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This past weekend, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) held their annual conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. Several of our Heifer staff were able to attend and have generously shared their reflections. This post is from Heifer's USA Country Program Transition Officer, Larissa Barry.

On the heels of the close ofthe annual conference, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group(SSAWG) shows its commitment to empowering small farmers across the South.  It’s a commitment that mirrors and supportsHeifer’s own mission and work here in the United States. 

And it makes perfect sense;in fact, we’ve been together on this path for many years.

Photo by Chris Carmichael, courtesy of Heifer International
Southern SAWG's mission is toempower and inspire farmers, individuals, and communities in the South tocreate an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically viable,socially just, and humane.  Heifer USAworks with communities to provide resources and technical assistance to endhunger and poverty and care for the Earth. 


The longer name of the conference isPracticalTools & Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms.  SSAWG has been one of the sources oftechnical assistance that Heifer USA has used to train and educate projectpartners for more than a decade.  The workshopsat the conference offer, as the name implies, very practical examples of thingsfolks can implement on their farms or in the communities immediately.  Things like improved irrigation for bettercrops and management of precious water resources or renewable energy optionsfor rural energy needs or how community organizing is key to making changes inthe food system or how to manage farm business finances.


At the 2012 conference, there wereover 1,200 participants from 20 states.  Therewere many faces that I recognized, not just from my involvement in the localsustainable ag circles, but the faces of Heifer project partners from acrossthe South.  There were current and pastproject farmers and folks from partner organizations, some regular attendeesand some coming for the first time.  Theneatest part is that some of Heifer’s past participants aren’t just conferenceattendees learning from the sessions, some of them were now conferencepresenters, passing on their gifts or knowledge and sharing the fruits of theirhard work.

Both the 2013 and2014 SSAWG conferences are scheduled to be in Little Rock and I know that HeiferUSA is already brainstorming about how we can continue to mutually benefit fromworking together.

Author

Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She has a master's in social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology. She is married, a mother of two, and a wannabe urban farmer, raising her own chickens and killing most of her vegetable crops.