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Forum for Rural Innovation Offers New Approaches for Agriculture on March 11

February 19, 2016

The 12th Annual Forum for Rural Innovation, scheduled for Friday, March 11, will showcase new and exciting projects and programs that enhance farm or rural business profitability in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and northwestern Virginia. The event will also focus on conserving farmland and natural resources and developing innovative and sound business approaches particularly suited to the mid-Atlantic region.

Topics and exhibits will include practical examples of successful innovative operations that could be adapted to any farm and include some of the most progressive and recognized farmers and researchers in the region. Forum topics and speakers will include:

  • “Hops Processing Facility” by Solomon Rose, Black Hops Farm, Lucketts, Va. Craft beer inputs are becoming a popular industry. Hear about new opportunities for hops growers in this region.
  • “Fresh Farm Markets” by Mike Koch, Fresh Farm Markets, Washington, D.C. Fresh Farm Markets is a non-profit organization whose mission is to build and strengthen the local, sustainable food movement in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Learn about direct market trends along with the focus of Fresh Farm Markets.
  • “Agriculture and Higher Education in Our Communities” by Ronnie Helmondollar, West Virginia University Extension Service, Elkins, W.Va.; Tiffany Hine, Blue Ridge Community and Technical College, Martinsburg, W.Va.; and Dr. Donna Ballard, Potomac State College, Keyser, W.Va. Hear how community colleges and university extension services are working together to encourage agriculture within schools, universities, and the community.
  • “Food Safety and Modernization Act” by Dr. Laura Strawn, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Va. This law aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Learn what this law could mean for farming and food distribution in the future.
  • “Slade Farms – The Rest of the Story” by Clifton Slade, Slade Farms, Surry, Va. Practical and useful information on vegetable research, planting, growing, harvesting, and marketing presented in a comedic fashion.
  • “Handcrafted Artisan Cheese” by Molly Kroiz, Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese, Lovettsville, Va. Find out how cheese-making works on a small family farm.
  • “Artisan Malt House” by Michael Schimmel, Pilot Malt House, Lucketts, Va. Hear about the opportunity this facility creates for new and current producers of grains such as barley, wheat, and rye.

During the conference luncheon, which will feature local food products, the 2016 Innovation Awards will be presented to Lyle C. Tabb and Sons LLC of Charles Town, W.Va., and Lucketts Mill and Hops Works of Lucketts, Va. In addition, exhibits by agricultural suppliers, support agencies, and area businesses will be featured throughout the day. Area agribusinesses are encouraged to participate with exhibits and displays.

The Forum, which runs from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., will be at the Best Western Lee-Jackson Motor Inn & Conference Center in Winchester, Va. The registration fee of $40 includes the forum program, morning refreshments, and a lunch buffet. Pre-registration is required by Friday, March 4. To register or for more information about becoming an exhibitor, visit or call 703-777-0426.

The Forum for Rural Innovation is a cooperative educational effort by the offices of agricultural economic development and cooperative extension in Clarke, Fauquier, Loudoun, and Prince William Counties in Virginia; Berkeley and Jefferson Counties in West Virginia; and the Town of Berryville, Va.; Blue Ridge Community and Technical College; and NCIF.