Friday, May 28, 2010

Growing Growers Workshop: Equipment for Vegetable Growers

Monday, June 14th, 3pm to 7pm. K-State Research and Extension Station, 35230 W 135th St., Olathe, KS.

This workshop will include presentations on tractor safety, drip irrigation and high tunnels. Following the presentations, a variety of equipment and equipment demonstrations will be available to view, including the Drangen motorized work cart, tillers, hand tools, mulch layer, tractor and more. A tour of the JCCC Student Farm, located at the station, is included. For more information on this and other Growing Growers workshops visit or email Laura at Cost for this workshop is $15.00.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beginning Farmer Workshop - Berry Options for U-pick or Direct Marketing

June 22-23, 2010
Berry Options for U-pick or Direct Marketing
Columbia, MO

The Berry Options Workshop will start at 1 pm, Tuesday, June 22, at University of Missouri's Bradford Research Farm's Education Building.  The first day of the workshop will go until about 3:00 or 3:30 pm at the Bradford Research Farm and then we'll go on a field tour, concluding at 5 pm.  The second day of the workshop starts at 8 am at Bradford Research Farm with the indoor instructional teaching going until 10 am, followed by another field tour.  Instruction will be led by Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Horticultural Specialist.
The field tour sites are Pick & Pick Farm (private u-pick farm) and the Jefferson Farm (public education farm with nearly 100 fruit varieties demonstrated).

Curriculum to be covered includes:

- pros and cons of major and minor berry species for Missouri soils and climate

- establishment and management practices for strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries (a few other berry crops will also be briefly discussed)

- labor needs for these crops and their fit into a small farm operation in Missouri

- marketing options for berry crops in Missouri

- typical costs of production and potential economic returns over time

To register contact the Lorin Chann at the Jefferson Institute,  at 573-449-3518 or

Registration limited to 25 participants, cost will be $20 in advance or $30 at the door, but advance registration requested

Onsite registration and check in from 12:30 to 1 pm on June 22 at Bradford Farm conference center, 4968 Rangeline Road (

Be on the lookout for future Beginning Farmer Workshops. Those to be included are: Growing Produce for Local Markets, Tractors 101, Selling Directly to Consumers, Introduction to Care and Marketing of Sheep and Goats and more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sheep & Goat Production Workshop

When: June 5, 2010

Where:  Centennial Fairgrounds Home Ec Building, Intersection of Hwys. 54 & 71, Nevada, MO

Presenters: Jodie A. Pennington, Ph.D., Regional Small Ruminant Educator, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension & Others


9:00 - 9:30 am Registration

9:30 - 9:40 am Welcome, Pat Miller

9:40 - 10:00 am Selection of Sheep & Goats

10:00 - 11:00 am Management of Sheep and Goats including Feeding, Breeding, Vaccinations, Parasite Control, & Care

11:00 am -12 noon Fitting & Showing Sheep & Goats

12:00 noon Discussion and Questions

Call 417-448-2560 to pre-register by June 2.  Cost $5 per person payable at the door.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Estimating Yields of Greenhouse Lettuce

This really depends on your planting scenario.  The following information will help you come to a rough estimate of yields.

If you are planting mixed greens for baby salad mix, generally growers report yields of one pound of salad mix per 5 square feet of growing space this is if seeded in rows, but that is assuming lettuce is planted thickly in rows, rather than broadcast. I think the yields would be higher if the lettuce was broadcast, assuming there are little weed problems.

Below is a link to a yield estimate excerpt from the Johnny’s selected seed catalog. I find this handy for determining yield and seed budgeting. This chart is based on yields for field planted vegetables such as head lettuce, radishes, spinach, etc. –it would be higher for greenhouse planted crops.

Marketing and economics:
Greenhouse greens through the winter are an increasingly popular and profitable crop for farmers in northern climates such as Connecticut. The issue with winter production is to insure that you will have a market to sell them at. If you already have winter markets with your other products this may not be a factor, if not I would suggest doing some “leg work” in this area. Some winter marketing considerations are:

* Are their farmers markets that go through the winter?

* Are there restaurants that would be willing to take your product through the winter? This is highly likely in your town as there are multiple restaurants that feature local food.

I would suggest looking at a few of the ATTRA publications that are relevant to this topic. I have listed links to “Selling to Restaurants” and “Specialty Lettuce and Greens Production” under further resources below.

Below, under further resources, the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension publication “Leafy Greens” describes marketing and economic information associated with greens production.

It is a good practice to do an enterprise budget if you are considering a new enterprise on your farm, which it sounds like you are moving towards. Below are links to some enterprise budget templates for lettuce and agricultural crops. You will have to adjust the typical costs and yield estimates for the specific crops you are interested in growing.

For Lettuce:

Loose Leaf Lettuce Production: Sample costs and Profitability Analysis; University of California Extension (Based on Southern California, so some of the yields may be different.

General Production:
North Carolina State University Extension has extensive enterprise budget templates gathered from national resources.

Also, I would recommend looking at ATTRA’s Organic Greenhouse Vegetable Production publication which has links and economic considerations for greenhouse vegetable production in general. It also includes yield information.

Suggested further resources:

Bachmann, J. 2004.Selling to Restaurants. ATTRA Publication #IP 255

Kuepper, G. et al. 2002. Specialty Lettuce & Greens: Organic Production. ATTRA Publication #CT117.

New Crop Opportunities Center. 2006. Greenhouse-grown Lettuce and Greens. University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension.
(exerpted from ATTRA)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

New Ways for New Farmers to Access Land

Land access is one of the top challenges for beginning farmers, right up there with access to capital, hands-on experience, and good markets. There are no easy answers to this situation. But as economic forces value real estate for its viewshed rather than its soil quality, pushing prices well outside the realm of affordability for farmers, more and more beginning farmers are leasing land.

USDA announced recently the launch of a program intended to provide incentives to landowners who lease or sell their land to new farmers. It’s called the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), and it provides financial incentives to retiring farmers whose land has been enrolled in a Conservation Reserve Program IF they lease or sell their land to a new producer. You can read an article about it here, or check out the USDA’s fact sheet on the Transition Incentives Program. An interesting feature of the program is that it doesn’t require the beginning farmer to have any particular level of experience to qualify.

Retired or retiring owner or operator means an owner or operator of land enrolled in a CRP contract who has ended active labor in farming operations as a producer of agricultural crops or expects to do so within 5 years of the CRP contract modification.

Beginning farmer or rancher means, as determined by CCC, a person or entity who has not been a farm or ranch operator for more than 10 years; materially and substantially participates in the operation of the farm or ranch involved in CRP contract modification; and if an entity, is an entity in which 50 percent of the members or stockholders of the entity meet the first two criteria.

Socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a socially disadvantaged group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Gender is not included.

Transition Payments
Retired or retiring owners or operators participating in TIP may receive up to two additional annual rental payments after their CRP contract expires provided the beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher is not a family member.

Click here for more information about FSA and its programs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grape and Vineyard Workshop - June 8

Improving vineyard grass and controlling weeds with babydoll sheep will be a topic at a June 8 field day at the Hermannhof Winery in Hermann, Mo. The field day is hosted by the University of Missouri Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology along with the Missouri Grape Growers Association.

The event kicks off at 8 a.m. with registration and breakfast and concludes with a networking social at 4 p.m.

Other topics will include site-specific viticulture and the impact of cluster exposure on composition of Norton grapes, said Keith Striegler, ICCVE director. Presenters will include researcher Terry Bates of Cornell University.

The day will also include a MGGA business meeting and travel to Hermannhof Vineyards. Registration is $15 for MGGA members and $20 for non-members. The fee covers breakfast, lunch, meetings and vineyard tours.

A registration form and additional information are available at

Mail registration forms and payment Denise LeBegue, Counts Hollow Vineyard, 5426 Delor St., St. Louis, Mo. 63109. Registration forms also can be e-mailed to and payment made on site.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Missouri Has $25 Million to Restore Wetlands

The USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has more than $25 million to help Missouri landowners restore wetlands.

Most of the available funds are part of a $175 million package announced May 14 by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that will restore about 75,000 acres of wetlands in 22 states through NRCS' Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Missouri's portion of the funding is expected to help landowners add 9,200 acres to the state's 800,000 acres of wetlands. Last year, WRP easements totaling $5.9 million were approved that will restore 3,025 acres of wetlands in Missouri.

"We are hoping to significantly increase WRP applications this year," says Kevin Dacey, Missouri NRCS natural resources specialist. "More people are becoming interested in taking advantage of the Wetlands Reserve Program as an opportunity to convert marginal farmland, and we want to assist them in a timely manner."

Wetlands are areas saturated by water all or most of the year. Often called "nature's kidneys," wetlands naturally filter contaminants out of water. Wetlands also recharge groundwater; reduce flooding and soil erosion; support diverse populations of wildlife, plants and fish; improve aesthetics; and offer recreational opportunities.

At one time, wetlands covered 4.8 million acres of Missouri, primarily in the "Bootheel" region of southeastern Missouri. They began to decline in the late 1800s amid competing land uses, and today 800,000 acres remain. That total includes more than 130,000 acres of wetlands that have been restored in Missouri through WRP.

WRP provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to increase wetlands. The voluntary program strives to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values and to receive optimum wildlife habitat benefits on every acre enrolled. WRP participants limit their future use of the land, but retain private ownership.

Participating landowners can select permanent easements that provide a one-time payment up to $2,800 per acre and up to 100 percent of wetland restoration costs, or 30-year easements that pay up to $2,100 per acre and up to 75 percent of the restoration costs. WRP also offers cost-share agreements to restore wetland functions and values without placing an easement on enrolled acres.

Dacey says fields that frequently flood and fields in which it is difficult to produce crops because of wet soils are good candidates for WRP.

"WRP is a great alternative for landowners with flood-prone fields or fields containing wet areas," he says. "By working with the natural tendencies of the land, they minimize cropping obstacles, improve the environment, and still recognize economic gains."

To apply for WRP, or to get more information about it 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: 

Click here for more information and to apply.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Protecting Pollinators when Using Pesticides

Populations of pollinating insects have declined over the past several years for a number of reasons, including pesticide use. While eliminating the use of pesticides may not be feasible, there are some things that can be done to use pesticides more safely and protect insect pollinators.

1.  Try not to apply insecticides when plants are blooming, especially if pollinators are working those plants. Remember that even if pollinators are not working a field, they may be working the field margins.

2.  Use insecticides with minimal residual toxicity.

3.  Notify beekeepers with hives in the area that you are planning on spraying.

4.  If possible, apply insecticides early in the morning or late in the evening as insect pollinators are usually not flying then.

5.  If you have a choice between using a liquid or dust product, use the liquid as it is safer for bees and other insects.

6.  Utilize other control options instead of chemicals as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program.

Remember that most insecticides are highly toxic to bees and other pollinators. While it may not be possible to get by without using insecticides, utilizing the above options will make it safer for these beneficial insects.

by Travis Harper, MU Extension Agronomy Specialist

Friday, May 14, 2010

Building Relationships with Chefs

When selling to chefs, it may be even more important to invest time in building strong relationships, in part because you stand to gain or lose a higher volume of sales than with an individual customer at the farmers' market. It can also take more time to establish relationships with chefs. You may have to make 10 or visits or telephone calls to an establishment before the chef starts to take an interest. Being persistent (in a polite way) can pay off.

Once a chef is interested, schedule a meeting well before the start of the season to determine his or her needs. Ask a few questions, such as:
  • "What is your favorite meal to prepare?"
  • "What are some of your best-selling items?"
  • "Are there any products that you would like to source locally?"
  • "Are there any hard-to-find or highly perishable products not available from your current distributor?"
Take a seed catalog with you and review it with the chef to determine which products they want.  Provide samples of your highest-quality products for the chef to use at home or in the restaurant. Talk about your best-selling products at market and ask the chef if they are interested in the same ones.

When setting up a meeting with a chef, keep in mind that chefs have different schedules than farmers. Chefs are extremely busy during meal times and will not welcome interruptions. If you call on a chef specializing in the lunch business at 11:30 a.m., you will lose the sale. The best time to call or drop by is midmorning, generally before 10 a.m., or in the afternoon, around 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., after the lunchtime rush is over and before the dinner hour starts.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Pricing

I get questions often to my office from producers asking what price they should charge for fruit or vegetables they grow.  I tell them that a lot of the pricing depends on where and to who they are marketing their products.  If the farmer sells wholesale or directly to the consumer, the price to charge will be different.  Generally the price to a wholesaler will be lower than if he were to sell direct to the consumer.

I suggest that if you are selling directly to the consumer visit locations near you that are already selling direct such as farmers' markets to get a feel and flavor of what others are charging for their products.  If you are thinking of selling wholesale, visit a produce auction.  There are several produce auctions in Missouri.

Another location to find wholesale prices is the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) where they started in 1915 with their Market News Reports.  Over time the number of Market News Reports expanded to include fruits, vegetables and now specialty crops.  The Fruit and Vegetable Marketing Report is further broken down into specific crops such as asparagas and tomatoes.  You can search the Fruit and Vegetable Report by crop, location or shipping movement.

AMS is now also publishing the National Fruit and Vegetable Organic Summary.  Available free every Tuesday the new report provides an easy-to-use summary of the market data, including wholesale and shipping point prices and movement data.  The report provides all available organic market data at a glance; thus, significantly reducing the amount of time customers spend searching for organic market data.  For more information about the Market News Portal or the new National Fruit and Vegetable Organic Summary, contact Fred Teensma at (510) 637-1815 or

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Missouri farmers and ranchers have until June 11 to apply for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and be considered for the next round of funding.

Authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP offers payments to producers who maintain a high level of conservation on their land and who agree to adopt higher levels of stewardship. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, rangeland and non-industrial forestland. CSP is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It offers payments for adding conservation practices and maintaining and managing existing conservation practices.

This is the second CSP funding and ranking period. During the first period earlier this year, Missouri NRCS approved about 1,000 contracts, including all 240 pertaining to private forest land. The 1,000 contracts cover about 500,000 acres at a cost of $8.2 million.

Under the interim final rule published in July 2009, eligible producers may submit applications to enroll eligible land in CSP on a continuous basis. But only those received by June 11 will be considered during the next funding and ranking period.

"I encourage Missouri farmers and ranchers to apply for CSP now to ensure that their applications will be considered for the next round of funding," State Conservationist J.R. Flores said. "Applying is not a commitment to participating. Applicants can make their final decisions to participate in the program once the CSP final rule is issued."

The final rule will establish the policies and procedures for the program.

Flores encourages applicants to use the CSP self-screening checklist to determine if the new program is suitable for their operations. The checklist highlights basic information about CSP eligibility requirements, contract obligations and potential payments. It is available from local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service offices or on the NRCS Web site.  Click here to apply.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Checklist: Are you ready to sell?

Being prepared to sell is essential. You should have the basics covered before you open for business or make a sales call.

Product quality - Is your product fresh, clean and ready for sale? Are samples prepared?

Price - Is your product priced fairly and competitively? Is your price list accurate and up-to-date?

Display - Is your display neat, accessible and attractive? Are prices clearly marked? Is the name of your farm displayed on boxes, banners or signs?

Supplies - Do you have plenty of shopping bags. Do you have enough cash to make change? Is your scale in good working order? Are farm pamphlets and recipes available?

Personal appearance - Are you clean, neat, well dressed and well groomed?

Attitude - Are you proud of your products and what you do for a living?

Service - Are you ready to be personable and helpful? Do you have a plan for handling complaints? Do you have a good invoice system?

Gratitude - Are you thankful for your customers and the opportunity to serve them?
(by Mary Hendrickson)

Monday, May 10, 2010

USDA-NOP Organic Certification Cost Share Program

On October 31, 2002 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the creation of the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, authorized by the 2002 Farm Bill. This program, funded with a total of $5 million in federal monies, allocates the monies to state organic programs in proportion to the number of organic producers and handlers within each state. The state organic programs, in turn, reimburse each eligible producer or handler for up to 75% of their certification costs, not to exceed $750.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) signed a cooperative agreement with USDA-National Organic Program on December 16, 2002 to implement the certification cost-share program. Under the cooperative agreement, MDA has agreed to review applications from certified Missouri organic producers (crop, wild crop or livestock) and handlers of agricultural products who obtained certification under the National Organic Program (NOP) and disperse the available funds to qualified applicants. Payments to eligible producers and handlers will be limited to 75% of individual certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per application. Applications for cost share funds will be reimbursed in the order they are received until funds are exhausted or the eligibility period ends, whichever comes first. A complete request for cost-share funds must include the following items:

1.  Copy of Current Certificate of Organic Operation
2.  Copy of Itemized Invoices, showing fees assessed for certification
3.  Organic Certification Cost Share Program Application
4.  Vendor Input Form Application

Organic Certification Cost-Share Program FAQ

The following questions and answers should be helpful in your application process.

1.  To qualify, does my farm or company have to be located in Missouri? Yes.
2.  What kind of costs will the program reimburse? Application, inspection and certification costs - but not late fees.
3.  How does MDA determine my eligibility? You must send a copy of your current organic certificate. It must have been issued during the eligible period Oct. 1, 2009 through Sept. 20, 2010.
4.  How much am I eligible for? Payments to eligible producers and handlers will be limited to 75% of an individual producer’s or handler’s certification costs up to a maximum of $750.
5.  How do I apply? You must submit four items:
    A.  Complete application form
    B.  A copy of a current organic certificate
    C.  Complete Vendor Input form
    D.  A copy of itemized invoice(s) from your USDA-NOP accredited certifier
6.  Does certification from any certifying agency count? You must have received organic certification from a USDA-NOP accredited certifying agency. If you have questions about the accreditation status of your certifier, call your certifier or check the NOP web site for more information.
7.  What if I am certified as a producer and a handler? If you have different kinds of certification (producer - crop, wild crop and livestock or handler), you qualify for more than one cost-share payment. You must submit separate and complete applications (including certificate copies and copies of the receipt with each application). It is suggested that you mail the applications in separate envelopes.
8.  When is the application due? Since funds are limited, we will process applications in the order they are received and payments will be issued on a first come, first served basis. The program will continue until all funds are exhausted or the eligibility period ends.
9.  What about privacy? Under state law, if requested, we must provide demographic information including your name and address. We do not release social security numbers or payment amounts.
10.  Will this program continue in the future? Missouri expects to exhaust the federal and state cost-share funds after this year. Whether the program continues or not will depend on the actions of the U.S. Congress and the state legislators.

Mail applications to:  Missouri Department of Agriculture, Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, P.O. Box 630, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0630

For Questions Contact: Organic Crops, Bart Hawcroft, (573) 526-6666,

Friday, May 7, 2010

Energize Missouri Renewable Energy Study Subgrants

To increase the ability of businesses, governments and organizations to make informed decisions about complex renewable energy systems by understanding and solving information deficiency and technical uncertainties, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is providing Energize Missouri Renewable Energy Study Subgrants. The department has allocated a total of $900,000 statewide for this funding opportunity. A maximum grant of $50,000 will be awarded on a competitive basis to each recipient based on evaluation criteria.

Under the program, grants will be available for two different kinds of projects -- Renewable Energy Resources Assessments and Renewable Energy Projects Feasibility Studies.

• A Renewable Energy Resources Assessment should focus on the investigation and evaluation of local or regional renewable energy resources or commercial/industrial waste streams which could potentially be used in renewable energy projects. Renewable energy resources include biomass, biogas, solar, wind, geothermal, low head hydro, commercial and industrial waste/byproduct streams, and other renewable/alternative energy resources approved by the department.

• A Renewable Energy Projects Feasibility Study should, by using renewable energy resources and various site-specific waste streams, focus on the application and evaluation of existing or near-term opportunities and energy needs of businesses or corporations. To further optimize effort and expenditures, the department will place emphasis on proposals that demonstrate strong technical merit and near-term implementation viability to enhance the performance of Missouri’s renewable energy industry. Proposals are also expected to produce measurable outcomes in regard to energy, the environment and the economy.

Eligible applicants include Missouri businesses, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, universities and research institutions, county or city governments, and individuals. Collaboration or partnerships among eligible entities is encouraged. Partnerships with non-eligible entities are allowed, but applications must be submitted by an eligible entity.

The department will be accepting applications for funding from May 5, 2010 through June 2, 2010. Applicants must follow the specified deadline, format and guidelines to complete the application. More information is available on the department’s website at

Questions should be sent via e-mail or fax to the following addresses before June 2, 2010. E-mails and faxes should include contact information of the sender (name, organization, mailing address, phone number):

• E-mail:
• Fax to: 573-526-7553 (Attention: Ming Xu, DNR Division of Energy)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Are You Farming for Profit or Hobby?

By: Sandy Buxton, Extension Educator, Cornell Cooperative Extension - Washington County

When operating a farm or small business for profit, it is possible to deduct the operating expenses that occur in the ordinary operation of the business on Schedule F (or another Schedule). However, if you are not attempting to make a profit through investment, work and planning, then the income needs to be reported on the front of the 1040 and limited deductions can be itemized on Schedule A.

Under these rules, activities carried out as a hobby, sport or recreation can not be claimed as a business. This also includes investment activity undertaken only to provide a tax loss for the investor.

In concluding whether or not farm activity is being carried on for profit, the IRS uses a number of factors for review. No one factor alone is decisive.
  • You operate your farm in a business-like manner.
  • The time and effort you spend on farming indicate that you intend to make it profitable. 
  • You depend on income from farming for your livelihood.
  • Your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control or are normal in the start-up phase of farming.
  • You change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability.
  • You, or your advisors, have the knowledge needed to carry on the farming activity as a successful business.
  • You were successful in making a profit in the past doing similar activities.
  • You can make a profit from farming in some years and how much profit you make.
  • You can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of assets used in the farming activity.
There is a rule regarding presumption of profit, that the business should make a profit in 3 of the last 5 years. If your business can not pass this test, it is still possible to be considered a farm business but you must demonstrate why you did not meet the test, extreme start-up costs, poor conditions and/or other activities.

The bottom line is that you must take a strong look at what you are interested in and see what is happening as to whether or not you can call it a business. Many people develop hobbies into part time businesses, but they don't have the opportunity to underwrite the expenses as tax deductions. Once the activity starts to become more self-sustaining, it is a business with all of the trappings - recordkeeping, insurance, DBA, etc.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rural Energy Grants

USDA Rural Development is accepting applications for grants and loan guarantees for farmers and rural small businesses to install renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements.

The grants will be administered through the agency’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

The REAP grants can provide financial assistance for 25% of the eligible cost for the purchase and installation of a renewable energy system or to make energy efficiency improvements. The maximum grant for renewable energy systems is $500,000 or $250,000 for energy efficiency improvement projects. Grant applications are selected for funding on a competitive basis, and priority will be given to grant requests of $20,000 or less.

To be eligible for renewable energy and energy efficiency grants, applicants must be either agricultural producers earning at least 51 percent of gross income from agricultural production, or a small business, as defined by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Projects must be located in rural areas with a population of 50,000 or less.

The proposed renewable energy or energy efficiency technology must be commercially available in order to be eligible for the REAP program. Residential applications are not eligible.

In addition to grant funding, the REAP program offers loan guarantees to assist with financing for eligible projects. The maximum loan guarantee is 75 percent of eligible project costs and no more than $25 million. Combination funding from grants and loan guarantees is also available.

The Missouri state office has received approximately $1.2 million in REAP grant funds allocation. In order to be considered to receive funding from the Missouri state allocation of grant funds, applications must be received by USDA Rural Development not later than 4:30 PM on June 1, 2010. If an application is received by USDA after June 1, 2010, but before June 30, 2010, then the application may only be considered to receive funding from the national funding allocation. The deadline for grant applications to be considered for funding in FY 2010 is 4:30 PM on June 30, 2010.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

High Tunnels

What is a high tunnel?  A high tunnel is essentially a plastic greenhouse with no heating or cooling system.  It can also be called a hoop house.  Today high tunnels have gained in popularity because they are temporary structures that extend the growing season. If a producer is able to extend ht egrowing season of a crop by either starting the crop earlier in the year to produce an earlier than normal time frame for marketing the crop or for extending the crop past its normal ending of production, the producer is capable of garnering a higher price for the crop.

A high tunnel is a covered structure which is constructed in the field in order to protect crops from the weather (rain, wind, cool or warm temperatures), as well as in some cases, pests.  A high tunnel can offer an intermediate level of environmental control such as frost protection and can even extend the life of a crop if low covers are used within the high tunnel.  In comparison to a greenhouse, they are unheated, provide less climate control, and are less expensive.

Research in the area of high tunnels is popular today at many universities.  The University of Missouri and Kansas State University jointly shared a grant for crops grown in high tunnels.  These crops included tomatoes, strawberries, lettuces, cucumbers and squash.  For additional information on the high tunnels visit the researchers homepage at  You can also joing a listserv to learn more from producers who are using high tunnels.

High Tunnel Listserv

High Tunnels hosts a listserv for high tunnel discussion with over 260 subscribers. Recently discussed topics include strawberries, melons, inexpensive heating, poly repair and snakes. Additionally, upcoming workshops and farm tours are frequently advertised on the High Tunnel Listerv.

To sign up, visit:

To access the high tunnels listerv archives, go to:
The messages in the archives are organized by subject line by month. There is also a search engine to find specific topics.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Organic Certification for Small Farms

When I visit with folks who are thinking about starting out a new enterprise I always tell them to start small and to grow as their market grows.  This enables the producer to learn how to grow or raise the crop and how to market it.  This is especially the case if the producer is interested in growing organically due to the regulations.  The National Organic Standards does have a small farm exemption. 

The National Organic Standard requires that all organic farms must be certified. However, those selling less than $5,000 of organic products each year are exempt from certification.  Exempt farms are expected to follow the National Standard, but they do not undergo annual site inspections or any review of the practices and materials they use for growing and handling crops. Very small growers—those who raise and sell organic produce as much as a hobby as to supplement income—often don’t understand that the law even applies to them!  But it still does even if you sell less than $5,000 per year.

There is a great publication called Small Scale Organics: A Guidebook for the Non-certified Organic Grower (Includes Guidelines and an Organic System Plan) which is a quick assessment tool that covers the main issues and factors that will tell you whether your small farm or market garden meets the Federal requirements and whether you may sell your produce or other products as organic. It does not substitute for the rigorous inspection and review process of organic certification. Still, it should give you a pretty good idea whether you can legally call your operation and your produce “organic.”