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!

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.

 

Food hub roundup – a growing solution to direct markets

Direct markets are a growing way for farmers and consumers to interact, but they also support farmers by allowing them to set their own price for products. Even though farmers markets grew by over 250 percent in the past 15 years, many places called “food deserts” in the US still do not have access to fresh, healthy food from local farmers. Direct markets still only account for about .4 percent of all agricultural sales in the country.

Enter food hubs. Food hubs are a new and developing way for farmers to provide products directly to institutions, restaurants, grocers and countless other possibilities.  “Skyrocketing consumer demand for local and regional food is an economic opportunity for America’s farmers and ranchers,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “Food hubs facilitate access to these markets by offering critical aggregation, marketing, distribution and other services to farmers and ranchers.”

What is a food hub?

There are over 100 food hubs in the country today, each with a slightly different model. What all of these have in common is that each food hub helps farmers tap into new markets they may not have had access to in the past. The USDA created this definition for regional food hubs in the US:

“A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail and institutional demand.”

There are three different markets that food hubs can serve: farm-to business, farm-to-consumer or a hybrid model.

A food hub benefits farmers, consumers and the local economy of the community it serves. So, where can farmers and consumers find food hubs? There are currently food hubs all over the country. Some of Farm Aid’s resource partners are making a big impact on direct markets as food hubs that work with small and mid-size farmers.

Red Tomato

Red Tomato is a non-profit organization located in Plainville, Massachusetts. The organization created this video, which asks the important question, “Why is it so difficult to find local produce in your grocery store?”

It is that dilemma that the organization works to solve by providing the logistical support farmers need to provide regional grocers with local produce on a wholesale scale. In doing so, Red Tomato works with farmers across the Northeast in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The organization also provides consulting to farmers looking to transition from direct markets to wholesale markets.

Appalachian Sustainable Development

Appalachian Sustainable Development is a food hub located in Abingdon, Virginia. The organization works with small and mid-size farmers to supply local farm-fresh food to over 600 supermarkets that carry the Appalachian Harvest brand. Through its Healthy Familes – Family Farms program, Appalachian Sustainable Development also provides produce to food banks in the area. The organization works with fruit and vegetable producers in the region to serve Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio.

Ecotrust

Ecotrust works as a food hub across Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The organization is based in Portland, Oregon.

Ecotrust knows no boundaries, working with a wide array of different buyers including: bakeries, buying clubs, caterers, colleges and universities, food banks, food service contractors, grocers, healthcare facilities, hotels, motels, resorts, B&Bs, packers and processors, personal chefs, restaurants, schools and specialty retailers. The organization goes beyond working with farmers to encompass other producers such as brewers, fishermen and distilleries.

This food hub even provides an online marketplace for producers and consumers similar to a website like Craigslist.com. In doing so, sellers and buyers can interact directly with each other.

For more information on food hubs, check out the Food Hub Resource Guide created by the USDA.

Farm to institution roundup

There are initiatives across the country to get farm-fresh food in all types of institutions. Schools, hospitals and corporate and government cafeterias are among the many institutions that create business opportunities for farmers.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food is a USDA program created to foster the local food movement. This Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food map shows the locations of all of the USDA-recognized Farm to Institution programs as of 2012. There are a growing number of farm to institution programs in the country, but here are some of the biggest:

Farm to School

The number of USDA-recognized farm to school organizations rose from about 400 to over 2,300 from 2004 to 2011. Farms must go through rigorous food safety screenings before working with food service directors at schools. Once a farm meets USDA food safety regulations to work in a farm to institution program, that farm is held to those initial safety standards. There are many resources available for farms looking to become involved in a farm to school program. For more information, visit: http://www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool/farm-school-resources#fs

Farm to college programs are also a growing effort in the country, both in dining halls and at special events on campus. The Oregon-based Community Food Security Coalition started a national farm to college program in 2004. CFSC helps schools and producers connect and overcome barriers associated with starting a farm to college program. The organization also compiled a database that lists all current farm to college programs in the US. For more information or for resources on beginning a farm to college program, visit: http://www.farmtocollege.org

Farm to school programs are not limited to outside producers, though, and also provide the opportunity for schools to begin gardens or other agricultural operations. This provides schools with fresh produce while also educating students about farming and the importance of healthy, local food.

Farm to Hospital

Farm to hospital programs are two-fold in that they deal with both the patient and the hospital staff. Many hospitals are beginning to serve locally grown, farm-fresh food to patients as meals and to visitors and staff in the cafeterias.

While patients come and go from the hospital, doctors recognize the importance of fresh food for a patient’s health. As a result, some doctors began prescribing fresh fruits and vegetables to their patients. This takes the idea of farm-fresh food out of the institution and into people’s homes, expanding local farmers’ direct marketing and providing healthier alternatives for people.

Wholesome Wave created the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) to benefit overweight and obese children that are at risk of developing diabetes. The program is additionally designed to benefit family farmers through prescriptions that can be redeemed at local farmers markets. For more information visit: http://wholesomewave.org/fvrx/

“Given the increasing popularity of buying food products directly from local farmers,” the national Farm to School program explains, “as well as the heightened concern about human health and quality of food in hospitals, there has never been a better time to buy locally.” To find out more on the benefits of farm to hospital programs, click here to access the Farm to School guide: http://www.farmtoschool.org/files/publications_478.pdf

Farm to Business

There are also farm to business programs designed to help get farm fresh food into the workplace. Although restaurants most often utilize this, there are other businesses that work to get food from local farmers into company cafeterias or kitchens.

The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project created a Farm to Business Trade Directory that offers tips for buyers and producers. The directory also includes a map that lists all farm to business programs in Western South Carolina and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Check out the ASAP website for more information: http://www.buyappalachian.org/mixingbowl.

There are countless programs like the one ASAP created. Market Mobile is a Farm Fresh service that delivers food from family farmers to businesses in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The program is designed so the farmers can make their own prices and stretches beyond produce to encompass products such as local dairy, meat, seafood and granola.

Farm to Correctional Facilities

The recent demand for local food from family farmers even made its way into the correctional system. These programs can reduce an institution’s food costs while supporting local farmers and offering healthier meal options.

The national Farm to Cafeteria program surveyed the Montana State Prison and Montana Women’s Prison, both of which indicated the institution made an effort to purchase food from local vendors as often as possible. A representative of the Montana Women’s Prison cited the local cooperative as one of the most helpful resources for “locating and purchasing local foods.”

The Washington State Department of Agriculture recently partnered with the Washington State Department of Corrections to launch a farm to prison pilot program. Among other benefits, the program will determine if this project would successfully support local farmers through diversified markets. For more information on the new venture, visit: http://www.wafarmtoschool.org/Page/29/WSDA-Farm-to-Prison

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Holds Workshops for Good Agricultural Practices

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) is a level of food safety certification for fruit and vegetable producers. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is holding one-day fall workshops for direct-to-consumer producers to learn how to reach the GAP requirements.

Each workshop is divided into a Level 1 and Level 2 course. Interested participants can register online for a $25 fee and will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course. Registration is still available for the following:

Council Bluffs Workshop—Iowa Western Community College

  • Level 1—Nov. 12: registration deadline Nov. 5
  • Level 2—Nov. 21: registration deadline Nov. 14

Click here for more information, or contact Heather Snyder with questions at (515) 294-9020 or hsnyder@iastate.edu.

Government shutdown hits America’s farmers

Just as national parks and Veterans face serious setbacks, family farmers too continue to struggle under the weight of the government shutdown in Washington. As the Rural Advancement Foundation International’s Scott Marlow estimates, the delay in budget approval by congress may cost up to 1,400 farmers their farms.

This is a direct result of the sudden lack of funding funneling to farmers, as 1,423 are left waiting for the direct farm operating loans that they were already approved for. What’s more, over 2,000 beginning farmers are waiting for direct farm ownership loans and over 1,000 wait for guaranteed operating loans.

Funding isn’t the only obstacle farmers face in light of the shutdown. Farmers struggle to predict market trends without the agricultural reports typically released weekly by the National Agriculture Statistics Service under the USDA. Many farmers depend on these figures to determine the price of their crops, when to sell commodity crops and cattle auction prices. Not only are they now left without new figures, but also the websites that contained old data are down until the shutdown ends.

The domestic hog market in particular is affected by the shutdown, as traders increasingly back away from the $97 billion market. With no clear end in sight, the lean hogs futures dropped 47 percent immediately following the beginning of the shutdown.

These issues come among a slew of other problems related to food and farming, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s inability to monitor foodborne illnesses throughout the remainder of the shutdown. In the span of the shutdown thus far, 278 illnesses from chicken contaminated with Salmonella were reported in 18 different states. Though it is suspected the outbreak comes directly from Foster Farms, the US Department of Agriculture cannot conduct a proper investigation during the Congressional delays.

Congress was warned of the challenges a shutdown would create. Now family farmers are left waiting at a time when some farmers are also facing devastating weather conditions, such as the flooding in Colorado and the deadly blizzard that swept across South Dakota. For now, the only thing for certain is this shutdown will have a lasting impact on America’s family farmers.

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.

Sustainable Farming For Women, By Women

Coming up in August, MOSES, The MidWest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, will be hosting a series of workshops for women. In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming for Women, by Women includes on-farm workshops that provide attendees with skill-building and networking experiences and inspiration to support them in launching a food or farm business. Workshops will be taught by seasoned and beginning female farmers and topics include everything from how to run farm and food-based enterprises and value-added businesses, to land stewardship, risk management through income diversification, and integrating children and family.

Space is very limited, so sign up for workshops as soon as possible—and take advantage of the early bird discount! Click here for more information, or to reserve your spot.

August Workshops include:

Canoe Creek Produce
Sunday, August 4, 2013 | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  | Decorah, Iowa  | $35; $50 after 7-31-13
Discuss farm diversification, beginning farmer challenges and resources, and farmstay start-ups with a panel of experienced farmers plus representatives of FoodCorps and MOSES.

Dancing Winds Farms
Thursday, August 8, 2013  | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  |  Kenyon, Minnesota | $35; $50 after 7-31-13
A panel of farmers discusses diversification through farmstays, farming as a single woman, starting farms mid-life, beginning farmer land access & financing, cheesemaking, raising goats, and more!

Scotch Hill Farm
Sunday, August 18, 2013  | 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  |  Brodhead, Wisconsin | $35; $50 after 8-9-13
Learn from women who run successful CSA operations through the Fair Share Coalition. Topics include starting

How to Sell Fruits and Vegetables to the USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) buys more than $530 million worth of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables each year to supply schools, food banks and to distribute during disasters. Learn how to sell your farm’s produce to AMS at a free interactive webinar on Thursday June 27th at 2:00 pm EST. This free webinar is open to fruit and vegetable growers, and processors and distributors of all sizes.
The webinar will discuss how the USDA Commodity Procurement program works and what products the USDA buys; go over requirements for selling to the USDA and how small, socially disadvantaged, women and veteran-owned businesses can get involved; and provide all of the tools and resources necessary to do business with USDA. The webinar will conclude with a Q+A session.

Space is limited. Click here to register.