Family Farms, Rural Landscapes, and the Farm Bill

January 18, 2012
1:30 – 3:00PM Eastern
Hosted by The Horinko Group’s Water Division

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Download a PDF copy of the presentations.


This webinar, hosted by The Horinko Group’s Water Division, will explore some of the issues and opportunities tied to moving our nation forward on a path of sustainable agriculture practices, while strengthening small family farms and diversifying rural economies to foster more livable rural communities.

At the local, state, and federal levels, deliberations are ongoing on how best to chart a sustainable path forward. Many are attempting to craft and share the business case for sustainability. Efforts underway to address the next farm bill and future farm programs could have a profound effect on the family farm and rural communities. Rural landscapes support the natural capital that must be optimally utilized to feed a growing population while protecting the ecological services that natural systems provide us. Reclaiming and sustaining the economic vitality of rural communities is an imperative.

An uptick in consumer interest for local food systems and special attribute products present growing value-add and direct marketing opportunities for producers. Many farmers face financial challenges in diversifying and transitioning their operations to address these opportunities and lack access to viable local and regional markets. Local and regional food systems will likely play a much larger role if we are to secure a sustainable future. Federal policies and programs are cautiously responding to this changing market environment and a trend is emerging of “grow local, buy local.”

Influencers and change drivers point to the need for innovation and job creation in rural communities to ensure the long-term viability of rural America. Traditional economic models for business recruitment and retention simply don’t meet the needs of rural communities.
Grassroots entrepreneurship is part of the equation, but only part of it. There is a perceived need for incentive to mobilize and perhaps incubate small entrepreneurial operations during the transition to new practices, products, and markets. A number of organizations and programs offer technical assistance, innovation grants, assorted tools and other resources to help rural communities and growers in this transition, but more is needed.


Panelists include a seasoned line-up of professionals:

  • Richard Warner, Professor Emeritus, Natural Resource Ecology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Moderator)Richard (Dick) Warner is Professor Emeritus of Natural Resource Ecology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Warner is also Senior Scientist and Director of External Relations for the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center and Director of the
    Center for Community Adaptation. He has previously led the Illinois Water Resources Center, and the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program.

    His current research centers on sustainable natural resources management in urban and agricultural settings, as well as the integration of multiple natural resource objectives in agricultural policies and programs. He is also involved with the development of information technologies for economic development and regional food systems and is one of the leaders of the National Food Industry Market Maker network.

  • Robert Stewart, Executive Director, Rural Community Assistance PartnershipMr. Stewart has served as Executive Director of the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP) since January 2006. He has 25 years of experience in the rural utility field, including the provision of technical and training assistance to water and wastewater systems, water- quality management, regulatory compliance, financial and managerial capacity development, training for managers and boards of rural utilities, utility financing, contract management and consulting for local government entities.

    Formerly, he was the Executive Director for the Texas Water Utilities Association (TWUA), a 9,000-member professional association of water and wastewater operators. Prior to TWUA, he was employed at the Texas Rural Water Association (TRWA), where he served in several capacities, including State Contract Manager, Professional Development and Training Director, and Associate Executive Director. Prior to his employment with TRWA, he served as Texas Director for Community Resource Group, the Southern RCAP, where he oversaw a statewide program that provided direct, onsite technical assistance and training for small, low-income rural communities in the areas of water and wastewater utilities and affordable housing.

  • Mark “Coach” Smallwood, Executive Director, Rodale InstituteMark “Coach” Smallwood’s professional experience has been dedicated to environmental sustainability and organic farming. Previously, he served as the Mid-Atlantic Green Mission Specialist and Local Forager at Whole Foods, where he was a 2010 National Award Winner for “Best Whole Foods Market Spokesperson.”

    His career also includes the following roles: founder of an organic lawn care company, messenger for Al Gore’s Climate Project, school teacher, and basketball coach. Last, but certainly not least, as a long‐time organic farmer and biodynamic gardener, Mark has raised chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, and driven a team of oxen. Given his array of experiences, he is uniquely suited to lead the Rodale Institute.

  • Mark Gorman, Policy Analyst, Northeast-Midwest InstituteMark Gorman is a Policy Analyst at the Northeast-Midwest Institute, focusing on water and watershed issues. Prior to joining the Institute in 2009, he directed the Northwest Office of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), based in Meadville. While there, he worked with numerous partners from the private sector, government, communities and individuals in the upper Allegheny River and Great Lakes basins to promote sustainable use of built and natural landscapes, particularly by focusing on links between the environment, the economy and quality of life.

    Prior to working for the PEC, Mr. Gorman served over 22 years with the Northwest Region of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). There, he helped to launch PADEP’s new Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program statewide and directed that Program in PADEP’s Northwest Region. He was co-leader of the pilot PADEP regional watershed team effort (focused on the internationally-renowned French Creek watershed), and later co-chaired PADEP’s Lake Erie, French Creek and Oil Creek watershed team.

Who Should Attend?

This webinar is intended for NGOs interested in the future of rural landscapes and livable communites, federal and state natural resources professionals, agricultural research interests, extension specialists, local community planners, local officials including rural mayors and county board members, political science practitioners and students, sociologists, and educators and entreprenurial family farmers.

Join Us to Learn About

    • Current status of efforts to promote sustainable agricultural practices and strengthen the role of the family farm and more livable rural communities.


    • Opportunities to develop new markets for innovative farm products to support local and regional food systems.


    • Role of upcoming farm bill in calling attention to farm program reforms that more directly support the family farmer, new market development, and rural community redevelopment.


  • Perspective of leading practitioners, program managers, and advocates on efforts to more effectively rebuild rural landscapes and the communities they support.

Hear from the Experts

Learn from seasoned practitioners and advocates for stronger rural communities about what is happening and what is needed to reinvigorate rural communities and to strengthen the contribution of the small family farm. Find out the latest updates on farm market promotion strategies and grants and other emerging opportunities for local-regional food system assistance. Gain a better appreciation of other challenges confronting rural communities.