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Conference Topic Areas

1. Traditional and alternative (e.g. niche & ethnic) farm enterprise development and practices, including Protected Agriculture (PA) – Focuses on the development of traditional and no-traditional agricultural enterprises such as livestock and poultry, row crops, fruits and vegetable crops, hay and forage, ornamental crops, and crops that can be grown in a protective environment such as a greenhouse and/or high tunnel setting, all with potential profit for small farmers.

2. Sustainable, organic, and locally grown food production and food safety – Focuses on strategies for organic and sustainable food production, and how to engage more small farmers to take advantage of consumer demand for sustainable and locally grown food. Food safety is a critical component of sustainable food production, in particular for local markets. It is important that small farmers have access to resources and tools they need to understand food safety’s best practices and how to create an on-farm food safety plan in order to tap into new markets.

3. Land grant universities, state or private colleges with agricultural programs, Non-Profits, Government, Foundations, and Farm Leaders, and collaborators' roles in sustaining small farmers and ranchers – Focuses on the important role and responsibility of stakeholders in preparing and educating farmers, and in particular, working with small farmers and ranchers to enhance their farm income and improve their quality of life. It is important in all planning strategies that assistance be provided to ensure that small farmers and ranchers remain relevant, resilient, and profitable. 

4. Outreach, training, and research priorities for underserved audiences, including young, beginning, limited resource, immigrant, refugee, and military veteran farmers; and farm workers – Limited resource, immigrant, refugee, military veteran, and beginning farmers are important stakeholders in growing, raising, and marketing food. They also play an important role as change agents in their communities. This topic area focuses on how to determine the specific needs for these groups and how to conduct research and plan educational trainings to assist them to succeed at a small-scale in an ever changing market place.

5. The Role of Small Farmers and Ranchers in Addressing Food Security and Food Deserts – Communities across the country are developing innovative and effective strategies to overcome barriers to access healthy food for everyone. This topic area focuses on examining some of the innovative strategies to overcome food insecurity and opportunities for farmers to partner with other non-profit and for-profit organizations serving communities described as food deserts.

6. Innovation in collaborations and networking for small farm program development, research, and evaluation - This topic area focuses on innovative approaches to create networks of researchers and outreach specialists to collaborate with each other in developing, implementing and evaluating educational programs that are based on the needs of small farmers.

7. Urban agriculture opportunities for small farmers - Urban agriculture brings a multitude of benefits to struggling communities: improved access to healthy food, workforce training and job development, and neighborhood revitalization. Innovative programs and policies are cropping up nationwide. This topic area focuses on strategies to promote urban agriculture and how small farmers can partner with local communities for growing and marketing healthy and affordable food.

8. Risk management education for small farmers and ranchers - This topic area focuses on providing educational opportunities to prepare small farmers and ranchers with skills and knowledge that will enable them to make more informed risk management decisions such as financial management, crop insurance and other existing and emerging risk management tools in their operations.

9. Marketing opportunities and challenges, including value-added enterprises – Marketing is one of the most important components of any food enterprise development, and many farmers, and in particular small farmers, struggle with understanding the principles of a successful marketing plan and implementation. This topic area focuses on examining research and educational opportunities to prepare small farmers to succeed in a very competitive market place. Also value-added production is an emerging food trend with the potential to help grow the local economy and support small farmers.

10. Agroecology and the design of climate change-resilient farming systems - Climate change is expected to impact agricultural production and access to food supply. This topic area focuses on strategies on how to build climate change-resilient farming communities through agro-ecological systems such as crop diversification, local food promotion, soil organic management, and water conservation.

11. Any topic and issue that is relevant to creating and sustaining small farmers and ranchers in your community – This topic area allows the participation and presentation by faculty and professionals who are conducting research and/or educational programs that are relevant to small farm enterprise development and may not fit within the above topic areas.

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