Thursday, December 30, 2010

Online Tool to Assist Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the department has established an online tool that can link retiring farmers who have expiring Conservation Reserve Program contracts with beginning farmers or ranchers who are interested in bringing the land into production. The new online resource, TIP Net, is a website provided by the Farm Service Agency. Through the Transition Incentives Program (TIP), producers with land for sale or lease are introduced to qualified beginning or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who want to buy or rent land for their operations.

“The interest in TIP during the first 6 months of implementation has far exceeded our expectations,” said Vilsack. “This tool should make TIP even more effective in facilitating the transition of land to our next generation of farmers.”

TIP provides up to two additional Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) annual rental payments to a retired or retiring owner or operator with an expiring CRP contract. To qualify, the landowner must sell or lease the CRP land to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher so the new operator can convert some or all of the land to production using sustainable grazing or crop production methods.

As of Nov. 30, TIP participation included 372 contracts on more than 52,000 acres, with nearly $5 million obligated for TIP annual rental payments.

For beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers who cannot qualify for conventional credit, FSA offers financing as well. FSA makes direct loans and guaranteed loans made by conventional farm lenders to finance the purchase and operation of a farm. Each fiscal year, the agency targets a significant portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership and operating loan funds to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010, FSA made or guaranteed 18,700 loans totaling $1.975 billion to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. In addition to the funding reserves, FSA operates a special "down payment" loan program to assist socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers in purchasing a farm. Like TIP, this program can help retiring farmers transfer their land to future generations.

Additional information on FSA farm loan programs is available online or from any FSA office. TIP Net can be found online.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Computers on the Farm Conference

Computers on the Farm Conference, Jan. 7-8, at Osage Beach, Mo., will cover more than computers, says John Travlos, University of Missouri program coordinator.  “Cell phones are becoming more sophisticated in offering farming aids,” said Travlos, who heads the MU Agricultural Electronic Bulletin Board (AgEBB).

The program offers training for beginners and advanced users, Travlos said. A part of the history of the conference is farmers sharing their skills.  “Farmer users tell of their experiences in using computers and software.” Travlos said. “The training is practical and farm tested.”

For the future, participants will hear an update on MoBroadBandNow an effort to bring high-speed internet connections to rural areas of the state. With federal funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the goal is to provide access to 95 percent of the population.  The Act provides $7.2 billion to expand broadband access across the U.S. Contracts have already been let for several areas in Missouri.  “This is a chance for farmers and rural citizens to have input into the future development,” Travlos said.

Traditional program topics will be offered: Ag production software, weather tools, precision agriculture technology, farm business financial software and tax tools.  Of growing interest is the use of mapping tools, Travlos said.

Software and hardware vendors will have booths at the trade show and will offer help at the conference.  Special sessions are held for young people in 4-H and FFA.

The conference can provide a weekend get away for farm families at Tan-Tar-A Resort. Conferees will have access at special rates to recreational facilities.  Individual registration fee of $115 includes meals and materials. Family rates are available.  Special room rates are offered to those enrolled. Call Tan-Tar-A at 800-826-8272.

For program details go to MU AgEbb Website or call AgEBB at 573-882-4827.  (by Duane Daily, MU Cooperative Media Group)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Know the Basics Before Putting Beef in the Freezer

Interest in putting large quantities of beef in the freezer seems to pick up this time of year according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“As more home-raised beef appears along with all-natural, forage or grass-fed beef, questions arise about the yield of packaged beef you’ll take to the freezer out of a 1000 to 1200 pound animal,” said Cole.

There is considerable variation in the amount of beef the animal produces depending on sex, age, flesh condition and class of cattle.

“Perhaps the greatest variable is the locker plant procedure itself. How much bone, fat and variety meats like the liver, heart, tongue and even the tail are prepared for you,” said Cole.

Another factor can be the amount of lean wanted in ground beef servings. A rather fat burger might run 30 percent fat – 70 percent lean while a lean burger could run 10 percent fat and 90 percent lean.

“Most households prefer an 80:20 blend for burgers but all of these decisions influence the amount you take home,” said Cole.

Research and practical experience indicate that a 1,100 pound steer that’s been fed a concentrate feed for 90 or 100 days should yield roughly 670 pounds of hanging beef.

Cole says the typical yield or dressing percentage is 60 to 62 percent. Thinner and older animals, especially cows, will have a lower dress.

“The typical beef carcass that is processed into closely trimmed cuts, some boneless, some bone-in with regular ground beef yields about 65 to 67 percent of the carcass weight into wrapped beef,” said Cole.

That means the 670 hanging weight now is broken down to about 442 pounds (670 lbs. x .66 = 442 lbs.). Remember, the 670 pound hot carcass weight shrinks some during the 10 to 14 day aging period.

“First-time buyers of a whole or half beef may anticipate more fancy steaks than they receive. Those top quality steaks are cut from the rib and short loin which together make up about 18 percent of the animal’s carcass weight,” said Cole.

Cole says the current beef market is strong and with the economy the way it is, many consumers are not financially able to buy a whole carcass.

“Producers who normally market carcass beef are developing smaller packages or bundles of beef cuts to accommodate their customers,” said Cole.

For more information, including details about the 2011 sales, contact any of the MU Extension livestock specialists in southwest Missouri: Eldon Cole in Mt. Vernon, (417) 466-3102 or Dona Goede in Cedar County, (417) 276-3313.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great Plains Grower’s Conference

One of the premier conferences for fruit and vegetable growers is found right here in northwest Missouri. Held in St. Joseph, Missouri, the Great Plains Grower’s Conference is put together every year by Extension educators from five states: Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The conference will be held next month on January 6-8, 2011.

This conference is open to everyone, from backyard gardeners to commercial produce growers. Topics cover not only vegetables, but also tree fruits, small fruits and flowers. There are also presentations targeted toward organic growers.

The event begins with workshops on Thursday. You may choose from workshops exploring the use of high tunnels in vegetable and fruit production. A second pre-conference workshop looks at a popular method of marketing known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Perhaps you are looking for ways to improve your farming operation? Pick the workshop “Farm smarter, not harder”. Finally, we will have a workshop targeted towards orchard producers.

The main conference begins on Friday. There are four concurrent tracks to choose from, so there is usually something of interest for everyone.

Some of the tracks include organics, small fruits, vegetable diseases, orchards, agritourism, irrigation, cut flowers, farmer’s markets, and more.

Many of the talks are given by university researchers, and discuss the latest studies on vegetable management, diseases, cultivar selection, and similar topics.

Other talks are presented by successful farmers, who share their stories in the hopes that they can benefit another grower. These talks are always followed by many questions from farmers who are looking for practical advice, and experienced farmers such as these will have a lot to share.

There will be many exhibitors available to provide information about seeds, irrigation, horticulture equipment, chemicals, and other topics. Meals, break refreshments, and handouts will be included in the registration fee for the main conference.

The conference will be held on the campus of Missouri Western State University. For more information about the conference and a registration form, call the Buchanan County Extension office at (816) 279-1691. You may also register on-line and find additional information on our web site.
(By Tim Baker, Northwest Region Horticulture Specialist)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

USDA Offers Conservation Funding to Organic Producers

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced USDA will provide funding to help organic producers and those transitioning to organic production implement resource conservation practices on their agricultural operations.

"Increasing consumer demand for organically grown foods is providing new opportunities for small and mid-size farmers to prosper and stay competitive in today's economy," Merrigan said. "The 2008 Farm Bill calls for this assistance, and we want to help these farmers protect the natural resources on their land and create conditions that help foster organic production."

Fiscal year (FY) 2011 marks the third year of USDA's Organic Initiative, and up to $50 million is available this year for producers to plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns in ways that are consistent with organic production. For example, organic producers may use the funding to plant cover crops, establish integrated pest management plans, or implement nutrient management systems consistent with organic certification standards.

Eligible producers include those certified through USDA's National Organic Program, those transitioning to certified organic production, and those who meet organic standards but are exempt from certification because their gross annual organic sales are less than $5,000. In FY 2010, NRCS obligated nearly $24 million through the Organic Initiative to help producers implement conservation practices.

Organic Initiative funding is provided through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a voluntary conservation program administered by USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals. The 2008 Farm Bill provided for assistance specifically for organic farm operations and those converting to organic production.

Under Organic Initiative contracts, producers are paid 75 percent of the cost for the organic conservation measures they implement. Beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers are paid 90 percent. The program provides up to $20,000 per year per person or legal entity, with a maximum total of $80,000 over six years.

Producers interested in applying for Organic Initiative funding must submit applications through their local NRCS Service Center, which can be located through the website. Applications are accepted on a continuous basis, with the cutoff date set for March 4, 2011.

NRCS is celebrating 75 years helping people help the land. Since 1935, the NRCS conservation delivery system has advanced a unique partnership with state and local governments and private landowners delivering conservation based on specific, local conservation needs, while accommodating state and national interests.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grants Advising for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

If you are a farmer who is a member of a historically socially disadvantaged group*, you are invited to use a grants advising service of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI).

MFAI’s GrantAdvisor can help you apply to grant and cost-share programs of your state or the federal government that could help you improve your farming business. These can be programs of any federal or state agency, not just the USDA. We will assist individual producers or associations of farmers who have never received a federal grant or cost-share before. We will also work with young nonprofits that are working directly with socially disadvantaged farmers to start or improve food-related businesses. We will also assist those working with disadvantaged youth involved in food or fiber production.

The Grants Advisor helps you decide whether a grant would be the best way to achieve your goals. If so, she will help you choose a grant program that fits your goals and help you outline a plan of work for you to follow to meet the application deadline and all proposal or application requirements. If not, she will suggest other resources you may choose to approach. The Advisor will help you identify local partners (agency staff, nonprofit organizations, or local volunteers with experience in grants and project management) to strengthen your project, to help you complete the proposal, and, if funding is awarded, to manage the project. The Advisor can assist you in preparing the proposal to ensure timely submission with necessary forms, attachments, and letters of support.

Most grant program deadlines are during the winter months, so please act now. Even for deadlines next fall or winter, it is best to start working now with the Grants Advisor. You can get your plan of work organized so that the next deadline does not sneak up on you. MFAI funds for this service are limited, so the sooner you contact the Grants Advisor, the greater the chance that you can use this service to advance your project or those you know who would qualify.

For more information please contact the Grants Advisor, Deirdre Birmingham, at (608) 219-4279.

This project is funded by Farm Aid.

* For purposes of this project, MFAI uses the USDA Risk Management Agency’s definition: “A socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmer, rancher, or agricultural producer is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as a member of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. SDA groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

While MFAI will consider the application of other producers, the funders of this project set a priority on serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Preparing for Kidding and Lambing

This information is most helpful for the new farmer and producer, but also a good review for the experienced herder.

It’s time to think about preparing for kidding and lambing season. It will be here before we are ready, as usual. This is an intense time so the less stress the better concerning our management of the events that are about to take place. The weather is always questionable and often hampers all good intentions.  So, being well-prepared beforehand is essential.

For starters, we need to prepare the barn, garage or shed where kidding or lambing will take place for those who prefer to “jug-up,” or confine, the does or ewes and their newborns. This serves as the nursery,
made up of 4’ x 4’ pens that are in a draft- free, sheltered building, and well-bedded with straw or shavings, especially if there is a concrete floor. The pen should contain a:
• good, clean bucket clipped into one corner for water
• hay bag for holding alfalfa or good quality hay
• fence feeder clipped to one side to provide grain for the doe or ewe, if possible.

In extremely cold temperatures, a heat lamp mounted safely at a height of 36 inches may be necessary. The doe or ewe and newborns spend the first two to three days in this area in order to bond.  This is also an opportunity to deworm the doe or ewe, trim hooves, eartag newborns and administer any other treatments such as a tube feeding, Bo-Se, etc.

Next, prepare a bucket with supplies such as: seven percent tincture of iodine, a dry towel, a lamb puller, infant nasal aspirator, umbilical tape or dental floss, Nutri-Drench and First Arrival®.  Please give the doe or ewe the opportunity to clean off the young as this is an important part of the bonding process. This allows the doe or ewe to recognize the smell of her young and aids in the release of oxytocin which will enhance the let-down of milk for nursing.

The nasal aspirator helps to remove mucus and fluid in the mouth or nasal passages if you are having trouble clearing it, just be sure to clean the aspirator between uses. Umbilical tape or dental floss works well to tie off the umbilical cord if it tends to bleed after it has been severed. This will eventually dry with the umbilicus and fall off on its own. Reminder: dip the naval in seven-percent tincture of iodine at birth. Nutri-Drench provides a high-energy treat for the newborn to encourage it to get to its feet and start nursing, if it is sluggish.  Be patient with newborns. If they are not up and moving within the first hour, then you may intervene. First Arrival® is a new product available to help in the prevention of neo-natal diarrhea.

Newborns should be up and nursing within two hours of birth. Does or ewes that have engorged, or swollen mammary glands, or those that are new moms, may need manual stripping of the teats to remove a plug in the teat canal so the newborns can successfully nurse. Many times the newborn removes this automatically as it nurses for the first time.  Remember to always observe first before intervening.  If kids or lambs are not up and nursing, tube feeding colostrum, a yellowish liquid rich in immune factors, may be necessary.

These suggestions are merely that, suggestions.  (by Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, DVM, Lincoln University, State Extension Small Ruminant Specialist)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Not the End of Nature’s Bounty

With our own meadow garden now fully at rest, Kit and I continue to find our kitchen filled with greens and vegetables. Seems impossible this could be so given the fact that December is here. But this is the magic of belonging to a winter subscription farm, or CSA (community-supported agriculture). From October to April, Jennifer and Keith Grabner from Wintergreen Farm deliver a box of fresh greens and vegetables to our door late every Friday afternoon.

I first met Jenny when she and her colleague Lesli Moylan began a schoolyard garden at Ashland’s Southern Boone Elementary School, two miles east of Boomerang Creek. The garden, a volunteer operation, has grown to be an integral part of the life of both the elementary school’s curriculum over the past three years and has earned the support of the community, as well as local and state legislators.

It also was recently featured in The Geography Teacher magazine, a publication of the National Council for Geographic Education, along with first lady Michelle Obama’s White House Kitchen Garden and organic chef Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard Garden in Berkeley, Calif.

When the Southern Boone Learning Garden is in operation, Jenny and Lesli visit classrooms and hold after-school garden classes twice a week, teaching children their peas and cucumbers by putting them to work planting, harvesting and cooking up what they grow.

Like others from the community and school who help out, they are volunteers.

This would be quite enough time in the garden for most mortals, but Jenny is cut from that amazing cloth from whence farmers come. With the help of her husband, Keith, and their three children, she has made gardening and backyard organic farming not only her own passion but also a family operation.

Their family garden, Wintergreen Farm, is located on 5 acres off Route MM near Ashland, just a hoot and holler from Boomerang Creek. Jenny and Keith use small, unheated hoop-style greenhouses (cold frames) to grow greens and vegetables throughout the fall, winter and early spring months.

The cool-season crops include several varieties of lettuce, spinach, chard, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, green onions, leeks, mustards, collards, arugula, bok choy, several Asian greens and cabbages, and a few herbs, including parsley, cilantro, fennel, dill and chives.

They also try to include a few winter storage crops such as garlic, potatoes, winter squashes, onions and sweet potatoes.

The last week of October, we received our first e-mail announcing the beginning of this year’s winter CSA. Jenny and Keith listed what would be in the veggie box for the first week — butternut squash, sweet potatoes, lettuce and mixed Asian greens.

The second Friday, our box contained red-leaf lettuce, Swiss chard, baby carrots, golden Hubbard squash and cilantro. We also had a few other items offered on a first-come, first-served basis — shiitake mushrooms, fresh eggs (“if the ladies are laying”) and rabbit meat. And should we need some ideas on cooking up a Hubbard squash or collard greens, Wintergreen Farm’s website includes recipes to get us started.

As I write, chunks of Hubbard squash are simmering in a soup pot on the stove along with a butternut squash delivered the first week. Combined with onion, red bell pepper, pear, apple, ginger and chicken broth, they will purée into a golden harvest soup served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of Spanish paprika.

While the soup is cooking, Jenny’s latest e-mail arrives with this week’s harvest — turnip greens, Chinese cabbage, mixed salad greens, Tokyo turnips or radishes, parsley or cilantro, and more butternut squash. I’m already dancing as fast as I can looking up creative recipes for the bounty that will arrive on Friday.

So, let the first snow fall white on our meadow garden. Our kitchen will be filled with local greens all winter long.

To read more about the Grabners' NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant project, visit the SARE online reporting site at:
(Source: Columbia Daily Tribune by Cathy Salter)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Grow Your Farm-A Business Development Course Every other Wednesday Jan. 28-May 4 6:30-9:30 pm  at the Platte County Extension Center, 11724 NW Plaza Circle, Suite 300, Kansas City, MO 64153

Course objectives

Information on production techniques is relatively easy to find and use, but what many landowners need is help to develop the farm as a profitable business. With this in mind, Grow Your Farm is designed to assist you, the producer, in creating and planning your farm as a business. Local farmers and agency representatives will present on the topics below, connect participants to local, state and federal resources and upon conclusion of the program, participants will have the tools to develop a working business plan for their agri-business or farm.

This course will help you:

* Identify and prioritize personal and family values and use them as the foundation for the farm mission statement and goals.

* Learn how to "walk the farm" to assess the land and its facilities.

* Learn to evaluate the feasibility of particular farm opportunities.

* Understand the components of a business plan and create one of your own.

* Understand financial aspects of a business plan and review popular tools to manage financial records.

* Consider different types of agricultural marketing and draft a marketing plan.

* Become familiar with a variety of legal issues that pertain to farming enterprises.

* Network with other farmers.

* Two farm visits to local farms in the KC metro area.

The class cost of $250 per farm operation (covers TWO individuals per farm), covers all class materials and two Saturday farm visits. For more info, to register or to get a referral from a past participant, contact Crystal Weber at 816-876-2790 or Katie Nixon at 816-809-5074 or visit the Grow Your Farm website.

Observations and Timely Management Are Essential for Good Management of Sheep and Goats

Where there are livestock, there will be death. However, every livestock producer wants to minimize death losses, from both a humane and economic standpoint.

An effective animal health program is an essential part of successful sheep and dairy goat management programs according to Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension.

“The key to minimized death is to be observant of diseases or problems with the herd or flock and to act promptly and properly to correct any deviations from normal observations, including correcting faulty equipment and facilities,” said Pennington.

Likewise, Pennington says good feeding and breeding will not result in maximum produc¬tion if sheep and goats are not kept in good health.

Observation and Records
Pennington says spending a few minutes every day watching your animals is time well spent.

“You can learn the normal behavior and attitude of your sheep and goats and then can recognize anything that may be wrong. This knowledge is one of the most important characteristics of a good herder,” said Pennington.

If abnormal behavior is observed, use common sense, experience, knowledge and your physical senses to determine the problem. Don’t overlook the obvious; and observe the facilities and environment to see if any changes could be affecting the animals.

“I also recommend recording all observations on a permanent record,” said Pennington. “As with any other animal enterprise, it is important to keep good records and have a plan to follow when managing your goat herd.”

Using a production calendar for managing a herd not only provides a schedule to follow for production and health practices but allows for timely breeding and management for specific markets.

Herd Health Program
Since each herd is different, Pennington says it is important to work with a veterinarian to create a herd health plan. The plan will need to include information on each animal regarding medications, vaccinations, wormers, injuries, production, breeding, and culling.

“The best economic returns are realized when disease problems are at a minimum,” said Pennington. “Preventive medicine is almost always less expensive than treating disease.”

Because symptoms of some diseases in sheep and goats may be similar, Pennington recommends working closely with a veterinarian. The veterinarian has the training to provide a diagnosis or the means of obtaining a diagnosis when a disease occurs.

“The veterinarian should also be familiar with products for treating sheep and goats plus current regulations and health requirements for shipping animals,” said Pennington.

Nutrition and Feeding
With goats and sheep, the most common nutritional problems are being either too skinny or too fat and animals that are off-feed.

Pennington says each problem can be prevented by properly balancing the ration and controlling other diseases.

“Frequent observations can allow early detection of animals that are too fat or skinny and minimize their effects,” said Pennington.

The quality and quantity of feed during the dry period affects animals throughout at least the next year.

“Emphasis should be given to the importance of nutrition in any stage of develop¬ment of your sheep and goats,” said Pennington.

For more information, contact Dr. Jodie Pennington, region small ruminant educator with Lincoln University at the Newton County Extension Center in Neosho, Mo., (417) 455-9500.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Conservation Stewardship Program

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) reminds Missouri farmers, ranchers and foresters of a January 7, 2011, deadline to apply for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) benefits.

"CSP has a continuous sign up, but only applications received by January 7 will be eligible for the next round of funding," says State Conservationist J.R. Flores.

CSP is a voluntary program designed to encourage participants to adopt additional conservation practices and improve, maintain and manage existing ones. Eligible lands include cropland, pastureland, and non-industrial private forestland.

"CSP is one of our most popular conservation programs," Flores says. "It rewards participants for conservation measures they have already implemented and for new measures they agree to add."

NRCS is in the process of mailing CSP payments to Missouri producers whose applications were submitted and approved during previous funding periods. NRCS is distributing more than $38 million to Missouri landowners as a result of about 3,200 contracts approved through CSP and its predecessor, the Conservation Security Program.

To sign up for CSP, or to get more information about it and other NRCS programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or access this website.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Entrepreneurship Training Program for Beginning Missouri Farmers

Applications are now being accepted to the Winter 2011 cohort of the entrepreneurship training program for new and beginning Missouri farmers. The Entrepreneurship Project is designed to help 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. Both rural and urban farmers are encouraged to apply. 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.

You can find additional information on the project’s blog. Questions should be directed to Jill Lucht at or 573-884-3185. The application deadline has been extended until the cohort is filled. Applications will be given priority based on the date they are received.

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 project is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # MO-SSCG1163.

Monday, December 13, 2010

“Grow Your Farm” Course Helps Landowners Plan New Farm Enterprises

MU Extension, in partnership with Lincoln University Cooperative Extension’s 2501 Program, will offer the first “Grow Your Far” course in southwest Missouri from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., starting Tuesday, Feb. 8 at the Southwest Research Center in Mt. Vernon. The courses will continue on Tuesday evenings through March.
Designed for prospective, beginner and experienced farmers interested in exploring new enterprises, this eight-week course allows producers to network with successful farm operators and business experts.

“Along with an instructor, most classes will have actual farmer presenters, people who have been successful at the enterprises they will discuss with the class,” says Debi Kelly, Missouri Alternatives Center project manager on the MU campus, the curriculum’s coordinating author.

“With the continued growth of people moving into rural fringe areas around major cities, MU Extension receives more questions from people who want to make a living, or at least create a profitable business, on their acreage,” Kelly says. “Grow Your Farm is designed to answer those questions and help them start successful enterprises. It should also be valuable for producers looking for new ideas to make their existing farms more successful.”

Most sessions will focus on business planning and the process of selecting enterprises that can be profitable, based on an individual’s skills and resources.

Take advantage of the Early Bird Registration for $225 per operation (two participants) before Jan. 14 or pay $250 after Jan. 14.

Registration fees include sessions with guest speakers, farm tours, a subscription to Ag Opportunities e-newsletter, refreshments and one set of materials (course notebook, textbook, copies of the Grow Your Farm PowerPoint presentations and supplemental resources).

For each additional person, there is a small extra charge. Scholarships are available to socially disadvantaged farmers.

To register, contact Sarah Becker, a horticulture specialist with Lincoln University Extension at (417) 597-4412. Class sizes will be limited to 20 farms, with two decision makers from each farm encouraged to participate.

For more information about the program and other locations around the state, browse the Grow Your Farm Web site.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Fee Title Purchase with Agricultural Conservation Easement

The series Finding Land to Farm comes to a conclusion with this final section today.

An agricultural conservation easement forever extinguishes development rights on that land, making it less valuable to nonfarmers. These types of easements are used if a landowner wishes to see the land remain available for agriculture: He or she donates or sells the land’s development rights in the form of an agricultural conservation easement to a nonprofit land trust or government agency, which ensures that the easement goals are upheld forever. This can drop the after-easement value, or "easement encumbered value," of the land into an affordable price range for a new farmer.

◊ The use of the property (the development rights) is restricted by the terms of the conservtion easement and those restrictions apply to all future owneres of the property.

◊ The development rights (in the form of a conservation easement) are donated or sold to a nonprofit land trust or government agency which holds the easement and ensures it is upheld.  The after-easement value (or easment-encumbered value) of hte land may drop the price into an affordable range for a new farmer.  This can occur in several way:
* The landowner could sell the easement first, then sell the encumbered land to a new farmer.
* The new farmer could partner with a land trust to make a joint purchase offer to the landowner.  (Occasionally a land trust buys first, then sells to a farmer thought a biddingn process).
* The new farmer could creatively finance land purchse, with a commitment by the land trust to purchase the easement in the future.
◊ Farmers seeking to buy land have a better chance when they're bidding on residential or ranchette real estate value.  Easements can make the difference between affordable ownership and lifelong leasing.
◊ Sellers can see their agricultural legacy continued.  With tax benefits, they can soemtime sreceive close to fair market value of the land.

◊ Because easements restrict property rights, they may limit values or owners' ability to get financing.

◊ Agricultural conservation easements don't always work as intended.  These easement-encumbered properties often still have high rural-estate home value to non-farmers.
◊ Process can be slow, since land trusts usually hav eto apply for funding to purchase easements.

◊ Easements are, in theory, forever.  This presents challenges to current and future landowners as to compliance and future enforceability of easements.

(all in this series were taken from

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Fee Title Purchase with Seller Financing

In this model the new buyer takes possession of the land and makes payments directly to the seller, as written in a "note." This works very well when a good relationship has been established. The landowner can see the property transferred to a promising new farmer, and the new farmer can secure that note—sometimes by virtue of his or her "character" more than conventional lending requirements. Even better, brokerage fees are avoided by both parties. Payments can be structured like a typical mortgage, or in the case of an installment or land contract sale, made periodically. This strategy is often a good way to transfer land to the next generation within a family.


◊ In this model, the new buyer takes possession of the land, makes payments directly to seller.

◊ This works very well when a good relationship has been established.  The landowner can see the property transferred to a promising new farmer, and the new farmer can build equity, sometimes without high down payment advantages.

◊ Character loan may be easier in this scenario.  Buyer doesn't necessarily have to quality for traditional bank or government loan.

◊ Landowner can spsread out capital gains for tax purposes. 

◊ Brokerage fees avoided by both parties.

◊ Good way to transfer land to next generation

◊ Installment lan may be structured for smaller initial payments with larger "balloon" pyaments when farmer expects to be more financially prepared.

◊ If buyer defaults, the land goes back to the seller and the buyer's equity may be lost.

◊ Most initial payments cover interest only, or may be very large.  Required down payments may also be large.

Tomorrow we will finish this series with fee title purchase with agricultural conservation easement.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Lease with Option to Buy

Today's blog is the fourth in a series on ways for beginning farmers to access land.

Lease with Option to Buy or Right of First Refusal

There are two ways a lease can improve ownership opportunities for a tenant farmer:

• With a “Purchase Option,” the owner and tenant pre-determine the purchase price, with a date for execution of the purchase. The tenant pays for this option up front, and the rent money can count toward an initial down payment.

• With a “Right of First Refusal” clause, the owner can only sell the land to a third party after the tenant has had a chance to “refuse,” by matching that third-party offer and making the purchase first. This helps ensure that an owner doesn’t sell the land “out from under” the tenant, but the tenant must be ready to act quickly.

Lease with Option to Buy

There are two ways a lease can improve ownership opportunities for a tenant farmer.

1) With a "first right of refusal" clause, the tenant gets to make the first offer prior to the owner listing the land for sale, at the seller's asking price.

2) With an "option agreement," owner and tenant pre-determine purchase price, with a required date of execution of purchase.  Tenant pays for this option up front and rent money someintes counts twoard initial downpayment.


◊ The farmer is guaranteed that land wil lnot be "sold out from under" him or her.

◊ With an option in which the rent payment goes toward eventual purchase, the farmer builds equity toward ownership.

◊ When the purchase agreement is attached, farmer can plan for a known purchase price.


◊ With first right of refusal, tenants hav elittle negotiating power—they can only exercise the right by agreeing to seller's terms.

◊ If the farmer is not financially ready when the property is put up for sale, or at the agreed-upon purchase date (option), the advantage and the rent equity are lost.

Tomorrow we'll look at another option.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Long Term Lease

As a continuation of this series, today we will look at long term leases.

This model is as close to ownership as a lease can get. The term is usually 40 to 99 years depending on state law. This is longer than the average mortgage. These types of leases may even be inheritable. They are used for publicly owned land and commercial real estate, but are less common in agriculture. They are sometimes used by cities and land trusts who own the land but wish to guarantee farmers lifetime tenure. Because of their longevity, the intent and clauses of leases must be very carefully drafted so they will last as long as the lease term.
◊ Offers most advantages of ownership without need for down payment or heavy borrowing.  Less common in an agricultural context.

◊ Some long-term leases are inheritable an dallow for transfer to the next generation.  Look at Missouri's real estate code.

◊ Because of their longevity, these leases can be highly complex.  The intent and clauses must be very carefully drafted to last as long as the lease term.

◊ Landowners are not often willing to make such a long-term commitment, or to risk little or no risk title for tenant financing.

◊ Tenant is subject to lease terms with must remain reasonable and prudent for duration of lease.  Multiple decades are a long time to plan for!

◊ Farmer's ability to recover equity in land may be limited, depending on agreement.

Tomorrow we will look at leasing with an option to buy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Crop Share

Today's blog is the second in a series on ways for beginning farmers to access land.

Crop Share

In this model, rent payment consists of part of the crop, most often paid as part of the income from total crop sold. Also known as “share-crop” and “share lease,” this was historically disadvantageous to tenant farmers, but can work well for beginning farmers without start-up capital. Crop share arrangements are common in perennial crops and some commodities, for example fruit and nut operations, hay, field crops, processing tomatoes. Agreements may have maximum and minimum limits to protect the farmer and landowner, respectively.
Crop Share Lease
◊ Rent payment consists of part of the crop, most often paid as part of the income from total crop sold but can also be calculated as a portion of net income after expenses, payment is usually not required until the crop(s) comes in.

◊ Risks is shared between parties.

◊ This kind of lease is historically disadvantageous to tenant farmers, but may be a good option for beginning farmers without start-up capital.

◊ It can be hard to budget for an exact rent amount.  Neither party knows what a farm will yeild, so payment amounts are uncertain.  Owners don't want the rent to be too low.  Tenants don't want it to be too high.

◊ If the tenant farmer does very will, the crop share rent may exceed local cash-lease rates.  You may wish to include a "maximum paymenet clause," which would protect the tenant against paying too much for rent.

◊ Conversely, a "minimum payment clause" would protect the landowner from receiving too little payment (for example, in case of crop failure by tenant), but should reflect the "shared risk" between the landlord and tenant.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at long-term lease.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Finding Land to Farm: Cash Lease

The next number of blogs will highlight some common ways to lease or own land. The postings will outline important considerations about each of these leasing options and paths to ownership.

Renting farmland is a common practice in U.S. agriculture, where more than 45 percent of the 917 million farmland acres are rented. According to the 1999 Agricultural Economics and Land Ownership Survey, 60 percent of farmland rent is paid in cash, 24 percent in shares of production, and 11 percent in a cash/share combination.
The various agreements for leasing and owning land are cash lease, crop share, long-term lease, lease with option to buy or right of first refusal, fee title purchase with seller financing and fee title purchase with agricultural conservation easement.  Today we'll look at cash lease.

Cash Lease
Most cash leases are short-term, requiring little commitment from either landowner or tenant farmer. Long-term leases can be an affordable way for farmers to use more sustainable practices and to invest more in their businesses. Many leases are based on a handshake. Verbal agreements are considered legal leases for one year, but this is NOT recommendable for either party, as conflicts can arise even among friends when terms are not clearly stated on outset. A written lease provides benefits and security for both parties.
Cash Lease Agreements
◊ Variable Duration
* Short term leases allow "trial period" for both landowner and farmer
*Long term leases are predictable for the owner and secure for the farmer
◊ Payment schedule can be negotiable
◊ Farmer and landowner know how much the rent will be

Disadvantages (if lease is short)

◊ Difficult to make long-term decisions and investments
◊ Lenders may balk at financing improvements
◊ Less incentive to use sustainable practices
To Impove the Soil
◊ No equity is built up (short or long lease)
◊ Landowner doesn't share risk if farmers has a poort crop or crop hasn't come in yet

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Great Plains Vegetable Conference

These all day workshop is being held on January 6th, 2010 in conjunction with the Great Plains Growers Conference that is held each year in St. Joseph, MO. 

* High Tunnel Workshop ($50)
* Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Mini-School ($60)
* Farm Smarter, Not Harder ($60)
* Tree Fruit ($50)

Friday and Saturday are filled with tracks on
* Small Fruit Production
* Fruit Trees/Irrigation
* Tomatoes/Sweet Corn
* Organic
* Vegetable "Revue"
* Beginner Vegetable Production
* Cut Flowers
* Farmers' Markets
(for a full description of titles and presenters in each of these tracks online.)

Each workshop begins at 8:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm.  The cost to attend one of these workshops is listed behind the title above.  The registration to attend the general tracts are $35 for each day (Jan 7 and 8).

For registrations postmarked after December 23, 2010 add $5 per registration/ day. Registration fee includes break refreshments & noon meals. Cancellations with refund only before January 3. Please make check or money order payable to:  University Extension.
Mail to: GPGC, MU Extension, 4125 Mitchell Avenue, St. Joseph, MO 64507. There is a $25.00 fee on all returned checks.

Register Online and Pay with a Credit Card.

Contact the Katie Cook in the Buchanan County Extension Office at (816) 279-1691 with registration questions.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Marketing Webinar - December 6th

Reserve Your Spot Now!

Next Monday, December 6th at 11:00 am, Jane Eckert, Eckert Agrimarketing, will be presenting a live one hour marketing webinar through the Canadian Farm Management Business Council. (CFBMC)

Everyone is welcome to participate (both Canada & U.S farmers) and there is no charge to you. You just have to go online to the CFBMC website and Sign Up Here in advance of the program.

The topic is "Marketing to Today's Consumer." Jane will be discussing the free tools of the Internet to reach your customer. You will not only hear and see her live on your computer screen but you will also see her Powerpoint. In addition, you have the opportunity to type in questions for her to answer during the program.

If you have never participated in a webinar before, it is quite easy. This is educational content delivered right to your home computer. While you'll be able to see speaker - the speaker won't be able to see you.

It is advisable to actually log in about ten minutes before the starting time to hear the instructions about how to participate.