market-farming "Farmer Conferences" -- Left Out Again

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at
Fri Nov 17 09:49:58 EST 2000

As someone who organizes meetings in Illinois for the specialty crop
community, I can tell you that attendance is the primary criteria we use to
determine whether or not these meetings should be held on weekends. We set
up a series of weekend meetings for specialty crop agriculture several years
ago. Amost all of them were weekends. At first they were well attended. We
were encouraged and we continued. But soon, attendance dropped off.
Meanwhile, our weekday meetings, which were primarily (but not totally)
attended by full-time farmers who made 100% of their living from farming,
continued to sustain good attendance. Eventually, it became clear where we
should invest what few resources were available to us for putting on these

    It is a difficult decision with many considerations. If we had more
resources we might be able to go further down our list of priorities to put
on programs. Cooperative Extension Service in every state has been reduced
considerably over the last two decades. In Illinois I work with perhaps
one-third the number of colleagues I had when I started in the early 80's. I
have the same operational budget I had in 1990. This is primarily due to
state and federal priorities disinvesting in agriculture generally.

    Though you can point to Dennis Bishop as an example of Extension working
against you, most people I know in Extension want to provide a service to
their clientele, including those in the organic/sustainable movement. But we
can only be spread so thin. And it's usually easier and more productive to
work with people who want to work with you.

Bill Shoemaker
Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
Univ of Illinois - St Charles Hort Research Center

-----Original Message-----
From: Dori Green <dorigreen00 at>
To: market farming <market-farming at>
Cc: steuben at <steuben at>
Date: Friday, November 17, 2000 7:22 AM
Subject: market-farming "Farmer Conferences" -- Left Out Again

>I just received notice of the 2001 New York State Farmers Direct Marketing
>Conference in Owego, "Growing Your Profits".
>Once again, it's information I would love to have.  Looks like a great
>And once again, it's being held on a Monday through a Wednesday (February
>5-7), so I can't attend without losing several days of pay.
>I'll probably take the financial hit and attend -- at least it's enough
>advance notice that I might be able to put in a Saturday or two to lessen
>the impact (I thank Jim Grace at CCE for the early notification that makes
>this an option, and my progressive employers who are usually willing to at
>least discuss flexible schedules as long as the work gets done).
>But I still don't see why at least a few of these conferences can't be
>scheduled on weekends.  Aren't the organizers aware that many thousands of
>farmers are still in business only because they support their efforts with
>off-farm jobs?
>Dori Green
>Ash Grove Community Farm & Center for Sustainable Living
>Corning, NY
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