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US (MD): UMES Small Farm Conference celebrates 20 years of helping farmers

Nearly 200 agricultural producers and stakeholders across the Mid-Atlantic descended on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore from Nov. 2-4 for the 20th anniversary of its Small Farm Conference. “Positioning Farmers for Success,” this year’s theme, has been at the forefront of the annual event for two decades.

“Agriculture and aquaculture are our (Delmarva’s) largest economic drivers,” said Roxanne Wolf of the Shore Gourmet Market, which focuses on farm-to-table and resources as a business incubator on the Upper Shore. “Everything is about the environment, sustainability, and economics — keeping everything local and diversifying in a changing world. That’s what this conference allows farmers to see.” Wolf led a popular session on repurposing poultry houses for controlled environmental agriculture, such as aquaponics, aeroponics, and raised beds.

The 2023 edition featured a pre-conference with half-day workshops on raising sheep and goats and preventive health care, propagating fruit trees, and a session aimed at helping Maryland’s farmers apply to be able to accept payment from federal nutrition assistance programs for their farm products. Some of the hot topics addressed during the following days included the high-value niche crop baby ginger, agritourism for small farms, quinoa cultivation for the U.S., tax considerations for small farms, growing grapes, marketing for farms and new initiatives by the Maryland Department of Agriculture to support agricultural producers.

Hanna Collins of Laurel, Delaware, and her son, Liam, returned to the conference for the second year to network with other farmers to see what they are doing toward “diversifying their farming practices.” The pair also learned about research studies from professors and extension professionals and “how to incorporate it on your farm.”


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