Web-Based Farmer Assistance Tools

In the age of all things digital, comes a new set of web-based tools to help farmers. From nitrogen meters to farm management and organizational tools, these online resources can put a lot of information into a farmer’s hand, while simplifying complex tasks.

Below are a few tools that stood out, but there are many more that didn’t make this list. Please tell us about tools that we may have missed or that you currently use in the comments below.

 

Adapt-N

Nitrogen fertilizer is an expensive business, with nearly $5 billion spent on corn crops alone. But much of this nitrogen goes unused—it’s either lost to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide or leached through the soil. So a new tool called Adapt-N has been created to help farmers predict their corn nitrogen needs more accurately. This is a free web-based tool that sends farmers alerts via text or email. The tool triangulates data on the local soil, crop and weather to provide farmers with estimates that can help them save money and protect the environment by not applying too much nitrogen fertilizer. The data are updated in real time throughout the growing season. Cornell University researchers who created the tool estimate that it helped farmers save nearly $200,000 last year and reduced fertilizer on about 7,500 acres of land. The tool currently has 600 users and was chosen as AgProfessional’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Top Product of the Year. Read more about Adapt-N and try out the tool.

 

CropMobster™

The web-based CropMobster is all about creating community. By building a local network of farms, and families in need, it creates affordable access to fresh food. This food is surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. The CropMobster tool works through a set of alerts that go out via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or telephone and get the word out immediately as to when and where there will be a gleaning event, crop mob or discount produce sale at a farm. This allows farmers to find a home for their leftover fruits and vegetables and families to find the produce they need.

 

Growers Edge

Growers Edge has been called the Google for farmers, as it pulls and organizes vital decision-making data that a farmer or rancher needs and stores it in one place. This completely free service offers a few difference options for viewing information, from the CashMax application, which allows farmers to track cash bids from more than 4,500 nationwide locations, as well as search for the best prices for different contract markets in their location, to the Profit Manager feature that allows farmers to set profit goals, record transactions and track profitability for each crop. Growers Edge also provides farmers the opportunity to trade in the futures and options markets for a $7 per trade commission versus the standard rates of $30-$70. This web-based tool provides farmers with an easy way to track and manage their business.

 

Seed to Harvest

Seed to Harvest is a crop record, smart phone application. This app was built with the organic farmer in mind and provides detailed planting information like transplanting records. A farmer can use this app to track their inputs and harvest records. Records are organized by field and section, and are stored on the smart phone, with the option of emailing, or downloading the information.


Save Our Citrus

The Save Our Citrus app was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop the spread of citrus diseases. This free iPhone app allows growers to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Farmers report symptoms by uploading photos and then receive a response from a USDA citrus expert.

 

Conservation Stewardship Program Deadline Extended to June 14

The deadline for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has been extended to June 14th, 2013. The CSP is a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that aims to protect natural resources and the environment on land in agricultural production. This program supplies farmers and ranchers with the tools they need—both technical and financial—to employ conservation activities on their land, as well as support existing projects. This year the NRCS’ goal is to accept 12 million acres into the program.

For more information about CSP, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s CSP factsheet and their Farmer’s Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program, where information about eligibility, step-by-step enrollment guidance, and helpful hints can be found.

Amazing Grazing: Classes for Livestock Producers

This is a tough time for livestock producers, who are continually confronted by rising input costs, intensifying drought conditions and increasing land prices. In response, a handful of grazing programs have popped up to provide support. A study in the Journal of Extension found that courses like these that teach intensive grazing management generally improve the sustainability, profit and quality of life for livestock producers.

The Amazing Grazing program—a collaborative effort of the Kansas Graziers Association and the Kansas Farmers Union—formed to offer support to livestock producers. The program consists of workshops, field days and a conference. There are nine upcoming workshops that include: Ranch Plan and Ranch Drought Plan in August; Short Grass Prairie Grazing Basics and Research in September; and How Animal Selection and Grazing Management Improves Productivity, Profitability and Personal Satisfaction in October. More classes are listed on the Amazing Grazing blog. Funding for this project comes from the North Central Risk Management Education Center and the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For more information, contact the project’s director, Mary Howell at 785.562.8726 or kfu.mary@gmail.com

Another unique opportunity is The Original Grazing School for Women. In it’s 11th year, this female-only program runs the weekend of June 12th and 13th and consists of workshops, farm tours, dinners and social events to network with other graziers. The registration deadline is June 4th. Register online or Download the brochure.

 

 

College Farms: Southeast Region

We’re making our way across the country highlighting student farms. Two weeks ago we highlighted farms in the Northeast, and now we’re moving to the Southeast. Over the next few weeks the Resource Spotlight blog will profile student farms in other regions of the country as well…stay tuned!

Check out the student farm directory from the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association to find out more about university farms near you. If your college farm isn’t listed below, tell us about it in the comments section!

 

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UGArdenUniversity of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Students run this one-acre garden plot at the University of Georgia that was first planted in May of 2010. Since then the garden has grown to include: tilapia aquaponics, permanent fruit plantings, beehives, and a woodland mushroom demonstration area. In addition to selling produce at a farm stand, the food is used to help alleviate hunger in the senior citizen population of Athens. The garden is used as a classroom for two freshman seminars and a course in sustainable community food production.

Contact: Lindsay Davies at lndavies@uga.edu

 

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Berea College Farm – Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

The Berea College Farm is one of the longest running student farms in the U.S. At 500-acres, this farm has space for pastures, cropland, gardens, woodlots and ponds. The farm has beef cattle, hogs, chickens, eggs, goats, fish, honeybees, grains, pulses, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, all of which are used in the dining hall, or sold to the public. Berea College Farm is housed by the Agriculture and Natural Resources program at the college and compliments the academic programs. The 50 students employed each season rotate between working with field crops, horticultural crops, livestock, equipment maintenance, and marketing and sales for the farm.

Contact: michael_panciera@berea.edu or sean_clark@berea.edu

 

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Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) Farm

Pittsboro, North Carolina

CCCC’s five-acre, organic student farm produces an array of crops. The farm also runs in conjunction with the college’s Sustainable Agriculture program, which teaches students the skills that they need to manage a profitable, sustainable, community-based farm. Students can take a wide variety of courses on the farm: Medicinal Herbs, Organic Vegetable Production, Sustainable Cut Flower production and Sustainable Poultry Production, as well as courses about biofuels, and sustainable building.

Contact: Robin Kohanowich: rkohanowich@cccc.edu / (919) 545-8031

 

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The Clemson Student Organic Farm Project – Clemson University

Clemson, South Carolina

Clemson’s 15-acre student farm started in 2001 and was certified organic in 2005. Students and faculty work together to grow a variety of vegetables, culinary herbs, flowers and fruit. The farm hosts a CSA program and encourages the community to visit the farm for seasonal pick-your-own fruits and vegetables.

Contact: kgilker@clemson.edu, sjadrnicek@gmail.com

The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training

The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training – or CRAFT— is a farmer-led coalition that helps to prepare the next generation of farmers. The program started in 1994 in upstate New York and has since spread across the U.S. and Canada.

CRAFT networks offer a unique opportunity for new and beginning farmers to share ideas, resources, and skills through a variety of formal and informal learning.  Apprentices participate in regular gatherings at local farms where mentor farmers talk about a range of issues for farm operations. Collaborative on-farm learning fosters farmer-to-farmer relationships and creates a social network within the local community for people just starting out in agriculture. Programing includes: farms interns/apprentices, mentoring, field days, technical assistance, workshops, conferences, social gatherings, strategic business planning courses, farm incubators, and more.

Below are just a few of the many CRAFT projects happening across the country. Click here to learn about additional CRAFT groups, and contact CRAFT@learngrowconnect.org or 815-389-8455 with any questions.

 

Chesapeake CRAFT

Maryland, Virginia, Maryland

Chesapeake CRAFT was founded in 2010 and has grown significantly since then. The program offers farm tours and potlucks throughout the growing season to build the regional farming network. Events, like farm tours, take place on twelve Mondays throughout the growing season starting at 3:30pm. They are followed by a potluck dinner. The next farm tour is June 3rd at Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC. The fee for joining Chesapeake CRAFT is $150.00, which includes attendance of all farm staff to any CRAFT event during the season. For more information e-mail chesapeakecraft@gmail.com.

 

Sierra CRAFT

California

Farmers who make up this CRAFT group stem from Sierra, Plumas, Yuba, Nevada, Placer and Eldorado Counties in the Sierra Mountains of California. The group provides on-farm field days throughout the year for farmers and ranchers, a listserv, and farm business planning classes—all to create an exchange of information between area farmers. Sierra CRAFT is funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program of the USDA.

 

CRAFT Southeast

Tennessee, North Carolina

CRAFT Southeast launched in 2012 with a goal to strengthen sustainable farming in the Southern Appalachian region. The groups started with funding provided by the Beattie Foundation, and by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Established farmers and aspiring farmers alike are encouraged to join. Contact Cameron with questions at 828-338-9465 or cameron@organicgrowersschool.org

 

Kentucky CRAFT

Kentucky

KY CRAFT focuses on the bond between mentors and interns as a vital way to grow careers in organic farming. Their mission is to not only broaden future farmers’ awareness of sustainable agriculture opportunities, but also to showcase a variety of regional operations. The group holds monthly workshops and hosts a community calendar that displays field days and other events hosted at KY CRAFT farms.

 

Northwest Lower Michigan CRAFT

Michigan

The Northwest Lower Michigan CRAFT is all about community. Farms that want to join must do two things: 1) host a CRAFT event during the growing season; and 2) allow their interns and apprentices to attend CRAFT events. Events generally consist of farm tours, a 30-60 minute demonstration of a farming skill, and a potluck meal. Hosting farms may join CRAFT for free; individuals not connected to a member farm can attend events for a recommended donation of $5-10 per tour. Contact Amanda Kik at 231-622-5252 or amanda@artmeetsearth.org for more information.

 

North Fork Valley CRAFT

Colorado

The North Fork Valley CRAFT runs a lecture series as well as farm tours on participating farms throughout the growing season. There is also an intern Round Table dinner that includes sharing current events, experiences and support systems. The next CRAFT program is a Large Scale Compost workshop on June 4th. Upcoming classes include fruit growing, and permaculture. Contact Lynn Ruoff at lynnruoff@gmail.com or 970-319-9434 for more information.

General sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) opens today!

Today begins the four-week general sign-up for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), ending on June 14.

Under the CRP, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) collects and ranks offers from farmers to enroll highly erodible and environmentally sensitive land in the program.  The land is taken out of production and long-term, resource conserving cover vegetation is established to control soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and enhance wildlife habitat.  Producers who are accepted into the program during the sign-up can receive cost-share assistance to plant long-term, resource-conserving covers and receive an annual rental payment for the length of the contract (10-15 years).

Producers can also enroll conservation buffers and other portions of their fields in the continuous sign-up CRP (CCRP) to reduce run-off and provide habitat.  Producers can enroll through CCRP at any time.

USDA Announces Rural Business Opportunity Grants

The USDA’s Rural Development Agency is now considering applications for Rural Business Opportunity Grants. While these grants are not for farmers specifically, they can be used for programs that help farmers and encourage business and employment in rural communities. The Rural Development Agency is offering these grants in the hopes they will bring about a resurgence of jobs in rural areas.

The following groups are eligible: public entities, nonprofits, institutions of higher education, Indian tribes on Federal or State reservations, and rural cooperatives.

Up to $2.6 million is available for projects. Before June 30, 2013, $919,820 has been explicitly allocated to American Indian tribes, and $790,303 reserved for Rural Economic Area Projects. After June 30th $790,303 will be available—unreserved—for a variety of projects. The maximum grant award is $100,000.

Applications deadlines are as follows: Paper applications must either be hand delivered to a Rural Development field office, or postmarked by June 28, 2013. USDA must receive electronic applications no later than midnight June 24, 2013. Click here to submit an electronic application.

Visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s website to learn about the 2012 projects that received Rural Business Opportunity Grants.

For more information call the Rural Business-Cooperative Service at the USDA at: 202-720-7558, or click here.

College Farms: Northeast Region

Just as classes wind down for the year, students are ramping up their work at college farms. For beginner farmers and those interested in exploring agriculture in an academic setting, university-based farm programs offer a unique perspective. Students are actively involved in all aspects of the farm operation from greenhouse management to field planting to harvesting and distributing their farm-fresh products. College farms provide opportunities for learning, research, independent study, and networking and can be a great way to earn credits and internship hours!

In the next few weeks the Resource Spotlight blog will highlight student farms across the country. This week we’re focusing on these farms in the Northeast.

From Maine to Massachusetts, colleges in the Northeast are growing food for CSA’s, local restaurants, farmers’ markets, and some even supply their campus dining halls! With a short growing season and often-small amounts of farmland to work with, these schools are farming very intensely, and incredibly efficiently.

Check out the student farm directory from the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association to find out more about university farms near you. If your college farm isn’t listed below, tell us about it in the comments section!

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Beech Hill FarmCollege of the Atlantic
Mount Desert, ME

Beech Hill Farm is a 73-acre organic farm that is owned and operated by College of the Atlantic (COA) on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The farm, which COA bought in 1999, has fields of crops and three orchards of heirloom apples. Shuttles run from COA’s campus in Bar Harbor to the farm to ensure easy access for students, faculty and staff who want to get their hands in the soil. Students also conduct research and independent study projects on the farm. Produce from the farm goes to COA campus dining hall.

Contact: beechhillfarm@coa.edu

 

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Farm CenterHampshire College

Amherst, MA

The Farm Center was created in the late 1970’s as a place for students and faculty to learn about sustainable farming and to provide a place for academic work like studying animal behavior and agriculture science. The farm has a CSA, of which Hampshire College Dining Services purchases 20 shares per year to use on campus. The farm also offers a Food, Farm and Sustainability Institute where students, faculty, staff and alumni can learn about food production and sustainable agriculture during the 6-week institute. This year’s institute runs from June 3-July 12th.

Contacts: lcox@hampshire.edu or nehFC@hampshire.edu

 

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Cook College Student Organic FarmRutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ

Rutgers University boasts having the nation’s largest organic farm managed completely by students. The five-acre farm was founded in 1993 and provides locally grown, organic produce to CSA members and surplus produce to a nearby soup kitchen. Cook College farm also has paid summer internships for students who not only work the land, but also write the weekly newsletter, The Cover Crop.

Contact: 732-932-9711, ext. 256

 

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Dilum Hill Student FarmCornell University
Ithaca, NY

Dilmun Hill is a student-run farm with a mission to provide students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members with opportunities to experience sustainable farming. The farm’s bounty is sold in Ho Plaza and in front of Mann Library June through October and supplies fresh veggies to the Cornell Dining and Manndible Cafe.
Contact: dilmunhill@cornell.edu

 

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Dickinson College FarmDickinson College 

Carlisle, PA

At 50-acres, the Dickinson College Farm is a certified organic living laboratory that gives students hand-on experience growing food for their community. Most of the harvest is split between the campus dining hall and Dickinson’s CSA program—which in this case stands for Campus Supported Agriculture. The rest goes to the town farmers’ market, local restaurants, and some is donated. In addition to dark leafy greens and bulbous root vegetables, the farm also manages a flock of sheep, grass-fed beef cattle, laying hens and broiler chickens.

Bonus: Jenn Halpin, the farm’s director, was a Farm Aid Farmer Hero!

Contact: halpinj@dickinson.edu; (717) 245-1969

 

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Common Ground Student-Run Educational FarmUniversity of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Common Ground’s three-acre farm is 100% student run and operated. In addition to row crops, the farm has a perennial fruit area with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, black currants, gooseberries, sour cherries, plums, peaches, and nectarines. The farm contributes fresh, organic vegetables to the Campus Kitchen Project—a hunger relief program that distributes meals to the community. Produce is also sold at a stand in front of the library, and distributed through a CSA. UVM has really jumped on board, offering courses like an Organic Farm Practicum and Organic Farm Planning.

Contact: cgsref@uvm.edu

 

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Agricultural Learning CenterUniversity of Massachusetts

Stockbridge, MA

Perhaps one of the newest college farms in the Northeast is the 50-acre farm at UMass Stockbridge, which launched this past April. This farm will act as a classroom, giving students a place to learn about agriculture while also digging in and participating in growing crops and raising livestock. UMass has other farms throughout the state of Massachusetts, but those are primarily for professional research—this farm is specifically for students and pairs with the new Sustainable Food and Farming major at the university, which offers classes like: organic weed control, community food systems, and sustainable soil and crop management.

Contact: AgLC@cns.umass.edu