First conference for Ohio’s black farmers provides many opportunities

COLUMBUS – The first-ever conference for black farmers in Ohio will be held April 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, Ohio.

The Sustaining Communities: Ohio’s Black Farmers at the Crossroads Conference will be a networking and brainstorming opportunity for the farmers, according to Gail Myers, conference coordinator and doctorate student at The Ohio State University.

“This should be a rare learning experience for the farmers. This is a chance to give black farmers and all those who are interested in improving the agricultural production of minorities an opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas specific to African American farmers in Ohio,” said Myers. “They can take time away from the farm to discuss their problems and successes.”

Declining numbers.

African American farmers nationwide are declining at a rate much faster than that of other farming groups. Unless strategies are implemented to address this trend, African American farmers will become extinct. According to the 1997 Ohio Census of Agriculture, there are only 135 black owners of farms in Ohio.

Black farmers can expect to gain access to information on funding sources and policy decision-makers while representatives from various agencies and institutions get a chance to interact with black farmers.

“Contacts made during the conference may lead to future working relationships or program development,” said Myers.

This conference will provide a networking opportunity for black farmers in Ohio and offer an opportunity for them to discuss their needs with a larger audience.

“This is going to be a conduit for information for anyone who attends. It will give the farmers a bigger voice with the policy-makers and agency representatives,” said Myers.

The sessions.

The morning session will be a networking session where farmers can talk to each other and to agency representatives. After the free lunch, the group will have the chance to attend four different sessions. The sessions will cover strategies for influencing public policy, strategies for receiving funds, strategies for marketing and distribution and strategies for sustainability. During the sessions, the farmers will hear from industry leaders and experts.

“Black farmers in Ohio are in need of some help,” said Myers. “We want the farmers to forge real relationships at the conference and we hope to provide more opportunities next year.”

Anyone interested in attending the free conference must preregister by calling 800-484-6982, ext. 8009, or send an e-mail to Myers.498@osu.edu.

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