2019 Agriculture & Food Conference

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View our 2020 Conference information here.

2019 Conference: Whether you’re a professional farmer, a backyard gardener, or just curious about locally grown food, the Ag & Food Conference is for you! Each year, the lineup includes workshops for the general public as well as info-packed sessions for farmers and gardeners of all experience levels. Registration includes a locally-sourced lunch and at the Resource Fair, you’ll learn about local organizations and businesses that provide services and products to help you grow, whether you’ve got a hundred-acre farm or a small backyard garden.

Date & Location: February 24, 2019, 9am-5pm at Bristol County Agricultural High School, Gilbert Hall, 135 Center Street, Dighton, MA 02715

Interested in a free 15-minute farm financial consulting visit with the Carrot Project at the conference? Fill out this form.

9:00 AM – Registration
9:30 AM – Opening Remarks
10:00 AM – Keynote Address
10:45 AM – Workshop Slot #1
12:15 PM – Lunch by M+C Cafe & Catering
1:30 PM – Workshop Slot #2
3:15 PM – Workshop Slot #3

Save $10 by pre-registering by February 23rd at 8PM.
Walk-in general admission tickets are $55

Keynote: Michael Hoffman

Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions

Topic: Climate change and agriculture – local to global challenges and opportunities

Michael Hoffmann is the executive director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions, which was created to help raise the profile of the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate and to help those who grow our food adapt to the changing conditions as well as reduce their carbon footprint.

The climate is changing – growing seasons are longer, summers are hotter, winters are warmer and extreme precipitation events are up 70% in the northeast. These anticipated changes and greater variability in the weather will make it more challenging for those who grow our food, locally to globally. This new normal also has profound implications for the security of our interconnected and interdependent global food supply. Addressing this challenge requires innovative research to develop new practices and tools that help the agricultural and the food sectors adapt and mitigate their impact. New outreach approaches, climate-smart farming decision tools, and partnerships need to be developed and nurtured. Despite the challenges, there will be opportunities for agriculture in the northeast, mainly because we will have adequate water in contrast to many other areas of the country. Michael’s address will dive deeper into many of these challenges and opportunities for New England farms.

Workshop Schedule

Session 1: Agricultural Commission Roundtable
Session 1: Integrated Pest Management of Brassicas
Session 1: Essentials of Seed Saving
Session 1: Beekeeping Programs at Small Scale Farms: Drumlin Farm Case Study
Session 1: Dual-Use Solar: Produce Energy & Food on Your Farm
Session 1: Increasing Microbial Activity, Organic Matter, and Trace Minerals with Compost
Session 1: The Food Safety Modernization Act, and How it Applies to Your Farm
Session 1: Food Fermentation: History, Processes, Pros & Cons

Session 2: Panel Discussion: Growing for the Greater Good
Session 2: Growing Culturally Appropriate Crops for Immigrant Communities
Session 2: Get a Head Start: Starting Seeds Indoors
Session 2: Beginning Farmers: “What I Wish I Knew Then”
Session 2: Upscaling to Growing Rice: Is it a Possibility?
Session 2: Home Cultivation of Specialty Mushrooms
Session 2: Meal Planning: How to Get the Most Out of Your CSA Share

Session 3: Growing Hemp: Panel Discussion with Regional Growers
Session 3: Diversified Livestock for Farm Sustainability
Session 3: So, You Want to Become a Beekeeper?
Session 3: Biodiversity, Soil Building, and Climate
Session 3: Insects, Diseases, & Weeds – Oh My!
Session 3: The Ins & Outs of MDAR Grants

Kid’s Workshops: Chicken Showmanship, All about Wool: From Farm to Felt, and Meet the animals in the Aggie Barn!

Workshop schedule may be subject to minor adjustments. Full session descriptions at the bottom of this page.

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Workshop Descriptions

Session 1

Agricultural Commission Roundtable
Ag Coms are uniquely positioned to provide input into municipal decision-making. This roundtable discussion will provide a forum for member of Ag Coms and the general public to discuss the most important issues facing agricultural viability, and how Ag Coms can provide substantial help to their local farms & communities. Facilitators include Bill Napolitano who is the Environmental Program Director for SRPEDD, the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District. In his role at SRPEDD he works closely with Ag Coms, providing resources and insight. He was recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pete Westover is the cofounder of Conservation Works, Valley Land Fund, and the Massachusetts Society of Municipal Conservation Professionals. He serves as an adjunct professor of ecology at Hampshire College, and was formerly a consultant for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources for Agricultural Commissions, and was the long-time Conservation Director for the Town of Amherst.

Integrated Pest Management of Brassicas
Learn about the major insect and disease pests affecting the brassicas, including cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts and more. Understanding the pest life cycle will help you learn how to manage pests more effectively and reduce damage. Control practices relevant to small and large scales will be discussed and organic and conventional spray recommendations will be covered according to interest of participants. Sue Scheufele, UMass Extension Vegetable Program, is an educator and researcher working with commercial growers in MA to implement successful insect and disease management on their farms.

Essentials of Seed Saving
Seeds are not merely an input among inputs in our farm or garden; they are the blueprints of life itself. Saving and sharing seed is a cornerstone of food security. In this session, we’ll delve into the basics of saving your own seed – necessary terminology, techniques for isolation, and post-harvest handling. Bill Braun runs Ivory Silo Farm in Westport, MA with his wife Deanna.  He is also Executive Director of Freed Seed Federation – a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to the preservation, improvement, and diversification of climate-resilient seed for the commons.

Beekeeping Programs at Small Scale Farms: Drumlin Farm Case Study
In this workshop we will discuss how farms can benefit from starting small-scale beekeeping programs, using Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary as a case study. An on-farm beekeeping program can increase the rate of pollination of crops, and provide additional revenue streams through the sale of honey and other hive products. Mel Gadd has been a beekeeper for 12 years. He has been Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary Beekeeper going into his fifth year. In 2017, Mel was the Mass Beekeeping Association Beekeeper of the Year.

Dual-Use Solar: Produce Energy & Food on Your Farm
The session will describe the SMART Program, agricultural solar, and the many ways solar can be feasible on a farm. The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program was created by the DOER to provide long-term solar incentives that promotes cost-effective solar implementation here in MA, including additional compensation for agricultural solar. James Marley manages Hyperion Systems, LLC a company which specializes in dual-use solar. Hyperion has been on the leading edge of this research, installing the first project of its kind here in the U.S. in 2011 at the UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agriculture in S. Deerfield, MA.

Increasing Microbial Activity, Organic Matter, and Trace Minerals with Compost
You certainly have heard of compost before, but what about humic acids, hyphae, and boron? We are going to “dig” deeper here than just the importance of maintaining moisture and effective greens to browns ratio. Testing results will be reviewed to show what is provided in addition to organic matter,  how this translates into lb/acre (& oz/sqft) recommendations, and how more nutrients are actually available beyond testing results. Adam Jankauskas is the Founder of City Compost. He works to promote the value of composting in order to reduce waste, cut greenhouse gas emissions, return nutrients to the soil, live a more sustainable lifestyle, and most importantly grow clean and healthy food.

Produce Safety Inspections: What to Expect in 2019 (MDAR)
Participants will learn about how the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) is working with farms of all sizes to ensure produce safety best practices, through the Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP). There will be time for questions and discussion. Michael Botelho is the Produce Safety Program Director for the MDAR. Denise Pavao is the Produce Safety Inspector for the MDAR,

Food Fermentation: History, Processes, Pros & Cons
Learn about the history of fermentation as a means of food preservation. We will discuss a variety of processes/methods for fermenting foods, and even have a little bit of hands-on time preparing a ferment. Pros & Cons of fermenting as well as a bit of myth-busting about the benefits of eating fermented foods will also be discussed. Linda Davey has taught courses in food safety, management, accounting, customer service, and basic food preparation skills at the college level as well as to industry professionals. Linda loves to cook and share new ingredients, skills & preparation techniques and has conducted several workshops including: cheesemaking, sourdough bread, home-brewing (beer & kombucha), and basic food fermentation.

Session 2

Panel Discussion: Growing for the Greater Good
Southeastern Massachusetts is full of agriculturalists working for the greater good. This panel discussion will focus on four organizations which have made an impact growing produce for those most in need in our region including underserved families, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The panel will be moderated by Liz Wiley, SEMAP Board Member and Executive Director for the Marion Institute. The panel will include:
Ashley Brister is a SEMAP Board Member and the new Farm Manager of Sharing the Harvest Farm, a program of YMCA Southcoast. With the help of many volunteers over the past 13 years, the farm has donated nearly 500,000 lbs of produce to local hunger relief agencies.
Steve Wolach has managed the Friends Academy Garden since 2008.  The garden sits on one-eleventh of an acre and has averaged 7760 lbs. of vegetables per year for the past three years, most of which is donated to local food pantries.
Celia Dolan is the Assistant Farm Manager at The Farm at Stonehill College, which grows vegetables for underserved communities in Brockton, reaching the table of about 3,000 individuals or families each season.
Marlene Holohan is a member of the Helfand Community Garden in Dartmouth, which has delivered over 1,200 lbs of vegetables to a Fall River based soup kitchen and a New Bedford based shelter over the past year.

Growing Culturally Appropriate Crops for Immigrant Communities
Starting in the mid 1960’s, the origin of immigrants coming to the United States has changed from mostly European ethnicities to ethnicities from more tropical regions of the word. The majority are coming from Latin America and an increasing number from Asia and Africa. These new immigrant groups want access to fresh products that are staples of their home cuisine. This workshop will provide sustainable production and marketing strategies popular among these new immigrant groups. Frank Mangan is a professor of Sustainable Vegetable Production at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Get a Head Start: Starting Seeds Indoors
A discussion of the benefits of starting vegetables from seed indoors — a practice that can increase your variety of crops, improve productivity and stretch your gardening season. We will focus on low-cost seed supplies, making your own seed-starting mixes, adhering to planting schedules and choosing the best crops for the spring and fall growing seasons. Andy Tomolonis is a longtime organic gardener, gardening writer and award-winning Boston-area journalist. For five years, he and his wife, Valerie, ran a successful small-scale CSA from their backyard garden. Andy used the experience to write the book, “Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space.” He is a member of the SEMAP board of Directors.

Beginning Farmers: “What I Wish I Knew Then”
A panel of farmers discuss their biggest money mistakes, positive habits and conditions, and lessons learned that have helped them develop successful financial management strategies. This workshop will be conducted in a panel format with Q&A from the audience. The panel will include Steve Murray from Heart Beets Farm in Berkley, MA – as well as additional farmers TBD. Hosted in coordination with the Carrot Project.

Upscaling to Growing Rice: Is it a Possibility?
This workshop will explore the requirements for growing rice in Massachusetts, and will cover the opportunities, challenges for growers and interesting facts about the rice crop that make it an attractive option for cultivation. Dr. Sai Sree Uppala, is an Assistant Professor at the UMass Cranberry Station in Wareham. She grew up in a rural part of southern India, and before joining UMass, Sai Sree conducted research on diseases of leafy vegetables in India, peanuts at Auburn University, Kentucky bluegrass and apples at Oregon State University, and rice at Texas A&M University.

Home Cultivation of Specialty Mushrooms
This workshop will cover the conditions ripe for growing delicious specialty mushrooms at home. We will discuss several of the easy methods available for people interested in starting to grow specialty mushrooms, including substrate prep, inoculation, and fruiting. Willie Crosby is the owner of Fungi Ally in Hadley, MA. He has grown tens of thousands of pounds of mushrooms over the last five years. Willie aims to connect people to the magical world of fungi.

Meal Planning: How to Get the Most Out of Your CSA Share
One of the biggest complaints from CSA members is often waste. Learn some tips, tricks, and secrets to getting the most out of your CSA share every season. We will discuss meal planning, how to get more out of your food scraps, and tools and resources for learning new kitchen skills. Sarah Murray is owner of Heart Beets Kitchen, a lover of food, and happiest in the kitchen. When she isn’t leading workshops educating the community on meal planning, food prep, and eating more vegetables she works the farmers market and CSA pick-ups for Heart Beets Farm where she lives with her husband and 2 children.

Session 3

Growing Hemp: Panel Discussion with Regional Growers
With a new Massachusetts policy authorizing the commercial production of agricultural hemp in the state, local farmers have a great opportunity to take advantage of this new business opportunity. This discussion will include the MDAR application process for potential hemp growers and the experiences of two local hemp growers. Linda Noel is a hemp farmer from Franklin, MA. Her first crop was grown in 2018, both for seed and CBD oil. Chance Perks grows hemp at Reusch Creek Farm in Rochester, MA. Originally established as a silvopastoral hog farm, Reusch Creek continues to evolve and integrate with surrounding farms and businesses to enhance quality hemp production and aromatic food staples including herbs and garlic.

So, You Want to Become a Beekeeper?
Everything the prospective beekeeper needs to know about the process of becoming a beekeeper, including the challenges, rewards, time commitment, bee schools, bee clubs, and financial considerations. The session will include honest discussion of the state of beekeeping today in the face of pesticide use, nutrition and habitat issues, bee diseases and pests, as well as the true joy of keeping bees, observing their actions, and reaping the products of the hive. Ed Szymanski is an avid homesteader and beekeeper. He is the past president of the Norfolk County Beekeepers Association and currently serves as the Program Director for the Massachusetts Beekeepers Association. Ed has been keeping bees for 10 years and loves sharing what he has learned with others.

Biodiversity, Soil Building, and Climate
Biodiversity is a key to water quality, healthy soil, and healthy food. Our changing climate is a symptom of the loss of biodiversity. This workshop will show how to restore soils and replenish the water cycle which can also help stabilize the climate. Grazing, agroecology, and wetlands examples will be discussed. Jim Laurie is a restoration ecologist working at Biodiversity for a Livable Climate. He has worked on a variety of projects ranging from cleaning toxic wastewater with living systems, restoring salmon in redwood country, and bringing back grasslands with planned grazing.

Insects, Diseases, & Weeds – Oh My!
A discussion of the natural methods of controlling insect pests in the vegetable garden, including identifying common garden pests and stopping them with creative planting schedules, predatory insects, physical barriers, and organic insect sprays. Some organic methods for weed control and preventing plant diseases will also be discussed. Andy Tomolonis is a long-time organic gardener, gardening writer, and award-winning Boston-area journalist. For five years, he and his wife, Valerie, ran a successful small-scale CSA from their backyard garden. Andy used the experience to write the book, “Organic Hobby Farming: A Practical Guide to Earth-Friendly Farming in Any Space.” Andy is a member of the SEMAP Board of Directors.

The Ins & Outs of MDAR Grants
This session will present an overview of all Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) grant funding opportunities for Massachusetts farms. There will be time for Q&A. Gerry Palano has been working with MDAR for almost 12 years, creating and managing the agency’s energy programs including the AgEnergy Grants and the MA Farm Energy Program (MFEP).

Diversified Livestock for Farm Sustainability
A discussion of how Rosasharn Farm raises and manages a number of species of small livestock in a fashion that is healthiest for the animals and the land and how the different species interact with one another, and the gardens, and benefit from the diversity. Anne Peterson is the owner and manager of Rosasharn Farm in Rehoboth. Rosasharn Farm raises a herd of nationally recognized nigerian dwarf dairy goats, in addition to livestock guardian dogs, heritage hogs, and many other farm animals.

Kid’s Workshops

Session 1: All about Wool: From Farm to Felt
Children will learn about the magic of wool, where it comes from, how it is cleaned, dyed, and turned into something you can wear. They will try their hand at spinning and will get wet and woolly – felting a masterpiece to take home.  This workshop will involve water, soap, and lots of fun. Meg Riley is the Executive Director and Katie Roberts is the Education Coordinator for the Soule Homestead Education Center in Middleboro, MA.

Session 2: Meet the animals in the Aggie Barn
We will meet up in the school before we head off to tour the farm and see the animals at Bristol Aggie. Kyle Medeiros is the Herdsman at Bristol Aggie.

Session 3: Chicken Showmanship
Children will learn about what poultry showmanship is, external anatomy of the birds, posing and handling, as well as how to introduce the birds. Jackie Freitas has been the leader of a  poultry and dog 4-H clubs for over 50 years. She has owned chickens for 30 years and has judged poultry showmanship contests throughout Massachusetts.

Additional questions about the conference? Email Jon Gray at

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