Growers, farmers, gardeners and agri-business folk still have time to register for the 35th Long Island Agricultural Forum (Ag Forum) at Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus in Riverhead on Thursday and Friday, January 14 and 15.
Over the two days of the conference, general and specialty sessions will address issues critical to successful agriculture on our island. From trends in federal labor law to the latest on potatoes, from sustainable practices to the status of honeybees, the days will be packed with important up-to-date information delivered by experts, as well as the opportunity to accrue important pesticide re-certification credits. Breakout sessions are divided into areas of interest: such as tree fruit;l viticulture (including a presentation by Edible columnist and Bedell winemaker Richard Olsen-Harbich); livestock & poultry; and greenhouse/floriculture. There will also be time to browse the trade show.
While attendance, which typically averages about 300, is 90 percent commercial growers, around 10 percent are home and master gardeners.
While attendance, which typically averages about 300, is 90 percent commercial growers, around 10 percent are home and master gardeners. This year there may be more; organizers are especially excited about an NSLGA (Nassau Suffolk Landscape Gardeners Association) presentation for homeowners and master gardeners on Thursday afternoon on encouraging pollinators through natural landscapes. Polly L. Weigand, senior soil district technician for the Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation District, will present. She says that a third of what we eat is pollinated by native species. These species are threatened by development but, she says, smart gardening can actually help these critters thrive.
“The value of native pollinators are commonly under-recognized; however, pollination services provided by native bees and butterflies provide over 33 percent of our food resources and annually support $24 billion dollars of agricultural production,” Weigand says. “Unfortunately, this keystone group of native pollinators and its ecosystem services are increasingly at risk, in part due to habitat loss, with the iconic monarch butterfly serving as an alarming indicator of this trend. The good news is that native pollinators can easily be supported and protected through an array of conscientious landscape planting and management practices, which will be highlighted in the presentation ‘Landscaping for Pollinators.'”
Both home-based and commercial growers will want to learn about sustainable strategies for combating basil downy mildew. Another new topic is Long Island pollution prevention strategy.
Also on the schedule is Edible Long Island contributor and author T.W. Barritt, who will be guest speaker for the Thursday night dinner at Riverhead’s Polish Hall. Barritt, a food writer and communications consultant who tells the stories of individual farmers, oystermen and food entrepreneurs in his book Long Island Food: A History from Family Farms & Oysters to Craft Spirits, will discuss how Long Island’s rich farming and maritime past has inspired a food renaissance that is redefining the future of what is grown and eaten throughout the region. Tickets for that dinner are available to the public; $28pp and include dinner, cash bar. For reservations, please call 631-727-7850 ext. 341.
Registration for the conference is $45/person. For more information or a registration form, call Melissa Elkins at 631-727-7850, ext 341, or download a PDF for the complete schedule.