New publication: Short Duration Cover Crops for Vegetable Production Systems

Short Duration Cover Crops _New ISU GuideIowa State University just published an eight-page guide to working with “short duration” cover crops — those that are managed for just a brief period of time, usually between 45 to 60 days.

According to University researchers, “Planting short duration cover crops can provide multiple benefits to growers who employ them in their fields. Cover crops can improve soil and water conservation efforts, organic matter input, nitrogen fixation, weed suppression and bio-fumigation, providing not only better yields but a healthier environment.” We agree!

The University’s new guide addresses how short term cover crops fit into overall crop rotation, lists example cover crops to plant, and describes various aspects to consider when planting them.

Click here to download the guide (It’s free!) and learn more about the benefits of short duration cover crops.


Grant opportunity for farmers focused on animal welfare issues

The Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT), a nonprofit organization that promotes humane production of meat, milk and eggs, is now accepting applications for its Fund-a-Farmer grant program.

Fund-a-Farmer grants award eligible farmers with up to $2,500 to execute projects that will improve the welfare of their farm animals. This year FACT is especially interested in granting to independent, animal-welfare-oriented farmers wanting to transition to pasture-based systems or improve animal access to pasture.

Click here to learn more about Fund-a-Farmer grants and download the application form.

Applications are due by November 3, 2015.

Upcoming webinar: Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Next Tuesday, August 4th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is hosting Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems, a free webinar to highlight organic livestock systems and their conservation benefits.

USDA staff will begin the webinar by describing organic management practices and regulations relevant to livestock, focusing on pasture and outdoor access, feed management, and pasture management. Next they’ll highlight conservation practices that can work well with organic livestock systems, such as rotational grazing, fencing, and pasture management.

During the webinar, New Hampshire farmer Steve Normanton will talk about his grass-fed beef farm and how he put NRCS conservation practices into action.

Pre-registration for the webinar is not required. Click here for more information and instructions on how to join.

Water Conservation & Livestock Workshop

This farmer's conservation plan includes tire tank watering facilities in each of his pastures. Photo: USDA Flickr Creative Commons

This farmer’s conservation plan includes tire tank watering facilities in each of his pastures. Photo: USDA Flickr Creative Commons

Join the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Oklahoma for a Saturday afternoon and evening workshop that will cover ranch watering systems and stream and pond conservation. Specifically, the workshop will address riparian area management, stabilized stream crossings, and livestock watering systems such as: gravity flow from ponds, tractor-tire watering tanks and portable watering systems.

The workshop runs from 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm on July 11th and costs $15 (includes sandwiches and drinks). The registration deadline is July 7th. Click here for more information and to register for this workshop.

Webinar: Assessing carbon footprints on the farm

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons,  Carl Wycoff.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Carl Wycoff.

Agriculture is both vulnerable to the effects of climate change and a major contributor of greenhouse gases. Practical strategies that allow farmers to adapt to and mitigate climate change are key. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s (IATP) upcoming webinar will address both of these challenges.

The webinar will be lead by Gijs Kuneman from the Centre for Agriculture and Environment (CLM) in the Netherlands. He’ll cover: recent developments in agriculture and climate change; and innovative ways to monitor a farm’s carbon footprint (including an introduction to CLM’s Climate Yardstick and the Cool Farm Tool).

The webinar will take place on Tuesday, April 14th at 10:00am Central Time. Register now!

California Climate & Agriculture Summit

The California Climate & Agriculture Network is sponsoring the 4th California Climate and Agriculture Summit at the UC Davis Conference Center next week. The Summit’s agenda will cover climate change and sustainable agriculture in California. The Summit kicks off with a farm tour and includes a full day of plenary, workshop, and poster presentations.

The program includes keynote addresses by Ken Alex, a Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Jerry Brown and Craig McNamara, of Sierra Orchards, a discussion with farmers about their perspectives on the ongoing drought, and workshops ranging from Growing Clean Energy on Farms to Conserving Working Lands as a Climate Protection Strategy. The Summit ends with a wine and cheese reception.

The California Climate & Agriculture Summit takes place March 24th and 25th at the UC Davis Conference Center. For more information and to register, visit CalCAN.

Kansas Workshop Series for Women Farmers

Photo: © Patty O'Brien

Photo: © Patty O’Brien

Join the Kansas Rural Center (KRC) for a “Women in Farming” workshop series. The series consists of four workshops that will explore the opportunities and challenges that women farmers face.

  • Workshop Two: Saturday, March 28th, in Bird City, Kansas. This workshop will continue with the topic of specialty crops. The morning session will include discussion of high tunnels, season extension, food safety, organic certification, pest management, cooperative marketing, and specialty crop insurance. The afternoon includes a farm tour of Y-Knot Farm and Ranch’s 960 acres of certified organic wheat, forage, and pasture.
  • Workshop Three: Saturday, May 9th, in Linn, Kansas. The morning session of this workshop will focus on business, financial, and legal risk management. Speakers include representatives from Kansas State University who will cover financial and business planning, land price trends, leasing and tenant issues. The afternoon farm tour will take place at Lucinda Stuenkel’s farm near Palmer, Kansas, where participants will learn about conservation practices like cover crops and no-till, and cattle management specifically for women.
  • Workshop Four: Saturday July 11th, in Emporia, Kansas. The final workshop in this series will focus on soil health, cover crops and integrated crop and livestock farming. The afternoon farm tour will take place at Gail Fuller’s farm.

Registration and more information about the last three workshops will be made available soon. Check KRC‘s website for details, and contact Joanna Voigt at (866) 579-5469, with questions.

Enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program

Enrollment is now open for the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program. Farmers and ranchers have until February 27th to submit applications for this year’s funding. The CSP is win for both farmers and the environment, as it gives farmers financial incentive to engage in conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming. According the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, since 2009, when the program began, nearly 70 million acres of farm and ranch land have been enrolled. Learn more about the CSP at NSAC’s blog, and visit your local NRCS office to get the enrollment process started.

Organic Farmers: Be heard through the Organic Seed Survey

It’s the peak of the growing season, with farmers out on their land plucking off tomatoes and digging up carrots. But come winter, these farmers will be tucked away in their offices planning next year’s crop. Will they use organic seeds? How will they source them?

Since 2008 the top eight global seed firms have gobbled up 70-plus smaller seed companies. Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta control over half of the market—a sharp increase from the mid 1990’s when the top three seed corporations controlled 22 percent of the industry.[1] (Check out this excellent infographic for more). That consolidation over seeds – the genetic source of all the food we eat – has had dramatic impact on family farmers, and organic farmers in particular.

The Organic Seed Alliance’s national seed survey aims to understand the impact of those most affected by this consolidation: organic farmers. Every five years, OSA’s survey results highlight the needs of organic farmers and the availability of organic seeds and seed quality to inform future policy and research. The findings are published in their State of Organic Seed report.  View the 2011 report here.

OSA’s last survey gathered responses from 1,027 organic farmers in 45 states and demonstrated a lack of availability and quantity of organic seeds. Nearly 80% of respondents said they were having some degree of difficulty sourcing organic seeds. Contributing factors included: concentration in the seed industry, cutbacks in plant breeding programs, and disagreement and confusion over how to implement the National Organic Program. Concentration in the industry is particularly problematic for organic farmers, as it leads to a dearth of organic seeds and varieties.

OSA’s national seed survey is vital in determining the barriers and the opportunities in the organic seed industry and in discovering how farmers are using, or not using, organic seeds.

If you are a certified organic crop producer, please consider taking this confidential survey.

The deadline for responding is October 3, 2014. Access the survey here.


1. Wendy, Banks (2013). “Biotech Infographic Shows Global Consolidation Of Seed Industry.” The Sleuth Journal. October 15, 2013. Available:

Land Transfer, Succession and Tenure Resource Roundup

The average age of farmers in America is 57, a figure that consistently is on the rise. As a result, farmland succession is becoming of greater concern while beginning farmers are simultaneously struggling to find affordable farmland. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available for farmers that can help with land transfer, tenure and succession planning.

International Farm Transition Network (IFTN) 

The IFTN website lists all land link organizations by state. Land link currently exists in 23 states as a resource that connects farmers that are seeking land with farmland that is for sale or lease. Oftentimes, these programs assist farmers with lease negotiation and can even provide financial support during the process. Some land link programs offer succession planning training or resources.

California FarmLink offers an extensive online list of resources available to farmers seeking to buy or sell land.

Land Trust Alliance

The Land Trust Alliance offers an online map with listings of all land trust organizations by state. A land trust is an organization that works to conserve land through helping with the process of easement attainment or management. An agricultural easement is an important tool in dealing with succession, allowing farmers to dictate what their land is used for after it is sold. This can be invaluable to a farmer by restricting development on the land after it is passed on so it is farmed in the future.

The Greenhorns

 The Greenhorns offers an Access to Land guide that provides links to resources focusing on incubator farms, farm link programs, lease agreements, agricultural and conservation easements and land tenure.

Agrarian Trust

The Agrarian Trust resource page contains a growing list of resources that can help with many aspects of land access, transfer and succession planning. Some of the categories covered in this list include: accessing land, financing and financial planning, agricultural mediation and legal services, succession planning, and much more!

Land for Good

This 2013 Resource Spotlight highlights succession guides that are available to assist with the farm succession process. The publications cover everything “from setting goals to understanding legal and financial terms used in farmland and business transfers.”

The site’s Toolbox page also contains resources pertaining to land access, tenure and transfer separated into the following categories: farm seekers, farm transfer planning, landowners, educators and advisors and communities.

Land Stewardship Project

The Land Stewardship Project, in partnership with the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Farmers Legal Action Group, National Center for Appropriate Technology and the United States Department of Agriculture, developed the Farm Transitions Toolkit. This comprehensive guide provides step-by-step information and advice on the transition process.

Are you a beginning farmer with questions about land access? Check out our Beginning Farmer and Farm Start-Up Resource Guides for more information!