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Sustainable Agriculture News Briefs - September 17, 2008

Weekly sustainable agriculture news and resources gleaned from the Internet by NCAT staff for the ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service Web site. The Weekly Harvest Newsletter is also available online.

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News & Resources
* USDA Accepting Comments on Specialty Crop Block Grant
* Farmers' Market Publications Presented Online
* Team Develops Dairy Efficiency Tools
* 'Local Longer' Campaign Launched
* EcoGastronomy Program Launched by University of New Hampshire
* Journal Highlights Sustainable Food Systems


Funding Opportunities
* Northeast Sun Grant Initiative
* Virginia Specialty Crop Block Grant
* Enhancing the Value of Crop Diversity in a World of Climate Change


Coming Events
* Sustainable Agriculture Conference
* Understanding Organics and Grazing: Livestock Management and Health II
* High Tunnel Production for Beginning and Medium-Sized Commercial Growers



News & Resources

USDA Accepting Comments on Specialty Crop Block Grant
Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is providing regulations to administer the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Ė Farm Bill to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. An interim final rule has been developed and published, intended to establish eligibility and application requirements, the review and approval process, and grant administration procedures. Public comments will help USDA administer the grant program in a way that best meets the needs of recipients. USDA is accepting comments until November 3, 2008. After USDA reviews written comments, a final rule will be published.

Farmers' Market Publications Presented Online
Several popular publications for managers and vendors of farmers' markets are now available as free downloads from the UC Small Farm Program. The five newly available books can each be downloaded as individual PDFs. Longer books are also available in a chapter-by-chapter format, with smaller downloadable files. The titles now available include: Starting a New Farmers Market, Management Skills for Market Managers, Growing Your Farmers Market, Food Safety at Farmers Markets and Agritourism Venues, and Guide to Managing Risks and Liability at California Certified Farmers Markets.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Farmers' Markets: Marketing and Business Guide


Team Develops Dairy Efficiency Tools
With funding from USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES), a project team with members in Michigan, Wisconsin and Virginia developed new strategies to improve reproductive performance of dairy cows, including a free online teaching tool and a series of workshops to help dairy management efficiency. The Virtual Dairy Cattle Encyclopedia of Reproduction is a Web-based teaching tool designed to provide information on the fundamentals of dairy cattle reproduction, new technologies and the importance of reproduction to dairy farm profitability. The project team believes that the tools developed from this collaboration could help many small farms improve profitability by 10 percent by increasing milk production per cow, thus making each cow within these small herds more profitable.

'Local Longer' Campaign Launched
Sow the Seeds Fund and numerous participating organizations have launched a "Local Longer" campaign to help make the season longer for local farmers and for shoppers who love local food. The effort seeks to enable farmers to plant earlier in the spring and harvest later in the fall, to help farmers' businesses grow and the supply of locally grown fruits and vegetables to expand. Funds raised through Sow the Seeds will be used primarily to support farmer outreach and education, and research into production-related season extension methods that are suited to the Upper Midwest's growing conditions. Support for season extension activities in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa will be the central focus and funds will be channeled through non-profits, educational institutions.
Related ATTRA Publication:   Season Extension Techniques for Market Gardeners


EcoGastronomy Program Launched by University of New Hampshire
The University of New Hampshire has launched a groundbreaking EcoGastronomy program that takes students to the field, the kitchen, the lab and Italy to study the complexities of sustainable food systems. The EcoGastronomy dual major is the first such program at any U.S. university, a one-of-a-kind learning experience that links the fields of sustainable agriculture, hospitality, and nutrition. The program is a partnership of UNH's College of Life Sciences and Agriculture and Whittemore School of Business and Economics, in collaboration with the University Office of Sustainability. It includes two courses specific to EcoGastronomy as well as existing courses food and beverage management, and food and society and sustainable food production. The program also requires a semester abroad at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy, and language proficiency in Italian.

Journal Highlights Sustainable Food Systems
A recent issue of the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition showcases food system experts from the United States, Canada, and the European Union. The authors provide their analyses of the global food system infrastructure and offer alternatives for creating a food system that is ecologically sound, socially just, economically viable, and ensures that all eaters have regular access to fresh and healthy food. This collection of articles explores how food and agriculture decisions determine the quality, quantity, and biodiversity of the food supply. The purpose of this special double issue is to explore sustainable food systems from philosophical, research, and application perspectives.

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Funding Opportunities

Northeast Sun Grant Initiative
The Northeast Sun Grant Initiative Competitive Grants Program announces the availability of funds to support research, education and outreach projects in the strategic areas of Biologically-Based Fuels (BioFuels), Biologically-Based Power (BioPower), and Biologically-Based Products (BioProducts). The Sun Grant mission is to focus the intellectual capacity of the regionís land grant universities in partnership with the private sector to enhance national energy security through the development, distribution and implementation of bio-based energy technologies, promote bio-based diversification and environmental sustainability of the regionís agriculture, and promote opportunities for bio-based economic diversification in rural communities in assisting the region and the nation move toward greater energy independence. Letters of intent are due October 31, 2008.

Virginia Specialty Crop Block Grant
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) is accepting applications for USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Specialty Crop Block Grant funds. Agricultural associations, industry groups, community-based organizations and producer groups that seek to improve the competitiveness of specialty crops in Virginia are eligible to submit proposals for grants up to $25,000. VDACS will administer a total of $123,500 in funds for the development of Specialty Crop projects.
Proposals are due October 24, 2008.

Enhancing the Value of Crop Diversity in a World of Climate Change
Global Crop Diversity Trust in coordination with Generation Challenge Programme and Global Partnership Initiative on Plant Breeding Capacity announce a second call for proposals under a competitive grants scheme to support the evaluation of crop genetic resources. The grants will enable breeders and others to screen germplasm collections for important phenotypic characteristics and to make the information generated publicly available. Priority will be given to proposals intending to screen collections for multiple characters of particular importance in the context of climate change. Any individual or group of individuals working in recognized governmental, public non-governmental and/or private institution are eligible to apply for a grant provided the application receives official endorsement from the institution(s) concerned. Grants will be awarded in the range of USD 5,000-30,000, to be spent over a period not to exceed 2 years.
Proposals are due October 1, 2008.

> More Funding Opportunities

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Coming Events

Sustainable Agriculture Conference
October 31 - November 2, 2008
Anderson, South Carolina

This is the 23rd annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference presented by the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. The schedule features farm tours, an organic certification workshop, in-depth three-hour on-site workshops, and many shorter workshop sessions to choose from. Also, a pre-conference event on October 30 focuses on "Sustainable Food Systems for Your Community."


Understanding Organics and Grazing: Livestock Management and Health II
October 28-30, 2008
Auburn, New York

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT), in partnership with Quality Milk Production Services (QMPS) of Cornell University, announces Understanding Organics and Grazing: Livestock Health and Management II. This second conference, funded in part through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NESARE), will focus provide personnel, veterinarians, and other professionals working with organic or grazing livestock producers with a strong foundation in management and health.


High Tunnel Production for Beginning and Medium-Sized Commercial Growers
October 31, 2008
River Falls, Wisconsin

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls invites all interested people to a free day-long conference. Nationally known high tunnel experts William Lamont and Kathleen Demchak from Penn State University and John Biernbaum and Gregory Lang from Michigan State University will be presenting at the conference. Pre-registration is required by October 15.


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