New resources for farmers transitioning to organic production

Transition to Organic Network (TON) listserv
TON is an online community of farmers, processors, handlers, buyers, agricultural service providers, and other food system stakeholders that share a common interest in transitional and organic agriculture. TON members connect with each other via the listserv to:

  • Exchange questions and resources related to transitional and organic agriculture and certification,

  • Stay informed about educational opportunities and programs for transitioning and organic producers and buyers, and

  • Network and develop relationships with other actors in the transitional and organic community.

Click Here to Subscribe to the Transition to Organic Network Listerv.

Making the Transition to Organic: Ten Farm Profiles

This publication features livestock, field crop, and vegetable producers who, during 2012-2015, were in the process of transitioning or who had been recently certified organic. Each profile addresses organic transition strategies (full transition, gradual transition, immediate transition, and split transition), challenges encountered, and outcomes deemed “most satisfying.” Click here to download a PDF version of this report.


Organic Transition: A Business Planner for Farmers, Ranchers and Food Entrepreneurs 
This publication is a decision-making tool designed to assist with the development of actionable production, marketing, human resource and finance strategies when considering the switch to organic. The Organic Transition Planner includes worksheets as well as three business plans developed by transitioning dairy, row crop, and vegetable farmers. Click here to download a PDF version of this report.

December 22: Free webinar on farm insurance options

Farmers! Insurance for your farming operation is important, but navigating the options can be overwhelming and confusing at times.

If you have lingering questions about insurance and risk management, then Farm Commons has answers! Join them online on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern for a free webinar — Insurance for the Farm: Policies and Principles to Efficiently Manage Risk — to address common questions, such as:

  • What’s a farm liability policy and is it the same as a property/casualty policy?
  • How does it work with a homeowner’s policy?
  • Is workers’ compensation required and how does it work?
  • When do you need to look into getting a commercial policy?
  • What are affordable crop insurance options for the sustainable farm?

Advance registration is required. Click here to register and to learn more about it.

“QuickBooks for Farmers” online course starting October 5th

Image courtesy of AgBiz Assist

Image courtesy of AgBiz Assist

Do you ever wish that your farm’s financial information was better organized and easier to use to make business decisions? If so, then the Northeast Beginning Farmer Project’s new online course, BF 204: QuickBooks for Farmers, might be for you!

This course will teach you the basics of using QuickBooks, a popular accounting software, from a farmer’s perspective. All farmers are welcome to participate, beginning and experienced alike. The only prerequisite is a desire to start using QuickBooks for your farm’s recordkeeping.

The course last six weeks, running from October 5 through November 9, 2015. It involves participating in one weekly webinar each Monday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern, plus additional readings and homework assignments.

The cost is $200 per person. Visit the course’s webpage to register and to learn more about the specific topics covered.

New publication: Legal Guide on Contract Farming

Image courtesy of UNIDROIT

Image courtesy of UNIDROIT

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) just released an important new publication, Legal Guide on Contract Farming.

Divided into seven sections, the 250-page guide provides in-depth legal guidance on all aspects of the contract process, based on internationally accepted standards of practice. Sections include:

  • The legal framework for contract farming
  • Defining the parties in a contract
  • Setting the contractual obligations of each party
  • Clarifying excuses for non-performance of contract duties
  • Addressing outright breaches of a contract
  • Establishing the duration, renewal and termination of a contract
  • Resolving contract disputes

By sharing this information, the guide ultimately hopes to cultivate a contract farming environment that is equitable and sustainable for everyone involved. Download the guide here.

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.

Women Caring for the Land Workshop on Farm Transition Planning

Sarah Woutat founder of Uproot Farm in MN. Photo: USDA Flickr Creative Commons

Sarah Woutat founder of Uproot Farm in MN. Photo: USDA Flickr Creative Commons

The Land Stewardship Project’s Women Caring for the Land program brings together women in Minnesota who both own and rent farmland and who are interested in learning more about conservation techniques like grassed waterways, field windbreaks, strip tillage, grazing, and cover crops.

The upcoming Women Caring for the Land workshop will focus on Farm Transition Planning–a concern held by many landowners. The workshop will provide information about smooth transitions from generation to generation, and most importantly a network of woman-to-woman support.

Details: Farm Transition Planning workshop, Thursday, May 28th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., in Morris, MN. Click here to learn more and RSVP for this event.

Food Safety Modernization Act Webinar

Join the Practical Farmers of Iowa on Tuesday, March 31st for a webinar about how the Food Safety Modernization Act will impact farmers. This is the last in a series of free winter farminars that are open to all and allow participants to ask questions in real-time.

The upcoming seminar will feature Sophia Kruszewski from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, who will introduce the Food Safety Modernization Act and will talk about what implementation will mean for farmers. Chris Blanchard, an Organic farmer and farm consultant at Flying Rutabaga Works, will then discuss how farmers can comply with the new rules and regulations.

Details: Tuesday, March 31st from 7-8:30 p.m. CST; log on at and sign in as “Guest” to participate.

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.

New USDA Protection Available for Specialty Crop Growers

The US Department of Agriculture announced last week that new added protections are available for fruit, vegetable and specialty crop growers under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. The new options were built into the 2014 Farm Bill and are meant to specifically address natural disasters that impact specialty crops.

The USDA’s press release further explained:

“Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.”

To learn more about the program, you can visit this Web tool created by the USDA in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois.

Registration Open for New Mexico Sustainable Ag Conference


The New Mexico Sustainable Agriculture Conference, presented by Western SARE and New Mexico State University, is open for registration! The event will take place on December 17 from 8:30 – 4 pm at the Roswell Convention Center in Roswell, NM. You can view the brochure and program for the event here to find out more.

Click here to register for the event or to learn more. Can’t make it? The presentations from the conference will be archived with NM State University here.