Anyone who owns or works on a commercial farm or wants to learn how to maintain a home garden or simply likes to know where their food comes from is welcome to the third annual Grow the Coast Conference and participate in discussions about food, farms and community.

The conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. The event, hosted by Food Roots, North Coast Food Web and the Oregon State University Extension for Grow the Coast, is all about raising awareness, education and building alliances. It features beginner and advanced workshops for farmers, gardeners, homesteaders and local food enthusiasts.

“We’re wanting to welcome the community in a broader sense to attend the conference,” said Emily Vollmer, project manager with Food Roots, a Tillamook-based nonprofit.

The theme of the keynote presentation at this year’s conference will be “Local Food on the North Coast: Celebrating Successes, Moving Ahead.”

Keynote panelists – including Teresa Retzlaff, of 46 North Farm; Laura Swanson, manager of the Manzanita Farmers Market; Dirk Rhone, Clatsop County Commissioner and dairy farmer; and Lauren Gwin, with the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems – will report on the state of local food producers, markets and community. The panelists then will moderate a discussion with the audience centered on questions such as “What are you seeing, struggling with and excited about?” and “What can we do about it together?”

“We’re looking to highlight trends and then continue that in talking about ‘where do we want to go next?’” Vollmer said.

The panelists were selected to represent a variety of sectors relevant to the industry, such as farmers markets, food production and community groups. They were asked to interview individuals in their areas to get information and updated stories to share with the audience.

During the presentation, the audience is encouraged to write down thoughts and ideas for projects or efforts to improve the industry. The organizers plan to follow up with people who suggest ideas for projects and then facilitate workshops during the winter to move some of those projects forward, Vollmer said. She added too many times people will discuss issues and present solutions, but nothing is done to pursue those solutions or connect individuals with the resources needed to accomplish them.

“We want to try and take a step beyond,” she said.

The organizers also hope the conference is an opportunity for farmers, home gardeners and others to be introduced to experts and industry leaders they could seek out later with questions and concerns.

After the keynote presentation, participants can choose three workshops to attend that will be led by OSU extension agents, commercial farmers and representatives from the OSU Small Farms Program, government agencies and nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Workshop topics will cover categories such as farm business, home and garden, plant production and livestock, and the selection also includes demonstrations and a resource marketplace. Participants can choose from at least five different topics during a given workshop session. For a list of specific workshop topics and instructors, visit the event website.

The organizers are distinguishing the Grow the Coast Conference from other food and farming events by being selective with presenters and workshops that focus on particular issues faced in Tillamook and Clatsop counties, Vollmer said. The topics revolve around the region’s specific environment, climate and economy.

“We’re placing a really strong emphasis on that,” she said.

Vollmer stressed that the event is not just for farmers but, rather, “a broad range of interested folks” who want to learn more about healthy food systems and any aspect of food production and consumption, she said.

“It would be great to have a range of perspectives in the room,” she added.

Education and facilitating connections are two main goals of the organizers. As with many conferences, participants can make both business and personal connections.

The event is sponsored by Meyer Memorial Trust, USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, OSU Extension, OSU Small Farms Program, Oregon Food Bank, Century Link and The Daily Astorian.

Until Oct. 26, ticket prices are $30 per person or $50 for two people from the same farm, organization or business. After Oct. 26, the prices will be $45 per person or $80 for two people from the same farm, organization or business. Tickets can be purchased online through Oct. 30, and they will be available at the door by check or cash only.

The organizers offer a limited number of half-price ticket scholarships for youths, farm workers and farmers who have spent less than 10 years running a farm. To apply, email Vollmer at Food Roots or northcoastgrown@foodrootsnw.org or call 503-815-2800.

For more information, email microbiz@foodrootsnw.org or visit northcoastfoodweb.org/growthecoast/

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