Yesterday I attended the Carolina Farm Stewardship Organic Commodities and Livestock Conference for Commercial Growers in Mount Olive, North Carolina. No, I don’t grow produce, or raise livestock (our chickens are for non-commercial egg-laying), or have plans to become a commercial-grade farmer – but I like to write about agriculture.
I’ve written articles on camel dairies, spiral gardening, backyard chickens, plus several trade articles on produce marketing, and I have a piece forthcoming about farm site location. Out of all the topics I write about for magazines, agricultural topics are one of my favorite and a large part of the pie.
Yesterday’s conference was worth the nearly two-hour drive each way. I went to sessions on food labeling, legislation changes, and farmer challenges and marketing – plus I met a few people who I expect will be resources for future articles.
If you are an agro-journalist, or a writer interested in branching off into these markets, here are a few tips to help connect with farmers and get ideas for articles:
- Look for your local cooperative extension. I’m fortunate to live in a place where agriculture is a big part of the local economy. My local cooperative extension offers great classes on changes and challenges specific to our area. Plus, a new agricultural conference center is being built right in town! (Maybe I won’t have such a long commute to next year’s conference. Hint, hint.) And our community college has a sustainable agriculture track. Search for a cooperative extension near you.
- Join a local or state-level agriculture group. Use a general Internet search for this if you are not familiar with nearby groups. I’m a member of the Carolina Farm Stewardship, which is how I learned about yesterday’s conference.
- Go to farmers’ markets and talk to farmers. I usually ask market vendors about how best to prepare whatever they are selling. Then I shift into how the growing season is going, what items to expect soon, and sometimes that sparks a dialogue that triggers an article idea for me.