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Florida’s small farms conference program finalized

Florida’s only statewide small farms conference returns for a second year of education, exhibition and networking, on July 31 and Aug. 1 in Kissimmee.

The Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference will take place at Osceola Heritage Park. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, July 31 and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1.

The conference is hosted by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M University’s College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture.

Conference topics range from hot production trends such as grass-fed beef and aquaponics, to innovative marketing via social networking and community supported agriculture, to new technologies for growing and protecting crops.

This year’s keynote speaker is Will Allen, leader of the urban farming organization Growing Power Inc. Allen and his team operate a two-acre farm in downtown Milwaukee that produces about 170 varieties of produce, plus goats, bees, rabbits, poultry and fish. Earlier this year he was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People.”

Though recovering from knee surgery, Allen will address the conference via satellite.

“We’re very fortunate to have Will Allen joining us,” said Danielle Treadwell, a UF horticultural sciences assistant professor who is in charge of educational programming at the event. “He is an inspiring individual and his story demonstrates the effect that just one person can have by promoting locally grown, healthy food within a community.”

About 800 farmers and industry professionals are expected at the conference. It features more than 100 speakers, about 30 educational sessions and more than 90 dealer exhibits, along with awards, livestock displays and networking opportunities, said Bob Hochmuth, a UF multicounty Extension agent.

As with last year’s event, much of the food served will be prepared with items produced by Florida’s small farms, Hochmuth said.

Not everything is the same: The education program has been revamped, with new topics added. Also, an educational poster session has been added, featuring the work of Extension agents.

“Most of the posters were created by county Extension faculty to reach small farmers,” he said.

Florida’s small farms community includes about 44,000 families, Treadwell said. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture standards, any farm with less than $250,000 in gross annual sales is small; about 90 percent of Florida’s farms meet that description.

Photos, video and other material from the 2010 conference will be posted online at the small farms Web site maintained by UF and FAMU,

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