Northern California's depressed agricultural economy will get a boost in January when the University of California Cooperative Extension in Lake County holds a conference titled "Solutions for Today's Farmers."
"In Lake County, we've lost almost half of our pear acreage since 1999 and pears were our No. 1 crop," says Rachel Elkins, farm advisor for tree fruit and nut crops and director of Lake County UCCE. "Many pear orchards were replaced by vineyards. But recently, winegrape prices have been tumbling, so they are no longer the obvious option."
Elkins is working with her fellow UCCE farm advisors, UCCE specialists and a wide range of co-sponsors to present a diversity of solutions to the complex problem at a conference Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 10 and 11, 2004, in Kelseyville, Calif.
"There isn't a simple fix," Elkins says. "We will be looking at a wide variety of options to support local agriculture - such as agri-tourism, crop diversification, organic production, staying ahead of culinary trends and forming marketing partnerships."
The conference, which is designed for medium- and small-scale specialty crop growers and food marketing and processing professionals throughout Northern California, will be at Gard Street Elementary School, 3980 Gard St., Kelseyville. Registration for the two-day conference is $15 before Dec. 10 and $20 thereafter or at the door. The fee covers refreshments, lunch, Saturday evening reception and instructional materials. Due to space constraints, participation is limited to 150 registrants.
To register, send a check payable to "UC Regents" with the name, organization or business name, address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address to UC Cooperative Extension, Today's Farmers Conference, 883 Lakeport Blvd., Lakeport, CA 95453. Specify if vegetarian meals are preferred.
The conference features plenary sessions each morning, with breakout sessions in the late mornings and afternoons. Plenary speakers include US Congressman Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley), UC Berkeley Extension Agricultural Economist Alix Peterson, UC Davis Extension Agricultural Economists Steve Blank, Roberta Cook and Director of the UC Davis Center for Cooperatives Shermain Hardesty.
Breakout session panelists include Director of the UC Small Farm Center Desmond Jolly, Scott Horsfall with the Buy California Program, Chris Zanobini of the California Pear Advisory Board and Eric Seely of the Lake County Winegrape Commission. Local politicians, farmers, chefs and others round out the program. Meals will be prepared with locally produced foods by Lake County Farmers' Finest, a marketing organization that promotes Lake County products.
For more conference information, see http://celake.ucdavis.edu or http://www.lakecounty.com. Information is also available by calling (707) 263-6838 or e-mailing email@example.com.