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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference is a one-stop shop for anyone who has thought about starting a farm or supporting local foods.
The conference, now in its fourth year, is presented by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University. It will feature tours, vendor exhibits, lunch and nearly 30 presentations.
The conference will be held at the Osceola Heritage Park located at 1875 Silver Spur Lane in Kissimmee July 27-29.
Participants must register and pay a fee to attend the conference. A reduced fee is available to those who register by July 9.
New for the 2012 conference will be sessions on starting and managing a successful farmers’ market and establishing community gardens, said Susan Kelly, Sumter County’s extension director and one of the conference organizers.
Events on Sunday will be longer this year and involve more hands-on learning, Kelly said. These sessions include hydroponics 101, pastured poultry, insect identification and more.
The conference’s keynote speaker will be Michael Shuman, an author whose books include “Going Local” and “The Small-Mart Revolution,” and a proponent of building healthy local economies.
Popular returning topics include how to engage in the Florida Farm to School program; developing a food safety plan, including one for cottage foods, which can be items such as jams and jellies made from extra produce; mushroom cultivation; alternative energy for farms and beginning farmer and rancher business development.
A lunch featuring local food, titled Florida’s Finest: A Celebration of Local Food, is scheduled for Saturday.
“We really listened to evaluations and suggestions from previous conferences,” Kelly said. “And we expect this year to be the biggest and best ever.”
More than 90 percent of farms in Florida are considered small. Small farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, are those with less than $250,000 in annual sales. There are more than 44,000 small farms in Florida. Around 800 people are expected to attend the conference.
More information on the conference is available here: http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/index.html.
Writer: Robert H. Wells, 352-273-3569; firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Susan Kelly, 352-793-2728, ext. 236; email@example.com
2011 Small Farms Conference. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.