Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Services (MOSES) is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Organic Farmer of the Year award. The MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year award is given to an organic farmer practicing outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach. Nominees should be currently farming in one of the following Midwest states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, or Wisconsin. The 2015 award winner will be announced at the 26th MOSES Organic Farming Conference February 26-28, 2015, in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Nominations are due by September 15, 2014.
A new project of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Farmer's Market Coalition will analyze the impact of farmers markets in communities. The Farmers Market Metrics Project will allow associate professor Alfonso Morales and his team to develop practical tools for evaluating farmers markets and communicate impacts to local, regional, and national stakeholders. The project consists of two collaborative efforts: identification of effective, consistent data points for measuring farmers market impact and development of a Web-based tool to facilitate the longitudinal collection and communication of those measures. The project team will work with nine markets in three regions across the United States to identify a suite of data points and methodologies for programming into the Farmers Market Metrics tool.
A New Mexico State University scientist's work in carbon sequestration suggests a potential solution for dealing with the carbon dioxide-related problems that seem to be causing global warming. Research scientist David C. Johnson has found that when soil microbial community structure shifts from bacterial-dominated to fungal dominated, both plant growth and soil carbon content change. "Soils with higher carbon content and larger fungal populations enabled us to double the production in the soil with the same amount of water," Johnson said. Johnson's work is looking at soil management methods that support biological barter systems between microbes and plants.
Field to Market®, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture has announced the launch of a new agricultural supply-chain program for U.S. commodity crops. The Field to Market metrics and benchmarks, developed through a multi-stakeholder process over the past several years, offer a platform for measuring, promoting, and reporting on continuous improvement in corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, potatoes, and other crops related to seven sustainability indicators: land use, soil conservation, soil carbon, irrigated water use, water quality, energy use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The new program will focus on benchmarking current sustainability outcomes, catalyzing continuous improvement at the field and landscape level, and enabling supply-chain sourcing claims. Field to Market's new program framework comes with the support and participation of members including American Farm Bureau Federation; American Soybean Association; Archer Daniels Midland Company; Bayer CropScience; BASF; McDonald’s Corporation; Monsanto Company; National Corn Growers Association; National Cotton Council of America; National Potato Council; and others.
Afilias has announced that it will launch a new generic top-level domain on August 6, 2014: .ORGANIC. The .ORGANIC domain is restricted to organic goods and services that meet certain criteria. With the launch of .ORGANIC, the Internet will have a special address that will make it easier for Internet users to find bona fide organic products and services. Addresses will only be available for products, manufacturers, producers, co-packers, distributors, certifiers, wholesalers, retailers, and other qualified registrants who meet specified organic-related criteria as part of their domain name registration.
A USDA Agricultural Research Service soil scientist has developed a more precise test for how much fertilizer a farmer needs to add to a field, reducing costs by about $10 to $15 per acre and the chances there will be excess running off into surface water. Richard Haney has developed a soil test that replicates some of the natural processes that occur in a field and accounts for that microbial activity, along with measuring nitrate, ammonium (NH4), and organic nitrogen. The new soil test is known as the Soil Health Tool. The tool measures organic carbon and other nutrients, accounts for the effects of using cover crops and no-till practices, and will work for any crop produced with nitrogen or other types of nutrient fertilizer. Haney and ARS's Daren Harmel evaluated the tool in fields where they raised wheat, corn, oats, and grain sorghum at nine Texas sites over four years. They found that the tool reduced fertilizer use by 30 to 50% and reduced fertilizer costs by up to 39%.
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education has released a new fact sheet, Sustainable Pest Management in Greenhouses and High Tunnels, that shows how beneficial insects can protect crops in season-extending structures and enhance the sustainability of your operation. SARE-funded researchers at Cornell University found that with a combination of controls, greenhouse and high tunnel pests could be managed effectively and, in some cases, eradicated. Highlights of 23 New York case studies include the development of an effective combination of parasitic wasps to eradicate an aphid infestation on winter greens and peppers. And predatory mites used in conjunction with minute pirate bugs helped eradicate thrips on cucumbers. The fact sheet includes an introduction to biological control, along with colorful photos that can be used to identify pests and their associated crop damage. It also provides specific how-to information on scouting for pests, along with detailed release information, including optimal temperature, quantity of natural enemies, and timing of release relative to pest populations. The fact sheet is available online.
Organic Seed Alliance has announced the distribution of its 2014 organic producer seed survey. This national survey is conducted every five years to monitor organic seed availability and use, challenges in sourcing organic seed, and organic plant breeding needs, among other important topics. Findings from this survey will be included in a forthcoming State of Organic Seed report. If you are a certified organic crop producer, please take the online survey.
Two Armed to Farm events are scheduled this September in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. The purpose of Armed to Farm (ATF) is to provide veterans and their spouses an opportunity to see sustainable, profitable small-scale farming enterprises. Veterans will examine farming as a viable career and will learn about the capital, labor, and risks involved in farming, as well as the return on investment that is realistically possible. ATF will be a dynamic blend of farm tours and hands-on experience with classroom instruction. Participants will learn about business planning, budgeting, recordkeeping, marketing, livestock production, fruit and vegetable production, and more. Participants will leave the training with a strong foundation in the basic principles of operating a sustainable farming enterprise. The event will be free for participants, and lodging and most meals will be provided. The number of participants is limited, and applications are due by August 1, 2014.
Two small farmers in Live Oak, Florida are partnering with University of Florida Extension to determine how cover crops can be used to manage insect pests. In a newly funded Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SSARE) On-Farm Research Grant, "Establishing and Evaluating Selected Cover Crops on Small Farms to Increase the Impact of Beneficial Arthropods on Crop Pests (OS13-079)," strips of sunflower and buckwheat are being incorporated into crop fields to act as trap crops for pests, and as attractants for beneficial predatory insects and pollinators. Sunflower and buckwheat plantings on field perimeters and within rows are being evaluated for their effectiveness on vegetable and fruit operations.
The European firm AgriProtein has found investors for a South African project that will house 8.5 billion flies to produce larvae that will be dried for livestock feed. Supporters say that raising insects can produce protein-rich livestock feed using much less land than alternatives such as feed with soy-based protein. Reuters reports that the European Commission is relaxing rules to allow the inclusion of processed insects in poultry and pig feed beginning in 2015. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering an application from a U.S. company called EnviroFlight to sell livestock feed made from insects.
Legislation passed recently in Virginia that says a locality cannot restrict a farmer from selling certain goods and holding events as a means of additional income, reports WSET-TV. The legislation was designed to prevent farmers from having to obtain county permits for designated activities.
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Tips for Selling to Aggregators/Grower Marketing Co-ops
The Iowa Food Hub and ISU Extension and Outreach have released Local Food System Toolkit 1: Developing a Worksite Food Box Program. This is a guide for creating a program for pre-packed food boxes delivered weekly and picked up by employees at their workplaces. It is marketed to employers, such as businesses, universities and hospitals who want locally grown food more accessible for their employees. The 19-page document is available online in PDF. The Iowa Food Hub was founded as "research hub" to find solutions to common challenges facing food hubs, and is planning a series of toolkits to share what's been learned.
Purdue University and two government agencies have created an interagency group to support Indiana farmers interested in alternative agriculture and provide resources to integrate best organic practices into more conventional farming systems. The 19-member team, which includes representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service and Indiana's Soil and Water Conservation Districts, developed action plans after receiving training at Rodale Institute on no-till organic systems, soil health, nutrient management, composting and integrating livestock in organic production. The team developed four goals to implement in Indiana: build an inventory of Indiana resources to help farmers interested in sustainable alternative farming methods; meet quarterly; present roundtable discussions throughout the state to determine farmers' needs and create support networks; and set up demonstration plots at various sites statewide.
The University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) has received a $4-million gift from an anonymous donor to support the Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The gift is the first step in building a $10-million endowment that will ensure the Center's long-term productivity and impact. Work at UC Santa Cruz in sustainable agriculture and food justice is a key component of the UC Global Food Initiative announced July 1. The apprenticeship program now boasts nearly 1,500 graduates who have established their own commercial farms and market gardens, organized and run community gardens for inner city and prison populations, and developed school gardening programs.
In response to requests from livestock producers and landowners, USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has expanded its "go-to" online resource Hay Net to include the option to list a need for grazing acres or to list acres available for grazing. If, due to extenuating circumstances, producers are in need of hay and/or grazing acres to support livestock, they can use Hay Net to post an advertisement seeking these resources. Likewise, landowners who have hay and/or grazing acres available for livestock producers should post a Hay Net advertisement as well. Hay Net is made available as a public service of FSA. There is a one-time registration process that should be completed by all users who want to post an ad online. Users who just want to browse ads do not need to have an eAuthentication user id.
A first-in-the-nation effort to support farming's future restarted July 1 in an expanded and extended format. The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries first introduced The Farm Internship Project in 2010 as a pilot project in Skagit and San Juan counties. Under this project, interns have workers' compensation protection along with the opportunity for a valuable education and hands-on experience in farming activities. The effort has been extended through December 2017 and now includes 16 counties. Small farms with annual sales of less than $250,000 per year are eligible to enroll. Although exempt from minimum wage laws, the farms must have workers' compensation coverage and follow all applicable safety and health laws. Farms must provide formal, curriculum-based instruction in growing practices. Each farm may enroll up to three interns per year.
The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) is challenging residents to devote a small portion of their food budget to Illinois-made products. If every Illinois household dedicated just $10 of its existing, weekly grocery budget towards the purchase of Illinois food products, the department concludes more than $2.4 billion a year would be re-invested in the Illinois economy, helping to revitalize both rural and urban communities. The department has been working with individual food companies and grocery stores to brand Illinois-made items with an Illinois Product logo so that consumers can easily find them on grocery store shelves. To accept the challenge, state residents just need to go online and take the "Buy Illinois Pledge."
The office of U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York has released a 43-page publication titled A Guide to Funding Opportunities and Incentives for Food Hubs and Food Systems. The document serves as a starting point in providing information from relevant federal agencies about what resources are available to individuals, businesses, community organizations, and local governments. The guidebook details information on grants, loans, and tax credits from numerous federal agencies.
Research conducted on Northern New York farms by Cornell University researchers with funding from the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) is helping farmers enhance their production of forage crops for their dairy cows. The research specifically refines nitrogen fertilizer management guidelines for fields that will be used for double cropping. By using the same land to plant two crops that can be fed to dairy cows, farmers can offset previous-year dairy cow forage inventory losses due to drought, excess water, or other causes. The complete report of the NNYADP double-cropping nitrogen management trials, titled Winter Forage Small Grains to Boost Feed Supply: Not a Cover Crop Anymore, is posted online.
Organic processed products certified in the United States or Korea can now be labeled as organic in either country. The arrangement between the two nations took effect on July 1, 2014. Without this equivalency arrangement in place, organic farmers and businesses wanting to sell organic processed products in either country would have to obtain separate certifications to meet each country's organic standards. This typically has meant two sets of fees, inspections, and paperwork, and delays for U.S. farmers and businesses trying to export. Similar to previous U.S. equivalency arrangements with Canada, the European Union, and Japan, this arrangement with Korea eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic businesses. The arrangement covers organic condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, and other processed products.
NCR-SARE has announced Ron Macher and Dale Mutch as 2014 recipients of the NCR-SARE Hero recognition. Ron Macher is known to many within the sustainable agriculture community as the publisher and editor of Small Farm Today magazine. Dr. Dale Robert Mutch is a retired Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) Senior Extension Educator and Adjunct Professor. As a founding member of the Midwest Cover Crops Council, Dale championed the promotion and demonstration of cover crops to improve soil health and create more sustainable agricultural practices throughout the region and nationally. The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition acknowledges individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE, sustainability, and/or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region.
USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and Wallace Center at Winrock International have released a report titled Food Value Chains: Creating Shared Value to Enhance Marketing Success. This new resource, developed through collaboration between USDA AMS, Wallace Center, and American University, is designed to provide guidance on how food value chains are structured, how they function, and the benefits they provide to participants, with the intent of encouraging their adoption where the opportunities for successful collaboration exist among organizations with compatible principles and complementary areas of expertise. The 72-page report is available online in PDF.
The American Society of Agronomy is presenting a three-part webinar series in July, titled "Cover Crops 2.0." The first webinar is "Limitations to Use of Cover Crops in Dryland Cropping Systems of the Semi-Arid Central Great Plains" on July 16. The second, set for July 23, is "Replacing Fallow with Cover Crops and Annual Forages in the Semi-Arid Central Great Plains." The series concludes with "Good, Bad and Ugly of Cover Crops in the Semi-Arid Northern Great Plains" on July 30. These sessions can be purchased individually or as a package.
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Financial Buzz reported on the popularity of a second career in agriculture for retirees. According to The Council of Economic Advisers' 2013 Economic Report of the President, 34% of "beginning farmers" are 55 or older. Retirees may be looking to agriculture to supplement their incomes. Industry experts say retirees bring important skills from their first careers to farming, and older beginning farmers are especially focused and realistic in their expectations. Retirees starting farming may also be well-positioned to take advantage of programs designed to assist beginning farmers.
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Blueberries: Organic Production
The University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program has released pest management guidelines for blueberry on the IPM website. The new guidelines can help with management information on blueberry pests such as thrips, light brown apple moth, and spotted wing drosophila. They also offer information on the relative toxicities of insecticides and miticides used on blueberries to beneficial insects and honey bees. Blueberries have been growing in popularity as a crop in California, thanks to development of low-chill southern highbush varieties that can produce well in specific climates.
Eleven Vermont schools have been selected to join the 2014-2015 Vermont Food Farm to School Institute offered by Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED). The Institute is a year-long learning opportunity that helps schools engage students in food, farm, and nutrition education and serve healthy, local school lunches. Participating teams will acquire tools and expertise to conduct Farm to School activities inside and outside of the classroom. Each school team will work with an experienced mentor to create and carry out a Farm to School action plan that reflects local interests and priorities. Thanks to the work of VT FEED and regional Farm to School organizations, 55% of all Vermont schools now have Farm to School programs.
The Innovation Center for U.S Dairy has released the 2013 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report. In the report, the Innovation Center outlines its progress to measure, communicate, and improve the social, environmental, and economic performance of the dairy industry. The report highlights the industry's work to reduce food waste, develop products that meet nutrition and health needs, source nutritious feed products, and improve efficiency.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed into law HB5657, an important new piece of legislation that sets in motion a number of reforms that support farmers market and Illinois farmers, reports The Local Beet. Illinois Stewardship Alliance worked with other supporters to develop the legislation. The law creates a timeline for Illinois Department of Public Health's (IDPH) Farmers' Market Task Force to complete recommendations for statewide rules and regulations for farmers markets, so that farmers won't have to deal with a patchwork of food safety rules. The legislation also directs that a statewide sampling certificate program be developed that would allow certified farmers to offer food samples at any farmers market in the state. The law requires farmers market vendors of unprocessed produce to have a label that states the address where their products were physically grown. The law also caps the registration fee that local health departments can charge cottage food operations at $25 per year.
Purdue Extension's new Tomato Doctor mobile app is designed to help gardeners diagnose problems and to offer solutions to get their plants back to a healthy condition. The Tomato Doctor covers more than 80 common - and not so common - insect, disease, and environmental problems that occur throughout the United States and around the world. It includes nearly 500 high-quality images to help users identify problems involving their plants. The app also helps users distinguish between beneficial and pest insects. The app is available for 99 cents.