Future Harvest: Chesapeake Bay Farmers

Future Harvest: Chesapeake Bay Farmers

Looking ahead to a new year and new, better ways of farming, Chesapeake Bay farmers interested in innovative production methods can pick up new tools of the trade at a regional conference set for Jan. 13-14. Future Harvest-A Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture will host its 8th annual conference in Hagerstown, MD, an event expected to draw 200 people.
Conference attendees will have an opportunity to learn from successful area farmers, regionally known researchers and experienced educators in the field of sustainable agriculture in two days of educational sessions. Participants will also enjoy locally grown meat, vegetables and cheese at conference meals.
"Any farmer who wants to learn about potential new markets or improve their farming techniques will benefit from attending this conference," said Jack Gurley, an organic farmer in Maryland and acting president of Future Harvest-CASA.
North Carolina farmer Alex Hitt, who raises high-value vegetables and flowers near Raleigh, will deliver the conference keynote address. Since 1981, Hitt has turned his farm into an environmental gem by improving soil with cover crops and devising long-term rotations. By concentrating on high-value crops that grow well in the area, and direct marketing through the Carrboro Farmers Market and a cooperative grocery store, Hitt and his wife, Betsy, have made their farm a real profit center. Each acre returns a minimum of $20,000 a year.
Pre-conference short courses will provide in-depth information on economics and production methods for raising dairy cows on pasture; a how-to class for beginning vegetable growers; and getting started with small fruits and berries.
Other conference highlights include:
* Community supported agriculture, a model that works even in remote areas
* Predator control in livestock
* Extending the growing season with high-tunnel technology
* Estate planning
* Getting started with cut flowers
* Selling beef at farmers markets
* On-farm diesel production
About 90 percent of the ingredients for the conference meals will come from farms in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The menu will include such dishes as pork shoulder, baby mixed greens salad, veggie lasagna with local artisan cheeses, bourbon sweet potatoes, onion soup and stacked hamburgers.
"We work hard to procure local food to both support farmers and to raise awareness about freshness and how food can be produced in environmentally sound ways," said Future Harvest director Mark Davis.
To register, go to www.futureharvestcasa.org. For images, contact Valerie Berton.