Rural Business Development Manager
There’s a vibrant farming ecosystem throughout the Shenandoah region, and Loudoun farmers depend on the region’s success, no matter if they raise water buffalo in Lovettsville, grow hydroponics in Purcellville, train horses in Middleburg, or make craft beverages in Leesburg.
There are ties that bind all of the region’s farms, and that’s the inspiration behind the Forum for Sustaining Agriculture, an exciting event for farmers on March 8 in Winchester.
The forum is a collaborative educational effort by Loudoun, Clarke, Fauquier, Prince William Berkeley and Jefferson counties; the Town of Berryville, and the Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.
Here’s how this year’s forum is different from years past. First of all, what’s in a name?
For 14 years, the event has been known as the Forum for Rural Innovation. Beginning this year, the name is changed to more accurately reflect the themes:
- Looking to the future;
- Adapting to change; and
- Ensuring farm viability.
The forum is designed to educate farmers, landowners, rural business owners and other stakeholders on best practices. That means sharing real success stories and providing innovative, actionable advice.
We’ve worked to assemble an all-star lineup to discuss topics, including:
Changing Landscapes: The Smithsonian Institution will present their new initiative, which uses “scenario planning” models to predict how land-use decisions made today may influence our natural and cultural resources in the future.
Education: What roles to youth organizations like 4-H and FFA play in shaping the next generation of land stewards and policymakers?
Technology: The Smart Farm Innovation Network uses emerging technologies to increase the efficiency, resilience and stability of natural resource production systems.
Family Farm Succession: There are obvious demographic and economic challenges facing agriculture, particularly in Northern Virginia. Panelists will provide examples of how they’ve adapted their farming and business practices to remain viable, as lands have passed to the next generation.
Access to Land: This is another big challenge that farmers face in this region. Local producers will discuss ways they have been able to increase production and sales through land-lease agreements.
The forum will also continue the tradition of presenting awards to two family farms and two long-time agri-businesses. Here’s who will be honored this year:
- Casey and Justin Wisch of Long Stone Farm: With more than 100 acres in Lovettsville, VA, their farming methods include rotational grazing, multi-species grazing, no-till planting, planting for wildlife, and pasture management.
- Lars Prillman and Leslie Randall of Green Gate Farm: Sitting near Shepherdstown, WV, they raise pigs, chickens, and a vast array of produce on 20 acres. Instead of tractors, they use draft horse power to prepare their produce beds. Environmental sustainability is a driving force for the farm’s methods, and has huge marketing appeal to the customers that they serve.
- The Winchester Farmers Livestock Exchange and Fauquier Livestock Exchange are also being recognized this year for their long-term commitment to the region’s beef production and the rural economy.
In addition to the speakers and panelists, attendees will have an opportunity to network with local rural-based businesses and stakeholder groups to swap ideas and make business connections.
Attendees will be treated to morning refreshments and a buffet lunch provided by local producers. We know that the formula of “Good Food + Useful Information = SUCCESS.”
The only question left is: can your farm afford to miss this year’s forum? Get your ticket now: