At AGRItunity

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A variety of topics greeted agriculturally-inclined patrons as they gathered for two days of workshops, discussions and demonstrations at the annual AGRItunity conference and trade show.
The event brought growers, ranchers, farmers and those with other agricultural interests together on Jan. 25 and Jan. 26 at the West Central Florida Agricultural Education Center at the Sumter County Fairgrounds, north of Webster.
Patrons had a gamut of workshops to participate in, anything from growing mushrooms to poultry egg production, from farmscaping to soil building.
The event is sponsored by the UF/IFAS Extension Offices of Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Pasco and Sumter counties.
Local presenters included Wendell Martinkovic of Lake Panasoffkee who did a presentation on permaculture – the idea of planting your farm in a way that all things work together.
Martha Maddox did a preservation presentation and Freddie and Erin Moore of Moore Ranch in Webster did a presentation on grass fed beef.
Dale McClellan of M&B Dairy Farm was honored as the 2012 Sotheastern and Florida Farmer of the Year.
“He gave a very inspiring talk,” said Sumter County Extenstion Agent Susan Kelly.
She also noted the efforts of retired Farm Credit employee Bill Sellers. From Hernando, he spent hours volunteering at the AGRItunity.
Their keynote speaker was Sherry Salatin of Polyface Farms, Inc.
“Sherry did a good job, talking about marketing,” Kelly said, noting the aspect of marketing through relationships with people.
This year’s keynote speaker was Sheri Saltan, of Polyface Farms. Her topic was “Be the middleman: Catch and keep those elusive profits.”
I just think that the whole spirit of the day was of ‘I want to learn and I want to meet new people’. It was just such a good spirit,” Kelly said.
The feedback was positive, including the provision of vendors offering supplies and ideas.
The presentations also included growing mushrooms in straw, pomegranate, egg and hay production; alternative soil management, farmscaping, small ruminant health, starting a buying club, Facebook 4 Farrmers and preservation.
This year, they added Facebook and some Internet marketing and seemed to add a higher number of younger people, she said.
Of those attending, 44 percent were farmers and ranchers and 72 percent were brand new.
Last year, there was an estimated 350 people, this year, just over 400.
Kelly said that number includes exhibitors, vendors and presenters, along with those attending. Of the 350 from last year, 48 percent of them said they had developed business skills as a result of attending the last conference.
Along with the 400 that attended Saturday, there were 74 that took part in the farm tours on Friday.
The group loaded on a bus and visited Knights and Bethel Farms in Sumter County, as well as three farms in Lake County.
One of sites they visited was a Green Acre Aquaponics, where the ranchers are growing vegetables and fish, Kelly said.
The aqualculture experience included a workshop and then a farm tour.
“It was just a really good day - a fun day. It’s always nice when your whole office can work together on something,” she said.
This year’s event also included lunch on the veranda to the sounds of bluegrass by Sno Rodgers.
“Networking is one of our primary goals,” she said, citing their effort to provide a good atmosphere in a comfortable setting, where farmers could relax and talk with one another.
As for the AGRItunity itself, Kelly said the feedback has been that this was the best one yet.