By Frank Taylor
Winston County Self Help Cooperative wrangled with old man Winter and convened the 7th annual Saving Rural America & Youth Conference on Friday January 24, 2014 at the Louisville Coliseum.
Stiff winds from the north and a temperature below freezing set off alarms on the eve of WCSHC’s 7th SRA Conference according to Jean Harper. “As we congregated on Thursday afternoon, several members expressed significant concerns about impending weather conditions and how it would impact attendance. Cold weather normally trumps participation, however, on this day more than 230 farmers, landowners and students joined forces to help save rural America by extolling WCSHC’s 2014 conference theme of “Strengthening Rural Communities through Partnerships”.
“We work collectively and broadly to enhance opportunities in rural Americans through partnerships with various entities,” stated organizers.
This year’s conference highlighted WCSHC’s vast network with USDA, extension, state agencies, community-based organizations, non-profits and local governments to help rebuild communities, schools, health care facilities, jobs and families. The 7th Saving Rural America and Youth Conference started 7:30a.m with a live radio broadcast featuring co-op members, local elected officials and conference attendees. Minster Carnette Hudson offered prayer, Will Hill, Mayor of Louisville and Burr
Warner, County Supervisor District-one, delivered words of welcome.
Roger Jones, a former employee of Heifer International presentation “Multiplying your Gift” ignited participants and set forth a blissful path for other presenters to follow. Terri Tate of Rural Development explained the 504’s loan and grant program. Farm Service Agency Billy Lipsey highlighted documentation needed to obtain services through USDA as first time users and Doug Naron elaborated on micro, farm ownership, and youth loans. NRCS Kelvin Jackson explained rules and regulations of (EQIP) Environmental Quality Incentive Program. National Center for Appropriate Technology Felicia Bell asked farmers to use their services to find sustainable solutions to reduce poverty and promote healthy communities. Mississippi Association of Cooperatives Ben Burkett focused on marketing locally grown vegetables. Burkett said you should conduct a market analysis before planting crops. Alonzo & Peggy Miller dialogued on returning to Mississippi as beginning Farmers and services received through USDA and WCSHC.
Bill Kitchings of the Mississippi Forestry Commission conversed on certifying your forestlands and understanding the value of certification.
Carl James conference attendee of Uneedus, La said he enjoyed the camaraderie and the opportunity to share with individuals of similar interest in managing their natural resources. This event provided farmers and landowners an inter-personal window to ask service providers pertinent questions to help make relevant farm decisions. Kurt Readus, Mississippi’s State Conservationist and luncheon speaker emphasized NRCS’ role of serving landowner, farmers and others with conservation practices.
“We offer a plethora of services to benefit our customer base with soil, air, and water issues. I am encouraging you to contact your local office of Natural Resources Conservation Service to learn about other service to protect our ecosystem for future generations. Winston County Self Help Cooperative and Youth Groups convey thanks to everyone for participating in the 7th Saving Rural America & Youth Conference.
“Special thanks to Louisville Public Schools and Winston County Head Start Center for allowing their students and staff to participate,” stated organizers.