October 20, 2010

For the first time in its 11-year history, the Kentucky Women in Agriculture Conference will take place east of Lexington – this time in Carter County Oct. 27 through 29. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen A. Merrigan is the lunch speaker Oct. 28, speaking about “Know Your Farmer – Know Your Food.”

A pre-conference tour is set for Oct. 27 and includes a morning trip to the Chicken Coop Craft Mall, an actual chicken house that was converted into a craft mall, followed by a lunch tour at Smokey Valley Farm and dessert at Smokey Valley Truck Stop, featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” After dessert, the tour continues to Pat Rayburn’s Craft Farm. Rayburn recycles throw-aways into works of art. Registration for the main conference begins at 3 p.m. EDT at the Grayson Conference Center.

Evening activities include a tour and wine tasting at Rocksprings Winery and Vineyard and dinner made with locally grown products at Carter Caves State Resort Park. The evening entertainment is storytelling in Cascade Cave.

“Past participants expressed a desire to do something different this year,” said Gwenda Adkins, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture extension agent for family and consumer sciences in Elliott County and one of this year’s conference organizers. “I think we did that, and we found several ways to showcase Eastern Kentucky agriculture, art and culture.”

The agenda for Oct. 28 begins with breakfast and registration at 7:30 a.m., then buses leave the Grayson Conference Center at 8:30 a.m. for a unique, rolling concurrent-sessions format. One group will travel to Boggs Deer Farm, where deer have become a family business, and the Laurel Gorge Cultural Heritage Center to learn about the history of agriculture in Eastern Kentucky. Maggie Miles will discuss Community Supported Agriculture. A second group will travel to Garden Gate Greenhouse, a family-owned business that evolved during the downward spiral of the tobacco program, and Ramey Farm, where participants will learn the value of a high-tunnel greenhouse in extending the growing season.

A third group will tour the Midwest Biofuels Processing Facility in Wurtland and get an update on UK’s Switchgrass to Fuel pilot project from UK College of Agriculture Hay Specialist Tom Keene.

All groups will return to the conference center for lunch, where UK College of Agriculture Dean M. Scott Smith will introduce Merrigan as the keynote speaker. After lunch, Kentucky Women in Agriculture board member and one of its founders, Alice Baesler, will moderate an energy and agriculture panel including Kentucky State Representatives Rocky Adkins, Tonya Pullen and Jill York, and Kentucky State Senators Robin Webb and Walter Blevins.

Evening activities at the Olive Hill Historical Society include a silent auction, dinner, a presentation from Kentucky Women in Agriculture Board Member Jennifer Burke, entertainment by the Heritage Hoedowners and internationally known bluegrass artist Don Rigsby.

The final day of the conference begins with breakfast at 8 a.m., followed by business meetings and officer installations until 9:30 a.m. At 9:45 a.m. Mitchell Tolle will close out the conference. Originally from Lewis County, Tolle’s journey has taken him from the hills of Eastern Kentucky to national and international acclaim as one of the most noted Appalachian artists.

Registration is $75, which includes all main conference tours and meals. Pre-conference tour and first-night activities are an additional $25 each. More information is available online at http://www.kywomeninag.com. A conference hotel rate is available at the Guest House Inn and Suites in Grayson, 606-474-0000.

Directions to the Grayson Conference Center, 371 C.W. Stevens Blvd: Exit number 172 from Interstate 64, turn left if coming east, then right at the second light; turn right if coming west, then turn right at the first light. The conference center is on the right just before Kmart.