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Conference Name WV Small Farm Conference Attracts Beginning Farmers and Promotes Innovation

Brandy Brabham, Lisa Jones, Jodi Richmond, and Emily Morrow


During the 18th year of the West Virginia Small Farm Conference (WV SFC), an evaluation of the demographics of attendees and the impact it has had on WV’s agricultural economy shows it benefits our farmers through innovation and beginning phases of operation. The goals of the conference have long been to unlock the potential of West Virginia small farms' profitability. It transitions farmers from commodity production to food production. It supports WV’s 23,000 farm families by providing reliable research about current trends, needed skills, and the latest production information. It builds an understanding of how to develop a successful farming enterprise for beginning farmers and supports and further develops WV’s food system and local communities by encouraging local production, processing, wholesale and retail marketing, and consumption.

The WV SFC evaluations from eight years have shown attendance from 400-900 participating in 60-180 classes over three to four days and overwhelmingly attended by first-generation farmers (76 percent). Fifty percent of participants are returning (2-8 conferences attended) and 46 percent were first-time attendees. The conference has tracked improvements in production practices, risk management, season extension, marketing, food safety, and farm-to-school involvement of participants. Participants reported several resulting innovative practices implemented. Participants decisively report (96 percent) attendance being a good investment of resources

Impacts from the WV SFC are further evidenced in WV grown food purchases for this conference and subsequent conferences/ events.

This presentation will show how an annual event focused on research-based innovation will attract and inspire beginning farmers and support economic changes.

Presentation Materials