Friday, July 30, 2010

Organic Farm in Ferguson

On the 1960's TV show Green Acres, the notion of swapping life in the city for life on a farm was its comic conceit. But for some St. Lousians, it's a serious idea, only they don't have to leave St. Louis to get back to the land, because just a mile or so east of Lambert Field sits a green field called EarthDance Farm; a sort of experimental meadow in the middle of Ferguson.

On this land, the farm hands work for free, in exchange for knowledge. And what they are leering is how to grow food organically, and sustainably. Or in more crass terms, how to make being green profitable.

The demand for locally grown, and organically grown food is growing, as evidenced by the explosion of farmers markets and restaurants touting their use of home grown ingredients. And among those selling fresh picked produce at the Maplewood and Ferguson farmer's markets is EarthDance Farm.

They grow 75 different crops. EarthDance Farm is actually two rented acres in the middle of the 14 acre Mueller family farm which has been in the middle of Ferguson since 1883.

Molly Rockamann started EarthDance Farm two years ago, and she is finding plenty of fellow travelers. What began with 12 apprentices the first year has blossomed this season to a bumper crop of 30.

In addition to working for free, these freshmen farmers pay $250 a year tuition. However, they do get to harvest anything they want for themselves every Monday.

Eventually Molly's plan is to turn EarthDance Farm into what's called a CSA or Community Supported Agriculture, meaning a farm where shareholders pay to get a share of the harvest each week.

There are already several CSA's close to St. Louis, and about 80 all across Missouri.

To watch the video clip that was shown on Fox 2 News from St. Louis, click here.
(reprinted from Fox Files)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Decorative Woody Florals in MN: Beautiful and Sustainable

I thought I'd pass this along as a potential idea of an alternative enterprise.  But as all alternative enterprises go, be sure to check out the market.  Start slow and grow as your market grows.  debi

The agriculture industry is perceived as dirty and utilitarian. But some farmers, like Chad Kingstrom, are bringing a bit of pizzazz to the party. Kingstrom, of Sacred Heart in west-central Minnesota, brightens homes and landscapes alike with decorative woody florals he perpetuates on his property.

This colorful venture began with Kingstrom taking part in a local decorative woody florals-growing group which promotes sustainable agriculture and developing sustainable communities. At the time, he was involved in agroforestry as a production manager of a “medium-sized” tree farm for a landscaping company. As his involvement increased, Kingstrom decided to make a go of growing his own woody florals such as red and yellow dogwoods and Japanese willows. Being associated with the project led him to eventually procure a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant and he was on his way.

His first planting was about a year later in 2005 while still working for the landscaping company. It was a direction he was heading in for a long time. Kingstrom became interested in gardening and growing while a teen working for a tree farm. “I wanted my own nursery so I went with a plan,” he explained. “I wanted added income and habitat for birds and wildlife and I wanted to add value to the landscape.” Getting started in growing decorative woody florals is inexpensive, Kingstrom pointed out. “It doesn‘t require a huge capital outlay to put in 100 plants even,” he said. “And if you can find someone who will give you cuttings, it can be even less. You can get started with little money, so that’s a benefit.”

There are a variety of markets available for selling his decorative branches, buds and blooms. Individual customers buy them, as do a number of garden centers and florists. Over a few years Kingstrom has developed a consistent clientele. The markets appear to be stable, especially for Red Dogwood. The need of color, especially during Minnesota winters keeps people buying.

While these trees provide a beautiful aesthetic, are they a viable, sustainable product?

“I would say they are very sustainable,” Kingstrom stated. “They are very easy to grow. They take care of themselves.” He uses no chemicals in his nursery and once planted and established, the trees require minimum upkeep outside of some weed control. Cuttings from existing plants are used to perpetuate the crop allowing expansion from what already exists. “You can keep going from what you have, you don’t need to grow more,” he added.

Currently Kingstrom has a three-acre tree nursery and grows his 120 decorative florals spread out over about half an acre. His mix includes the two varieties of dogwood and curly willow along with his best-selling Japanese willow. The red dogwood remains the most successful in fall while the Japanese willows pick up in the spring. Growing these trees is something that can be done along with other farming pursuits without becoming overwhelming. “Anybody can do it with a little space in their yard,” Kingstrom said. “You can do it just about anywhere with anything else.”

He advises establishing where the trees will be grown, then controlling the weeds in that area. Focusing on just a few types of trees to start is better until determining market demand. Proper pruning in the spring is a key to getting the desired product: diligent maintenance is crucial for a marketable product, said Kingstrom. “Use your imagination,” Kingstrom says. “Find a niche, find what no one else is doing then show your results to garden centers and florists. There’s a lot to presentation.”

To learn more about this project, visit the online SARE project report website(Source: Sleepy Eye News)(Picture from Missouri Exchange)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Selling Your Local Food Products

While farmers’ markets are a great outlet for your products, some farmers may decide the high transaction costs (like how much time you spend to pick products, pack them and then maintain your booth for the entire time the market is open!) and price instability (weather can affect sales dramatically at open air markets) aren’t for them. These farmers seek out other options. One of these outlets may be local grocery stores (see a great case study here). On a recent visit to Sappington Farmers Market, a grocery specializing in local foods in St. Louis, the displays of local products were beautiful.

Grocery stores expose your product to a much larger number of customers than possible through farmers’ markets. They also can carry products like meat and dairy year-round which provides a steady outlet for your product outside of the farmers’ market season. Remember – you will sell for a wholesale, not retail price. The grocer is looking for competitively priced products of consistent quality and quantity. They may require liability insurance, and certain food safety standards (like Good Agricultural Practices). However, the added volume of sales may compensate you for the lower price and extra attention to insurance and food safety.
(by Mary Hendrickson)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farmers’ Markets – How to Choose?

Many beginning farmers look to the farmers’ market as one of the best ways to market their local produce. Farmers’ markets are great because they have very low costs of entry, they allow a lot of experimentation with products, you can get immediate feedback on your products – and best of all, with over 5,000 markets across the US there is a market near you! However, as a beginning farmer, you really need to stop and evaluate which market will suit you best. Large markets – such as the Saturday markets at Columbia Farmers’ Market or the Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market – attract a large number of customers – but both have large numbers of existing member vendors and waiting lists for new ones. In 2009, the Columbia Farmers’ Market had one Saturday with 6,700 customers passing through in a four-hour stint. That means lots of exposure for your product, but a lot of competition from experienced farmer vendors who have built up strong customer bases over the years.
While customer traffic is a very important consideration when thinking about which market to join, you might also look at your product mix and see if there is a market with fewer customers – and vendor competition – which still might be a better match for you. If you can supply a large amount of product in a smaller farmers’ market, you may end up with a better profit position at the end of the day. You also have to consider how much time you will spend driving to the market – it may not be worth driving over 100 miles to a larger market unless you have very special, unique products that are in demand.

You also need to consider how much the market charges to sell – some markets may charge a flat membership fee that guarantees a spot for the whole season, some may charge a daily booth fee, or some may do both. Another factor that may affect your decision is the market’s position on allowing non-local produce to be sold. Some markets require farmer vendors to sell only what they produce, while other markets allow in certain products that aren’t yet in season but are regionally produced. Be sure to read the rules for the farmers’ markets before joining so that you can evaluate which market will best fit your needs.

Finally, make sure to carefully read any contract that you sign to sell at a particular farmers’ market. The contract should clearly set out the rights of vendors at the market, and their corresponding responsibilities. (Farmers Legal Action Group has a great fact sheet on farmers’ market rules.) Most of these contracts will specify who is eligible to sell, how the market is managed, how disputes will be resolved, if inspections are required and how they will be done, fees, contract termination, and insurance.
(by Mary Hendrickson)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Beginning Farmer Workshop: Selling Directly to Consumers

August 18, 2010 – 3:30 to 8:30 pm

Columbia, MO

Everything you wanted to know to start selling your farm products directly to consumers!

· What direct market channels work best for you?

· What are chefs and consumers looking for when they buy local products?

· What good sales techniques will make your produce sell quickly?

· How do you make your booth at the farmers’ market really stand out?

· How can simple food safety and post-harvest handling practices ensure the quality that keeps customers coming back?

Tour the Wednesday Columbia Farmers’ Market with Chef Mike Odette

Taste Great Local Produce from a Chef’s Perspective

Workshop Registration: Contact Sharon Naylor at 573-882-3776. Please provide your name, address, email and telephone and indicate if you have any special needs. Cost of the workshop is $20 for those who preregister by August 13 and includes educational materials and food. Walk-ins accepted but cost $30 with no food guaranteed. Find registration form here.

Sponsored by the Missouri Beginning Farmer Program a joint project of Jefferson Institute and University of Missouri Extension.

Please pass this information on to other interested parties. Thanks!

Friday, July 23, 2010

MU FSRC Field Day at Linneus set for Aug. 3

The University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center will hold its first field day in 10 years on Aug. 3.

“We want to give the public a better idea of our projects and research,” said Dave Davis, FSRC superintendent. “This is an opportunity for producers in the region to talk to MU specialists who are in high demand throughout the year.”

After registration at 8:30 a.m., the field day program will highlight forage advancements, beef research and a walking tour led by forestry, weather and wildlife specialists.

Rob Kallenbach, MU Extension forage specialist, will tell why producers with fall-calving cow herds should wait to wean calves until the summer.

“His research indicates that instead of weaning fall-born calves in April it could be to the producer’s advantage to use the spring flush of grass until June or July,” Davis said. “The numbers indicate that late weaning could boost profits.”

Fescue endophyte control will be discussed by Craig Roberts, MU Extension forage specialist. He will explain how the fescue fungus should be managed to protect herds.

“He’ll talk about the spring ‘fescue problem’ and discuss how to manage the toxins created by the endophyte,” Davis said. “If we just persuade a few growers to adopt what we are learning it will be worthwhile for years to come.”

Dale Blevins, MU plant scientist, will wrap up the forage tour with ways to mitigate grass tetany. Tetany, a condition in grass where nutrient uptake is limited, can cause serious problems, even death, in cattle.

“When soil phosphorous is low, magnesium uptake drops in plants. This can lower blood magnesium levels, causing cows to become immobile,” Davis said. “We had this occur at the farm a few years ago.” Blevins will tell what he learned about leaf sodium content after the Easter Freeze in 2007.

Topics on the beef tour range from storage of co-product feeds to efficient feeding and nutrition. Chris Zumbrunnen, MU Extension regional livestock specialist, will tell how to reduce problems in stored distillers grain. He’ll talk about both dried and wet products.

Bob Weaber, MU Extension beef geneticist, and Justin Sexten, MU beef nutritionist, will tell how to add value to calves by feeding and backgrounding.

“Weaber and Sexten have projects ranging from heifer development to backgrounding and even finishing steers,” Davis said.

The final leg of the field day before lunch will be a walking tour of the grounds. A wildlife specialist will tell of a nondestructive way to manage starlings. “Any time you feed livestock you have birds that can become pests. Through managed intensive grazing the pests are less apt to have nesting success,” Davis said. “Our research shows progress.”

The tours end with a lunch sponsored by agricultural vendors who will also have more than a dozen displays on-site. Grilled burgers from beef raised at FSRC are on the menu.

For information and directions to the farm in Linn County, northeast of Brookfield, Mo., click here.

(by Roger Meissen, Senior Information Specialist, University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Funding to Help Study and Build Elderberry Market

The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry has been awarded a grant from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCSARE), "Developing Successful Marketing Strategies for Elderberry Growers and Value-Added Processors: A Model for Specialty Crop Development in the U.S. Midwest."

The grant will use an integrated approach to contribute to the creation and development of an elderberry regional industry as a model for specialty crop development in the Midwest U.S., said project director and UMCA associate director, Mike Gold.

The project will increase knowledge about the elderberry market in the region. An elderberry financial decision tool will be developed to support producer decision making for on-farm and associated enterprise opportunities. A comprehensive outreach program will disseminate results of this project.

Only 9 percent of the initial pre-proposal submissions were ultimately funded by the North Central Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education Program.

"All funding is very competitive these days," Gold said. "We are excited to have received this award and are ready to move ahead with our elderberry project to carry the industry forward."

In addition to Gold, key players in the grant include Ina Cernusca, UMCA marketing specialist; Francisco Aguilar, assistant professor of forest economics, MU Forestry Department; Larry Godsey, UMCA economist; Elizabeth Barham, rural sociologist, University of Arkansas Agricultural Economics Department; John Brewer, president and co-founder of Wyldewood Cellars Winery; Terry Durham, organic farmer, Eridu Farm, Hartsburg, Mo.; Andrew L. Thomas, research assistant professor in horticulture, MU Southwest Research and Education Center; Patrick L. Byers, MU Extension, horticulture specialist; Julie Rhoads, UMCA event planner; Michelle Hall, UMCA senior information specialist; and Park Bay, agricultural lender and Vice President of Business Development, First National Bank & Trust (now Landmark Bank), Columbia, Mo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Point Source and Non-point Source Pollution

You may think this is a strange title for today's blog but in reality it is something extremely important for beginning farmers to hear and to begin to contemplate.

Most of us are aware that there are two main categories of pollution. The first is "point source" pollution which is described as pollution where we know where it is coming from and we can see how it is distributed. Most examples given consider point source as that coming from the end of a pipe or other source that is easily identified. Most businesses and entities with point sources of pollution need a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) permit.

The second type is "non-point source" pollution. This category is harder to determine who or where the actual single source of the pollutant is coming from .  Such examples include soil sediment in streams, nutrient runoff, pesticide runoff, and other pollutants where we cannot establish the exact source of the pollutant. In the case of pesticides, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has always stated that the label is the law and with certain pesticides the only permit needed was a sprayer application permit.

However on January 7, 2009 the U.S. Circuit Court #6 made the decision that the Clean Water Act pesticide rule was not properly interpreting a part of the law concerning the spraying of pesticides. In the past where pesticide runoff has always been considered part of the nonpoint source pollution, the Clean Water Act is now being interpreted that in specific cases pesticides coming from any sprayer should be classified as point source. Circuit Court #6 sited the following from Section 502 of the Clean Water Act:

           "all biological pesticides are pollutants because they "undeniably alter the physical integrity of  the waters." And chemical pesticides are pollutants if they leave a residue or "waste".

Though not a final law, the ruling by Circuit Court #6 is open for public comment. The present ruling states that a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permit will be required if you use a sprayer for:

1) mosquito or other flying insect control

2) aquatic weed and algae control

3) aquatic nuisance animal control

4) forest canopy pest control

EPA estimates the permit will apply to 35,000 pesticide applicators. EPA is taking public comments on the draft permit until July 19th, including whether it should cover additional pesticide uses. To view the docket and public comments click here.

The permit is scheduled to become effective on April 9, 2011.

To learn more about the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems Permit Program Basics check out their website.
(by Bob Broz, MU Extension Water Quality Specialist)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ways to Manage Heat Stress in Cattle

Heat stress is hard on livestock, especially in combination with high humidity. Hot weather and high humidity can reduce breeding efficiency, milk production, feed intake, weight gains, and sometimes cause death. Livestock should be observed frequently and producers should take precautions when hot and humid weather is forecast.

Major management options are providing shade, improved ventilation and a sufficient quantity of water.  Shade for livestock can be provided by trees, buildings or sunshades. Ventilation can be provided for air movement by fans and windows. Sunshades should be high enough to allow air movement.

Providing an adequate source of cool, clean drinking water is essential to help keep animal's internal body temperature within normal limits. It is thought that water temperature affects rumen temperature and thus blood temperature which affects brain centers that control feed consumption. Temperature increases from 70 degrees to 95 degrees can increase total water requirements by about 2.5 times.

Producers using management intensive grazing might consider several options. One option is to rotate
through fields at a more rapid rate. Taller grass tends to be a cooler surface to maintain cattle on than pastures with shorter grass stands. Another option is rotate cattle in the evening rather than the morning. The assumption is that the grass will be consumed in the evening and hopefully the "heat of fermentation" or digestion is mostly dissipated by mid-morning, thereby reducing the heat load produced by the animal. Another possible option is to graze paddocks that allow access to shade during the heat of the day. This will reduce equal distribution of manure throughout the paddock but might be a suitable compromise during excessively hot weather.

Producers sometimes talk about "hot" feeds and "cool" feeds. Corn and other concentrates are sometimes called "hot" feeds. This is in reference to their higher energy content compared to hay or straw (cool feeds).

However, corn and other concentrates contribute less to the heat of fermentation or digestion than hay.

Therefore cattle actually produce less actual heat when consuming corn than when consuming hay. Further increasing the concentrate portion of a feedlot finishing diet may lead to acidosis problems. One option is to feed more frequently so as to keep the feed fresher (especially silage) and to feed a greater part of the diet in the evening rather than in the morning. Similarly high quality forage produces less heat of fermentation than low quality forage. This might be another argument for moving cattle to higher quality pasture or moving more frequently through paddocks.

An excessive level of protein during heat stress may be detrimental. The excess nitrogen supplied by the protein must be detoxified and prepared for excretion (via urine). This is a biochemical pathway that is very high in energy demands.

Increased water consumption will increase excretion of urine. This will also increase the loss of certain minerals, such as sodium (a part of salt), potassium, and magnesium. Free choice trace mineral salt should be provided in a location that the animals will consume it. The weather service issues special forecasts during extremely hot weather to alert livestock producers of dangerous weather. The warnings are based on a temperature-humidity index, which increases as the temperature and humidity increase. The danger level is indicated by an index value of 79, which is reached in various combinations of temperatures above 85 degrees in combination with high humidity. As temperatures increase, slightly lower humidity can still create dangerous and emergency conditions. The emergency levels begin at an index level of 84 and occurs at temperatures in the 90 and 100 degree range, increasing in danger as the humidity level increases.

Livestock producers should listen to local radio and television weather reports early in the day for warnings that heat stress may become a problem.  (By Dona Goede, MU Extension Livestosk Specialist, Cedar County)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tractor 101 Workshop: a Report

On the evening of July 14, a group of ten beginning farmers attended at Farm Tractor 101 workshop at the Jefferson Farm, Columbia, MO. The workshop was part of a series of workshops on various topics for beginning farmers, with the workshops jointly offered by the nonprofit Jefferson Institute and the University of Missouri through USDA-NIFA grant funding. The workshop was intended to give novice farmers a chance to drive and operate two kinds of tractors, learn about selection and pricing of tractors, and basic operation of PTO, hydraulics, hitches, and loaders. The group learned about tractor safety and also got a chance to tour several types of planters, tillage equipment and other tractor attachments.

The highlight for most attendees was undoubtably the chance to drive two different John Deere tractors, one of which was loaned by Sydenstricker Implement of Rocheport for the course. None of the attendees had ever operated a tractor before, but several were considering purchasing a tractor at some point in time as part of managing land they have either recently purchased or hope to gain access to. Some of the attendees are involved with an urban farm in St. Louis called EarthDance. The attendees had lots of questions about buying and using tractors, including what types of tractors are available used and how to equip them. The course was taught by Rob Myers and Alan Weber. More beginning farmer workshops on other topics will be offered during the next two years, and the farm tractor workshop may be repeated in the future if sufficient interest exists.

A resource you may want to check out is the Oklahoma State University website on agriculture machinery.  (by Rob Myers)

Friday, July 16, 2010

USDA Maps Detail U.S. Local Meat Processing Facilities

Many questions have come to my office asking about direct marketing meat instead of selling their animals at auction or contracting them with different companies.  There are lots of hoops to jump through to become a successful direct marketer of meat products.  One of the first hoops to look for and to identify is where are you going to have your animals slaughtered.  Not all meat processers will process all types of animals.

To aid in identifying a processor for your operation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a preliminary study to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility. The data creates a county-by-county view of the continental United States, indicating the concentration of small farms raising cattle, hogs and pigs, and chicken, and also noting the location of nearby state slaughter facilities and small and very small federal slaughter establishments.  To view this information click here

Thursday, July 15, 2010

St. Louis Area Urban Farm Tour: A Report

Reported by: Janet Hurst, ISFOP Farm Outreach Worker, Warren and Franklin County
Organized by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) on July 14, 2010.

Lincoln University’s Urban Farm Tour was a smashing success! The tour was sponsored by Lincoln University’s Urban Impact Center of St. Louis and the Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program (ISFOP). The idea for the tour came about after one of our rural ISFOP clients asked if we could arrange a tour to view the urban projects. As we talked about organizing such a tour, our phones rang off the hooks with people wanting to sign up. Many of us were curious to know, “just what is it that the city farmers do differently from the rural farmers?”

It is all about scale; intensive plantings, rigorous soil preparation, innovative marketing and more. Our rural farmers usually have no shortage of land, so intensive planting has not been considered by most. When we see a relatively small city garden producing over 4000 pounds of food a year we certainly want details! How do they do that on such a small lot? Our large expansive rural gardens certainly don’t have that type of yield! So, there is something to be learnt and the urban farmers are more than willing to share!

First we went to “EarthDance”. Vicki Lander, the farm manager, provided a great tour and explained the history and background of the farm. Molly Rockamann is the driving force behind the farm, now living out this dream she began in her college years. EarthDance is located on the Mueller Farm and is the site of a flourishing garden. “The garden grows more than just food, it grows skills within the 30 apprentices who plant, weed, harvest and devote time to this effort. An in-house Consumer Supported Agriculture or CSA covers shares for 39 people. Right now, there are about a dozen varieties of summer vegetables for our people to enjoy”, said Vicki.

A peaceful work scene was observed. The youngest farmer was about 8 years old, diligently carrying his bucket-full of weeds to the compost pile. His mom said, “That’s the best thing, my kids can be involved and learn the things I didn’t as a child.” Multi-generational, multicultural, multifaceted, EarthDance is an oasis.

All too soon it was time to leave but, “Bowood Farms” was waiting for us. Bowood is located in the middle of the city, the garden across the street from the wonderful Café, sales room, and nursery area. Of course, seeing the roof top gardens had inspired us all; it made us wonder how they have made good use of every bit of available space. After touring the gardens, we sat down in a beautifully-decorated café for some fabulous meals prepared by Bowood’s chef. There is nothing like sitting down for lunch with a group of interesting like-minded people, sharing information and learning new skills. And the food? It’s hard to imagine getting more local and fresh produce than those coming from their own garden just across the street. Menu items included Mediterranean plates, roasted vegetable sandwiches, salads, fruits and Bison from Bowood’s Clarksville farm. We could have lingered over tea and coffee all afternoon but then we would have missed……….

“City Seeds and the Gateway Greening”! Annie, the garden manager, gave us a tour of this prolific garden and explained the mission of City Seeds. “The vegetables are only a part of what we do, we are growing people.” Through their efforts, clients who are referred to their program, learn a variety of skills. Working closely with the St. Patrick’s center, the focus of the garden is to teach and employ the homeless, chronically addicted to drugs and alcohol, mentally ill, and recently released prisoners to grow foods for the less fortunate (if that is possible!) and to sell at the farmers' markets. Food is also distributed to low income senior centers, food pantries and “meals on wheels” programs. Sunflowers, green beans, tomatoes, tomatillos and more were in full production. As we toured the garden, we realized that we were on a little island in-between the city streets and the busy Interstate Highways. The location itself made the garden all the more poignant. Once again, we were convinced that it doesn’t take a lot of land to grow plentiful of food, nor to do a lot of good for the society.

Our last stop was “New Roots”. New Roots is in its 6th year of operation. It was started by our own Trish Grim, who subsequently served as ISFOP Small Farm Specialist for the East Central region (and now has left the Program to get back to farming on her own) as a neighborhood effort and a CSA. New Roots has provided food to various food pantries and organizations and is a true working farm, small scale, in the heart of downtown St. Louis. A model of intensive growing methods, there is no shortage of enthusiasm among the group’s organizers and the volunteers. Beans, carrots, beets, herbs and all sorts of vegetables were in full production. Chickens dispose of weeds, creating the base for the beautiful compost. Bees work happily in the side yard. If this space was not surrounded by the city scape, you would firmly believe you are in your grandmother’s backyard garden! We all left Urban Roots inspired and felt what we saw was something we would like to work towards.

Keep in mind the van temperature registered 106 degrees F! So we returned to Schlalfy Bottleworks and they graciously allowed us to use their meeting room. We discussed the tour, what our participants hoped to gain, their goals and what they saw that could pertain to them. There is something about being in a room of people with dreams and visions! So inspiring and the energy is contagious. New friendships blossom almost immediately, contacts are made and things begin to happen. Last but not least, we all enjoyed the Maplewood Farmers’ Market. What an array of fruits, vegetables, artisan foods! Picture perfect berries, onions and beets with lines of people 10 deep waiting to purchase these “picked this morning” food. At some point in time, tomatoes cease to be merely food and are elevated to art! Beautiful. Of course I had to buy cheese from Baetje Farm.

Our thanks to all who came on the tour, those great farmers and businesses who allowed us to visit their gardens, EarthDance, Bowood Café and garden, City Seeds, New Roots and Schlalfy. Karen Davis of Lincoln University was the organizer for the day, and as always, she was very efficient and gracious.

Lincoln’s Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program is available in several area counties. Farm Outreach Workers (FOWs) offer one-on-one assistance to farmers and provide researched-based information and training. Anyone wishing to learn more about ISFOP, needing any kind of assistance, or for scheduling a farm visit, should contact Janet Hurst or David Price

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What Can I Do to Make Money with My Land?

I get that question all the time.  My typical response is, "If I knew I'd be doing it and not telling you."  Of course I say it teasingly.  But in reality, that is a very difficult question to answer.  There are so many factors that go into the decision making that no one answer is automatic.

Generally, I ask people what it is they like to do and don't like to to.  If you don't like to do it, then chances are you won't enjoy doing it and won't be successful at it.  So first, always select something that you know you will enjoy doing.  Next, what are the skills that you already possess and are good at and what skills do you know that you don't have.  I know I enjoy talking to people and I know I hate math.  So guess what part of the business I'd probably do - marketing - and the part I wouldn't be doing - recordkeeping and anything else that includes math skills. 

I tell folks that when you are looking at alternative agricultural enterprises, chances are you will have to do all the marketing yourself, direct marketing.  So if you are the type of person who prefers to get your hands dirty and drive a tractor over talking to people, that's ok.  But then you will need to find someone within your family, a friend or hire someone who can do that marketing for you.  

Next check out what that market is, where it is and what people are buying and not buying.  Do you want to grow/raise something that everyone else is then you better be sure you can produce a better quality product then the others.  Or can you "see" what is not being marketed?  My boys and I simply love white turnips in the spring.  We can't seem to get enough of them.  There are only a couple of vendors at the local farmers' market that grow and sell them.  Or what about hulless seeded pumpkins?  No one sells them which someone should in my opinion.  Not only do they make a wonderful pie from the meat of the pumpkin but the seeds are hulless which means the white coating of the seed isn't there and all you have is that wonderful green seed for roasting.  OK, I digress.  Now you know my two weaknesses for purchasing at a farmers' market.

What about your farm location?  How far are you away from town?  Do you live on a backtop road near a four corner intersection or down a long gravel road?  What buidlings are on the land?  Where does the water flow off and on the farm?  What kind of slope do you have to the land?  What type of soil do you have?  Chances are most folks can't answer those immediately to me on the phone.

I'm now just getting started in asking these questions to the caller on the phone when I finally say that I really can't answer their original question - What can I do to make money with my land?  It truly is more complicated than one thinks.

I usually recommend to the caller to read a great publication from Oregon State University titled "What Can I Do with My Small Farm?  If you are serious about trying to make a bit of money or even more than a bit, I would hope you would print off and read this publication and complete the exercises in it.  It will help you to move off center point where you are and into a direction somewhere which is better than you were before.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Top-performing Farmers Characterized by Attitudes, Goals

Farmers, lenders, educators and many others in agriculture have a long history of wondering why some farmers perform better than others. Since conditions vary over time, we need to keep asking the question in order to have the best answers.

A University of Minnesota Extension survey of farmers in southwest Minnesota collected nonfinancial characteristics in addition to the farm’s financial information. The survey included questions on formal education, farmers' attitudes toward management, their situation, and other potential reasons that are frequently mentioned by farmers when discussing performance.

For our data analysis, the farms were ranked on the basis of net farm income per operator and on rate of return on assets (ROA-market basis), and then divided into the top 25 percent and the remaining 75 percent groups for each measure. The scores and measures for many answers and measures were then estimated by group and compared to see where the top group was significantly different from the other 75 percent of farmers.

Our preliminary analysis points out several interesting factors which farmers potentially can control or change.

Factors which have an overall positive impact on either net farm income per operator or ROA include having a positive attitude: the farmers’ attitude that they control their own destiny and that farming has a bright future. Other positive factors include setting and striving for goals, paying a higher wage (for good people), and being involved in a custom work enterprise to increase the efficiency in using their machinery. Farmers in the top group were more likely to agree with the statement that their concern for the environment affected their decisions. More profitable farmers were more likely to own more crop acreage and have more employees, but this may be more of a result of profitability than a cause of higher profitability.

Overall negative factors related to being in the top group included the value they placed on an income statement (which may be a reflection of the top being more interested in leading indicators of income production versus an after-the-fact statement of income). A nonfarm job held by the primary decision maker was negatively related to being in the top group (but this does not mean that a farmer should resign from his/her nonfarm job to become more profitable automatically).

One apparent contradiction was the positive impact on net farm income per operator of a farm having a successor contrasted with the negative impact of the importance placed on having a future generation farming. This contradiction disappears though when we consider that a successful farm with higher profits is more attractive to a successor being ready to take over the farm, and the realization that actively putting that future generation in place may likely have a negative impact on income per operator during the transition.

This is only a preliminary perspective on some interesting findings. More factors and variables are being measured and analyzed.   (Ag News Wire by Kent Olson, University of Minnesota Extension)

Comments by debi kelly.  One of the main objectives of the Grow Your Farm course is to identify your values, which help in the writing of a farm mission statement, that then leads into the goals you would like for your farm.  If I read the article above and comprehended it as I did, then you understand that farmers with a plan (goals) for their farm and those who have values (soil preservation, water quality, etc.) are the successful farmers.  Be on the look out for upcoming announcements of the Grow Your Farm course locations and dates.

Monday, July 12, 2010

EarthDancers chosen as U.S. Delegates to TERRA MADRE!

EarthDance is a not-for-profit organization, with 501c3 status, whose mission is to grow and inspire local F.A.R.M.S.—Food, Art, Relationships & Music… Sustainably! EarthDance farms at the historical Mueller Organic Farm in Ferguson, MO.

An EarthDance food community will be part of the U.S. delegation to Terra Madre, an international gathering of Slow Food producers, chefs, educators, and activists! Over 900 individuals applied this year, and EarchDance will represent 5 of the lucky 450 folks who were selected as U.S. delegates!

This exciting event happens every 2 years in Torino, Italy, and brings together those players in the food chain who together support sustainable agriculture, fishing, and breeding with the goal of preserving taste and biodiversity. The five-day meeting will unite food communities, cooks, academics, youth and musicians from all over the world, who share a desire to promote sustainable local food production in harmony with the environment while respecting knowledge handed down over the generations. Our Farm Manager Vicki Lander, Market Manager Julie Holley, Founding Director Molly Rockamann, Lincoln University partner Karen 'Mimo' Davis, and 2009 apprentice Karrie Johnson will be attending.

If you have frequent flyer miles that you are able to contribute or know of another way to reduce their travel expenses to help sponsor their delegation, please let Molly know! (Their lodging, meals, and the conference itself are paid for by the Italian government!) They will bring the experience home to all of us in as many ways as they can.  They hope to send another EarthDance delegation to Terra Madre 2012!

Congratulations to EarthDance!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Energy Efficient Farmstead Retrofit Program

Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority is offering tools and incentives for farmers to improve energy efficiency on livestock farms.


The program provides the following assistance to farmers:

• Comprehensive energy audits for both the farm and home

• Rebates for the cost of the audit

• A Loan Loss Reserve Program to encourage lenders to finance the energy efficiency improvements on both the farm and home

• Interest Buy Downs or Down Payment Grants to the applicants to reduce the interest rate, principal amount or payback time for the retrofits.


• Farm Energy Audit - a comprehensive energy audit that includes detailed recommendations about specific equipment and field operations.

• Home Energy Audit – a comprehensive energy audit that includes detailed recommendations about specific equipment.

• Energy Audit Rebate – a cash rebate if one or more of the audit finding(s) from which the energy savings realized is greater than the total cost of the audit and implementation. The farmer will then receive a rebate for the actual amount paid to the audit firm, not to exceed $500 for the farm audit and/or $250 for the farm home audit.

• Interest Buy Down – The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) will pay interest due on loans, for the implementation of energy-saving technologies; from the normal and customary rate down to a 3 percent rate.

• Cash Down Payment – Farmers may elect to receive the same dollar amount as the Interest Buy Down amount as cash down payment rather than the Interest Buy Down. If the farmer elects to receive the cash down payment then the interest rate shall be at the bank’s normal and customary interest rate.

• Loan Loss Reserve – a dedicated fund established for the purpose of payments of defaulted 75 percent guaranteed loans. The total outstanding loans guaranteed shall at no time exceed an amount which according to sound actuarial judgment would allow immediate redemption of 10 percent of the outstanding guaranteed loans by the fund at any one time. MASBDA has no legal or financial obligation beyond the funds committed to the loan loss reserve and is not subject to further recourse in the event losses exceed the amount of the loan loss reserve.

How does the Program Work?

Contact EnSave at 800-732-1399 to have an initial assessment completed to determine whether an energy audit is appropriate for the farm operation. To participate in the financial assistance programs available, please read the full guidelines and complete the applications.
Who is Eligible?

1. Animal agriculture farmers not required to be permitted as a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO).

2. Applicant must be a legal Missouri resident and at least 18 years old.

3. Applicant must be able to provide proof of citizenship or immigration status, identity and residence. If the borrower employs laborers, he/she must also provide proof of enrollment and participation in the federal work authorization program.

4. An eligible lender is any state or national bank, farm credit system, bank for cooperatives, federal or state chartered savings and loan association, federal or state building and loan association or a small business investment company. All lenders must be subject to credit examination by an agency of the state or federal government.

5. Eligibility will not be determined or otherwise affected by any consideration of race, religion, sex, creed, color or residence, other than the individual borrower must be a legal Missouri resident at least 18 years of age, and the farm and/or farm house must be located in Missouri.

Other Information

Records: MASBDA reserves the right to ask for additional information necessary to ensure program eligibility.

Audit: MASBDA reserves the right to audit approved loans to ensure compliance with program requirements.

Click here for more information.  To contact MASBDA click here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Native Pollinators Workshop

On Friday, August 13, 2010, a native pollinators workshop will be held.  The workshop topics to be included are:

•Importance and biology of native bees and other pollinators in urban, rural, and natural areas

•Creating habitat for native pollinators

•Native plants that attract pollinators

•Integrated Pest Management in farms

•State and Federal Conservation Programs, and more.

Who should attend:
This workshop is open to everyone including producers, farmers, extension and research specialists, master naturalists, master gardeners, conservationists, and anyone interested in learning about native pollinators.

8:30 am to 3 pm, with option of a prairie tour from 3‐5pm.  Indoor and outdoor training and exhibits will be included.

MU‐Bradford Research and Extension Center, Columbia, MO.  For directions visit:

For registration or more information contact Nadia Navarrete‐Tindall at  or register online here
$15/person includes lunch, refreshments, native seed and educational materials

Please send registration and check payable, by August 6, to Missouri Prairie Foundation at P.O. Box 200, Columbia, MO 65205

Sponsored by Lincoln University, University of Missouri, MO Dept of Conservation, MO Native Seed Assn, MO Prairie Foundation, and the Xerces Society

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bees Enhance Fruit and Vegetable Harvests

About 35 percent of the food that we eat is the direct result of insect pollination. To many producers, this process is an integral part of the production cycle.

Historically, this service has been optimized through the use of managed European honeybees. With a decline in managed hives for rent, producers are encouraging habitat establishment for native bees as a means to help meet their yield goals. By at least partly relying upon indigenous species of insects to provide pollinator service, farmers of insect-pollinated crops are less vulnerable to insufficient yields.

Native pollinators work differently than honeybees. Unlike honeybees, native bees are undeterred by rain, cold weather and overcast conditions. This is particularly important for fruit growers whose crops flower in the spring.

Native bees generally have the ability to access flowers that honeybees pass by.  This, along with native bee’s aptitude to make honeybees more effective by disrupting their flight patterns, points to their ability to add economic value by enhancing pollination and yield.

Fortunately, establishing native pollinator habitat is quite simple. A quick assessment of the farm may reveal that these habitats already exist; typically along fence rows, under power lines and along stream banks.

By simply leaving these areas alone, a farmer can foster the growth of native insect populations. Many conservation practices already installed on the farm can easily be modified to include native forbs to attract native insect populations.

Farming for Bees,” offered by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, is available at no charge.  The publication provides information on the value of native pollinators in agriculture and how to enhance native pollinator populations.
(Western bumble bee picture by Derrick Ditchburn)
(by Marlin Bates, MU Extension Horticulturalist, West Central MO)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Managing Farm Habitat for Wild Pollinators

Wild pollinators can provide important pollination services for many food crops. Wild bees in particular can significantly augment—and sometimes even replace—pollination services provided by the European honey bee. For some crops wild bees are even more effective pollinators than their honey bee cousins. By understanding the landscape and conservation needs of wild bees and other native pollinators, farmers can manage wild pollinator habitat and enhance pollination services on their farms.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation has developed a comprehensive toolkit for native pollinator conservation on farms: Organic Farming for Bees – Conservation of Native Crop Pollinators in Organic Farming Systems, partially funded by Organic Farming Research Foundation. The toolkit provides materials designed to help organic farmers conserve native pollinators and take advantage of the crop pollination services they can provide. In addition, a workshop curriculum complements these resources and provides training on native pollinator conservation on organic farms.

The goal of this project is to provide organic growers with sustainable pollination services through the creation and management of farm habitat that supports native bees. Specific project objectives are to educate organic growers about (1) recent research that increases our understanding of the role native bees play in crop pollination, (2) the specific habitat needs of native bees, (3) how to provide this habitat, and (4) how to reduce impacts of organic farming practices on these pollinators.

Native pollinators have two basic habitat needs: a diversity of flowering plants and nesting sites.

The native pollinator toolkit is organized into fact sheets, each outlining a different protocol for maximizing habitat and minimizing risks to wild pollinators. The fact sheets include extensive regional plants lists for creating native bee habitat, guidelines for building and maintaining artificial nest sites, and strategies for managing organic pesticides to reduce harmful impacts to bees. Special attention is given to the subject of tillage and other weed management practices, which are among the organic farming activities that pose the most potential harm to native bees. While different species of native bees use a variety of nesting sites including natural tunnels and cavities, approximately 70% of our native bees nest underground.

In addition to more secure and effective pollination, organic growers benefit from the other ecological services these protocols provide. The same habitat enhancements and management practices that support wild pollinators also support beneficial insects such as parasitoid wasps, predacious flies and beetles, ambush and assassin bugs, lacewings and others.

Many of these conservation efforts can be funded through cost-sharing and incentive payments made available through farm bill programs. Among these funding sources are Natural Resources Conservation Service programs such as the Environmental Quality Improvement Program and the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, as well as the Farm Service Agency Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the CRP State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program.

The Xerces Society is an international, nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Scott Hoffman Black, the organization’s director, believes pollinator conservation and organic farms are a natural fit. The group embarked on this project because they saw the need to work more with farm landscapes in their ongoing efforts in support of invertebrate protection.

“Agriculture is the largest global land use on the planet, and we need to conserve biodiversity through working with agriculture,” says Hoffman Black. “We felt that pollinators would be a great way to reach out to farmers--if you want an apple, you need pollinators. The organic farmer audience was perfect because we could talk about a benefit to them —that they could benefit the environment and benefit themselves at the same time. They get it.”

By establishing management protocols for wild bees, wild pollinators gain new opportunities for success and a new place in agricultural ecosystems. This is a win-win situation, providing growers with better pollination and new habitat for native species.

From the native pollinator fact sheets:

• Approximately 4,000 species of bees are native to the U.S.

• The non-native, European honey bee is the most important crop pollinator.

• Honey bee numbers are in decline because of disease and other factors, making native pollinators even more important to the future of agriculture.

• The honey bee is not native to North America and is not as well adapted to some climatic conditions as native bees.

• Some native bees are more efficient pollinators than honey bees for native new world crops (such as tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cranberries, and blueberries) as well as many old world orchard crops (such as apples and cherries).

• Unlike honey bees, native bees perform buzz pollination, which is highly beneficial for the cross-pollination of tomatoes, peppers, cranberries and blueberries, as well as other plants. In tomatoes, buzz pollination by bees results in larger and more abundant fruit.

• Research is documenting declining native bee numbers across the country. While native bees are not affected by the same disease and parasite problems as honey bees, they are facing unprecedented habitat loss and exposure to pesticides.

• The reduced use of pesticides as well as more sustainable management practices makes organic farms an important asset in protecting pollinators. Many organic operations already have good numbers of existing wild bees. In some cases, these native bees can effectively provide all necessary crop pollination services when bee-friendly management practices are implemented.

(Photo of the rusty patched bumble bee by Johanna James-Heinz)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Urban Homesteading: Returning to the Lost Art of Sustainable Living

When getting started in farming, money can be real tight, even sometimes for the basics.  Here is a great course that can help you learn the "lost art" of being self-reliant.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about homesteading? Do you think about canning tomatoes with your grandmother? Maybe you envision a pioneer woman churning butter or knitting socks. Often times, sustainable living comes to mind. Sustainable living is not just for rural people: Even with limited or no space, you can take steps to become more self-reliant!

In light of turbulent economic times, many Americans are turning to the lost art of self-sufficiency. This is not surprising considering 4.1 million Americans lost their jobs in 2009, and it is estimated that a staggering 15 million Americans were out of work at the beginning of 2010. Pressing times are upon us, and the evidence is everywhere in the form of home foreclosures, brown sack lunches and sacrificed vacations.

The mission of University of Missouri’s Urban Homesteading Program is simple: To empower urban and rural individuals to take steps to become more self-sufficient by providing tools and education on basic homesteading practices. Class topics include container gardening, food preservation information, stretching your food dollars, and tips to help you live on less. No, we’re not going to ask you what kind of vehicle you drive or whether you use paper, plastic or reusable bags. This program will help you determine what’s important to YOU, and provide tools and information to help you incorporate those sustainable behaviors into your everyday life.

Urban Homesteading is a six-week program and will be held on Thursday evenings beginning September 16 through October 21, 2010 at the Mineral Area TCRC located in the Technology Center at Mineral Area College from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Registration is $50 and includes an 18 hour workshop, an Urban Homesteading Resource Workbook and a Resource CD. Class size is limited, so enroll today by calling or emailing Lynn Heins at the Washington County Extension Office – (573) 438-2671 or Please make checks payable to Washington County Extension and mail to 113 N. Missouri St., Suite A, Potosi, MO 63664.   (Lynn Heins, Agriculture Business Specialist, University of Missouri Extension)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Beginning Farmer Workshop - Farm Tractors 101

If you're new to farming and are thinking you need a tractor but aren't sure which one to buy for the needs you will have on your farm, then register for the Beginning Farmer Workshop - Farm Tractors 101.  The workshop will be held at the Jefferson Farm, 4800 New Haven Road, Columbia (one mile east of Hwy. 63 on New Haven Road).

The workshop be offered on Wednesday evening, July 14, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm; if the first session fills up a second session will be offered Thursday morning, July 15, from 8:30 to 10:00 am.

Dr. Rob Myers, agronomist and director of programs with the Jefferson Institute will lead the program.  Sessions will include time spent actually driving and operating tractors.

Curriculum being covered

- selecting a tractor appropriate to your farm
- tractor transmissions and shifting

- using a tractor PTO with implements

- using tractor hydraulics

- tractor safety

- using tractors with farm implements

- brief overview of other farm equipment

- practice time driving and operating one of the tractors at the farm

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

Registration limited to 25 participants to allow hands-on learning. The cost of registration is $20 in advance or $30 at the door, but advance registration requested.