The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project is kicking off the 2018 farm planning season with its annual Business of Farming Conference on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center in Asheville.

The conference focuses on the business side of farming, offering beginning and established farmers financial, legal, business and marketing tools to improve their farm businesses and make new professional connections.

“The Business of Farming Conference offers a way for farmers to inspire one another, learn from one another, gain technical and adaptive skills to implement into their farm businesses, and make connections and collaborations,” said Jodi Rhoden, a business coach at Mountain BizWorks. “This ultimately helps farmers to grow their operations and build more sustainable business models.”

Rhoden will teach at the conference as part of the farm business planning track led by Mountain BizWorks.

The conference offers more than 15 business, marketing and management workshops led by innovative farmers and regional professionals. Topics include improving sales at farmers markets, legal and insurance implications of agritourism, and managing farm lodging and rentals.

Workshops to be led by Haywood County farmers at the event include “Crafting Your Farm Story” by Anna Eason of Sunburst Trout Farms, “Community Supported Agriculture Options and Opportunities” by Stacey Thompson of Our Fiddlehead Farm, and “Selling to Restaurants” by Chuck Beane of Beane’s Greens.

The Grower-Buyer Meeting will return to the conference to enable farmers to meet one-on-one with local buyers from area restaurants, grocers and distributors.

Farmers also can start the conference on Friday with a half-day workshop on “Farm Succession Planning” or “Labor Challenges and Strategies” led by Mountain BizWorks and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Registration for the conference and Friday workshops is now open at asapconnections.org or by contacting ASAP at 828-236-1282.

Attendance is $75 per person registered by Jan. 31 and $95 beginning Feb. 1, with a discount for multiple farm registrants.

The Business of Farming Conference is made possible with support from Buncombe County Service Foundation, Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Farm Service Agency, Southern Risk Management Education Center, and Ward & Smith, P.A., and other community support. Breakfast and lunch featuring local farm products will be provided by main sponsors Ingles and Farm Burger.

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