More than 126 small farmers, gardeners and people interested in pursuing farming as a livelihood gathered at the Worth County Agricultural Pavilion in Sylvester Jan. 12 for a conference conducted by the Southern Farmers Collaborative Group.
The Southern Farmers Collaborative Group (SFCG) is a network composed of seven farmers working together with assistance from Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program. The network hopes to seek markets farmers can or may explore that could be profitable and convenient.
Topics of discussion included food safety, record keeping, vineyard management, succession and companion planting, pesticide safety and how to achieve the USDA’s Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) Certification.
“The Southern Farmers Collaborative Group decided to host this first annual conference to bring farmers together to collectively empower them as a team,” said Charlie Grace, Fort Valley State University Dougherty County Extension agent. Grace said the meeting served as a platform to educate farmers on improving their farming operations and was a success due to farmers traveling from all over the state to attend.
Conference attendees listened to presentations from representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and local farmers.
Paris Moore, 71, a retiree from the Worth County School System, said she came to the conference because she wanted to get into farming. She said she discovered there is a proper time to plant crops, and you have to learn from others how to use proper farming techniques. “I will continue to come to meetings so I can learn more next time,” Moore said.
“I want the community to have healthy products,” said Joseph Powell, 67, who lives in Blakely. Powell owns Pleasant Acres Naturally Farm, a 16-acre operation where he grows a variety of blueberries and muscadines in addition to golden kiwi. “I came here so I can learn, be a resource and implement what I’m hearing (at the conference). One of the things that jumped out to me is the importance of scheduling and making sure you have your dates in line, when to plant, when to expect the harvest time and then developing a market strategy based on that,” Powell said.
Grace said the SFCG will hold the conference on an annual basis in January of each year.
For more information about future SFCG workshops or conferences, contact Grace at (478) 235-7091, (229) 436-7216 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.