USDA Announces Specialty Crop Block Grants

The USDA will provide $52 million in grants supporting specialty crop producers in the U.S. Under the 2013 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, 54 grants will fund 694 initiatives assisting fruit and vegetable producers, as well as markets for other specialty crops.

These grants are intended to help initiatives including creating organic and sustainable practices, pest and disease control, and increasing food safety, among others.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack underscored how investments like these will act to strengthen rural communities by supporting both local markets and public access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

Click here for more information about these grants.

Livestock 101 Workshop

Join the Accokeek Foundation for an intensive class on the basics of raising livestock. The workshop includes a combination of classroom and field instruction, and specifically focuses on animal husbandry of heritage breeds like American Milking Devons, Hog Island Sheep, Ossabaw Hogs, Buckeye Chickens, and Black Turkeys. Polly Festa–who has been managing livestock for over 15 years–will teach this class.

The workshop runs from 6:30-9:30pm on September 30th and costs $10 members, $15 non-members.

Click here for more information and to sign up.

Join us for Farm Tours in NY State!

Saratoga Springs, NY — the home of this year’s Farm Aid concert — is a region chock-full of amazing farms. To highlight the diversity of agricultural opportunities in the region, we’re organizing three different farm tours open to the general public on Friday, September 20th (the day preceding the Farm Aid 2013 concert). Please join us for one of the stellar tours we’ve put together!

All tours cost $25 per person and will include lunch. Buses for the tours will depart at 9am sharp from Saratoga Spa State Park.

Register at www.farmaid.org/events and check below for details about each of these fabulous tours. We hope to see you there!

Farmer Communities + Networks
Roxbury Farm CSA, Kinderhook, NY
Gather your friends and put on your muck boots, ’cause it’s a Crop Mob!  Help Roxbury Farm CSA, a 400-acre biodynamic vegetable and livestock farm prepare for garlic planting. Tours led by farmers Jean-Paul Courtens and Jody Bollyut will precede a lively discussion led by local farmer mentors and apprentices. Conversation will focus on the communities that support our family farmers – from CSA members to farmer-to-farmer networks. The views of the Catskills aren’t so bad either.
Tour returns at 3pm

Achieving the Small Farm Dream
Pleasant Valley Farm, Argyle, NY
Join us for a tour of Pleasant Valley Farm and meet the leaders in season extension, winter storage, direct marketing, and much more!  Situated on 180 acres of land in Argyle, NY, Paul and Sandy Arnold will share their inspiring story to show how small family farms can be prosperous and profitable.  This tour will highlight the essential partnerships with NY organizations and agencies that helped Pleasant Valley Farm pursue the small farm dream.
Tour returns at 2pm

Creative Solutions for Family Dairy Farms
Willow Marsh Farm, Ballston Spa, NY
Dairy farmers have to get creative to stay in business. Join us at Willow Marsh Farm, where Chuck and Darlene Curtiss are using value-added dairy products to reach new customers and respond to local demand for their milk. Their 25-cow dairy now offers 40% of its fluid milk as bottled raw milk, cheeses, and yogurts, and also sells fresh products (including their own beef) from local vendors at their farm store. The Curtisses are building an on-farm creamery to process their own cheese and yogurt products. Get ready to taste some of the best farm-fresh dairy products around and engage in meaningful discussion around the challenges and opportunities facing family dairy farms in NY and across the country.
Tour returns at 1:30pm

USDA Research Grants for Small and Mid-Size Farms – Due September 26

If you have a research project that promotes and improves the sustainability and profitability of a small or midsized farm or ranch, you can apply for funding through the USDA Small Business Innovation Research Program. In your application, make sure to emphasize how the project can benefit rural communities and other farmers, and how the information will be shared among the small farm community. Awards range from $70,000 to $100,000.

Applications are due September 26th, 2013. Click here for full grant details and here to fill out an application. For more information, contact Charles Cleland at ccleland@nifa.usda.gov.