Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fencing in Missouri

The old saying of “good fences make good neighbors” is very valid. Many quarrels have been prevented by properly built and maintained fences.

Fence law in Missouri is governed by state statute beginning in 1808, and has undergone about seven law changes to its present form. With seven changes in 200 years, it is easy to see it takes time to make changes. The most recent change to Chapter 272 was in 2001.

The majority of Missouri counties are general fence law counties, but a few counties have opted by election into optional county fencing statute. All the counties in the central region (Audrain, Benton, Boone, Callaway, Carroll, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Moniteau, Morgan, Osage, Pettis and Saline) are general fence law counties. All the following information is based upon general fence law.

By definition, a lawful fence is any fence consisting of posts and wire or boards at least 4 feet high (and mutually agreed upon by adjoining landowners or decided upon by the associate circuit court), with posts set firmly in the ground no more than 12 feet apart.

One issue in fencing is who pays for construction and repairs. The most recent law change modified and clarified the responsibilities. If both parties have livestock against a division fence then both parties are responsible for paying for half the cost of construction, as well as required to maintain the right-hand half.

If one party does not have livestock against the division fence, then that party is not required to construct or repair the fence. If a landowner builds the entire division fence (i.e. neighbor did not need the fence), he/she must report the total cost to the associate circuit judge, who will authorize the cost to be recorded on each neighbor’s deed. If the neighbor later places livestock against the division fence, then the landowner who built the fence can get reimbursed for one-half the construction costs.

The right-hand rule was a custom in Missouri for many years, but finally in 2001 it became law. It basically says that neighbors who cannot agree on who is to build and maintain which portion of the fence shall apply the right-hand rule. Each neighbor stands on his/her land looking at the fence and is responsible for the right-hand half of the fence, assuming both parties have a need for a fence.

Landowners are free to agree on unique arrangements for contributions, construction or maintenance of division fences. The agreements should be in writing, signed, notarized and recorded against the land title of all landowners sharing the division fence. Verbal agreements will not work in this case, as they violate the statute of frauds, which requires that agreements dealing with land and those taking longer than one year be in writing to be enforceable in court. Also, only recorded written agreements will bind successor owners (buyers, gift recipients and heirs).

For more information on fence law and animal liability request Missouri Fencing and Boundary Laws (G810) from your local county extension center.  (Author: Mary Sobba, Agriculture Business Specialist)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Farmers Learn From Siting Your Farm to Sampling a U-Pick

Eighteen eager beginning farmers absorbed information from selecting a site for their vegetable and fruit operations, to how to manage water, to what kinds of equipment work best for various tasks on a produce farm last Friday in Springfield MO. They were back for more on Saturday as the group toured the Springfield Farmers’ Market, picking up tips on how to sell at farmers’ markets, explored the fields of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, and visited a U-Pick berry operation where samples were the name of the game. 

Friday morning began with an extensive discussion of all the factors to consider when selecting a site for fruit and berry production – from thinking about the soil, hours of sunlight, elevation and slope of the land to what kind of water, utilities, and roadway access the site has. Pat Byers, MU Extension Horticulture Specialist in Greene County walked through his own personal experience in setting up a peach orchard with his family. Jay Chism, MU Extension agronomy specialist, focused on the importance of good soil, understanding the soil, and managing soil well to get the most out of it. Bob Schultheis, MU Extension Natural Resources Engineer, explained the importance of managing water and showed off a number of different irrigation tools for beginning farmers. Gordon Carriker, MU Extension Agribusiness Management specialist, drove home how important financial planning and figuring out profitability is to a beginning farmer. (In fact, there was a great deal of jesting back and forth about which was the absolutely most IMPORTANT factor for beginning farmers to consider: Soil? Money? Water?) The day finished with a discussion of marketing options and strategies, with Eileen Nichols, manager extraordinaire of the Webb City Farmers’ Market, a destination market in SW Missouri.

Saturday was devoted to hearing from those already farming and marketing. Bright and early, the group gathered to hear about what factors to consider in choosing a farmers’ market, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of selling through farmers’ markets at the Springfield Farmers’ Market. Participants were encouraged to take note of the merchandizing arrangements, and other marketing tools experienced farmers were employing. We then visited the Milsap Farm, where Curtis Milsap led us through the fields, explaining pest and weed management, answering questions about soil amendments and soil fertility, and discussing post-harvest handling practices. We beat the rain to explore the Prairie Picking Patch operated by Larry Smith. Beginning farmers asked questions about how to manage risks on a u-pick operation, which varieties work best for blackberries, and sampled some very good blackberries! All through the workshop, we had the pleasure of our three youngest participants – who had the best time picking berries!  The rain finally came and the workshop was over!

Monday, June 28, 2010

USDA to Help Farmers and Ranchers Expand Habitat for Migrating Birds

State Conservationist J.R. Flores today announced that the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work with farmers, ranchers and other private landowners in Missouri to develop and enhance habitat for birds making their annual migration south towards the Gulf of Mexico.

Under the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, NRCS will partner with agricultural producers to manage portions of their land to provide additional food and habitat for migrating birds.

Flores estimates that about $1.9 million will be available in Missouri to help private landowners improve habitat for some of the 50 million migratory birds that will be traveling south in the coming months. Those birds instinctively head toward the marshes and coastlands of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Flores said that with some marshes and coastlands already degraded, and with the potential for larger-scale oil impacts in the coming months, it is important to provide food, water and cover for the migrating birds before they reach the oil-impacted areas. He said the first push of birds could reach Missouri in August.

"Missouri is the northernmost state taking part in this initiative, and so we have the first opportunity to make sure that the migrating birds have food, water and cover before they move farther south," Flores said. "Missouri will provide additional stopover habitat for these birds, thus providing more food and foraging opportunities. This will give the birds more energy reserves if faced with limited habitat around the coastline."

The initiative encompasses portions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. NRCS, in cooperation with its conservation partners, has identified priority areas that offer the greatest habitat potential for migrating bird populations. NRCS anticipates improving habitat on up to 150,000 acres throughout the eight states. Based upon prior experience, NRCS hopes to see millions of birds coming to rest and feed in the priority areas.

Flores said the priority areas in Missouri include the following counties: In central and western Missouri -- Bates, Vernon, Lafayette, Johnson, Saline, Cooper, Moniteau and Cole; in southeastern Missouri ­ Bollinger, Scott, Mississippi, Stoddard, Butler, New Madrid, Dunklin and Pemiscot.

NRCS will utilize its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) to work with partners to provide a variety of habitats to meet the needs of different species.

Emphasis will be on creating or enhancing wildlife habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl, including shallow water and mudflat habitats. Shallow water, ranging from mudflats to less than one-foot deep, is the key to creating suitable habitat. Most shorebirds forage in water less than four inches deep, and most other water birds, including waterfowl, forage in water less than one-foot deep.

Flores said lands of special interest in Missouri are agricultural lands that contain wetlands farmed under natural conditions and areas where wetlands were previously converted to croplands. He said that the rice fields in southeastern Missouri are particularly well-suited for this initiative. NRCS will provide financial and technical resources to agricultural producers to install practices which control water levels and enhance habitat to attract migratory birds.

NRCS has wetland conservation easements enrolled in WRP. Through the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, NRCS will help landowners implement additional management strategies on these easements to optimize habitat for migratory birds and other species. NRCS will also use EQIP and WHIP to work with producers to enhance available habitat.

Flores said USDA will deliver this initiative in Missouri with the support from partners, including the Missouri Department of Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and local soil and water conservation districts.

The sign-up for the initiative will be until August 1. Interested producers should contact their local USDA Service Center for additional information. More information is also available at

NRCS is celebrating 75 years of helping people help the land. Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests. This migratory bird habitat initiative is emblematic of a partnership approach to natural resources conservation.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Value of a Written Farm Lease

Farmers and landowners can avoid many potential misunderstandings and disputes by developing a written farm lease, said a University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.
“It’s a way to hedge against uncertainty,” said Whitney Wiegel. “Are we replacing trust and common courtesy with paperwork and documents that will uphold in a court of law? Maybe so, but developing a written farm lease doesn’t have to erode a personal relationship between a landowner and tenant.”

Written lease contracts help landowners and tenants think about and agree upon essential considerations involved in leasing a farm, he said. Having a written contract adds clarity to the lease agreement and helps to ensure accountability between the landowner and farmer.

A written farm lease should contain at least five main elements, Wiegel said.
1. A description of the land and the names of the parties involved in the agreement.

2. The term (the length of time the lease is to be in effect).

3. The rental rate and/or payment type. There are five common types of rent: crop-share rent; livestock-share rent; cash rent; flexible cash rent; and farm machinery, equipment and buildings rent. For more information on the different types of rent, read the MU Extension publication “Farm Lease Agreement” (G426), available for purchase or free download at .

4. A “right of entry” statement. This statement should describe the landowner’s legal right to enter the property. Without this kind of statement, the tenant has the right to treat any person who enters the property as a trespasser—even the landowner.

5. Signatures. Signing the agreement makes it a formal contract. All co-owners of the property, including husband and wife, should sign the lease agreement when property is held in joint tenancy or tenancy by entireties (in which spouses own a property as a single legal entity).

Other items that may be appropriate to include in a lease include a description of operating expenses and how they will be allocated between the parties of the contract; explanations of the conservation practices to be implemented during the contract term; and who is responsible for repairs or improvements to the property.

A description of a record-keeping method may be included. This aids in determining which party is accountable for costs pertaining to certain elements of maintaining the property. Finally, the parties may wish to include a statement of nonpartnership. This statement explains that the contract between the parties does not establish them as business partners, which may have otherwise been implied.

“Yes, a handshake and a man or woman’s word is still valuable, but considering what is at stake—money, peace of mind and reputation—taking the time to develop a written farm lease may be well worth your effort,” Wiegel said.

To find agriculture business specialist in your area go to the University of Missouri Extension website.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

More Pictures from the Berry Workshop

The Columbia Missourian, one of the two local newspapers in town, ran a short article with lots of beautiful pictures from the Beginning Farmer Workshop on Berry Options.

COLUMBIA — With berry season in full swing, the Beginning Farmer Program sponsored a workshop on berry growing and marketing Tuesday and Wednesday. The workshop included lectures held at MU's Bradford Farm, in-the-field tasting and exploration at Jefferson Farm and Gardens and a visit to Pick and Pick, a private U-Pick berry farm in Columbia.

Click here to view the photos and their informative descriptions.

Below are some additional photos I took.  If you weren't able to make it to the Berry Options Workshop, the powerpoints and handout materials will be linked to the Missouri Beginning Farmers website soon.  Be on the lookout on this blog for the announcement of when the information is uploaded and ready.

Raspberry rows

Raspberries ripening

Blackberry rows

Blackberries ripening

New strawberry plantings with irrigation

Beginning farmers with Deanna Pickering at the raspberry rows

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Farmers Learn about Berries

Yesterday and today, about 20 new and beginning farmers got a good dose of information for raising berries in Missouri. Several of those in attendance had just started out this spring with brambles – including raspberries – and were looking for information to get their plants productive.

University of Missouri Extension horticulturalist Patrick Byers led participants through an overview of brambles (blackberries and raspberries), blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries and other fruit crops. We learned that most farms growing berries in MO are pretty small (less than 10 acres), that berries are often paired with other enterprises, and that most are direct-marketed. During the overview and discussion, it seemed to me that blueberries were the most tolerant of our Missouri climate – but that they also require significant initial investment and very good management of soil fertility.

The day continued with a great overview of different berry crops – and lots of questions! During some of the hottest hours of the afternoon, we took a field trip to Jefferson Farms and saw real berries in production.

Questions abounded about pests, stresses to plants, yield and everything else. Today, the topic was marketing – what’s the best channel for marketing berries, what kind of money are we talking about, what are alternative markets. The day finished with a tour of Pick and Pick Farm.

One more workshop is scheduled this week in Springfield on Friday and Saturday. We’ll be covering growing produce for local markets with an all-day session on Friday, and visits to the Springfield Farmers’ Market and area farms on Saturday. Click here for more information on registering.  (by Mary Hendrickson)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

St. Louis Urban Ag Farm Tours

The Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program (ISFOP) and the St. Louis Urban Impact Center of Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) invite you to join:

David Price, Janet Hurst, ISFOP Farm Outreach Workers and Karen Davis, LUCE Regional Horticulture Educator, for a informative day visiting urban farms in the St. Louis area.

July 14, 2010 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

See urban farmers at work in the heart of the city

• Learn about intensive growing practices

• Composting

• Season extension

• Therapeutic gardening and

• Visit a Farmers’ Market

This is a free event. However pre-registration required by July 7th, 2010.

Please contact:
David Price: 636-358-7097
Janet Hurst: 660-216-1749
Karen Davis: 314-867-4915

Directions to Schlalfy Plaza from I-170:

1Take I-170 South toward I-170 0.8 miles

2 At exit 1A, take ramp left for I-64 East / US-40 East toward St Louis 1.8 miles

3 At exit 33C, take ramp right and follow signs for Bellevue Ave 0.1 miles

4 Turn right onto Bellevue Ave 1.0 miles

5 Turn right onto Southwest Ave 0.1 miles

6 Turn left onto Schlafly Plaza 0.0 miles

7 Arrive at 1 Schlafly Plz Saint Louis, MO 63143 0.0 miles.

We will meet at Schlalfy Bottleworks, #1 Schlalfy Plaza, St. Louis. We will then depart for the tour. Transportation to and from Schlalfy Plaza will be provided to the first 20 people; vans will depart at 9:30 a.m. sharp, rain or shine. Lunch, dutch treat, will be at Bowood Café. The tour will end at Schlalfy’s in time for their Maplewood Market.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Beginning Farmer Workshops

Just a reminder that there are two upcoming workshops aimed at farmers and landowners with less than 10 years experience who are interested in new horticultural enterprises. These should be a great introduction to people who are looking for more information on fruits and/or vegetable options. One workshop is in Columbia on June 22-23 and focused on berry production, and the second workshop in Springfield on June 25-26 covers both vegetables and fruits with a focus on growing for local markets. Both of these workshops combine classroom time with farm tours and have some of the states leading experts on these topics presenting information. Please be sure to sign up for one of these workshops if you have interest in new horticultural enterprises.

Beginning Farmer Workshop on Berry Options for U-Pick or Direct Marketing, Columbia, MO June 22, 1-5 pm and June 23, 8 am - noon, 2010, Bradford Farm

This workshop will cover:

- 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

Instruction will be led by Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Extension Horticulture Specialist. The afternoon of the 22nd will start with a classroom session and then include a tour of the dozens of fruit varieties at the nonprofit Jefferson Farm. On the morning of the 23rd there will be a second classroom session followed by a tour of a local U-pick fruit farm (Pick and Pick).

To register contact contact Lorin Chann at 573-449-3518 or . Pre-registration cost is $20, or $30 for onsite registration.


Beginning Vegetable and Fruit Growers Workshop, Springfield, MO

June 25-26, 2010

Schedule and topics to be covered are as follows:

June 25 (Friday)
9:00-5:00, the Library Station

Topics to be covered:

- Evaluating a site for vegetables/fruits (Bob Schultheis, Patrick Byers)
- Preparing a site for vegetable/fruit production (Jay Chism)
- Equipment needs for producing vegetables/fruit (Jay Chism)
- Financial considerations in establishing a vegetable/fruit operation (Gordon Carriker)
- Irrigation for vegetables/fruits (Bob Schultheis)
- Pest management for fruits/vegetables (Jaime Pinero)
- Panel discussion of marketing strategies for vegetables/fruit
     Eileen Nichols (Webb City Farmers Market)
     Mary Hendrickson (MU Community Food Systems)
     Bill Griffiths (Farmers Gastropub Restaurant and Pub)

June 26 (Saturday)
Tours from 7:30-noon

7:30 am Start at Greater Springfield Farmers Market, then tours to Millsap Farm and Prairie Picking Patch

Registration - $20 per person, preregister by contacting the Greene County Extension office, telephone: 417-862-9284

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Role of Nutrients in Plants - the Micronutrients

The previous two days of this blog were devoted to the macronutrients that are required by plants and the roles they play to plant growth.  The 6 macronutrients were nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the main three) along with calcium, magnesium and sulfur.

Today we will look at the 8 micronutrients.  Just these nutrients are prefaced with the term micro it doesn't mean that these nutrients aren't just as important as the micronutrients.  They are just as important.  Below is a description of these nutrients and their responsibilities for the growth of plants.

Iron (Fe)

• Catalyzes the production of chlorophyll.
• Involved in some respiratory and photosynthetic enzyme systems.
• Involved in the reduction of nitrates and sulfates.

Zinc (Zn)
• Involved in plant carbon metabolism.
• A necessary component of several enzyme systems that regulate various metabolic activities within plants.
• Part of an enzyme that regulates the equilibrium among carbon dioxide, water, and carbonic acid.
• Part of two enzymes that play a role in protein metabolism.
• Essential for the formation of chlorophyll and function of normal photosynthesis.
• Needed to form auxins, which are growth-promoting substances in plants.
• Associated with water relations in plants and improves water uptake.

Manganese (Mn)
• Involved in the production of amino acids and proteins.
• An activator of several enzymes.
• Plays an essential role in respiration and N metabolism.
• Necessary for the reduction of nitrates and helps make them usable by plants.
• Plays a role in photosynthesis and in the formation of chlorophyll.

Boron (B)
• Important in sugar translocation and carbohydrate metabolism.
• Particularly needed at the location of active cell division.
• Plays an important role in flowering, pollen-tube growth, fruiting processes, N metabolism, and hormone activity.
• Maintains Ca in a soluble form, thus insuring its proper utilization.
• Deficiencies may be aggravated by severe drought conditions, heavy lime applications, or irrigation with alkaline water.

Copper (Cu)
• Part of several enzyme systems.
• Has a role in photosynthesis and chlorophyll formation.
• May have an important function in root metabolism. (Cu appears to be concentrated more in the rootlets of plants than in leaves or other tissues. Cu in citrus fibrous roots may be 5 to 10 times greater than in leaves.)
• Regulates several biochemical processes within the plant.
• Important in the utilization of proteins in the growth processes of plants. (The photosynthesis rate of Cu-deficient plants is abnormally low.)
• May also be involved in oxidation-reduction reactions in plants.
• Heavy fertilization with N tends to increase the severity of Cu deficiency.

Molybdenum (Mo)
• Assists in the formation of plant proteins.
• Helps starch, amino acid, and vitamin formation.
• Considered a catalyst that aids the conversion of gaseous N to usable forms by nitrogen-fixing microorganisms.
• A constituent of the plant enzyme that converts nitrate to ammonia.

Chlorine (Cl)
Although the essentiality of Cl has been established for most higher plants, its need for fruit crops has not yet been demonstrated. The plant requirement for Cl is quite high as compared with other micronutrients, but its exact role in plant metabolism is still obscure. Chlorine is:
• Associated with turgor in the guard cells through the osmotic pressure exerted by imported K ions.
• Involved with oxygen production in photosynthesis.
• Involved in chlorophyll and photosynthesis because its deficiency causes chlorosis, necrosis, unusual bronze discoloration of foliage, and reduction in growth.

Nickel (Ni)
Within the last decade, Ni has been established as an essential element in higher plants. Although well-defined enzymatic functions are known to be associated with Ni in legumes, apparently the need for Ni exists in other plants as well. No one has ever seen a Ni deficiency in soil-grown plants.

The University of Missouri Extension publication "Micro and Secondary Nutrients in Missouri" (EC929) would be a great resource. You can contact your local county extension office or MU Extension Publications Office to order a copy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Role of Nutrients in Plant Growth - the Macronutrients

Yesterday you learned about the three basic nutrients in plant growth, the ones you normally would find on a bag of fertilizer, N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium).  N, P, and K are called macronutrients because they are generally required in larger quantities than other nutrients.  But there are three more nutrients that round out the macronutrients category.  These three nutrients are calcium, magnesium and sulfur.  Below is a description of these.

Calcium (Ca)

Calcium resides mainly in plant leaves. Calcium is an important element for root development and functioning and is an important constituent of cell walls. It is required for chromosome stability and cell division. Calcium activates several enzyme systems and neutralizes organic acids in plants. Plant growth and fruit yield can be reduced by inadequate calcium supply long before deficiency symptoms become evident.

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule. It is involved in photosynthesis and plays an important role as an activator of several enzymes. It is also involved in carbohydrate metabolism and synthesis of nucleic acids. Magnesium influences the movement of carbohydrates from the leaves to other parts of the tree and also stimulates phosphorus uptake and transport.

Sulfur (S)

Many plants use about as much sulfur as they do phosphorus. Sulfur is an essential constituent of many proteins. Sulfur is important for the production of amino acids, proteins, and chlorophyll, and is a constituent of vitamins and some plant hormones. Protein synthesis is retarded in sulfur-deficient plants. Sulfur enhances the development of nodules and nitrogen fixation by legumes. It improves root growth and promotes vigor and hardiness. Sulfur also affects carbohydrate metabolism.

You may be wondering, if there are macronutrients are there micronutrients?  The answer is yes.  Come back tomorrow to read about these eight nutrients.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Role of Nutrients in Plant Growth - the Major Three

Beginning farmers need to learn the role of plant nutrients in order to be successful at growing crops.  Here is a short description of the three major nutrients plants need from University of Missouri Extension agronomist Travis Harper.

Everyone knows they need to apply fertilizer for optimal growth of plants. But what exactly do those nutrients do for the plant?


“The primary use of nitrogen in plants is for the formation of proteins,” Harper said. “Nitrogen is also an integral part of chlorophyll. Therefore, a plant with sufficient nitrogen will exhibit vigorous growth and a dark green color while a plant that is nitrogen-deficient will be stunted and yellow.”

Plants absorb nitrogen in the forms of nitrate and ammonium. “Nitrate and ammonium, if not used by the plant, are readily lost from the soil, resulting in the need for yearly application of a nitrogen fertilizer to meet crop needs,” he said.

Nitrogen is the most frequently deficient nutrient in crop production and most non-legume systems require nitrogen inputs.


The most essential function of phosphorus in plants is energy storage and transfer.

“A plant produces energy when it goes through photosynthesis. Much of this energy is stored by phosphorus in the plant for later use,” he said. “Without phosphorus, this energy would be lost.”

Adequate phosphorus is important early in the life of a plant, when roots and reproductive parts of plants are developing. Ample phosphorus increases root growth, reduces grain-ripening time and increases straw strength in cereal grains.

Large amounts of phosphorus exist naturally in the soil, but it is often not in plant-available form, creating the need for occasional application of phosphorus fertilizers.


Potassium is absorbed by plants in larger amounts than any other nutrient except nitrogen. The total potassium content of a soil is many times greater than what a crop needs, but only a small fraction of this soil potassium is available to the plant, resulting in the need for potassium fertilizer application.

Potassium plays a number of roles in the plant, including enzyme activation, water uptake, energy production, sugar transport, nitrogen uptake and protein synthesis. One of the most important of these is water uptake. Potassium gives plants the “pull” that draws water into their roots. Potassium-deficient plants will often exhibit signs of drought stress, even in years when rainfall is adequate.

“As can be seen, nutrients perform a variety of function in the plant and deficiency of any nutrient, major or minor, can affect plant health and overall crop yields,” Harper said. “As always, the best way to determine potential nutrient deficiencies is through soil and plant tissue testing.”

For more information on soil and plant tissue testing services, contact your local MU Extension office or contact the Soil and Plant Diagnostic Services.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Beginning Farmers Workshop - Growing Produce for Local Markets

The date for the Growing Produce for Local Markets is set for June 25-26 in Springfield, MO.

The workshop starts at 8 am at the Springfield Public Library. The first day includes panel of farmers sharing their experiences growing and marketing vegetables. Several speakers including Mary Hendrickson will be talking about marketing options. The workshop ending time on the first day is 5 pm.

The second day starts at the Springfield Farmers’ Market at 7:30 am to observe set up and the start of the market day. The participants will tour two private farms in the area that grow produce for farmers’ markets and other outlets.

Instruction will be led by Patrick Byers and other University of Missouri Extension Horticultural Specialists.  Lincoln University Cooperative Extension is a joint sponsor of this meeting.

The curriculum to be covered is:

- Pros and cons of selected vegetable species for Missouri soils and climate

- Production strategies for a few of the key vegetable species appropriate to southwest Missouri

- Labor and equipment needs for these crops and their fit into a small farm operation in Missouri
- Marketing options for vegetable crops in Missouri with Mary Hendrickson
- Selling and merchandizing at a farmers market with Eileen Nichols
- Examples of costs of production and potential economic returns for selected vegetable species

Registration is limited to 25 participants. The cost of the workshop is $20 in advance or $30 at the door, but advance registration is requested. Registration includes a meal of Friday and a copy of the "Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers." To register call the Green County Extension Center at 417-862-9284.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Farmers' Markets Growing Despite Recession

Steady growth of local farmers markets show the increasing importance of local food to today’s consumers.

The changing relationship between people and their food has let farmers markets in Missouri and across the U.S. buck the recessionary trends of the past several years.

“More farmers have started marketing directly to their communities, and that means the money from those sales stays in their communities,” said Mary Hendrickson, a University of Missouri Extension community food systems expert. “We’ve seen direct-to-consumer sales from farmers increase nearly 70 percent in 10 years after being adjusted for inflation.”

The number of Missouri farmers markets has doubled in the past decade, from about 70 in 1999 to more than 140 in 2009.

That growth is plainly evident in cities like Columbia, which has seen its farmers markets expand to several locations, including a monthly farmers market on the MU campus.

Julie Tobias, registered dietitian and wellness coordinator for the MU Wellness Resource Center, worked to expand the campus market to its current form.

“A lot of times we do grab for packaged, prepared foods, but they often are higher in fat, sugar and lower in nutrients,” Tobias said. “Having a regular presence on campus can demonstrate that getting locally grown, fresh foods in your diet on a regular basis can lead to better lifelong health.”

Local vendors sell products ranging from baked goods and farm-raised beef to honey and garden plants.

Jim Benner is one of those vendors. Running Jimbo’s Gard-N-Goodies, the New Franklin resident travels to Columbia each week to sell greenhouse-raised plants and produce. The sales supplement income from a cabinet-making business that has lagged with recent economic hardships.

“Since the economy has really just gone to dirt, this is a good backup and way to make ends meet,” Benner said. “To see people looking at and buying our plants gives me a lot of pride in what we’ve done. To see people this interested in what you do makes me want to grow my business more.”

Thanks to robust interest, Benner has expanded his greenhouse operation to more than 6,000 plants and for the first time plans to sell for the entire season.

His customers are people like Margaret Wilson, an MU senior. She likes to buy food such as locally baked bread and locally grown vegetables at the market because she knows what goes into it and who she’s supporting with her money.

“Buying my food here makes me feel healthier and I think it would be better for everyone if we all started buying locally grown foods,” Wilson said.

Hendrickson said a focus on health is a key reason for increased interest, but not the only one.

“People are more aware of what they’re eating and want fruits and vegetables – especially ones that taste good – and the best place to buy that is directly from someone you know,” she said. “But it’s also connecting people’s food with a sense of place and a friendly face. They want to be able to ask how a farmer grew something, whether they used organic methods, what they use for bug control, and farmers get to educate eaters on what it really means to be a farmer here in Missouri.”

Another advantage to buying from local farmers is that the farmers will in turn spend their revenue where it will stimulate other local businesses, Hendrickson said. “They are sustainable businesses that don’t move with whatever tax credits are out there to draw in business, and that’s why it can be a really strong economic development tool.”

Click here to find a farmers market in your area.

Click here to view the related video to this story.

(written by Roger Meissen, MU Senior Information Specialist)

University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beginning farmer workshops bolster basic knowledge

Upcoming workshops aim to give budding farmers the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

University of Missouri Extension specialists will lead short courses to explain farm basics and the ins and outs of establishing moneymaking produce operations.

“You’re truly a beginning farmer for the first 10 years of having your own farm, and we expect that people who come through our project are beginning to think hard about stepping or even stumbling further into the joys of farming,” said Mary Hendrickson, associate director of MU’s Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture program. “We will be really digging into important topics in things like tractor basics and taking produce from planting to market.”

A three-year, $730,000 grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmers program has funded training offered as a partnership of MU, Lincoln University and the nonprofit Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute.

“We expect participants with a wide range of ages and farm sizes, including part-time farmers,” said Rob Myers, director of programs for the Jefferson Institute and MU adjunct associate professor of plant sciences.

Each session offers an opportunity to expand farming expertise.

Kicking off the series will be a pair of berry production and marketing workshops, June 22-23 at the Bradford Research and Extension Center near Columbia.

Participants will learn about which berry species can thrive in the various regions of the state, along with techniques for growing plants like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. MU horticulturist Patrick Byers will talk about costs, labor needs and marketing options. The program includes tours of a pick-your-own farm and the Jefferson Farm, an educational farm with demonstrations of almost 100 fruit varieties.

Later in the month, other produce will enter the limelight.

“Growing Produce for Local Markets,” June 25-26 in Springfield, will highlight the pros and cons of growing particular vegetables in Missouri’s soils and climates. The program includes a stop at a Springfield farmers market, visits to two private farms and a talk by Hendrickson on marketing options.

“It takes a lot of unique skills to sell to local markets,” Hendrickson said. “You’ve got to be a good producer, a great marketer and know what’s making you money. Farmers need to understand where customers are coming from and what they are looking for in terms of quality, taste and appearance of products.”

Further sessions, including a July 14-15 workshop in Columbia on the basics of tractors, will accompany the more horticulture-driven workshops.

If you didn’t grow up on a farm you might not have a clue about using mechanization usefully on your farm,” she said. “Soil management, tractor hydraulics and crop selection are all concrete topics these beginning farmers need to know.”

To register for workshops, contact Sharon Naylor at 573-882-3776. For more information, contact Mary Hendrickson at 573-882-7463 or see

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Organic Certification for Processing and Handling

More producers are looking to gain more of the market and therefore are looking to add value to the products they grow.  With that comes to mind questions of processing organic.  Below are questions from the Guidebook for Organic Certification on certification for processing.
Q.  If I want to produce organic bread, what are the main things I need to do?

To sell a product as organic, you must use organic ingredients, process in a certified organic processing/handling facility and comply with organic labeling requirements. Verify your label is compliant with NOP regulations with your certification agent BEFORE printing many copies, since there are very specific rules such as where the certification agent name must be printed, the size of the type used and the color scheme of the USDA seal.

Q.  How do I know if I am “processing” or “handling” a product and must comply with the Organic Rule?
     “Processing” is defined as: cooking, baking, curing, heating, drying, mixing, grinding, churning, separating, distilling, extracting, slaughtering, cutting, fermenting, eviscerating, preserving, dehydrating, freezing, chilling or otherwise manufacturing, packaging, canning, jarring or otherwise enclosing food in a container. If you conduct any of the above processing activities, you are considered a handler under the NOP.
     Post harvest handling, such as washing produce or cleaning grain before going into a bulk bin is not considered “handling.”
     Many farmers will do some of these things in the production of their crops or livestock, such as through harvesting or cleaning feed. These processes must be certified along with fields and animals in order to produce a certified organic product. Individuals that operate plants or facilities that take a product and further process or handle it after delivery from a farmer must also be certified in order for the final product to be considered certified organic.

Q.  Does my processing facility need to be certified for organic production?
     Yes. Each facility where organic product is processed or handled, from tortilla chips to butchered chickens or hogs, must be certified for organic production, with the exceptions as stated below. Each facility will need to apply for certification, develop an organic handling plan, fill out a processor or handler application, have the inspection, pay fees and keep comprehensive records.
     All the buildings where ingredients are stored, all equipment used, product packaging and any storage for the final product must be inspected.
     All cleaning products used must be on the National List, or have any residues removed (such as a clear water rinse) before organic production or separated from organic production so there is no threat of contaminating the organic product.
     The processor must have a pest management plan that focuses on prevention of pest problems by removal of habitat, food sources and breeding areas; prevents access to facility by pests; and manages environmental factors (light, temperature, humidity, atmosphere and/or air circulation) to prevent pest reproduction. The plan may also use mechanical or physical controls including traps, light or sound, and lures and repellents using approved substances. Only if these management practices are not effective can pest control products on the National List may be used. If National List approved substances are not effective, then conventional pest control substances may be used with the approval of the certifying agency. Measures must be taken to protect against pest control substance contact with organic products and packaging materials. These various stages of pest control must be documented as being performed in this sequence in order to meet the NOP regulations.
     Your facility does not have to be 100% organic. You may also process conventional products as long as organic products are protected from commingling with non-organic products and contamination from prohibited substances. Equipment must be cleaned and/or purged with organic product to prevent commingling and contamination. Records must show that organic integrity is maintained throughout the process at the facility.
     All certified processing or handling facilities must follow NOS record keeping requirements. Records that need to be kept include: proof of certification for organic ingredients, verification that any non-organic ingredients also meet organic requirements, inventory, storage and sales records and pest control records. Records must track all ingredients and finished products in their flow through the facility, and must be able to show that contamination and commingling were avoided in all processing/handling steps.
     As with on-farm production, there is a small processor exemption of $5,000 annual sales of organic product. A small processor may label their product as organic as long as they follow the NOS, including all record keeping.
     A handler that receives containers of certified organic product and only transfers or stores that product without removing, altering or further processing the contents does not have to be inspected in order to sell that product as certified organic.

Q.  What are the rules for identifying my organically processed product?
     The percent of the total that is organic ingredients in a product will determine exactly what your label can say. All organic ingredients must be identified as “organic” in the ingredient list for all labeling categories.
     100% Organic: The final product contains only 100% agricultural products and these are 100% certified organic. If processing aids are used, they must also be agricultural and certified organic. If a synthetic processing aid allowed in organic production is used, then the product cannot be labeled as 100% organic. An example would be the use of an agricultural fiber (rice hulls) as a filtration aid. You may use the USDA Organic and/or the certifier’s seal.
     Organic: The final product contains at least 95% (by weight or fluid volume) organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). Agriculturally produced ingredients must be organic unless present on §205.606 as not being commercially available as organic, as well as proof of a current search verifying it is still not available organically. No ingredients may be irradiated, genetically engineered or grown using sewage sludge. All remaining ingredients and natural or synthetic processing aids must be on the allowed National List. You may use the “USDA Organic” or certifier’s seal.
     Made with organic ingredients: The final product contains at least 70% organic ingredients by weight or fluid volume (excluding water and salt). Conventional agricultural products may be used in the remaining 30%, but they cannot be irradiated, genetically engineered or grown using sewage sludge. All non-agricultural ingredients and processing aids must follow the National List. You can list up to three organic ingredients or three food groups on the front panel. You may use the certifier’s seal, but not the “USDA Organic” seal.
     List of ingredients with organic products identified: If your product contains less than 70% organic product (by weight or fluid volume) then you may not make an organic claim on the principal display panel, but may identify items on the ingredients list as organic. You may list the percent of organic ingredients used on the information panel. For example, a cereal ingredient list can state: Ingredients: corn, organic oats, wheat.. etc. In this case there are no restrictions on any non-organic ingredients. If your final products are in this category, they do not have to be processed in a certified organic processing plant. You may not use the “USDA Organic” or certifier’s seal.
     Livestock feed: Feed labeled as “organic” must contain agricultural products that are 100% certified organic. However, it may also include any percentage of feed additives and supplements consistent with the National List. Non-organic agricultural products are not allowed in the feed or in feed supplements.
     Bulk non-retail sales: All bulk sales of organic processed products or organic single commodities must have a unique lot number on all transfer documents, identifying that specific shipment and tracking it back to production or storage.

Q.  Are there regulations for the look of a label or the info listed on it?
Yes. Labels are closely regulated, particularly the types of organic claims that can be made based on finished product content and certifier and handler identification information. You may get details from your certification agency or check NOS §205.303-311.  Labels must also state the phrase “Certified organic by (your certifying agency)” and must identify the processor or distributor of the finished product. Use of a certifying agent seal or logo is optional.  The USDA Organic Seal can be used on the labels of products in the “100% organic,” “organic,” and “livestock feed” categories, but there are restrictions on its size and color.  All retail labels should also comply with all State and Federal regulations for that type of product.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Crop Production Organic Certification

The Guidebook for Organic Certification has many questions in the area of crop production both agronomic and horticultural.  I have added a couple of comments and Missouri contacts within the questions. 

Q.  What is a buffer, and how do I know how big it needs to be?
     NOS §205.202(c) requires distinct, defined boundaries and buffer zones to prevent the unintended application of a prohibited substance to land under organic management.
     §205.2 defines “buffer zone” as “An area located between a certified production operation or portion of a production operation and an adjacent land area that is not maintained under organic management. A buffer zone must be sufficient in size or other features (e.g., windbreaks or a diversion ditch) to prevent the possibility of unintended contact by prohibited substances applied to adjacent land areas with an area that is part of a certified operation.”
     Because there are so many variables that can affect the kind of protection needed between organic and non-organic land, the national standards do not specify specific dimensions for buffer zones. Determination of buffer adequacy is left to the organic producer, the organic inspector, and the certifying agent on a case-by-case basis. A typical grassy buffer is between 25 and 30 feet wide, where the risk of drift or runoff would be considered minimal. Prohibited materials applied aerially by crop dusters or by high pressure sprayers can be areas where there is higher risk and the buffer zone required by the certifier may be larger than one where the conventional neighbor is using a typical ground sprayer.
     The Organic System Plan must describe how an organic operation will avoid drift from neighboring operations, particularly drift of prohibited pesticides and herbicides.
     Crops may be harvested in the buffer zone, but they cannot be sold as organic and documentation must be maintained detailing that they were harvested, stored and sold separately from the organic crops grown on the farm.

Q.  Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not allowed in organic production. However, if my product tests positive for GMOs even if I have not used them, will I lose my certification?
     The Preamble to the NOS regulation states: “This regulation prohibits the use of excluded methods (which include GMOs) in organic operations. The presence of a detectable residue of a product of excluded methods alone does not necessarily constitute a violation of this regulation. As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods should not affect the status of an organic product or operation.”
     If a certifying agency has reason to suspect that an organic product has come into contact with prohibited substances or has been produced using excluded methods, the certifying agent can call for testing, which under certain conditions could result in that product no longer being considered “organic.”
     The markets where your organic crops are sold may require zero tolerance of GMOs, regardless of whether or not the crop loses its organic certification. GMO testing is frequently done by the buyers of organic soybeans sold to Japan and European markets and will be rejected if they test positive for GMOs. GMOs are part of the DNA of the entire plant and can be detected in the dust or other residue from GMO crops, so great caution must be taken to protect organic crops.
     If equipment used in planting or harvesting organic crops is also used for conventional crops it is important that you thoroughly clean the equipment before organic use to ensure that no contamination from non-organic or GMO crops occurs. You must document this cleaning in your records. Transport and storage of organic crops must also be in cleaned units, with documentation maintained.

Q.  Does any manure I use on a certified organic farm need to also be certified organic ?
No. You may use manure from any source, as long as there is documentation that it does not contaminate crops, soil or water with heavy metals or residues of prohibited substances, such as arsenic from feed, anti-odor compounds, genetically-modified digesters or prohibited synthetics from the bedding source. Note that European Union requirements are stricter than the NOP requirements in this regard, and specifically do not allow manure from confinement livestock operations.

Q.  Are there regulations on how I apply animal manure?
Yes. Manure is very closely regulated in organic systems, particularly for crops that are grown for human consumption. Raw animal manure may be applied to crops not for human consumption as long as it is applied in a manner that does not contaminate crops, soil or water. This may limit winter spreading. Your certifier may require a manure management plan as part of your certification application.  Manure that is composted following the NOS may be applied at any time to any crops. 
Raw manure may be applied to crops for human consumption only if:

- it is incorporated into the soil at least 120 days prior to the harvest of a product that comes into contact with the soil surface or soil particles, or
- it is incorporated into the soil at least 90 days prior to harvest of plants whose edible portion does not come into direct contact with the soil or soil particles.

Q. What are the rules for producing compost for use in my certified organic operation?
Rules for compost production are quite detailed. They are laid out in the National Organic Standards §205.203(c)(2). If compost is not produced in accordance with these rules, it must be viewed as raw manure.  To produce compost according to the NOS: an initial C:N ratio of between 25:1 and 40:1 must be established; a temperature of between 131º F and 170º F must be maintained for three days in a static, aerated pile, or between 131º F and 170º F for 15 days using a windrow composting system; during which materials must be turned at least five times.

Q.  Do the seeds I plant need to be organic? How about for a cover crop?
Organic seeds are required in all organic production, EXCEPT if the quantity, quality, form and/or variety of seeds desired are not available. If you do not use organic seed, you must keep records of your unsuccessful attempts to obtain organic seed. Higher price is NOT an acceptable reason to not buy organic seed.  Non-organic seeds must not be treated with non-allowed substances or genetically-modified inoculants.  Seeds must not be genetically modified.  Seeds for cover crop follow these same rules.  ATTRA and some certifying agencies can provide you with lists of seed companies that offer organic seed varieties. OMRI also has a seed source search function that can be very helpful. Organic seed is not required in the transition-to-organic years, untreated non-GMO seed can be used for crops and cover crops.  When it comes to buying seeds, there is a great resource in Missouri called Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds located near Mansfield.

Q.  Are treated seeds allowed?
Seeds may not be treated with non-allowed substances, including anything produced using GMOs. Examples of prohibited seed treatments are Apron and Captan. Legume inoculants are allowed if they are not genetically modified. Natural seed “treatments” such as clay for pelletizing small seeds like carrots are allowed, as long as there is documentation that only natural products are used in the treatment.

Q.  What are the rules for planting perennials, such as fruit trees, brambles or vines?
Producers must attempt to source organic planting stock, similar to attempts to source organic seeds. If not commercially available from organic sources, conventional planting stock may be used. Planting stock to be used to produce a perennial crop may be considered organically produced after it has been under a system of organic management for at least one year. The only exception to this is strawberries. If you manage strawberries as an annual crop, such as planting in the fall, harvesting the next spring and then tilling the plants in, resulting in only one harvest, then, in this case, you can use a non-organic strawberry plant if you cannot find organic plants. Strawberries harvested more than one year must be under organic management for a full year before selling organic fruit if you started
with non-organic plants.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Livestock Organic Certification

There are a few good questions today about organic livestock.  Most of these questions are from the Guidebook for Organic Certification along with a few comments and Missouri information.

Q.  I am a dairy farmer interested in organic production. What are the rules for starting an organic dairy herd?
     Dairy cows must be managed organically for one year prior to the production and sale of organic milk. Organic management includes feed, health care, living conditions, access to pasture when seasonally appropriate, and record keeping.
     In October 2005, Congress amended the Organic Foods Production Act to allow dairy farmers to use, in addition to certified organic feed, their own feed that was grown on land between 24 months and 36 months past the use of prohibited substances, or in its third year of transition. This feed cannot be purchased from off the farm, but must be raised on the operation requesting organic certification.
     All dairy animals must be managed organically regarding health care, record keeping, and living conditions for the entire transitional year. Once the farm has started their transition to organic for
the milking dairy cows, all young stock and dry cows must also be managed organically.
     Once the farmer begins to sell organic milk, after 12 months of either transitional or organic feed, only certified organic feeds are to be fed to all current or future organic production animals.
     Since 2002, the regulations that deal with replacement dairy animals have been clarified and changed, so the introduction of new dairy animals into an existing organic dairy herd depends on the method the farmer used to originally obtain organic certification. Talk to your organic certification agency for specific details. At the time of updating this Guidebook, the National Organic Program has stated that they are developing new guidelines for organic dairy replacement animals, but these have not yet been released for public comment.
     Livestock that have been removed from organic management are no longer eligible to transition to organic production. An example of non-allowed practices are calves being born to an organic mother, but raised non-organically for 8 months and then transitioned back to organic for one year before freshening.
     Bulls on the farm and those who have supplied semen for artificial insemination do not need to be managed organically.
     In order for dairy animals (cows, sheep, goats) to be sold as organic meat, they must meet the same requirements as all organic slaughter animals. They must have been born from an organic mother who was managed organically during the last third of gestation. Transitioned organic dairy animals can produce organic milk and give birth to organic slaughter animals, but they themselves can never be sold as organic meat.

Q.  Is it true that I can’t use antibiotics on my animals?
Yes. Antibiotic use is not allowed as part of organic management. No animal that has been treated with any antibiotic at any time in its life can be an organic slaughter animal. No antibiotics can be used on milk animals during transition or in the entire dairy herd (including replacements) after certification except as noted below. If you used antibiotics before you began your organic transition, these animals may be transitioned to organic. However, any animal that is past transition and is treated with antibiotics for any reason must be put into conventional production or shipped.

Q.  What happens if my cow gets really sick?
Organic livestock systems focus on preventative care to avoid situations where antibiotics are needed. However, it is mandatory that an animal not be neglected or untreated to preserve organic status. If antibiotics or other prohibited medicines are needed to save an animal’s life, they must be given and the animal taken out of organic production.

Q.  Can I vaccinate my animals?
Yes. As long as the vaccination is veterinarian recommended in your geographical area and does not contain ingredients prohibited by the National Organic Standards or the National List. Currently, there are no GMO vaccines allowed. Verify with your certification agency that the vaccines you are using or plan to use are approved.

Q.  What kinds of minerals, supplements, feed inoculants and healt care products can I use on organic animals?
     All natural minerals are allowed, as long as they do not contain non-approved additives and are not listed as prohibited on the National List. A few minerals (such as arsenic and strychnine) are listed on the National List and are not allowed in organic production.
     Health supplements and medical treatments must be reviewed for ingredient compliance with the National Lists. Alcohol, iodine, aspirin, electrolytes, glucose and hydrogen peroxide are examples of allowed inputs. Those who produce supplements for organic livestock may state they are “approved for organic production,” but you should always check with your certification agency before using an unfamiliar product.
     Agricultural products present in health products can be natural without synthetic additives (such as aloe vera without a preservative), but any product fed routinely as a feed must contain only certified organic agricultural ingredients. This would include organic soy oil used as a feed dust suppressant, for example.
     All agricultural substances in regularly fed supplements or feed inoculants must be certified organic. There must be no prohibited ingredients or genetically modified organisms in inoculants or supplements, including soy oil and molasses. All agricultural ingredients in an organic livestock feed listed on a label must be certified organic. If a product is used as a health product, and not as a feed, it can be natural, with no prohibited ingredients or GMOs. An example would be feeding eggs to calves for scours. If the eggs are fed routinely on a daily basis, they would need to be organic. If they are fed only when a calf has scours, then they could be non-organic eggs. However, if organic eggs are available, these are preferred. Check with your certification agency for more clarification on their policies.

Q.  Are there requirements for organic pasture management?
The management of pasture is to be included in the Organic System Plan, and is considered a crop like any other on the farm. The management of the pasture should not lead to soil erosion or water contamination. The health and vitality of the pasture should be sufficient to provide the 30% dry matter intake required for the entire herd. Irrigation can be used, if available, to encourage healthy regrowth of the pasture during the season, and the pasture should be managed in a way that minimizes the spread of diseases or parasites among the animals grazing those pastures. If there is not sufficient pasture to meet this rule, maintain the health of the animal and the vitality of the pasture, then improved pasture management or a lower stocking density should be put in place.

Q.  My neighbor says he hasn’t used pesticides on his hay. Can I feed it to my certified organic cows?
Any feed fed to organic livestock must be certified organic. If your neighbor gets his hay certified or you rent his ground and get it certified as part of your organic plan, then you can feed it.

Q.  Do I need to use a certified organic slaughtering facility in order to label fresh or frozen meat as organic?
Yes. You can have a local slaughterhouse certified as part of your organic certification, or use an organic slaughterhouse. Fruitland American Meats in Fruitland MO just north of Cape Girardeau is an organically certified slaughter facility.  You can also sell the products to your customers as organic live animals and have them use any slaughterhouse of their choosing. Poultry is an exception. You have the choice of slaughtering poultry on-farm yourself, and can have this approved as part of your organic certification application. You cannot label any meat as organic unless it has been processed in a certified organic facility.  NOTE:  A certified organic slaughter facility does not have to slaughter only certified organic animals.  Many facilities across the country will slaughter the organic livestock first thing in the morning since the materials used the clean the facility are in compliance with the organic standards.  They will then move on to processing the non-certified animals.  However, the facility will need to be in compliance with all the organic standards and apply for certification each year.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Marketing Products according to Organic Certification Standards

When it comes to marketing your organic products whether it be the raw commodity or a value added product there are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to the organic standards.  This is the last blog from the Guidebook for Organic Certification
If you like this type of blog using a series of information on the same topic for a number of days, please let me know and also the topics you might like to read about.

Q.  Can I sell my product as organic if I am still in transition?

No. A transitional product may not be sold as organic. It must be sold as a conventional product. There
is no specific regulation defining the production and oversight of transitional crops, and therefore there is no legal label for products in transition to organic production.

Q.  Who can I sell my organic product to if I fall under the small farm exemption and am not certified?
Those under the small farm exemption may sell their products as organic as long as they follow the NOS and do not sell their product in any situation where it will be further processed into an organic product or fed to certified organic livestock. This means that your “exempt” tomatoes can’t be part of a certified organic salsa, where you sell the tomatoes to another individual or company. You can make your own organic salsa, as long as your total sales of all organic products, fresh and processed, are less than $5,000 per year and you sell direct to the consumer only. Those falling under the small farm exemption may label their products as organic when selling direct to consumers, at a farmer’s market or when selling to anyone such as a retail store, who will not further process the product.
Q.  Can I expect to get a better price for my organic product than a conventional product?

Organic prices have historically been higher than those for similar products that are conventionally produced. This is especially true for dairy products, where organic prices have historically been 20-50% higher than those for conventional dairy products. However, there is no guarantee that you will get more for an organic product. It is important to secure a market for your product and get a sense of the price you will receive before you produce the product. The USDA has a bi-weekly listing of Upper Midwest organic commodity grain and forage prices that you may want to check out.
Q.  Should I assume that if I am certified organic in the U.S. that I can sell my organic product in the international marketplace?

No. The U.S. NOP is not in complete accord with other countries’ organic standards. For instance, in the European Union, the organic farmer cannot use manure or compost produced from large confinement animal operations. If you wish to sell in an international marketplace, check with a certification agency to find out the specific requirements for your target market. Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Canada all have their own regulations. Countries around the world are in continuous development of new organic standards.

NOTE:  There is a great publication from ATTRA called "Organic Marketing Resources" that you might want to read to assist you in marketing your organic products.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Approved Organic Materials

Today's blog is a listing of questions concerning what kinds of materials (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) that are allowed according to organic standards from the Guidebook for Organic Certification.  Remember that whenever you are in doubt, always check with your certifying agency.

Q.  How do I find out what fertilizers, pest control inputs or other products I can use on my organic farm?
The NOP Final Rule, Subpart G includes the “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.” This list has several sections, describing generic synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop and livestock production and processing, as well as lists of non-synthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop or livestock production or processing. Basically, for crop and livestock materials natural substances (non-synthetic) are ALLOWED unless they are specifically prohibited on the list, and synthetic substances are NOT ALLOWED unless they are specifically approved on the list. It is important to note that there are some things that are allowed for livestock production, but not allowed in crop production. Be sure when using the National Lists that you look at the correct listing for your planned use.

Q.  As a processor of organic products, do I use the same lists?
Processors have different lists of allowed and non-allowed products. Section §205.605 is a list of non-agricultural substances allowed as ingredients in “organic” or “made with” organic products. §205.606 is a list of non-organically produced agricultural products allowed as ingredients. The difference is not necessarily synthetic or non-synthetic, but agricultural vs. non-agricultural and organic vs. non-organic. Always check with your certification agency before adding a new ingredient or product to your organic plan.

Q. Can the lists change?
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) makes recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture on substances that should be added to or removed from the National List. The USDA publishes amendments to the National List in the Federal Register, after which the substances may be used in organic production or handling. Any amendments can be found at (click on “National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances”). Your certification agency will keep you informed by mail or newsletter of new items added, or of previously allowed items removed from the National List.

Q.  Is there other help in understanding what products are allowed?
A non-profit organization, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), offers a brand name product review program, where suppliers of agricultural inputs (both single ingredient and blends) can have their proprietary active and inert ingredients reviewed as being compliant with National Organic Program regulations. The input suppliers pay for this service. While the OMRI listed seal can help you determine what is approved for use, not all approved product suppliers have paid OMRI to have their products reviewed and there may be other products that are acceptable as well. Always check with your certification agency before using any product, to verify the specific brand name product and formulation is approved in organic production. The OMRI product list is available either through your certification agency or on the OMRI website.

Q.  What are the rules for using things like salt or lime on my organic farm ?
Natural minerals such as salt or mined lime may be used, but you must be careful that nothing has been added to them. Sometimes additional ingredients, such as an anti-caking agent, have been added that are non-allowed synthetics. In the case of lime, it must be mined lime, and not recycled wallboard, slaked or burned lime or paper mill sludge. Check your labels and sources carefully. To ensure that you have used approved products, your certification agency will require you to provide ingredient information for all feed, minerals, supplements, fertilizers, and inoculants that you have used on your farm or processing plant. If you have questions, contact your certification agency. Many organic seed and organic feed suppliers also carry salt, livestock mineral and fertility inputs that are approved for organic production.

Q.  What are the rules about using treated lumber on an organic farm?
The use of lumber treated with non-approved synthetic substances is prohibited for new installations or replacement purposes where it may have contact with soil that is growing an organic crop (including grass in pastures) or in contact with livestock (such as corrals or fence posts that the animals may rub up against). This prohibition includes the new formula treated wood, which has replaced the copper arsenate or creosote treated lumber. Large-dimensional treated lumber used to build, for example, a graveled loafing shed, can have untreated plywood placed over the treated wood up to a height of six feet to prevent contact with livestock. An electric fence line, keeping the animals from eating around the base of treated wood posts, may also be used. Check with your certifier for their specific guidance on this issue.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Organic Certification Process

Today, I will continue with questions from the Guidebook for Organic Certification.  I have included a couple of my own questions with links that I have found to be very helpful.  Hope they are to you too.

Q.  How long does it take to get certified as organic?

     In order to sell a certified organic crop the land on which it was grown must be free of prohibited substances for 36 months prior to the harvest of the first organic crop. Having documentation detailing the actual day, or at least the month, of last prohibited material application is necessary. If the only information details a prohibited material was applied “in the spring,” then the date chosen will be June 21, the last day of spring. No genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or seeds treated with prohibited synthetic materials can be used during the transition time to organic production. It is not required that certified organic seed be used during the transition years.
     A farmer has their first organic inspection during the growing season for which they plan to sell the organic crop. He/she could choose to be inspected during the transition year, but this is not necessary. The certification application should be submitted no later than three months prior to the date when the first organic harvest is anticipated. Many certification agencies encourage applications in March or April and charge a late fee for applications received after that time. There will be a place on the application where the farmer can clarify when he/she needs his/her organic certification to be completed in order to sell the organic crop. The organic inspection must take place during the growing season of the crop to be certified.
     Livestock have slightly different requirements. Poultry must be managed organically from the second day of life, therefore day old chicks from any source may be purchased and then subsequently fed and managed organically. Animals for meat such as hogs, lambs, beef, etc. must be managed organically from the last third of gestation within their mothers. For example, if a first time organic beef farmer has calves in the spring and wishes to feed his own hay and feed to the mothers who will give birth to organic calves, he should get his cropland certified the year before the first organic calves are to be born, so the brood cows will be eating certified organic feed during the last third of gestation. Organic feed can also be purchased, if certification the year before is not possible. Organic certification agencies cannot retroactively certify crops from a previous year, the fields must be inspected when the crops are growing. These brood cows can never be sold as organic meat themselves, but they may birth organic animals. Once brood cows have birthed organic calves, they must remain under organic management in order to continue birthing organic calves. Certification agencies may or may not allow organic brood cows to remain organic after the use of prohibited health products or non-organic feed, when the cow is not in the last third gestation or lactating for their organic calves. Ask your agency what they allow, or if the National Organic Program has clarified this issue through guidance or an updated regulation.

Q.  How much does it cost to be certified organic?
Each certification agency has its own cost structure, but generally there is an annual certification fee, a charge for the inspection and possibly user fees (a percent of annual organic gross sales.) For most non-livestock operations, it will cost between $400 and $1,000 per year to maintain organic certification. Organic livestock operations may have additional costs.

Q.  Are there grants to help with organic certification costs?
Money has been available on a year-by-year and state-by-state basis from the USDA and administered by the various State Department of Agricultures. In MO contact Bart Hawcroft, Marketing Specialist, 573-526-6666,
Q.  What are the ongoing costs?
Organic certification is an annual process, with annual inspection and annual fees. User fees based on annual organic sales can be paid quarterly, yearly or by each organic sale, depending on the situation and certification agency policy.

Q. Who are the organic certifying agencies in MO?
There are no organic certifying agencies located in MO.  However, there are many agencies that will certify farms in MO.  For a listing of organic certifiers visit the Missouri Organic Association website.  Another great place to compare organic certifiers side-by-side is the Rodale Institute website.