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.

Finding USDA grant and loan opportunities

The most difficult form of aid for farmers to reach is by way of funding. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and many of its associated agencies have grant and loan opportunities available for farmers. Check out the programs below to see if any are right for you, and get those applications in before it’s too late.

Rural Development:

Rural Energy for America Program

Eligibility:

  • Agricultural producer or rural small business
  • Additional restrictions may apply

This program is intended to help “install renewable energy systems such as solar panels or anaerobic digesters, make energy efficiency improvements such as installing irrigation pumps or replacing ventilation systems, and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies.” There are three grant or loan programs under the Rural Energy for America Program including The Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program, The Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant Program and The Feasibility Studies Grant Program.

National Resources Conservation Services Financial Assistance Programs: 

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Eligibility:

  • Control or own eligible land
  • Comply with adjusted gross income limitation provisions
  • Be in compliance with the highly erodible and wetland conservation requirements
  • Develop a National Resources Conservation Services Environmental Quality Incentives Program plan of operations

This program is intended to provide support for producers and landowners working to “deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, reduced soil erosion and sedimentation or improved or created wildlife habitat.”

Conservation Stewardship Program

Eligibility:

  • Control or own eligible lands
  • Agree to meet or exceed stewardship threshold for at least one additional priority resource concern by end of contract
  • Additional restrictions may apply

Funding from the Conservation Stewardship Program is meant to support producers in the maintenance and improvement of conservation systems and activities. Payments are made based on “conservation performance.”

Agricultural Management Assistance Program

Eligibility:

  • A producer in one of the following states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia or Wyoming
  •  Own or control eligible lands
  • Agree to implement and maintain conservation practices for the life of the practice

This program is designed to assist producers with conservation as a means to manage risk and address resource issues.

Farm Service Agency Loans:

Click here to find your local Farm Service Agency.

Farm Operating Loans and Microloans

What it’s for: Livestock and feed; farm equipment; fuel, farm chemicals, insurance and other operating costs, including family living expenses; minor improvements or repairs to buildings; refinance certain farm-related debts, excluding real estate

Farm Ownership Loans

What it’s for: Purchase farmland; construct and repair buildings; make farm improvements

Emergency Farm Loans

What it’s for: Restore or replace essential property; pay all or part of production costs associated with the disaster year; pay essential family living expenses; reorganize the farming operation; refinance certain debts, excluding real estate.

Rural Youth Loans

What it’s for: These loans are designed to support individual youths in their projects through 4-H clubs, FFA or other like-minded organizations. These loans can be used to fund the purchase of livestock, seed equipment and supplies; the purchase, rent or repair of needed tools and equipment; operating expenses for the project.

Note that some Farm Service Agency loans are appropriated to assist minority or women farmers and beginning farmers and ranchers.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants Available to Individuals:

Agriculture Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Application Deadline: 4/28/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The purpose of the grant is to expand on research and analysis of sustainable agricultural practices in rural areas.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities

Application Deadline: 4/28/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Its purpose is to discover innovative ideas strategies to sustainably improve the quality of rural life and/or agricultural production.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Animal Health and Production and Animal Products

Application Deadline: 5/1/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Applicants of this grant should intend to tackle an area of the Program Area Priorities in the Animal Health and Production and Animal Products. For more information and a complete description click on the link above.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Food Security

Application Deadline: 6/12/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The grant is designed to support projects that develop and enhance “sustainable, integrated management strategies that reduce pre and post-harvest losses caused by diseases, insects and weeds in crop and animal production systems.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Critical Agricultural Research and Extension

Application Deadline: 8/7/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Its intent is to immediately implement solutions related to critical problems behind efficient production through partnerships among “researchers, extension experts and producers.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Dual Purpose with Dual Benefit: Research in Biomedicine and Agriculture Using Agriculturally Important Domestic Species

Application Deadline: 9/24/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

The purpose of this funding is to “utilize agriculturally important domestic species to improve human health and animal agriculture through the advancement of basic and translational research deemed highly relevant to both agricultural and biomedical research.”

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program: Exploratory

Application Deadline: 9/30/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

Funding is intended to enhance “innovative ideas” that will place the US in the forefront of the worldwide agricultural industry.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative – Foundational Program

Application Deadline: 9/30/2014

Eligibility:

  • 1862 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1890 Land-Grant Institutions
  • 1994 Land-Grant Institutions
  • For-profit Organizations Other Than Small Businesses
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Individuals
  • Native American Tribal Orgs, not Federally recognized Tribal Governments
  • Nonprofits with 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Nonprofits without 501(c)(3) IRS status, other than Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Other or Additional Information (See below)
  • Private Institutions of Higher Ed
  • Small Business
  • State Agricultural Experiment Stations
  • State Controlled Institutions of Higher Ed

This program is to support grants in one of six Agriculture and Food Research Initiative priority areas, which include: “Plant Health and Production and Plant Products; Animal Health and Production and Animal Products; Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health; Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Agriculture Systems and Technology; and Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities.”

 This information was taken from the USDA website. For more information visit: http://1.usa.gov/1hTfobz

 

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.

 

 

Farming Podcasts Roundup

Ever wonder what a farmer is listening to on his or her iPod? There’s a high chance it’s one of the many food and farming podcasts hitting the airwaves. These podcasts are covering important issues in farming, food and agriculture, and often are hosted by farmers, farm advocates or seasoned agriculture journalists. Below is a small list of podcasts, but there are many more! Tell us about your favorites in the comments sections below.

 

The Beginning Farmer Show

The Beginning Farmer Show recounts the ups and downs of starting a farm. This podcast serves as an audio journal for beginning farmer Ethan Book, who shares his experiences in starting up a farm. He also interviews others to gain additional insight and advice. Past shows have included: Balancing Family, Farm, and a Job; Building Marketing Relationships; Rotational Grazing; and a series on Hard Lessons Learned. Ethan has also interviewed guests like Luke Gran of Practical Farmers of Iowa.

 

Small Home Farm Radio

Erin Lahey, the host of this successful podcast, spotlights a back-to-the-land mindset by demonstrating how easy it is for us to return to our roots. Small Home Farm Radio is a half-hour show that focuses on small-scale farming, gardening, and homesteading. Recent episodes include one about the health of the soil, and another about endangered and heritage livestock breeds.

 

Extension on the Go

Extension on the Go is brought to you by the University of Missouri Extension and hosted by Debbie Johnson. On the show, specialists and experts share tips and advice on a wide range of agriculture, garden, and nutrition topics. Each episode is 3-10 minutes long and includes guests like Tim Baker a horticulture specialist for the University of Missouri Extension, Pat Guinan a climatologist for the University of Missouri Extension Commercial Agriculture Program and David Trinklein a horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension.

 

Agri-Pulse

Agri-Pulse is a weekly report about the latest agriculture news. The show has a strong focus on agricultural and rural policy decisions being made in Washington D.C. Topics range from international trade, to organic foods, farm credit, loan policies and climate change legislation. The Agri-Pulse website boasts, “We are the only farm and rural publication with full-time staff covering key congressional hearings and meeting with members of Congress and the Administration.” Besides the weekly podcast, the Agri-pulse website features daily updates of current news and events.

 

Food Chain Radio: What’s Eating What

This veteran podcast has been around for years with over 700 weeks of back-shows! Michael Olson, the host of this one-hour show, delves deep into topics from how the price of gas affects the price of food, to the controversial topic of genetically engineered food, to water and agriculture. Food Chain Radio is syndicated on commercial radio stations throughout the U.S.

Back to School, Back to Farming: School Garden Roundup

Just because the weather is starting to cool down and school is in session doesn’t mean you have to move indoors. Last spring we did a series on college gardens and farms. Here’s a roundup below. So, get your hands off of your keyboard and into the soil!

 

West Coast

Stanford Community Farm – Stanford University
Stanford, California

The Stanford Community Farm dates back to 1885 when it was the Palo Alto Estate. 
Today the farm is run by a combination of faculty, staff and students. This organic farm keeps farming and agriculture front and center at the university—as exemplified by student farmers and an Earth Systems class taught on the farm. Spread over an one-acre lot, the farm has a fruit orchard, and many different student and community plots.

Contacts: Graduate, medical and postdoc students contact Jesse Bateman; Undergraduate students contact Patrick Archie; Staff and faculty contact Karen Zack

***

Organic Grower’s Club – Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR

The Organic Grower’s Club is a completely student-run, organic farm. The farm began in 2000 by a group of agriculture science students who wanted to build a hands-on experience into the curriculum. The farm spans two acres and now has over 300 students and 400 community members. Farm produce is sold in order to subsidize operational costs and summer student internships. Community building is an important part of the farm. Weekly events include: Sunday Skool work parties every Sunday 9-12 and Thursday night Harvest parties—with free hot supper—starting at 4:30.

Contact: org_council@lists.oregonstate.edu
 or click here to Join the Organic Growers Listserv

***

Organic Farm – Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

A five-acre area on the Evergreen campus accommodates a farmhouse, garden, biodiesel facility, compost facility, greenhouse and a 38,000 square foot, certified organic, crop production area. Students at the college enrolled in the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture Program become interns on the farm and grow, harvest and sell their bounty at both a campus farm stand and through a CSA.

Contact: (360) 867-6160 or email the Farm.

***

Agricultural Sustainability Institute – University of California Davis

Davis, California

The Agricultural Sustainability Institute started in 1977 and continues to serve UC Davis students, faculty, school children and community members. The program focuses on sustainable agriculture principles and practices, in-field experiential learning, and inspires students’ initiative, creativity and exploration. The university encourages students to participate on the farm and learn through internships, formal courses and research projects. Year-round crop production takes place on the 4.5-acre farm and produce is available through the university’s dining services and campus coffee houses. Fruit and vegetables are also available at the UC Davis Farmers’ Market and through a CSA.

Contact: Mark Van Horn or (530) 752-7645

***

UW Farm – University of Washington

Seattle, WA

This urban farm was started in 2004 by several students and faculty members wishing to inform the UW community about the global food system. The farm serves as a classroom for many different university classes from ecology to anthropology—and the farm also hosts a quarterly sustainable farm internship. The farm is an official registered student organization with over 600 members. Community is an important part of the farm, and is facilitated by pizza bakes in the farm’s outdoor oven. Stay updated with farm events by joining the listserve.

 

Midwest

Sustainable Student Farm – University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

The Sustainable Student Farm at The University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign supplies the university’s residence halls with fresh, local produce. The farm operates with 6-acres of outdoor space during the growing season and nearly 10,000 square feet of high tunnel production space year-round. The farm also sells produce at a market on the university’s quad from May-November, and this year it will be starting a pilot CSA with 30 shares. In addition to growing produce in a sustainable manner, the farm is also going off the grid with the installation of a new solar powered system.

Contact the farm here.

***

ISU Student Organic Farm – Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

This 6-acre student farm began in the fall of 1996 and has been continuously student led and managed. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables produced at the farm are donated to shelters and food banks in Ames. Starting this coming fall, the farm will also sell its produce to ISU Dining.

Contact: rmclay@iastate.edu

***

MSU Student Organic Farm – Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

The MSU Student Organic Farm is a 10-acre, certified organic farm that operates year-round. The farm sells its produce through a 48-week CSA, and a 7-month on campus farm stand, as well as to the MSU dining halls. This is a truly sustainable farm with passive solar greenhouses, enabling distribution of fresh produce through the winter. In addition, the farm also runs a 9-month Organic Farmer Training Program focused on organic farming techniques.

Contact: msufarm@msu.edu

***

The Howdy Farm – Texas A&M

College Station, Texas

The Howdy Farm is a sustainable, student-run farm that provides both students and community members in College Station with hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture. The farm began in 2009 with a few square feet of raised beds, and now takes up 5-acres. Through partnering with dining services and having a CSA, the farm gets its fresh produce out to the university and the public. The farm serves as a living classroom, by providing ample opportunities for student internships, both undergraduate and graduate research, and a Horticulture Vegetable Crop Production course.

Contact: thehowdyfarm@gmail.com

 

Southeast
UGArden – University of Georgia

Athens, Georgia

Students run this one-acre garden plot at the University of Georgia that was first planted in May of 2010. Since then the garden has grown to include: tilapia aquaponics, permanent fruit plantings, beehives, and a woodland mushroom demonstration area. In addition to selling produce at a farm stand, the food is used to help alleviate hunger in the senior citizen population of Athens. The garden is used as a classroom for two freshman seminars and a course in sustainable community food production.

Contact: Lindsay Davies at lndavies@uga.edu

***

Berea College Farm – Berea College

Berea, Kentucky

The Berea College Farm is one of the longest running student farms in the U.S. At 500-acres, this farm has space for pastures, cropland, gardens, woodlots and ponds. The farm has beef cattle, hogs, chickens, eggs, goats, fish, honeybees, grains, pulses, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, all of which are used in the dining hall, or sold to the public. Berea College Farm is housed by the Agriculture and Natural Resources program at the college and compliments the academic programs. The 50 students employed each season rotate between working with field crops, horticultural crops, livestock, equipment maintenance, and marketing and sales for the farm.

Contact: michael_panciera@berea.edu or sean_clark@berea.edu

***

Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) Farm

Pittsboro, North Carolina

CCCC’s five-acre, organic student farm produces an array of crops. The farm also runs in conjunction with the college’s Sustainable Agriculture program, which teaches students the skills that they need to manage a profitable, sustainable, community-based farm. Students can take a wide variety of courses on the farm: Medicinal Herbs, Organic Vegetable Production, Sustainable Cut Flower production and Sustainable Poultry Production, as well as courses about biofuels, and sustainable building.

Contact: Robin Kohanowich: rkohanowich@cccc.edu / (919) 545-8031

***

The Clemson Student Organic Farm Project – Clemson University

Clemson, South Carolina

Clemson’s 15-acre student farm started in 2001 and was certified organic in 2005. Students and faculty work together to grow a variety of vegetables, culinary herbs, flowers and fruit. The farm hosts a CSA program and encourages the community to visit the farm for seasonal pick-your-own fruits and vegetables.

Contact: kgilker@clemson.edu, sjadrnicek@gmail.com

 

Northeast

Beech Hill FarmCollege of the Atlantic
Mount Desert, ME

Beech Hill Farm is a 73-acre organic farm that is owned and operated by College of the Atlantic (COA) on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The farm, which COA bought in 1999, has fields of crops and three orchards of heirloom apples. Shuttles run from COA’s campus in Bar Harbor to the farm to ensure easy access for students, faculty and staff who want to get their hands in the soil. Students also conduct research and independent study projects on the farm. Produce from the farm goes to COA campus dining hall.

Contact: beechhillfarm@coa.edu

***

Farm CenterHampshire College

Amherst, MA

The Farm Center was created in the late 1970’s as a place for students and faculty to learn about sustainable farming and to provide a place for academic work like studying animal behavior and agriculture science. The farm has a CSA, of which Hampshire College Dining Services purchases 20 shares per year to use on campus. The farm also offers a Food, Farm and Sustainability Institute where students, faculty, staff and alumni can learn about food production and sustainable agriculture during the 6-week institute. This year’s institute runs from June 3-July 12th.

Contacts: lcox@hampshire.edu or nehFC@hampshire.edu

***

Cook College Student Organic FarmRutgers University

New Brunswick, NJ

Rutgers University boasts having the nation’s largest organic farm managed completely by students. The five-acre farm was founded in 1993 and provides locally grown, organic produce to CSA members and surplus produce to a nearby soup kitchen. Cook College farm also has paid summer internships for students who not only work the land, but also write the weekly newsletter, The Cover Crop.

Contact: 732-932-9711, ext. 256

***

Dilum Hill Student FarmCornell University
Ithaca, NY

Dilmun Hill is a student-run farm with a mission to provide students, faculty, and staff, as well as community members with opportunities to experience sustainable farming. The farm’s bounty is sold in Ho Plaza and in front of Mann Library June through October and supplies fresh veggies to the Cornell Dining and Manndible Cafe.

Contact: dilmunhill@cornell.edu

***

Dickinson College FarmDickinson College

Carlisle, PA

At 50-acres, the Dickinson College Farm is a certified organic living laboratory that gives students hand-on experience growing food for their community. Most of the harvest is split between the campus dining hall and Dickinson’s CSA program—which in this case stands for Campus Supported Agriculture. The rest goes to the town farmers’ market, local restaurants, and some is donated. In addition to dark leafy greens and bulbous root vegetables, the farm also manages a flock of sheep, grass-fed beef cattle, laying hens and broiler chickens.

Bonus: Jenn Halpin, the farm’s director, was a Farm Aid Farmer Hero!

Contact: halpinj@dickinson.edu; (717) 245-1969

***

Common Ground Student-Run Educational FarmUniversity of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Common Ground’s three-acre farm is 100% student run and operated. In addition to row crops, the farm has a perennial fruit area with blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, black currants, gooseberries, sour cherries, plums, peaches, and nectarines. The farm contributes fresh, organic vegetables to the Campus Kitchen Project—a hunger relief program that distributes meals to the community. Produce is also sold at a stand in front of the library, and distributed through a CSA. UVM has really jumped on board, offering courses like an Organic Farm Practicum and Organic Farm Planning.

Contact: cgsref@uvm.edu

***

Agricultural Learning CenterUniversity of Massachusetts

Stockbridge, MA

Perhaps one of the newest college farms in the Northeast is the 50-acre farm at UMass Stockbridge, which launched this past April. This farm will act as a classroom, giving students a place to learn about agriculture while also digging in and participating in growing crops and raising livestock. UMass has other farms throughout the state of Massachusetts, but those are primarily for professional research—this farm is specifically for students and pairs with the new Sustainable Food and Farming major at the university, which offers classes like: organic weed control, community food systems, and sustainable soil and crop management.

Contact: AgLC@cns.umass.edu

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

Beginning Farmer Resources

As a beginning farmer you may face a number of obstacles: from access to land, to developing your skills, to planning out your finances, and even to figuring out what to grow and how to sell it. Plus, you may run into plenty of questions while trying to start up your business. The guides below will be particularly helpful resources during this time. Check them out, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have unanswered questions: email or call 1-800-FARM-AID.

The Greenhorns’ Guidebook for Beginning Farmers  is written for young farmers by young farmers. It is meant to be a helpful resource and guide into the field of sustainable agriculture.

The Land Stewardship Project and the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture worked together to publish Resources for Beginning Farmers: Building a Sustainable Future. This guide provides a listing of resources for beginning farmers who are entertaining the idea of earning a living by sustainably producing food and fiber. These resources are updated annually on the MISA website.

BeginningFarmers.org has an extensive array of resources, publications, events, forums and other tools for beginning farmers. And similarly, Start2Farm.gov lets you explore what it takes to start a farm and to find resources.

Local farming listservs are great resource for finding jobs, bouncing around ideas, and connecting with other farmers in the area. See if there is one near you by tapping into a local CRAFT group.

For more information, head to the Farmer Resource Network’s beginning farmer page.

Farm Incubator Programs

Farmer Incubator Programs

Farm incubator programs are popping up around the country to help train a new fleet of farmers. These programs give temporary and affordable pieces of land to beginning farmers so that they can learn both practical farming skills and how to run a successful business. Below are five farm incubator programs around the country.

Have you been through one of the below incubator programs or another similar program? Tell us about it in the comments below!

 

Headwaters Farm Incubator Program

Eastern Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors a farm incubator program at Headwaters Farm in the town of Orient, Oregon. This program leases out land at affordable rates to individuals to use as a launching pad for new farming projects. Multnomah county became interested in this project to help beginning farmers with institutional, cultural, and financial barriers find capital, quality farmland, farm equipment and infrastructure, and agricultural training. Selected applicants to the Headwaters Incubator Program will have some basic farm skills and have a viable farm business plan. Land is leased at a below market value, but will incrementally increase each year the farmer is in the program. By the fourth and final year the farmer will be paying full market value for the land. Applications for the 2014 growing season will open in the fall of 2013. Contact Rowan Steele, Farm Incubator Manager, at rowan@emswcd.org or 503.935.5355 with questions.

 

The Onslow County Incubator Farm Program

This is one of the newest incubator programs. It started this past February with the hope to train new vegetable and fruit farmers. This program is up and running with funding from the Bringing New Farmers to the Table project. Other partners include the Onslow County Farmers’ Market, Mount Olive College, and Onslow County Cooperative Extension Service. The program’s first class had 31 students for the course portion and about seven of these students will move on in August to work on the land, with equipment, and additional training. In the next part of the program these students will develop a farming plan and a financial plan.

 

ALBA’s Farmer Education Program—Programa Educativo para Agricultores (PEPA)

PEPA is a nine-month training program designed to train individuals in farm management and organic crop production. The course covers four modules including organic crop production and planning; marketing; small business management; and applied organic farming. The last module offers experience farming a small plot under supervised conditions. The class meets one evening (6-9pm) per week for a lecture and one weekend afternoon (1-5:30pm) for field day activities. Also, course credit is available for through Hartnell Community College. The cost of the course is dependent on a sliding scale. For more information contact Nathan Harkleroad, ALBA’s Agriculture Education Program Manager, at nathan@albafarmers.org or 831-758-1469 ext. 11.

 

Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Course

This is a ten-month training course for beginning farmers and those transitioning into more sustainable agriculture taught by established farmers. This course offers 43 hours of training through classroom learning, farm tours, field days, workshops and an extensive farmer network in the Midwest. For more information, contact Karen Benson, lspse@landstewardshipproject.org or 507-523-3366

 

New Entry National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI)

Seeing the great success of their own farm incubator program that focused mostly on refugees, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project decided to provide training for other incubator programs across the country. The NIFTI is a two-year program that includes an online resource center, a three-day intensive incubator farm field school, one-on-one technical assistance, and at least six webinars. This project is aimed at personnel of newer land-based incubator projects in their planning and development phases. For more information contact Eva Agudelo, National Technical Assistance Coordinator, at eagudelo@comteam.org, or by phone at 978-654-5731.

Veteran Farming Programs

Nearly a million military servicemen and servicewomen come from rural areas across the country. Upon returning from service they can use their great sense of service to benefit farms. Farming is also empowering, giving these servicemen and women a sense of accomplishment – truly seeing the fruits of their labor. The following programs work with veterans, creating opportunities for them to find meaningful careers in the farming and agriculture.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

The Farmer Veteran Coalition uses food production as a means to offer purpose, opportunity, as well as physical and psychological benefits for veterans. A majority of the veterans the Coalition works with served recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the organization also serves military veterans of all eras and branches.

 

Veterans to Farmers

Veterans to Farmers operates with a goal to return the family farm to a prominent position on the American landscape. To do this they train and help American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization specifically works with greenhouse agriculture. Their national training center is equipped and ready to teach aeroponic growing methods, greenhouse maintenance and construction, as well as business planning. The food grown at the training center is sold through a CSA. Upon completion of a 12-week training course, the organization helps veterans find employment and work with greenhouses.

 

Veteran Organic Farming Program

Delaware Valley College’s veteran organic farming program was originally designed for veterans, but because of high demand is now also open to non-veterans too. The college’s program runs in conjunction with the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pa., and consists of a one-year, 36-credit certificate in organic farming. Courses include: animal science, marketing, plant disease diagnosis and entomology, as well as hands on farming experience at Rodale. The college is a Yellow Ribbon School, meaning that veterans who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill will have up to 100% of their tuition paid.

 

Center for Rural Affairs Veteran Farmers Project

The Center for Rural Affairs’ Veteran Farmers Project offers training, individual help on finances and production, and a support helpline for veterans wishing to become farmers. The goal of the project is to create farm businesses that can tap into high value markets so that returning veterans can reintegrate into America’s rural communities. Last year the program held a 90-minute webinar that is available for viewing here. Additional videos that show a Marine veteran who operates a cattle business, and one that highlights Common Good Farm are also available here.

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.