Conference will address nitty-gritty of farming today

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Social media, loan programs and finding land to farm will be among the topics at this year’s PlacerGrown Food and Farm Conference on Feb. 4. This is the 17th year for the day-long gathering, which features a keynote speaker and 25 workshops organized under topic strands. Placer Grown and the Placer Nevada University of California Cooperative Extension work together in planning and implementing the agenda. Roger Ingram, UCCE Placer Nevada county director and farm adviser, said there are several new topics this year. One of those is social media. “Karen Rice from Constant Contact is coming in and doing two workshops,” he said. “It is an email newsletter service that integrates very well into social media.” Rice’s workshops will cover building relationships with customers through social media and using social media for marketing. He’s equally enthusiastic about the loan and finance panel. “The Sierra Economic Development Corporation will be represented,” Ingram said. “(As will Briar Patch, (which has) a farm loan program. (USDA) Farm Service Agency will talk about their loan program. Northern California Farm Credit will talk about the loan programs they have available as well.” A major focus of the conference is finding ways to attract youth to agriculture, “to increase the ability for young people to get involved with agriculture or to become aware of agriculture and become advocates,” he said. Keynote speaker Dr. J. Scott Vernon, a professor of agricultural communication at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, will discuss the nonprofit he started, “I love farms. They Feed my Soul,” which is targeted to the 14 to 24 age group. “These are kids from varied backgrounds who are advocates for agriculture and they use social media and other things to inform people they interact with about the importance of agriculture,” Ingram said. Vernon is bringing along board members from his organization for a panel that will follow his talk. Also as part of the youth emphasis, Future Farmers of America will present a panel of instructors from Placer, Del Oro and Lincoln high schools who will discuss the local program. Among the other workshops will be one by the Living Lands Agrarian Network in Nevada County. “They’ve set up land bank,” Ingram said. “They have land available if people want to use it. And they’re doing a good job finding land for interns and beginning farmers. That will be a really exciting presentation as well.” In addition to his leading role in putting on the conference, Ingram will also be a speaker. His topic is getting started with dairy goats and sheep. Outreach beyond the realm of agriculture is an important aspect of the gathering and there are a number of workshops geared to a general audience. For example, a cooking demonstration will feature Auburn’s Latitudes restaurant preparing locally grown foods. Another general interest topic will be raising poultry for meat and eggs, presented by Karin Sinclair from Sinclair Family Farm in Penryn and PlacerGrown’s Karen Killebrew will discuss the Master Agvocate program. Killebrew said the program’s first class graduated in December. “We’re going to be presenting all the graduates during the general session (of the conference) and then a number of them will come to the (workshop) about the Master Agvocate program and describe their experiences,” she said. “And we’ll be getting people’s names if they are interested (in being a participant). We probably will launch it again in May.” The program offers an overview of agriculture in Placer County. “We had one (session) about produce and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), one on livestock, one on wine and wine grapes, one on mandarins as they were ripening up,” Killebrew said. “All the candidates had a chance to hear from farmers and ranchers directly about their own business and why they do what they do, what are the challenges and the joys. It was a real eye opener — even for me and I’ve visited lots of farms. Everyone learns something new.” For Killebrew, the Food and Farm Conference has something for everyone. It just a great way … to learn from the experts and learn from each other, to network,” she said. “It’s always stimulating. And I encourage anyone has an interest in local food to buying a piece of property and wanting to know what to plant on the type of soil you have (to attend). There’s just a gamut of opportunities.” Reach Gloria Young at ------------------------ PlacerGrown Food and Farm Conference When: Saturday, Feb. 4, at Lincoln High School, 790 J St., Lincoln Cost: $50 for PlacerGrown members and $55 for non-members; after Jan. 27, cost goes up to $60 for PlacerGrown members and $65 for non-members To register: Visit