The 15th annual Forum for Sustaining Agriculture (formerly Forum for Rural Innovation) on March 8 will feature new programs and practices that enhance farm and rural business prosperity. With opportunities for both networking and education, the Forum will showcase a variety of presentations and exhibits that emphasize innovative and practical methods for agricultural and rural business development in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and northern Virginia area.Forum topics and speakers will include:
- Changing Landscapes Initiative presented by Dr. Iara Lacher, Smithsonian Institution. Learn how land-use decisions made today could influence the availability of life-sustaining natural resources such as clean water and productive soils and life-improving resources like open space and cultural heritage sites.
- Education Panel with Katlin Thorsell, FFA Advisor, Washington High School; Michael Withrow, 4-H Agent, Berkeley County; Susan Hilleary, FFA Advisor, Fauquier High School; and Lenah Nguyen, 4-H Agent, Fauquier County. FFA advisors, 4-H agents, and youth members from both organizations will explain how 4-H and Future Farmers of America develop the next generation who will sustain the nation's focus on and respect for agriculture as a career.
- Access to Land presented by Andrew Crush, Spring House Farm; Eleanor Adams, Landowner; and Jeff Boogard, Breezy Meadow Farms. Access to farmland remains one of the top challenges that farmers face, whether a beginning farmer or a farmer wanting to expand operations.
- Shenandoah County Conservation Farm Project presented by Bobby Clark, Crop and Soil Sciences. Project shows how a landowner and leasing farmer can collaborate and use government and private cost-share opportunities to bring a run-down or over-used farm back to productive life.
- Soil Heath Cover Crops presented by Nick Livesay, Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District. Hear how cover crops are one of the most effective ways to improve soil health, reduce off-farm inputs, and protect natural resources.
- Smart Farm Innovation Network presented by Virginia Tech Faculty. Virginia Tech's interdisciplinary researchers and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists partner with industries to develop and deploy innovative technologies to increase the overall efficiency, resilience, and stability of food, agricultural, and natural resources production systems.
- Family Farm Succession presented by Ken Smith, Cool Lawn Farm, and Sara Brown, Oakland Green Farm. Keeping the family farm in the family is easier said than done. Hear from both generations on how they have navigated the transition.
The Forum runs from 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Clarion Inn & Conference Center, 711 Millwood Avenue, in Winchester, Va. The $45 registration fee includes the program, exhibits, breakfast refreshments, and a lunch buffet featuring local foods. Space is limited to 150 participants. Pre-registration is required by Friday, March 1. For more information regarding registration or becoming an exhibitor, call 703-771-5187 or online at www.biz.loudoun.gov.forum.
The Forum for Sustaining Agriculture is a cooperative educational effort by the offices of agricultural economic development and cooperative extension in Clarke, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William counties in Virginia; Berkeley and Jefferson counties in West Virginia; the Town of Berryville, Va., and Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in West Virginia.