Friday, October 29, 2010

Successful Social Media Marketing

This three-hour workshop will look at the social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

When: Thursday, December 2, 2010

1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Where: Jasper County Extension Office
Courthouse Basement
Carthage MO

Participants will learn how to:
• retain current customers
• increase “word-of-mouth” referrals from other clients
• bring in new customers

Course Objectives
At the end of this learning experience, you will be able to:
• Identify which social media sites will work for you
• Develop your social media strategy and action plan
• Create your sites and successfully incorporate Social Media into your marketing plan

For more information on these workshops, contact Kathy Macomber at 417-682-3579.
Seating is limited: Pre-registration required for both workshops; call 417-358-2158
Fee: $29 includes materials

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Turning Ragweed into a Cash Crop

Allergy season has arrived and 30 percent of American’s curse the pollen production of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) this time of year while they suffer the symptoms of “hay fever.”

But thanks to a study being conducted at University of Missouri’s Southwest Center in Mt. Vernon, common ragweed could change from a curse to a money maker for some Missouri farmers.

Pharmaceutical companies have actually been collecting pollen from ragweed for years to create antigens for use in allergy medications. Harvesting of the pollen is done by harvesting ragweed pollen from plants that grow naturally in the field.

Many times, the weed has taken over a field after a cultivated crop has been harvested.

The goal of researchers and MU Extension specialists involved with this project is to improve pollen count and quality.

A 2009 a study at the Southwest Center focused on the production of Ambrosia artemisiifolia for a pollen collection company located in Missouri. Various parameters of ragweed production, feasibility of producing it in Missouri as a crop and field experimentation options were studied.

“The goal of the project was to identify how to improve the agronomical growing of Ambrosia artemisiifolia,” said Jay Chism, an agronomy specialist with MU Extension in Barton County. “The main purpose was to determine if large scale cultivation of Ambrosia is feasible and to determine the amount of land required to satisfy the long term demands for the development of antigens for allergy relief.”

Experimentation was in a controlled greenhouse and in field trials. A crop was grown on two local farms to follow on-farm growing conditions.

The study involved trials with density variation, fertilizer applications, irrigation of plots and various soil preparations. Studies also compared seed collected locally versus seed collected outside Missouri.

“Thus far the jury is still out in terms of any role fertilization plays,” says Ed Browning, natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension in Jasper County. “Higher densities, for the most part, tend to yield more pollen, but there can be greater pollen yield per plant depending on other factors. We’ve proven that we can plant it and get it to grow. We just need to find the right combination to get it to really produce.”

According to information from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, among those Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed. Over 30 percent of Americans suffer from “hay fever.” Symptoms include eye irritation, runny nose, stuffy nose, puffy eyes, sneezing and an inflamed and itchy hose and throat.

The research project at the Southwest Center could help ease those symptoms by contributing quality pollen to the development of more effective allergy medications and diagnostic tests.
(by David Burton, MU Civic Communications Specialist)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Disease and Insect Control Begins This Fall

By the time most autumn leaves have fallen from the trees and frost has killed your vegetables, you may no longer be thinking about weeds, plant diseases and insect problems, until next summer. Actually this is the perfect time to start a cultural IPM practice called fall sanitation. The following common-sense practices can help in controlling next year's diseases and insect problems in your garden, in your field, or in your high tunnel:

(1) Keep weeds pulled. Slugs and some insects (e.g., stink bugs, squash bugs) can overwinter in weedy areas and weeds will seed themselves, becoming a much more challenging problem the next year.

(2) When the crop is finished, remove and destroy all plant material including the roots. Many plant disease organisms (called pathogens) survive the winter in infected plant debris. Examples include pathogens that cause fungal diseases in tomato such as anthracnose, gray mold, early blight, leaf mold, and Septoria leaf spot.

(3) Be sure to continue controlling important insect pests such as squash bugs and cucumber beetles into fall. In the case of cucumber beetles, the pathogen that causes bacterial wilt of cantaloupe, cucumber, and other cucurbits overwinters only inside the beetles’ gut.

(4) Disinfect tools and shears.

(5) Practice record keeping by writing down what soil amendments you used, what IPM practices worked best and what didn’t work, and what crops you grew in each area. That will help you to plan your crop rotations.

Don’t let the pest overwinter in your vegetable production site!

(by Jaime Pinero, Integrated Pest Management specialist, Lincoln University)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Annual National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference Features Farmers, Ranchers and More

Join a host of SARE grant recipients plus staff from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program at the largest annual small farm trade show in the United States-The National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference(tm). Now in its 18th year, the Conference takes place on Thursday, November 4th through Saturday, November 6th, 2010, in Columbia, Missouri, at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

Can you farm or ranch while protecting the environment, making a profit, and benefiting your community? These speakers say, "Yes!" and will show you how to do it. There will be more than 30 Farmers Forum talks featuring North Central Region SARE (NCR-SARE) Farmer Rancher Grant and Youth & Youth Educator Grant recipients. Sessions are 25 to 55 minutes long and run continuously throughout the three-day event. You'll hear about composting, beneficial bees, agroforestry, heritage turkeys, community gardens, local food systems, freshwater shrimp farming, weed control with goats, elderberries, and much more. After the talks, meet the speakers and pick up free sustainable agriculture resources at the SARE Trade Show booths. Call NCR-SARE for Farmers Forum details: 1-800-529-1342.

Choose from 19 one-hour seminars at the show. Don't miss the Financial Technical Opportunities for Your Farm seminar on Nov. 4 by Lauren Cartwright, NRCS Agricultural Economist, or the Improved Egg Quality seminar on Nov. 5 by Kelly Klober, poultry producer and NCR-SARE grant recipient.

Six short courses give you the opportunity to get in-depth information on topics ranging from sweet potato production to building a parasite resistant sheep flock. Attend a movable high tunnel demonstration offsite in Ashland, MO.

The National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference is sponsored by Small Farm Today and sustained by Missouri Department of Agriculture, NCAT-ATTRA, SARE (USDA-NIFA), Lincoln University and Truman State University.

Show times are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Preregistration is $8 for 1 day, $12 for 2 days, or $15 for all 3 days, allowing attendance of the trade show, seminars, demonstrations, exhibits, shows, meetings, and Farmer's Forum. Three-hour short courses are an additional $35 each ($25 in advance before October 27). To register, call Small Farm Today at 800-633-2535, or go to National Small Farm Show  for more information.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beginning Beekeeping Workshop

Tuesday, Nov 2 from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Nevada Telecenter, 2015 N West St, Nevada, MO

University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist and beekeeper Travis Harper will discuss how to get started in beekeeping and how to manage hives for honey production.  Topics covered will include:
*  equipment
*  obtaining bees
*  site selection
*  bee forage
*  seasonal management
*  diseases and pests

Cost $15/person.  Class is limited to the first 30 paid participants.

Contact the Vernon County Extension Center at 417-448-2560 to register.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sheep and Goat Initiative Meeting

Saturday, November 6, 2010

University of Missouri's Southwest Missouri Research Center
Mt. Vernon, MO

Located:  South of I-44 on Hwy H between exits 38 & 44
Registration:  includes lunch; $15 at the door, $10 for pre-registration to Newton
County Extension Center, Smith Hall (Crowder College), 601 Laclede Avenue, Neosho, MO 64850, or email to or call 417-455-9500


8:15-9:00 am Registration

8:50-9:00 Welcome—Dr. Jodie Pennington, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Service, Newton County Extension Center, Neosho, MO

9:00- 9:30 Factors in Getting Started—Dr. Jodie Pennington, and Dr. Helen Swartz, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Service, Jefferson City, MO

9:30-10:15 Animal Health, What’s New–Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Service, Jefferson City, MO

10:15-10:30 Break, view exhibits

10:30-11:00 Marketing with Social Media: Facebook, UTube, Twitter, MySpace, Etc–Sarah Gehring, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Jefferson City, MO

11:00–11:30 Bio-security; Rules and Regulations Updates–Rachel Heimericks, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Jefferson City, MO

11:30-12:20 LUNCH (provided in registration fee), questions, and view exhibits

12:20-12:55 Production Demonstrations (8 minutes rotations): view at your leisure
   *1) hoof trimming
   *2) deworming, injections
   *3) weight estimates, body condition scoring
   *4) bio-security on the farm

12:55-1:05 Break, move to meeting room

1:05-1:45 Marketing Your Sheep and Goats—Todd Schubert, Manager, Diamond Sheep and Goat Sale

1:45-3:00 Production and Marketing Strategies of Valve-Added Products: a panel discussion
   * Dairy Products—Rick and Deborah Christman, Stoney Acres Sheep Dairy, Competition, MO
   * Meat Processing—Andy or Nicky Cloud, Cloud’s Meats, Carthage, MO
   * Robert and Rudy Long, Golden City Meat Company, Golden City, MO

Product Branding – Dairy: Rick Christman, Stoney Acres Sheep Dairy; Meats: Sunny Lane Lane Farm, Greg and Nancy Rasmussen, Lockwood, MO

Mass and Direct Marketing—Cindy Palmer, Sheep and Goat Breeder and Market Reporter, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Reeds, MO

3:00-3:15 Questions, Evaluations and Adjourn

Sponsored by Lincoln University  Cooperative Extension, University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Beginning Farming Program

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First Steps in Small Farm Business Planning

Coming up on Saturday, Oct. 30th, Growing Growers will present the final workshop of the 2010 season.

"First Steps in Small Farm Business Planning"

Saturday, October 30th
10 am to 4 pm
Cost: $30.00, lunch provided
Location: K-State Extension Station, 35230 W. 135th St., Olathe, KS

"First Steps in Small Farm Business Planning" is a workshop to help anyone considering starting a farm think about how their farm will operate as a business and what they need to do to get off to a sound start.

Katherine Kelly of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture and David Andre', attorney and business coach, will cover topics including: taking an inventory of resources, considering different business structures; financial planning, marketing ideas and setting realistic goals.

In-class exercises will help participants apply concepts to their own specific farm plans.  This is a full day workshop, chock full of good information.

You may pay at the door, but please pre-register with Laura Christensen at (816) 805 0362.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beginning Beekeeping Short Course

Saturday, October 30, 2010 from 9:00am-3:00pm
Hunter Civic Center, 201 W. Jasper St., Versailles, Missouri

This all day workshop will be taught by Dr. Ray Nabors, entomologist and honeybee specialist. Come learn about how to start, manage and maintain productive honeybee colonies through an entire year. Also, learn about marketing honey and other products of the hive.
Cost:  $25 for individuals, $40 for a family.  Class limited to first 50 paid participants.  Contact the Morgan/Moniteau County Extension Center at 573-378-5358 for more information or to register.  Deadline to register is October 27, 2010.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

NRCS Announces Sign-Up Deadlines for Four Programs

The Natural Resources Conservation Service announced sign-up deadlines for four popular programs that offer financial and technical assistance to Missouri landowners. While sign up for the programs is continuous, only those who sign up by the listed dates will be eligible for the next round of funding, says State Conservationist J.R. Flores.

The programs and funding deadlines are:

November 19
€ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
€ Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)

November 30
€ Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
€ Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

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

WHIP enhances habitat on eligible land for upland and wetland wildlife, threatened and endangered species, and other types of wildlife identified as rare or declining species. Many types of land, including grassland, woodland, wetlands, stream and riparian areas, agricultural land and non-agricultural land may be eligible for WHIP funds.

WRP provides technical and financial assistance to eligible landowners to increase wetlands. WRP participants limit their future use of the land, but retain private ownership. Participating landowners can select permanent easements, 30-year easements, or cost-share agreements to restore wetland functions and values without placing an easement on enrolled acres.

GRP offers landowners financial incentives to keep land as grassland. They may receive payment in exchange for permanent easements, or receive annual rental payments for 10 years, 15 years or 20 years. Applicants must offer at least 40 contiguous acres of grassland and have a grazing management plan.

"These programs provide a lot of benefits to the people of Missouri, and not only to the farmers and ranchers who sign up for them," Flores says. "They offer both on-site and off-site benefits, including reducing soil erosion, protecting water quality, increasing wildlife habitat, enhancing soil quality, reducing flooding, and even providing cleaner air to breathe."

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

Monday, October 18, 2010

2 High Tunnel Workshops

There are two exciting workshops right around the corner, one a build a high tunnel the other a high tunnel fall management workshop.

High Tunnel Building Workshop
Oct 22 & 23
9:00 am to 4:00 pm
22592 Highway AA
Higginsville, MO 64037

Would you like to know how to build  high tunnel?  High tunnels allow season extension and protect delicate plants without using electricity or propsane.  This workshop will provide hands-on practical experience for anyone interested in constructing a high tunnel.  Lunch and beverages are provided if you pre-register.

Be prepared for the weather and wear protective clothing.  Bring gloves and hats with you.

To register or for more information, contact Susan Jaster, Lincoln University Farm Outreach Worker at 816-589-4725.  Sponsored by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension.

High Tunnel Fall Management
Oct 26, 2010
2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
30226 Holly Road
Pierce City, MO 65712

*  SARE grant & NRCS high tunnel grant updates, Sara Becker, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension
*  IPM in High Tunnels, Jaime Pinero, State IPM Specialist, Lincoln University
*  Economics of tomato production in high tunnels, Pat Byers, Regional Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri
*  Tour the farm's high tunnels, Dennis Hatfield, farm owner

The Hatfields added high tunnel tomato production to their farming opeartion in 2005, allowing production from mid-May through mid-January.  In August of this year, they had 5,700 tomato plants in production with an equal number slated for late planting.

For more information contact Sarah Becker at 417-597-4412.  There is no charge for this workshop which underwritten by a USDA Specialty Crops grant to the Webb City Farmers' Market.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Growing Chestnuts in Missouri a Challenge, But Possible

Roasting chestnuts over an open fire sounds like a nice holiday activity. But, it takes extra work and the right variety to grow chestnuts in the Ozarks according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Byers says three chestnut species are native to the United States: American chestnut, Alleheny chinkapin and Ozark chinkapin. However, all three are very susceptible to chestnut blight attack.

As a result, the Chinese chestnut is an emerging new tree crop for the Midwest. The Chinese chestnut tree is a spreading, medium-sized tree with glossy dark leaves bearing large crops of nutritious nuts.

“These delicious nuts are a healthy, low-fat food ingredient that can be incorporated into a wide range of dishes. Chinese chestnut trees are medium sized and they have great cold tolerance and adequate tolerance to chestnut blight,” said Byers.

Chinese chestnuts can be grown about anywhere if the soil is well drained and not within a frost pocket. Chinese chestnut trees are drought tolerant once established, but ample water throughout the growing season promotes good tree growth and regular nut production.

“For the most part, the Chinese chestnut is pest free and in a small-scale planting can be successfully grown without pesticides,” said Byers.

Byers recommends grafted trees of proven varieties for the backyard gardener. Grafted varieties provide more uniform ripening, higher nut quality, larger nut size and more consistent yields.

Several different varieties such as Eaton, Mossbarger, Sleeping Giant, Peach, Wing, Willamette and Revival have been recommended for Missouri. A list of retail nursery locations that sell grafted varieties are available online.

Byers also recommends that three trees of different varieties be planted together to ensure pollination. Spacing trees at least 40 feet apart will allow ample room for tree growth.

“Homeowners should plant chestnut trees where children and pets can be kept away from the spiny burrs that fall to the ground at harvest. Also keep in mind that chestnuts require full sun for best nut production so they should not be planted next to large shade trees,” said Byers.

Grafted Chinese chestnuts should start bearing nuts one to three years after planting.

“At that point, you should have the pleasure of roasting your very own chestnuts over an open fire during the holiday season,” said Byers.

For additional information on growing Chinese chestnuts, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center or call Greene County’s Master Gardener Hotline at (417) 862-9284.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Agritourism: Selling the Farm Experience

Agriculture and tourism are big industries in Missouri. Some of Missouri’s rural entrepreneurs are finding ways to contribute to both industries, making a profitable mixture of food production, hospitality and recreation on their farms.

“Agritourism is a business venture located on a working farm, ranch or other agricultural enterprise that provides an experience for visitors while generating supplemental income for the owner,” said Whitney Wiegel, University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.

“Examples of agritourism include corn mazes, horseback riding, U-pick produce, fee hunting, school tours, wagon rides and on-farm sales,” he said.

Agritourism can diversify revenue sources, establish an alternative marketing outlet, generate price premiums for farm products, create an opportunity to capitalize on the aesthetic value of agricultural land and allow farm owners to share their passion for agriculture with others.

“Anyone planning to start an agritourism venture should look at the venture as a business,” Wiegel said. “First, ask yourself what type of agritourism business you want to operate. Will its purpose be to supplement cash flow, earn a profit or provide educational fun and enjoyment without making a profit? Identifying your goals is foundational in operating any type of farm enterprise, whether it’s agritourism or commodity production.”

The next two steps go hand-in-hand—market research and resource assessment.

“Your market research and resource assessment should answer the following questions: ‘Who will come to my farm?’ and ‘Why will they come?’” he said.

Your marketing efforts should be based on whom you intend to attract to your business. Will you try to attract families, retired people, schoolchildren or some other class of people? Will you try to attract local people, people from a nearby city, travelers along a major highway or others?

“Also, consider what characteristics of your farm will attract your target population,” he said. “This is where your farm resources come into the picture. Do you offer a peaceful place in the country where couples can come to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, an educational venue for elementary schools, a paradise for hunters or recreational opportunities for horse owners/riders?”

The next step is to write a business plan that clearly explains the nature of your business.

“Your business plan will help you determine whether or not your business will accomplish your goals and it will help you communicate your idea with people who may be able to help you succeed,” Wiegel said.

For more information about business planning and resources to help you get started in agritourism, contact your local MU Extension office. Many online resources are available through MU Extension.  (by Milly Carter,University of Missouri Extension)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beginning FarmerEntrepreneurship Project

The Entrepreneurship Project is designed to help these beginning farmers develop an entrepreneurial approach to their farming operation. The intensive program includes 4 modules with site visits to innovative farm businesses in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and the State of California. It also includes classroom sessions on identifying business opportunities, marketing and financing creative farm ventures.

Participants need to be beginning farmers (farming for less than 10 years) or interested in getting started farming. Young people who grew up on farms and are looking for ways to return to farming are welcome to apply—working on their family’s farm when growing up does not exclude them from the program. Couples and farm partners are also welcome to apply, but each person who wishes to participate must complete the application materials and pay the refundable deposit. The application process is simple, and includes responding to the questions below.

Please help us in getting the word out on this new and innovative program! The project flier is attached. You can find additional information on the project’s blog. Questions should be directed to Jill Lucht or 573-884-3185.

Application Information:

1. Name, address, phone, email address:

2. Are you available for all of the dates required*?
    January 19 – 22, 2011 St Louis
    February 23 – 26, 2011 Kansas City
    March 22-26, 2011 Sonoma Valley, California
    May 18 – 21, 2011 Columbia

3. Why are you interested in participating in The Entrepreneurship Project? (Please describe your interest in approximately 100 words.)

4. What are you hoping to learn in The Entrepreneurship Project (approximately 100 words)?

5. Are you currently involved in farming? If YES, tell us about it.

6. Are you currently employed in a non-farm career? If yes, tell us about your current field.

7. Are there any particular small farm entrepreneurship opportunities (type of production, marketing, etc.) that you are interested in?

*The Entrepreneurship Project is pleased to underwrite the majority of costs associated with the four instructional modules, including hotel rooms, airfare to the California-based module, and the majority of meals during the modules. If a participant is unable to attend a module, the Entrepreneurship Project may still be billed for plane tickets, lodging, and other expenses. Therefore, we ask all persons accepted into the program to pay a refundable deposit of $400. Upon successful completion of the four modules, this deposit will be fully refunded. If a participant misses one or more modules, actual costs will be deducted and the remainder of the deposit, if any, will be refunded at the end of the course.

This will be a great opportunity to develop the entrepreneurship skill sets of those that are the future of Missouri agriculture.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Food Safety is Crucial to Beginning Farmers

Chris Blanchard, owner of Rock Spring Farm, believes that food safety has to be uppermost in farmers’ minds, particularly those who produce for local or direct markets. It is one of the best ways to protect your livelihood as a farmer because property food safety techniques can lead to higher quality products. It is also imperative for farmers to practice good food safety techniques because each individual farmer is protecting all the farmers who are trying to do direct marketing or marketing their products locally. As Chris explained, commercial spinach growers are still suffering from the impact of a big food safety scare in 2006 when e-coli 0157:H7 sickened hundreds of people in 26 states. Spinach sales have not yet recovered. From Chris’s perspective, all it takes is one sick kid from a farm-to-school program anywhere in the country to destroy farm-to-table programs everywhere.

So what can farmers’ do to minimize the risk of unintentional contamination of their products? Most food safety techniques are really simple according to Chris.

• Install a hand wash station near your washing and packing area. All you have to have is running water, disposable towels and good soap. This can cut down on any cross-contamination between products and any unintentional contamination from workers.

• Keep sick people off the farm – or at least in the farm house. People suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses may not mean to bring the germs on the farm, but they do carry it on clothing and skin.

• Maintain your cold chain. The rate of biological activity doubles with every 10⁰ increase in temperature. Keeping produce at the right temperature and humidity maintains quality as well as protects against pathogen contamination.

• Test your water often. Maintaining water quality for producing or washing products is extremely important because many pathogens can be water-borne. Testing just once a year can miss changes in the environment that can contribute to pathogens in the water (e.g. moving animals around on a nearby farm on a seasonal basis may impact your water source.) Chris recommends quarterly testing of water.

• Shud is not good! This combination of s*#t and mud can be deadly to vegetable and fruit products. Don’t move from livestock operations to vegetable operations on the same farm or neighboring farms without a major clean-up of boots, clothing and skin.

For more information on ways to protect your products from contamination, see Kansas State University’s Food*A*Syst manual that contains checklists of procedures that you can implement on your farm to reduce your risk of food safety contamination.  (by Mary Hendrickson)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Estimating Income to Achieve Farm Goals

Last week in Wisconsin, I had the pleasure of hearing Chris Blanchard of Rock Spring Farm in northeast Iowa. Chris has a very successful vegetable farm that includes a CSA, sales at farmers’ markets and wholesale sales to grocery stores and distributors in the Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota tri-state region. His advice to farmers – be “big enough to achieve the income you want.” Starting too small can wear you out as you try to work a full-time job and farm part-time. Too big can bring its own set of headaches.

He advises new farmers to think about what it will take to achieve “your long-term goals.” How much profit will you need? Are you looking to pay your bills only? Or are you also focusing on putting something aside for retirement, paying for college for your kids, having health insurance? Most farmers would say yes, we need all those things. What might not be so important is a new home and a new car – perhaps you just need a car that starts!

Chris Blanchard’s point is that you need to know what kind of income you need to achieve the goals you set. From there you can figure out how much product you need to grow. For instance, if you want an income of $50,000 per year, assuming that you are going to clear about 40% on what your farm produces, you will need to sell $125,000 worth of products. If you want to do any improvements, you’ll need to add $10,000 for capital investments per year. That means that you need about $135,000 in gross income. So if you can gross about $10,000/acre, you’ll need 13.5 acres of crops. Another way to think about it is in the amount of bunches you need to sell each Saturday at the market. If you are making $2/bunch on carrots for instance, you’ll need to sell 1,500 bunches to make a goal of $3,000 at the farmers’ market.

To sum it up -- beginning farmers need to consider what goals they are trying to achieve, and then figure out the income stream needed to achieve those goals.

Chris Blanchard’s presentation will be available at  (by Mary Hendrickson)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pasture-Raised Heritage Breed Turkeys

SARE Youth Grant Recipient YNC08-001
Missouri Youth – Will King

Objective: To hatch and raise my own turkeys out of my existing birds, to market my birds to various ethnic groups that come to our farm to buy livestock and poultry, and to cook one of my birds and do a taste test and survey about how the bird tasted compared to store-bought turkey.

Results: Raising heritage turkeys outdoors on pasture reduces stress and is a healthier environment for them. They’re better adapted to outdoor life. Before receiving this grant, I had two different varieties of heritage breed turkeys, but had not tried to raise any on my own. When my original turkey hens started laying eggs, I put them in an incubator. I also put eggs under broody chicken hens and, toward the end of the laying season, let two turkey hens set on a clutch of eggs.

None of the incubated eggs or those under the chickens hatched. Two eggs under the turkey hens hatched, but neither poult lived past day one. I’ve since learned that to increase hatchability of eggs, I need to increase the feed protein level from the 16 percent I was feeding to 20 percent. I need to make sure eggs cool to 50 degrees before putting them into an incubator, and to keep setting turkey hens where the hatchlings can’t wander off and get chilled.

Since none of my eggs hatched, the only young birds I had were the 16 Royal Palm turkeys I bought with the grant money. I’ve kept back a Royal Palm tom and four Royal Palm hens to use as breeders. 

I processed a pasture-raised heritage breed tom, which my mother served at two Missouri Extension Council dinners. I surveyed those attending. They said they thought it tasted better than a store-bought turkey. Most said they’d be willing to pay a little more for a local, sustainably raised bird.

There is demand for this type of product. I am going to try this project again, and will be printing a sales brochure, and planting disease-resistance dwarf fruit trees in my turkey pasture.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Can Straw Mulch and a High Tunnel Be Used to Better Grow Ginger in the Midwest?

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Recipient FNC07-650
Kansas City, KS – Pov Huns

Objective: To determine whether ginger production can be improved on an urban Kansas City acreage through use of straw mulch, a high tunnel, and other practices that would allow producers to forgo the usual 10-year crop rotation system.
Results: With my wife, Chaxamone Lor, I grew specialty vegetables and herbs for years in Fresno, CA, but we have moved to Kansas City, KS, where we continue to grow produce on a 3.95-acre urban site. We serve a diverse customer base including immigrants from Africa, the Middle East, South America, the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands, and Asia, as well as locals interested in healthy eating.  Our produce is sold at the City Market in Kansas City, MO.
We want to meet growing demand by altering production practices to extend the growing season. 
Ginger does not grow well in the Midwest because of the short growing season. We set out to see whether straw mulch and a high tunnel could be used to extend the season by increasing early spring temperatures. I also wanted to grow ginger without the commonly used 10-year crop rotation, which prevents the development of nematodes and rot before the ginger matures.

Because ginger grows slowly, has a limited root system, and is subject to nematode damage, I sterilized the ginger seed pieces with a bleach solution, dried them, and planted them in plastic bags filled with peat moss to conserve moisture.  To achieve sprouting, I placed the bags in a 75 to 80 degree environment.

After sprouting and gardening, the rhizomes were transplanted into raised beds made of cinder blocks and filled with peat soil and covered with straw. There, they grew to maturity and were harvested.

I found that plants grown on the outer edges of the raised beds were susceptible to excessive moisture and fluctuating temperatures, resulting in smaller roots.  However, even in the outer bed, results were within expectations, with every 0.1 pound of rhizomes planted producing a half pound to 2 pounds during the second year of production. 

In the inner bed, results were much better: Every 0.1 pound of rhizomes produced 1.5 to 5 pounds in Year 2.  Nematodes were not a problem.

One challenge we ran into: Other local farmers adopted our production methods, but as supply increased, prices plummeted, making it difficult to meet expenses.

Still, our project showed that these methods could help local specialty farmers meet increasing demand for their produce.   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Planting and Growing Giant Miscanthus as a Bioenergy Crop in Missouri

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Recipient FNC07-692
Kingsville, MO – Steve Flick

Objective: To determine the commercial viability of giant miscanthus as a bioenergy crop.

Results: Interest in developing energy from biomass continues to grow. Giant miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) is a vigorous perennial grass that can grow as tall as 14 feet. It has tremendous potential for bioenergy because it recycles nutrients, has a significant yield, has little or no need for chemical weed control or fertilizer, and will produce for many years.

I decided to develop fieldscale plots of giant miscanthus and gather data to identify the suitability of Missouri soils for the grass and evaluate the production potential for our region.

In 2007 I began by handplanting 5,000 plants, covering 15,000 square feet on my farm. Later, I modified a bermudagrass sprigger to plant rhizomes. Giant miscanthus thrives in hot, wet conditions.

Our two harvests so far were 6.7 tons in 2008 and 11.7 tons in 2009, more than the harvest from traditional switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) grown in the area. We processed one crop of round bales into biomass pellets, which were used at a local utility to create electricity.  Planting giant miscanthus is very labor intensive, and I believe most farmers who grow it will plant it in small fields (less than 10 acres). If purchased from a local grower, the rhizomes will cost about $5,500 per acre to establish.

I believe giant miscanthus is most likely to be of interest to young, beginning farmers; displaced tobacco farmers; and truck gardeners.  Small-city farmers might also be interested.

Future success will depend on building more biorefineries that can process giant miscanthus.  These plants can provide jobs in rural America. Missouri has one biorefinery, the Show Me Energy Cooperative, which licenses technologies to other producer groups so they can emulate our model. With today’s tight capital markets, I see these plans being developed on a small scale – fewer than 150,000 tons per year.  Processing biomass is not easy, but the demand for renewable fuel is growing, especially for European export.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Natural Fiber Socks

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Recipient FNC01-349
Alton, MO – Nancy Barnett

Objective: To promote the production and use of wool, mohair, and Angora rabbit fiber to produce natural fiber socks. This is a sustainable agricultural operation because it turns natural fiber, a renewable resource, into usable products.

Results: I have a 12-acre farm in southeast Missouri on which I raise sheep, Angora goats, and Angora rabbits, practicing sustainable production by allowing the livestock to rotationally graze.  We needed an outlet for the animals’ natural fiber of wool, angora, and mohair to produce more revenue for the farm and make the animals more cost efficient. I have been a hand spinner for 25 years and have sold my natural fiber to other spinners for almost that long.

However, there is only so much fiber that one can sell, so we began to look for a product that would use the fiber and generate income. Our solution: natural fiber socks.

We obtained a commercial sock machine needed to process our fiber into a commercial product – socks labeled as 100 percent wool, 15 percent Angora and 85 percent wool, and 25 percent mohair and 75 percent wool. They sell for $10, $18 and $12 a pair, respectively. The profit on the Angora/wool socks is the greatest, averaging 75 percent markup if I do the washing of the wool before sending it to the mill and also if I am able to deliver the fiber to the mill owner at one of the fiber events I attend. I have many repeat customers who look for me at the fiber events I attend every year.

Response has been very good. Farmers, fishermen, hunters, and hikers who need very warm socks have been a good customer base. I attend craft and fiber festivals to promote my products and was interviewed by Successful Farming Radio.

Friday, October 1, 2010

River Hills Purebred Poultry Marketing Alliance Research Project

FNC07-687 Silex, MO – Paul J. and Kelly Harter, Kelly and Phyllis Klober, Nathan and Sarah Price, Mark and Michelle Wagstaff

Objective: Local farmers supplying eggs to the River Hills Poultry Project Alliance (RHPA) project have been maintaining laying flocks and producing eggs for years, but the market for those eggs has been limited by the lack of a delivery system to connect producers and consumers. The project seeks to develop a marketing approach for both eggs and live chicks to expand opportunities for the alliance’s producer members, who specialize in heirloom poultry breeds.

Results: Four families operating small poultry operations in east central Missouri specialize in heirloom poultry breeds such as Orpingtons and Delawares, which used to be common on family farms but now are considered rare and endangered. These birds are hardy and well-adapted to the traditional, natural production methods these small farmers prefer.

Initially, the alliance conducted surveys on breed preferences, existing ventures, marketing methods and outlets, and seed stock sources and pricing. The surveys showed a preference for classic, heritage breeds; a desire for better seed stock; and a strong interest in buying from farmers rather than commercial hatcheries. One factor the surveys didn’t initially reflect is that many of the farmers supplying table eggs use hybrid layers primarily, while farmers maintaining flocks for both table eggs and baby chicks are using heirloom breeds.  This information represents the reality of certain trends that currently exist among small producers, each having specific goals and management systems.

The alliance’s local table egg marketing efforts, headed up by Mark and Michelle Wagstaff, have moved beyond the initial grant support and were selfsustaining in 2009, with a steady supply of 300 dozen eggs every week provided to customers in the St. Louis, MO, area. Deliveries for the 2010 season have increased to over 500 dozen per week. While many Community Supported Agriculture ventures require customers to pick up their goods, the alliance provides weekly deliveries, which has led to increased orders from RHPA.

The increased success of the table egg market has enabled the alliance to solve one of its initial challenges – the high cost of shipping egg cartons.  Now that the alliance is buying in bulk, its supplier is waiving shipping costs.

Interest in locally produced poultry and eggs is even higher than the RHPA expected.  Urban consumers have been especially interested. 

A second portion of the project – the shipping of live chicks – is already underway in earnest in 2010, with an initial order for 25 Delaware chicks sent to a buyer in Tennessee. Individual RHPA members have started websites to encourage sales. Local chick sales have been steady, with customers willing to pick up orders themselves, enjoying a farm visit in the process. This type of “hands-on” approach brings buyers and producers together on a personal level, something that is missing from the majority of chick orders today.

Plans for 2010 and 2011 also are to develop a local hatchery for heritage breeds.