Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cover Crops for Farms and Gardens

Some farmers and gardeners plant a "cover crop" in the fall to protect and improve their soil in the period between fall and spring. Most cover crops planted in the fall in Missouri are winter annuals. Some of the common winter annual cover crops in Missouri are winter rye, winter wheat, crimson clover, hairy vetch, and various members of the mustard family. These cover crops are normally planted with a grain drill on farms, but home gardeners can broadcast them on tilled soil and then rake the area to cover most of the seed with at least a little soil. While the cover crops may not grow much in the fall, their roots still help hold the soil in place. In early April the cover crops will begin to grow rapidly. In the case of legume cover crops, if allowed to grow until sometime in May, the legumes will produce some nitrogen that helps the fertility of the following farm or garden crop.

At the farm we have used a variety of cover crops. Each has it advantages and disadvantages. On my own home garden I use crimson clover because it's easy to establish by broadcast seeding, produces it's own nitrogen (when inoculated at seeding), produces attractive flowers in May, and is easy to control before planting a following crop. However, crimson clover doesn't like wet, saturated conditions, and is not quite as reliable as winter rye or even winter wheat. Some of the mustard type cover crops have tap roots that help loosen the soil. Any cover crop can help improve the organic matter in the soil and suppress early season weeds. If you have an area of the garden that won't be planted until late May or June, you can plant a spring cover crop in late March or early April that will have a couple of months to grow; several different clovers or Austrian winter peas can be used, as can spring oats or spring wheat. Gardeners who grow primarily cool season vegetables that are done by July may plant a late summer cover crop such as buckwheat or foxtail millet that will grow until fall but be killed by frost.

Some good sources of cover crop seed are:
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Albert Lea Seed (for larger quantities of seed)

by Rob Myers

MO State Beekeeping Assn Spring Conference

The MO State Beekeepers Association's annual Spring Meeting wil be March 12-13 in Hannibal.  They have an exciting agenda planned and hope that all of our Missouri beekeepers and those interested in beekeeping will attend. Remember, communication and learning are the keys to successful beekeeping.

This two-day meeting will be held at The Quality Inn & Suites:
120 Lindsey Drive, Hannibal, MO 63401 573-221-4001

Once again, member Bernie Andrew is one of the two tours for the conference.  His honey house is across the border in Illinois. This is currently scheduled for Friday morning.  An early spring management classes (with active beehives) is planned, weather permitting. If not outside, then in the meeting room.  The second tour is at the Andrew Honey Farm in Loraine, IL.

The main speaker will be Jennifer Berry. She is an Agricultural Research Coordinator at the University of Georgia, College of Agriculture/Entomology. She has a Master’s degree in entomology, and works primarily on bee research projects under Keith Delaplane.  Her talks will focus on how we can keep our bees healthy. 

Other topics at the conference are "Basic Equipment, the Essentials of What you Need and the Choices You’ll Have to Make', "Expanding Your Market with Creamed Honey", "Newbee Panel: Now that you have had bees for a year or two, put together all the questions you were afraid to ask, and ask our panel of experts" and more.

For more information about the meeting go to the Missouri Beekeeping Association's website.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Small Farm Conference

Small Farm Conference to be held March 8 and 15 in Fredericktown

Are you looking to start a new farming business, make changes to your current one or even add to your operation? The 2010 Small Farm Conference is just the place to hear about new ideas, resources and even finances for your farm.

Topics include: organic requirements, marketing your products, composting/vermiculture, resources/finances/grants, managing cattle and trees through silvopasture, grass fed beef and selling beef off the farm, and using high tunnels to extend the growing season.

The conference will be held Monday, March 8th and Monday, March 15 at the Black River Electric Cooperative building in Fredericktown from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening. There is no charge for attending and a meal will be provided to each participant.

Please pre-register by March 1st to the Madison County Extension office at 573-783-3303. Registration forms are also available on the Madison County website

Debi Kelly will be speaking about resources/finances/grants on March 8th and Mary Hendrickson will be speaking about marketing your products on March 15th.

Conference made possible by a grant from the WIRED Initiative, a Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri project. University of Missouri Extension is an equal opportunity/ADA institution.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Good Manufacturing Practices and Food Safety 101

Good Manufacturing Practices and Food Safety 101

March 9, 2010

Jefferson City, MO

Agenda: A basic food safety short course for dairy processors

Eight thousand people die each year from food borne related disease.  Dairy products are in the ten most potentially hazardous food categories.

Food borne disease outbreaks are largely preventable.

1. Food Safety – some basics – FDA’s Roles and Programs

2. Good Manufacturing Practice and the PMO

3. Proper Steps in Sanitation – Legal Sanitizer Handout

4. Product Handling – milk and cheese

5. Inspections – What is entailed?

6. Legal Pasteurization

    a. What is a legal pasteurizer?

    b. What is considered pasteurized?

7. Proper Bottling techniques, capping – Labeling Requirement handout

8. Sampling/Product Counts

    a. 4 out of 6

    b. SPC

    c. SCC

    d. Containers

9. Lagoons/Sewage/Wells

10. Animal Health

11. Antibiotics

12. DHSS

13. Licensing Procedures

14. SMB Fees

15. Raw Milk Laws

16. Bio Security/Risk Assessment

For more information call the Missouri Milk Board, 573-751-3830 or

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Energize Missouri Agriculture

Gov. Jay Nixon announced a new Energize Missouri Agriculture cost-share program at the Governor’s Conference on Agriculture, held in January 2010 in St. Louis. Here are excerpts from the announcement:

To aid Missouri farmers in improving energy efficiency and their bottom line, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is offering up to $3 million statewide in cost-share grants to agricultural operations for energy efficiency improvement and renewable energy equipment.

Examples of qualifying projects or systems include:

• Solar powered systems (solar powered water systems such as pumps, panels, pipe, tanks or solar powered fencers)

• Insulated waterers

• Global Position Systems (or GPS) guidance systems

• Irrigation improvements (flow meters, pulse irrigators, drip irrigation systems, irrigation nozzle replacements, pipe upgrades, tier 3 engines)

• Dairy facility improvements (variable frequency drives, variable speed drives, improved refrigeration efficiency, heat reclaimers, high volume low speed fans, compressed air improvements)

• Swine and poultry facility improvements (high volume, low speed fans)

• Upgrades or new grain dryers

• Lighting upgrades, motion sensor or timers

• Conservation tillage equipment

• High efficiency electric motors

• Biomass furnaces/boilers for other than poultry houses

• Other appropriate energy savings equipment

More information is available at

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Growing Growers Apprenticeship Program

The Growing Growers 2010 Apprenticeship Program is now accepting applications.

If you have ever wondered what is involved in having your own small farm, the Growing Growers Apprenticeship Program may be for you.

Apprentices work or volunteer on area sustainable farms, attend workshops covering the basics of market farming, tour area farms and receive written resources and training from their host farmers.

No experience is necessary, but apprentices must be willing and able to commit to a farm work schedule, attend most workshops (mostly Monday afternoons) and learn on the job. Farm work schedules vary among host farms, so different schedules can be accomodated.

Paid and volunteer apprenticeships are available, and people from all backgrounds and ages are welcome. Host farms produce a variety of crops, including organic vegetables, eggs, native fruits, sheep (for meat, fiber and dairy), honey and more.

For more information go to: or contact Laura Christensen, Program Manager, at or (816) 805-0362.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cold Frames and Hoop Houses

“Growing Knowledge at the Farm” Series Continues with Class on Cold Frames and Hoop Houses, Feb. 18

The “Growing Knowledge at the Farm” series of gardening classes continues with “Cold Frames and Hoop Houses” from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 18 inside the community room (red barn) at Rutledge-Wilson Community Farm Park, 3825 W. Farm Road 146 in Springfield.

Members of the Master Gardeners of Greene County are teaching these public gardening classes the third Thursday of each month, January through November.

The class on Feb. 18 will cover the advantages of cold frames and hoop houses, plus provide tips and practical ideas for constructing and using them in your own garden.

"Using a cold frame or hoop house is an ideal way to extend your growing season,” said Will Cooper, the trained Master Gardener that will be teaching this class. “With cold frames or hoop houses you can start early and grow late into the season."

There is a minimal registration fee of $5 charged to cover the cost of materials. To pre-register, since space is limited, call Wilson-Rutledge Farm at 837-5949 or 837-5944.

Vegetable and Flower Production for Home Consumption and Additional Income

This winter the University of Missouri Extension in Jackson County, in collaboration with the Drumm Farm Garden, will organize a one-day training on “Vegetable and Flower Production for Home Consumption and Additional Income.”

The training will be held on Saturday, February 20, 2010, at the University of Missouri Extension Center, 1106 West Main Street, Blue Springs, MO 64015 and the Andrew Drumm Institute, 3210 Lee’s Summit Road, Independence, MO 64055. The training will start at the University of Missouri Extension center at 8:30 am and end at the Drumm Farm at 4:00 pm.

The training is aimed at home gardeners and prospective growers with limited experience. Training will cover best management practices for vegetable and flower production and marketing opportunities. Emphasis will be on the hands-on training of bed preparation, seedling production, sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings. The practical session will be held in the weather controlled greenhouse and high tunnel.

Training fee is $30 per participant or $50 per couple. Fee includes training materials, box lunch, tea and coffee. The class size is limited to 25 participants.

For more information, contact Lala Kumar, Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 816-252-5051,

Monday, February 8, 2010

Farmers’ Markets – Good Options for Beginning Farmers

I’ve always maintained that farmers who are directly selling their farm products aspire to be “Super Farmer” – and it’s simply unrealistic! Direct-market farmers rely on three unique sets of skills – producing, managing and marketing. Very few people (I haven’t met one yet!) – excel at producing the finest quality vegetables, fruits or other product; are financial whizzes who know to a cent what their profit margin is on each crop; and can market anything. Whew! Just thinking about it makes me tired. As a beginning farmer, be realistic about what you can do. Know that it will take time to develop production skills, financial management skills, and marketing and selling skills. Look for partnerships that will enhance your strengths and compensate for any weaknesses. (“Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers” is good publication for enhancing your marketing skills.)

A good way to get started refining all of these skill sets is to sell at Farmer’s Markets. Farmer’s Markets are good market channels for beginning farmers because they are easy to enter, you can experiment, and it doesn’t take much money to start selling. Most farmers’ markets have daily fees in addition to seasonal memberships which means that you can experiment with different markets to see which works best for you. Farmers’ markets are great for selling small volumes of different types of produce, and offer great ways to experiment with different products because of the immediate and direct feedback from customers. Because farmers’ markets often occur on the weekends or during afternoon hours, they can be very compatible with off-farm employment. (“Marketing Vegetables in Missouri” offers an analysis of different market channels for produce.)

Farmer’s Markets do have their drawbacks. They are very time intensive, which means that you will have high selling costs – even though you are getting a retail price for your products. That price can also fluctuate during the season depending on what products your competitors have to offer, and how much they have. You also have to produce a number of different products through the season to have a nicely stocked stand. Many farmers’ markets also are very weather dependent – meaning your customers could stay away in a big rainstorm or a terrible heat wave. That said – local foodies are pretty dedicated customers. Last summer, I shopped in the rain at the Columbia Farmers’ Market – with a lot of other equally dedicated customers! – Posted by Mary Hendrickson

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

NRCS Financial Assistance Supports Organic Growers, High Tunnels

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has $1.2 million to help Missouri farmers produce organic products, and another $150,000 for a pilot project to introduce all growers to high tunnel structures that extend the growing season for crops.

State Conservationist J.R. Flores says landowners may apply until March 19 for cost-share funding for both initiatives through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

The $1.2 million available in Missouri is part of a $50 million nationwide initiative to provide financial assistance to National Organic Program (NOP) Certified Organic producers as well as those transitioning to organic production.

EQIP promotes agricultural production and environmental quality. Through EQIP, farmers and ranchers receive financial and technical assistance to help install structural conservation practices and to implement management systems that promote conservation.

EQIP may pay for up to 75 percent of the costs associated with installing eligible practices, including high tunnels. For those qualifying as beginning farmers, limited-resource farmers, or socially disadvantaged farmers, EQIP funds are available for up to 90 percent of installation costs. Payments for organic operations may not exceed $20,000 per year, or $80,000 during any six-year period.

Flores says high tunnels, also known as hoop houses, increase the availability of locally grown produce and other specialty crops in a conservation-friendly way. "High tunnels can help producers extend their growing seasons and also expand the availability of healthy, locally grown crops," Flores says. "So their use can benefit producers and consumers." High tunnels are made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting.

NRCS will provide financial assistance to fund one high tunnel per farm where there is existing cultivated cropland. NRCS will offer financial assistance for a high tunnel that covers up to 5 percent of an acre (2,178 square feet).

Producers may build larger tunnels and pay 100 percent of the extra costs themselves. To receive assistance, eligible producers must use commercially manufactured high tunnel kits, and no electrical, heating or mechanical ventilation system can be added.

EQIP funds are also available to help fund supporting practices associated with the use of high tunnels. Examples of supporting practices include, but are not limited to: diversions; critical area plantings; nutrient and pest management; and underground outlets.

Flores says the three-year study is part of USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative. He says the study will verify if high tunnels are effective in reducing pesticide usage, keeping vital nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields and providing other benefits to growers.

To apply for EQIP or to get more information about EQIP and other NRCS programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or access this website: You can also get information about NRCS programs online at

Monday, February 1, 2010

MO Organic Association Annual Conference - Feb 5 & 6

MOA (Missouri Organic Assn) annual conference and trade show, "Forging Relationships: Preserving Local Organic and Sustainable Farmers," will be held February 5th and 6th at the Bradford Farm Conference Center of the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. It begins at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

MOA invites farmers from all venues of production: certified organic farmers, non-certified farmers who practice organic production methods, sustainable farmers, and conventional farmers who are considering "transitioning to organic," and others who just wonder what all the organic “hype” is all about.

Bringing together producers, gardeners, consumers, chefs, health officials and advocates, there is a jam-packed schedule both days with an organic dinner on Friday evening with a live auction followed by bluegrass music and dancing to Ironweed.

Some of the foremost experts in the fields of soil fertility, pest management, ruminant and poultry health care, human health concerns, economic viability, and USDA and NRCS government programs and grants will be presenting. 30 vendors representing grain brokers, input dealers, organic certifiers, retail store buyers, seed dealers and others will be present. The conference has three concurrent teaching sessions, as well. Don't worry if you can't attend every session you're interested in, audio recordings by Organic Voices will be available for purchase.

Registration and information:
Kathy Burney-Miller
1209 Charwood
St. Charles, MO 63301-2515

Additional information and registration is on the website:

Beginning Farmer Loan Program

In this blog we previously covered the Beginning Farmer Loan Program. Readers may recall the loan limit is $470,100 and loans can be made for land, buildings, equipment and breeding livestock. The loans are made through a local lender. The program enables lenders to receive federally tax-exempt interest on loans to beginning farmers. There are some restrictions, but qualifying borrowers may also qualify for the Missouri Linked Deposit Program, administered by the State Treasurer’s Office, and receive a lower interest rate.

Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel recently announced $39 million has been loaned to SE Missouri farms and small businesses through the Linked Deposit Program. A press release from his office claims these loans have impacted 662 jobs and 112 farmers, and saved borrowers about $663,000. There is currently approximately $200 million loaned across Missouri and another $520 million is available to qualified borrowers. The news release is at:

Beginning farmers with a sound business plan may want to visit with their lender to explore the possibility of locking in favorable rates during this time of relatively low interest rates.