Weekly Harvest Newsletter
Agriculture News Briefs - September 15, 2004
sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the
Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable
Agriculture Information Service Web site.
* Illinois Researcher Looks at the Learning Curve for Organic Transition
* Oregon's Largest Growers' Co-op Explores Stewardship Guidelines
* Researchers Find Cover Crops Improve Desert Soils
* Rural Cooperatives Journal Highlights Biofuels and Co-ops
* Eliot Coleman Essay Lauds Local Organic Family Farms
* New Study Examines USDA Small Farm Programs
* Northeastern Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants
* MISA Funding for Sustainable Agriculture Student Internships
* Farms Summit Minority Farming Training Scholarships
* How to Get (And Stay) Certified Organic
* Raising Standard Turkeys for the Holiday Market
* Apples Unleashed! Workshop
News & Resources
Illinois Researcher Looks at the Learning Curve for Organic Transition
A doctoral student at the University of Illinois has been researching the amount of time farmers spend learning about the transition from conventional to organic farming. "Farmers transitioning from conventional to organic have to build a new set of skills," said Maria Boerngen, a doctoral student in UI's Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. “A measure of the time spent learning about organic practices could be useful in calculating conversion subsidies that could be offered to encourage farmers to make the transition.” Boerngen developed a survey that was mailed to 1000 farmers and received 109 completed surveys from reduced chemical and organic farmers and 101 from conventional farmers. "We learned that the transition to organic management requires a total learning investment of 260 to 520 hours before organic practices are adopted," said Boerngen. "Once transition is complete, the difference in 'everyday' learning time is small, but statistically significant." The survey responses showed that the learning time investment during
the transition to reduced-chemical farming was 2.9 hours per week,
while during the transition to organic farming it was 5.2 hours per
week. This transition period lasted one to two years.
Oregon's Largest Growers' Co-op Explores Stewardship Guidelines
The Capital Press reports that NORPAC, the largest growers' cooperative in Oregon, is developing stewardship guidelines covering food safety, environmental issues and workers' rights.
“Market forces are significant in increasing the demand for ethical business practices, good stewardship and cultural responsibility,” NORPAC CEO Rick Jacobson said recently. “It’s a very real business issue in our industry.”
The guidelines call for a framework for demonstrating and documenting the cooperative’s efforts to protect and conserve water and soil resources, improve and utilize integrated pest management systems, enhance and conserve wildlife habitat, conserve and recycle nutrients, provide “safe and fair working conditions for employees and families,” produce crops free of genetically modified organisms, and overall produce “safe, wholesome, high quality fruits and vegetables” while “continually improving farm practices.”
Researchers Find Cover Crops Improve Desert SoilsCowpeas significantly increased yields and net returns of fall-planted lettuce and the cantaloupe crop that followed, he said. Returns improved even more if the system was farmed organically. The project found that lettuce could net as much as $2,417 per acre if grown organically, with price premiums, compared to $752 per acre grown conventionally.
University of California researchers have found a way to enrich low quality desert soils near the California-Arizona border through the use of cover crops. “Typically, soils are left fallow, or empty, after a lettuce-cantaloupe rotation,” said research leader Milt McGiffen, a Cooperative Extension specialist and associate plant physiologist at UC Riverside. “When we replaced the summer fallow with cowpea and sorghum-sudangrass cover crops, soil fertility and quality improved.” Cowpeas capture nitrogen from the air and change it into useable fertilizer. Sorghum-sudangrass enriches the soil by adding carbon and minimizes erosion and dust, a significant problem during the windy summer, McGiffen said.
Rural Cooperatives Journal Highlights Biofuels and Co-ops
The latest issue of Rural Cooperatives (PDF/1.28 MB) features several articles exploring the experiences ethanol and biodiesel processing co-ops. Farmer and utility cooperatives are also delving into production and use of other renewable fuels and energy sources, such as methane recovery, thermal depolymerization, wind and solar power and other technologies. In addition to farmers earning money from biofuels, the increased demand they create for corn and soybeans has helped to raise grain prices for all farmers in their operating regions.
Eliot Coleman Essay Lauds Local Organic Family Farms
Eliot Coleman discusses the importance of soil organic matter and the evolution of organic agriculture in a new essay appearing in the September 2004 issue of The Rake. In “Can Organic Farming Save the Family Farm?,” Coleman says that organic agriculture arose in the mid-1930s, when some farmers saw how chemical farming diminished their soil and realized how vital organic matter was to its health. He notes that organic farming has been subjected to the same challenges as any forceful new idea and warns against the co-option of organic agriculture. He differentiates between “deep” organic farming and “shallow” organic farming and urges anyone who wants to eat really good food to support a local deep-organic farm.
New Study Examines USDA Small Farm Programs
The Wallace Center has released the results of a study of the effectiveness of selected USDA programs
in serving the needs of small farms. The main finding is that most of the programs have not been evaluated,
so their success in enhancing the economic well-being of the nation's small farms is not known. The study, titled "USDA Programs: What Do We Know About Their Effectiveness in Improving the Viability of Small Farms?",
focused on 19 programs housed within seven agencies or offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The programs provide support for conservation, product and market development, farmland preservation,
general farm operations, and other efforts. Sixteen of the 19 programs either explicitly or more
ambiguously intend to assist small farms through grants for research and other services, direct payments,
loans, or technical and information assistance. Only two of the programs, the Conservation Reserve Program
and the Direct and Guaranteed Operating and Ownership Loans program, have been formally evaluated as to
the extent of support given to small farms. "We found that most of the programs provide a variety of assistance directly to small farms or
organizations serving small farms, yet collated statistics on the extent of support are sparse,"
said Kate Clancy, who co-authored the report.
URL : http://www.winrock.org/what/wallace_center.cfm
more news and resources, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture
Information Service Web site: Breaking News section: http://attra.ncat.org/management/geninfo.html.
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Northeastern Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants
CSREES requests applications for the Regional Integrated Pest Management Competitive Grants Program for fiscal year (FY) 2005 to support the continuum of research and extension efforts needed to increase the implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) methods. The Regional IPM Competitive Grants Program supports projects that develop individual pest control tactics, integrate individual tactics into an IPM system, and develop and implement extension education programs. Letters of Intent are due October 18, 2004 followed by applications on November 22, 2004.
Funding for Sustainable Agriculture Student Internships
The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) has
received a grant from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) that will fund student internships for the minor in sustainable agriculture. Students who apply should be interested in: increasing their understanding of the goals and concepts of sustainable agriculture and becoming aware of issues affecting the sustainability of agriculture production; becoming familiar with decision-making approaches used by individuals and organizations; interacting with members of the agricultural community and forming working relationships with some of these individuals or groups; or performing work on a farm, or within an organization, public agency or agriculture related business that will contribute to the development of sustainable food systems. The deadline for Fall 2004-Spring 2005 funding applications is September 24, 2004.
Farms Summit Minority Farming Training Scholarships
Scholarships are available for the Minority Farming Training that
will be offered during the 6th Annual Future of Our Food and Farms
Summit in Philadelphia on December 2. The Minority Farming Training
scholarships are valued at up to $180 each. Most of the funds will
be used to defray the registration fee; however, a small percentage
of the funds can be used for out-of-town participants to help cover
hotel costs. Scholarships are primarily intended for minority farmers,
however agricultural professionals who work with minority farmers
will be considered. Recipients will be selected on a first come,
first serve basis from among those who meet these criteria. Scholarship
recipients are required to attend three sessions on December 2
and participate in the training evaluation procedures to receive
For additional funding opportunities, visit http://attra.ncat.org/management/financl.html.
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How to Get (And Stay) Certified Organic
September 24, 2004
This thorough program provides up-to-date training on all aspects of organic certification, including the principles of the program, understanding the rules, record-keeping, and choosing and working with a certifier.
Raising Standard Turkeys for the Holiday Market
October 1, 2004
PASA offers this intensive learning program. The production workshop will meet the needs of those new to turkey production, as well as provide new information to experienced producers. Presenters will define the term "heritage," show how standard and industrial turkeys differ, and explain why these differences are important for range production. Participants will learn how to raise standard turkeys for the holiday market. Additionally, important considerations for producers thinking of adding a turkey enterprise to their farming operation will addressed. Enrollment is limited.
Apples Unleashed! Workshop
October 2, 2004
The final workshop in the NOFA Vermont 2004 Summer Workshop Series visits Flag Hill Farm. Participants will have a chance to walk with owners Sebastian Lousada and Sabra Ewing in their small orchard and discuss organic apple growing. Afterwards participants will travel to the Gingerbrook Farm cidery in nearby Washington, VT where Sabra and Sebastian take all their apples to be pressed and the owners Bob and Joanne Liddell make apple juice and cider vinegar.
More events at http://attra.ncat.org/cgi-bin/event/calendar.cgi.
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Business-Cooperative Service. Visit the NCAT
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