Conference takes on farming’s future

Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media


Raise your replacement, I say, is the future of farming. The next generation who heed the calling to the farm to feed us so well is in line with my mission dedicated to reinvigorating our respect for farming and inspiring young people to choose agricultural careers. Together we can do this! FarmOn!


Succession planning keeps farmers farming and is vital to the family farm. Succession refers to continuation and the strategy for our youth to farm the future and become stewards of the land.


Get involved and join the conversation this Saturday at Taconic Hills Central School District in Craryville for the 3rd annual Farming our Future conference, a regional dialog to drive thoughtful discussion about where our food will come from in the future and who will make it?


The conference attracts farmers, local businesses, community leaders, educators and nonprofits and engages us all in the topics of agriculture, food, society and our children.


Conference speakers will share practical strategies and some intriguing new concepts for ensuring that farms will continue to thrive in the Hudson Valley for many years to come.


Workshops scheduled throughout the day will cover topics related to succession planning, beekeeping, farm-to-chef strategies, sourcing locally produced food and preservation of our community character and the natural environment with education.


Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19) and state Assembly members Didi Barrett and Peter Lopez, along with state Sens. Kathleen Marchione and Terry Gipson, will host an 8 a.m. roundtable discussion and offer an opportunity for leaders at the federal, state and local levels to discuss agriculture-related topics, understand the local impact of the recently passed Farm Bill and what is being done to help farmers who are determined to keep their land in production after they retire.


The keynote speech by Don R. Rogers will include stories about succession in the Hudson Valley and Tri-State region of New York. Rogers, considered an “expert in the field of helping farmers move their operations into the future” began his career with Cornell Cooperative Extension before joining Farm Credit East, the number one financial services cooperative for the Northeast agricultural industry. He’s worked with more than 2,000 farm operators and owners on everything from family farms, to labor management, to funding, farm transfers and tools to train beginning farmers.


“Nobody does succession better than bees,” says Maggie Browne, of Honey Pot Apiary, who’s found them “inspiring, wonderful and a crucial element of the environment,” which is why she started the apiary 5 years ago.


Often in the news as victims of Colony-Collapse-Disorder (CCD), the “die-off” of significant numbers of the honeybees leaves us wondering why, what’s causing it and how we can reverse this sudden loss? In fact, this vital food manufacturer is responsible for one in three bites of food and is a perfect metaphor for this year’s conference theme playing a crucial role for healthy food systems and environmentally friendly and sound practices.


Browne will host a very appealing workshop about bees at the conference for adults and kids. It will introduce the fundamentals of honeybees and resources for learning more about them, their habits, habitats and beekeeping.


For decades in the Hudson Valley we have seen a sharp decline in the number of young people choosing careers in farming. To ensure sustainability, there must be a pro-agriculture culture in the community and today we are witness to a tipping point.


Agriculture is capturing the interest of young people again and an opportunity has arrived to revitalize communities, commerce and our health through farming. Karen Davenport of Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Connecticut is a passionate teacher and leader in youth education making kids enthusiastic about working with plants, caring for animals and connecting those dots to healthy living from farm to table through experience.


Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator Amanda Benson; Jennifer Munoz, manager of the Growing Healthy Garden Program of Keep Berkshires Farming; Shanna Barney, transportation coordinator for Northeast Dutchess Transit and Community Food Assessment Project Researcher at the North East Community Center; and Betsey McCall, Farm and Food Program Director, 7th & 8th Grade After School Coordinator, North East Community Center will discuss how their projects are effectively mobilizing community residents and elected officials to develop strategic action plans that strengthen and enhance farming, provide everyone access to healthy food, preserve community character and the natural environment.


The Farm to Chef model is thriving, and diners love it. But for farmer and chef to build a productive relationship they must communicate effectively. A workshop called Farm to Chef Success will address their wants and needs to build successful partnerships.


Farm to Chef Success panelists include Chef Hugh Horner, The Restaurant at Helsinki Hudson; Chef Serge Madikians, Serevan Restaurant Millerton; Proprietor Nancy Thomas, Mezze Bistro + Bar and Allium Bistro + Bar, Great Barrington, Mass.; and Katie Bogdanffy, third generation farmer and founder of Yellow Bell Farm Elizaville.


Conference co-chair Steve Hadcock of Cornell Cooperative Extension says “This is a workshop designed for farmers who want to sell to restaurants, chefs who want more local menu options, and restaurateurs who want to showcase local farm connections — and of course for foodies who want to know how it all happens.”


Kids attend Farming our Future free thanks to funding from the FarmOn! Foundation which provides children ages 5 to 13 with educational and interactive farm and food activities including a cooking demo, healthy snacks, beekeeping, beewax candles and crafts, storytelling, exercise and hoops with former NBA Boston Celtics star Eric Williams.


Local vendors, farmers and sponsors expected to exhibit include Ginsberg’s, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Columbia-Greene Media, Farm Credit East, Columbia Land Conservancy, FarmOn! Foundation, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Hawthorne Valley Farm, Ronnybrook Farm Dairy, Hudson Valley AgriBusiness, Farm Bureau and more!


Proceeds from the conference will benefit Taconic Hills’ nationally award-winning H.A.R.V.E.S.T. Club (Healthy Agricultural Resources by Volunteers & Educators in Science & Technology) and the Taconic Hills Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). The thriving H.A.R.V.E.S.T. program engages youth in the process of growing healthy fruits, flowers and vegetables in a school-based garden.


What’s not to love? Eat local. Eat healthy. And don’t forget to thank a farmer for feeding you today — and in the future!




To contact the author, email Tessa@ or visit Twitter at @FarmOnFarmOn.


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