129th Annual Farmers Conference to be held

129th Annual Farmers Conference to be held

Submitted by

Jacquelyn Carlisle

The 129th Annual Farmers Conference will be a virtual event this year. The virtual conference will be held February 16-19, 2021. The Tuskegee University Farmers Conference is often cited as the oldest event of its type in the nation. The first Farmers Conference, originally called the “Peoples Conference” was hosted on this historic campus on February 23, 1892.

Beginning with the contributions of Thomas Monroe Campbell, Cooperative Extension and Tuskegee University have had a longstanding reputation for supporting the agricultural sciences and supporting the interests, programs, projects, and visions of people involved in the areas of agriculture, environment, and nutrition sciences. It is from this premise that the Farmers Conference exists.

“Transforming Food Systems in a Changing World” is the theme for the four-day virtual educational forum, which will feature panel discussions, interactive demonstrations, and concurrent workshops.

The conference sessions will address emerging issues surrounding small farmers, farm families, and rural communities. Topics include getting started with cattle, hemp, and organic farming; diabetes, professional development in BQU Certification and grant opportunities.

During the Annual Conference, several individuals will be recognized for the work they do in the field of Agriculture, including the Merit Farmer of the Year and the Thomas Monroe Campbell Award. The 2021 Merit Farm Family Awardee is Mrs. Mae Lizzie Faulk of the Faulk Family Farms in Union Springs and the 2021 Thomas Monroe Campbell Awardee is Ben Malone, the eighth State Conservationist of the Alabama’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The two keynote speakers for the Thursday opening session and Award Luncheon will be Chris Newman and Gibron Burchet.

Newman is a software engineer by trade. He and his wife Annie were prompted into agriculture in search of healthier lifestyles and more meaningful, impactful work in the world of small, sustainable farming due to a health scare.

Chris quickly found the economic model of “smallholding” to be fatally flawed, especially with respect to marginalized people both as producers and consumers.

Since then, he has shifted from a focus on his own farm to architecting an integrated, worker-owned food economy where farms and other food businesses can multiply and thrive at scale, making nutritious food accessible beyond the privileged minority.

Chris is the founder of Sylvanaqua Farms, a food processor and marketer; and Something Else Society, a non-profit that incubates BIPOC-led businesses operating in the Chesapeake Bay foodshed. He lives and works in Montross, Virginia with Annie and their two daughters.

Burchet has worked through his company HOSCO, in St. Louis to address food access problems; nutritional education, and improving economic conditions through locally produced foods and products. Gibron has been building, developing, and teaching aquaponics and workforce development since 2012. Gibron has trained directly under Will Allen of Growing Power, an internationally known grower and leader in urban agriculture, aquaponic food production and system development. After working to build several systems with Growing Power in Kansas City and at Growing Power located in Milwaukee, HOSCO was formed to create similar processes in St. Louis.

Gibron is also partnered with International Institute for growing, the St. Louis Science Center for curriculum development, and the Saint Louis Public Schools. HOSCO now wants to expand its growing. Gibron is currently working on a food hub project that will include a 28-acre soil and aquaponics farm facility, a second commercial processing kitchen larger than NSFH, and a grocery delivery operation that will deliver food directly to homes.

Other aspects of the conference will be virtual tours, poster presentation, and the Youth EXERT Competition. Register online at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/129th-farmers-conference-registration-registration-63384686303.

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