Food and farm webinar roundup

What is a webinar, you ask? A webinar is essentially an online educational video that typically discusses a specific topic. Many organizations listed in our Farmer Research Network online search tool provide this type of resource to assist agricultural producers. While some of these webinars require advanced registration, other videos are archived for farmers and ranchers to watch anytime! From conservation tips and tools to learning to start a farm, there are plenty of agriculture webinars available to farmers. Here are some trusted websites with webinars that can help:

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) 

ATTRA, a division of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, maintains an ongoing archive of its webinars focused on different areas of sustainable agriculture. Want to learn how to build a better relationship with your lamb processor? How about organic farm conservation? With 55 archived webinars and a growing library, this is the site to visit for all things sustainable.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Many branches of the USDA developed webinars to assist and educate producers. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) created a library of various videos related to conservation. These webinars span topics ranging from “Planning for Floodplain and Riparian Area Special Environmental Concerns” to “Conserving Pollinators While Addressing Other Resource Concerns.” Each webinar is hosted by a lineup of experts, many of which are USDA employees.

The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) developed a series of webinars that air twice a month from January through June of 2014 focusing on farm to school programs. All of these videos are archived in an FNS library in addition to a host of other webinars from the past two years.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service created an ongoing series of fruit and vegetable webinars archived here.

The USDA’s Forest Service developed the “Invasive Plants—Issues, Challenges and Discoveries Webinar Series” intended for landowners, agriculture professionals and scientists. This seven-part series will run through May, 2014, and information on each can be found here.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

While NSAC doesn’t have a library of archived webinars, the organization hosts several training webinars throughout the year. These training sessions cover many different topics, like how to market your agricultural business through building connections with the media or this overview of cover crops based on updated USDA termination guidelines. To stay up-to-date on the latest NSAC webinar, check out its website or like the organization on Facebook.

Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

The different SARE branches created varying series of webinars. North Central SARE offers webinars focusing on greenhouse energy, cover crops, building local sustainable foods and irrigation energy.  Southern SARE provides a webinar on “Grafting for Disease Management in Organic Tomato Production.” Farmers and ranchers can also order archived webinar series from Northeast SARE focusing on marketing for profit or farmland transfer and access.

Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN)

WFAN has a library of webinars that focus on empowering female farmers. These webinars cover a diverse range of topics within this realm, but each is meant to give women the tools they need to succeed. That may be on a policy level, such as the “Policy—When The Personal Becomes Political” video, which engages women leaders to explain how individuals can further policy goals. There are also more abstract videos, like this webinar that discusses the power of blogging.

Farm Commons 

Farm Commons creates and archives webinars focused on dealing with legal issues that can impact farm operations. The organization supplements these videos with downloadable resources. These webinars cover topics relevant to beginning and advanced growers alike, with titles ranging from “ Starting a Farm” to “Community Supported Agriculture Legal Issues.”

Rodale Institute 

While the Rodale Institute hasn’t released any webinars yet, stay tuned! The organization is in the works of creating a schedule of webinar trainings. In the meantime, Rodale developed a page with helpful videos from its conferences and workshops.

 

 

Resource Partners Event Roundup

Center for Rural Affairs

April: The Center for Rural Affairs (CFA) has two events this month. In partnership with The Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Drake University Agricultural Law Center, CFA is hosting the WI Farmer Veterans Tour and Workshop on April 12.  Veterans and family members interested in farming careers are invited to attend this event at Growing Power Farms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A tour of the farm and its composting and aquaponics system will be followed by workshops at the farm. Admission is free and seating is limited so register here to reserve your spot!

Also on the 12th is the Farm Dreams Workshop. Women interested in farming and ranching will be able to participate in a four-hour workshop to get a feel for the professions and learn how to take the first steps to enter the field. The workshop takes place at the Syracuse Public Library in Syracuse, Nebraska and costs $5. Participants must register in advance and can contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134.

May: On May 10 the Farm Business Financing Workshop for Women will take place at the Lewis and Clark Center in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The event is an intensive business planning and farm-financing course to help women farmers and ranchers design a business plan and access financing for agricultural operations. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance. The event costs $5 and lunch is included.

June: For those thinking about venturing into the farmers market business, the June 7 event Selling at Farmers Markets gives tips and tricks to find the best location, customer base, product, presentation and price to maximize success. Located in Ashland, Nebraska, this event costs $5 and includes lunch. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register.

On June 21, Selling Through a CSA will teach women getting started in gardening, farming, and ranching about the advantages of selling through a community supported agriculture system. The workshop will take place at the Webermeier Public Library in Milford, Nebraska. Contact virginiam@cfra.org or call 402.992.5134 to register in advance 

National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA)

April: On April 25 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (ATTRA) will host Entering the Institutional Food Market. Montana farmers, ranchers and processors will be provided information and technical assistance.  Register for this $10 event here by April 20 to reserve a spot.

June: With Montana adopting a new energy code requiring blower door and duct tightness testing for all new homes, there are emerging business opportunities in residential energy efficiency. On June 2, the Home Energy Rater and Energy Star Training in Missoula, Montana will provide comprehensive energy auditor training with an emphasis on new residential construction and the Home Energy Raters rating process. Participants will be prepared to take the tests required to become a certified Home Energy Rater, a Northwest Energy Star Homes Verifier and a Northwest Energy Star Homes Performance Tester. Register online and click here for more details 

Rodale Institute

April: Interested in having your own chickens? On April 26 the Rodale Institute is hosting the Backyard Chickens event to educate those looking to learn how to make chickens a part of their family and get fresh eggs everyday. Participants will learn about cost, breeding, housing, feeding, protecting and handling chickens, as well as leave with a list of recommended books and resources on how to complete this project efficiently. Register ahead of time here.

The Greenhorns

 April: . The future of farmland is unclear. In the next 20 years an expected 400 million acres of U.S. farmland will change hands. On April 26 and 27 Our Land: A Symposium on Farmland Access in the 21st Century at UC Berkeley will delve into the historical context, long-term implications and economic impact and stewardship potential of this impending transition.

May: On May 3 The Greenhorns is hosting Farmland Seekers to provide technical assistance around land and capital access and transition. Attendees will learn essential tools for building and navigating relationships with lenders, investors, landowners, partners, boards, conservation organizations, neighbors and more!

Click here to find out more about our Resource Partners! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more news about upcoming events and conferences!

New report released on food system policies in New England

The American Farmland Trust, Conservation Law Foundation and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group joined forces to release the exciting new survey, New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System. This report examines different policies impacting the food system in New England that either hinder or support its capacity to grow sustainably. The survey was created through interviews with people in food and farming in combination with two years of research.

Through this research, the survey explores opportunities for new or amended policies that can help New England’s food system thrive. In doing so, the report specifically looks into five topics in public policy: land, food production, food safety, markets and waste streams. The survey looks into ways that policies can improve on a state and national level, but also how the New England states can work together to achieve collaboration and change.

The Conservation Law Foundation’s website explains:

The New England states have a deep history of cooperation. This history offers promise for our states to work together on complex food system issues. We hope this report serves as a call to action to help policymakers, food and farming leaders, and citizens in each New England state to identify, support, and implement public policies that can have the most significant impact on strengthening our food system.

For more detailed information on the findings from each of the five public policy areas, click here for the conclusion from the report. 

Organic industry on the rise

The organic industry is on the rise in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new research showing the number of certified organic producers in the country grew to 18,513, a staggering 245 percent increase in the past twelve years. Now a $35 billion industry, consumer demand for organic products has also seen a dramatic increase.

The USDA is taking heed and expanding its support for certified organic and sustainable producers with new and enhanced programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained in a press release. These new programs are designed to help organic producers in an array of areas through increased crop insurance opportunities, expanded exemptions for producers paying into a commodity “check-off” program and $11.5 million in annual funding directed toward reimbursing up to 75 percent of organic certification costs.

These programs will additionally provide support to research initiatives surrounding the organic industry. The Farm Bill now includes $20 million annually dedicated to organic research, agricultural extension programs and education with an additional $5 million toward data collection. These new provisions also benefit consumers, with $5 million in funding for the National Organic Program to provide updated information about organic producers in the nation.

For more information about USDA resources available to organic farmers, visit the USDA Organics Resource page here: http://1.usa.gov/1hONn1R

WFAN launches new farmer forum

The Women, Food and Agriculture Network recently launched a new farmer forum for women. The WFAN Online Community is designed for farmers to stay connected and freely discuss a number of different topics related to agriculture free of charge.

Once registered, a user can choose which demographic best suits herself from four provided options: everyone, advocates, farmers or landowners. From there, the forum is intended to help users make more informed, practical decisions through the knowledge and experience of others in a way that strengthens the farmer community.

For more information and to check out the new site, visit: http://network.wfan.org.

To find out more about WFAN, click here to read a recent Growing Change story about the organization.

Growing Change: Family Farm Defenders

It’s no secret that today’s global food system doesn’t do its best by family farmers or eaters. Most of the world’s food economy is designed as a commodity market that drives down the price paid to farmers and drives up the cost of food to consumers. This thought of food a commodity like any other widget is just one concept that Family Farm Defenders (FFD) is working to dismantle in pursuit of food sovereignty and a more just and sustainable food system in America and across the world.

Family Farm Defenders, a small yet unyielding organization based in Wisconsin, would not exist without its late founder John Kinsman, who passed away at age 87 this January. After nearly dying from chemical exposure to agricultural pesticides, he made the switch to organic farming decades ago. But that was just the beginning. It wasn’t long before Kinsman transformed from a dairy farmer in Wisconsin with 36 cows to a global advocate for a just food system.

Food sovereignty rooted much of John Kinsman’s and Family Farm Defenders’ work. The term food sovereignty was coined by La Via Campesina, an international group that began in 1993 as a collection of peasants and farmers working to defend sustainable agriculture as a means of gaining global social justice. After travelling with Via Campesina and aiding in its formation, Kinsman brought the idea of food sovereignty back to FFD. While FFD had really started as a grassroots reaction to pressing issues related to milk and dairy farmers, the notion of food sovereignty broadened the organization’s mission and found resonance with several other organizations fighting for a just food system in the U.S., in no small part because of John’s dedicated work.

John Kinsman

There was magic in Kinsman’s seemingly effortless ability to unify individuals in a common fight — a fight against “corporate agri-business and institutionalized oppression,” as John Peck, the current executive director of Family Farm Defenders, puts it. “Meeting peasant leaders from all around the world, [Kinsman] saw that we have more commonalities with, say, peasant farmers in Mexico than we do with someone working for Monsanto here in the U.S.,” Peck explains. “Our farm workers and farmers together are both struggling for a living wage and dignity.”

Family Farm Defenders’ work expanded to include other threats American family farmers face. One of those concerns is land grabs, whereby corporations and wealthy investors buy up farmland. These investments drive up the cost of farmland so that farmers can no longer afford it and are driven out of business. In Wisconsin, where natural resources are so abundant, this has become a major problem with the growth of the natural gas and mining industries. The folks at FFD offer a listening ear for farmers in need and a grassroots approach to rallying against this kind of corporate power.

Family Farm Defenders also promotes the concept of “fair trade” (as opposed to free trade). Beginning in 1996, Kinsman spearheaded the Family Farmer Fair Trade Project. At the time, Peck was a University of Wisconsin-Madison student involved in a campaign to bring Fair Trade Certified coffee to campus. With Kinsman as his mentor, Peck questioned why Fair Trade only applies to foreign goods. Shouldn’t farmers here in the U.S. also benefit from fair trade? In response, Kinsman created FFD’s own Fair Trade Certification that applied to Wisconsin cheeses. Farmers with the certification doubled their profit per pound of cheese sold, when compared to their regular markets. Though FFD no longer sells the Fair Trade cheese, the model stands as a successful method for farmers to secure a fair price for their products.

Through this work, Family Farm Defenders’ strength has resided in educating and organizing. FFD works locally through town hall meetings and pushes for local ordinances that give the community control over their own resources. The organization hosts a number of farm tours — or as Peck calls them, “farm reality tours” — for the public, including many international visitors. FFD also leads protests related to its campaigns, primarily holding them in Chicago where many citizens they encounter have never met a family farmer before. The group is active at conferences across the country and holds its own annual meeting in Wisconsin. To educate the public, FFD hosts forums, panels, church groups and does outreach to bring awareness to its constituents.

Family Farm Defenders Protest Photo
Family Farm Defenders lead a rally in support of family farmers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin the day before Farm Aid 25. Photo © Paul Natkin.

Today, Peck is the only Family Farm Defenders employee, but a team of dedicated volunteers and passionate board members join him in carrying on the work. The organization will celebrate its 20th anniversary at its annual meeting this March, where the winner of the annual John Kinsman Food Sovereignty Award will be presented. While the future of FFD remains uncertain, Peck is confident that Kinsman’s work and legacy will endure.

Mentored for years by Kinsman, Peck sums him up this way, “He was able to take all of that negative energy and awareness and turn it into something positive, to try to figure out how we can build coalitions around the struggle, how we can change. He was a quintessential grassroots organizer. He was very good at telling stories that were empowering and gave people hope… He made connections between people that maybe didn’t know they had anything in common. If they sat down and talked together they realized that they all care about dignity and justice and fairness and peace in the world.”

Learn More

Growing Change: Women, Food and Agriculture Network

Women are often at a disadvantage in the male-dominated world of agriculture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only one out of every six full-time farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers in the U.S. is a woman. But the number of women in agriculture is rapidly increasing, even while the total number of U.S. farmers is starkly declining. The Census of Agriculture found that the amount of women in the field increased by 30 percent from 2002 to 2007.

With those numbers comes a slew of challenges for women farmers—and that’s precisely why The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN) was created.

Farms and Ranches Operated by Women

WFAN began as a working group in 1994 following the 4thInternational Conference on Women in China, where a small group of people found that they were the first working group to specifically represent women in agriculture. Since then, that small group has grown into the full service organization it is today, offering networking, education and leadership development to American women involved or interested in agriculture. “The importance behind the group was and still is empowering women, but in the realm of healthy food and farming,” Executive Director Leigh Adcock explains.

Leigh shares that female farmers experience three kinds of isolation: geographical isolation from residing in rural areas, cultural isolation related to working in a male-dominated field and the social isolation related to both of these conditions. WFAN stands as an outlet to provide support for women facing social stigma, while also assisting with problems that all farmers face, such as access to land or capital or adopting conservation practices.

Farm Aid first teamed up with WFAN in 2008, following a devastating flood in the Midwest that threatened farm families across the region. After connecting with our farm advocate, Joel Morton, the two organizations joined forces to build a coalition of groups working on relief efforts. Farm Aid President Willie Nelson visited Leigh shortly after to deliver a $10,000 check in support of that critical work. Since then, WFAN remains one of Farm Aid’s trusted referrals in our Farmer Resource Network.

Willie Nelson & Leigh AdcockWillie Nelson meets with Leigh Adcock to discuss helping Midwestern farmers cope with flooding in 2008.

WFAN works not only with experienced farmers, but also farmwives, non-farming landowners, beginning farmers and women connected to agriculture that are interested in leadership roles. Its three programs are designed to address the different needs of these women: Harvesting our Potential, Women Caring for the Land, and Plate to Politics.

Harvesting Our Potential is the oldest program WFAN offers. This experiential program connects women interested in entering farming with internship opportunities where they can work on an Iowa farm under the leadership of a skilled mentor for 8 to 12 weeks. The organization continues to provide this unique service that is mutually beneficial to both the aspiring and experienced farmers for networking and business planning.

In the state of Iowa, where WFAN is headquartered, women own or co-own about 50 percent of farmland. Women Caring for the Land, is a conservation manual for non-operator landowners, catered to women with any level of education. Though comprehensible and accessible for women of all ages, it is specifically designed as a useful tool to reach the growing population of landowners 65-years-old or older, to ensure ongoing conservation of their land.

Plate to Politics is an emerging addition to WFAN’s services in collaboration with the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, designed to connect women with leadership roles nationwide “from the farmhouse to the White House,” as Leigh puts it. Today, women win elections at the same rate as men. The only reason more women don’t run for office, Leigh maintains, is because they aren’t asked to or don’t consider themselves viable candidates. Plate for Politics acts as a platform to empower women involved in food and agriculture with the tools needed to confidently step into leadership roles. “I think empowering women is really crucial,” Leigh shares. “Having women involved in food and farm policy is going to change the way we farm and the way we treat our land and our health.”

Farm Aid recently supported the Plate for Politics program with a $5,000 grant. This grant enabled WFAN to create a series of six webinars available online to educate women on how they can serve as food and farm leaders.

With the recent rapid growth of the organization, WFAN hopes to assess its program areas for potential new projects, such as training on how to access subsidies to health care.

To stay connected with the women WFAN works with, the organization hosts potlucks and an annual conference. This year, the 4th National Conference for Women in Sustainable Agriculture will take place from November 6 – 8 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Learn More

Discovering the Agriculture Mediation Program

For most farmers, a dispute with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is an intimidating prospect. After all, the USDA is a large federal government agency, and some farmers can’t afford even basic legal services.

Enter the Agriculture Credit Act of 1987, which helped create Agriculture Mediation Programs in various states. Mediation is a free or low-cost alternative to legal action. While disputes can take years to resolve through legal action, mediation typically can be completed in a few sessions lasting hours. Thirty-eight states currently offer this type of program, and a federal mediation service is available to farmers located elsewhere.

How does a state obtain a certified USDA Agriculture Mediation Program?

Any state can apply to have a USDA certified Agriculture Mediation Program. An entity must first apply through the USDA in Washington, DC. This entity can be a university, a state department, a nonprofit or a company, but each faces a different set of conditions for compliance with the Code of Federal Regulations. The application process is extensive and requires a letter of recommendation from the state’s governor or the head of another appointed agency. If a state would like to apply, the governor or designated state agency official must notify a Farm Service Agency administrator on August 1.

If an applying institution passes the initial screening, its employees go through training and education administered by the federal Agriculture Mediation Program under the USDA. Once the training is complete and the institution has been approved to become an official USDA-recognized Agriculture Mediation Program, it must submit annual reporting to the USDA.

A certified Agriculture Mediation Program receives grant funding from the USDA equaling up to 70 percent of the program’s budget for covered cases. Coverage extends to cases involving agricultural loans, agricultural credit and adverse decisions by a USDA agency.

How can mediation help?

When someone faces an adverse USDA decision, that person may be offered mediation as an option under the Department’s informal appeals process. An individual can also contact a mediation program directly if he or she thinks it is a viable option. Mediation is entirely confidential, and no documents created during the process can be used in any legal action that might follow. Both parties are prepared by the mediator in advance of the mediation session. This may include financial counseling, acquiring proper documentation or any other preparations necessary for a specific case. The mediator acts as an entirely impartial third party, and either party can request a different mediator at any stage in the process. Some states also offer mediation to resolve issues outside of the USDA’s domain, such as disputes involving contracts with food processors or conflicts with neighbors, although 60 percent of mediation cases deal with farm loan programs.

Once both parties agree to mediation, a time and meeting location is determined. Depending on the issue, mediation can sometimes be completed over the phone. Whether mediation takes place by phone or in person, both parties and the trained mediator are present. Gayle Cooper, associate director of the Fulcrum Institute Dispute Resolution Clinic with locations in Idaho, Montana and Washington, estimates that the entire mediation process averages about three hours, depending on the complexity of the issue. While many states, including Idaho, Montana and Washington, offer these services for free, other states charge a small fee. Iowa, for example, charges $50 per hour. In many cases, that’s a more affordable option than paying for an attorney, who can charge anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per hour while pursuing legal action that might take months or years to resolve.

It’s important to note that mediation is very different from legal action in that the mediator has no decision-making power. He or she is simply the facilitator. If the two parties are able to come to an agreement, the mediator will create a binding document for both parties to sign.

USDA disputes:

The Agriculture Mediation Program was originally intended to help farmers respond to adverse USDA decisions without pursuing a legal course of action. Each state with an Agriculture Mediation Program covers cases involving the following eight USDA agencies or programs:

(1)  Farm Service Agency farm programs

(2)  Rural Development housing loans

(3)  Rural Development business loans

(4)  Rural Development water loans

(5)  Natural Resources Conservation Service wetland determinations

(6)  USDA decisions involving pesticides

(7)  National Forest Service grazing permits

(8)  Risk Management Agency crop insurance disputes

Agriculture Mediation Programs are also required to cover issues with agricultural credit and agricultural loans from the Farm Service Agency, as well as from commercial and private lenders.

Other disputes:

Not all states provide mediation services for disputes that do not involve the USDA. States that do offer this option cannot receive federal funding to do so. Each state that does offer non-USDA mediation has different provisions for the types of conflicts it can address. Elaine Bourne, program manager for Community Mediation Services in Maine, shares some examples of common disputes that Maine’s program can help with: farm and rural development loans, environmental or forestry issues, crop insurance or disaster relief, contracts with food processors, conflicts with neighbors, labor issues, farm business plans, wetland determinations, farm succession or estate issues and disputes affecting agricultural operations.

What states offer these services?

Below is a list of states that offer certified Agriculture Mediation Programs, with links to each website where applicable. Don’t see your state below? You can contact the national office by emailing certified.mediationprogram@wdc.usda.gov.

Alabama Agricultural Mediation Program

Arkansas Farm/Creditor Mediation Program

Arizona Agriculture Mediation Institute

Colorado Agricultural Mediation Program

Florida Agricultural Mediation Service

Hawaii Agricultural Mediation Program

Illinois Agricultural Mediation Program

Indiana Agricultural Mediation Program

Iowa Mediation Service (IMS)

Kansas Ag Mediation Services (KAMS)

Louisiana State Agricultural Mediation Program

Maine Agricultural Mediation Program – Volunteers of America

Massachusetts Agricultural Mediation Program

Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program

Minnesota Farmer/Lender Mediation Program

Mississippi Agricultural Mediation Program

Missouri Agricultural Mediation Services

Nebraska Farm Mediation Service

New Hampshire Agricultural Mediation Program

New Mexico Agricultural Mediation Program

New York State Agricultural Mediation Program

North Carolina Agricultural Mediation Program

North Dakota Mediation Service

Oklahoma Agriculture Mediation Program, Inc.

Oregon Farm Mediation Program

South Dakota Mediation and Ag Finance Counseling

State of New Jersey Board of Mediation

Texas Rural Mediation Services

The Community Mediation Center of Rhode Island

Utah Agricultural Mediation Program

Vermont Agricultural Mediation Program

Virginia Agricultural Mediation Program

Wisconsin Farm Mediation and Arbitration Program

Wyoming Ag & Natural Resource Mediation Program

Fulcrum Institute Dispute Resolution Clinic (ID, MT, WA)

Where can I find more information about mediation?

There are many resources available that offer a more in-depth look into how mediation can help, as well as advice on how to contact a local mediation provider.

• The USDA shares this overview of the Agriculture Mediation Program and provides contact information for each state entity.

• Mediate.com walks you through the history of mediation, what it is and how it can help.

• Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network includes information about each state’s mediation program and contact information.

Crowdfunding: What is it and how can it help?

What is crowd-sourced funding?

Crowd-sourced funding, or crowdfunding, is a new way for individuals or organizations to raise money online. There are different websites that offer crowdfunding services, each of which typically request a percentage of the money raised. Here’s how it works: someone posts a campaign to the website and individuals that support it can donate funds directly. Usually, the users need to give benchmark rewards to those that donated based on the donation amount. The concept has taken the Internet by storm in recent years as new websites and campaigns continue to grow.

While the Internet and agriculture may seem worlds apart, there are many farmers and agricultural innovators that have successfully raised tens, hundreds, even thousands of dollars through these crowdfunding sites. Take, for example, the Mano Farm in Ojai, California. The farmers posted their campaign to Kickstarter in an attempt to raise money to offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to low-income families. 46 individuals donated to the cause to help the farmers raise $10,000 for their campaign. Other farmers have been successful in raising money to build new infrastructure, develop new innovative tools, implement more sustainable practices and even save a farm from foreclosure.

Platforms:

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is one of the most well known crowd-sourced funding platforms today. Individuals post their campaigns through an optional video submission, pictures and a written story detailing their cause. The project requires a set timeline and funding goal. If the goal is not reached, the individual is not permitted to keep any of the money raised. If the goal is surpassed in the given amount of time, the individual is able to keep the extra funds to put toward the cause. Just in 2013 over $480 million was pledged toward campaigns on the site.

Farm Aid’s sister website, HOMEGROWN.org, is a curator on Kickstarter. As a curator, campaigns working to make innovative or sustainable strides in food or farming are carefully chosen and added to the HOMEGROWN Kickstarter page.

Indie GoGo

Indie GoGo is another popular crowdfunding site very similar to Kickstarter. It is different in that even if someone does not meet his or her goal, that individual is still able to keep all of the funds raised. It is free to sign up and create a campaign on Indie GoGo, but the percentage that the site keeps is dependent upon whether or not the initial goal is reached. There are no guidelines as to what a person’s campaign can be for, so anyone can raise money for their cause.

GoFundMe

GoFundMe is another crowdfunding site that allows a user to create a campaign for virtually any cause, even medical bills or livestock expenses. The site helps a user promote the campaign through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter for more widespread exposure. Like IndieGoGo, users can keep all of the donations even if the goal is not met. A percentage of the funds raised is automatically deducted from the donations, but the percentage remains the same even if the user does not meet the initial campaign goal.

RocketHub

RocketHub is another very similar model in that users can create campaigns surrounding nearly any project topic. Users are able to keep the funds they raise even if it does not meet a goal. The site is partnered by A&E, creating unique media exposure opportunities for users. Depending on the project, there is even the opportunity for A&E to fund campaigns.

From farm to fork: the journey of food

Farm to fork—it sounds intuitive enough, right? Farmers produce the food, which is then brought directly to consumers to eat. It’s simple. Unfortunately, this isn’t the way the majority of America’s food system works today. With a rise in agricultural conglomerates, the journey of food from the farm to consumer’s plates is anything but simple.

Take produce, for example. Once the product is picked fresh from the fields, it is often sent on a truck to a packing plant where it can be cleaned and packaged. From there it’s sent to the distributor before eventually reaching local stores. Each of these outlets may be hundreds, even thousands of miles apart, if the stops are in the country at all. About 70 percent of the food Americans consume must go through chilled transportation and storage to stay preserved throughout this process.

So exactly how long is food’s journey before it reaches the shelves of local grocery stores? On average, processed food travels 1,300 miles before it reaches consumers. Produce has an even longer trek with an average travel distance of 1,500 miles before reaching consumers. All food spends an average of 14 days on a truck before hitting local stores. Food transportation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Worldwatch Institute.

Fear not—fresh and local food is making a comeback. Eating locally is beneficial in more ways than one. Farmers usually receive a higher profit margin for their produce and consumers have the opportunity to interact directly with the person that produced their farm-fresh food. While food transportation takes a hard toll on the environment, eating locally eliminates the middlemen and associated travel. Whether it is through farmers markets, CSAs or farm to school, organizations across the country are making strides to build creative solutions to bridge the gap from farm to fork.

California Farm to Fork

California is at the forefront of the local foods movement. The California Department of Food and Agriculture initially funded this project in collaboration with the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education. California Farm to Fork assists farmers in directly reaching consumers, restaurants, schools and more. The project helps to coordinate workshops focused around local foods and provides resources to increase people’s access to healthy and fresh food from around the state.

Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS)

From 2008 to 2009, the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) worked to create a strategy to develop a sustainable local food system in North Carolina. The average person spends about $4,010 on food consumption every year. The folks at the CEFS discovered that if everyone in North Carolina spent 5 percent of that amount on local food, it would contribute over $1.7 billion annually to the local state economy. CEFS put together a farm to fork state action guide to work dynamically towards fostering a locally minded food and farming system in the state. CEFS will host its annual Farm to Fork Picnic on June 8.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP)

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project works to connect farmers in the Southern Appalachian region to local markets through training and support. The organization works primarily in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia but offers guidance on a national level through its annual Local Food Guide. Working with more than just farmers to spearhead the movement in the region, ASAP helps restaurants and foodservice buyers to find fresh, certified locally grown foods.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

For more than 20 years the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture has worked in Massachusetts toward expanding markets for locally produced food. CISA formed diverse “buy local” programs to assist with all facets of local direct marketing, including providing shares of local produce to low-income seniors, supporting farm to institution programs, consulting farmers and farm service providers and offering technical assistance to farm operations.

Where to Find out More:

Recent Resource Spotlights highlighted direct marketing opportunities for farmers through food hubs and farm to institution models.

To find out where you can buy local food in your area, check out the Find Good Food page on the Farm Aid website.

Farm Aid is a sponsor of the 7th annual Farm to Cafeteria conference in Austin, Texas from April 15th through the 18th. The conference will bring together more than 1,000 food service professionals, farmers, educators, advocates, policy makers and more to work on sourcing local food to institutional cafeterias across the country. Click here for more info and to register for the conference.