The Daily Dirt

Behind the Conference: Mark Dempsey

Mark Dempsey of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association will be speaking during the Transitioning to Organic conference session with the help of NRCS: TSPs and CAP 138s Saturday Session.

What role do you play in the local, organic food movement?

I assist growers throughout the Southeast transition to certified organic production, implement conservation practices on the farm, and also help them improve management in the field. This means helping them navigate the organic certification process by guiding them through the intricacies of the rules of the National Organic Program, assisting with paperwork, and evaluating their operation in-person. Another important aspect of this is writing conservation plans for growers in the organic transition. These plans bring organic certification within reach by completing several key steps in the process, and enable growers to access funds through the USDA to implement a variety of conservation practices aimed to protect soil, water and air. These conservation plans also provide a framework for integrating and balancing management goals for crops, cover crops, soil, weeds and other pests, and can prove to be a useful farm management guide.

Why are you excited to present about your topic and what are some key takeaways attendees will get from your session?

Because there are so many aspects to running a farm business, growers might feel they don’t have the time or money to take the steps toward organic certification or better management in the field. I’m excited to share my experience working as a Technical Service Provider who writes conservation plans geared toward organic transition, which conveniently package together organic certification preparation with access to funding through the NRCS intended to improve conservation measures on the farm. The takeaway for the session is simple: the NRCS and partner organizations are here to help in very tangible ways – this particular conservation plan helps growers considering taking these steps but who feel too constrained to do so on their own.

What is your vision for the future of organic farming in Georgia?

I envision the organic movement in Georgia continuing to grow in its many dimensions. I envision the number of organic farmers across the state continuing to balloon as people from all walks of life find reward in making a living from raising plants and livestock, and cultivating food for others and for themselves. I see the number of consumers growing, and folks caring more about growing and eating organic and sustainably-raised food. I envision restaurants and other food purveyors caring more about what they serve their customers. I envision better farmland management & stewardship across the state as the momentum from both growers and consumers garners larger acreages.

What about the Georgia Organics conference do you look forward to the most?

This will by my first Georgia Organics conference! I look forward to the impressive educational opportunities – always more to learn – and equally look forward to meeting growers, eaters and others involved in the organic movement in the Southeast. Connections with the people are just as important as staying informed and educated!

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