“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 practicalfarmers.org/farminar and sign in as “Guest” to participate.

Kansas Workshop Series for Women Farmers

Photo: © Patty O'Brien www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo: © Patty O’Brien www.summercrowphotos.com

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, jvoigt@kansasruralcenter.org 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.

Food Tank’s Featured Organizations Helping Veterans

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but we support our nation’s veterans all year long. To celebrate the recent holiday, Food Tank posted an article featuring 21 organizations around the world that are dedicated to cultivating a community of veterans working in farming and agriculture. The list was just too good not to share, highlighting many organizations that are already featured in Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network.

The following was taken directly from Food Tank’s “21 Projects Helping Vets Through Food and Agriculture:”

Armed to Farm (ATF) is a National Center for Appropriate Technology program that provides training on sustainable agriculture to veterans. ATF is a combination of farm tours and classroom instruction that focuses on business planning, livestock production, and fruit and vegetable production.

Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots is a University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture program that prepares veterans to work in the agricultural field through education and training. The program helps match the participants with farm and ranch owners.

Community Youth Network Program (CYNP) was founded by former Liberian soldier, Junior Toe, to give purpose to ex-combatants trying to reintegrate into society. Toe teaches former soldiers to raise poultry, grow produce, and earn money through farming to support their families. CYNP also runs a Young Farmers Forum to create a community for its members.

Delaware Valley College Organic Farming Program for Military and Vets is a one-year certification program offered through Delaware Valley College and Rodale Institute that trains veterans in organic farming in order to transition them back to civilian life. Students take courses in subjects such as commercial vegetable production, sustainable agriculture, and plant health management.

Eat the Yard, in Dallas, Texas, was founded by Iraq War veterans, James Jeffers and Steve Smith, to cultivate fresh produce in community gardens. Jeffers and Smith first began organic farming in their own backyards for both therapeutic and financial reasons, then slowly began to build more gardens in their community. They now sell the produce from these gardens to local restaurants and businesses.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) was developed in post-conflict northern Uganda, by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in partnership with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The program teaches modern agricultural skills to Ugandan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The training emphasizes practice-oriented learning and small group meetings based on similar interests. Upon graduation, smallholder farmers are awarded a grant to start their own agricultural enterprise.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is working with veterans across the U.S. to transition into agriculture. The Coalition partners veterans with mentors who are experienced in farming and business, matches them with job opportunities in agriculture, and organizes equipment donations in Iowa and California. FVC is helping former members of the armed forces in 48 states.

Goat Peak Ranch is a ranch in New Mexico that offers a Veterans Internship Program. The Program offers weekend and weeklong educational sessions and accepts veterans to assist on the ranch year-round.

Heroic Food is a tuition-free farmer-training program for military veterans in partnership with the FVC. Heroic Food places veterans in paid on-farm apprenticeships and teaches them about sustainable farming, agricultural trade, and food crafting.

Lucky Nickel Ranch, owned by a Marine Corps veteran, serves as both an organic farm and a classroom for veterans. The program partners with the University of Arizona College of Life Sciences and Extension in order to provide both training and classroom time, where participants learn about the science of farming and how to write a business plan.

Roots to Road is a program operated by the Vancouver-based job training agency Partners in Careers. The program employs veterans to farm a one-acre plot; the produce is then donated to local charities.

Semper Fresh Farms is run by two U.S. Marine Corps veterans. The farm works in conjunction with veterans’ organizations such as the FVC in order to train and employ veterans.

Vets to Ag is a program at Michigan State University that trains homeless U.S. veterans to work in the field of agriculture. Participants are trained in areas such as plant and soil science, equipment operation, and integrated pest management. Job development and employer outreach is included in the Vets to Ag program.

Veterans Agricultural Center of Connecticut (VACC) provides both training and therapy to veterans. VACC provides hands-on instruction in farming skills for participants as well as full-service handicap accessible lodging and employment services.

Veterans to Farmers (VTF) strives to bring family farming back to the forefront of the American landscape. VTF was founded by U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams in 2011 after overwhelming veteran interest in his organic greenhouse program. Veterans complete a 12-week program, then VTF provides employment support. Several of the VTF graduates now own their own greenhouses, including Evan Premer who describes the greenhouse as a “decompression zone.”

Veteran Farmers of America (VFA) helps veterans make a transition back to civilian life by introducing them to farming. VFA provides veterans with paid internships and places them at a vegan-operated farm.

Veteran Farmers Project is a Center for Rural Affairs program that gives veterans, almost a million of whom come from rural communities, an opportunity to return to their agricultural roots and reinvigorate America’s small farms. The Project provides veterans with agricultural education to help them succeed as farmers.

Veterans Farm Veterans Training Program is partnered with the Veteran Network on Farming and Success to train veterans in all aspects of agriculture. Students in this program learn how to improve irrigation and produce quality organic crops. Veteran farmers receive training in operations management, organic certification, and management skills.

Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) Program trains transitioning service men and women in all aspects of agriculture and food production, including hydroponics, environmental control, and greenhouse management during a six-week intensive course. The program also assists more than 200 graduates in job placement and business creation.

Warriors that Farm works with Texas A&M University in order to provide opportunities for veterans through sustainable agriculture. The university provides credit hours upon completion of the program.

317 Village in Chhuk District, Kampot Province is a Cambodian government-funded initiative that has committed US $3 million to provide 240 families of military veterans and disabled war victims with houses and plots of land to farm. Each plot measures approximately 1.5 acres. This project is providing new hope to families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by civil war.

USDA Announces New Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance Protection

pumpkins meet christmas trees

Photo © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Earlier this month the USDA’s Risk Management Agency announced a new insurance policy available for 2015. With the Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policy, producers have the opportunity to insure between 50 to 85 percent of their revenue.

The new policy includes a variety of coverage including expanding operations, replanting, market readiness costs and more. In addition to insurance coverage, the Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policy will provide premium subsidies to farms with two or more commodities.

“Whole-Farm Revenue Protection allows these growers to insure a variety of crops at once,” the USDA press release explained, “instead of one commodity at a time. That gives them the option of embracing more crop diversity and helps support the production of a wider variety of foods.”

For more information visit the RMA’s full press release or the USDA’s Farm Bill webpage.