‘Keeping farmers farming’ at UMES Small Farm Conference

PRINCESS ANNE, Md. – Dozens of farmers are making their way to UMES for their 15th Annual Small Farm Conference this weekend.

“It’s farming 360, looking at your entire circle of farming. What you do from acquiring land to transitioning because all of us will reach a day when it has to go to the next generation,” explains Erroll Mattox, UMES Farm Management Specialist.

The goal of this annual event sounds simple enough, but maybe it’s not so easy. All they want to do is keep farmers farming.

Mattox says, “We look at diversified cropping, animal production, marketing, value added. We look at some legal issues on how  you do what you want to do where you want to do it.”

It’s for those who aren’t looking to plant those traditional crops, farmers like Stacey Cooper who just wants to make a profit on her small Wicomico County farm.

“We’re too small to do the large crops, soybeans and corn, so were looking for specialty crops and that’s why I’m here to see what my options are and what would work on our farm,” explains Cooper.

This conference serves as a way to learn and to find out what other farmers are doing here on the shore and elsewhere.

“We visited the farm down the road and saw what they’re growing and what works and what doesn’t and also you learn to eliminate what doesn’t work. I learned last year that I’m never going to be a beekeeper,” says Ralph Bucca, a local farm enthusiast and food processing educator.

It’s also a way to look down the road and explore what farming may look like in the future and how to keep small farmers profitable.

“What is the shore going to look like in ten years and who’s going to be here and how are people still going to be successful, so that’s the reason we do it,” adds Mattox.

The Small Farm Conference at UMES is happening Saturday with tours and demonstrations starting at 8:30 am and goes until 5pm.

And you don’t have to be a farmer to attend, even if you’re just interested in starting a small farm or what it would cost, this conference is the place to find out.

Categories: Check It Out, Education, Local News, Maryland