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September 20-22, Virginia Beach

US (VA): 600+ ag leaders gather to address needs of small farmers

The number of small farmers and ranchers has declined for decades, while the number of very large farms has seen rapid growth. This decline is alarming because small farmers are usually more efficient, producing more food per acre than commercial operations, and they support the sustainability of rural and farm economies, as well as protect and enhance natural resources. They are also seen by industry leaders as critical players in finding a solution to how our planet must more than double its food production in the next 34 years to feed the estimated 9.5 billion people populating the globe in 2050.

According to the USDA, a small farm is any farm whose gross cash farm income is less than $350,000. Farms who generate more than that annually are considered commercial farms. A whopping 89 percent of U.S. farms are considered small and operate nearly half of the country’s farmland, however those farms account for only 22 percent of agricultural production in the U.S. The nation’s small farmers produce half the country’s poultry and hay. The next most common commodities they produce are hogs, beef, and cash grains and soybeans. But unlike their larger counterparts, these farmers are more likely to have a high-risk operating profit margin, which means they are more likely to incur farm-related financial problems. They also often have to seek additional employment off the farm, while balancing producing, marketing and selling the food with limited time and staff.

The 7th National Small Farm Conference is the largest event to address the needs, challenges and successes of small farmers. This year’s conference, “Creating and Sustaining Small Farmers and Ranchers,” will put specific emphasis on women and youth in agriculture, farmworkers, immigrants, socially-disadvantaged producers and returning veterans. Topics include urban agriculture, food deserts and food security, risk management, organic production, marketing challenges and more. Started in 1996, the conference is held every three to four years to ensure the success of farmers and ranchers because of the vital role they play in the national economy, environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and landscape and cultural heritage. This is the first time it will be held in Virginia. It is hosted by Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture, Virginia Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with support from Virginia Tech.

More than 600 U.S. and international stakeholders from academia, non-governmental and governmentalorganizations, foundations and grassroots farming communities including: Dr. Gregory Parham, U.S. Asst. Secretary of Agriculture for Administration; Kirk Hanlin, Assistant Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dr. Basil I. Gooden, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; David Trimmer, City of Virginia Beach Agriculture Director; Dr. Makola Abdullah, Virginia State University President will gather at the event.
The event takes place at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, 1000 19th Street, Virginia Beach, VA 2345, (757-385-2000),, from Tuesday, September 20, starting at noon, through Thursday, September 22, ending at 8:30. For a full schedule of events and speakers, visit:
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