such as how to market locally grown foods in your community to grant writing were cover during the conference. A local grower’s panel was the highlight again this year; where four USDA recipients shared time with the group during the general session, to “in their own words” explain how they utilized different USDA programs to improve their community or individual operations profit margins.
Key Note Speaker, Dr. Jill Auburn who is the senior advisor for sustainability in the Office of the Chief Scientist and Research, Education and Economics, provided encouraging words to all in attendance concerning the future and strength of agricultural entrepreneurs. She also stressed utilizing each agency program’s to help small and emerging operations reach their goals.
After a wonderful lunch was prepared, using locally grown fish from the Universities’ own Randolph Farm Aquaculture Operation, it was back to work with the afternoon breakout sessions. Topics from Conservation and Energy to Locally Grown Foods were discussed in great detail by USDA Specialists on hand from the different agencies. As Dr. Jewel Hairston, the Interim Dean for the School of Agriculture at VSU commented, “This conference provided a great opportunity for local producers to get to know what USDA can do for them and I am encouraged to see the good attendance again this year.”