Monday, February 28, 2011

Missouri Beginning Farmers Program’s Archived and Future Monthly Webinars

The Missouri Beginning Farmer Program’s “moodle” (the term used for internet teaching management) will include archived monthly webinars of topics of interest to beginning farmers. Other tools on the moodle will include “webinar chats” with successful farmers, forum discussions on topics such as “grass-based farming”, “tractors and equipment”, and more. Also included on the moodle will be hand-out materials, PowerPoint presentations and pictures from past and future face-to-face short courses. Over time we anticipate adding a farmer mentoring component as well.

Presently you will find the Chris Blanchard webinar titled "Ten Things to Think About When You Start Farming" as well as the 2010 workshop materials (Growing Producer for Local Markets and Tractors 101 with more to come from 2010) and two discussion forums.

To join the Missouri Beginning Farmers Program Moodle go to to create a “passport” (registration with a login name and password) to the moodle. Here is video to assist with the creation of your passport -  Then you can go to  and search using Missouri Beginning Farmers Program and you will find the moodle. Here is a video to assist you with signing up for the moodle -

Upcoming topics for future webinars are listed below. Each month go to the Missouri Beginning Farmers Program moodle page or the Missouri Beginning Farmers Program blog  to get the URL to attend each webinar.

March 7 - Pastured Poultry for the Beginning Farmer, Curtis Millsap, Millsap Farm

April  4– What You Need to Know to Get Started in Organic Production with Liz Graznak, Happy Hollow Farm

May 2 – Soils Basics with Joel Gruver, Professor, Western Illinois University

June 6 – Social Media Marketing with Lane McConnell, Ozark Farm and Neighbor

July 5 – Selling at Farmers’ Markets: The Do’s and Don’ts with Andy Larsen, Iowa State University

August 1 – Direct Marketing of Beef with Mark Mahnken, Missouri Legacy Beef

September 6 – SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants with Debi Kelly, University of Missouri

October 3 – Beginning Beekeeping with Art Gelder, Walk-About Acres

Friday, February 25, 2011

Know Your Cost of Production: Develop an Enterprise Budget

Whether you raise cattle, corn or cucumbers, accurate enterprise budgets are crucial in gauging the potential profitability of your operation, says a University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.

“In addition to predicting profits, enterprise budgets help producers evaluate alternative strategies for making the most out of their land, capital and labor,” said Whitney Wiegel.

By definition, an enterprise budget is a financial management tool for projecting costs and returns for an activity—such as livestock, grain or vegetable production, Wiegel said. A typical enterprise budget will include five main sections:

1. A summary of the projected total revenue from the enterprise. “The revenue or income section of an enterprise budget must contain a description of the expected yield or amount of product produced—such as bushels, pounds or number of head of livestock,” Wiegel said. This section must also specify a projected market price. Total revenue is calculated by multiplying total production (expected yield, number of head, etc.) by the market price per unit of production and then adding any other payments received, such as government payments.

2. Expected variable costs of production. Variable costs are the costs of inputs that are used up during one production period. These costs vary with changes in the number of head, acres or other units produced in the enterprise. The variable cost section of an enterprise budget outlines the expected inputs and amounts of inputs to be used in the enterprise. It also assigns a cost figure to each input. Examples of these inputs/costs include fertilizer, chemicals, feed, minerals and labor.

3. Fixed costs of production. Fixed costs are those that do not change with the level of production. These include items like interest on intermediate and long-term loans, depreciation, taxes and insurance.

4. Total cost of production. The projected total cost of production is the sum of variable and fixed costs.

5. “Returns” or profit. This part of the budget compares the revenue of the enterprise to its costs. Often, this section will be segmented to describe both returns over variable costs and returns over total costs. While an enterprise should earn a profit above total costs, this is not always the case. Income received is sometimes less than total production costs. Should an enterprise be continued if total revenue is less than the total costs? The answer may be yes if (1) income is above variable costs and (2) this is a short-term condition. If fixed costs are not covered in the long run, however, reinvestment in capital items (such as tractors, implements, buildings and equipment) cannot be made and existing capital stock is eventually depleted.

Numerous examples of enterprise budgets are available on the Internet, Wiegel said. “Most of the budgets available on the Web will contain some suggested cost and return figures. However, be cautious about using figures without doing cost and market research first.”


-Cost and Return Estimates for 2011 (MU Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute)

-Farm Budgets (MU Agricultural Electronic Bulletin Board)

-Links to many budgets can be accessed through the Ag Risk Education Library (University of Minnesota)
(by Milly Carter, West Central Region, MU Extension)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Financial Record Keeping Vital for the Modern Farm Enterprise

Without a proper understanding of record keeping and its current and future implications, the farm operator will not make it very far in today’s business environment, notes a University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.

“While you may not have control over the weather and only limited ability to manage diseases and insects, you have the power and the responsibility to monitor the farm’s financial performance,” said Whitney Wiegel.

“The first and most important step in taking control of your farm operation’s financial well-being is to keep good and accurate financial records,” he said. “Do you want to know where your business is going? Do you want to avoid jeopardizing your borrowing capacity? If so, then detailed and accurate financial record keeping is for you.”

There are three main reasons farm operators should keep good financial records, Wiegel said. “First, good financial records are essential for reporting income tax returns. Without accurate records, a farmer can underpay or overpay on their taxes. This might get the farmer into trouble if there is an unexpected IRS audit of records.”

Second, good records are essential in obtaining credit. “Bankers want to see a balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement before they loan money to any business,” he said.

Finally, accurate financial records along with production data are important in making decisions about the farm enterprise. Having the information contained in an accurate record-keeping system helps a farm operator make decisions about how to farm more efficiently and profitably.

Wiegel suggests keeping the following guidelines in mind when implementing or reviewing your financial record-keeping system:

- Keep it simple! “If the record-keeping system is unnecessarily complicated, you are more likely to make mistakes,” Wiegel said.

- Maintain financial records that have the appropriate level of detail for the complexity of your business. A more complex farm operation requires a more detailed system.

- Make sure your records provide essential information on a timely basis.

- Consider including the following components when constructing your record-keeping system: (1) a business checking account to handle business transactions; (2) an income ledger by calendar month; (3) an expense ledger by calendar month; (4) an inventory ledger for physical counting and valuation; (5) a depreciation schedule for pro-rating original costs of assets; (6) a balance sheet to determine net worth; (7) an income statement to determine net profit or loss; (8) a cash flow statement to measure flow of funds.

“Following these guidelines will deliver positive results for your farming business,” he said.

A number of software packages on the market can assist in implementing a financial record-keeping system. Examples include Quicken, PcMars, and the QuickBooks and Red Wing product lines. “Most software packages range in price from $30 to $1,000,” Wiegel said. “Products vary in price with the level of computing power of each package. Microsoft Excel may also be an option that you may already have installed on your computer.”

Computer software can help you establish and organize your records; however, no program will do all of the work for you, Wiegel notes. “Research the different options before deciding on the right system for your operation. Look for one that fits your specific farm operation. It should provide all the resources you need, not only financially but also managerially.”

MU Extension business development programs offer classes around the state on a variety of topics as well as software training for such products as QuickBooks and Microsoft Excel. For more information, see or contact your local MU Extension Center.
(by Milly Carter, Administrative Associate, West Central Region, University of Missouri)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Undercover Farming: High Tunnels Extend the Growing Season

There’s a thick coat of snow on the ground, but Liz Graznak is harvesting lettuce, spinach and other vegetables on her central Missouri farm.  Graznak grows certified organic produce at Happy Hollow Farm, about a mile southwest of the Missouri River. She extended her growing season into the middle of winter by using a high tunnel, also known as a hoop house.

High tunnels enable horticulture producers to plant earlier in the spring and continue harvesting into or even through the winter, said James Quinn, a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist.

Quinn believes high tunnels will become a familiar part of the American agricultural landscape, the 21st-century equivalent of silos and red barns. They are already a common sight in many Asian and European countries.

A high tunnel is a simple type of greenhouse relying exclusively on solar heating. A shell of translucent plastic admits sunlight, traps warm air and shields crops from the elements. A layer of breathable fabric shrouds each row of plants to provide additional protection.

“A high tunnel can provide a source of income through the winter months,” Graznak said.  A University of Missouri Extension youtube video shows Graznak's high tunnel.
Graznak sells directly to consumers, who pay a flat fee up front to receive a weekly share of produce throughout the season—a system called Community Supported Agriculture. Most CSAs generally go on hiatus in the fall, but Graznak’s high tunnel let her enroll customers in a winter season that ran through mid-January.

“People really appreciate high-quality produce in the winter because it is hard to get,” she said.

Producers benefit from the extra revenue, which also gives a boost to the local economy, Quinn said.

High tunnels also can provide protection in spring and summer against excessive rainfall and other extreme weather. On warm, sunny days, you have to ventilate the tunnel, typically by rolling up the side walls. Some producers install a louvered door and a solar-powered fan at opposite ends of the tunnel to keep air flowing.

High tunnels also have environmental benefits, Quinn said, including reduced use of water and fertilizer, and decreased soil erosion.

That’s one reason the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), through the department’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, started a three-year pilot project last year to help horticulture producers build high tunnels.

Graznak’s farm was one of 159 farms in Missouri and more than 2,400 farms nationwide to receive cost-sharing assistance from USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program in 2010, the project’s second year. EQIP covered about $5,400 of her tunnel’s $8,500 construction cost. She also saved money on construction materials by harvesting 32 cedar trees on her farm and taking them to a local sawmill.

Since 2003, MU Extension has helped conduct educational programs on high tunnels, including a construction workshop at Graznak’s farm last October. Interest has steadily grown, Quinn said. A January workshop sponsored by NRCS drew a capacity crowd to the MU Extension Center in Boone County.

The deadline to apply for NRCS funding for the pilot project’s third and final year is March 4, Quinn said. However, additional funding may become available after 2011, pending the outcome of a review of the project by NRCS.
For more information, contact your local NRCS office or see visit their website.

Information about high tunnel research is available at a website which is a joint effort of MU Extension, Kansas State Research and Extension, and University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.
(by Curt Wohleber, Senior Information Specialist, University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Identifying Common Insects and Diseases on Your Produce Farm Workshop

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2:00-4:00pm

Neosho Chamber of Commerce Community Room

216 West Spring Street, Neosho, MO
With the growing season fast approaching now is the time to prepare a management plan for the insects and diseases that you are likely to face. Come join the following extension specialists in a discussion on how to correctly identify common pests and diseases and how to control them throughout the season:

* Dr. Jaime Pinero, Lincoln University Integrated Pest Management Specialist

* Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Extension Horticulture Specialist

* Sarah Becker, Lincoln University 2501 Program Educator, Horticulture Specialist

FREE!! ● Pleasse RSVP to Sarah Becker at 417-597-4412

Monday, February 21, 2011

Missouri Beginning Farmers Program Starts Monthly Webinar Series

A series of free webinars through the University of Missouri Extension Beginning Farmers program will offer helpful advice and answers to new and expanding farmers begins tonight.

The series begins Feb. 21, 7-8:30 p.m., with a free webinar, “The Top 10 Things You Need to Think about When Getting Started in Farming,” presented by Chris Blanchard.

“It’s a really good opportunity for would-be farmers to learn from someone who’s been in the business for awhile,” said Mary Hendrickson, associate director of MU’s Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program. “A lot of beginning farmers may be working other jobs while trying to get into farming or exploring other options, so offering these opportunities as webinars help us reach the most people.”

Hendrickson said Blanchard is the perfect person to kick off the effort. He spoke this winter at the 2011 Great Plains Growers Conference in St. Joseph on “Values and Scales in the Local Foods Market Place.” Blanchard owns and operates Rock Spring Farm, a 12-acre organic farm near of Decorah, Iowa, where he sells a wide variety of vegetables and herbs through a 200-member community-supported agriculture model, food stores and a farmers market. He also coordinates presentations for the Upper Midwest Organic Conference.

Hendrickson said the online offering not only caters to the type of people drawn to beginning farming, but also allows experts from far away to be part of the ongoing series.

“We’re excited because we can get really great presenters who wouldn’t be able to travel to a conference to present,” Hendrickson said. “This will give us top-notch speakers and help our audience.”

To learn more about how to watch the webinar and browse other Beginning Farmer resources. Read more about Blanchard and his farm.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Cover Crop/Soil Health Workshop

February 25, 2011
9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Oak Grove Civic Center
2100 S. Broadway, Oak Grove

Lunch Provided—Please RSVP

For More Information or Directions:

Call 816-228-1161 x 3 or Email: Greg Stegner

Speakers include:

David Brandt: Farmer from Ohio shares his experiences with no-till and cover crops
Ray Archuleta: Conservation Agronomist with NRCS East National Technology Center, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Learn about EQIP Soil Quality Initiative (SQI) Program and sign up now thru March 4, 2011

Sponsored by local SWCD’s and NRCS

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fishy Opportunity

Americans have increased their consumption of fish to 17 pounds of fish annually per capita. That creates demand for a healthy, low calorie, low cholesterol, high in protein and sustainably raised fish. The increased consumption is depleting many wild fish populations.  Polluted freshwater bodies are reducing the fish available for consumption. The increase in demand and declining wild fish populations has produced an opportunity for farm raised fish. Currently about 25 percent of fish consumed are farm raised.

The definition of aquaculture is the raising of aquatic organisms, both plant and animal, especially for food. This can be done by tank culture or pond culture, depending on the small farmers’ assets. The water quality is the most important factor in the production of fish. Though the predominant fin fish for tank culture is tilapia, which is a bland, fast growing, disease-resistant species, it is suggested the new fish farmer start with ornamental aquarium species on a small scale for pet store sales.

In considering raising fish, begin by thinking about resources you have available. You can find many informational resources at Lincoln University (LU). Research is being done at LU’s George Washington Carver and Alan T. Busby farms on re-circulating tank and pond culture production systems, nutrition of several species and reproductive behavior.

Some of the web resources to begin with in determining whether aquaculture might fit into your farm plans are:

LU Aquaculture, research and specialist
 Missouri Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture
Missouri Aquaculture Association
North Central Regional Aquaculture Center
Aquaculture Hub
(by Jim Pierce, Farm Outreach Worker, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Women in Ag Conference set for March 11

The eighth annual Women in Agriculture regional conference is scheduled for Friday, March 11, at the Martin Community Center in Marshall, Mo.

Keynote speaker for the conference is Susie Oberdahlhoff, known as the “Erma Bombeck of Agriculture.”

Oberdahlhoff, or “SusieO” for short, uses wit, humor and her life experiences as a farm wife and a preacher’s kid to bring an inspirational message to audiences around the country. Susie and her husband farm near Bowling Green, Mo.

New at this year’s conference will be a special presentation on estate planning by Judge Hugh Harvey, Saline County probate court judge.

“In the past, Harvey’s smaller breakout sessions have been standing room only, so organizers decided to make the popular program available to everyone,” said Cynthia Crawford, University of Missouri Extension family financial education specialist and member of the conference planning committee.

Breakout sessions include gardening with native plants, with a tour of the Martin Center’s on-site rain garden and outdoor nature center; health issues with dietitian Stacey Winter and MU Extension nutrition specialist Lynda Johnson; a session on agritourism with Brad Fahrmeier of Three Trails Winery; how to do an energy audit of your home or farm; and a session with Crawford about how to get your life organized.

Cathy Barton and Dave Para will again provide lunchtime entertainment, celebrating the musical traditions of Missouri and the Ozarks.

Organizers emphasize that men shouldn’t let the title of the event put them off. “This event presents a wealth of information in a fun environment,” Crawford said. “While the focus of the conference is placed on women agriculturalists, anyone and everyone is invited.”

In addition to Crawford, conference organizers include Parman Green, Anita Elson, Becky Plattner, Jared Singer, Nadia Navarrete-Tindall, Allen Voss and Steve Wooden.

A full schedule of events and registration information is available at their website. Cost for the conference is $12 in advance and $15 at the door. This includes all sessions, conference materials, lunch and entertainment.

The day begins with coffee and registration at 8:30 a.m. Events kick off with the keynote speaker at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m.

Call the MU Extension Center in Saline County at 660-886-6908 for more information.

The conference is sponsored by MU Extension, Lincoln University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

10 Top Vegetable Diseases in 10 Minutes

10 Top Vegetable Diseases in 10 Minutes presented by Mark Gleason

Mark Gleason has been on the faculty at Iowa State University for 25 years, focusing on disease management for horticultural crops. On Saturday he gave a brief overview of the top ten diseases that affect vegetable crops.

1. Septoria leaf spot mainly affects tomato plants and is seen on the foliage as small, uniform brown spots sometimes associated with chlorosis (or yellowing). It is caused by the fungus Septoria lycopersici.

2. Bacterial spot is mainly seen on tomato transplants as small, circular, dark lesions found on foliage, which can develop into blighted areas on the leaves. It is caused by the bacteria Xanthomonas campestris and is easily transmitted by infected seed.

3. Bacterial canker is another bacterial disease common to the tomato, caused by the bacterium Clavibacter michiganensis and resulting in lesions on foliage or wilting. It is carried by infected seed and can be transported to the field on seedlings.

4. Cucurbit bacterial wilt is seen in cucurbits as the wilting of foliage and fruit. It is caused by the bacterium Erwinia tracheiphila and spread by the striped or spotted cucumber beetle.

5. Cucurbit downy mildew occurs in cucurbits as chlorotic lesions on foliage and gray “down” on the undersides of leaves. It is caused by the pathogen Pseudoperonospora cubensis and can be carried by the wind. It is essential to treat plants for downy mildew as soon as symptoms appear.

6. Cucurbit anthracnose appears on cucurbits as brown spots on the leaves and round lesions on fruit. It is caused by the fungus Glomerella lagenarium and is more common during periods of high precipitation.

7. Cucurbit powdery mildew is caused by the fungus Spaerotheca fuliginea or Erisyphe cichoracearum and appears as white, powdery fungal growth on the foliage of cucurbits. The fungal growth appears on the underside of leaves first, so it is important to regularly inspect your cucurbit crops.

8. Phytophthora blight affects cucurbits as well as eggplants, tomatoes, and peppers. Symptoms include damping-off of seedlings, leaf spots, stem rot, and fruit rot. It is caused by the soilborne pathogen Phytophthora capsici and can be controlled by crop rotation and adequate drainage.

9. Late blight occurs mainly in potatoes and tomatoes and can be seen as dark lesions or white spores on leaves or dark lesions on fruit. It is caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans, which is mainly transmitted via infected seed potatoes or the transmission of spores during wet conditions. It can be prevented by planting only certified healthy seed potatoes, destroying any potato plant residue left in the field after harvest, planting resistant cultivars, and the use of fungicides.

10. Damping off is a fungal disease that kills germinating seeds or young seedlings in the greenhouse. It is a soilborne fungus that can be prevented by using sterilized growing media, allowing for adequate drainage and air circulation, and encouraging the rapid germination and growth of seedlings.
(by Luke Freeman Senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Basics on Organic & Conventional Weed Control

Basics on Organic & Conventional Weed Control presented by James Quinn

James Quinn is the Horticulture Specialist for the University of Missouri Extension’s Central Region. Before moving to Missouri he was a wholesale producer in Michigan, growing salad greens and herbs. On Saturday, he presented on the basics of both organic and conventional weed control.

Organic weed control requires the combination of several methods, including: prevention, cover cropping, flame weeding, cultivation, crop rotation, mulching, mowing, and fostering biological diversity. No single method can provide complete pest control, but together these methods can create an environment where pest pressures do not affect crop yields. Flame weeding is an interesting method that involves carrying or wheeling a flame torch that kills weeds with heat. Flaming can be used to produce a stale seedbed by flaming the freshly seeded bed before the crop emerges. This method can be expensive, but it does provide efficient weed control for small-scale organic growers.

Another organic method of weed control is mulching. Both synthetic and organic-based mulches are available for the organic grower. The only stipulation with a synthetic mulch is that it must be removed at the end of the season in order to meet organic certification standards. Both types of mulches can smother weeds and lower the soil temperature, but organic mulches can contribute to soil organic matter. Synthetic mulches also have the possibility of raising soil temperature if that would be advantageous (e.g. black plastic). Organic herbicides are an option for the organic grower, as long as they are approved by your organic certifier—and it is always good to double-check. It is important to note, however, that these organic herbicides are usually not as potent as conventional herbicides.

In the world of conventional weed control, glyphosate (the active ingredient of Roundup) is the most widely used herbicide. Reasons why glyphosate is so widely used are that it is simple, allowed for use on all vegetables, can be combined with other herbicides, and has a short preharvest interval. Some problems with glyphosate are that it does not inhibit new weed emergence and some weeds have developed resistance to the chemical. The use of a single herbicide for weed management can lead to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds. Because of this, it is good to only spray when necessary and rely on a variety of herbicides to control weeds on your farm.

Other conventional herbicides in use for vegetable production are Dual II Magnum, Command, Atrazine, and Bicep for preplant applications; and Sandea, Poast, Select, Impact, Callisto, and 2,4-D for postemergent applications. In some cases there is a drift hazard, so it is very important to know the safety hazards for any herbicide you may use. It is also effective to couple these herbicides with plastic mulch to create a very repressive weed control strategy.
(by Luke Freeman Senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.)

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to Grow Your Own Transplants

How to Grow Your Own Transplants presented by Hank Taber

Hank Taber, Professor Emeritus and Extension Vegetable Specialist at Iowa State University, conducts research in earliness techniques, irrigation practices, and vegetable fertility practices. He has over 40 years of experience in market vegetable production, having grown up on a fruit and vegetable farm in western New York. On Saturday Taber presented on the topic of vegetable transplant production.

There are several reasons a grower would want to produce his or her own transplants. It ensures germination for expensive seed, helps get a crop in the ground earlier, provides uniform stand and harvest, reduces the time a crop is in the field, and eliminates the need for thinning. Some crops, however, are not cost effective or not adapted for transplanting (e.g. sweet corn or some cucurbits).

The three factors of successful transplant production are temperature, water, and nutrition. The soil should be kept at 80°F for uniform germination and then 75°F by day and 65°F at night to grow out the seedlings. Sufficient moisture is essential for healthy transplants, but transplants can be hardened off by withholding water. It is important to test your water for pH, alkalinity, and salt content before using it for transplant production. And water should be at least 68°F when irrigating seedlings. Nutrition is essential for seedling growth and deficiencies can lead to less vigorous growth in the field and lower yields.

Common problems in the greenhouse are high temperature, over-watering, and low light. These factors contribute to transplants that are spindly and soft and have low success in the field. Other problems in the greenhouse include ethylene damage from burning gas, low germination temperature, excess fertility resulting in soluble salts, and poorly drained media.

Hardening off is an essential step of the transplant process. It involves acclimating the seedling to the growing conditions present in the field by disturbing the optimum growing conditions it has experienced in the greenhouse. Hardening off can be accomplished by reducing temperature, increasing ventilation, withholding water, or reducing fertilizer application. Of these options, withholding water is the most practical.

Providing your transplants with a smooth transition into the field is important. Factors encouraging success in the field include using young, vigorous plants, minimizing root breakage, keeping cotyledons intact, and avoiding over-hardening. It is important to transplant under favorable conditions, with cloudy skies and low wind speeds. Immediate watering is essential to minimize transplant shock. Lastly, it is important to use a starter fertilizer solution with a high phosphorus content. Compost can be used for this purpose.
(by Luke Freeman Senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Basics on Irrigating Vegetables

Basics on Irrigating Vegetables presented by Mike Orzolek

Mike Orzolek, Professor of Vegetable Crops in the Department of Horticulture at Pennsylvania State University, has done extensive research on stand establishment, plastic mulches, high tunnels, weed management, and tillage systems. On Saturday he presented on the topic of irrigation.

Orzolek argued that drip irrigation is the most uniform and efficient means of irrigating a crop. Overhead irrigation is not uniform and leaves the foliage wet. Drip tape irrigates the soil only, leaving the foliage dry, which prevents fungal growth and infection. It also allows the grower control over how much moisture is added to the soil, allowing for efficient irrigation.

To know how much moisture a vegetable crop needs it helps to think of evapotranspiration (ET) rates, which is the rate of loss of soil moisture due to evaporation from the soil surface and transpiration from the plants. Calculating this rate helps the grower understand how much moisture must be added to the soil in order to maintain an adequate supply for the crop. Next, the grower can calculate the gross irrigation requirement (GIR), which takes into account the ET rate plus irrigation inefficiency. Knowing how much moisture is lost due to ET plus how much moisture is misapplied by the irrigation system can help a grower get an estimate of the daily irrigation requirement for his or her crops.

Other ways to determine the irrigation schedule are to observe the plants and measure the soil moisture content. It is important to irrigate before plants show signs of wilt. After a plant wilts, it is already suffering the consequences of inadequate moisture. Measuring the soil moisture level can help a grower determine if it is time to irrigate. Tensiometers, resistance blocks, and neutron probes are tools that can measure the moisture content of the soil. Computer software is also available, which can map soil moisture levels and help predict irrigation schedules. It is always important to irrigate when the plants need water, even if rain is in the forecast. It is better to have over-irrigated plants than to have plants that are water-stressed.
(by Luke Freeman Senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Growing Quality Produce on Difficult Soil

Today we continue the blogs from Luke Freeman who attended the Beginning Farmer Track at the Great Plains Growers Conference in January.

Growing Quality Produce on Difficult Soil presented by Kenny Duzan

Kenny Duzan and his wife Becky grow 3.5 acres of produce in Columbia, Missouri, where they sell at the Columbia Farmers’ Market. Being in his 11th year of production, Duzan knows his soil. He began the session by discussing the various soil types found in Missouri: the sedimentary rocks of the Ozarks, the alluvial and colluvial soils of the river bottoms, the glacial drift of northern Missouri, and the loess deposits surrounding the Missouri River. Duzan farms on central Missouri claypan soil, where drainage is usually the biggest problem.

Duzan stressed the importance of knowing your soil, encouraging growers to take soil tests to know the nutrient composition and pH of their soil. A pH of 6.5 to 7 is best for vegetable production. Duzan also tests the compost or manure he applies to his land for a nutrient analysis. This prevents him from accumulating a buildup of any certain nutrient, like phosphorus, to a toxic level. The standard fertilizer he uses has a 12-12-12 (N-P-K) composition, but different fertilizers would be necessary depending on the farm-specific need. He has also experimented with spent brewers grain as an organic mulch and fertilizer. It has a high protein content (thus a high N content) and is low in carbon content.

The biggest problem he encounters on his farm is poor drainage due to the claypan soils. Poor drainage leads to anoxic conditions causing denitrification, where bacteria convert the plant available nitrate into nitrogen gas, which becomes unavailable to the plants. This problem requires drainage management and nutrient management, applying nitrogen fertilizer to replace the nitrogen lost through denitrification. On any farm, it is vital to stay aware of the nutrient conditions of the soil and adopt practices that minimize nutrient loss and maximize nutrient uptake.
(by Luke Freeman Senior at the University of Missouri, majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Webinar - The Top 10 Things You Need to Think about When Getting Started in Farming

The Missouri Beginning Farmer Program will jump start their internet teaching on February 21st with a free webinar from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on "The Top 10 Things You Need to Think about When Getting Started in Farming" presented by Chris Blanchard. Don’t miss this opportunity! Chris was the wildly popular keynote speaker at the 2011 Great Plains Growers Conference in St. Joseph on the topic of "Values and Scales in the Local Foods Market Place." He also participated in two pre-conference workshops to the conference on "Farming Smarter, Not Harder" and the "CSA Mini-School" as well as giving a breakout session on "Organic Under Glass and Plastic." Chris owns and operates Rock Spring Farm, a twelve acre organic market farm north of Decorah, IA selling a wide variety of vegetables and herbs through a 200 member CSA, food stores, and a farmers' market since 1999. He also coordinates the presentations for the Upper Midwest Organic Conference. To join in this webinar, see the directions below this article.

The Missouri Beginning Farmer Program’s internet teaching will include monthly webinars of topics of interest to beginning farmers. Other tools on the internet teaching will include "live chats" with successful farmers, forums on topics such as "grazing", "pastured poultry", "regulations" and more. Also included on the internet teaching site will be hand out materials, PowerPoint presentations and pictures from past and future face-to-face short courses. Over time we anticipate adding a farmer mentoring component as well.

The Missouri Beginning Farmer Program internet teaching will be free for the first 3 months. After that time, there will be an annual membership of $60/year.

Please join The Missouri Beginning Farmer Program in the webinar "The Top 10 Things You Need to Think about When Getting Started in Farming" with Chris Blanchard, Rock Spring Farm, Decorah, IA. All you need to join the webinar is a computer with speakers.

There are only 100 spaces available for the webinar.

Invited By: Debi Kelly
When: Monday 21 February, 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM
Time Zone: (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US and Canada)

To join the webinar go to:



If you have never attended a Connect Pro meeting before:
Test your connection:

Get a quick overview:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Scheduling of Vegetable Plantings

The next series of blogs were written by Luke Freeman, Senior at MU majoring in Sustainable Agriculture.  He was able to attend the Great Plains Growers Conference's Beginning Vegetable Farmer Track through a scholarship from Tigers for Community Agriculture (TCA), a MU student organization that is trying to create a student-run vegetable farm at the MU Bradford Research and Extension Farm.

Scheduling of Vegetable Plantings presented by Dan Dermitzel

Dan Dermitzel is the co-founder and associate director of the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture (KCCUA). He helped build the Kansas City Community Farm, which is a two-acre certified organic vegetable farm that sells produce to the Kansas City area through farmers’ markets and a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. On Saturday, Dermitzel spoke on the scheduling of vegetable plantings based on his experience with the KCCUA.

The objective of crop scheduling is to offer a wide variety of produce to the consumer for as much of the year as possible and thus capture the consumer’s produce dollar. Dermitzel likes to think of his small farm as being a “vegetable grocery store,” providing farmers’ market customers with one location to buy all their fresh vegetables for the week. Dermitzel showed four steps to take when planning out a planting schedule:

1. Decide what to grow
2. Schedule plantings
3. Apportion production space
4. Schedule transplant production

Sometimes after going through these steps, it will be necessary to make changes to the first step, and thus begin the process over from the beginning. Space and time availability play vital roles when it comes to crop planning and often limit what a grower can and can’t produce.

To assist him in the tedious job of making planting schedules, Dermitzel creates spreadsheets that can easily be edited. The planting schedule spreadsheet has a column for crop name, total crops planted, and a column for every week of every month. This allows a grower to easily look at one sheet and know when any given crop needs to be seeded or transplanted, and it allows for single crops to have multiple plantings. Dermitzel recommended printing out these and other record sheets and having them in an accessible place on the farm so that they can be easily accessed and edited if necessary.

It is also vital to map out the production space when planning for the upcoming season. Dermitzel uses a spreadsheet for this process as well, making rows and columns that represent physical beds on the farm. In his case, the standard bed is 4 by 150 feet with walkways three feet wide. This spreadsheet allows him to record what is planted in each bed year by year and is very useful in planning a crop rotation system.

The third record sheet Dermitzel showed is for transplant production, which can get quite complicated on its own. For this spreadsheet, he used the column headings of seed, variety, actual start date, number of starts, notes, and the ideal age of transplants. With these record sheets Dermitzel can easily keep track of the many operations happening simultaneously on the farm and have a good bank of records when planning for the new year.
(by Luke Freeman - University of Missouri, Columbia Missouri)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Frost Seeding Your Pastures

Frost seeding, sometimes referred to as overseeding establishes legumes in existing grass pastures. Legumes are broadcast on grass pastures in late winter or very early spring when the ground is still frozen. Freezing and thawing, plus early spring rains, works the seed into the soil. All commonly grown legumes can be established by overseeding. Because of their greater seedling vigor, red clover, alsike clover, and ladino clover are more easily established than other legumes like alfalfa. Frost seedings are most successful in bare and disturbed pasture areas where cattle have grazed closely.

This allows sunlight down to the ground when the newly germinated plant begins its growth among the established grass. It seems that bunch-type grasses such as our fescues and orchard grasses offer less competition to legume seedlings than vigorous stands of sod-forming bromegrass, bluegrass, and bermudagrass. Frost seeded legumes and grasses often have poor establishment in years with abnormally dry springs and early summer hot weather. Red and alsike clover stands last about two years. Ladino and other white clover stands may last three or more years.

Red and Ladino clovers should be frost seeded in mid February for best results. Annual or Korean lespedeza can be considered for frost seeding in Southwest Missouri in early March. Lespedeza is tolerant of poor fertility and irregular drainage sites. Lespedeza seedlings are slow to establish, but contribute to production by mid- to late-summer.

Seeding rates for overseeding should be equal or preferably higher than when seeded on prepared seedbeds. Extra seed helps compensate for the reduced chance of good seed coverage and the expense is offset by lower costs for labor, tillage operations, and seeding equipment. The following seeding rates in pounds per acre are suggested. when seeded alone: Red Clover 8 to10 lb per acre, Alsike Clover 3 to 5 lb per acre, Ladino Clover 3 to 5 lb per acre , and Lespedeza 8 to 10 lb per acre.

The following steps are suggested for successful overseeding:

1. Select a suitable site. Chances of success are greater on thin grass stands than on thick, vigorous stands because there is less competition for legume seedlings.

2. Control weeds. If possible, plan a year ahead and spray weeds with 2,4-D. Weeds reduce stand establishment and can be controlled only by clipping once legumes are established.

3. Soil test and apply needed lime and fertilizer. Adequate plant nutrients aid establishment and increase yields. If possible, apply needed lime one year ahead of seeding. Nitrogen should not be used the season before or the year of frost seeding because it stimulates grasses and weeds, making them too competitive. Phosphorus and potassium, however, are needed by legumes.

4. Graze closely the fall before seeding. This reduces grass competition and aids establishment. Although it is not considered necessary, disturbing the soil lightly with a disk in the fall before seeding may help legume establishment.

5. Broadcast seed in February or early March. Seeding should be done when the ground is still frozen.  Probability of success decreases with the onset of spring due to higher surface soil temperatures and lower moisture.

6. Manage grazing after seeding. Control of grass and weed competition during the first two or three months of the growing season is critical for the establishment of adequate legume stands. Use moderate periodic grazing after the grass starts growing, but avoid close grazing. Some mowing may be necessary to help control grass and weeds.

7. Inoculate legume seed with rhizobium bacteria. This insures adequate amounts of nitrogen are being produced by the legumes for all plants to use.
(By John Hobbs, Agriculture and Rural Development Extension Specialist)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chestnut workshop series covers entire 2011 growing season

Classes will take current and prospective growers and educators through season of growing, harvesting and marketing chestnuts.

Chinese chestnuts are a growing industry in Missouri, but there’s still a lot to be learned about both the trees and the market.

Researchers from the Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri have pioneered growing Chinese chestnuts in Missouri and will teach others what they’ve learned through four workshops offered throughout 2011 at the MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center in New Franklin.

Current and prospective growers, extension agents and FFA instructors and students are invited to attend the 2011 workshops to learn more about the chestnut industry.

“A one-acre orchard of 50 well-managed grafted Chinese chestnut trees can gross between $4,000 and $7,000 wholesale and about $10,000 retail within 10-12 years and provide growers with supplemental income,” said Mike Gold, associate director of the center. “We feel this crop will be of interest to many growers and is part of the future of specialty crop farming in Missouri. Growing chestnuts is an excellent way to diversify your farm income.”

Gold recommends that participants sign up for all four sessions, which will take attendees through the entire growing season to learn about establishing and caring for trees, and harvesting, cleaning and marketing the nuts. The workshops will occur throughout the year, covering topics relevant to the time of the growing season.

Course dates and topics are as follows (all sessions are on Tuesdays):
- March 22: Site selection, planting, graft planning and pruning.
- May 3: Grafting.
- Aug. 16: Orchard maintenance, weed control, insect scouting, pest management and disease control.
- Sept. 13: Chestnut harvest, marketing and sales.

MU instructors include Gold; Ken Hunt, research scientist, forestry; Mark Coggeshall, research assistant professor of forestry; and Michele Warmund, professor of plant sciences. Outside experts and veteran growers will be brought in for individual courses when applicable.

Previous workshop series were supported by a Missouri Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant. Because that grant has ended, 2011 workshop fees will be $75 per session or $300 for the entire course. The fee includes educational materials and lunch.

Gold noted that about 60 landowners have gone through the workshop series in the past two years and post-workshop feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Attendees rated the workshops on average as either “excellent” (90 percent) or “good” (10 percent) in surveys administered after the final meeting.

A minimum of 10 participants must sign up for each session for the workshops to be offered. The event confirmation date will be March 15, so sign up today, Gold said.

For workshop details, contact Gold at 573-884-1448 or to sign up, contact Julie Rhoads at 573-882-3234.

Learn more about the Center for Agroforestry and Chinese chestnuts visit their website.
(By Michele Hall, Senior Information Specialist, Center for Agroforestry)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Financial Assistance Available for High Tunnels, Organic Operations

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has $1.5 million available to assist eligible Missouri producers interested in installing seasonal high tunnels, for organic producers and for those transitioning to organic production. Applications for high tunnels and organic operations must be received by March 4 at NRCS offices.

Both the Organic Initiative funding and the high tunnel funding is provided through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). NRCS State Conservationist J.R. Flores said the 2011 funding is nearly the same as last year. In 2010, the funds were used for 93 organic contracts covering 3,000 acres, and to construct 159 seasonal high tunnels.
"Missouri was second in the nation in 2010 in the number of high tunnels constructed," Flores said. "Missouri producers clearly see the benefit of incorporating high tunnels into their operations, and they seem pleased that we are able to offer this kind of assistance."

Seasonal high tunnels are structures made of plastic or metal pipe covered with plastic sheeting. Easy to build, maintain and move, they provide an energy efficient way to extend the growing season. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops.

2011 marks the third year of USDA's Organic Initiative, and up to $50 million nationally 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.

To get more information about seasonal high tunnels, the Organic Initiative or other NRCS programs, visit the Missouri NRCS website or contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under "U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture," or on the internet .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Late Winter - Time for Pruning Fruit Trees and Small Fruits

In Missouri, February through mid-March is the time to prune your fruit trees and small fruits.  Woody plants are still in the dormant stage at this time. Annual pruning is very important for a productive fruit crop. You should prune to develop a strong framework, and allow for good light penetration and air circulation which is important to minimize disease. Prune out any dead, diseased or broken branches and any branches that are crossing or rubbing against one another.

March is the time to spray dormant oil on fruit trees such as apples, plums, peaches and cherries, to smother any overwintering insects. You can find it at local garden centers. Spray on a calm day when temperatures are above 40 degrees F, and cover all sides of the branches. Be sure to follow the label instructions for proper usage and plants. We have had a lot of rain the past three years and with that a lot of disease problems. Peach leaf curl has been a problem in home fruit plantings, so if you have experienced this problem, I recommend that you spray your peach trees with a labeled fungicide before the buds swell to protect them from getting it again this year. If you need information on how to prune certain tree fruits or small fruits such as blueberry plants, grapevines, or blackberries and raspberries, you can email me or give me a call. Be sure to give me your mailing address and I will send you information in the mail.