Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Illinois Fruit & Vegetable News

Mache is one of the hardiest
winter greens  and it survived
the winter without being damaged
by the extreme cold. 
For those on the eastern side of Missouri, you may be interested in subscribing to this e-newsletters from the University of Illinois Extension – the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News by Dr. Rick Weinzierl, Professor and Extension Entomologist, SARE PDP Program Coordinator, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois.  I found it to be very informative for commercial fruit and vegetable growers.
A new issue of the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News (Volume 19, number 20) has been posted on the web.  To reach the home page for the Illinois Fruit and Vegetable News (with links to all issues and additional resources), use the following link:

For direct access to issue 19:20, use the following link:
In This Issue:
Upcoming Programs (an extensive list of educational programs for beginning and established growers)

Regional Reports (from western and southern Illinois)

Fruit Production and Pest Management (pheromone traps for fruit insects)

Vegetable Production and Pest Management (soil temperatures and spring planting; notes from the high tunnel workshop in southern Illinois earlier this month)

Local Foods Issues (August 2014 deadline for food safety cost-share audits)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

USDA Economic Research Service Updates Organic Agriculture Information

Consumer demand for organically produced goods has shown double-digit growth during most years since the 1990s, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 3 of 4 conventional grocery stores, and often have substantial price premiums over conventional products (see data on Organic Prices).

Organic sales account for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, though organic products account for a much larger share in some categories (see the chart in Organic Market Overview). Certified organic acreage and livestock have been expanding in the United States for many years, particularly for fruits, vegetables, dairy, and poultry (see data on Organic Production). The U.S. Department of Commerce began adding codes for selected organic products to the U.S. trade code system in 2011, and the tracked value of organic imports and exports has been increasing (see the chapter on Organic Trade).

Through analysis of USDA’s Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data, ERS compares the costs of production and returns for organic and conventional production in major crop/livestock sectors, and analyzes other economic characteristics of organic agriculture (see Characteristics of Conventional andOrganic Apple Production in the United States, July 2011, as an example). A 2009 ERS report, Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry, examined a broad spectrum of economic research on the profitability and market conditions in this rapidly changing sector. 

Government research and policy initiatives often play a key role in the adoption of new farming technologies and systems (see Readings). USDA has a current goal to increase the number of certified organic operations and is expanding programs and services for organic producers and handlers. Funding for organic research, certification cost-share assistance, and other programs has been increasing since 2002, when national organic standards were implemented (see 2014 FarmAct-Highlights and Implications: Organic Agriculture).

On March 16-18, 2011, USDA held a major conference in Washington, DC to examine findings from research on the agronomic, economic, ecological, and quality-of-life performance of organic farming systems. Conference proceedings are published in the online interdisciplinary journal Crop Management. Most sessions were recorded live and are available on the university extension website, eOrganic.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Experience Helps Restaurant Managers Stick with Local Foods

Past decisions to purchase local foods increases the likelihood that chefs and food purchasing managers continue to buy local products.

Restaurant chefs and food purchasing managers who have bought local foods in the past are more likely to continue adding them to menus and store shelves, according to a team of researchers.

"Past experiences will have an impact on buying local foods," said Amit Sharma, associate professor of hospitality management, Penn State. "Restaurant managers who buy local foods currently are significantly more likely to keep purchasing locally."

In a study of the cost and benefits of purchasing local foods in restaurants, managers and chefs indicated that certain actions of local food producers stand out as reasons why they continue to buy local foods. For instance, managers said that a local farmer's or producer's response time -- the time it took a business to respond and process an order -- was more important than delivery time -- how long it takes to actually receive the goods -- as a factor when they considered buying local food products.

"Interestingly, we did not find that delivery time mattered as much for those who purchased food, not to say that delivery time wasn't a concern at all," said Sharma. "However, what was more important to these managers was the response time of a local food producer."

Food purchasers also indicated that they would not stock local food just because it is local. Local foods must have a unique selling point, according to the researchers, who report their findings in current issue of the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

For instance, a special variety apple used in an apple pie may be more important to the food manager than just a locally grown apple.

"Simply saying 'local food' was not enough, chefs really want to provide their customers with a dish that is unique," said Sharma. "You can't just slap a label on it that says it's 'local', and expect it to sell, in other words."

While many studies have explored the reasons that customers would want local food, this study was focused on management's buying decisions.

"We're not discounting customer demand, we recognize that consumers have to want it -- in fact our previous studies suggest consumers are willing to pay more for local foods," said Sharma. "But the manager has to make decisions before the food is served."

Clear labeling is another selling point for restaurant managers who are purchasing foods in grocery stores and markets. The labels should be accurate and easy to read, containing specifications including weight, date and product details, for example, according to Sharma, who worked with Joonho Moon, doctoral student in hospitality management, Penn State, and Catherine Strohbehn, state extension specialist and adjunct professor in apparel, events and hospitality management, Iowa State University.

Training staff to handle local foods properly and to communicate the advantages of local foods with customer was also an important factor that could explain the decision to purchase local foods.

"Training tells us a lot about the commitment of an operation to local foods," said Sharma. "Local foods may or may not be delivered or processed in the same way as non-local foods, so the staff should be trained and, particularly, chefs need to be trained in developing unique menus using local foods."

Managers did not seem to think food safety was an issue with handling local food.

"That's not to say food safety isn't important to managers, it just isn't an obstacle to purchasing locally," said Sharma. "It's not a constraint."

The researchers sent surveys to independently owned restaurants in Midwestern states to investigate management's attitudes toward the decision to purchase locally grown foods.

"In this project, we investigated the cost-benefit analysis of restaurants purchasing local foods, along the foodservice value chain, which ranged from the sourcing of local food all the way to serving local foods to customers," said Sharma.

The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University supported this work.
(By Matt Swayne, Penn State University)



Friday, April 18, 2014

Horticulture Resource Page

Did you know that there is a Horticulture Resource page on the University of Missouri Crop Resource Guide website to help you learn more about the commercial production of fruits and vegetables in Missouri?  Yea, well I didn't either but now we all do!

Sections include direct links to publications in:

·       Vegetable Budgets
·       Vegetable Production Guides
·       Marketing
·       Price Reports
·       Grading, Certification and Verification
·       Fruit Budgets
·       Fruit Production Guides
·       Nut Guides and Budgets
·       Post-harvest and Food Safety

Funding was provided by the Delta Area Economic Corporation (DAEOC) in support of the Missouri Bootheel Local Foods Initiative Program Steering Committee.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network

Do you raise animals and sell them direct to the consumer or are thinking about it?  Then here's a resource that you should find helpful.

Some of you might be familiar with the Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network (NMPAN) and others, maybe not.

NMPAN is a peer learning community, a national information hub, and a source of targeted applied research and direct technical assistance. Their mission is long-term stability and profitability for both processors and the producers who depend on them to market sustainably raised meats.  

Their website has a wealth of information on starting and operating meat processing facilities, working effectively with your processor, food safety, mobile slaughter units, marketing local meats, and much more. 

They have a very active listserv with over 1,000 members where people ask all kinds of questions about meat processing and get answers.  They hold about 6 - 8 webinars a year and also publish a monthly newsletter.
If you raise animals for meat, check them out.  Please, offer them feedback!  They want to be as useful to you as possible.  So, if you have ideas or suggestions, please send them their way.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Strong Cattle Prices Open Door to Performing Management Practices that Could Make a Good Year Even Better

Spring and summer weather may be unpredictable but everything else associated with beef cattle production looks optimistic for 2014 according to Eldon Cole, livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“I hear beef producers talk about tight margins involved in practices like vaccinating, deworming, implanting, supplement feeding, fly control and a few others,” said Cole. “But the way the cattle price situation is now this year could be the time to perform some of the practices you’ve backed away from in the past.”

Cole says profit margins are projected to be at record levels this year and likely next year for all classes of cattle. That means this could be the year to experiment a little with a herd.

“Over the years, I’ve stressed the importance of improving the genetics in our cattle.  We’ve made progress but improvement can be made to practices that allow those genetics to be expressed,” said Cole. “So when management practices may not have appeared to be economically sound in the past, this year appears to be when these practices will pencil out.”

Now is a good time to inventory various management items used in the past. Some items are additive and may result in significant improvement in rate of gain, for example.

“The use of growth promoting implants, along with feeding an ionophore are examples if you’re a stocker operator,” said Cole. “Just remember, you can’t force an animal to perform better than their genetic makeup allows.”

Cole says it is still important to compare the cost/benefit side of the equation. But with prices going up, producers can afford to try a new practice or two now.

“I’d recommend visiting with your veterinarian, feed dealer and extension livestock specialist to assess what you might do this year to make a good year, even better.  You may even decide to put a few steers in a feedout program which can evaluate your herd’s genetic merit beyond the weaned calf stage,” said Cole.
(by David Burton, MU Writer)
(Photo courtesy of MO Dept of Ag)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NRCS Develops New Webpages for Farmers

For generations, children have been singing about the farmer, his wife and kids, and even the mouse and the cheese. But today, a modern farmer is more likely to be using the mouse on his computer (or more realistically, a smartphone or tablet) than dancing around a small wooded valley with his family and farm animals.

The website of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service,, has been evolving to keep pace with the needs of today's farmer, says NRCS Webmaster Elisa O'Halloran.

"Our mission is to provide American farmers, ranchers and other visitors with the tools and resources they are looking for on a site that is easy to use and navigate."

The most-effective websites combine clear and readable text, usability, functionality and simple navigation. NRCS writes the text for targeted audiences, which include farmers and ranchers, as well as people who use NRCS online tools, such as Web Soil Survey, PLANTS database and COMET-FarmTM.

Recently, the agency created a new Get Started with NRCS page. This new webpage helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners learn how they can make improvements to their land with conservation.

This webpage features the five steps to getting assistance from NRCS, so that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can know about the process of applying for assistance from the comfort of their own home, barn, tractor or wherever else they hop online.

Also, NRCS revamped it’s About and Drought Resources pages and created a Resourcesfor Small Farms page. About NRCS provides an overview of what NRCS offers, including those popular tools that bring many visitors to the website.

Drought Resources houses information on assistance and resources that can help farms and ranches be more resilient to drought. And finally, the Resources for Small Farms page pulls together information and resources that may be of interest to owners and managers of smaller farms, such as information on organics and seasonal high tunnels.

NRCS uses a number of tools to help create these pages, including site traffic and customer experience information. "We've found that more than 61 percent of people coming to our website were new visitors, many of whom were farmers, ranchers and forest landowners looking for information on conservation programs," O'Halloran said.

NRCS has about 13,000 visits per day on its national website. Some of the most popular pages deal with soils, Web Soil Survey and the Farm Bill.

"We hope you enjoy these new and revamped pages, and we welcome feedback on how we can improve our 'digital' service center," says O'Halloran. "We're excited to have the opportunity to help you get started with NRCS!"