Forest Service Co-Sponsors Minority Landowner Magazine Conference

by Perdita B. Spriggs, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center
The conference session on "Agriculture:  Past, Present and Future" panel discussion featured small farming perspectives from seasoned landowners, young farmers, and North Carolina A&T University students. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

The conference panel discussion on “Agriculture: Past, Present and Future” featured small farming perspectives from seasoned landowners, young farmers, and North Carolina A&T University students. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

The annual Minority Landowner Magazine conference is a favorite among small and limited resource landowners. This year’s seventh anniversary conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, themed “Keeping Your Farm Productive, Profitable and Yours,” engaged more than 250 participants, including federal, state, university, and private agencies and organizations sharing information to help maintain family farms. What keeps participants returning year-to-year? Off-farm networking, advanced technology, and sound advice that enhance their operations sustainability, profitability, and efficiency.

The U.S. Forest Service has offered ground floor support since the magazines inception. “The Southern Research Station (SRS) has been a tremendous partner,” said magazine publisher Victor Harris, who organized the conference with help from sponsors and volunteers. “Since the very beginning, the Station has risen to the top in showing support to help minority landowners improve operations.” SRS joined the Forest Service Cooperative Forestry, Conservation Trust of North Carolina, and Carolina Farm Credit as conference co-sponsors. 

Forest Service representatives from the agency’s three Deputy Chief Areas, National Forest System, Research and Development, and Cooperative Forestry discussed available forest and science-based resources, including SRS Project Leader Dr. Jeff Prestemon, Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center Communications Director Perdita Spriggs, Cooperative Forestry Management Analyst Cheryl Bailey, Southern Region Civil Rights Director Debra Harrell, and Regional Outreach Coordinator Amadou Diop. Other USDA agencies, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and Agricultural Marketing Service shared conservation, loan, and marketing assistance.

Harris carefully chose topics that resounded with generational family farmers and messages focused on estate planning, forest land management, legacy farming, and conservation programs. Successful minority and female farmers shared their paths to success, including keynote speaker Jim McClain, owner of McClain’s Flying Leatherneck Ranch in South Carolina, who emphasized, “There’s nothing like owning a piece of land free and clear.”

Mississippi farmer Vickie Roberts shared her rules for land retention and offered “destination farming,” similar to agri-tourism, as an option for expanding traditional operations. Banquet speaker Dr. Jewel Hairston, Dean of Virginia State Universitys School of Agriculture, encouraged farmers to “look for unique opportunities, like urban agriculture and niche markets–and embrace social media because thats how consumers communicate and share information.”

The conference wrapped up with the Agriculture:  Past, Present and Future panel discussion, providing seasoned landowners, young farmers, and North Carolina A&T University agriculture students time to share small farming perspectives, challenges, and dreams.

For more information, email Perdita Spriggs at pspriggs@fs.fed.us .

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Posted in Economics & Policy, Ethics & Values, Forest Landowners, Forest Operations, Non-Timber Forest Products