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Permalink Videos Demonstrate Tire Tank Preparation and Installation

Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has posted two short videos on how to prepare a used tire for conversion to a watering tank for cattle and how to install the tank once it is ready. Kerr Center Livestock Program Assistant Daryl Davis demonstrates how to plumb an old tire converted for use as a watering tank. The six-minute videos are available online.

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Permalink Winter High Tunnel Spinach Has Highest Sugar Content

Research at the University of New Hampshire has revealed that spinach grown in high tunnels during the coldest months of winter has the highest sugar content. A two-year study focused on the varieties Regiment, Space, and Tyee, planted at six different dates throughout the fall, to determine the most suitable spinach varieties and planting dates for winter production in New Hampshire in an unheated high-tunnel environment. In both years, researchers found a direct relationship between temperature and sugar content, with colder temperatures in the days leading up to harvest heightening the sugar content in the leaves. The researchers found that transplanting as late as mid-October did not negatively impact spring yields. "Spinach is a suitable crop for winter production in New Hampshire due to its ability to continue producing saleable leaves at very low-temperatures. Fall transplants into high tunnels can result in winter-long harvests and significant spring yields, providing an avenue for growers to meet strong consumer demand for local greens during the off season," graduate student Kaitlyn Orde said.

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Permalink Canadian Researchers Explore Potential of Eco-Buffers

The Manitoba Beef and Forage Initiative research farm is the site of a study on eco-buffers, dense, mixed plantings of native trees and shrubs between cropland and wetland. The eco-buffers are an enhanced version of a traditional shelterbelt, and they provide a range of ecosystem services: filter nutrients, trap sediment, sequester carbon, and provide wildlife habitat. The eco-buffer is likely to provide enough habitat for pollinators to result in improved crop yield. Because areas adjacent to wetland are typically poorly yielding farmland, farmers don't lose valuable cropland by converting these areas to eco-buffers.

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Permalink Rotational Grazing Helps Kentucky Farmer Look at Agriculture a New Way

In Marion, Kentucky, small-scale farmer Joseph Mast is using rotational grazing, moving his 20 cows up to six times a day, reports WFPL in an online feature. Mast says his new approach to grazing management means his animals are healthier and his land is more resilient and able to resist drought. Mast has become an observer of how different aspects of the ecosystem work together, which is helping him work with nature in his grazing management. Murray State University Animal Equine Science Chair O.L. Robertson is also a proponent of rotational grazing, pointing out that it makes economic sense for farmers to limit expensive inputs by relying on their available resources.

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Permalink Gratitude Farmland Fund to Focus on Regenerative Agriculture

Gratitude Railroad, an investment firm focused on educating, inspiring, convening, and catalyzing investors and investments in for-profit, mission-driven businesses, has announced the launch of the Gratitude Farmland Fund (GFF), a real asset fund targeting $40 million in capital commitments and focused on regenerative agriculture. GFF seeks to acquire farmland in regions where land is undervalued relative to production value. The Fund seeks to make its first investments in acquiring farms in the southeastern United States.

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Permalink Start to Farm Initiates New Farmer Training in Iowa

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is organizing Start to Farm: New Farmer Learning Network, a statewide program designed to provide education and support for beginning and early-career agricultural producers. Multiple groups will be organized throughout the state, with beginning farmers able to join a group that will be most beneficial to them through either a focus on farm enterprises or geography. Based on priorities and topics determined by each group, they will discuss production techniques, ways to grow and improve business practices, and farm management strategies. Registration for the program is requested, but there is no participation fee.

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Permalink Iowa Farmers Invited to Test Online Conservation Cost Tool

Iowa State University researchers are asking farmers in the state to test and provide feedback on an early online version of a tool to better understand the costs of implementing nutrient management and soil conservation practices. "We wanted to create a tool that mimics similar financial decision-support tools farmers are familiar with," Associate Professor John Tyndall said. "Comprehensive conservation cost tools like this haven’t existed before. This new tool covers most all reduction strategy BMPs and is designed to be updated and adjusted depending on scale of use and management characteristics." By providing farmers with information and decision reports similar to those available for other aspects of their production systems, Tyndall hopes that farmers find this tool useful for making the financial commitment to conservation.

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Permalink Oregon to Host First National Conference on Specialty Crop Grants

Oregon will host the inaugural meeting of state coordinators of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program from across the country in Portland this week. The National Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Coordinators Conference will bring in 68 representatives from 44 states and three U.S. territories, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), as well as the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). The agenda includes a national look at specialty crop statistics and new performance measures for those administering the program. Keynote speaker Craig Ostbo of Koopman Ostbo Marketing Communications will discuss marketing and promotion of specialty crop block grant projects. "The conference is an opportunity to learn how we can share and report the accomplishments of the program nationwide as well as how to do more effective outreach so that the industry knows the program is available," says ODA's Marketing Operations Manager Karla Valness, who has also helped plan the event.

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Permalink Farmers Market Posters Available Online Highlight Various Crops

Washington State Department of Agriculture is offering a series of printable posters for farmers markets online in PDF. The posters highlight leafy greens, beans and lentils, winter squash, and EBT at farmers markets. The crop posters describe different varieties and offer cooking tips and recipes.

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Permalink Registration Opens for 5th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture

Registration is now open for the 5th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture, an event that will bring together farmers, educators, technical assistance providers and activists engaged in healthy food and farming to share educational and organization strategies, build technical and business skills, and address policy issues aimed at expanding the success of women farmers and ranchers. The conference is scheduled November 30 through December 2, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. The event will feature keynote speaker Natasha Bowen, founder of the The Color of Food, a multimedia project focusing on Black, Latino, Native and Asian farmers. Participants will also enjoy eight concurrent, interactive workshop sessions, a trailblazer panel of venerable sustainable agriculture pioneers, a diverse sponsor trade show, author roundtable, incredible tours of area food and farms, and capstone speaker Cathy Whims, Chef and owner of Nostrana, a top Portland restaurant. This year, organization of the conference is being led by Oregon State University Small Farms with support from a national team of leaders in sustainable agriculture and agricultural women’s organizations.

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Permalink National Center for Appropriate Technology Celebrates 40th Anniversary

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) celebrated its 40th anniversary in Butte, Montana, on August 19 with the dedication of a 45kW solar array that will provide power for the organization's headquarters. Special guests attending the celebration included Isao Fujimoto, who was the original Associate Director of NCAT from 1976-77, and Dr. Jerry Plunkett, one of the key planners for the organization. Montana Governor Steve Bullock spoke at the event, acknowledging NCAT's historic and continued role as a leader in clean energy technology and sustainable agriculture.

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Permalink High Tunnel Tomato Production Increases Vegetables Grown in Kansas

Kansas Rural Center has posted a feature on how farmer Todd Griggs worked with K-State Research and Extension to develop a high tunnel system of tomato production on his Kansas farm. Griggs built his first high tunnel in 2012, added three more over the next few years, and plans another eight. The major crop is tomatoes, with bell peppers and cucumbers second and third in production. Growing tomatoes in high tunnels allows Griggs to harvest 12 to 14 pounds more marketable fruit per plant than he can by using only field production. Seeds are started in a propagation chamber with lights, frost blankets, and electric heaters around January 10, and transferred to grow bags filled with rice hulls in March. Trellis systems support the growing tomatoes, and shade cloth moderates temperatures. Griggs has fine-tuned and adapted his production system as needed.

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Permalink Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Grants Announced

USDA logoUSDA has announced a new investment of $17.8 million for 37 projects to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). This year's awards will be made in 27 states and the District of Columbia to help fund a range of projects by partner organizations. A list of funded projects with abstracts is available online. The National Center for Appropriate Technology received grants for Building Farm Foundations and Planning for Success: Beginning Farmer Training for Military Veterans in the Intermountain West and in the Northeast.

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Permalink More Biodiverse Grasslands Provide Higher Level of Ecosystem Services

A study a published in Nature by more than 60 researchers from numerous universities found that a diverse ecosystem populated by many species from all levels of the food chain provides higher levels of ecosystem services. These include food production, alongside supporting services such as soil development, regulating services such as pest control and climate regulation, and cultural services such as the use of the grassland for recreation. The researchers collected data on a total of 4,600 species of animal and plant from nine trophic groups, including often-neglected ones such as micro-organisms in the soil and insects that live in the soil or on the plants. Maintaining high levels of diversity among plants, insects, and soil organisms proved more economical and wiser in the long term than destroying biodiversity in any one group to promote short-term gains.

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Permalink UK Research Links Wild Bee Decline with Neonicotinoid Insecticide Use

Exposure to neonicotinoid seed treated oilseed rape crops has been linked to long-term population decline of wild bee species across the English countryside, according to research led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. The study examined changes in the occurrence of 62 wild bee species in conjunction with oilseed rape cropping patterns across England between 1994 and 2011. The scientists found evidence suggesting that neonicotinoid use is linked to large-scale and long-term decline in wild bee species distributions and communities. The decline was, on average, three times stronger among species that regularly feed on the crop, compared to species that forage on a range of floral resources.

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Permalink OFRF Analyzes USDA Organic Research

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released an analysis of organic research funded by the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) and Organic Transitions (ORG) competitive research grant programs. OFRF and a team of advisors analyzed 189 organic agriculture research, education, and extension projects on a range of organic farming topics, finding that many of the projects delivered valuable information and tools to organic producers, while others laid the groundwork for future outcomes, including research data, new methods, and advanced plant breeding lines. The analysis was published in a report titled Taking Stock: Analyzing and Reporting Organic Research Investments, 2002 - 2014, which is available online in PDF.

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Permalink California Survey Shows Growers Find Food Safety and Conservation Requirements Inconsistent

Research published in California Agriculture reports on a survey of 588 California produce growers, regarding on-farm practices related to food safety and conservation. The survey found that although most respondents considered both food safety and environmental protection to be important responsibilities, on-farm practices vary substantially even among farms with similar characteristics. According to the study authors, this variability suggests inconsistencies in food safety requirements, auditors' interpretations, or growers' perception of the demands of their buyers. The authors contend that growers, natural resources, and food safety would benefit from clearer, more consistent requirements.

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Permalink Local Foods Marketplace Invites Artisan Food Entrepreneurs to Apply

Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, held in December in Rochester, Minnesota, hosts more than 100 vendors from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota who show, sample, and sell their artisan food products to wholesale buyers and consumers. The jury-selected exhibitors also have a half-day of networking and sharing about best practices for growing their small food businesses. Businesses selected to attend and exhibit are operating at a distributor-ready scale and utilizing locally grown ingredients in their supply chains. Feast! Local Foods Marketplace is co-hosted by the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation and Renewing the Countryside.

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Permalink California Nitrogen Assessment Presents Picture of Impacts, Highlights Options

The California Nitrogen Assessment, a new report from the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at the University of California, Davis, presents a big picture of the scale and impacts of nitrogen in the state. The report offers a scientific foundation to develop practices and policies that balance nitrogen's benefits and harm. The seven-year, multi-institutional assessment identifies how much nitrogen enters the state, where it is used, and its eventual fate. The report shows that excess nitrogen in the state comes primarily from agriculture and fuel combustion. Much of the excess nitrogen from crops leaks into soil and eventually the state's groundwater. Sixteen percent of the state's net nitrogen imports each year accumulate in groundwater, and 11% of nitrogen from crop land and livestock is lost as air pollution. The report also highlights practices farmers and ranchers can use to decrease nitrogen losses and save money, such as reducing nitrogen application rates and timing nitrogen application closely with irrigation.

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Permalink Spreadsheet Tool Helps Beef Cattle Mangers Decide on Early Weaning

Cornell University's Beef Cattle Management team has created a spreadsheet designed to help you decide if weaning early is financially viable. The assumption is that by weaning early and providing the best feed for the calves you can provide less expensive feed to the cows, thus reducing cost and/or extending pasture. Early Wean Decision Tool is available for online download.

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Permalink Farmbytes Offer Video Introductions to Small-Farm Topics

University of Minnesota Extension Small Farms Team has introduced Farmbytes, a series of short, online, self-guided video introductions to a variety of topics related to your small farm. The goal of the Farmbytes series is to provide useful, practical, relevant information in the form of easily digestible lessons with more resources for those who want to drill down further. Farmbytes have been posted on fencing systems, soil sampling, marketing local food, making a poultry feeder, watering system designs for rotational grazing, and more.

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Permalink New York Launches State Grown and Certified Food Program

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has launched the New York State Grown & Certified program and announced a new $20 million food hub in the Bronx to increase access to farm-fresh produce. The New York State Grown & Certified program identifies and promotes New York producers who adhere to New York's food safety and environmental sustainability programs, and assures consumers that the food they are buying is local and produced at a higher standard. According to the governor's office, New York State Grown & Certified is the first state program in the nation to combine modern food safety standards with environmental stewardship to achieve a premium level of certification. The Department of Agriculture and Markets will work with New York State producers across all commodities to assist them in qualifying for the voluntary certification program.

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Permalink Grassland Field Margins Provide Habitat for Pollinating Moths

A study by the University of Liverpool in the UK, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, showed that creating grassland habitat at the edge of arable farming fields increased populations of macro-moth species. These moths play an important role as pollinators, but their populations have been in decline. The study results showed the abundance of grassland moths 40% higher on wide grass margins, demonstrating that even small-scale habitat creation can benefit moth populations.

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Permalink Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers Now Available Online

The Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers (WSBDF), the first course of its kind, is now available online. The WSBDF, which is going into its 22nd year, is a cooperative effort of the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Farm and Industry Short Course at the UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. The online course offers the same curriculum as the WSBDF pasture-based dairy and livestock seminar offered on campus and at distance-learning sites. The course emphasizes dairy and beef production, but goat and sheep production are also covered. Participants have access to live recordings of WSBDF lectures addressing topics including business planning, farm selection and setup, parlor design, livestock health, organic production and principles, marketing, soil nutrient management, and much more. Students who complete three exams and submit a business plan will receive a certificate of course completion.

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Permalink North Central Region SARE Awards Research & Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development Grants

North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has announced the projects recommended for funding for the 2016 Research and Education, Graduate Student, and Professional Development competitive grant programs. Through these three programs, 34 projects by researchers, graduate students, organizations, agricultural educators, and others who are exploring sustainable agriculture in America's Midwest were awarded more than $2.6 million. The funded projects are listed online, and descriptions are also available.

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Permalink Pollinators in Corn and Soybean Fields Surveyed

Researchers from Iowa State University surveyed pollinator populations in corn and soybean fields, reports the Entomological Society of America. Thirty-four species were collected in both crops, 19 were collected only in corn, and seven were collected only in soybeans. The survey found that the most abundant insects in both crops were solitary, ground-nesting bees, which accounted for 65% of the insect pollinators collected. Honey bees and bumble bees, on the other hand, accounted for only 0.5% of all insects captured. Researchers suggested that to protect the ground nesting bees, farmers should consider no-till practices and planting prairie strips. Boosting pollinator populations has been found in previous studies to increase soybean yields by up to 6%.

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Permalink Roundtable Scheduled on Consumer Perceptions of Organic Claims on Non-Agricultural Products

USDA logoThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will co-host a public roundtable in Washington, DC on October 20, 2016, to discuss consumers' interpretations of certain "organic" claims. The roundtable will help the agencies better understand how consumers perceive "organic" claims for non-agricultural products, such as personal care products. The roundtable is free and open to the public. It will be held at the FTC's Constitution Center Building, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20024.

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Permalink Central Valley Habitat Exchange Compensates Landowners for Wildlife Habitat

The Central Valley Habitat Exchange is a new program creating opportunities for farmers and ranchers to conserve and restore habitat for at-risk wildlife in California's Central Valley. The exchange will facilitate investment in conservation and restoration of vital Central Valley habitat by promoting, monitoring, and assisting in the exchange of habitat credits. The exchange is prioritizing the development of measurement tools that describe the habitat needs of the following species: Chinook salmon, Swainson’s hawk, Riparian songbirds, Giant garter snake, and Monarch butterfly. The exchange is a collaboration among American Rivers, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Point Blue Conservation Science, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, Department of Water Resources, California Trout, Environmental Incentives, California Department of Conservation, Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV), and Audubon California. A one-page fact sheet on the program is available online.

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Permalink Research Abstracts Sought for 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in partnership with the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, invites the submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017, in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG). Researchers are asked to submit an abstract not to exceed 500 words by October 1, 2016. Presentations will be selected based on their innovative excellence, relevance to the research needs and priorities of organic farmers and ranchers, soundness of the methodology used, and the overall scientific quality.

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Permalink Michael Fields Agricultural Institute Seeks Executive Director

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), located in East Troy, Wisconsin, has been a leading innovator in the movement for profitable, environmentally sound, and socially responsible agriculture for 30 years. The Board of Directors of MFAI is seeking a dynamic Executive Director to shepherd this $1.2-million nonprofit institute into the future, beginning in January 2017. This position reports directly to the Board of Directors, and is responsible for the organization’s consistent progress in meeting its mission-driven goals and fiscal objectives.

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