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Question of the Week



Permalink What is the least toxic control for chestnut weevil?

Answer: There are two species of chestnut weevil--the 'lesser' and the 'greater,’ and though the life cycles are slightly different, the control methods are the same. Only one pesticide (see below) is labeled for treatment of chestnut weevil, so the best way to control their proliferation is through good sanitary practices. Every fall, be certain to collect all burs, nuts, and leaf matter from under chestnut trees and burn them. Try to collect nuts within one or two days of falling from the bur (if not before).

As soon as possible after harvest, treat nuts by putting them in 120-degree (Fahrenheit) water for 20 minutes. This process kills the egg/small larvae but does not affect the viability of the seed. If the temperature is too low (less than 117 degrees F), the weevil will not be killed. If the temperature is too high, you will kill the embryo and, thus, the seed.

Because the weevil spends pupation and even part of adulthood in the soil under the tree, it’s possible that light tillage twice (or more) a year—once in spring and once in late summer (or sometime before the nuts are ripe in fall)—might help with control. However, this is not a proven method; we’re suggesting this as a possibility because it works with other weevils in this same family (cucurlionidae), including the plum curculio, a major pest of fruits in the eastern United States.

If you decide to use an insecticide, be aware that the only insecticide labeled for chestnut weevil control is carbaryl (Sevin), and you’ll have to have a sprayer capable of spraying up and through the tree canopy. Moreover, insecticides have proven effective only when applied to adults during the mating and early egg-laying period. For small chestnut weevils, this is mid-August to early September. Spraying should begin when adult weevils begin arriving in the tree crowns. Spreading a large sheet on the ground and shaking branches is a good way to monitor weevil presence (weevils have a habit of dropping to the ground whenever they are disturbed). Spraying should be done when the weevils are active, i.e., on warm, calm days. The interval between spray applications should range from three to seven days depending on weather and the presence of weevils. Two to four spray applications per season should be sufficient to provide adequate control.

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Permalink How do I price my farm products when selling to restaurants?

Answer: First, you’ll need to understand the inherent value of your product. What sets you apart from the wholesale buyer the restaurant typically gets its product from? Is your product local, organic, grass-fed or antibiotic-free, or a specialty item? Feature those attributes when marketing your products. These values set your products apart from others and will justify a price premium.

Producers should realize that selling to restaurants is a wholesale market; it is unrealistic to expect restaurants to pay retail prices (such as those received at a farmers market). Local producers can sometimes demand a premium above the wholesale prices that restaurants usually pay for produce. These premiums commonly range from 5% to 25% (and sometimes more) above the current wholesale market price. Specialty or hard-to-find items may be grown locally at a lower cost, and chefs may be interested in paying a price premium for those items. In general, chefs are often willing to pay a little more than wholesale for high-quality, reliable local produce.

A good place to start is organic terminal market prices. It is in a database form and you can search by product and market location. The direct link to the index is http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/Organic-Price-Report.

This resource has information for some conventionally grown products as well, but it focuses primarily on organics. If you are instead looking for conventional, data the USDA AMS Market News is the best source for current conventional produce prices and is available at http://marketnews.usda.gov/portal/fv.

When considering direct market sales to restaurants, ATTRA suggests using these market reports and then increasing the price by 25%, especially if you are in an area with a lot of high-end restaurants willing to pay a price premium. So, for example, if the wholesale price for basil is $8.00 for a dozen bunches, then multiply 8 x 1.25 = $10.00/dozen bunches.
http://www.chrishillmedia.com/temp/portfolio/Farm_08.pdf

For more information, see the ATTRA publications Selling to Restaurants at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=266, and Tips for Selling to Restaurants at https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=388.

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Permalink How do I go about developing a niche milk market in Kansas?

Answer: Developing a new market and/or milk products will take some time and work. You will have to consider what available markets are near you, what prices the market will bear, the potential extra labor for new products, etc.

In Kansas, you can sell raw milk from your farm, but the law states that you cannot advertise the sale of milk or milk products in any way other than by a sign on your farm. So legally, it would be difficult to market/advertise your product unless your farm is situated on a busy road. You should contact the Kansas Department of Agriculture Dairy Inspection Program for information on what type of requirements you must meet in order to sell raw milk.

The list below identifies several resources that will help you think through the steps of starting a value-added dairy operation. Raw milk or other niche milk products are considered value-added products because you are not selling milk on the conventional commodity market. While adding a value-added component to your operation can be profitable, it also comes with many challenges including increased equipment/infrastructure needs and time and effort to market new products.

In addition, ATTRA has a variety of publications on topics related to value-added and processing that can help. To learn more, see our Marketing, Business & Risk Management section at https://attra.ncat.org/publication.html#marketing.

Resources:

The Kansas Dairy Law. Kansas Department of Agriculture. www.ksda.gov/includes/statute_regulations/mainportal/DAIRY.pdf

Questions You Should Answer Before Starting a New Dairy Processing Enterprise. By B. Henehan. www.agmrc.org/media/cms/dairypq_A862019ABEC77.pdf

Dairy Your Way. 2006. By the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. www.misa.umn.edu/Publications/DairyYourWay/index.htm

Value-Added Dairy Processing Feasibility Report. 2003. By R. Hammarlund. Kansas Department of Commerce. www.agmrc.org/media/cms/fluidmilkprocessingreport_887CE9E92FFC8.pdf

Small dairy co-ops adding value for members by targeting niche markets. By Carolyn Liebrand. USDA Rural Development. www.rurdev.usda.gov/rbs/pub/jul05/bucking.htm

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Permalink What factors can affect the quality of my grass-fed beef?

Answer: There are many factors that can affect the quality and tenderness of beef. Some of them are caused by production, some by processing, and some by cooking. The list below identifies several resources can help you address these various factors.

Especially useful is the ATTRA publication Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production. This publication has some good information that may help, including this quote: "Carcass quality is very important and is often overlooked by new grass-finished beef producers. Many of the 'grass-finished' beef cattle produced today are actually under-finished. A more accurate term for these cattle is 'grass-fed.' The end product from these cattle has little back fat and not enough marbling, and it can be dry and tough when cooked." Page 6 of this publication can help you evaluate your feeding regimen and if that might be affecting meat tenderness.

The article from The Stockman Grassfarmer has some good points to consider, too. It is possible that meat toughness is due to processing. You may need to have a conversation with your processor to work out those specific needs. Tenderness issues can also be caused by the cooking method. If your customers are new to grass-fed beef, they may need some education on how to properly handle and cook your beef. The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook has some great tips for cooking grass-fed meat and some great recipes, too.

Resources:
Rinehart, Lee. 2011. Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production. ATTRA publication. https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/summaries/summary.php?pub=193

Pordomingo, A. 2005. Grass Feeding Does Not Cause Meat Toughness or Off Flavors. The Stockman Grassfarmer. Vol. 62, No. 5. p. 10-11.

Wortsell, R. No date. How to make sure your grass fed beef is tender—process it right. http://www.slideshare.net/worstellr/how-to-make-sure-your-grass-fed-beef-is-tender

Martz, Fred. 2000. Pasture-Based Finishing of Cattle and Eating Quality of Beef. http://aes.missouri.edu/fsrc/research/pasture.stm

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