By Sister Kathy Curtis
Edited by Maggie Smith
In a few short weeks, February 22nd and 23rd, the Second Annual Eastern Kentucky Farmer Conference will bring farmers, producers, support organizations and curious bystanders to Hindman Settlement School for two full days of workshops, panels and networking opportunities. A planning team of statewide partner organizations including: Community Farm Alliance, Grow Appalachia, the Governor’s Office of Ag Policy, Hindman Settlement School, Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Kentucky State University and the University of Kentucky, have been meeting since this past summer to put together a conference that meets the needs of the small, family farmer and other eastern Kentucky producers of agricultural products.
How did we come up with those needs? We asked the participants of the first conference to fill out an exit survey, then we used their responses to craft this year’s program.
The exit survey asked folks why they chose to attend the conference. These four responses were given: networking with other farmers, learning about marketing techniques and new markets, getting more information on farm production/planning and meeting resource providers. One participant said, “I was coming to the conference because it was close enough that I could drive back and forth each day and have access to all four of the above at one time.” And that was the vision behind the initial idea of a conference in eastern Kentucky in the first place.
Often when starting a new venture, the hoped-for outcome isn’t always achieved. We have all been to conferences and workshops that was just what we needed only to return home with lots of handouts and little hands on information. The Eastern Kentucky Farmer Conference set out to provide hands on tool to farmers and producers so that they left with something they could work with. And while there were some people who were not as satisfied, as they could have been, most the responses we received in the exit survey were very informative, and positive.
I enjoyed “the classes on maple syrup production, poultry and rabbits. Also, the information tables set up with representatives to ask about their programs. For example, the KSU table with info on small farm grants and education grants.”
It was helpful to “network with other Farmers and resource providers to learn more of what is available and what are cost effective, real life ways of planting, growing, raising, marketing and selling what we grow and raise on our farms”
I built relationships by “having one on one conversations with farmers and farmer supporters throughout Eastern Kentucky”.
“There was a level of transparency/honesty from the speakers that I really appreciated, that is rare at conferences. People were not afraid to share challenges or things that hadn’t worked for them. I thought the caliber of this conference was truly exceptional”.
So, we have taken the suggestions, the likes, the dislikes and wove them together for the Second Annual Eastern Kentucky Farmer Conference.
The conference will follow three “tracks” each day. Participants can choose to stick with one track or shuffle to what meets their needs best. Check out the tentative agenda here. Some special conference features this year will be during Thursday afternoon where technical support providers and partner organizations will be available for one on one conversations. Also, Friday morning there will be a session called “Anything Goes Networking” which is a designated time to connect with other farmers, technical support providers or whatever/whomever you need. Friday afternoon there will be a farmer/buyer panel which will be a question and answer opportunity for producers interested in selling beyond farmer’s markets. And this year, there will be some local vendors of farm supplies and equipment on hand for questions and orders.
So, there you have it. Almost all you need to know about the best Farmer Conference eastern Kentucky has to offer. The cost is only Forty Dollars ($40) for both days or Twenty-Five Dollars ($25) for one. Price includes breakfast, lunch and dinner on Thursday and breakfast and lunch on Friday. For those who want to stay over, there is limited lodging available at Hindman Settlement School priced at Forty Dollars ($40) a night. Registration is open now here. If you have questions or want to know more, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can’t wait to see you there!