Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Crop Diversification…How many varieties should I grow?

Small farms, and new farms, tend to be extremely diverse in their enterprises, market outlets, and crop selections.  The number of different crops and the number of different varieties of each individual crop grown on any given farm can reach an impressive total.  And sure, crop diversity is necessary for ensuring that no matter what pressure is put on your plants by pests, diseases, and extreme weather events that you still have a harvest that season.  It may not be the exact crop mix, yield, or ready at the time that you had planned, but crop diversification helps ensure that farm income will be generated.

In these winter months, during time spent perusing the seed catalogs and talking about varieties with other farmers, it can be hard to exercise self-restraint when choosing your crops and varieties for the upcoming season.  Even if your seed order is already in, it may only take one discussion on a listserv to generate excitement about a new variety of pepper, fueling a desire to add more diversity to your crop mix.  Right now growing 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes for display at the farmers' market may seem like a fantastic (and completely manageable) idea for drawing in customers; this same idea may lose its appeal when you are sorting and labeling your harvest in August.

Here are some key things to consider as you are finalizing your seed order and crop plan for the season:
·         Your Market: Do your customers, whether direct or wholesale, care about choosing between varieties or just about you growing the tastiest option? Do you have to grow every single crop you offer your CSA members or can you buy a few in?
·         Your Farm Systems: What inefficiencies will an increase in the number of crops or varieties you grow create in your system? Are the associated costs offset by the sales generated by your crop diversity?  What systems (i.e. record-keeping or employee management) can you put in place to minimize the impact of these inefficiencies?
·         Your Time: Is there an opportunity cost associated with growing a large number of different crops?  Is there an opportunity cost associated with NOT growing a large number of different crops on your farm?  How can you spend your time most productively (and profitably)?
·         Your Crop Mix: Are you satisfied with the crops and varieties you are currently growing?
·         Your Interest: To what extent does having a high crop diversity or trialing different crop varieties peak your interest and count as a value of your farm business?

If that last point rings true to you, check out this article by farmer Becky Maden to learn more about best practices for trialing new crop varieties on your farm!   Trial by Farmer
(by Jen Miller, RAFFL New Farmer Program Coordinator)

Monday, March 2, 2015

Acidified Foods Workshop 2015

The Acidified Foods Workshop will be held Monday and Tuesday, March 23-24, 2015 in Webb City, MO.

This workshop is a Better Process Control School (BPCS) event specifically for processors of acidified food products and meets the requirements of 21 CFR Part 114 for FDA regulated food manufacturers. Please contact Dr. Andrew Clarke at the University of Missouri Food Science Program (573-882-2610) or if you have any questions about the Acidified Food Workshop.

Processors of low acid canned foods should attend a BPCS event designed for thermal processing (retorting) of low acid products such as one offered at Oklahoma State University ( June 10-12, 2015 or at the University of Arkansas ( November 3-5, 2015.

Workshop Faculty
Andrew Clarke, Ph.D.
University of Missouri-Columbia

William McGlynn, Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University

Steve Seideman, Ph.D.
University of Arkansas

The registration fee is $425 for the first person from a company and $325 for each additional person from the same company or farm. There are a limited number of $200 scholarships available for specialty crop growers. All participants will be provided with workshop materials as well as lunch and refreshments during breaks.

Space is limited and early registration is encouraged.

Registration is limited to 50 participants. Registration deadline: March 9, 2015.
To register, please send an e-mail with contact information (participant name, company name, address, telephone and e-mail) to:

We will confirm your registration and provide directions to the meeting location by e-mail reply. If you have any questions or do not have e-mail access for registration, please contact Eileen Nichols, 417-483-8139.

Cancellations, with refund, will be accepted until two weeks prior to the start of the course. Cancellations after March 16, 2015 will be charged $100 to cover preparation costs.

Lodging Information
There are limited lodging facilities available in Webb City, Missouri but more options are available in Joplin, Missouri about 15 minutes away. The Holiday Inn at 3615 Rangeline Road in Joplin, MO has a group rate of $87 per room per night, including breakfast for two (ask for the Better Processing School rate) at 417 782-1000. Reservations must be made by March 15.  Other options do exist and most chains provide directional advice on their websites. Participants make their own reservations and lodging is not included in the cost of registration for the Acidified Food Workshop.

Workshop Location
The workshop will be held at the Webb City Public Library at 101 S. Liberty, Webb City, MO.

Manufacturers of Acidified Food Products are invited to send representatives to our new Acidified Foods Workshop at the Webb City Public Library on March 23-24, 2015. This workshop was developed in conjunction with partners at the University of Arkansas and Oklahoma State University to satisfy regulatory requirements for processors of acidified foods. The workshop will help participants to understand basic food safety principles and comply with 21 CFR Part 114.

The two-day (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) workshop is best for managers or process operators responsible for the safety of acidified foods. New or relatively inexperienced employees are welcome and a reduced registration fee will be available for multiple representatives from a single company. The registration fee will cover all educational materials, exams, and a food safety textbook plus refreshments. In addition, the registration fee includes a laboratory analysis of the pH and water activity for one product per participant.

At the end of the program, there will be a "walk-through" of the paperwork needed to file an acidified food process with FDA conducted by a Process Authority. Every participant that successfully completes the workshop will receive a certificate that may be used to verify the training for FDA or Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services records.

The Better Process Control School for thermally processed low acid foods and the Acidified Food Workshop for acidified foods are available for companies or agencies at their site. Please contact Dr. Andrew Clarke at 573-882-2610 or for more information and scheduling.

The University of Missouri will also host a workshop for Implementation of HACCP for the Meat and Food Industry on March 25-27, 2015. Separate registration is required for this workshop which is accredited by the International HACCP Alliance for certificate-based instruction that satisfy USDA and FDA training requirements. Contact either Andrew Clarke at or Starsha Ferguson at for more information about the HACCP Workshop.


Day 1

7:30-8:00 AM   Registration

8:00-8:10         Welcome and Course Introduction, Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU

8:10-8:45         FDA Regulations (Chapter 1), TBD, Consumer Safety Officer, FDA

8:45-10:15       Microbiology (Chapter 2), Dr. Steve Seideman, UA

10:15-10:30     Break

10:30-11:45     Acidified Foods (Chapter 3), Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU

11:45-12:45     Lunch

12:45-1:45       Principles of Thermal Processing (Chapter 4), Dr. William McGlynn, OSU

1:45-3:00         Food Plant Sanitation (Chapter 5), Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU

3:00-3:15         Break

3:15- 4:30        Food Container Handling (Chapter 6), Dr. William McGlynn, OSU

4:30                 Questions & Discussion

4:45                 Adjourn*

Day 2

7:30- 8:00 AM  Exam Retakes

8:00- 9:30        Records for Product Protection (Chapter 7), Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU

9:30-10:30       Process Room Instrumentation, Equipment and Operation (Chapter 8), Dr. Steve Seideman, UA

10:30 10:45     Break

10:45-12:00     Closure of Glass Containers (Chapter 16), Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU

12:00-1:00       Lunch

1:00-2:15         Closures for Semi-rigid and Flexible  Containers (Chapter 17), Dr. Steve Seideman, UA                                     

2:15-4:00         Process Authority Services and Filing Process Schedules with FDA, Dr. William McGlynn, OSU                          

4:00                 Questions, Evaluations

4:30                 Workshop Concludes

* A confidential analysis of pH and water activity of one product per participant is included in the workshop registration. Additional products can be tested for a fee (please contact Andrew Clarke at for rates)

Friday, February 27, 2015

2015 Missouri Blueberry School

The 2015 Missouri Blueberry School will be held March 13-14, 2015 at the MSU Darr Agricultural Center, 2401 S. Kansas Expressway, Springfield, MO 65807 and will include farm tours to 3 area blueberry sites.

Blueberries offer huge potential for Missouri farmers. Though a challenging crop to produce, blueberries are in high demand for many markets. The Missouri Blueberry School will offer educational sessions and a tour of innovative blueberry farms. Join local and nationally known blueberry specialists to gain expertise on a wide range of blueberry issues, including:

* Establishing new blueberry plantings
* Blueberry weed management, including recent advances
* Update on blueberry insect issues, including spot-ted wing drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug
* Creative marketing strategies for blueberries
* Blueberry production practices
* Blueberry growers profile
On-farm tours of innovative blueberry producers

Registration is $60 for first member of farm and $45 for additional members of a farm.  Fee includes Friday educational sessions, Saturday bus tour and Saturday lunch and educational materials. The Blueberry School website is

For any questions: Call Patrick Byers at 417-881-8909 or Kelly McGowan.  Make check payable to Greene County Extension, mail to or drop by: Greene County Extension Center, 2400 S. Scenic Avenue, Springfield, MO 65807

The Missouri Blueberry School Agenda

Friday, March 13, 2015 Blueberry Educational Sessions
8:30 – Registration
9:00 – Welcome, Anson Elliott
9:15-10:15 – Establishing blueberries – avoiding costly mistakes, Mark Longstroth
10:15-10:30 – Break
10:30-11:00 – Blueberry cultivar trial update, Martin Kaps
11:00-12:00 – Marketing blueberries in local markets, Timothy Woods
12:15-1:30 – Lunch on your own
1:30-2:15 – Blueberry weed management, Mark Longstroth
2:15-3:00 – Managerial Economics 101 for blueberry growers, Timothy Woods
3:00-3:15 – Break
3:15-4:15 – Blueberry grower profile: Amy and Gabe Craighead
4:15-5:00 – Blueberry insect issues Anastasia Becker, Jacob Wilson
5:00-5:15 – Updates in the Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide, Patrick Byers
5:15 – Missouri Blueberry Council meeting

Saturday, March 14, 2015 Blueberry Tour
8:30 – Board buses and depart from Pinegar Arena, Darr Agriculture Center
9:30-10:30 Weaver Blueberry Farm tour, Stott City
A discussion of pruning practices and pest management will take place during this tour stop.

11:00-1:00 – MU Southwest Research Center tour, lunch
Learn about alternative fruit crops (pawpaw, persimmon, elderberry) and nuts.

2:00-3:00 – Rausch’s Blueberry Farm tour, Monett
A discussion of cultural practices and marketing strategies will highlight this stop.

4:00 – Tour concludes, buses return to Darr Agricultural Center

Tour Stops
Weaver Blueberry Farm, Stott City, MO
Jonas and Lisa Weaver operate a berry farm near Stott City. The farm includes three cultivars, and the fruit is sold PYO and prepicked.

MU Southwest Center, Mount Vernon, MO
The University of Missouri Southwest Research and Education Cen-ter was established in 1959. Horticulture research at the Center provides information on viable production practices for both commercial and home producers of vegetables and fruits. Crops of interest include elderberry, pawpaw, persimmon, nuts, grapes, and several vegetables.

Rausch’s Blueberry Farm, Monett, MO
George and Annmarie Rausch established their blueberry farm in 1987 north of Monett, MO. The 3 acre farm includes 7 cultivars, and plans are underway to expand production. Customers arrive from across Missouri and from neighboring states to enjoy the harvest, which is sold primarily at the farm, as both PYO and prepicked fruit.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Farmer’s Market Workshop (new date due to cancellation of winter weather)

A Farmers’ Market Workshop will be held Wednesday March 25, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  Registration is from 8:30 - 9:00 a.m.  The workshop will be held at North College Center at
Mineral Area College in Park Hills, MO.

This is a great opportunity to introduce your area Farmers’ Market & Welcome New Vendors.  It is also a great way to meet other vendors & share information about growing, produce and markets.

Come Hear Topics About:
Greenhouse Options for the Market Gardener
Beekeeping Basics
Growing Cut Flowers for Market

Topics are tentative and subject to change.
Also Starting at 8:30 a.m.
Scale Certification and Re-Certification

The registration fee is $15 with a deadline of March 20, 2015 which will ensure a meal. Please mail registration to: Ste. Genevieve Extension Center, 255 Market St, Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670

This Workshop is sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension. If you have questions, please call 573-883-3548.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Meet the Buyers Event for Local Farmers - March 3rd

Farmers throughout Missouri and Illinois are invited to attend a Meet the Buyers event to meet local and regional food buyers. The event will take place March 3, 2015, at the St. Louis University campus in the Il Monastero Building, 3050 Olive Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo., from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Doors open at 9:30 a.m.
The event is a unique opportunity for farmers to meet with buyers one-on-one and learn what it takes to do business with the grocery and food service industries in the area. Extension representatives will present introductory information about two programs, MarketReady and Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs). Market Ready is a program designed to teach best commercial business practices between growers and various retail markets. GAPs are a set of recommendations that can help improve the quality and safety of the produce grown.
Representatives from a foodservice distributor, grocery retailer and school foodservice management company also will be on hand to share information on how those specific industries work and how farmers can tap into them. Rusty Lee, owner, Lee Farms, LLC, will demonstrate to farmers how to sort, grade and pack a produce box and how to distribute on a small scale.
Registration for the event is $15 and includes all event materials, a buffet lunch featuring several local and regional foods, and breaks. Due to limited seating, registration is first come, first served. Registration must be completed by Feb. 25, 2015. To register online, visit,-meet-the-buyers.aspx. If registrants encounter problems paying online, please contact Charlene Blary at to make special arrangements.
A limited number of AgriMissouri scholarships are available for AgriMissouri members to attend this event. Contact Catherine Bohnert at (573) 522-9213 or for details. Registrations must be confirmed by February 25th to be eligible.
The following organizations are partnering to support the one-day event: Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Department of Agriculture, University of Missouri Extension, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Specialty Growers Association, Illinois Department of Agriculture and University of Illinois Extension.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Controlling Squash Bugs with Trap Crops and Chickens in Missouri

Squash bugs are major pests among cucurbit, squash, and pumpkin growers. For organic or all-natural vegetable producers like Gary Wenig in Rayville, MO, controlling the squash bugs on his farm without the use of commercially available pesticides has been a challenge.  Rocky Creek Valley Farm is a 40-acre farm owned and operated by Elizabeth and Gary Wenig. They produce and sell a large variety of heirloom vegetables, free range eggs, and herbs. They needed to get a handle on the squash bug problem on their farm, but they didn't want to rely on synthetic chemicals to achieve their goal.

Across the country, producers like the Wenigs are altering their pest management practices to move toward whole-farm strategies based on ecological principles. Clearly embracing what early advocates of integrated pest management (IPM) believed, farmers are acknowledging the benefits of system-wide strategies to control pests.  The Wenigs learned that trap crops could be grown as a control measure to lure pests away from a cash crop. Since the pests are concentrated in high levels in trap crops, they can be treated in a localized area instead of treating the entire field.

“Trap crops have been proven to lure pests away from cash crops, but then the issue is how to kill the insects once they are on the trap crop plants,” said Gary Wenig. “More traditional IPM methods use chemicals to kill pests once they are on the trap crops. That strategy reduces the use of chemicals and associated costs, but does not eliminate the use of chemicals.”

Rather than using synthetic chemicals, the Wenigs wanted to use chickens to eliminate the pests in their trap crop. In 2013, the Wenigs applied to the NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program and were awarded $6,462 to explore an insect pest control management strategy using a combination of trap crops, beneficial insect crops, and chickens in moveable pens. They hoped that the chickens would kill the squash bugs in the trap crop, thus reducing the number of squash bugs in their cash crop without using chemicals. They also wanted to integrate cover crops as a soil management strategy for pest management.

For their experiment, the Wenigs set up four trap crop plantings around a 2.5-acre vegetable garden. Based on research presented by Jaime PiƱero, Assistant Professor and State IPM Specialist at Lincoln University, the Wenigs selected a trap crop mix of blue hubbard and red kuri squash.

Wening’s mobile chicken pen design accommodates 2 to 4 chickens and a trap crop bed. It is 8 feet wide, 12 feet long, and 24 inches tall.

They constructed two 8x12 ft. mobile pens (sometimes referred to as chicken tractors), which were designed to roll over the trap crop plants.

The pens were placed so that the pens enclosed the trap crop plots, and then they placed between two and four chickens in each mobile pen. By confining the chickens in pens with the trap crop plants, they kept the chickens away from the cash crop and avoided damage and contamination issues. To make their pest management program even more effective, the Wenigs incorporated several cover crops to provide other soil and pest management related benefits.

They observed that the blue hubbard was a more effective trap crop than the red kuri squash, and were thrilled when they observed the chickens devouring the squash bugs in the blue hubbard trap crop.

“Bottom line - it was a great success,” said Wenig. “After a number of issues including the weather and a steep learning curve, we saw that chickens, in combination with a blue hubbard trap crop, can be used to control squash bugs in a vegetable produce business.”

For more information on the Wenigs’ trap crop, cover crop, and mobile chicken pen pest management strategy, visit the Rocky Creek’s website at, or the SARE project reporting website.  Simply search by the project number, FNC13-9, at, or contact the NCR-SARE office.