Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Six Figure Farming for Small Plots Workshop: Techniques for Small Scale Intensive Organic Market Gardening

This is your chance to learn from one of the best new young farmers today.  Jean-Martin Fortier (JM) and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches are the founders of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognized micro-farm known for its high productivity and profitability using low-tech, high-yield methods of production.  A leading proponent of biologically intensive cropping systems, JM has more than a decade`s worth of experience in organic farming. 

"After much research and many discoveries, our journey led us to what is now a productive and profitable micro-farm. Every week, our market garden now produces enough vegetables to feed over 200 families and generates enough income to comfortably support our household. Our low-tech strategy kept our start-up costs to a minimum and our overhead expenses low. The farm became profitable after only a few years of production, and we have never felt the pinch of financial pressure." 

If you`re serious about making farming your career choice then you won`t want to miss this all day participatory workshop to learn the ins and outs of what it will take to turn your farm into a profitable business endeavor.  The workshop is intended to complement the explanation of Jean Martin`s cropping systems given in his book The Market Gardener, and will provide in-depth instruction about intensive methods for optimizing a production system. Topics will include: 

– Farm set up and design for biologically intensive cropping systems 

– Alternative machinery, minimum tillage techniques and the use of the best hand tools for the market garden 

– Best practices for weed and pest management 

– How to develop a systematic approach to crop planning and season extension 

December 15th, 2014

Registration & check-in:  8:30 am - 9:00 am 

Workshop begins:  9:00 am sharp 

10:30 -10:45 am:   Potty break & snacks 

Noon - 1:00 pm:  Lunch will be included/provided with your registration 

2:30 - 2:45 pm:  Potty break & snacks 

5:00 pm - whenever:  Social mixer to get to know JM and your fellow mid-Missouri farmers

The workshop will be held at Bradford Research Center in Columbia, MO.  To register click here.

**Please email us if you have dietary restrictions email.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Loans for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes and guarantees loans to eligible socially disadvantaged farmers (SDA) to buy and operate family-size farms and ranches. Each fiscal year, the agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership (FO) and operating loan (OL) funds to SDA farmers. Non-reserved funds can also be used by SDA individuals.

An SDA farmer or rancher is a group whose members have been subject to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. These groups consist of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African-Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and women.

The agency:
·         Helps remove barriers that prevent full participation of SDA farmers in FSA’s farm loan programs;
·         Provides information and assistance to SDA farmers to help them develop sound farm management practices, analyze problems and plan the best use of available resources essential for success.

Types of Loans and Uses of Loan Funds
Direct farm ownership loans (FO) and farm operating loans (OL) are made by FSA to eligible farmers. Guaranteed FO and OL loans are made by lending institutions subject to federal or state supervision (banks, savings and loans, and units of the Farm Credit System) and guaranteed by FSA. Typically, FSA guarantees 90 percent of any loss the lender might incur if the loan fails. FO funds may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way needed in the farm’s operation, erect or improve buildings, implement soil and water conservation measures and pay closing costs. Guaranteed FO funds also may be used to refinance debt.

OL funds may be used to purchase livestock, poultry, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, fertilizer, chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses. The funds also may be used for training costs, closing costs and to reorganize and refinance debt.

Terms and Interest Rates
Repayment terms for direct OL depend on the collateral securing the loan and usually run from one to seven years. Repayment terms for direct FO vary but never exceed 40 years.

Interest rates for direct loans are set periodically according to the government’s cost of borrowing.

Guaranteed loan terms are set by the lender. Interest rates for guaranteed loans are established by the lender.

Down Payment Program
FSA has a special loan program to assist socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers in purchasing a farm. Retiring farmers may use this program to transfer their land to future generations.

To qualify:
The applicant must make a cash down payment of at least 5 percent of the purchase price.
The maximum loan amount does not exceed 45 percent of the least of (a) the purchase price of the farm or ranch to be acquired; (b) the appraised value of the farm or ranch to be acquired or; (c) $667,000 (Note: This results in a maximum loan amount of $300,000).

The term of the loan is 20 years. The interest rate is 4 percent below the direct FO rate, but not lower than 1.5 percent.

The remaining balance may be obtained from a commercial lender or private party. FSA can provide up to a 95-percent guarantee if financing is obtained from a commercial lender. Participating lenders do not have to pay a guarantee fee.

Financing from participating lenders must have an amortization period of at least 30 years and cannot have a balloon payment due within the first 20 years of the loan.

Land Contract (LC) Guarantees
These provide certain financial guarantees to the seller of a farm through a land contract sale to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer. The seller may request either of the following:

Prompt Payment Guarantee: A guarantee up to the amount of three amortized annual installments plus the cost of any related real estate taxes and insurance.

Standard Guarantee: A guarantee of 90 percent of the outstanding principal balance under the land contract.

The purchase price of the farm cannot exceed the lesser of (a) $500,000 or (b) the market value of the property. The buyer must provide a minimum down payment of 5 percent of the purchase price of the farm. The interest rate is fixed at a rate not to exceed the direct FO loan interest rate in effect at the time the guarantee is issued, plus 3 percentage points. The guarantee period is 10 years for either plan regardless of the term of the land contract. The contract payments must be amortized for a minimum of 20 years. Balloon payments are prohibited during the 10-year term of the guarantee.

Sale of Inventory Farmland
FSA advertises inventory property within 15 days of acquisition. Eligible SDA and beginning farmers are given first priority to purchase these properties at the appraised market value. If one or more eligible SDA or beginning farmer offers to purchase the same property in the first 135 days, the buyer is chosen randomly.

Where to Apply
Applications for direct loan assistance may be submitted to the local FSA office serving the area where the operation is located. Local FSA offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture or Farm Service Agency. For guaranteed loans, applicants must apply to a commercial lender who participates in the Guaranteed Loan Program. Contact the local FSA office for a list of participating lenders.

For more information
More information is available from your local FSA office.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NRCS Announces December 19 Deadline for EQIP Funding in Missouri

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a cut-off date of December 19 to apply for funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Funding is available for general EQIP, as well as On-Farm Energy, Seasonal High Tunnel, and Organic initiatives.

EQIP helps producers of agricultural products improve water quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, and achieve other environmental benefits.

NRCS accepts applications for EQIP on a continuous basis, but producers must file applications by December 19 for the next round of funding. Applications filed after December 19 will be considered in the next ranking period if funds are available.

EQIP offers farmers, ranchers, and forestland managers options to conserve natural resources while boosting production. EQIP provides financial assistance for a variety of conservation activities, such as cover crops, rotational grazing systems, field buffers and animal waste management systems.

Farmers and ranchers can submit applications at local NRCS offices. To find the USDA service center nearest you, look in the telephone directory under, “U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture” or click here.

NRCS employees in county offices can provide more information about how to apply for benefits offered by NRCS.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creating Economic Development through Local Food Systems Workshop

A one day workshop will be held on Friday, December 12, 2014 from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm at Kress Farm Garden Preserve, 5137 Glade Chapel Rd, Hillsboro, MO.

A food system includes everything associated with growing, processing, storing, distributing, transporting and selling food. Improving and expanding a local food system represents an opportunity to build entrepreneurship, small businesses and jobs.

This workshop will explore issues and road blocks beginning with opportunities and challenges including three key aspects: place, product, and promotion. Participants will also learn about the benefits and challenges of shared processing facilities (commercial kitchens, incubators and food hubs) as strategies for regional business development and job creation.

Workshop highlights:
  • Growing Local Food Systems: Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities in Emerging Local Food Networks
  • Community Food Processing Facilities
  • Building a Curriculum in Sustainable Food Systems and Entrepreneurship
  • Meat Food Hub: What does it take to Create One?
  • Funding Opportunities for Local Food Systems
  • Kansas City Food Hub Feasibility Study
  • Round Table Discussions
  • Strengths of the existing local food systems
  • Barriers to local food systems
  • Create list of those doing local food systems presently

Fee: $20 per person. Fee includes workshop materials, speakers, and lunch. 
Registration Deadline: December 9, 2014
Make check payable to: Jefferson County Extension Council and mail to: University of Missouri Extension P.O. Box 497 Hillsboro, MO 63050.

For any questions contact Debi Kelly at 636-797-5391

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Buzz in the City: St. Louis University's Pollinator Project

Bees are extremely important to us and our environment because they are fabulous pollinators, giving us a wide array fruits, veggies, beautiful flowers and much more. When people think about bees most tend to focus on honey bees and large agricultural plots. However, the honeybee is just one species out of roughly 450 in Missouri, such as Agapostemon virescens, the metallic green sweat bee. Many people are beginning to consider community gardens as reliable sources for their produce. Bees and gardens are important in urban areas where the core is shrinking along with access to fresh produce because they have the potential to provide food security for the local communities. Unfortunately not much is known about bee communities, their pollination services and how they react to urban environments. This is where the lab of Dr. Gerardo Camilo comes in.

Our lab is looking at bee diversity within urban community organic food gardens. We have been conducting a baseline survey in order to figure out what species of bees may be at each garden. This is our lab’s first year sampling multiple gardens with three located on the north side of St. Louis city, including EarthDance, and three on the south side. EarthDance is our most unique garden being that it is the largest and that it has a very distinct surrounding habitat. We have sampled 80 species of bees total from all gardens and 36 species total at EarthDance with six of these species sampled exclusively at EarthDance!

Increased bee diversity within food gardens is important because many species have their own preferences for certain flowers, have certain ways of collecting pollen and may only be around for a short time each year. For example, the bumble bee uses what is called buzz pollination; when the bee lands on a flower it vibrates its wings in order to release the pollen. This method is beneficial to crops such as cherry tomatoes due to the way the flower is assembled, making it difficult for other bees to collect pollen and easy for bees that use buzz pollination. Luckily for those readers who enjoy cherry tomatoes, four species of bumblebee have been sampled at EarthDance like Bombus impatiens, the common eastern bumblebee to the right.

We hope to use the information found in our survey to develop research questions and goals and to better understand how to provide for urban bee communities which will translate to a better understanding of how to best provide for people living in the urban core. Increase in bee diversity will lead to an increase in pollination services, leaving plants with bigger and better quality fruits and vegetables. There is potential to use bees and their services to transform these urban food deserts to flourishing food gardens.
(Interested in learning more about the Pollinator Project, or about bees? Contact Paige at Paigemuniz@gmail.com)
(Reprinted from EarthDance newsletter, Nov 4, 2015)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Farm Service Agency Microloans

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) developed the Microloan (ML) program to better serve the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche and the smallest of family farm operations by modifying its Operating Loan (OL) application, eligibility and security requirements. The program will offer more flexible access to credit and will serve as an attractive loan alternative for smaller farming operations like specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture (CSA). These smaller farms, including non-traditional farm operations, often face limited financing options.

Use of Microloans
Microloans can be used for all approved operating expenses as authorized by the FSA Operating Loan Program, including but not limited to:

•           Initial start-up expenses;
•           Annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents;
•           Marketing and distribution expenses;
•           Family living expenses;
•           Purchase of livestock, equipment, and other materials essential to farm operations;
•           Minor farm improvements such as wells and coolers.
•           Hoop houses to extend the growing season;
•           Essential tools;
•           Irrigation;
•           Delivery vehicles.

For more information contact your local FSA Office.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Women in Ag Survey

The American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Program has launched “Women in Ag,” an online survey that aims to gauge the goals, aspirations, achievements and needs of women in American agriculture in a number of different areas.

All women who are farmers, ranchers, farm/ranch employees, employed in agricultural businesses, pursuing ag-related higher education or supportive of agriculture in other ways are invited to participate in the survey.  Respondents must reside in the United States. Farm Bureau membership is not required to participate.

“This comprehensive survey is the first of its kind to ask women in-depth questions about how they are connected to agriculture and what leadership skills they think are most important today, as well as the top business challenges they’re facing,” said Terry Gilbert, a Kentucky farmer and chair of the American Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee. “All women involved in agriculture – not just Farm Bureau members – are invited to participate in the survey,” Gilbert emphasized.

Data collected from respondents will be used to gauge trends related to the achievements of women in agriculture, including leadership positions, business successes and election to public office.

The AFB Women’s Leadership Committee is sponsoring the survey and is working with other farm and agriculture organizations to encourage participation. Participants will be eligible for an opportunity to win one of five $100 gift cards after the survey closes. Preliminary findings from the survey will be released in February 2015 at AFBF’s FUSION Conference in Nashville, Tennessee; the full report will be released in late spring.
(By American Farm Bureau Federation)