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Permalink USDA Announces Grants to Aid Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers

USDA logoUSDA has announced $8.4 million in grants that will be used by organizations in 24 states to provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal, and veteran farmers and ranchers. The fund will be awarded through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program. "The grants announced today will be leveraged by local partners and help bring traditionally underserved people into farming, as well as veterans who want to return home to rural areas," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. A list of grant recipients is available online.

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Permalink USDA Revitalizes Organic Portal

USDA logoUSDA has launched an updated version of its organic portal. The portal connects website visitors with programs, services, and educational materials that can help an organic farm or business, such as organic certification cost share assistance, organic price reporting, organic crop insurance, and conservation programs.

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Permalink California Farm Academy Accepting Applications for 2017

The California Farm Academy is a seven-month program that provides an intensive overview of what it takes to succeed as a farmer. It's held part-time at the Land-Based Learning headquarters in Winters, California. Over 30 weeks from February to September, students gather at the incubator farm to learn and practice basic crop planning and production, soil science, pest management, irrigation methods and other field and greenhouse work. The academy also spends considerable time on the business aspects of running a farm successfully: writing a business plan, obtaining financing, risk management, record-keeping, food safety, and even decision-making and problem-solving. Class sessions for 2017 are held from February through September. Applications for the 2017 season are due by November 14, 2016.

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Permalink USDA Announces Grants for Local and Regional Food Systems, Farmers Markets, and Organic Research

USDA logoUSDA has announced more than $56 million in grants to strengthen local and regional food systems, support farmers markets, and fund organic research. First, $26 million in Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grants will fund more than 100 projects that will support rural economies, increase market opportunities for farmers, and help close supply chain gaps in communities across the country. Meanwhile, Organic Research and Extension Program grants will provide $21.4 million for 26 projects to help organic farmers and ranchers improve business operations and bring more organic food to the table of consumers. Finally, $8.6 million in Community Food Projects grants will go to 33 projects that help make healthy, nutritious foods available to people from low-income neighborhoods. In conjunction with the funding announcements, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $48.1 million in available fiscal year 2017 funding through the Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) to support systems-based research and extension activities that accelerate science-based solutions and new technology for the specialty crop industry.

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Permalink Organic Farming Research Foundation Releases Research Agenda

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has released its 2016 National Organic Research Agenda. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the challenges facing today's organic farmers and will serve as a key tool in advocating for increased public investment in organic agriculture. More than 1,000 organic farmers and ranchers across the U.S. participated in OFRF's online survey, and additional input was gathered through listening sessions. Based on this feedback, OFRF recommends intensified research funding and attention in the areas of soil health and fertility management, weed, insect, and disease management, and the nutritional benefits of organic food. The full report is available online for download.

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Permalink ARS Scientists Develop New Blackberry and Blueberry Varieties

USDA logoUSDA Agricultural Research Service scientists in Oregon have developed and released two new berry varieties. The Baby Blues blueberry is a vigorous, high-yielding, small-fruited, machine-harvestable highbush cultivar with outstanding fruit quality. It should thrive in milder areas where northern highbush blueberries are grown and produces small fruits suited to processing. A new thornless, trailing blackberry cultivar named Columbia Giant is a high-quality, high-yielding, machine-harvestable blackberry with firm, sweet fruit. Due to its extremely large size, Columbia Giant will mostly be sold in the fresh market.

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Permalink Topic Brief on High Tunnels and Season Extension Available from SARE

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) has published a new topic brief titled High Tunnels and Other Season Extension Techniques. The four-page PDF can be handed out at conferences and field days to farmers, ranchers, educators, and community members. Topics covered in the print brief and its online companion topic room include structure types and construction, cultivar selection, and management of fertility, pests, water, and temperature. The collection of practical resources is useful for experienced growers and those who are new to season extension.

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Permalink NCAT Seeks Demonstration Farm Manager

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is seeking a Demonstration Farm Manager for its Gulf States Regional Office. This is an exciting opportunity for a motivated, enthusiastic individual to grow and manage a small-scale demonstration farm and to share their knowledge with young people, community members, and other farmers in the region. This full-time position requires a strong, practical knowledge of agricultural skills and farm management and a passionate commitment to providing specific foods for improved public health. The manager has primary responsibility for the planning, coordination, and implementation of all work and activities at the NCAT Demonstration Farm. The land has approximately two to three acres available for horticulture production, as well as 120 acres available for grazing and animal husbandry. The location of the Demonstration Farm will be Piney Woods School, an independent historically African-American boarding school located about 20 miles south of Jackson. Applications will be accepted until a suitable candidate can be identified.

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Permalink Pennsylvania Receives Grant to Implement Produce Safety Rule

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has received a $6.3 million grant from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to assist the state's growers in meeting expectations under FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The funding, spread across five years, gives the department resources to implement a produce safety system, develop and provide education and outreach, and to develop programs to address the specific and unique needs of the growers in Pennsylvania’s farming communities. Pennsylvania was one of 42 states to receive a portion of the $21.8 million in total funding.

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Permalink Research Finds Black Tarps Suppress Weeds for Organic Vegetables

Research at the University of New Hampshire showed that a growing system combining cover crops with black tarps provides weed suppression for no-till organic vegetable production. At the Woodman Horticultural Research Farm, researchers planted a cover crop of rye and hairy vetch in the fall and flattened it in the spring with a roller-crimper. They then covered the mulch with black tarps, clear tarps, or no tarps. When the tarps were removed, researchers planted cabbage directly into the cover-crop mulch. "The weed suppression where there was a black tarp is nearly 100% six weeks after transplanting, whereas there is substantial weed growth and/or vetch regrowth in the other treatments. Clear tarps rapidly killed the cover crops and weeds, but the weed suppression did not last. Where there was no tarp at all, there is substantial vetch regrowth," agroecology doctoral student Natalie Lounsbury reported.

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Permalink Orchard Management Can Produce More Desirable Hard Cider Apples

Cornell University research is revealing ways in which apples grown with specific orchard management practices can produce more desirable hard cider. For hard cider, a heavier crop load, with smaller, bitter fruits may be better, because the smaller apples have a higher concentration of polyphenols. "Greater polyphenol content gives the perception that there is a greater amount of mouthfeel in the cider, and that’s a vital aspect to the consumer experience," says Assistant Professor of horticulture Gregory Peck. "By focusing on fruit quality characteristics that are desirable for cider production, orchard managers can produce better apples to fuel this growing market segment."

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Permalink Agenda and Proposals for Fall NOSB Meeting Available

USDA logoUSDA has posted a preliminary agenda and meeting materials, including proposals and discussion documents, on the NOSB Fall 2016 Meeting website. The meeting will be held November 16-18, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. During meetings, the NOSB listens to public comments, discusses agenda items, and then votes in a public forum. In addition to receiving public comment at the face-to-face meeting, the NOSB will listen to oral public comments via a webinar on November 3, 2016. Additional information is available online.

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Permalink Training Offered for New York Farmer Veterans Interested in Scaling Up

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be offering a weekly evening course from October 4 through November 8, 2016, "Baskets or Pallets for Farmer Veterans: Scaling up to meet your market channel." The course also includes two morning-long field trips. During this training, authors of the "Baskets to Pallets" curriculum will introduce a series of lectures, discussions, activities, videos, and other teaching resources designed to prepare small and mid-sized farmers in New York to enter new wholesale markets. The training is open to 20 veteran farmers in New York State on a first-come, first-served basis, with preregistration required by September 27, 2016.

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Permalink Schools and Communities Prepare for National Farm to School Month

October is National Farm to School Month, designated by Congress in 2010 to demonstrate the growing importance of farm to school programs as a means to improve child nutrition, support local economies, and educate children about the origins of food. The 2016 National Farm to School Month theme, One Small Step, highlights the simple ways anyone--from students, parents, and food enthusiasts to food producers and nutrition professionals--can take small steps to get informed, get involved, and take action to advance farm to school in their own communities and across the country. The National Farm to School Network is offering a variety of online resources for planning and celebrating National Farm to School Month in your community.

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Permalink Agroforestry Helps Achieve Sustainability in Food Production

University of Illinois researchers writing in Sustainability are promoting agroforestry as a means of achieving sustainability goals in conjunction with food production goals. They identify several environmental and economic benefits associated with agroforestry, and explore some of the policy and social barriers that are preventing wider adoption of agroforestry practices in the United States. The five agroforestry practices include alley cropping, silvopasture, riparian buffers, windbreaks, and forest farming.

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Permalink CSA Member Agreement Workbook Offered by Farm Commons

Farm Commons has released a new online workbook that makes the process of writing an excellent CSA member agreement easy and straightforward. The free workbook helps farmers create a unique agreement that accurately reflects their individual operation. Whether sales occur online, via sign-up sheets, or anywhere in between, this resource can help. The workbook explains the legal best practices for drafting a CSA member agreement then gives examples for how individual farms might make those principles a reality, on paper.

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Permalink Farm to Preschool Toolkit Available Online

ASAP's Growing Minds Farm to School program has compiled a number of resources in a Farm to Preschool Toolkit, available online. The toolkit contains information about getting started with farm to preschool, rules and regulations, and recommendations for local procurement. It also features monthly resources such as pre-K lesson plans, "This Week in the Garden" activity guides, and "Farm to School Goes Home" weekly newsletters.

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Permalink American Farmland Trust's Farmers Market Celebration Announces Winners

American Farmland Trust's summer-long Farmers Market Celebration has concluded with the announcement of the farmers markets that were most endorsed for their focus on farmers, healthy food access, community involvement, and environmental stewardship, as well as the people's choice award. Winter Garden Farmers Market in Florida was the cross-category winner. Now in its seventh year, the celbration raises national awareness about the loss of America's farmland and the impact of that loss on local, healthy food, drinking water, and critical wildlife habitat.

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Permalink Soil Management Could Help Mitigate Climate Change Impacts

New research from the University of Illinois and collaborating institutions across the Midwest shows that climate effects on maize yield can be mitigated by soil water-holding capacity and soil organic matter. The team obtained weather, soil, and yield data from every county in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania across a span of 15 years. They then used a new analytical approach, which borrowed from economic concepts, to determine the effects of weather and soil properties on maize yield. Soil organic matter and water holding capacity were the factors that most contributed to yield stability. Researcher Adam Davis suggests a number of practices to increase soil organic matter, including using cover crops, avoiding excessive soil disturbance, increasing crop rotation length, and adding composted manures.

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Permalink Capture the Heart of America Photo Contest Accepting Entries

Entries are being accepted until September 28, 2016, for Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area’s (SSNHA) annual Capture the Heart of America Photo Contest. From day-to-day life on the family farm to the ever-changing agricultural industry, agriculture has proven to be one of America’s most compelling stories. Through the contest, photographers from across the country can share their own piece of this important story as they see it through their camera lenses. Photos may be taken anywhere in the United States of America, except for one category dedicated to SSNHA Partner Sites.

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Permalink Penn State Research Shows Eggs from Small Flocks More Likely to Be Contaminated with Salmonella

A six-month study of more than 6,000 eggs from 240 farmers markets or roadside stands across Pennsylvania showed that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis than eggs sold in grocery stores, according to Penn State researchers. Eggs from five selling points, or 2% of the total, tested positive, with one sales point containing the bacteria in egg shells and the other four having Salmonella enteritidis in internal contents. "These findings emphasize the importance of small-producer education on Salmonella enteritidis control measures and perhaps implementation of egg quality-assurance practices to prevent contamination of eggs produced by backyard and other small layer flocks," noted lead researcher Subhashinie Kariyawasam.

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Permalink Certified Organic Survey Results Show Sales Up 13% Nationally

USDA logo USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has released the results of the 2015 Certified Organic Survey, which show that 12,818 certified organic farms in the United States sold a total of $6.2 billion in organic products in 2015, up 13% from 2014. The value of sales from livestock and poultry products led the way ($1.9 billion) followed by vegetables ($1.4 billion); fruits, tree nuts, and berries ($1.2 billion); livestock and poultry ($743 million), and field crops ($660 million). California and Wisconsin had the largest number of certified organic farms with 2,637 and 1,205 respectively. The industry shows potential for growth in production as existing organic producers are transitioning another 151,000 acres nationally to organic production. The first point of sale for 75% of all U.S. organic farms and ranches was within 100 miles of the farm. Additionally, 71% of organic farms and ranches reported selling products to wholesale markets, 36% sold directly to consumers, and 22% sold directly to retail markets and institutions.

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Permalink USDA Announces Restoration Strategy for Gulf-Area Agricultural Lands

USDA logoUSDA has announced a new three-year, $328 million restoration strategy to improve water quality and help coastal ecosystems heal following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The strategy will guide how USDA will steer conservation efforts on private lands in priority areas of the Gulf of Mexico region. From now through 2018, NRCS will help agricultural producers plan and implement conservation improvements to 3.2 million acres in priority areas, which ultimately result in cleaner water and healthier ecosystems. Assistance is provided through Farm Bill programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). This targeted strategy focuses on improving and increasing water, restoring coastal ecosystems, and leveraging local, state and federal partnerships in more than 200 Gulf-area counties and parishes.

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Permalink USDA Farm to School Grant Webinars Scheduled

USDA logoThe USDA Farm to School Grant Program is accepting applications until December 8, 2016. To assist eligible applicants, USDA hosting several webinars to review the RFA and answer questions about the application process. The completed webinars will be posted online for reference. A general overview webinar or all interested parties is set for September 29, 2016, 1:00 pm ET. A specific webinar for state agency applicants is scheduled October 4, 2016 at 1:00 pm ET. A webinar for tribal partners and those interested in partnering with tribal organizations will be held October 6, 2016, 1:00 pm ET.

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Permalink Family Farm Legacies Addressed in New Book

The Future of Family Farms: Practical Farmers' Legacy Letters Project, just published by University of Iowa Press, gathers more than 25 families' letters and stories about the land they cherish. Writers discuss how they acquired their land, what they treasure most about it, and their hopes for its future. Favorite memories are included in the book as well, including favorite crops raised, children’s antics on the farm, dealing with volatile weather, and more. "The Future of Family Farms is a timely and important new book," says Julia Freedgood of the American Farmland Trust. "The Practical Farmers stories are both moving and relevant, reinforcing the need for families not only to have shared commitment but also a vision and plan for the future--whether they've been farming for more than a hundred years or are beginning farmers." Practical Farmers of Iowa offers landowners help for writing their own farm legacy letters to aid in addressing farmland succession issues.

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Permalink Washington State University Extension Reports on Beef Tenderness Research Findings

A 12-year study by Washington State University Extension explored how beef tenderness might be guaranteed. The study identified bulls with a high tenderness ranking and bred them to normal cows. Resulting heifers were tested for tenderness, and the top scorers were retained to produce additional generations. After several generations, tender individuals were consistently produced, showing that tenderness is an inherited trait. Furthermore, the ranking process used in the test was accurate in predicting tenderness. With guaranteed tender meat, producers should obtain more than $300 more per animal, with less finishing cost and less fat in the final product.

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Permalink FDA Seeks Public Input on Antimicrobials in Animal Agriculture

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agency requests information from the public about how to establish appropriately targeted durations of use for the approximately specific therapeutic products with no defined duration of use, in order to foster stewardship of medically important antimicrobial drugs. Specifically, for certain species and disease indications listed in its Federal Register notice, the FDA wants to obtain additional information on the underlying diseases requiring these drugs for therapeutic purposes, and periods when livestock or poultry are at risk of developing these diseases. In addition, FDA is asking for information on more targeted antimicrobial use regimens for these diseases and husbandry practices that may help avoid the need for these antimicrobials, or that may help make more targeted antimicrobial use regimens more effective. FDA is accepting public comments for 90 days beginning on September 14, 2016.

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Permalink How Orchard Netting Is Helping with Climate Change Adaptation

One horticultural technique that is helping tree fruit growers in the Northwest adapt to climate change is orchard netting, writes horticulture graduate student Brendon Anthony in a post for the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. Shade-cloth orchard netting was originally developed to help protect fruit from sunburn damage, but now orchardists are finding that it can also protect fruit from wind, untimely precipitation, and pests and pathogens. Photoselective colored netting may help with fruit set, fruit size, coloration, and other attributes, as well. This could help improve the predictability of production, even as climate uncertainties increase.

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Permalink Video Showcases Elderberries as a Commercial Crop

University of Vermont Center for Sustainable Agriculture has released a 9-minute video titled Elderberries as a Commercial Crop for Vermont Farmers . The video explores the uses, varieties, and cultivation practices for elderberries. Experts note that although the market is not yet fully developed, the crop is simple to grow in its native climate and has multiple uses.

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Permalink Photo Guide to Silvopasture Available Online

The Photo Guide to Northeastern United States Silvopastureis available online in PDF. The 23-page guide is the result of research investigating silvopasture practices on farms in New York and New England by Paul Smith's College Assistant Professor Joseph Orefice, Professor of Environmental Conservation John Carroll, at the University of New Hampshire, and Paul Smith's student Leanne Ketner. It features photos of forest conversion to silvopasture, hardwood and softwood plantations, orchard and maple sugarbush silvoculture, forages, fencing options, and more. The guide was developed as a photographic resource for farmers, foresters, and extension professionals to utilize when considering silvopasture practices in the region.

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