Now accepting applications: Bricmont Hardship Assistance Fund

The California-based CCOF Foundation is now accepting applications from certified organic producers for its Bricmont Hardship Assistance Fund.

The fund provides direct financial assistance to certified organic producers and processors/handlers who have suffered losses in 2015 due to extreme hardship.

Eligibility criteria:

  • Certified organic operation currently in good standing (valid organic certificate required for consideration)
  • Have not received CCOF disaster or hardship funding in the last three years
  • Have experienced severe economic loss in the 2015 calendar year
  • Can submit documentation or supporting evidence of economic loss resulting from the hardship (required for consideration)
  • Can submit a copy of receipt for organic certification fees paid in 2015 (by any accredited certifier)
  • Have not received federal assistance for the same loss

Click here to download the application.

Applications are due to CCOF Foundation by October 23, 2015.

Managing Farm Risk Workshop Series

Farmers at a meeting learning about available resources. Photo: USDA, Flickr Creative Commons

Farmers at a meeting learning about available resources. Photo: USDA, Flickr Creative Commons

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), along with the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI), North Carolina Cooperative Extension, and Farm Service Agency (FSA) have created a series of webinars to help farmers manage risk. The series, which kicks off June 10th and will continue on Wednesdays throughout the month, will cover topics such as crop insurance, accessing capital, and selling at local markets. Though the webinars are geared towards North Carolina farmers, anyone can benefit from the information provided.

  • June 10th, 8-9 am: Should Crop Insurance Be Part of Your Farm Risk Management Plan?
    Join James Robinson from RAFI to learn how new crop insurance programs can increase the competitiveness of highly diversified and organic farms. Specifically, this webinar will examine the Whole Farm Revenue Protection policy, new organic crop price elections for organically produced crops, and new Non-insured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) buy-up options.
  • June 17th, 8-9 am: How to Pay for it: Grant, Loan and Cost Share Options for Farms
    This webinar will cover options for accessing capital, and services and resources available through local FSA chapters. Experts like Rob Hawk II, the County Extension Director for Jackson and Swain Counties, Molly Nicholie, Program Director at ASAP, and Becky Williamson, the County Executive Director for Swain/Jackson/Macon FSA will talk about eligibility for loans and grant or cost share opportunities for farms in the region.
  • June 24th, 8-9 am: Sell What You Grow: Diversifying Your Market Opportunities
    Molly Nicholie, ASAP’s Program Director, will go over the pros and cons of selling to farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, and wholesalers, and how to determine which options are the best match for your operation.

Click here for more information and to register for this webinar series. Local farmers can attend the live workshop at the Swain County Technology and Training Center.

Not over by a long shot! The Texas Drought Summit Webinar

Photo: USDA, Flickr Creative Commons

Farming in a climate of persistent drought has become the norm for many in Texas. This slow-moving disaster, which is currently impacting 41 percent of the state, is raising production costs for many and putting some farmers and ranchers out of business.

In an effort to connect farmers and ranchers with disaster-related services, Farm Aid held the Texas Drought Summit on January 29th in San Antonio with 100 attendees. Working alongside the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) and other partner organizations, the summit: connected producers with disaster-assistance services; strengthened the network of disaster-assistance service providers; provided a space for those impacted to share experiences and lessons from the ongoing drought; and identified disaster-related service gaps and inefficiencies as well as steps to correct them.

In early April, the National Center for Appropriate Technology hosted a webinar to address the ongoing drought and follow up on the Summit. The webinar featured experts from TOFGA, the Farm Service Agency, Farmers Legal Action Group, and Rural Advancement Foundation International.

The webinar was recorded and is available online. Click here to learn about financial and technical drought recovery for farmers and ranchers.

Texas Drought Webinar

Photo: USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza / Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza / Flickr Creative Commons

In a follow-up to the January TOFGA/Farm Aid Texas drought summit, the National Center for Appropriate Technology is hosting a webinar about the ongoing Texas drought. Thousands of farmers and ranchers are still recovering and 156 counties in Texas have been designated disaster areas.

Experts from the Farm Service Agency, Farmers Legal Action Group, and Rural Advancement Foundation International will talk about ways farmers can get financial and technical resources to help with drought recovery.

The webinar will take place on Thursday, April 9 at 3-4 p.m. Central Time. Click here to register for the webinar. And contact: for more information.


Drought: How to Prepare and Where to Find Help

Drought afflicted the Midwest and California in recent seasons and is likely to continue to impact farmers in these states as climate change becomes a more pressing agricultural concern.

When dealing with a drought or any natural disaster, one of the most valuable tools a farmer can implement is record keeping.  “Currently, government agencies, lenders and insurance companies are requiring better and more accurate records,” a publication from Pennsylvania State University’s Cooperative Extension describes. “Not only bushels per acre, income and expenses, but also weather records are becoming increasingly necessary.” South Dakota State University’s Cooperative Extension released the “Record Keeping in Farm Management” publication to explain the importance of record keeping, particularly during a drought. As the article explains, there’s very little that a farm can do to prepare for a drought, but thorough record keeping can improve a farm’s financial wellbeing. This publication comprehensively provides an overview of what careful record keeping should look like.

While record keeping and water management techniques can make a vast difference for a farmer facing drought, there are some online resources that can help.

Farm Aid Resource Guide

Farm Aid developed a Crisis Support Resource Guide that has a list of resources to guide farmers to educational resources during a time of crisis, which includes a natural disaster such as drought. These resources also dip into other relevant topics, such as where a farmer can turn when in need of legal advice or services.

Beginning Farmers LLC

The Beginning Farmers LLC compiled a list of online resources applicable to beginning and experienced farmers. These resources provide a look into the science behind drought and how to plan for its impact and manage the repercussions if drought hits. Beginning Farmers also encourages farmers facing drought to contact the organization for more resources.

California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)

CDFA’s California Drought Information and Resources created a site with organizations and websites that can provide assistance to farmers facing drought. While some of these are state-based organizations, there are many resources available to farmers on a national scale. The site provides a list of USDA grant programs that may apply to farmers during a drought.

Click here for drought updates and more information on USDA assistance programs.

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 — Farmer Veteran Coalition

From serving the nation in the military to serving the nation food and fiber, many U.S. veterans are returning from combat to jobs in agriculture. Farming—with its taxing schedule and intense physical labor demands—is a good fit for such a hardworking and dedicated group.

Today, there are over 23 million veterans in the United States. Agriculture can provide an important source of income for veterans, particularly at a time when unemployment rates have skyrocketed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, throughout 2012 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had an unemployment rate of 9.9 percent—compared to about 7.9 percent for the general U.S. population. Particularly hard hit are female post-9/11 veterans with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. All in all, there are more than 200,000 unemployed Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in this country.

That’s where the Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) comes in. Their mission is to mobilize veterans to work in sustainable farming jobs, creating a smooth transition into civilian life. Michael O’Gorman founded the organization and is its current leader, with 40-plus years under his belt as an organic farmer. He started FVC because of two converging trends: the aging farmer population in the U.S., and the high unemployment rate of veterans. Helping recent veterans find farming jobs hit the two issues with one stone, and FVC was created in 2008. The organization has taken off and now works with 1,000 veterans in 48 states.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

Tia Christopher is chief of staff at FVC. She says that while some of the organization’s veterans grew up on farms or have an agricultural connection, this is not universally the case. “Some of them get a brilliant idea that they want to be farmers, even though they have no experience whatsoever,” she says. They come from different professional backgrounds, geographic locations and military experiences. FVC finds a unique opportunity for each returning veteran through one of its many programs.

FVC is chock full of programming, from farm retreats, to financial planning and business courses, to a small grants program that helps aspiring farmer veterans build up their initial infrastructure. Another FVC program is the farm equipment exchange and donation program, or FEED, where individuals or dealers can donate used or new farm equipment to the organization. This equipment is given to disabled or financially challenged veteran farmers.

The FVC staff members represent all of the military branches (except for the Coast Guard). Being veterans themselves makes the organization’s work personal. “For us as veterans they’re our peers, they’re our brothers and sisters and so we really care about the people who contact us,” Tia says. This dedication and passion shows with each and every veteran they help.

One veteran in particular who stands out for Tia is Mickey Clayton, a single mother who is half Lakota Indian and half Puerto Rican. She is also an Army combat veteran who sustained a severe leg injury in Iraq. Having grown up on a South Dakota reservation among sheep, Mickey became mesmerized by the nomadic Awassi sheepherders in Iraq. Upon returning home, she decided to start a farm with FVC’s help. Now Mickey raises unusual breeds—that garner higher prices—like Navajo-Churro Sheep and Muscovy Ducks on Dot Ranch in Northwestern Oregon. She is one of FVC’s Bob Woodruff Farming Fellows, a program that has helped her secure adaptive farming equipment, making it possible for her to wrangle sheep even with her injury. And if being a single mother and raising all of those breeds wasn’t enough, Mickey also has a successful Etsy business selling her wool.

With Dot Ranch thriving, Mickey is now able to give back. She’s an ambassador for the FVC at Native American sheepherder events, and has ushered other vets into the FVC family. Tia says giving back like this demonstrates the program’s success. “Success for us honestly is when the veterans are able to mentor their peers, employ their peers, and pay it forward.”

The FVC has a strong connection to Farm Aid’s work of supporting the family farmer. Farm Aid was one of FVC’s earliest supporters, granting them $17,000 since 2009 to support their programming, most recently supporting their work training more than 100 veterans in farming skills, offering business planning to 31 veterans, and helping veterans secure legal counseling and disaster assistance in times of crisis. But that’s not all; Farmer Veteran Coalition has a huge presence at the Farm Aid concert each year, as part of the farmer meetings that take place before the concert and as part of the HOMEGROWN Village at the concert. FVC brings farmer veterans to Farm Aid from across the country to network with other farmers and spread the mission of the organization. Tia finds the jovial spirit of the Farm Aid concert conducive for recruiting would-be veteran farmers. “It’s really cool because we get awesome mentors and farmers to sign on with us when we’re at Farm Aid each year,” she says. Last year they recruited a veteran mushroom farmer and an entomologist.

Tia and her colleagues see the importance of the work they do everyday—not only finding employment for veterans, but also encouraging them to keep their spirits up and put their strong sense of service to use. Each and every farmer veteran motivates and inspires Tia. “It is often stated that farming and the military are two of the hardest professions; at FVC we believe that it takes a special type of person to do either, let alone both. I think the quality that’s most important for both is determination, and our farmer veterans have it in droves.” Helping military heroes and growing new farmers makes the Farmer Veteran Coalition a true Farmer Resource Network provider hero!

Learn More

Photo above provided courtesy of Jim Carroll Photography.

Disaster resources to relieve farmers and ranchers in CO and SD

Shortly after farmers in Colorado were faced with severe flooding in September, others in South Dakota were hit with a record-breaking October blizzard leaving ranchers to deal with 48-inches of snow. Unprepared to face these conditions, farmers and ranchers in South Dakota lost tens of thousands of livestock to the freak storm. All of this came in the midst of the government shutdown, leaving family farmers without immediate answers or assistance from federal entities during the crises.

If you or your family was affected by the disasters in Colorado or South Dakota, contact 1-800-FARM-AID (800-327-6243) or

Additional resources for affected farmers are available on the Farm Aid website. The Farmers Legal Action Group offers a guide explicating disaster programs available to farmers under the 2008 Farm Bill. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service also has an extensive online list of available disaster relief resources. One of the most important steps a farmer can take when struck by a disaster is to carefully document all losses and attempts to receive help. RAFI-USA created a guide to help farmers with this documentation.

Farm Aid is working alongside partner organizations on the ground to assist these farmers, already having donated $20,000 toward the relief efforts. The Farm Aid Family Farm Disaster Fund is activated and accepting donations towards farmer and rancher recovery.

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.


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

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.