Growing Change: NY FarmNet

Every month Farm Aid features farmers in the Farmer Hero column. And rightfully so: farmers work hard to provide the rest of us with food and fiber. Now the Farmer Resource Network is highlighting organizations that tirelessly, and often silently, bolster up farmers across the country. These groups work to provide farmers with the resources they need to make their businesses thrive, and ultimately get fresh food to eaters. These service provider heroes are truly growing change.

NY Farmnet

 

One such organization is NY FarmNet. It offers support—be it informational, financial, or emotional—to farmers across the state of New York. This extensive combination of services makes NY FarmNet particularly unique. According to Ed Staehr, the organization’s executive director, NY FarmNet is one of the only “organizations that looks at both the financial and the personal side” of the business. Their holistic approach supports farmers in moments of crisis and vulnerability, as well as farmers seeking new opportunities.

FarmNet’s forty-seven consultants range from those with backgrounds in financial services to those who have a master’s degree in social work. Many of them are retired farmers or extension agents who are dedicated to lending a hand to other farmers. They work on an as-needed basis and aren’t paid big bucks to take calls and visit farms, but as Staehr says, “They don’t do this work because they have to, they do it because they love it. And that really shows in our results.”

While much of what Farm Aid is about is celebrating family farmers, one of the hard facts of our work to keep farmers on the land is that a farmer’s livelihood, and sometimes a farmer’s life, depends on the resources we can provide. Partners who have experience helping farmers through crisis are essential. NY FarmNet is one of those partners we call on in times of immediate need. As Staehr explains, “One incident that sticks in my mind is when a farmer called in and our program coordinator took the call from the answering service at two in the morning. This individual was very distraught and appeared to be suicidal.” Rachael Bothwell, NY FarmNet’s Program Coordinator stayed on the phone with the farmer through the night. The following day a FarmNet consultant arrived at the farm to provide additional emotional assistance and help the farmer sort out his business options.

NY Farmnet

Two really important pieces of FarmNet’s success are that the program is free for farmers and that all communication is strictly confidential. This program wouldn’t work any other way, as many farmers are reluctant to admit that they have a financial or emotional problem. FarmNet has worked really hard to earn this trust from farmers—and as is the case in a patient-doctor relationship, FarmNet consultants avoid acknowledging a person they’ve counseled if they happen to see them in the community.

Farmers find out about NY FarmNet through the organization’s own outreach and also through referrals from Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network—an online tool that connects farmers to organizations, services, and guides that help them run a smooth and efficient business.

Lately NY FarmNet has seen an influx of cases associated with weather variations. From flooded fields to parched crops, it’s been a summer of climatic extremes. But even with these challenges, Staehr sees a lot of opportunities for farmers, especially in local markets. “There’s always opportunity for farmers who are aware of consumer demand…I see that increasing with the movement toward local food,” he explains. NY FarmNet consultants help farmers get their produce into these markets, and devise value-added schemes to keep businesses viable.

Despite the many challenges that come along with farming, there are many opportunities, and NY FarmNet can assist with both. “Many times when people are confronted with multiple challenges it’s difficult to see these opportunities, and that’s where NY FarmNet can help” says Staehr. Together by referring farmers to opportunities and ultimately assisting them in a hands-on way, the Farmer Resource Network and NY FarmNet create a working partnership to help farmers thrive.

Learn More

  • Click here to learn more about New York FarmNet’s work and to see profiles of the organization’s consultants.
  • Visit the Farmer Resource Network to find resource providers in your area.
  • Email us with additional organizations to include in the Farmer Resource Network.

Photo above provided courtesy of NY FarmNet.

 

Innovative Cover Crop Farm Tour in Ohio

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) presents a cover crop farm tour! Learn from one of Ohio’s foremost experts, David Brandt. He is a no-till farmer using cover crops extensively. David currently farms 1,250 acres of corn, soy, and wheat, and five acres of produce in Fairfield County, Ohio. He is funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) to conduct research into nitrogen fixing cover crops, and also has a Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) grant to study how cover crop species transport nutrients to the soil’s surface.

This Twilight tour will cover techniques for successful cover cropping on your farm. The tour is part of the 2013 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series from Ohio State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Team.

Details:

Tuesday, August 27th from 6 – 8 p.m. at Brandt’s Farm

6100 Basil-Western Rd.,

Carroll, OH 43112

(740) 756-4436, brandtsfarm@yahoo.com

Click here for more information.

Summer Reading: Farming Magazines

Reading material is always important for those lazy days of summer, or a quick respite from the sun under a shady tree. There are tons of farming and gardening publications. Below are a few that stand out to us. Let us know about other farm-related magazines you read in the comments below!

Acres USA
Acres U.S.A. boasts being North America’s oldest and largest magazine covering commercial-scale organic and sustainable farming. This monthly publication brings readers the latest techniques for growing crops and livestock. Issues are written by experienced farmers, consultants, veterinarians and researchers, who all practice sustainable farming. The articles focus on practical, hands-on information on topics like: cover cropping, rotational grazing, soil fertility, composting, organic certification and value-added processing, as well as many others.

Growing for Market
Growing for Market is a trade publication for local food producers. This magazine focuses on the business of growing and selling vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, plants, herbs, and other food products. The magazine’s website features a news aggregation site that updates regularly with information and news about agriculture.

Small Farmer’s Journal
Based in Oregon, The Small Farmer’s Journal has a wide-reach, as it is sent to 72 countries worldwide. This publication focuses on the work of independent, family farmers with topics like: livestock, crops, farming systems, equipment, recipes, marketing, poetry, and political updates. According to the journal’s website, “this folksy and feisty publication, a true clarion of free speech in the best old sense of the phrase, is a vibrant and exciting platform for engaging far-flung ideas about anything pertinent to the small family farm experience.”

Grit
GRIT is a bi-monthly magazine that is all about country living with a strong emphasis on community and stewardship. The publication focuses on those who live in rural areas, and magazine topics include: product reviews, livestock guides, gardening, cooking and other do-it-yourself information.

Webinar and FDA Hearings on Food Safety Rules In Northeast

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in January of 2011. Now the Food and Drug Administration is presenting its proposed rules about how it plans to carry out this law. Public hearings allow farmers, processors, retailers and consumers to ask questions of the FDA, express concerns and better understand the regulations and their complexities, as well as figure out how to operate under the new rules.

There are two upcoming hearings in the Northeast this August. The first will be held on August 19th in Augusta, Maine from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. The second will be held on the Vermont/New Hampshire border on August 20th.

The New England Farmers Union has expressed concerns that small farmers, like those in New England, could be negatively impacted by the new regulations. They have been pushing members to learn more about the FSMA, to comment on the proposed rules and to attend the upcoming hearings. Click here to learn more about their take on the issue and to find out more information about the hearings.

Also, the New England Food System Policy Project (a project of American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation, and Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group); Food Solutions New England; Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation; New England Farmers Union; Rhode Island Division of Agriculture; UMass Extension; University of Rhode Island are hosting a free webinar on FSMA for New England food producers, buyers, and those working toward a resilient New England food system. The webinar will be August 13, 2013, from 12:00-1:30 PM. Click here to register.

For additional information about the FSMA visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s issue page, and the FDA’s FSMA page.