Land talks to focus on agriculture

RUTLEDGE -- Those interested in learning about locally grown food and conservation of agricultural land are invited to attend the 6th Annual Land Talks to be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge.

The meeting is a joint venture by Smart Growth Newton County, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, Friends of Walton County, and The Center for Community Preservation and Planning in Newton County.

"Each year we have the forum in a different county. It's being held in Morgan County this year. This is designed to be a forum for continued conversation about this region of Georgia," said Christine McCauley, executive director of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy. "We have a lot of natural agricultural and historic resources in this part of the state, and these three counties have been active in trying to help plan for development and conservation of those resources for a number of years."

Topics up for discussion will include the global picture of agriculture, land conservation easements, transfer of development rights, regulations and tax issues that farmers should know, and locally grown crops.

"The sole purpose is to illustrate the local food markets and discuss opportunities that exist in this region to engage in those economic markets," McCauley said.

Asked who should attend, McCauley responded, "Anybody that eats." Farmers, people in the food industry and those with an interest in farming or locally grown food may have a special interest.

Speakers will include Jeff Dorfman, professor at UGA's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; Alice Rolls, executive director for Georgia Organics; and Craig Page, the founder of Promoting Local Agriculture and Cultural Experience in Athens.

Speakers will be followed by a panel discussion and question-and-answer session. Representing Newton County will be Commissioner Mort Ewing and Corey Musser, manager of Burge Organics. Also on the panel are Bobby Smith, Morgan County extension agent; Jason Mann of Farm 255 in Athens; and Chuck Anglin, Morgan County tax assessor.

The meeting will be held at Pavilion 1 in the park. Those in attendance are invited to bring a picnic to enjoy during the meeting. Tea and lemonade will be provided. There is a $5 parking fee charged by the park.

Hard Labor Creek State Park is located at 5 Hard Labor Creek Road in Rutledge. For more information, call the Madison-Morgan Conservancy at 706-342-9252.