The HVADC Cultivator
2019 National Farm Viability Conference
The National Farm Viability Conference is one of the most important gatherings dedicated to the profession of farming in the entire country. Featuring three days of workshops, discussions and tours focused on strengthening farm sustainability, building more resilient local food systems and supporting the long-term profitability of farming and agri-entrepreneurs from start-ups to generational businesses, this year’s event is being held October 22-24 in Red Wing, Minnesota. Held every two years, the prior event in 2017 was held at the then newly commissioned Albany Capital Center, with HVADC as a lead host agency. The Conference is geared towards professionals in farm and food business planning, financial planning, agricultural financing, crisis management, farmland conservation, agricultural market development, and food hub management. It offers attendees the opportunity to network and learn from industry leaders and other professionals in their fields, develop new knowledge and skills, and tour nearby farms and value-added processing facilities.
HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling is on the planning committee for the conference, as well as Jan Joannides, Executive Director of Minneapolis-based Renewing the Countryside - which strengthens rural areas by championing and supporting rural communities, through sustainable and innovative initiatives), Julia Freedgood Farms for the Next Generation Director and Senior Advisor of American Farmland Trust (AFT), - which protects farmland, promotes sound farming practices, and keeps farmers on the land through advocacy, education, innovation, investigation and collaboration), and Ela Chapin, Program Director of The Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program-- an HVADC partner in many projects-- that offers in-depth business planning and technical assistance to Vermont's working lands enterprises.
“Through a thoughtfully developed conference schedule and local field visits, we have created a program focused on professional development, networking and topics that elevate the issues of farms across the county,” said Erling. “The conference has really gained visibility in the past ten years and now welcoming some of our new high-profile sponsors such as Farm Aid, Organic Valley and General Mills really emphasizes the importance of our farmers’ discussions in the overall picture of the national food system,” he continued.
Topics slated for this year’s conference include: Finance and Business Development, Accessing Capital for Growth, Food and Farm Marketing and Distribution, New and Beginning Farmers, Equity and Social Justice in the Food System, Succession Planning and Land Transfer, Program Development and Funding and Design.
The biennial conference also features a series of local field visits designed to spotlight various aspects of agriculture. One of the farm tours scheduled for this year is A Path to Farm Viability: Organic Valley's Farmer Profit Circles at O'Reilly Organic Dairy in Red Wing. Participants on this tour will visit the farm and learn how the Organic Valley co-op is helping its dairy farmers remain viable in these challenging years of low milk prices. The group will also learn about Organic Valley's Farmer ProfitCircles, which help farmers implement peer discussion groups in order to evaluate and improve their farm management and outcomes.
Another field visit is It's All About the Meat: An Industry Cluster and Forward-Thinking Community in Cannon Falls. This tour will visit and hear from a group of businesses who sustainably raise, process, and market poultry and meat products in Cannon Falls.
Conference attendees will also have the opportunity to participate in a program developed around a complex and challenging issue in agriculture, Navigating Farmland Access, Succession & Transfer; the when they will visit nearby farms and hear from farmers on both sides of the equation about their challenges and successes with transferring or accessing farmland, as well as local resources and innovative programs that guided their journeys.
The Whole Farm Tour: Hands-on Farm Financial Management Education will build participants' knowledge in farm financial management through interactive small group discussions at another farm near Red Wing. Attendees will be divided into small groups led by subject matter experts and tour the farm, stopping at a few stations to dig deeply into discussions on financial topics, such as production constraints, decisions around taking on debt, managing infrastructure, economic and social factors, and family dynamics.
“Our Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program team continues to help coordinate this conference every other year and are thrilled to see it move out of the northeast,” said Chapin. “Renewing the Countryside is an organization that understands the intersection of supporting agricultural development and the business side of farming, and as local hosts they are maintaining this central core mission of the conference, to provide professional development opportunities to farm and food business advisors,” she added.
Chapin reported that workshop participation interest is high. She and her colleague, Katie Michels, Program Coordinator at the Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program, have helped coordinate the workshop proposals for the conference, and received over 90 submissions for workshops. “There will be conferences sessions that teach skills in reading and preparing balance sheets to the soft skills needed to support families through ownership transitions. I am particularly excited about the many sessions that will have presenters from east, central and western U.S. – highlighting that many of us are assisting farmers in developing business savvy and skills and can advance our work by learning about tools and methods from our peers. This is a peer-to-peer learning opportunity and we look forward to convening in Minnesota, on the Mississippi River this year.”
Learn more about the conference or register today at https://www.farmviabilityconference.com/.
Logo Source: National Farm Viability Conference