Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program

Whole Foods Market is committed to the concept of fresh, healthy, local foods. Since the beginning, we have remained committed to supporting local products and the people who supply them. In addition to featuring local products in our stores, we’re putting our money where our mouths are by providing up to $10 million in low-interest loans to independent local farmers and food artisans. We’re proud to support small producers who need a hand, not a handout, to help them make their dreams reality.

•Strengthens the partnerships between Whole Foods Market and local producers
•Works with producers to expand the availability of high-quality local products for our customers
•Supports the communities where Whole Foods Market does business
•Reinforces Whole Foods Market’s commitment to environmental stewardship

•Must meet Whole Foods Market’s Quality Standards and standards for animal welfare
•Use funds for expansion and capital expenditures (e.g., buy more animals, invest in new equipment and infrastructure, or expand crops), not operating expenses
•Have a viable business plan and adequate cash flow to service debt

•Streamlined process with fees, interest rates, and paperwork minimized
•Targeted loan amounts between $1,000 and $100,000 (maximum $25,000 for start-ups)
•Loan amount not to exceed 80% of total project cost
•Low, fixed interest rates (currently between 5% and 9%)
•Monthly payments required after termination of grace period
•No penalty for early repayment
•Collateral required
•One-time minimal processing fee covers administrative expenses, including credit report
•Approval and terms dependent on product characteristics, risk assessments, and use of proceeds
•Opportunity to apply for additional financing if initial loan is in good standing after one year
•Existing vendor relationship with Whole Foods Market preferred
•Applications accepted on a rolling basis

For more information, go to the Whole Foods website at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/values/local-producer-details.php

Sunday, December 27, 2009

State regulations govern the off-farm sale of dairy products

Dairy items have become hot commodities as farmers seek ways to increase product sales. Milk in glass containers, artisan cheeses and fresh yogurts have become products both popular with consumers and profitable. Yet connecting consumers with local dairies and dairy products is just one aspect of increasing dairy sales.

Producers must adhere to state statutes that regulate the safe and legal sale of all dairy products. In Missouri, the dairy industry is overseen by the Missouri Milk Board, a division of the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Consumers may be most familiar with buying milk at the grocery store but off-farm sales, including home delivery, continue to increase in our state. In Missouri, raw milk and cream from cattle, sheep and goats can legally be sold off the farm. To comply with state regulations, these products must be delivered directly to a consumer and may not be sold in any retail fashion.

Dairy farmers are not allowed to sell products at farmers’ markets or in retail stores. Producers cannot legally sell butter, yogurt, cheese or ice cream without proper licensing and a permit from the Missouri State Milk Board. Obtaining this license further requires an inspection by the state governing agency. Producers can ensure their sales and production practices are in compliance with state statutes by contacting the Missouri State Milk Board at 573.751.3830.

Keep in mind that farmers who do not adhere to the state statutes regarding the safe and legal sale of dairy products put all dairy producers in our state in jeopardy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Great Plains Vegetable Conference

The conference is held in St. Joseph, Missouri, and is organized every year by Extension educators from five states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The conference will be held next month on January 7-9, 2010.

The Great Plains Vegetable Conference is open to everyone, from backyard gardeners to commercial vegetable growers. Topics cover not only vegetables, but also small fruits and flowers. There are also presentations targeted toward organic growers.

The event begins with workshops on Thursday. The first explores the use of high tunnels in vegetable and fruit production. The speakers this year include organic growers from New York and Arkansas who have utilized hoop houses on their farms very successfully. You will also hear from a panel of growers and Extension specialists who will provide their experiences and perspectives on high tunnels.

The second pre-conference workshop looks at a popular method of marketing known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Several growers and one Extension specialist will explore topics such as getting started with a CSA, growing the food for a CSA, and marketing considerations.

This year, a third pre-conference workshop was added, titled “Growing Your Farm Profits: Understanding the Marketplace and Positioning Your Farm to Succeed”. This session will explore the business end of farming, including topics such as deciding what to sell, who to sell it to, how to set prices, determining your true costs, and marketing your produce.

The main conference begins on Friday. There are four concurrent tracks to choose from, so there is usually something of interest for everyone.

Some of the tracks include organics, fruit production, greenhouses, vegetables, bees, the new GAP policies, cut flowers, farmers markets, and more. On Saturday, there will also be a special day-long track for beginning vegetable farmers.

There will be approximately 30 exhibitors available to provide information about seeds, irrigation, horticulture equipment, chemicals, and other topics. Meals, break refreshments, and handouts will be included in the registration fee.

The conference will be held on the campus of Missouri Western State University. For more information about the conference and a registration form, call the Buchanan County Extension office at (816) 279-1691. You may also register on-line and find additional information on our web site at: http://extension.missouri.edu/buchanan/GPVGC.shtml

Monday, December 21, 2009

Missouri Aquaculture Conference

The Missouri Aquaculture Conference will be conducted January 12-13, 2010 at the Lincoln University Carver Farm near Jefferson City.

Details about the conference, program and registration can be found at the following website: http://moaa.pond.org/meeting/meet.htm

Sessions will feature information on the following timely topics:

- biosecurity and fish health testing

- state import regulations regarding fish health

- update on emerging fish diseases

- the development of sunfish as a food fish for Missouri

- cage culture techniques for producing bluegill

- incentive programs available for Missouri fish producers

A turkey and fish fry are also planned.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Building Sustainable Places publication

The Building Sustainable Places guide is a 108 page document created by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, National Center for Appropriate Technology, and several USDA agencies, covers 64 grant, loan and other resources from federal agencies. This publication aims to help farmers, landowners, consumers, small businesses and others who are interested in sustainable agriculture identify federal programs that could advance their interests. The guide is available in hard copy or online at http://attra.ncat.org/guide. More information is available from the guide's coordinator Katie Wied at katiew@michaelfieldsaginst.org

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It’s The Holiday Season, What Should I be Doing?

For persons who own their own businesses this can be a crazy time of the year. How do you market your business or products most effectively to close out the year on a high note…as you also try to enjoy the many seasonal family and community activities that can bring happiness and personal satisfaction? Plus, it is time to get serious about 2010.

MAKE A LIST: If we haven’t already done so, now is a good time to reflect on 2009. What were some of the things I/you did this past year we can stop doing? Regardless of who we are, we have to admit we spent time, and possibly money, on some things that were unproductive. Put those thing on the ”NOT To Do” list. This will free up time for the things we want to add to our “To Do” list.

FOCUS ON PEOPLE: In the final analysis, the big rewards in life are associated with people—family members, associates we work with, neighbors and persons we don’t know, yet. We may amass large wealth, but we are unlikely to be happy if the people around us are not happy. If we are too focused on the dollars and not on the people, the outcomes are not likely to be as satisfying as they could be. I have a goal to be more thoughtful and inclusive in the coming year, starting today. I invite you to check up on me from time to time to see how I am doing. What can you do to improve in your “people” area?

MAKE A FEW NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS: Those “To Do” and “NOT To Do” lists may be a good place to start in selecting some resolutions. Put the lists in a visible place. Think on them. Don’t rush it. Ideas for resolutions will come. If cash flow has been a problem, maybe a resolution (and action) about this issue is appropriate. If not getting important tasks completed in a timely manner is a problem, consider addressing that as a resolution (and an action). 2009 is about over. The slate can be “cleaned.” A FEW, select resolutions can be a good way to start the New Year.
So those are my suggestions for responding to my question at the top (They say never cover more than 3 topics in a blog). If it sounds like I have been “preaching,” it is to me, not you. It has been a wonderful year and I have much more to celebrate this holiday season than I ever anticipated I would have. I hope you can say the same, too. But if you can’t, you can clean the slate. 2010 is just waiting for us to make it our best year yet.

Ken Schneeberger

Friday, December 11, 2009

Describing Beginning Farmers

In May of this year the Economic Research Service of the U.S.D.A. released a report outlining data on the number and characteristics of beginning farmers and ranchers. The USDA defines beginning farmers as basically those who have been farming for less than 10 years. Due to the high capital start up costs of production agriculture, the USDA maintains special programs such as loans and special program payment rates for beginning farmers. The information shared in this report assists the USDA in implementing and operating these programs.

The report offers insights into the personal and household characteristics of beginning farms and ranches, as well as data on farm numbers and locations, commodity specialization, and asset ownership and management. It also briefly describes some of the programs that USDA offers to newer farm operations. The short 27 page document is a very interesting look into the challenges facing beginning farmers. It even includes estimates of survival rates for new operations. You can find the report here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB53/EIB53.pdf

Kevin Moore

Winter Conferences and Workshops

For many experienced farmers, winter means a time to catch your breath from the busy season of growing and marketing, to revisit business plans and make adjustments to it, and to attend many conferences and workshops to gain more knowledge and to network. Even for beginning farmers, new farmers and what I call wannabe's, winter conference season is a great place to learn and meet new people. Here are just a few conferences and workshops that will be upcoming. Check out a few if your schedule allows. You won't be disappointed.

Jan 5—Soil Testing and Plant Diseases, DeSoto, MO. Call 636-797-5391.

Jan 7—Great Plains Vegetable Growers Pre-Conference Workshops: 1. High Tunnel Production; 2. CSA Mini School and 3. Pricing & Profits, St Joseph, MO. Go to http://extension.missouri.edu/buchanan/GPVGC.shtml

Jan 8-9—Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference, St Joseph, MO. Go to http://extension.missouri.edu/buchanan/GPVGC.shtml

Jan 10—From Recipe to Reality, Lincoln NE. Call 402-472-2819.

Jan 12-14—MidAmerica Fruit Growers Conference, Nebraska City, NE. Call 402-209-1748 or pres@midamericafruit.org

Jan 13—Food Defense Workshop for Meat Processors, Columbia, MO. Call 573-882-4042, savageclarkek@missouri.edu

Feb 2—Tools for Marketing and Pricing Your Ag Products, DeSoto, MO. Call 636-797-5391.

Feb 5-6—Missouri Organic Association’s Annual Conference, Columbia, MO.

Feb 6-7—Missouri Young Farmers/Young Farm Wives State Convention, Lake Ozark, MO. Call 573-751-8467

Feb 6-9—Midwest Grape and Wine Conference, Osage Beach, MO

Feb 8—High Tunnel Workshop: High Tunnel Equipment and Installation, Mt. Vernon, MO. Call 417 483-8139 or eileennichols@sbcglobal.net

Feb 12-14—Missouri Farm Bureau Young Farmer Conference, Osage Beach, MO.

Feb 15-17--Missouri Agritourism Conference and the 30th Annual Small Fruit and Vegetable Conference, Lake Ozark, MO. Go to http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu/commercial/Conference2010.htm

Feb 19-21—Western Farm Show, Kansas City, MO. Call 816-561-5323

Feb 25-26—21st Annual Organic Farming Conference and Organic University, La Crosse, WI. Go to http://www.mosesorganic.org/conference.html

Feb 27—Food Safety from Field to Market, Neosho, MO. Call 417 483-8139.

March 2—Weights and Measures—Learn Regulations for Selling at Farmers’ Markets, DeSoto, MO. Call 636-797-5391.

March 12-13—Missouri State Beekeepers Association Annual Spring Meeting, Hannibal, MO. Email sgibbons314@att.net

April 7—High Tunnel Workshop: Spring High Tunnel Management, Mt. Vernon, MO. Call 417 483-8139 or eileennichols@sbcglobal.net

Friday, December 4, 2009

So You Want to be a Farmer

EarthDance is now accepting applications for its 2010 Organic Farming Apprenticeship program. Please help us spread the word!

In 2009 EarthDance inaugurated the part-time training program for 12 beginner farmers, and we're excited to announce that we'll be expanding the program for the 2010 growing season with 25 apprentices and almost double the acreage - to grow more local, organic food AND farmers for the St. Louis region. We've also hired experienced organic grower Vicki Lander to serve as the EarthDance farm manager!

The foundation of the program will remain the same:
1. Field work on the historic Mueller Farm in Ferguson
2. Selling produce at area farmers markets
3. Enrichment sessions / workshops on various farming topics in-depth (from farm-scale composting to planning a farm business)
4. Field trips to local farms

An additional benefit for 2010 apprentices is that they'll become the initial members/shareholders of our pilot CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program - receiving a hearty share of the produce we grow together each week of the harvest season.

Several of our 2009 'Freshman Farmies' will become 'Sophomore Farmies' in the program, building upon the knowledge they gained this year on the farm! (Others are going on to grow on their own, or with farming partners.)

At this year's Pesto Festo we were fortunate to raise enough scholarship funds to offer 3 scholarships to low-income individuals who could not otherwise afford to do the program. We are seeking individuals reliant on food stamps and/or food pantries to apply for the scholarships.

Slow Food St. Louis will also be sponsoring a scholarship. Attend one of our info sessions to hear more.

Tuition is $500, and includes your share of the harvest. (Does not include fuel/expenses related to attending field trips.)

Applications can be found on our website, and are due December 15th, 2009. www.earthdancefarms.org

Interested individuals are encouraged to attend one of information sessions to learn more:

So You Want to be a Farmer?

Tuesday, December 8th, at the Ferguson library (auditorium), 7pm
35 N. Florissant Rd, 63135

or Wednesday, December 9th, at Schlafly Bottleworks (Crown Room), 7pm
7260 Southwest Ave, 63143

Also, check out our slideshow of this year's program on our YouTube channel:

Molly Rockamann
Farmer & Founding Director, EarthDance

office 314.521.1006
cell 314.348.6999

Beginning Farmer Loan Program

The purpose of the Beginning Farmer Program is to help beginning farmers and the part-time farmers who now want to farm full-time. The program provides loans for the purchase of agricultural land, farm buildings, new and used farm equipment, livestock and working capital.

• Borrower must be a permanent Missouri resident and at least 18 years of age.
• The proposed project is located in Missouri.
• Borrower has adequate working capital and experience in the type of farming operation for which the loan is sought.
• The project shall be used only for farming by the borrower or by the borrower's immediate family.
• In previous five years, the applicant has not owned acreage in excess of 50% of the average size farm in the county they are farming in or own farmland with an appraised value over $450,000.
• Projected farm income (not including spouse's income) must be greater than non-farm income.
For more information on this loan go to http://www.treasurer.mo.gov/LDBeginningFarmer.asp

Monday, November 30, 2009

BioEnergy Conference - Dec 4, 2000

On Friday, December 4, Truman State University is hosting an all-day bioenergy conference in Kirksville. The meeting is open to anyone interested in agriculture and bioenergy, and farmers are particularly welcome. The conference has been financially supported by the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. A number of speakers from around the Midwest will be covering a range of topics at the meeting, including alternative bioenergy crops, algae, methane, and market factors affecting bioenergy. The latter part of the afternoon includes a tour of some bioenergy demonstrations at the University Farm. More details about the meeting and registration cost can be found at: http://bioenergyconference.truman.edu/

Rob Myers

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

University of Missouri Beginning Farmer Grant

A three-year, $730,000 USDA grant will enable the University of Missouri, Lincoln University and the Jefferson Agricultural Institute to expand a training program for beginning farmers.

Offered in various parts of the state in 2008-2009, MU Extension's Grow Your Farm program was a series of eight weekly seminars and three farm tours designed for new and beginning farmers as well as established farmers interested in alternative methods.

The grant from the USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program will fund a second tier of courses and workshops focusing on producing fruits, vegetables, specialty grains and small livestock on limited acreage.

The aim is to help those who have been farming for less than 10 years as well as those farming with limited resources, said Rob Myers, MU adjunct associate professor of plant sciences and director of programs at the Jefferson Institute, a nonprofit agricultural research and education organization based in Columbia.

The expanded program will address three priorities: production and management strategies that enhance land stewardship; business management and financial viability; and marketing strategies to increase competitiveness.

"We expect a variety of age groups, providing opportunities for all decision-making members of the farming family," Myers said.

Teams of faculty from MU Extension, Lincoln University and the Jefferson Institute will provide the education and training.

Faculty will develop training modules for use across the state. Families can receive help in transferring farm assets, acquiring farmland, developing credit and securing capital.

Online tools also will deliver information and provide networking opportunities for farmers.

"Helping beginning farmers share ideas and stay connected is important to their success," said Mary Hendrickson, MU Extension rural sociologist.

Focus will be on 49 of Missouri's 144 counties in four regions with the best opportunities for direct marketing into urban or small-city markets: West Central (Kansas City), Southwest (Joplin and Springfield), Central (Columbia and Jefferson City) and East Central (St. Louis).

Missouri has the second-highest number of farms of any state. More than a quarter of its 107,000 farms meet the USDA definition of a beginning farm, which is one run by operators with 10 years or less of experience operating a farm or ranch.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program is administered by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (formerly known as the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service).

For more information, contact Rob Myers at 573-881-4718.