COCKEYSVILLE, Md. — From January 14 – 16, 2021, hundreds of farmers and food system professionals will convene online for the 22nd annual Future Harvest conference. Reflecting the challenges of 2020 and the hopes of 2021, this year’s event is titled Crisis and Resilience: Farmers Building a New Food Future and contains numerous sessions and roundtables to inform and inspire growers of all skill and experience levels.
“Our conference is all about community this year,” said Dena Leibman, Executive Director of Future Harvest. “Future Harvest farmers are real heroes of this pandemic, working tirelessly and collaboratively to keep food flowing through our region when the global supply chain came to a halt. This conference is a tribute to them and the critical but often undervalued service they perform for our regional food security.”
New this year, all 40+ conference workshops and sessions will be recorded and available to attendees for six months following the event.
On Friday, January 15, Tope Fajingbesi, an accountant, co-owner of Dodo Farms, and lecturer at the University of Maryland IAA, will present the opening keynote, “Growing a New World.” Agriculture is often viewed simply as an economic activity. To millions of people and communities around the world, agriculture has been, is, and will continue to mean, so much more. Through stories and historical examples, Tope will speak about the critical role farming has played in healing, growing humans, shaping culture, and helping communities overcome adversity, and call on all of us to rise up and explore ways we can use farming to heal our communities during this difficult time in US history.
On Saturday, January 16, Chris Newman, a writer, and activist, and founder of Sylvanaqua Farms, will present “The Next Agriculture Economy.” The future of farming in America faces broad, systemic challenges, including access to land, markets, and capital; processing infrastructure; distribution; farm succession; farmworker exploitation and quality of life; land-use change; and environmental degradation. In this keynote, Chris will discuss an emerging design for an integrated, BIPOC-led food system in the Chesapeake Bay region that creates the necessary conditions for truly thriving farms, communities, and the environment.
In addition to the keynotes, the conference will feature a broad swath of speakers from all sectors of agriculture. From Beginning Farming to Crop Production, and Grassfed Meat & Dairy to Regenerative Agriculture, speakers include regional and national farming experts. Learn about “Irrigation Systems for the Small, Mixed Vegetable Garden with Adam Cottrell of Floating Lotus Farmstead”; join Tope Fajingbesi again for “Mitigating Financial Risk in the Time of COVID-19”; learn how “We’re Still Here: How the Farm Alliance Used Community Resources to Help Micro-Scale Farms Survive the Pandemic” with Alison Worman, Denzel Mitchell, and Mariya Strauss of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore.
This year’s afternoon sessions will include a selection of interactive roundtables and clinics., including “CSA Roundtable Discussion: Where is the “Movement” and How Should We Be Evolving?” “A Case for Reparations and Pigford Debt Cancellation: What is the Justice for Black Farmers Act All About?” and “Let’s Talk: Employee Management, Communicaction, and Retention.”
Attendees looking for longer, more in-depth programming can attend one of four pre-conference sessions on January 14th:
- Owning Your Own Land: Resources and Mentorship Many people say that finding land is the single biggest barrier to growing the next generation of farmers. While there are many ways to go about finding and accessing land, this workshop will focus on two paths to long-term land tenure: land purchase and long-term leases, with the majority of the time spent guiding participants through the process of finding and purchasing farmland. A panel of new landowners will share and answer questions about their journeys, and give frank feedback on the various support programs available. Representatives from FSA, MARBIDCO, and Farm Credit will talk about their respective programs and answer questions.
- Online Sales Platforms Winners and Losers: Farmers’ Review Come learn about the variety of online sales platforms available to farmers. We’ll talk about which ones work well in local markets, explore best practices, and learn about legal considerations when direct marketing products. This pre-conference session includes small breakout sessions led by our farmer experts so you can share your experiences, too. Considering Harvie? Feeling comfortable with your DIY setup? Not sure whether to use Weebly, Square, or Squarespace? This is the session for you!
- Predator Protection for Livestock and Poultry Learn from renowned predator protection expert and author Jan Dohner about how to keep your livestock and poultry safe from large and small predators, roaming dogs, and birds of prey. The first portion of the workshop will cover how to perform an assessment of potential threats, identify predator damage, and use practical prevention strategies such as predator-proof fencing, livestock guardians, secure housing, good husbandry, and fright techniques. The remainder of the workshop will delve deeper into the fundamentals of using guardian animals, including information about the pros and cons of using llamas, donkeys, and dogs, how to choose the right animal for your farm, and basic care. We will also cover typical training or troubleshooting issues and discuss the use of livestock guardian dogs with poultry.
- Stronger Together: Cooperative Farming Models Farmer cooperatives are nothing new, but the recent explosion of interest in all manner of cooperative models is. More small-scale farmers are banding together to gain greater market access and compete with larger operations. Cooperative models range from informal collaborative marketing, multi-farm CSAs, shared accountants and expertise, and bulk ordering all the way to legally structured, worker-owned business entities. Hear from experts in the field who will give an overview of the various forms of co-ops that are best suited for farming. A panel of farmers will present a broad range of models. Attendees will meet other farmers and producers in the region interested in collaborating.
The 40+ expert-led sessions for farmers, agricultural businesses, advocates, and professionals will be recorded for later viewing. Each track is designed to teach business planning, marketing, and farmer resilience alongside sustainable land management practices.
- BEGINNING FARMING – Resources and networking for getting started
- BUSINESS OF FARMING – How to farm sustainably and profitably
- CROP PRODUCTION – Latest innovations for best yields
- ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNITY, AND POLICY – Building strong regional food economy
- GRASSFED: MEAT & DAIRY – For the serious livestock producer
- REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE – Building soil health for farm resilience
Additional attractions will include:
- Friday night toast and Farmer of the Foodshed Awards, remarks from awardees
- Virtual exhibit hall
- Online networking events and forums
- Interactive cooking demonstrations
- Renowned presenters: Josh Volk of Slow Hand Farm; Rick Clark of Clark Land and Cattle; Ellen Polishuk of Plant to Profit, author Jan Dohner, and more!
- Largest sustainable agriculture conference in the lower mid-Atlantic
- More than 700 attendees each year
- Three days: One day of skill building intensives, two days of workshops, panel discussions and presentations
- Taking place online for the first time this year, so attendees have the opportunity to watch every session and access the event through their mobile devices.
Tickets are $75 for Future Harvest members and $120 for non-members. Registration is open at www.futureharvest.org. Full conference program and registration HERE.