By Calie Brummer
On Saturday, February 23, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the annual Business of Farming Conference will be held at the A-B Tech Community College conference center in Asheville. The 16th annual conference is hosted by Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) and has information sessions with forward-thinking business and marketing strategies designed to help farmers prosper throughout the year.
“The Business of Farming Conference offers beginner and established farmers an opportunity to network and gain valuable tools and insights to plan for the season and strengthen their farm businesses,” says Robin Lenner, events coordinator for ASAP.
The conference concentrates on the business side of farming and will host a variety of sessions ranging from financial discussions to legal, management and marketing tactics. These sessions aim to help farmers improve their business operations and make professional connections.
Farmers interested in community supported agriculture (CSA) can attend a panel discussion about opportunities for local and regional farms. Holly Whitesides of Against the Grain Farm will explain CSA options and marketing opportunities during the panel discussion.
“A CSA program can provide lots of benefits to a small farm like ours, but it can also pose plenty of challenges,” says Whitesides. “I’m just as excited to learn from other farmers on the panel as I am to share what’s worked and what hasn’t worked on our farm.” She and her husband, Andy Bryant, raise certified biodynamic and organic vegetables and pasture-raised, GMO-free meats, available at farmers markets and through their CSA program.
“Over the years, we have gleaned pointers that have helped our social media marketing, business structure, farmers market display and labor supply, just to name a few,” says Whitesides. “It’s always an honor to be able to share some of the lessons we’ve learned from our farm business with other farmers in our area.”
More than a dozen workshops will be led by farmers and regional professionals in the industry. Recurring workshops include Community Supported Agriculture Opportunities and Farm Business Planning. Several new workshops are also planned, including Hosting Events and Dinners on Your Farm, Developing Your Farm Brand and a farm photography workshop led by Sarah Jones Decker of Root Bottom Farm in Marshall. “Our conference Grower-Buyer Meeting will also offer farmers the exclusive opportunity to meet one-on-one with potential new buyers,” says Lenner. The meeting puts farmers in contact with buyers from local restaurants, grocers and distributors. Hosts also offer individual legal support and advice on marketing, business and taxes.
This year, there will be a farmer’s market summit that will host leaders from many of the independent markets across the region. During the leadership training, market managers can discuss their goals and strategies for the year. “Ultimately, the conference offers a big business and morale boost for farmers at the start of the new season,” Lenner says.
The A-B Tech conference center is located at 16 Fernihurst Drive in Asheville. Conference registration includes access to workshops, the Grower-Buyer meeting, networking, exhibitor hall and locally sourced meals. To learn more or to register for the conference, visit ASAPConnections.org.