2023 Agriculture & Food Conference

THANK YOU to everyone who joined us in February for our 16th Annual Agriculture & Food Conference! We are truly grateful for everyone who made it, from all of our speakers and panelists, to distinguished guests, and of course to all others in attendance, from farmers and homesteaders, to advocates and community members, and everyone in between. The day would not have been possible without all of you.

Folks who registered for the Conference currently have exclusive access to workshop and panel recordings. These will be released at some point later in the year, however, we are offering the opportunity for anyone who was unable to join us on the day to purchase immediate access to these recordings. These are available at the same levels as Conference ticket prices, including scholarships and discounted options. If you are interested in accessing these resources now, please click the button below.

Check out the full details from this year’s Conference, including keynote details and workshop and panel descriptions, below!

Keynote Speaker: Neftalí Durán

We are excited to share that this year’s keynote speaker will be Neftalí Durán! Neftalí is a chef, advocate, organizer and educator with a focus on building an equitable food system and indigenizing foodways.

Neftalí came to the U.S. from Oaxaca, Mexico in 1997. He has over 25 years of experience in the food industry, currently working and living in Holyoke, Mas. He also works as an educator for the No Kid Hungry Cooking Matters campaign, a program that teaches practical cooking and shopping skills for low-income families and works to provide long-term solutions to hunger. In 2017, he co-founded I-Collective, an organization focused on promoting Indigenous peoples’ impacts on food systems, teaching Indigenous food practices, and uplifting Indigenous voices.

Tickets will be sold on a sliding scale and you should choose the level that makes sense for you; if cost is still a barrier, scholarships will be available. Please email shickey@semaponline.org for more information.

2023 Ag and Food Conference Schedule

8:30 a.m. – Virtual Doors Open

Bring your coffee and join us for some morning conversation and

8:50 a.m. – Opening Remarks

Introductions and information from SEMAP Staff

9:00 a.m. – MDAR Program Updates

Announcements and program details from Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, presented by Deputy Commissioner Ashley Randle

9:10 – 9:55 a.m. – Keynote by Neftali Duran

Our program will begin with a keynote speech from chef, farmer, educator and hunger advocate Neftali Duran, who will discuss building community around food systems, building on existing knowledge and models and reindigenizing foodways, among other topics.

9:55 – 11:25 a.m. – Session 1

Innovations in Aquaculture in Southeastern Massachusetts

Full Description
Let’s learn about our farms on water! Aquaculture is the fastest growing food producer industry in Massachusetts, and it’s also quickly innovating. Aquaculturists are finding creative solutions to challenges, bringing new products onto the market, and building efficiency into their operations. Experienced local growers will talk about oysters, trout, barramundi, fish waste soil emulsion, and more! There’s lots to learn from these producers, whether you farm by land, by sea, or not at all!

Urban Agriculture: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities for Southeastern MA

Full Description
The value of agriculture can be defined by much more than profit and yield. Farming builds community resilience, conserves open space, contributes to public health, employs community members, and so much more. These values are enhanced in urban agriculture spaces! Join local urban ag leaders to discuss challenges, successes, and possibilities in the urban farming space, as well as consider how to bring food production to Southeastern Mass cities.

Creative Market Outlets: Non-Traditional Avenues to Business Success

Full Description
Farmers and food producers are getting creative! We love our farmers’ markets and CSA programs, but local growers aren’t keeping themselves confined to traditional outlets anymore. Industries typically confined to wholesale or grower cooperatives are breaking out of those molds, too. Local ag is diversifying the way it reaches consumers, and we’re excited to hear about it! This panel will be led by Rhode Island farm-food truck Gnarly Vines, direct-market & bog tour operation Fresh Meadows Cranberries, and more! Join us and get inspired!

11:25 – 11:35 a.m. – Break

11:35 a.m. – 12:35 p.m. – Session 2

Farm Food Safety: Understanding FSMA

Full Description
Are you mystified by complex produce safety protocols? Not sure if you should be complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)? Wanting to implement safer practices on-farm? Join MDAR Produce Safety Inspector Ben Comeau in a brief overview of agricultural food safety and the Produce Safety Rule, including who should comply and how to do it. Ben will also walk through the reinstated water rule and what it means for FSMA-covered farmers. Plus, bring all your produce safety questions to this session’s Q&A!

Creating a Positive and Productive Farm Environment through Communication

Full Description
We encounter conflict everywhere, and the farm is no different. From lease negotiations to neighbor disputes, from employee disagreements to family fights, conflict disrupts farm efficiency – and enjoyment! Good communication skills are the foundation for working with employees, partners, creditors, vendors, and more. In this session, presenters will share some foundational communication skills for working on the farm, as well as some techniques for how to address conflict when it emerges. Join us to learn more and share your experiences!

Using the Whole Animal: Adding Value to Meat Cuts

Full Description
Are you an omnivore looking for tips on how to prepare those trickier cuts of meat? Are you a farmer hoping to find out what non-traditional cuts are popular right now? This workshop is for you! Join Ricky Dare and Will Johnson, local chefs & whole animal butchers, in a conversation about how to utilize every part of livestock animals. Moderated by farmer & director of The Livestock Institute Sarah Cogswell, Will and Ricky will talk about adding even more value to your locally-raised meats.

12:35 – 1:30 p.m. – Lunch

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. – Session 3

Building a Labor System That Works: Retaining Farm Crew

Full Description
Attracting productive and positive farm labor is hard enough, but how do you keep effective crew members around year-to-year? Retaining farm labor comes down to creating a hospitable environment and providing adequate compensation. Our panelists break down these easier-said-than-done concepts, and take your questions! Facilitated by HR expert and last year’s labor management presenter Jeffrey Kerr, farmworker Anita Adalja, farm owner Mike Roberts, and farm labor expert Jon Magee take us through their challenges, successes, and opportunities for retaining farm labor.

Growing International Crops Responsibly

Full Description
Come hear the stories of Southeastern Massachusetts farmers from West Africa, East Asia, and Latin America! Learn about the culturally relevant crops they grow, the ways you can support or partner with them, and even how to prepare some of the delicious fruits & vegetables they produce! This panel is about connections – both with your neighbors and with foods you won’t find at most stores or farms. Join us!

Protecting Your Flock: Avian Flu Considerations

Full Description
The rise of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been worrisome for farmers, backyard poultry operators, and egg lovers alike. While there’s no sure-fire way to keep your flock safe, there are many accessible precautions to take to ensure your birds’ and business’s safety. In this panel, we’ll hear prevention strategies from a farm animal veterinarian and local poultry farmer, as well as learn of financing options from the Farm Service Agency in the event that you lose your flock. Join us to build a more resilient poultry operation!

3:00 – 4:00 p.m. – Session 4

Growing Winter Spinach Profitably: From Healthy Seeds to Increased Sales

Full Description
UMass Extension has been researching winter spinach in unheated high tunnels for 4 years, from hand-powered to highly mechanized operations. Join Sue Scheufele in identifying tips and tricks they’ve learned over time! We will dig into what factors contribute to profitability of this lucrative farm enterprise, and will cover major insect, disease, and weed pests and how to manage them organically or conventionally. We’ll also cover hot water treatment of spinach (and other) seed, at home or by the UMass Extension Vegetable Program.  

PFAS Considerations for Agriculture: Lessons Learned from Maine

Full Description
Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have recently been recognized as contaminants in agriculture – present in some water, soil, and foods. PFAS can move through environments, but they do not decompose, earning them the nickname of “forever chemicals.” Join Caleb Goossen, crop specialist from Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), to hear what lessons we’ve learned over the past year and how they may be applied elsewhere.

Dual-Use Solar and Farming: The Future of Ag?

Full Description
What’s the deal with agrivoltaics? Sheep grazing is rapidly becoming the preferred vegetation-management strategy for many solar companies, but there aren’t many operational examples of cattle-grazing or crop agrivoltaics in the US. Massachusetts is home to a few operational small-scale sites, and several larger projects (20+ acres) are in construction or under development, but very few folks have ever been “inside the fence” of an operational array. Join farmer, farmland-protection advocate, and agrivoltaic solar developer Jesse Robertson-DuBois for an in-depth discussion of this emerging agricultural sector. We will discuss his personal experience with solar grazing and his plans for agrivoltaic cropping, as well as BlueWave’s approach to agrivoltaics. Bring an inquisitive mind to hear about experience, research, and examples from Massachusetts and elsewhere: what is known, what isn’t, and what are the challenges and opportunities for farmers.

Conference Sponsors

We are so grateful for the following sponsors of this year’s Conference!

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top