USDA Farm To School Grant Program Announced

Earlier this month, USDA announced the Farm to School Grant Program. The purpose of the program is to assist in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards up to $5 million in competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

Farmers and ranchers are eligible for certain categories of grant awards. In this funding round, USDA is soliciting applications for three types of grants:

  1. Planning grants are intended for school districts or schools just starting to incorporate farm to school program elements into their operations.
  2. Implementation grants are intended for school districts or schools to help scale or further develop existing farm to school initiatives.
  3. Support Service grants are intended for state and local agencies, Indian tribal organizations, agricultural producers or groups of agricultural producers, and non-profit entities working with school districts or schools to further develop existing farm to school initiatives and to provide broad reaching support services to farm to school initiatives.

Proposals are due at midnight EST, April 24, 2013. In all cases, a 25% cash or in-kind match of the total project cost is required.

For all questions pertaining to the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, please email: farmtoschool@fns.usda.gov.

  • An upcoming webinar for those interested in learning more about the Support Service Grants will be held Thursday, March 7, 1:00 p.m. EST. Both an Internet connection and telephone line are required to see and hear the webinar.
  • Access the webinar by clicking here.
  • Phone: 888-396-9185 Passcode: 3927574

Certified Pesticide Drift Monitor Trainings in Iowa

Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) created the “Drift Catcher” to help communities document and provide proof of chemical exposure to pesticides. A Drift Catcher is a simple, inexpensive and scientifically robust device that collects air samples that can be analyzed for pesticides. PANNA’s one-day trainings teach farmers, farmworkers, and anyone living in agricultural areas to operate Drift Catchers and document pesticide drift at the local level.

PANNA is holding upcoming Pesticide Drift Monitor Trainings in Iowa on March 9th and 10th. Those interested should apply as soon as possible by filling out this short questionnaire.

New Guides for Organic Operations

To describe the relevant organic requirements, provide best practices, and further explain the certification process for certified organic farmers, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has partnered with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to provide the following detailed guides:

These guides provide helpful information for both beginning farmers and current organic operations looking to adopt new management approaches. Digital downloads of all guides are free, and print versions are $3.00.

Heritage Pastured Poultry Workshop for Montana Growers

As consumer interest in pastured poultry continues to grow around the country, an upcoming workshop presented by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center (MMFEC) and the Salish Kootenai College will take a closer look at the opportunities and challenges for heritage pastured poultry operations, with a focus on Montana.  The workshop, “Heritage Pastured Poultry Production: Opportunities and Challenges,” is being funded by the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA).

Jim Adkins, founder of the International Center for Poultry, will address the market potential for heritage poultry in Montana. Jeff Schahczenski, an Economics Specialist with NCAT, will review resources for pastured poultry production and examine the market and economic potential for pastured poultry products. Jan Tusick of MMFEC will review the Montana Poultry Growers Cooperative Poultry Processing Manual and HACCP systems for on-farm poultry processing.

The day will end with a tour of the Rough Diamond Farm, a pastured poultry operation outside of Great Falls that is developing a breeding-stock program for Ranger chickens.

  • Title: Heritage Pastured Poultry Production: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Location: Holiday Inn Express, 1625 Market Place Drive in Great Falls.
  • Date: March 14, 2013
  • Time: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Cost:  $15, which includes lunch
  • For more information: email Jeff Schahczenski at jeffs@ncat.org.
  • Registration link: http://bit.ly/ZdyelN

Last Day to Apply: Specialty Crop Growers for “Crop Mob” Workshops in Washington State

The Tilth Producers of Washington and the Washington Young Farmers Coalition invite specialty crop farmers to apply to host “Crop Mob” workshops. Workshops will provide an opportunity to join together and support a fellow grower, while learning valuable skills from experienced farmers. The goal is to provide a fun, educational experience for all participants while helping a grower complete a large project.

This is open to all Washington state farmers, with priority given to members of the Tilth Producers of Washington. Crop Mob / Workshop ideas must fit the specialty crop requirements but otherwise are flexible. Past sessions and ideas include:

  • Infrastructure projects – hoop houses, green houses, fencing, netting, irrigation, moving compost or compost facilities, etc.
  • Equipment projects – learning how to use machinery and/or implements; threshing, seed cleaning, etc.
  • Pruning, planting seedlings or nursery stock, crop processing, etc.
  • Integrated Pest Management (IPM) projects.

Tilth Producers and the WAYFC will provide:

  • Experienced growers partnered with each workshop to provide knowledge and instruction;
  • Logistical and organizational assistance, including planning, outreach and publicity, registration, and volunteer support. Host stipends are available.
  • Help developing a work plan for approximately 15-25 volunteers with a range of skill levels (farmers and non-farmers).

Application forms are available on the Tilth Producers website and should be returned by February 20, 2013 to:
Jacqueline Cramer, Education Coordinator – Jacqueline@tilthproducers.org, 206.632.7506

Women in Agriculture Conference in Washington State

The USDA and Washington State University Extension are sponsoring a conference aimed at women farmers, “Growing Your Successful Farm Business,” held on Saturday, Feb. 23rd in Washington State. The conference will be broadcast to 21 different locations throughout the state, each of which will also include a panel of local producers. Keynote speaker Trini Campbell of Riverdog Farm in California will share her experiences growing her farm, including managing labor, financial planning, and dealing with market instability. A second workshop will help producers become financially prepared to grow an operation, as well as survive a downturn in the economy.

Registration is $25 and includes a copy of the book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat. The deadline to register is February 18th, either online or by mail. Women farmers, supporting spouses and aspiring farmers are all encouraged to attend. Visit www.womeninag.wsu.edu for more information.

Apply Now for Grants from the FruitGuys Community Fund

The FruitGuys Community Fund, a nonprofit project established by the FruitGuys national fruit distribution company, will fund sustainability projects for small to mid-sized community farms. Grants of $2,500 – $5,000 will be awarded to 5 – 8 small farms, with a focus for the 2013 cycle on farms in Northern California or the Delaware Valley. Projects should focus on one of three areas:

  • Pest control (e.g., owl or bat boxes)
  • Pollination (e.g., beehives or hedgerows)
  • Soil health (e.g., cover crops or hoop houses)

The goal of the Community Fund is to help farms and orchards operate more sustainably, both environmentally and economically. For more information on how to apply (by the March 1st deadline), visit: http://fruitguyscommunityfund.org/apply

Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference from NOFA-NY

NOFA-NY has announced their 2nd Annual Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference will take place on Friday, March 1st in Auburn, NY. The conference will consist of business, dairy, and field crop workshop tracks, including a half-day intensive workshop on the “Transition to Organic Dairy Management.” A pre-conference field day on February 28th at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, will focus on “Cereal Grains Seed Production and NYS Certified Foundation Seed Program.”

Register by February 15th for a $5 discount. Visit www.nofany.org/dairyconference for more information about the conference, including specific workshops and speakers.

Paid On-the-Job Training with Practical Farmers of Iowa

The Practical Farmers of Iowa offers beginning farmers in need of on-farm experience and mentorship the opportunity to apply to work on an experienced “PFI Trainer” farm in Iowa. The 10 “Trainer” farms are located across Iowa and represent a range of diverse crop and livestock enterprises.

Trainees will also receive:

  • On-the-job training earning at least $8/hour
  • 1-2 hours of each week discussing financial and business details with the trainer  (i.e. how the farm is financed, how to generate a profit)
  • Paid time off to attend a PFI event
  • PFI Annual Conference 2014 discount and free homestay lodging during the conference with a PFI member
  • A special “Spring Training” Farminar Series in April 2013 to connect with other “PFI Trainees”

To review the “Trainer” farms, click here. Apply directly using the information on the website by February 15th.

OEFFA Pre-Conference Workshops on Food Safety and Grazing for Experienced Farmers

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is offering two pre-conference workshops on Friday, Feb. 15th as a part of their upcoming annual conference. OEFFA program director and event organizer Renee Hunt explains, “While our two-day conference covers a wide range of topics geared toward farmers, gardeners, and consumers, our full day pre-conference workshops are able to drill deeper, giving specialty crop growers and livestock farmers the skills they need to take their businesses to the next level.”

Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa will lead a workshop on “Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm,” covering how to establish or improve food safety practices. The second workshop, “From Our Grazing Experience,” will be led by Troy Bishopp, “The Grass Whisperer,” along with a panel of experienced graziers. Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season, specific feeding strategies, business profitability, soil health, and much more.

To register or for more information, visit www.oeffa.org/2013. Contact Renee Hunt with additional questions at 614.421.2022 x205 or renee@oeffa.org.