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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 Arkansas Project Manager, Senchel Matthews.

My First SSAWG Conference Through the Eyes of a New Heiferite

Photo by Chris Carmichael, courtesy of Heifer International

The Southern SAWG Conference was 4 days of networking,communication and enlightenment.  Theconference provided 1200 participants the opportunity to learn about variousmethods and techniques that will improve their yields, lands and/or managementstyle regardless if you were a novice or an expert.  I had the opportunity on countless occasionsto interact with farmers, agricultural educators, representatives fromgovernment agencies and the private sector from 13 states.  It was also very impressive to see that someof the farmers and a few of the presenters had historical or current ties withHeifer International in some way.  One ofmy most memorable moments occurred during the Arkansas Networking session thattook place Thursday evening.  The roomwas filled with a diverse group of farmers that shared concerns, successstories and offered each other support when needed.  It felt good to know that farmers cared aboutproducing quality food that will not only improve their ability to make aliving wage but provide the masses with key nutrition that is often omittedfrom our daily diets.  During theconference one of the presenters made the profound statement that far too manyAmericans “have bellies that are full but they are still starving.”  The current topics of food security andensuring that sustainable farming practices are passed down to the nextgeneration was not just keynotes for some presenters but an overarching themethat was discussed casually during conversations amongst attendees duringbreaks or meals.   Whether you came to learn about hoop houses,the Farm Bill, beneficial bugs vs. pests, the importance of nutrient rich soil,community organizing, farm finances or how to mix livestock…we all walked awaywith a clearer understanding that sustainable agriculture is vital to ourlong-term success and we must equip all citizens with the education of wheretheir food comes from and how it will impact their health once they consume it.

 TheSouthern SAWG Conference was truly time well spent.


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.