Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
 
Hurry Up, Spring!   

Does the snowy scene above look familiar? This photo is just one illustration of the serious weather conditions experienced across the South over the winter months. We experienced record lows--as well as--freezing rain, sleet and snow. Thankfully, seasons change and warmer weather is slowly returning to the region.

 

Do you have a snowy scene you would like to share? Post it on our Facebook page or email media@ssawg.org with a description and location of the photo.

Food Hub Lessons Are Shared In Southern SAWG Learning Group

"Crop planning is one of the most important things we do," explained Sara Clow, general manager of GrowFood Carolina in a session on Food Hub Lessons at the 2015 Southern SAWG conference. Sara and others openly shared operating information and lessons learned with hundreds of conference participants in order to raise the level of food hub success across the South. Sara went on to tell the audience that GrowFood Carolina works with 60 farmers across the rural Lowcountry of South Carolina. To help them know what to grow to meet their markets, they create a massive market demand document compiled by week. Each winter they assist farmers in planning not only for the current year, but also to estimate market demand 2-3 years out. That way, farmers can clear land or plant fruit trees to meet future markets.

 

Sara also emphasized that distribution is very expensive: "I cannot say this enough. Utilize existing infrastructure." She urged beginning food hubs to create partnerships with others who are already doing distribution in their area. For instance, GrowFood Carolina looks for backhauls whenever possible, partnering with others who have empty trucks returning from deliveries.

 

The sessions on Food Hub Lessons were part of a Southern food hub learning network that Southern SAWG has facilitated for the past two years. In this SARE-PDP funded project, 50 agricultural professionals and farmers from around the region shared information on successful strategies for food hub development through workshops, webinars and phone calls. Go to the resources section of the Southern SAWG website to listen to some of the presentations and webinars from this project.

Growing Farm Profits Road Trip

Southern SAWG staff member Jean Mills hit the road this past month with trainers Ellen Polishuk and Jim Munsch to conduct our Growing Farm Profits trainings in Mississippi and Baton Rouge.  Though icy roads hampered attendance, those who managed to get there came to learn! They were totally engaged and readily participated in discussions. By providing examples from their own experiences and asking questions, the training participants really added to the learning value of these trainings. 100% of the 55 participants said the training gave them a better understanding of how to increase their farm profitability. We thank our partners, the Alliance for Sustainable Agricultural Production in Mississippi, and Southern University in Louisiana for hosting these events and providing us warm spaces to meet, and the USDA Risk Management Agency for funding these trainings. If you missed the trainings, you can view a whole series of video tutorials and gain access to other valuable Growing Farm Profits materials at www.ssawg.org/growing-farm-profits.

Farm to School Act of 2015

Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Southern SAWG strongly supports the efforts of the National Farm to School Network and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to advance farm to school priorities in the upcoming Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization. 


Visit our website to learn more, get involved and show your support!
Meet New Board Member: 

Devona Bell Sherwood

Devona Bell Sherwood

Devona Bell Sherwood

Devona is a Senior Program Officer at the Wallace Center, with 20 years of professional experience in project design and management with a focus on sustainable agriculture, building local/regionals food systems, natural resource management, enterprise development, and rural economic development internationally and nationally. As the Senior Program Officer with the Wallace Center, she focuses on building local sustainable agricultural models; works to increase efficiencies along entire value chains from crop production through processing and marketing; working to improve the productivity and profit margins of small-scale farmers; increasing competitiveness, service linkages and market access; as well as developing technical assistance and training programs for food hubs and organizations that focus on food and agriculture enterprise development, social enterprise, and good food value chains. Devona holds a Master's in Natural Resource Policy and Administration and is passionate about ecologically regenerative agriculture and the food/health nexus. Devona, along with her husband, two young daughters, 3 dogs, many chickens, guineas, and rabbits lives on a small farm in southwest Virginia.

We Have a Winner!

 

Nearly 100 people went online to give feedback on our 2015 conference and enter our contest for a free 2016 conference registration. Through a blind drawing this past week, we selected one lucky winner. And the winner is...

 

Billie Poché, Poché Family Farm, Independence, LA!

 

Poché Family Farm specializes in naturally grown vegetables. Their sustainable agriculture practices include using cover crops, organic pesticides and natural fertilizers. When notified of her win, Billie responded, "Thanks for the great news! Looking forward to Lexington already!" Look them up on Facebook.

Results of Conference Survey

We got some really valuable feedback about the 2015 conference through our online survey. Of the nearly 100 people who completed the survey, the responses were overwhelmingly positive. 99% rated their conference experience as "excellent" or "good", with by far the majority rating it as "excellent". But we aren't getting the bighead around here. We see we still have room for improvement (the food!). We want you to know we are paying attention to your comments and will try our best to make these improvements. We continue to strive to make this conference the best one you attend every year. We want all conference participants to leave feeling like this participant:

 

"The amount I will be saving on 'Dumb Tax' (time and money wasted from making mistakes) is more than the cost of the conference."

 

This participant recognizes how quality education, even if it does come at a fee, actually saves you money and frustration! When you come to our 25th annual conference in Lexington, Kentucky, January 27-30, 2016, we'll have plenty to help you save on your Dumb Tax bill!

  

March 2015
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Southern SAWG
PO Box 1552, Fayetteville, AR 72702
479-251-8310