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Inside Outreach April 2012

Cultivating the NEXT generation - providing support for our farming future through quality learning opportunities

Issued: April 2012

Beginning Farmers were center stage and plentiful at this year's California Small Farm Conference held earlier this month in Valencia (Los Angeles County). The theme, Cultivating the Next Generation, reflected the ideas and people who will be our farming future. In direct response to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack's and others' concerns about an aging farming community (average age of California farmer: 58.4 years and increasing) and to especially support new and beginning farmers, conference activities and outreach efforts were directed at the needs of beginning farmers. The popular scholarship program was expanded to include farming students participating in vocational and on-farm internships, such as those provided by Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA).

"Participants at this year's conference were decidedly younger than in previous years", concluded conference planners, indicating a successful campaign to interest new farmers to attend. It also likely reflects the needs and interests of younger and new farmers to gain knowledge about their chosen career. With past generations, farmers and ranchers grew up in the business working and learning alongside their parents, grandparents, siblings, and neighbors. This traditional scenario isn't playing out as in the past as many new farmers don't have relatives to learn from. Rather, they need to find other sources to gain their skills and knowledge. The Small Farm Conference is one of those ways in which these new farmers can find the help they need to enhance their farming skills and confidence.

Inclusion and diversity continue as mainstays of conference

The California Small Farm Conference and its partners (NRCS has been a key planner and supporter for many years) are proud to represent a broad cross-section of California agriculture producers, including many who may not have previously participated in some farming activities and events due to cultural, language, knowledge or other barriers. Some farmers have never attended a conference of any kind making this a new and exciting experience where they have opportunities to meet NRCS staff, farm advisors, and others who can help them locally—one important step to getting connected with resources available and important issues in their own communities. This year farmers represented all corners of California including Hoopa, Yreka, San Diego, Oakland, Nevada City, Spreckels, Tehachapi, Diamond Bar, and Gustine.

Next Year's Conference will be in FRESNO, March 10-12, 2013!

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