Left to right, Chancellor Williams, Graduates, VC Eubanks and Director Mellion-Patin
BATON ROUGE, LA, 3/19/11 –The SU Ag Center’s Louisiana Small Farmer Conference Culminates in Graduation Ceremony. The Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center hosted the Louisiana Small Farmer Conference, March 17 –– 19 in Baton Rouge. The theme for this event was, “Sustaining Louisiana’s Small Family Farms.” This conference was enlightening, informative and designed to educate and expand the awareness of educational opportunities, USDA programs and services and other resources which help small farmers stay in business. The overall goal of the conference was to provide an opportunity for Louisiana’s small agricultural producers to come together and share strategies as well as be informed about the latest educational tools and resources which could impact the survival of their agricultural businesses. The conference targeted small and beginning farmers, agricultural business owners, community-based, and nonprofit organizations.
During the opening session, SU Ag Center Chancellor Leodrey Williams, extended a warm welcome to participants and in conclusion said, “If we don’t do anything to help others, we have not done much at all.” The commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain, DVM was on hand to welcome conference attendees from across Louisiana. He stated that, with the push for alternative energy, great benefits await farmers and emphasized the importance of “preserving, protecting and keeping our farmlands.” Also to address the audience was Cathea Simelton, Interim National Program Leader, Small and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program, USDA, Office of Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, DC. Simelton assured the participants that her office “understands the obstacles small farmers face,” and ready and willing to help them succeed.
The conference started with a tour of the Perkins’ organic farm in Port Hudson, the Jones’ goat farm in Zachary and the Muhaimins’ poultry farm in Zachary. The second day of the conference involved intense sessions with topics including challenges to sustaining Louisiana small farms, young agricultural program, establishing a farm plan for new and existing farmers, marketing and legal issues.
The conference culminated on Saturday morning with a graduation for the first class of small farmers who participated in the Louisiana Small Farmer Agricultural Leadership Institute. These eleven distinguished honorees from six parishes successfully completed a 75-hour training program focusing on leadership development and business management. “Congratulations to the graduates,” said Dr. Dawn Mellion-Patin, Director and chair of conference committee. The Chancellor summed it all up when he said “I am proud of you, the students, teachers, staff, retirees, and everyone who has supported this conference.”