Kentucky State University its 20th annual Small Farm Conference Nov. 13-15. The conference, hosted by Kentucky State’s Extension program with participation from all members of the College of Agriculture, Communities and the Environment, was created to reach underserved producers and local farmers.
Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II served as the keynote speaker for the Nov. 14 luncheon.
President Brown spoke about the number of small grants received by small and under-resourced farmers.
“There’s still much more work to do,” President Brown said. “There’s only a limited amount small grants can do. There are price points that far exceed what we’re able to do currently.”
President Brown also discussed a critical area of agriculture in Kentucky: the age of small and under-resourced farmers. He said less than 10 percent of that population is under 35.
“If we don’t figure out how to continue the tradition, after years of work in this area they will sell the land and work you put so much effort into,” President Brown said.
Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan F. Quarles also spoke to the audience comprised of farmers from over half the counties in Kentucky and 12 states.
Quarles touted the strengths and diversity of Kentucky agriculture and called for Kentucky to become the natural location for agriculture technology.
“We have the tools we need to let our state be first in something instead of last,” Quarles said.
Members of the audience heard success stories from small and under-resourced farmers around the state, including refugee farmer Albert Mbanfu from Warren County. Mbanfu said a group of refugee farmers has benefited from the technical expertise provided by employees at Kentucky State University.
The conference was held at Kentucky State’s Harold R. Benson Research and Demonstration Farm and the University’s Cooperative Extension building. Attendees had a chance to participate in Kentucky State’s national awarding-winning Third Thursday Thing Sustainable Workshop, tour farms within Franklin, Shelby, and Fayette Counties, attend a health and safety fair, and various seminars given by Kentucky State research professionals, as well as speakers from other organizations.
This year, a new component reaching middle school students was added to the program.
Middle school students had the opportunity to explore the world of agriculture in a fun and experiential-based format. Students visited agricultural stations featuring interactive booths designed to combine hands-on learning in the areas of plants, animals, nutrition, STEM, environmental education and aquaculture.