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Kentucky Small Farmers Conference gives advice
Kentucky Correspondent

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Small farm owners across Kentucky are getting a chance to gain information for their operations via the Kentucky Small Farmers Conference, which will run through Nov. 16.

Most farmers in the state fit into the “small farmer” category and, with that in mind, Kentucky State University (KSU) sponsors the conference to specifically address the needs of those producers and showcase success stories of their peers. This will mark the fifth conference held.

During the conference, attendees had the opportunity to tour agricultural sites, learn about risk management and get information on pending legislation.

Additional sponsors and partners include the Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA), the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Kentucky Farm Bureau, the Kentucky Division of Forestry, the Kentucky Division of Conservation and the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service and Risk Management Agency.

Louie Rivers, of the National Science Foundation and project manager for the small farmers program at KSU addressed the conference during the second day of activities and said the event lends a hand in sustaining smaller producers.

“The purpose of this conference is to provide small farmers with up-to-date information for their operations; information they can’t get elsewhere,” he said.

“It’s important to do things that make it possible for these producers to stay on the farm.”

Staying on the farm is something Mattie Mack has done all of her 70 years. She hails from Georgia where she said her family raised cotton and vegetable crops. Now, she and her husband William raise tobacco, hogs, cattle and horses on their 100-acre farm in Meade County.

“I have been to all the small farmers’ conferences. I go to conferences all over to find out what is available to us,” she said.

Not only does Mack look for information for her family farm but for others as well. She heads the Kentucky Minority Farmers Organization. The group is made up of about 34 members all looking for ways to improve their operations.

Mack has traveled as far away as Washington, D.C. to testify to members of Congress on behalf of her group and small farmers in general. She said she met with many different leaders in many different arenas to draw attention to the needs of minority producers.

“I’ve met with Bill Clinton and sang with Willie Nelson,” Mack said with some expression.

“We still work hard everyday or we can’t make it. I want to find out what’s available for myself and other farmers. I would do anything in the world to help others stay on the farm.”

It is in that spirit the conference takes place offering various seminars, events and speakers including the Kentucky Small Farmer of the Year award announced at a banquet held during the conference.

State Veterinarian Robert C. Stout and Tim Turney, director of the KDA’s Agriculture’s Division of Producer Services, talked about required certificates and identifications for animals in intrastate, interstate and international trade. Sue Billings, director of the KDA’s Division of Animal Health, spoke on animal and premises registration.

Other speakers included Carol House, chairperson of the National Agricultural Statistics Board; Pat Haragan of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy in Louisville; John Pierre, vice chancellor of the Southern University Agricultural Law Center; Samuel Scott of the North-South Institute of Davie, Fla., and Holly Hopper of the University of Kentucky.

Representatives of KDA, KSU, the USDA, the Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, the Risk Management Agency, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service lead sessions and participants toured the University of Kentucky Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center and the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington and Purnell’s Sausage in Simpsonville. KDA also offered hay testing for participants who bring samples.

One of the most inspiring elements of the conference was three success stories shared by selected producers from around the state. Rivers said that portion of the conference is designed to show how they have managed to stay successful.

“I think, for American agriculture to survive, we must have small farms,” he said. “They are too important in the production of our food and I really believe we must have them.”

This farm news was published in the Nov. 15, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.