Virginia Cooperative Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, in cooperation with community partners, will host the 2013 Virginia Farm to Table Conference, Healthy Food and Vibrant Farms for the Common Wealth and Common Good, Dec. 4 and 5 at Blue Ridge Community College's Plecker Workforce Center in Weyers Cave, Va.

The two-day conference will encourage healthy food and vibrant farms for the common wealth and common good. Speakers and panelists will address critical challenges surrounding local foods and sustainable regional food systems.

Individuals interested in boosting community economic development; promoting soil health and human nutrition; working to grow and develop community enterprises, startup businesses, and food councils as part of a regional food system; expanding farm-to-school and farm-to-institution programs; and supporting local agriculture and conservation of natural resources are encouraged to attend.

“Community and economic resilience depends on healthy food and vibrant farms,” said Eric S. Bendfeldt, Extension community viability specialist. “This conference aims to advance Virginia’s local agriculture and cultivate greater resilience through community and institutional involvement in regional food systems."

The first day of the conference will focus on rebuilding a foodshed and strengthening regional food infrastructure. The second day will focus on common health with an emphasis on soil and human health and community and economic development. The conference will offer concurrent sessions on specific topics for strengthening the regional food economy and enhancing community well-being.

Philip Ackerman-Leist, professor and director of the Farm and Food Project at Green Mountain College and author of "Rebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems," and Peter Allison, coordinator of Farm to Institution New England, are featured presenters and will speak Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 9 a.m.

Thursday morning, Dec. 5, will feature Dr. Arden Andersen, and Gabe Brown of Brown’s Ranch in Bismarck, N.D. Andersen, author of "Science in Agriculture: Advanced Methods for Sustainable Farming" and "Real Medicine, Real Health," will speak on "Common Health, Common Good: The Root of Good Nutrition." Brown will share his perspective on healthy generative systems.

Other featured speakers and panel members include the following.

  • Jack Bricker, state conservationist, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Brian Calhoun, associate director, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Cheryl Kollin, co-founder, Farm to Freezer
  • Chris Reedy, executive director, Blue Ridge Food Ventures
  • Chris Lawrence, cropland agronomist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Paul Davis, retired Virginia Cooperative Extension agent and co-owner, Davis Produce
  • Rick Felker, owner, Mattawoman Creek Farms
  • Andrea Early, nutrition program director, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
  • Christina Cain, executive director, Staunton Creative Community Fund
  • Paul Nolde, small business capital strategist, Virginia Community Capital
  • Pam Flasch, director of communications and tourism marketing, Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce
  • Allie Hill, owner, Virginia Food Works
  • Jeff Heatwole, manager, Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction
  • Jennifer Curtis, co-founder, Firsthand Foods
  • Dennis Trissel, president, Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative
  • Scot Lilly, relationship manager, Farm Credit of the Virginias

To register, visit the Virginia Farm to Table Conference website or call Virginia Cooperative Extension at 540-432-6029, ext. 106 or 107, by Monday, Dec. 2. The cost for the two-day conference is $80, which includes lunches, refreshments, the Buy Fresh Buy Local mixer, and Chefs’ Challenge. One-day and discounted rates are available for students and producers.

If you have questions or would like more information about the 2013 Virginia Farm to Table Conference, please contact Eric Bendfeldt, at 540-432-6029, ext. 106; or Kathy Holm, USDA resource conservationist, at 540-434-1404, ext. 114.

Directions to Blue Ridge Community College's Plecker Workforce Center: From I-81, take Exit 235. Turn west onto Rt. 256 at the top of the exit ramp. In a very short distance, Rte. 256 ends at a junction with Rte. 11. Turn left at the stoplight onto Rte. 11 South. BRCC is about a half-mile on the left. Parking for the Plecker Workforce Center can be accessed using the south entrance beside the Criminal Justice Training Academy.