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

MOSES 25th annual farming conference

The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) will host its 25th annual conference from February 27 through March 1. The MOSES farming conference is the largest US event focused on organic and sustainable agriculture with over 3,000 farmers in attendance each year. This networking and educational event features 65 workshops, 170 exhibitors and keynote speakers.

This 25th anniversary event will be held at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. You must register by February 14th to attend the farming conference.

Email questions to info@mosesorganic.org. Click here to register for the event and for more information: http://mosesorganic.org/conference/

Agricultural apprenticeship roundup

Beginning farmers account for approximately 10 percent of all US agricultural production, according to data collected from the USDA Census of Agriculture. Moreover, a beginning farmer operates about 20 percent of all farms. As such, there is an increased need for training and education opportunities for these farmers entering the field.

The Economic Research Service recently released a brief using data collected from 2011 with shocking results: only 25 percent of beginning farmers earn a positive margin of profit from farming. With the changing landscape of agriculture, beginning farmers are more important than ever. For this reason, it is crucial that beginning farmers are able to access the tools necessary to be successful. Many national organizations offer apprenticeships for those interested in farming.

Before beginning an apprenticeship, those interested in the opportunity should look into the Farm Internship Curriculum that Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Western SARE) put together. This guide comprehensively describes the workweek of an individual farmer.

ATTRA – National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service

ATTRA has offered apprenticeships in sustainable and organic agriculture since 1989 in the US, Canada and the Caribbean. Potential apprentices can browse the farm and location possibilities for free. The listings are posted directly from farmers seeking apprentices or interns. For more information, visit: https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/

Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association

The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association created the North American Biodynamic Apprenticeship Program (NABAP). This two-year on-farm program is designed for beginning biodynamic or organic farmers, in addition to one classroom course. Upon completing the program, apprentices receive a biodynamic farming certificate from the Biodynamic Association. Click here for more information: https://www.biodynamics.com/nabdap

CRAFT – The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training

CRAFT is broken down by region, but each farmer-led branch is specifically designed to educate farmers through mentoring and a social network of support. CRAFT farmers are specialized in organic, sustainable or biodynamic practices in growing vegetables, livestock or grains. For more information on an apprenticeship with CRAFT, find your specific region here: http://www.craftfarmers.org

Beginning Farmers LLC

The Beginning Farmers LLC is dedicated to providing beginning and aspiring farmers with the resources and educational tools they need to succeed. As such, Beginning Farmers aggregates on-farm internship postings on its website. The Beginning Farmers’ blog announces internship postings, while its employment page collects information on regional resources with internship or apprenticeship opportunities, organizations with information on other jobs generally related to agriculture and links to international listings of agricultural jobs. For more information, visit: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/internship-and-employment-opportunities/

New Guides for Organic Operations

To describe the relevant organic requirements, provide best practices, and further explain the certification process for certified organic farmers, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has partnered with the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to provide the following detailed guides:

These guides provide helpful information for both beginning farmers and current organic operations looking to adopt new management approaches. Digital downloads of all guides are free, and print versions are $3.00.

Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference from NOFA-NY

NOFA-NY has announced their 2nd Annual Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference will take place on Friday, March 1st in Auburn, NY. The conference will consist of business, dairy, and field crop workshop tracks, including a half-day intensive workshop on the “Transition to Organic Dairy Management.” A pre-conference field day on February 28th at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, will focus on “Cereal Grains Seed Production and NYS Certified Foundation Seed Program.”

Register by February 15th for a $5 discount. Visit www.nofany.org/dairyconference for more information about the conference, including specific workshops and speakers.

Winter Webinar Series on Cover Crop Innovations

Penn State Extension is offering a “Cover Crop Innovations” webinar series, starting February 4th. Five webinars will cover topics such as using winter-killed cover crops to reduce tillage in organic vegetable production, interseeding cover crops in standing corn fields, cover crops for small dairy farms, managing insects following high-residue cover crops, and more.

Webinars are free and open to the public, and will take place on Mondays from 12-1pm EST in February and March. For more info and to register, visit here.

Upcoming Webinar on Organic Farm Conservation

This week, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT/ATTRA) will present a webinar with Harriet Behar, an organic specialist at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). The webinar, “Virtual Tour of Organic Farm Conservation Activity Planning,” will take place on Thursday, January 31st at 1pm EST.

This webinar is the third in a four-part series established for people interested in becoming NRCS-approved Technical Service Providers (TSPs). Behar is an approved TSP and will lead a virtual farm tour, identifying conservation concerns and possible mitigation strategies, as well as areas that affect organic certification. This unique webinar is helpful not only to potential TSPs, but any organic farmer interested in conservation practices on the farm.

To register for the webinar on January 31st, visit: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/576856170

The final webinar will be on Thursday, March 21st, on the topic of how NRCS TSPs can support biodiversity conservation in organic systems. See below for the first two webinars in the series:

Title:  Doing NRCS Conservation Activity Planning for Organic Farmers and Ranchers
Presenter: Katy Green of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA)

Title:  Becoming a Technical Service Provider for NRCS: An Introduction
Presenter: Harriet Behar of Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)

New Organic Certification Guides from ATTRA

Earlier this year, USDA launched its new Organic Literacy Initiative, an effort to help connect current and prospective organic farmers, ranchers, and processors with the USDA resources available to them.

As part of this initiative, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has partnered with the National Organic Program (NOP) on four new guides with detailed information about organic certification.  They include information about organic requirements and best practices, and also further explain the certification process:

The guides can be downloaded for free or ordered as a paper publication for a small handling fee either at the links above or on the ATTRA website.

Accepting Applications for The OEFFA Investment Fund

Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA), in partnership with the Sustainable Agriculture Fund, LLC announces the establishment of The OEFFA Investment Fund, to “promote sustainable agriculture in Ohio by making flexible and affordable capital available to farmers and farm-related businesses.”

In its pilot phase, the Fund has made $500,00 available as loans, land leases and equity investments for organic OEFFA members in Ohio. Typical investments range from $5,000 to $50,000, but requests for other amounts between $2,500 and $250,000 will be considered. These funds may be used for:

  • Capital investments and expenses that improve efficiency, quality or expansion of business production and sales
  • Repairs necessary to maintain business operations
  • Short-term operating needs, such as inventory, supplies or labor for expansion
  • Emergency funds to deal with business interruptions due to fire, natural disasters or other unforeseeable events
  • Other uses subject to the Fund’s Investment Committee approval

Visit the OEFFA Investment Fund’s webpage for more information on loan terms and conditions and application process guidelines. For information about the Fund contact the OEFFA office at (614) 421-2022 ext. 202, or OIFinfo@oeffa.org.

 

 

Free Webinar: “Understanding Whole-Farm Insurance for Specialized, Diversified, and Organic Farms,” Presented by NCAT

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will present a free, hour-long webinar on Thursday, November 29th at 1 pm EST, providing guidance for farmers and other professionals on the Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGR-Lite) crop insurance program and its potential to serve small-scale, diverse, specialty crop, organic and direct-market farmers.

AGR-Lite is a unique type of federally subsidized crop insurance that is based on whole-farm revenue, rather than a specific crop or commodity. With AGR-Lite, farmers of diverse operations, specialty and high-value or organic crops and livestock can insure based on their farm’s historic revenue.

The webinar will also introduce NCAT’s new AGR-Lite Wizard assessment tool, which assists farmers in determining how whole-farm insurance can benefit their operation. The tool is available at www.agrlitewizard.com or by calling 1-800-346-9140.