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!

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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.

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.

Farmer Veteran Coalition’s 2nd annual conference for women veterans

The Farmer Veteran Coalition will host “Empowering Women Veterans: Success in Agriculture Business and Well-Being” in Louisville, Kentucky on November 14-17. This is the FVC’s 2nd annual national conference dedicated to women veterans in agriculture. The FVC invites all women veterans, active duty and women farming with veterans to the free event at the Hyatt Regency. The conference will bring together over 100 women from around the nation to build community while learning business skills needed to achieve entrepreneurial goals.

Click here for more information. Click here to register for free and reserve a room at the Hyatt Regency hotel, or email events@farmvetco.org for more information.

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.

 

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.

Urban Farming Farminar

Pennsylvania Women’s Agriculture Network (PA-WAgN) has begun hosting virtual seminars called FARMINARS. On July 1st PA-WAgN will provide a FARMINAR on urban agriculture.

During this online seminar Kirsten Reinford will share how she found space to farm in an urban setting, and how she was able to gather support and raise money to start her farm, Joshua Farm, in Harrisburg. Kirsten will also explain how her farm became a SNAP program vendor.

Joshua Farm is a thriving urban farm that has a CSA, farm stand and market. The farm employs youth from the area and holds service-learning workshops, cooking classes, and guest speakers.

To participate, log into https://meeting.psu.edu/pawagn, and enter as a guest. For more information contact Patty Neiner: 814-865-7031; prn103@psu.edu

Web-Based Farmer Assistance Tools

In the age of all things digital, comes a new set of web-based tools to help farmers. From nitrogen meters to farm management and organizational tools, these online resources can put a lot of information into a farmer’s hand, while simplifying complex tasks.

Below are a few tools that stood out, but there are many more that didn’t make this list. Please tell us about tools that we may have missed or that you currently use in the comments below.

 

Adapt-N

Nitrogen fertilizer is an expensive business, with nearly $5 billion spent on corn crops alone. But much of this nitrogen goes unused—it’s either lost to the atmosphere as nitrous oxide or leached through the soil. So a new tool called Adapt-N has been created to help farmers predict their corn nitrogen needs more accurately. This is a free web-based tool that sends farmers alerts via text or email. The tool triangulates data on the local soil, crop and weather to provide farmers with estimates that can help them save money and protect the environment by not applying too much nitrogen fertilizer. The data are updated in real time throughout the growing season. Cornell University researchers who created the tool estimate that it helped farmers save nearly $200,000 last year and reduced fertilizer on about 7,500 acres of land. The tool currently has 600 users and was chosen as AgProfessional’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Top Product of the Year. Read more about Adapt-N and try out the tool.

 

CropMobster™

The web-based CropMobster is all about creating community. By building a local network of farms, and families in need, it creates affordable access to fresh food. This food is surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste. The CropMobster tool works through a set of alerts that go out via text, email, Facebook, Twitter, or telephone and get the word out immediately as to when and where there will be a gleaning event, crop mob or discount produce sale at a farm. This allows farmers to find a home for their leftover fruits and vegetables and families to find the produce they need.

 

Growers Edge

Growers Edge has been called the Google for farmers, as it pulls and organizes vital decision-making data that a farmer or rancher needs and stores it in one place. This completely free service offers a few difference options for viewing information, from the CashMax application, which allows farmers to track cash bids from more than 4,500 nationwide locations, as well as search for the best prices for different contract markets in their location, to the Profit Manager feature that allows farmers to set profit goals, record transactions and track profitability for each crop. Growers Edge also provides farmers the opportunity to trade in the futures and options markets for a $7 per trade commission versus the standard rates of $30-$70. This web-based tool provides farmers with an easy way to track and manage their business.

 

Seed to Harvest

Seed to Harvest is a crop record, smart phone application. This app was built with the organic farmer in mind and provides detailed planting information like transplanting records. A farmer can use this app to track their inputs and harvest records. Records are organized by field and section, and are stored on the smart phone, with the option of emailing, or downloading the information.


Save Our Citrus

The Save Our Citrus app was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to stop the spread of citrus diseases. This free iPhone app allows growers to report and identify the four leading citrus diseases: citrus greening, citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. Farmers report symptoms by uploading photos and then receive a response from a USDA citrus expert.

 

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 kfu.mary@gmail.com

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.

 

 

Available Funding for Rural Energy Programs

2013 funding is available for the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program from the USDA. This program gives financial assistance in form of loan guarantees and grants to farmers and rural small businesses for conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Funds are also available for energy audits and assessments. Some eligible REAP projects include: solar panels, anaerobic digesters, installation of irrigation pumps or ventilation systems, as well as conducting energy audits and feasibility studies for such projects.

All grant and combination grant and loan proposals are due April 30th. Applications for feasibility studies are also due April 30th. Guaranteed loan applications (that don’t have a grant component) are due July 15th.

For more information about REAP, visit the USDA’s REAP portal, as well as the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s REAP page.

Details on how to apply for REAP funding available in the Federal Register.

For help with the application process, contact National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT).