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Local food initiative conference set for next week

By Sally Voth

A smorgasbord of local farming topics will be offered next week at the Farm to Table Conference at Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave.

The program, titled "Food & Farming at a Profitable & Sustainable Scale," begins at 9 a.m. both Wednesday and Thursday.

"The first day is all about sustainable agriculture...discussing the question how we can grow more food while we take care of our natural resources here in the valley," said Francie Kennedy, project coordinator for Virginia Cooperative Extension's Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative. "It will be geared toward mid-level farmers. On the second day, we will be looking at ways entrepreneurs can finance their food as a business."

Wednesday evening there will be a Buy Fresh Buy Local networking mixer, she said. 

"It's open to anybody interested in procuring more local food for their retail or wholesale business," Kennedy said.

Agriculture Commissioner Matt Lohr is scheduled to open the conference. Among the scheduled topics are family farming and organic dairy and flour production, healthy soil, artisanal flour and small grains, local food initiatives, cooperatives, financing and marketing.

"Interest in locally grown foods continues to grow here in the valley -- I guess everywhere, but especially here in the valley," Kennedy noted. "A lot of producers are interested in new opportunities."

The conference will offer information on how to capitalize on niche markets, she said, while also taking ecology into account.

"How can we continue our agricultural tradition while protecting what's important to us -- our natural resources?" Kennedy said.

While the registration deadline has passed, a few more registrants can likely be added, according to Kennedy. She encouraged those interested in the mixer to also come.

Tickets for the whole conference are $80 each, Kennedy said, with a $50 discount for producers, and $15 for the mixer.

To register, visit conference.virginiafarmtotable.org, or call 540-432-6029 ext. 106 or ext. 107. For more information about Buy Fresh Buy Local, visit buylocalvirginia.org.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com

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