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.

Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference

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

 

The 5th Annual Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference is coming up on March 11th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The conference is sponsored by the University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Program and NOFA Vermont’s Organic Dairy and Livestock Technical Assistance Program.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Roger Moon, a veterinary entomologist at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Guy Jodarski, a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley, CROPP Cooperative. Dr. Moon will talk about pests and organic dairy, and Dr. Jodarski will cover innovative ways to deal with livestock health, nutrition, and management challenges.

Sessions include farmer-to-farmer panels that feature certified organic farmers telling stories of their challenges and successes.

Registration closes Wednesday, March 4th. Visit UVM Extension for more information and to register.

All About Soil Health

As stewards of the land, farmers are responsible for maintaining fertile land for future generations. A big part of this is preserving rich, healthy soil, which is important not only for a sustainable future but also for the crops these farmers grow. Soil health is a science and can be tricky to master, but there are plenty of resources available to farmers to help.

Not sure how the quality of soil impacts you? The Rodale Institute created a Soil Biology webinar to explain why healthy soil is important to individuals and the ecosystem as a whole. “The soil is not, as many suppose, a dead, inert substance,” J.I. Rodale wrote in Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Composts. “It is very much alive and dynamic. It teems with bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, molds, yeasts, protozoa, algae and other minute organisms.” The webinar goes on to explain what elements should be abundant in soil and how to maintain those levels.

A crucial aspect to preserving healthy soil is testing. Cooperative Extension offers soil testing resources and guides to help with this process. Click here to find an Extension agent near you. Many Cooperative Extensions provide online educational resources. University of Maine Extension offers this publication with a step-by-step guide to soil testing. Cornell University Cooperative Extension has an entire webpage for soil health, including the “Cornell Soil Health Assessment Training Manual,” a soil health management plan and informative videos dedicated to proper soil testing. The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension also offers a soil health webpage with various publications, updated news on soil health science and a list of websites that can provide further help.

While these organizations provide an overview of how to sustain soil health, there are many outlets that offer information on the nitty-gritty of related topics. The Rodale Institute compiled reports and publications related to soil health research discussing specific issues the organization is working on. Many of these can be viewed online here. Rodale also provides an informative, focused webinar, “Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes.”

ATTRA also compiled a list of publications the organization created that discuss specific topics surrounding soil health, ranging from “A Brief Overview of Nutrient Cycling in Pastures” to “Rye as a Cover Crop” to “Alternative Soil Amendments.” ATTRA also offers two educational webinars discussing soil health: “Organic Research and Needs: Cover Crops, Crop Rotation and Soil Health” and “Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health.”

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.

Organic industry on the rise

The organic industry is on the rise in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released new research showing the number of certified organic producers in the country grew to 18,513, a staggering 245 percent increase in the past twelve years. Now a $35 billion industry, consumer demand for organic products has also seen a dramatic increase.

The USDA is taking heed and expanding its support for certified organic and sustainable producers with new and enhanced programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack explained in a press release. These new programs are designed to help organic producers in an array of areas through increased crop insurance opportunities, expanded exemptions for producers paying into a commodity “check-off” program and $11.5 million in annual funding directed toward reimbursing up to 75 percent of organic certification costs.

These programs will additionally provide support to research initiatives surrounding the organic industry. The Farm Bill now includes $20 million annually dedicated to organic research, agricultural extension programs and education with an additional $5 million toward data collection. These new provisions also benefit consumers, with $5 million in funding for the National Organic Program to provide updated information about organic producers in the nation.

For more information about USDA resources available to organic farmers, visit the USDA Organics Resource page here: http://1.usa.gov/1hONn1R