AUSTIN — Hundreds of farmers, farm supporters, and gardening enthusiasts are anticipated to converge in Georgetown this February for the annual Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) conference. Held February 1-3 at the Georgetown Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center, the conference seeks to bolster the already bourgeoning organic industry in the US and Texas, while allowing participants to share ideas, gain insight, and connect with others.
The organic food industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the food economy. Consumers are increasingly seeking out organic and local food options at farmers markets and grocery stores. Large institutions such as universities and hospitals are likewise incorporating organic foods into their meal plans. In 2015, total organics sales topped $43 billion in the United States, continuing its double-digit sales growth for the fourth consecutive year. Consumer spending in Texas exclusively on fresh organic produce is estimated conservatively at $412 million annually. Little of this organic produce is actually grown in Texas, but rather imported from places like California, Florida, and Mexico.
“We see incredible opportunity to strengthen Texas farmers and ranchers by developing a vibrant local, organic food economy in Texas,” said Emily Erickson, President of TOFGA. “The TOFGA Annual Conference is a way to support and grow more sustainable farms in Texas and to foster understanding of organic practices among consumers.”
In addition to favorite annual activities such as the Friday night banquet, Seed Swap, and Farm & Food Trivia, conference participants will be celebrating 25 years of TOGFA. The organization has been a pillar of the organic and small family farm sector since 1993.
TOFGA is excited to announce Michael Ableman as the 2018 Banquet Keynote speaker. A pioneer of the organic farming and urban agriculture movements, Ableman is a farmer, author, photographer, and local food system advocate. He is also the co-founder and director of Sole Food Street Farms, North America’s largest urban farm project. Sole Food Street Farms consists of 4 urban farms throughout the city of Vancouver, British Columbia where they employ people facing challenges such as poverty, homelessness, addiction, and mental health issues.
“It is so exciting that Michael Ableman will be at the TOFGA conference this year,” remarked long-time TOFGA member and former Deputy Director of the Sustainable Food Center, Andrew Smiley. “As a longtime champion of sustainable, regenerative systems, Michael’s philosophy aligns perfectly with TOFGA’s mission. He is a community builder, and we look forward to being inspired by his vision, experience, and enthusiasm for community and for organics.”
Keynote speakers over the years have included Jim Hightower, Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute, and Joel Salatin.
The conference offers two days of learning sessions that will cover diverse topics within five tracks: Crops, Livestock, Business & Marketing, Garden & Homesteading, and Food Systems & Policy. Topics include biodynamic agriculture, funding your agricultural pursuits, seed-saving, composting, pasture management, activism, community gardens, farmers markets, and more. Speakers such as Judith McGeary of the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance, Ty Wolosin of Windy Hill Foods, Sue Beckwith of the Texas Center for Local Foods, Robert Maggiani of National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Annelies Lottmann of Texas Rural Cooperative Center will lead sessions.
A day of pre-conference activities will include Dynamic Marketing with Michael Ableman, Accessing Credit for Your Farm, a Permaculture workshop with Kirby Fry, a tour of Belle Vie Farm, and more. A silent auction will close after Friday evening’s banquet, and each day plays host to a variety of exhibitors. Registration is available for the banquet dinner and keynote address, as well as one, two, or all three days of sessions and activities.
Visit www.tofga.org for conference registration and details.
Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association is a nonprofit 501(c)3 statewide sustainable agriculture group with a mission to educate producers and consumers on the many benefits of organic agriculture and to promote its use throughout Texas. Established in 1993, TOFGA is a member-run and member-funded organization including farmers, ranchers, gardeners, food artisans, soil amendment producers, nurseries, farmers markets, educators, students, and individuals interested in the production and consumption of organic products within their communities.
—Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association
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