Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture extends its reach

By Lynn R. Parks

The Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture is expanding its reach. Niamh Shortt is the manager of the alliances Delmarva program, which was started about a year ago.

Her goal is to help farmers on the peninsula to practice agriculture in a way that is environmentally friendly and that at the same time is profit.able.

The alliance also works to con.nect consumers with farmers. Its Amazing Grazing Directory, which can be found on the Future Harvest website, contains informa.tion about meat and dairy farms on which the steer and cows are exclusively grass-fed, and on poul.try farms on which the birds are allowed to be outside.

The alliance was started 15 years ago on Marylands Western Shore. It was aimed at teaching farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed how to manage their properties in a way that would not harm the watershed.

Shortt said that she is working to get to know Delmarvas farming community. I am going to a lot of farmers conferences, which I use as a platform to reach out to people, she said. She also visits farmers, and learns from them about other farmers who might be interested in joining the alliance.

It does seem that there is a lot of interest in what we are offering, she said. A recent workshop on ways to grow, plant and harvest lavender, for example, had more people interested in attending than the program was able to accommodate.

The alliance offers three education-based programs. It holds a conference in January, with speakers, workshops and farm-to-table meals.

This years conference, Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed, will be Jan. 11 through 13 at College Park, Md.

The alliance also offers a winter workshop series. On Friday, Nov. 17, a workshop will be held on a farm near Salisbury on how to construct a move.able low tunnel for growing crops in the off season.

Thirdly, the alliance offers a year-long training program for beginning farmers, focusing on topics such as using cover crops, budgeting, market.ing, weed and pest control and erosion. The fourth year of the program will start with the January conference. Already, 75 people are registered, up from just 13 in the first year of the program.

All workshops and programs are free to farmers. We are trying to support commercial farmers, but we will not turn away people who are homesteaders or master gardeners, Shortt said.

Shortt said that the use of sustainable farming practices does not seem to be just a passing fancy. It will take a while to fully appreciate the effects of what we are doing, she said. But to me, it doesnt really seem that this is going away.

For your information Registration for workshops and pro.grams sponsored by Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, including its annual conference to be held in January, is available on the alliances website, futureharvestcasa.org. Niamh Shortt, the director of the alli.ances Delmarva program, can be reached at niamh@futureharvestcasa.org.

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