Conference focus is on small farmers

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By SUNNY LOCKWOOD

Nearly 100 people attended the third annual CalaverasGrown Farm Conference at Calaveras High School on Saturday to learn about small-scale agricultural pursuits throughout the county.

Designed to help small agricultural producers market their products and at the same time introduce the public to small farming possibilities, the conference included 22 displays by local farmers including those who do worm farming, raise Angora goats, produce olive oil and raise walnuts.

"It is clear there is a shift in agriculture in California," said CalaverasGrown President Ed Rich after the conference. "The era of large agriculture is waning. High value, small quantity-type products are the future of agriculture in this state."

Rich, whose olive oil business in Copperopolis is one of the county's first boutique ag-product successes, said the conference was filled with people enthusiastic about keeping Calaveras county agriculture a top priority.

"The thing is, you don't have to have 100 acres. You just have to have high quality, and you have to identify your market. That's the key," he said.

"Who is your customer?" was the theme of the keynote address by Stephen Kautz, president of Ironstone Vineyards.

One highlight of this year's conference was the introduction of the CalaverasGrown Farm Trails Map.

The glossy road map of the county illustrates farms, ranches and roadside stands, illustrating who grows what and when various crops are ripe.

"If you want apples, it shows you who grows apples in Calaveras, when they're ripe and whether that orchard is open to the public," said Rich.

He said the maps will be available at the Calaveras Visitors Bureau in Angels Camp and at various bed and breakfast inns throughout the county.

Contact Sunny Lockwood at slockwood@uniondemocrat.com .

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