Friday, January 23, 2015

Growing Growers

Are you a grower or an aspiring grower who is looking for learning opportunities in sustainable farming?
-          Apprenticeships on local farms for aspiring growers
-          Workshops covering market farming and related topics
-          Farm tours of successful local farming operations
-          Networking through our Email listserv and apprenticeship
-          Specialized trainings for growers
Growing Growers is a collaborative effort of K-State Research and Extension, Univ. of Missouri Extension, Lincoln Univ. Cooperative Extension, the Kansas Rural Center, the KC Food Circle and Cultivate KC. We work to increase the production of local food by helping new and existing producers grow their businesses.

2014 Workshop Series

Feb 24 from 4-7 pm – Farm Start-Up/Accessing Land/On-Farm Crop Storage (Kansas City, KS)

March 17 from 4-7 pm – Plant Propagation (Belton, MO)

March 14 and March 15 – Good Agriculture Practices & Food Safety Modernization Act (Kansas City, MO)

March 31 from 4-7 pm – Diversifying Markets: Farmers Market, CSA, Wholesale and Farm to School (Kansas City, MO)

April 7 from 4-7 pm – Spotted Wing Drosophila (Lawrence, KS)

April 12 from 9-2 pm – Building and Managing Healthy Soils (Kearney, MO)

May 12 from 4-7 pm – Postharvest Handling & Food Safety (Kansas City, KS)

June 2 from 4-7 pm – Farm Equipment & Drip Irrigation (Olathe, KS)

June 14 from 9-2 pm – Introduction to Small Fruit Production (Kingsville, MO)

July 12 from 9-2 pm – Insect, Disease, and Weed Management (Lawrence, KS)

July 21 from 4-7 pm – Low-till/No-till Cropping Systems (Kansas City, MO)

Aug 9 from 9-2 pm – Farm Business Management (Kansas City, MO)

Aug 25 from 4-7 pm – Introduction to Cut Flowers (Kansas City, MO)

Sept 22 from 9-2 pm – Scaling Up/Packaging & Grading (Lawrence, KS)

For more information on the programs, click here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How Your Food Gets The 'Non-GMO' Label

Demand for products that don't contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is exploding.

Now many food companies are seeking certification for products that don't have any genetically modified ingredients, and not just the brands popular in the health food aisle. Even Cheerios, that iconic cereal from General Mills, no longer contains GMOs.

"We currently are at over $8.5 billion in annual sales of verified products," says Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project, an independent organization that verifies products.

To receive the label, a product has to be certified as containing ingredients with less than 1 percent genetic modification. Westgate says that's a realistic standard, while totally GMO-free is not. She says natural foods stores began the process of defining a standard, involving other interested players along the way, including consumers. Now, General Mills is just one of the big food companies selling non-GMO products.

Sales of food labeled as non-GMO ballooned to over $3 billion in 2013, according toThe Wall Street Journal.

"Interestingly, with all of this traction in the natural sector," Westgate says, "we're increasingly seeing more conventional companies coming on board and having their products verified."

But how does a company get into the non-GMO game? It might call FoodChain ID, a company in Fairfield, Iowa, that can shepherd a firm through the process. It's one of the third-party auditors that certifies products for the Non-GMO Project.

"We start looking at ingredients, and we identify what are all the ingredients," says David Carter, FoodChain ID's general manager. "And of course, the label itself doesn't always identify all of those. So we need to be sure that we have a list of all the processing aids, the carriers and all the inputs that go into a product."

Next, FoodChain ID figures out where each ingredient and input came from. If there's honey in cookies, for example, the company will have to show that the bees that make the honey aren't feeding near genetically modified corn. When there's even the smallest risk that an ingredient could contain a modified gene, DNA testing is in order.

FoodChain ID has a lab where a machine can extract the DNA from ingredient samples in order to analyze it. If that test finds no evidence of GMOs, the ingredient can go in the cookies. Carter says he can barely keep up with the number of inquiries coming in from companies that want certification.

"The demand is now very, very high, and it has been for probably over a year in particular," Carter says.

To date, FoodChain ID says it has verified 17,000 ingredients from 10,000 suppliers in 96 countries.
It may take hundreds of dollars for some products to get a non-GMO label, depending on how many ingredients are already verified as being GMO-free and how many are not.

But even with the rising demand, non-GMO products make up a small fraction of the marketplace. More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. contains genetically modified traits. And those two crops are ubiquitous in processed foods like packaged cookies. Still, if the current trend continues, it seems likely that more farmers will consider planting non-GMO crops.

Various companies sell non-GMO seeds, but they can be more difficult to find. Plant breeder Alix Paez hopes his central Iowa seed company, Genetic Enterprises International, can help fill that market niche.

"We are a very small company," Paez says, "so our strategy is to find niche markets for farmers that are looking for non-GMO products."

Farmers pay a premium for seeds that are genetically modified to withstand pests, or engineered to tolerate popular herbicides, making it easier for farmers to use those chemicals to kill weeds. Paez and his wife, Mary Jane, hope to develop seeds than can achieve the same yields without those expensive, patented traits. This past season, they grew test plots on a farm in Boone County, Iowa, which they harvested this fall with an ancient red Massey Ferguson combine.

Paez studies the effectiveness of each hybrid seed variety. It's slow and meticulous work. But the careful data collection is key to determining whether a new, non-GMO hybrid can be competitive in the marketplace.

"One of the main things is yield," Paez says. "Stand-ability, consistent performance, disease tolerance — things like that."

If these seeds make the grade, farmers could potentially save some money. And their grain might fetch a premium, especially as demand for non-GMO animal feed grows. Because the only way to end up with non-GMO certified meat is to raise animals on non-GMO feed.
(by Amy Mayer is a reporter based at Iowa Public Radio in Ames, Iowa. This story comes to us from Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration focusing on agriculture. A version of this post originally ran on the Harvest website.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

19th Annual Greenhouse Growers' School

The Missouri State Florists Association and University of Missouri Extension announce the 19th Annual Greenhouse Growers’ School (presented jointly with MLNA ‘Nuts and Bolts’ Event).

The Growers' School will be held on Thursday, February 5, 2015 at the Bradford Research and Extension Center, 4968 Rangeline Road, Columbia, MO  (From U.S. 63 travel east on Rt. WW to Rangeline and turn right)


8:30     Registration/Coffee and donuts

9:00     Using humor & technology for your business, employees & life
            Panel discussion: Sandi Hillermann-McDonald, Susan Mertz & Scott Rood

10:15   Break

10:30   New bedding plants for 2015, Derek Schrof, Ball Seed Company

11:30   Lunch (furnished), various program updates will be presented during lunch.

Concurrent sessions in the afternoon—your choice of topics.

Room A – Greenhouse

1:00     Growing “my way”, Steve Sapp, Strawberry Hill Farms

2:00     Greenhouse pest control, Andy Seckinger, OHP, Inc.

3:00     Break

3:15     Plant nutrition, David Trinklein, MU Plant Science
Room B – Nursery/Landscape

1:00     ‘Beeologics’--Healthy Bees, plants & planet, Jerry Hayes, Director of Beeologics, Hummert International

2:00     Landscaping for pollinators, Jim and Val Duever, MO State Beekeepers Association

3:00     Break

3:15     Pests to be aware & prepare, Collin Walmsley, MO Dept. of Agriculture

4:15     Closing discussion—door prizes

Registration is $30 per person (includes lunch and break items) payable at the door.  For additional information contact: David Trinklein, MU State Extension Floriculture Extension Specialist, 573/882-9631.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

National Webinar on New Whole Farm Revenue Protection Policy

There's a new crop insurance option now available for diversified farmers - Whole Farm Revenue Insurance - and an upcoming webinar will help farmers understand whether it's right for them.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) are holding a webinar on January 21, 2015, at 2:00 pm Central time to discuss the Risk Management Agency's new Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) insurance policy.

The webinar will feature presentations from all three organizations on what WFRP is, how it works, and which farmers it may work for.  The presenters will also take question about the policy.

Paul Wolfe, Policy specialist with NSAC, will talk about the history of whole farm insurance and the differences between WFRP and the AGR and AGR-Lite.

Jeff Schahczenski, Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director with NCAT, will talk about the WFRP application process and cover examples of how Mid-Western farms could use WFRP.

James Robinson, a Research and Policy Associate with RAFI-USA, will talk about the claims process and the potential benefits of WFRP for specialty crop growers.

This new WFRP policy replaces the AGR and AGR-Lite policies, which provided much less coverage than the new WFRP, and is meant to cover all of a farmer’s crop and livestock insurance needs under one policy.

The new product will be available for the coming crop year in most of the United States except for the sates of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and some counties in California.

Join us on Wednesday, January 21st, 2014, from 2:00 – 3:30 pm CST.  Presentations will last until approximately 3:15 pm, with the remaining time for Q&A.  Registration is free and open to the public here:  Webinar Registration  More information on WFRP can be found on RMA’s WFRP website and from NSAC.

About the Webinar Speakers:

James Robinson, Research and Policy Associate, RAFI. James’ risk management research was presented at the Agriculture and Applied Economics Crop Insurance & Farm Bill Symposium in both 2013 and 2014. James currently serves as co-chair of NSAC’s Farming Opportunities and Fair Competition Committee. Prior to working at RAFI, James was a Graduate Intern for the Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture and a Research Assistant for the Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly. James holds a BA in Political Science from LaGrange College and a MS in Political Science from Florida State University.

Paul Wolfe, Policy Specialist with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has worked on sustainability and food issues in the United States Senate for over 8 years. He holds a J.D. from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Gonzaga University. Paul has spent the last six years working for Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA).  Prior to that he was the Senior Policy Analyst for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, where he contributed to the Commission’s final report and led its Congressional education efforts.  He previously worked for Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD).

Jeff Schahczenski, Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director and an Agricultural Economist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). Jeff has extensive knowledge of whole farm revenue, organic, and specialty crop insurance and has provided more than 20 workshops and webinars nationwide on crop insurance topics. Jeff in an early Risk Management Agency (RMA) supported project developed the Adjusted Gross Revenue Wizard, which assisted farmers in evaluating what is now, in part, the basis of the Whole Farm Revenue Protection product discussed in this webinar. Jeff has over 28 years of experience in sustainable agriculture development and farming. He holds an MS in Agricultural Economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a MS in Political Science from the University of Florida.

Contact: Paul Wolfe, 202-547-5754, Jeff Schahczenski, 406-494-4572, James Robinson, 919-542-1396.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Missouri Organic Association Annual Conference

The Missouri Organic Association’s (MOA) 2015 Conference will be held February 5-7 in Springfield, MO. This is the 6th year in sequence, and will offer discussions and share research and experiences about organic and sustainable production.

MOA’s mission is to provide local, organic and sustainable family farms with the tools they need to be successful farming businesses, while educating the general public about why they should support local farmers.

This conference is open to everybody- producers and consumers alike. MOA welcome farmers and all those concerned about independent food sources, the rising health issues in children, supporting sustainable family farms, environmental issues and solution-based philosophies of biological and organic growing practices.

Events will include 54 workshops, with varied content: grain production, livestock production, vegetable production, high-tunnel small fruits and vegetable production, sustainable living skills, culinary and medicinal plants, and a whole lot more. In addition, there will be a GMO Plenary- a full day panel workshop.

The conference price is $175 for all 3 days and a single day pass is $75. An Early Bird Special discount is available until January 25th, which includes a Buy 1 registration at full price, Get the 2nd registration at ½ price. After the Early Bird deadline of January 25 is over, the Buy 1- Get 2nd at ½ price will disappear and all ticket prices increase by $20.

To view the website and get details about speakers, access:

Hotel reservations are available at a special MOA Conference block price at The University Plaza Hotel, Springfield, MO.  Be sure to mention the MOA conference block.

What’s included in a 3 day pass?

Thursday includes your choice of 6 educational sessions, including a full informative workshop conducted by Ben Flanner of Brooklyn Grange.   Thursday evening includes the MOA Expo 2015 Grand Opening as well as a “Savor the Flavor” Reception Dinner in which attendees are invited to taste the flavors of MOA Farmers, Retailers, Microbreweries and Wineries. Thursday also includes the MOA Live Benefit Auction to help fund the MOA Conference.

Friday includes choice of 6 educational sessions as well as the GMO Plenary with Robyn O’Brien and a Food Policy Workshop.    Friday Evening attendees will enjoy the MOA Cochon15 & MOA Top Chef Challenge, featuring St. Louis Chef Josh Galliano of The Libertine and Springfield Chef Wes Johnson of the Metropolitan Farmer butchering pasture based hogs with a live auction of the pork products with the proceeds going to MOA and “Feed My Peeps”, a non-profit organization formed to feed the hungry in St. Louis.   The MOA Top Chef Challenge 2015 will feature Tops Chefs from the 4 cities of Missouri:  Columbia- Walker Claridge of Broadway Brewery; STL- Chef Rex Hale of 360 St. Louis, Chef Wil Pelly of In Good Company & Sanctuaria, and Chef Jen Ryan of Gateway Garlic Urban Farm; KC- Michael Foust of The Farmhouse; and Springfield- Chef Paul Trout of Chateau on the Lake. This event has generated great interest in the past from both the top chefs who are competing for the title and from the participants who get to taste the foods and judge the final MOA Top Chef 2015!  Friday evening includes a Banquet Dinner of local organic and sustainably produced foods. Following dinner, attendees may choose between a screening of GMO OMG, or Live Music and Dancing with Dallas Jones.

Saturday includes your choice of 6 educational sessions as well as our Saturday Brunch with keynote speaker Joseph Simcox, “The Botanical Explorer” of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds who will be challenging us to save our local foods by saving and planting native heirloom seeds and working together to develop local food systems.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Reduce Storm Damage to Your Greenhouses

Nature seems to be getting more violent in recent years with frequent earthquakes, increased numbers of hurricanes and record breaking snowstorms.  Insurance damage claims have increased considerably.  The International Building Code has revised upward its wind and snow loading requirements for some areas of the U.S. 

Each year there are reports of greenhouses that have been damaged by weather and natural events.  Greenhouse design is different than conventional farm buildings in that the structural profile has to be small to allow maximum light to reach the plants. Most farm buildings are over designed to handle severe weather conditions.

Damage to greenhouses can include racking of the frame, bending of the hoops, broken glass or torn plastic and uplifted foundation posts.  Preparation ahead of time can minimize the damage.

Wind loading
Wind forces that act on a greenhouse are influenced by numerous factors including the basics wind speed, building orientation, exposure, height and shape of doors or vents that may be open.  The wind passing over a greenhouse creates a positive pressure on the windward side and a negative pressure on the leeward side.  These can combine to create a force that wants to collapse or overturn the building.  An 80 mph wind can produce a pressure of 16 pounds per square foot (psf).  For example, the 10’ by 100’ sidewall of a gutter-connected greenhouse would have to resist a 16,000 pound force.

Wind can also create a force similar to an aircraft wing that wants to lift the greenhouse off the ground.  An 80 mph wind blowing perpendicular to the side of a 28’ x 100’ hoophouse can create a lifting force of 220 pounds per foot of length or 22,000 pounds of uplift on the whole structure.  When you consider the total weight of materials and equipment in the greenhouse is about 6000 pounds, the foundation must have a withdrawl resistance of about 300 pounds each.  This is why building inspectors frequently require that the posts be surrounded by concrete.

Although you have no control over the force or direction of severe winds, here are a few tips to help minimize storm damage:
  • Check the area for loose objects.  Anything that can be picked up and hurled through the glazing should be secured or moved indoors.  Metal chimney (stove pipe) sections should be secured with sheet metal screws.
  • Inspect for dry or weak tree limbs that could fall on the greenhouse.
  • Close all openings including vents, louvers and doors.  The effective force of the wind is doubled when it is allowed inside the building.  The wind on the outside puts a pressure or lifting force on the structure.  The wind inside tries to force the walls and roof off.
  • On air inflated greenhouses, increase the inflation pressure slightly by opening the blower’s intake valve.  This will reduce the rippling effect.  Check to see that the plastic is attached securely and that any holes are taped.
  • Disconnect the arm to the motor on all ventilation – intake shutters and tape the shutters closed.  Then turn on enough exhaust fans to create a vacuum in the greenhouse.  This will suck the plastic tight against the frame.
  • Windbreaks can reduce the wind speed and deflect it over the greenhouse.  Conifer trees (hemlock, spruce, pine, etc.) in a double row located at least 50’ upwind from the greenhouse can reduce the damaging effects of the wind.  Wood or plastic storm fencing can be used as a temporary measure.
Snow loading
Snow that accumulates on a greenhouse can put significant weight on the structural members.  Snow loads vary considerably from 0 along the southern coastline to more than 100 pounds per square foot in Northern Maine. Local building codes specify the design snow load.

Snow can be light and fluffy with a water equivalent of 12” of snow equal to 1” of rain.  It can also be wet and heavy with 3” equal to 1” of rain.  Snow having a 1” rain water equivalent will load a greenhouse with 5.2 psf.  This amounts to 6.5 tons on a 25’ x 96’ greenhouse.

The following are a few pointers to consider before the next snow season:
  • The foundation piers or posts should be large enough to support the weight of the building including crop and equipment loads.
  • All greenhouses should have diagonal bracing to keep it from racking from the weight of the snow or force of the wind.
  • Collar ties and post connections should have adequate bolts or screws.  This is a weak point in some greenhouse designs.
  • Allow 10’ to 12’ between individual greenhouse for snow accumulation and to prevent sidewalls from being crushed in.
  • When building new hoophouses, consider using a gothic design that sheds snow easier.  In hoop shaped houses, install 2” x 4” posts under the ridge every 10’ when heavy snow is predicted.
  • The heating system should be large enough to maintain 60ºF to melt snow and ice.  It takes 250 Btu/hr per square foot of glazing to melt a wet snow falling at a rate of 1”/hour.  Heat should be turned on in the greenhouse or under the gutter several hours before the storm begins.
  • The plastic should be tight and inflated to at least 0.25” water pressure.  This can be checked with a monometer. Any cracked or broken glass should be replaced.
  • Energy screens should be retracted to allow heat to the glazing.
  • A standby generator should be available with adequate fuel for the duration of the storm to power heaters, fans and blowers.

Selection of greenhouses that meet the International Building Code and good construction techniques are important considerations when building new greenhouses.  A little preparation before a storm can minimize damage from severe weather events.
(by John W. Bartok, Jr.)
(photo by Ted Carey, KSU Extension)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cover Crop Economics Decision Support Tool

What does cover cropping cost? What are the economic benefits? How do the costs and benefits change over time?  Have you been trying to figure out if cover crops are worth it financially?  Then check out this webinar with Missouri NRCS’ own Lauren Cartwright, Agricultural Economist, along with Bryon Kirwan, Illinois NRCS State Economist.  Lauren and Bryon created an easy to use and understand excel program for farmers.

The webinar will take place on January 22nd at 1 pm and will last for 60 minutes.  To join, log into

This webinar will provide a high level overview that focuses on the producer, uses a “partial budget” and short-term and long-term analyses. The presenters will run/demonstrate a cover crops decision support tool with a scenario showing the data input process and the tool outputs. Key variables will be changed to show how such changes impact the results.

This webinar is presented by the USDA NRCS East National Technology Support Center. Contact Holli Kuykendall, Ph.D., National Technology Specialist, for more information about this webinar.