As food prices continue to soar, researchers are predicting widespread food shortages that could leave grocery store shelves empty across the country, including South Carolina, where thousands of people go hungry each year.
The S.C. Organization for Organic Living is hoping to prevent those shortages with its Cultivate conference, which aims to strengthen the state’s food system by educating farmers and gardeners about growing and raising food sustainably and organically, according to Rebecca McKinney, executive director of the S.C. Organization for Organic Living.
“When a shortage does occur, we’re going to need our gardeners and farmers for food … most grocery stores across the country only have enough food for three days, so it’s very important that we support our local farms and provide them with the information they need to grow their businesses,” McKinney said. “Our food supply sort of depends on it.”
The conference will feature more than 20 workshops designed to teach both farmers and gardeners the ins and outs of adopting various sustainable growing methods and developing a healthy local food system.
According to McKinney, the workshops will explore healing plants and fungi, improving soil and pasture health, permaculture, animal farming, and agribusiness tips. Also, there will be various workshops for residents interested in farming or gardening.
“We’re going to be teaching a lot of things that would interest anyone who wants to start a farm or garden of their own,” McKinney said. “These workshops should provide them with the information they need to get started.”
One of the workshops will be taught by Nat Bradford, who is best known for reviving his family’s heirloom Bradford watermelons that were once extinct. Now, Bradford is owner of New Earth Farm and the Bradford Watermelon Company and sells pickled rind, watermelon molasses, juice for distilleries and more. At the conference, Bradford will be discussing how to maximize a product’s profitability with innovative, value-added items.
University of South Carolina professor Buz Kloot will be discussing various topics related to soil health, which will range from the basic biology of soil to the methods used to attain the best soil conditions possible for growing produce.
Chris Smith, of Asheville’s Sow True Seed, will be teaching people the seed life cycle for squash, tomatoes, beans, and basil. More specifically, the workshop will show farmers and gardeners how to save their seeds and reuse them from season to season.
The conference will also include workshops led by Greenville’s researchers, farmers, and organic grocers. For example, Furman University biology professor John Quinn will be teaching people how to manage farms and create a habitat to support beneficial species for pollination, biological control and recreation.
Also, Greenville’s Mary Walsh and Jacqueline Oliver will be discussing how U.S. Department of Agriculture grants can provide various benefits for businesses. The duo partnered in 2011 to open the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery just off the Swamp Rabbit Trail. A 2015 grant from the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program allowed Walsh and Oliver to expand their locally sourced grocery store from 2,600 square feet to 6,100 square feet.
When? Sat. March 4 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where? Greenville Technical College’s Culinary Institute of the Carolinas
How much? $65, includes a locally sourced breakfast and lunch and four workshops.
For more information, visit scorganicliving.com