The HVADC Cultivator
The National Farm Viability Conference
The fifth biannual National Farm Viability Conference (NFVC) may have been a virtual affair this October but the digital platform didn’t stop over 400 national agribusiness development and policy leaders from coming together to take part in dozens of workshops and conversations that will define policy and planning in years to come.
As a former host of the conference, HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling said it was great to see that the digital platform actually increased the number of workshops and participants this year.
The event was hosted by the nonprofit organic food and farming advocate organization Oregon Tilth, taking the conference, from its start in Vermont to the Hudson Valley, then to Minnesota and now all the way to the West Coast. From the beginning it was vital to Erling that the conferences be hosted by organizations across America, so stakeholders in every state would feel included. Reaching the Pacific this year truly made it a national conference.
“Organizations like HVADC that provide Business Technical Assistance (BTA) to farms and producers work so hard, there is often little time left to converse and learn from our peers, share resources, or strategize,” said Erling, “The NFVC creates a time and a space where we can all get on the same page, support each other, collaborate and develop programs that serve not just our own constituencies but the entire U.S. farm economy.”
While it would have been swell to visit Oregon this year and see the programs there in action, the digital setting for the event allowed for more sessions than ever before and each was recorded and archived, creating a lasting informational resources for the entire industry.
Along with nonprofit staff, event attendees also include BTA practitioners, funding providers, politicians, policy makers and farmers themselves all sharing their insight and guidance.
Erling said he was pleased to see so many stakeholders sharing best practices for how they provide one-on-one Business Technical Assistance.
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado, and United States Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jennifer Moffitt participated with Erling in a session on the urgent necessity for the funding of BTA. The importance of reiterating HVADC’s programmatic values in meetings with these key policy makers and senior members of their staff is a core benefit of the conference and leads to lasting productive relationships for HVADC and all other attendees.
“This conference gives HVADC the opportunity to have an active role in setting the national agenda on programmatic funding,” Erling said. “We impressed on hundreds of leaders the urgency of the work we are doing to prioritize the need for BTA to be funded by relief packages, the farm bill, as well as regular annual budget allotments.”
Another session Erling participated in centered on ways to build the Agricultural Viability Alliance into a national presence. Erling is is a co-founding executive committee member as well as co-chair of the Alliance’s policy group. He impressed upon attendees the power of regional collaboration. He said the success of the conference itself is proof that the industry works best when it is working together. Pooling resources and advocating for BTA with one voice has brought the Alliance to the national stage in a matter of months. Erling said the Alliance can be an example for regional programs coast to coast.
This year also saw an increase in sessions discussing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. BIPOC communities are critical to agriculture and remain underrepresented in industry leadership. Much was discussed about how to make sure white-led organizations are serving their BIPOC constituency equitably and how to grow representation moving forward.
Erling said he is proud of the leadership role HVADC plays at the conference and that it continues to grow, even when presented with pandemic related challenges.
“The foundational network created during the original Vermont and Albany sessions, laid the groundwork for the success we are seeing at the conference this year,” said Erling. “There is so much to learn from each other. Together we are building a better system for American farmers and food producers.”
Additional information about the NFVC may be found at https://www.farmviabilityconference.com.