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The National Center for Appropriate Technology's (NCAT) Woolsey Farm Project is accepting applications for incubator farm plots in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Spearheaded by NCAT Southeast’s Luke Freeman, the Woolsey Farm Project is a collaboration between NCAT, Cobblestone Farms, and the City of Fayetteville. The project aims to provide beginning farmers with access to land so they can establish and grow their farm businesses. Each incubator farmer accepted in 2019 will have access to a quarter-acre plot and shared equipment at Cobblestone Farm. This program is targeted towards beginning farmers who have several years of production experience, but do not have access to land to start their own farm business. Applicants should have a solid idea of their business goals and their production strategy for a quarter-acre plot. The application deadline is February 1, 2019.

Organizers of the 2019 North American Agroforestry Conference scheduled June 24-27, 2019, at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, are inviting submission of abstracts. They are accepting proposals for oral presentations, poster presentations, organized discussion and roundtable sessions, and five-minute Lightning Talks. A list of conference themes to which proposals should relate is available online. The submission deadline has been extended until February 1, 2019, and a new deadline for those affected by the government shutdown will be announced.

The Pasture Project and collaborators Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Land Stewardship Project, and the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota have released the results of a three-year study on the economics of grazing cover crops. They found that cover crops can pay for themselves when combined with managed rotational grazing of cattle. The full findings, as well as a 32-page publication titled Grazing Cover Crops How-To Guide, a video series, and other supporting resources, are available online.

Research led by Cornell University and published in Science shows that a greater diversity of bee species visits orchards surrounded by natural habitats than those surrounded by agricultural lands. The study examined 10 years of data for 27 apple orchards in New York state. Orchards that were visited by a greater diversity of bees had better fruit production, due to more complete pollination. The study revealed that some species of bees that are effective apple pollinators were consistently absent in orchards surrounded by agricultural land.

A feature in The New York Times says a growing number of United States ranches are run by women, and predicts that the number will continue to increase as more than half the ranches in the country change hands in the next 20 years. Author Amy Chozick notes "Women are leading the trend of sustainable ranching and raising grass-fed breeds of cattle in humane, ecological ways."

USDA has announced that many Farm Service Agency offices will reopen temporarily in the coming days to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers. In almost half of FSA locations, staff will be available to assist agricultural producers with existing farm loans and to ensure the agency provides 1099 tax documents to borrowers on time. USDA has announced that farmers who have loan deadlines during the lapse in funding do not need to make payments until the government shutdown ends, and that the application period for the Market Facilitation Program will be extended for a period of time equal to the number of business days FSA offices end up being closed.

The Japan Prize Foundation has announced the laureates of the 2019 Japan Prize, including Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science at The Ohio State University. Dr. Lal pioneered no-tillage agriculture and methods to sequester carbon in the soil. He is being honored for his work in identifying technological options adapted to various ecosystems through his intensive basic and applied research on processes and factors of soil degradation caused by inappropriate biological production, as well as in evaluating recommended agricultural practices which reduce risks of soil degradation and of anthropogenic climate change while improving the environmental quality and addressing the critical issues of feeding the earth's population. Each laureate will receive a certificate of recognition, a commemorative gold medal, and a cash award of approximately $450,000.

Challenges such as herbicide resistance and pesticide litigation are motivating farmers to consider electricides for weed management, reports Farm Journal. The Lasco Lightning Weeder was developed in 1979, and some are still available for rent or sale. The right-holder intends to restart manufacture of the equipment. Meanwhile, a new company based in the UK, RootWave, is utilizing digital-age technology for visual recognition of weeds in real time. When weeds are spotted, RootWave makes contact to deliver a 5-kilovolt jolt of electricity with no soil disturbance. The company aims for market entry in 2020.

Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) has posted an interactive infographic, "What Is Soil Health: An Interactive Exploration of Soil Health and How to Improve It." Visitors to the SARE website can click on icons in the infographic to learn more about cover crops, crop rotation, manure amendments, composting, and the complex web of life below the surface of the soil.

Flipping the Table, a new podcast series featuring honest conversations about food, farming, and the future, debuted January 15, 2019. Michael R. Dimock, program director of Roots of Change at the Public Health Institute, is host for the series. Eight episodes have been announced to date, featuring dynamic and enlightening conversations with the people who are flipping the table to create new ways to feed the world. The podcast is designed to inspire action and positivity in challenging times and appeal to listeners and sponsors who hunger for healthy and resilient people, communities, and economics. Scheduled episodes feature Dan Imhoff, Nicolette Hahn Niman, Woody Tasch, and others.

The DiFebo family's Harvest Home Farms has been selected as the first recipient of the Pennsylvania Leopold Conservation Award. This award inspires American landowners by recognizing exceptional farmers, ranchers, and foresters in 14 states with a $10,000 cash award and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. The DiFebo family raises grass-fed beef and has been active in introducing diverse vegetation and rotational grazing and reducing soil compaction and erosion. The farm has also installed a solar-powered watering system and been active in education.

The Kansas Rural Center has published a 42-page report, Lessons Learned from Specialty Crop Growers Across Kansas, that's available free online in PDF. The report is a compilation of five previously published profiles of successful Kansas specialty crop growers, plus the proceedings of a one-day facilitated discussion in February 2018 between those experienced growers and five beginning specialty crop growers. The guide is the third in a series of specialty crop guides prepared by the Kansas Rural Center in collaboration with Kansas State University Extension. Crops covered include vegetables, fruits, and direct-market grassfed beef, lamb, and chicken.

An expert panel presenting at the American Farm Bureau Federation's convention in January outlined the politics, agronomics, and economics of industrial hemp. The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which opens new opportunities for farmers to grow the crop. Speakers advised farmers considering growing hemp to first secure a buyer and to consider availability of labor. The speakers differentiated between hemp grown as a horticultural crop and hemp grown as an agricultural crop, and they recommended the growers consider hemp as part of a crop rotation.

Minnesota farmer Carolyn Olson shared her expertise in organic crops with farmers at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in January. Olson and her husband transitioned to organic corn, soybeans, small grains, and alfalfa two decades ago to take advantage of the profit potential. She spoke at the convention about the challenges of weed management and pest and disease control, as well as problems with pesticide drift and acceptance of organic farmers by peers. A podcast is available online.

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is seeking bid proposals from farms (and farm groups) to provide sustainably grown produce to the school district's Farm to School Program for the 2019-20 school year, reports Minnesota Ag Connection. Interested farms, farm cooperatives, food hubs, and aggregators are invited to complete the RFP to share information about their farm(s) and bid on specific produce items. Farm to School partner farms will be selected based on price, produce quality, environmental sustainability, supplier diversity, and grower values. For the current school year, MPS is buying nearly 40 different varieties of vegetables and fruits from 13 farms and farm cooperatives in the area.

Nevada City, California, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay for vegetation-management services to lower fire danger, reports Wired. 'Goat Fund Me' was created by the town's vice-mayor, who realized that seeking grant funding to pay the $1,000 per acre to have goats clear underbrush to reduce the area's combustible fuel load would take months. Meanwhile, the most effective time to bring in goats is in spring, and goat vegetation-management services are rapidly becoming booked for the season. One herd owner comments that the demand for vegetation-management services is tremendously high at present.

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), in cooperation with USDA-Risk Management Agency, has released two informative new guidebooks on how organic and transitioning growers can manage on-farm risk through crop insurance programs and sound soil health management. Introduction to Crop Insurance for Organic and Transitioning Producers explains how crop insurance works for organic and transitioning farmers, including coverage types and recordkeeping, as well as what to know when working with crop insurance agents.  Reducing Risks Through Best Soil Health Management Practices in Organic Crop Production offers practical tools and research on best soil health practices to build soil health and resilience to extreme weather conditions, such as drought and flooding. Both publications are free online in PDF.

Scientists at the University of Illinois are already building and selling autonomous, 3-D-printed robots that move up and down field rows under the crop canopy to collect crop data, reports Western Farmer-Stockman. Now they're working on adapting these robots with soft arms that would allow them to mechanically de-weed a field, or potentially harvest fruit. Project leader Girish Chowdhary says the work is motivated by a growing herbicide-resistant weed problem in agriculture, and comments that the small equipment could have particular applicability for organic and specialty-crop farmers.

In Indiana, the 12-day Savor Fort Wayne event promoting city restaurants has a special focus this year on locally sourced foods. Ten participating restaurants are featuring local ingredients. Northeast Indiana Local Food Network is promoting the restaurants that are featuring ingredients sourced from Northeast Indiana on their special Savor Fort Wayne menu, and highlighting the chefs, brewers, and distillers who selected them.

Researchers at Cornell University have published a study showing that when crop prices are high, there is a significant payoff for farms from coordinated water use. Instead of farms using more water and driving up costs of accessing water for all farms, coordinated use achieved higher efficiency.  The study used a scenario of alfalfa grown on two 50-acre plots in California. The study found that a coordinated approach to water management led to an overall efficiency gain of $93,000 for the two farmers when the groundwater supply was moderate and rainfall was normal. However, coordination would save $125,000 in scenarios with a moderate groundwater supply and high rainfall, or a high groundwater supply during a drought. The researchers also created scenarios with a variety of crops requiring different growing conditions, such as walnuts, strawberries, and olives. Tremendous efficiency gains were possible in strawberries, but there was no efficiency for some perennial crops.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is seeking an energetic, passionate, experienced, and collaborative Coalition Director to provide executive-level leadership to NSAC, its staff, governing body, and membership. Applicants should be deeply committed to public service, experienced in administration and the field of sustainable agriculture, and someone who would enjoy leading a passionate, high-performing, member-engaged, and collaborative organization that is dedicated to advancing racial equity in its work on sustainable agriculture and food systems policy. NSAC offers competitive non-profit salary and benefits and is an equal opportunity employer. Applications will be accepted until a suitable candidate is identified.

Sterling College in Vermont and The Berry Center have announced that they will collaboratively launch The Wendell Berry Farming Program of Sterling College in Henry County, Kentucky. This will be a no-tuition undergraduate sustainable agriculture degree program, inspired by the lifework and writing of farmer and environmental activist Wendell Berry. Admission will be highly selective, but students will be chosen without regard for financial ability to pay tuition. A $2.5 million grant from the NoVo Foundation means that students will not pay tuition, giving graduates better prospects to farm without relying on student loans. Applications for the program are due by April 1, 2019.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are testing “biosolarization,” a process that combines the sun’s heat with soil amendments made from agricultural wastes to manage weeds and other soil-borne pests. Adding organic, waste-based amendments like grape and tomato skins or ground nut hulls to the soil before tarping promotes growth of beneficial bacteria and can shorten the time required for solarization. The research team is testing biosolarization on different crops and at different scales, over the long term, to determine whether it is effective, predictable, and economical as a means of pest control and a way to improve soil health.

Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association is accepting applications until January 14, 2019, for its Journeyperson Farm Training Program. This program is open to farms at any stage of development but best utilized by those who have an established farm business with secure land tenure and will use this program as a tangible step toward achieving their farm goals. MOFGA seeks applicants with at least two years of farming experience who are serious about operating farm businesses in Maine that will make significant contributions to the agricultural community and economy. The program includes mentorship, access to learning and funding oppo ...

A new open-access tool developed by US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with support from the Google Earth Engine Team and the US Government's SilvaCarbon Program, allows anyone to track land-use and landscape changes anywhere. Collect Earth Online (CEO) is Web-based, free of charge, open to all, requires no downloads or installation, and allows users to systematically inspect any location on the Earth with satellite data. The next-generation tool makes it easier to conduct surveys, collect samples, and use crowdsourcing techniques. CEO can be accessed at http://collect.earth/ by registering on the platform.

A new, four-minute video from Sustainable Agriculture Reseach & Education (SARE) showcases the success of a 2016 SARE-funded project in Pennsylvania that aimed to engage more farmers in utilizing cover crops to improve soil health. Grain farmer Jeff Frey worked with Sjoerd Duiker, associate professor of soil management at Penn State University, in a project that educated farmers about the benefits of cover crops and provided seed to encourage them to begin using cover crops.

The University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture offers three online degrees in sustainable agriculture: certificate, Associate of Science, and Bachelor of Science. Registration is now open for 10 courses offered during Spring 2019. Classes begin January 22, 2019, and include courses in pasture management and farm management, planning, and marketing, as well as new course offerings in small farm husbandry and soil fertility.

North Dakota State University Extension will host the 2019 Field to Fork webinar series on Wednesdays beginning February 6, 2019, and running through April 17, 2019. In the free afternoon webinars, experts from across the region will provide information about growing, processing, and serving specialty-crop fruits and vegetables safely. Webinars are free of charge but preregistration is required. A full schedule of topics is available online.

New York has awarded more than $42 million through Governor Cuomo?s 2018 Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative to support the growth of farms and food and beverage industries across the state. More than 80 agriculture-related projects received funding because they were identified as key to advancing the State's ten regional economies. Awards were made this year to projects across the state's 10 regions that support farm operations and expansions, food storage, packing and processing facilities, promotion of the State's agri-tourism destinations, craft beverage production, farmers markets, commercial kitchens and incubators, agricultural training programs, and marketing opportunities.

A new generation of Heartland farmers is focusing on soil health, according to a feature in The Christian Science Monitor. Farmers working on slim margins can be reluctant to change the way they operate, notes the article, citing the example of how long it took farmers to adopt no-till methods. But now "hotspots" of innovative farmers are leading a movement to make soil health a top priority by using cover crops and crop rotations. Other approaches include alternative crops--such as perennial grains--and integrating livestock and crops. The 2018 Farm Bill contains provisions that can help reward these efforts, and there's increasing awareness that improving soil health can deliver water-quality and food-nutrient benefits.

World Resources Institute (WRI) has published 22 solutions to close the food, land, and greenhouse-gas mitigation gaps arising from the need to feed nearly 10 billion people on Earth by 2050. WRI presents its solutions in five topic areas: (1) reduce growth in demand for food and other agricultural products; (2) increase food production without expanding agricultural land; (3) protect and restore natural ecosystems; (4) increase fish supply; and (5) reduce GHG emissions from agricultural production. Each solution is presented with a chart illustrating the rationale behind its adoption.

Noble Research Institute has provided an update on its efforts to advance ecosystem service markets (ESM) that incentivize farmers and ranchers to improve soil health systems. The development team has offered a preview of the ESM protocol to a number of food and beverage firms to seek feedback to incorporate into the final draft version of the methodology. A pilot phase will take place during 2019 and 2020, across 70,000 acres in Texas and Oklahoma that are involved in Noble Land Stewardship Program. Meanwhile, the protocol team will be drafting adaptations for the protocol to be applied to additional crop production systems and geographies around the country. NRI says that although the initial focus of the program will be on monetizing soil carbon and water quality and quantity, the program will expand over time to include additional environmental and ecosystem service attributes from working agricultural lands.

The Ecological Farming Association will present its Steward of Sustainable Agriculture Awards (Susties) and the Advocates for Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture Awards (Justies) at the annual EcoFarm Conference Awards Banquet on January 25, 2019. The Sustie Award honors those who have been actively and critically involved in ecologically sustainable agriculture and have demonstrated their long-term, significant contributions to the well-being of agriculture and the planet. The Justie Award honors those who has been active advocates for social justice as a critical aspect of ecologically sustainable agriculture and food systems. The 2019 winners are featured online: Doron Comerchero and Food What?! and Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D for the Justies, and Russ Lester & The Lester Family, Dr. Pamela Marrone, and Will Scott Jr. for the Susties.

In December, Texas became the tenth state to pass the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, reports KBTX-TV. The law provides inherited property protections to vulnerable, low- and middle-income families with tenancy-in-common ownership. Under this type of ownership, sales can be forced by a minority owner and, at a partition sale, properties often sell for far less than market value. Texas A&M University School of Law professor Thomas W. Mitchell found that these sales disproportionately affect African-American, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American families, which led him to craft legislation that would help resolve the problem.

University of Georgia scientists and staff members will be presenting research results at the Georgia Organics Conference slated for February 8-9, 2019, in Tifton. Topics will include high-tunnel production, cover crops, and nitrogen fertility management in organic systems, as well as marketing. In addition, events, workshops, and field trips to farms in south Georgia will be offered as part of the event. Scholarships and opportunities to volunteer are available, as well.

Gigi DiGiacomo, co-author of Organic Transition, a Business Planner for Farmers, Ranchers and Food Entrepreneurs, offered some guidance for farmers transitioning to organic production in a feature in Minnesota Farm Guide. DiGiacomo advised farmers to plan for the three-year transition period when crops cannot yet be sold as organic, but yields can drop due to changing management practices. She emphasized producers' need for three business plans during transition: the conventional plan they began with, a plan that takes them through the three-year transition period, and a final plan for organic operation when transition is complete. DiGiacomo says that a gradual transition of part of a property at a time can be one way to offset transition costs, as can transitioning land while it's in alfalfa. She also suggests beginning transition in the fall, so that the third year's fall crop can be marketed as organic.

In many parts of the country, people who are looking for a final use for their real Christmas trees are donating them to flocks of goats. Goat Dispatch, a landscape management company in Minnesota, is accepting donated trees as feed for its flock for the fifth year. In other locations from New Jersey to Colorado, goat owners accept real trees and wreaths to provide their goats a nutritious and entertaining feed.

The stories of nine small seed companies that are leaders in preserving heirloom seeds are presented in an online exhibit from Seed Savers Exchange, The Rise of Heirloom Seeds. "This first wave of heirloom seed companies did not offer seed catalogs in response to consumer demand. Instead, they created it," says Seed Savers Exchange in the introduction to the exhibit. The feature includes the stories of Alan and Linda Kapuler of Peace Seeds, Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanicals, Craig Dremann of Redwood City Seeds, Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo, Mike Dunton of Victory Seeds, Tom Wagner of Tater Mater Seeds, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, Bill McDorman of High Altitude Garden Seeds and Seeds Trust, and Glenn Drowns of Sand Hill Preservation Center.

A "Michigan Good Food Stories" feature on Rapid Growth Media takes a look at how food equity relates to health outcomes. A charity food system that was meant to be temporary, but has become entrenched, has contributed to poor health outcomes for low-income people. Several organizations and programs are working to help build strong local food systems in Michigan that can sustain local producers and improve health food access for all income brackets. Advocates say that improvements in both agriculture and education are needed to achieve food equity.

Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is accepting applications for grant funding through the Specialty Crop Block Grant program to support projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops grown in Iowa. The Department is establishing a Review Committee to help review, evaluate, and make recommendations on grant proposals submitted. Those interested in participating in the Review Committee should have knowledge of specialty crops, and/or grant writing or grant management experience, and the ability to devote the necessary time to complete the review process. Applications to participate are due by February 5, 2019. The Department is also asking specialty crop stakeholders and organizations to submit public comments on program priorities. The comments will help identify priorities, establish the criteria used to evaluate the projects proposed, and determine how the reviews are conducted. Comments received by March 1, 2019, will be presented to the review committee to assist in prioritizing projects.