Friday, April 29, 2011

New Weed Identification Website

A new weed identification website is now available from the University of Missouri Weed Science program. This website contains about 350 different plant species that could be encountered as a weed of field and horticultural crops, pastures, lawns, gardens, non-crop, or aquatic areas in Missouri and surrounding states. One of the newest features of the website is a keying system that allows users to identify an unknown plant after they have selected the appropriate characteristics from a series of drop-down boxes. Simply select grass or broadleaf weed from the home menu and give this keying system a try for yourself. Or, if you have some idea as to what your weed species might be, you can simply type all or part of the common or scientific name into the appropriate text box and the database will narrow down the possibilities for you. We hope you find this site useful and will send us any feedback that will help us to continue to improve this site in the future. Comments and questions pertaining to the site can be sent directly via e-mail to

(by Kevin Bradley, MU Associated Professor)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sustainable Control of Internal Parasites in Small Ruminant Production

Sheep and goat production is a growing enterprise for small and limited resource farmers. Small ruminants (sheep and goats) are adaptable to many different production systems and can be raised with relatively few inputs, but they face huge production challenges. Control of internal parasites, especially gastrointestinal nematodes including Haemonchus contortus (barberpole worm, stomach worm), is a primary concern for many sheep and goat producers and is particularly challenging in humid regions. Grazing animals ingest infective larvae from grass and shorter forages. The larvae develop into adults in the abomasum (true stomach) of ruminants. The adult parasites feed on blood in the abomasum and lay their eggs, which are excreted in the ruminants’ feces. The life cycle continues when the eggs hatch and larvae develop on pasture, where they can be ingested by the grazing ruminants.

Internal parasites have become more difficult to manage in small ruminants because of the parasites’ increasing resistance to all available chemical dewormers. Parasite problems negatively impact the animals’ health, reduce productivity and increase treatment costs. Pastures with heavy stocking rates in high-rainfall regions are especially vulnerable to the buildup of parasites. The cost of internal parasite infection includes treatment expense, reduced animal weight gains and performance, and even animal death.

In response, the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (SCSRPC) has investigated several methods of sustainable gastrointestinal nematode parasite control, including Smart Drenching (including FAMACHA©), copper oxide wire particles (COWP), condensed tannin-containing plants, specifically sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata), selection of resistant breeds and other alternative methods. This fact sheet, Sustainable Control of Internal Parasites in Small Ruminant Production, provides basic information on each approach and cites resources for training and further information.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rising food and fuel costs give local food a market opportunity in schools and institutions

As prices at the gas pump and the grocery store continue to rise, local food economies could benefit as their produce becomes more competitive.

The combination of pain in pocketbooks, increased childhood obesity and a focus on building local markets makes putting more squash and sweet potatoes on school lunch menus more attractive.

“Schools can provide fresh, flavorful, locally grown food while giving farmers a chance to sell to new markets,” said Bill McKelvey, the state coordinator for University of Missouri Extension’s Farm to Institution project. “If you can provide more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals and snacks while also providing economic and market opportunities for local farmers, we feel that’s going to benefit local communities.”

McKelvey joined more than 100 people – from farmers and local food organizers to hospital and school food service administrators – at the Springfield Farm to School conference in March. They exchanged ideas and strategies about local food, melding nutrition concerns with practical ideas for farmers and food service personnel.

This focus comes at an opportune time.
The average gas price in the Midwest is a dollar more than a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Food prices in the U.S. increased 3.6 percent in the last year, according to the Consumer Price Index. This makes local food, with lower shipping costs, more competitive with food from mainstream distributors.

Brad Gray, who owns Nature’s Lane Farm and runs the Springfield Farmers Market, describes himself as a big backer of self-sufficiency through local food, and he understands how this could open the door to growth.

“It gives us an incentive to grow our business in a way that makes us more efficient,” Gray said. “If we can learn how to market to schools, to institutions, to hospitals that can use our fresh local products, we will become better growers and keep our food systems sustainable.”

Missouri can learn from other states with Farm to School programs, such as Michigan and Oklahoma, replicating and reusing successful efforts rather than starting from scratch, said Chris Kirby, the Farm to School coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture.

Kirby suggested schools and farmers in Missouri use tools like her produce calculator, which can convert pounds of sweet potatoes into units that food service providers are accustomed to using.

“Food service works with price per serving or number of servings, and the calculator can translate that into poundage of a vegetable needed from a farmer,” Kirby said. “With it you can see, for example, that to feed squash to 240 kids, you might need to ask a farmer for 50-60 pounds of squash, which is very easy and achievable for a small grower to provide for a medium-sized school district.”

Tools like this connect schools with farmers who don’t deal with food in the same terms. Ruell Chappell will soon be one of those farmers. He runs Springfield’s Well-Fed Neighbor Alliance, one of several local co-ops connecting groups of farmers to the community’s food needs. Chappell said schools and hospitals can complement current sales to local restaurants and at farmers markets.

“You need both small and big customers and it’s that mix that makes it economically profitable to utilize all your different products,” Chappell said. “The problem is that there are only so many steaks in a cow but there’s a lot of grind, so you can sell to high-end restaurants but that also makes institutions who will utilize your hamburger important.”

In 2009, more than 30 percent of Missouri’s population was classified as obese, including one in seven high schoolers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This makes the business of local food closely tied to the goal of healthier children and communities.

“There’s a great opportunity to feed our children and families better with our own local food,” Chappell said. “This puts farmers back in business, creates jobs, improves our health to lower the obesity rate and gives us a future we can grow to.”

“If we eat healthier and eat better we’ll be a healthier society,” Gray said. “If our medical bills can be kept lower, our whole lives can be revolutionized by eating healthy and using good local food. It just goes hand-in-hand with our society trying to do better.”

Visit the Missouri Farm to School to learn more about the program. Find Kirby’s food calculator by clicking here and more resources from the National Farm to School Program.
(by Roger Meissen, MU Information Specialist)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Elderberry Financial Decision Support Tool

The Center for Agroforestry at the University of Missouri offers various support tools to help prospective producers make decisions about establishment and management techniques for different alternative crops.

The newest tool, available online, is the Elderberry Financial Decision Support Tool.  Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a versatile, easily-grown native shrub for the Midwest and is well-suited to riparian forest buffers and alley cropping.

The Elderberry Financial Decision Support Tool is an Excel (©Microsoft Corporation)-based model that allows the user to select multiple options from a list of the most common establishment, management, harvesting and marketing techniques to determine the methods that will generate the best economic returns.

Friday, April 22, 2011

So Many Farmers’ Markets: How To Choose

Farmers’ markets are one of many venues for selling produce, meat and value-added products. Selling at farmers’ markets can be challenging and is not for everyone. However, many growers who choose this avenue for selling find it rewarding. Deciding which market you want to sell at can be challenging as well, especially with so many markets to choose from. Within our program’s seven-county region, there are over 35 farmers’ markets. You can also look outside this seven-county area and find countless other farmers’ markets.

How much time do you have to market? You will need to balance your time between production and marketing. There is a farmers’ market for nearly every day of the week. Some growers will spend multiple days selling at markets, but unless you are a big operator, you will most likely not spend any more than two days at the market. Some farmers’ markets operate two days a week, but most are once a week. We at ISFOP have a farmers’ market spreadsheet with locations, contact information, and the days and time of operation.  You can also look on the Agri-Missouri website where the farmers’ markets are listed by county. However, there are a couple of farmers’ markets that are not listed on this website.

How far are you willing to drive? As gas prices go up, this is becoming more of a relevant question. If it costs you $70.00 in gas to get to market, that is going to affect the profits you take home on market day. It is also very important that you factor in your time at market. Remember, you need to get paid too! Factor in your hourly wage when figuring out how far you are willing to drive.

There are more questions you need to ask in order to make a good decision on which market to go to, but to get answers you will need to do your homework. Call the contacts or market managers of the markets you are interested in and ask them about their market. Here are some pertinent questions to ask:

* Is there a contract?
* Does the market have rules or by-laws? If so, how are they enforced? Most markets have a set of rules. For example, maybe vendors can only sell things they produce (or only local products can be sold). It is good to know if these rules are in place and enforced.
* How many customers do they get at the market? If it is multiple days ask them about each day separately.
* How do they advertise the market to get new customers?
* Are they able to do electronic sales of any kind? Some markets have debit and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) card machines. This can increase customer spending at a market.
* Do they have a covered area or will you need to bring a tent?
* If you need electricity make sure they have it.
* Is the farmers’ market licensed and insured?
* How much does it cost to have a vending space?

Finding a good market is important, but if you have an unattractive stand, it won’t matter how good the market is or not. In order to be successful in this venue, you need to have fairly good customer service
skills and be able to sell not only your produce, but yourself, too. At most farmers’ markets there are at least five other vendors that are possibly selling the same kinds of produce as you. What will make your booth stand out and draw customers to it?
(by Katie Nixon, Small Farm Specialist, Lincoln University)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

FSA Youth Loans Build Future Farmers

Across our communities, young farmers are taking out loans, rolling up their sleeves and taking part in the American Dream in hopes of becoming future farmers with the ability to own a farm of their own one day.

Rebecca Hatcher and Jake Broadway are members of the Grundy County High School Future Farmers of America. When they decided to participate in the 4-H market steer project they contacted the Winchester Farm Service Agency (FSA) office about a youth loan. After receiving the loan, each purchased a market steer to show in 4-H shows in the area and the nearby county fair. Their plan is to market and sell the steers this summer and save the profit for college. Rebecca’s father, Wade Hatcher, is sponsoring both steers at his farm.

Rebecca Hatcher and Jake Broadway got their first taste of the cattle business through an FSA Youth Loan.

Rebecca had three years of FSA Youth Loans for the 4-H Market Swine program in Florida before relocating to Tennessee where her family purchased a farm. Although this will be Jake’s first experience entering the market steer project, he has three years of farming experience helping his uncle with chickens and working with his dad, Jeffery Broadway, performing daily farm chores.

The market steer project is designed to give the applicant a sense of responsibility and instill a love for cattle as well as an appreciation for the importance of the individual’s role in agriculture and society. Participation in this project was made possible when Rebecca and Jake each applied for and received a FSA Youth Loan through the Farm Service Agency. Rebecca is the daughter of Heidi and Wade Hatcher. Jake is the son of Debbie and Jeffery Broadway.

The Farm Service Agency’s Youth Loan program provides opportunities through financial assistance and business planning to help rural youth in building their future in agriculture, while ensuring the future of family farms. FSA Youth Loans are available for youth between the ages of 10 and 21, who are involved with 4-H, FFA or other similar agriculturally focused organizations. The project must be agriculturally related and produce a modest income.

Rebecca and Jake are proud to say that they got their start in the cattle business with help from the FSA Youth Loan program.
(reprinted from USDA Blog, Posted by Patricia F. Jones, Farm Loan Officer, Winchester, TN, on April 18, 2011 at 2:58 PM )

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Loans for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes and guarantees loans to beginning farmers who are unable to obtain financing from commercial lenders. Each fiscal year, the Agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership (FO) and operating loan (OL) funds to beginning farmers.

A beginning farmer is an individual or entity who (1) has not operated a farm for more than 10 years; (2) meets the loan eligibility requirements of the program to which he/she is applying;
(3) substantially participates in the operation; and,
(4) for FO purposes, does not own a farm greater than 30 percent of the median size farm in the county. (Note: all applicants for direct FO loans must have participated in the business operation of a farm for at least 3 years.) If the applicant is an entity, all members must be related by blood or marriage, and all members in a corporation must be eligible beginning farmers.

Maximum Loan Amounts
■ Direct FO or OL: $300,000
■ Guaranteed FO or OL: $1,119,000 (Amount varies annually based on inflation).

Downpayment ProgramFSA has a special loan program to assist socially disadvantaged and beginning farmers in purchasing a farm. Retiring farmers may use this program to transfer their land to future generations.

To qualify:
■ The applicant must make a cash down payment of at least 5 percent of the purchase price.
■ The maximum loan amount does not exceed 45 percent of the least of (a) the purchase price of the farm or ranch to be acquired; (b) the appraised value of the farm or ranch to be acquired; or (c) $500,000 (Note: This results in a maximum loan amount of $225,000).
■ The term of the loan is 20 years. The interest rate is 4 percent below the direct FO rate, but not lower than 1.5 percent.
■ The remaining balance may be obtained from a commercial lender or private party. FSA can provide up to a 95 percent guarantee if financing is obtained from a commercial lender. Participating lenders do not have to pay a guarantee fee.
■ Financing from participating lenders must have an amortization period of at least 30 years and cannot have a balloon payment due within the first 20 years of the loan.

Sale of Inventory Farmland
FSA advertises inventory property within 15 days of acquisition. Eligible SDA and beginning farmers are given first priority to purchase these properties at the appraised market value. If one or more eligible SDA or beginning farmer offers to purchase the same property in the first 135 days, the buyer is chosen randomly.

Joint Financing Arrangement
Beginning farmers may choose to participate in a joint financing arrangement.  With this arrangement, FSA lends up to 50 percent of the amount financed, and another lender provides 50 percent or more. The interest rates can be obtained from your local FSA office and the term of the loan will not exceed 40 years or the useful life of the security.

Where to Apply
Applications for direct loan assistance may be submitted to the local FSA office serving the area where the operation is located. Local FSA offices are listed in the telephone directory under U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture or Farm Service Agency. For guaranteed loans, applicants must apply to a commercial lender who participates in the Guaranteed Loan Program. Contact your local FSA office for a list of participating lenders.

For More Information
Further information about this and other FSA programs is available from local FSA offices or on the FSA website.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ozarks Sustainability Festival

The South Central Ozarks’ First & Largest Celebration of Sustainable Living!

Date: Sunday, May 15th, 2011 – Rain or Shine!

Time: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm; Cost: Free

Location: Next Step SDA Church, 3555 North US Hwy 63, West Plains, MO

Directions: 4 miles north of West Plains or 13 miles south of Willow Springs on US Hwy. 63 North, near Richards R-5 School

Description: A totally free fun-filled day of learning for the entire family at the 4th Annual Ozarks Sustainability Festival, featuring free presentations and workshops throughout the day! You can expect demonstrations of sustainable products and skills, local vendors of green goods and services, handmade local arts and crafts, and select bedding and garden plants. Linger at our scrumptious food court and then enjoy the variety of educational booths, live farm animals, just-for-kids activities and family entertainment. For more information please visit our website or call Craig Wiles at 417-818-6057. We welcome inquiries from interested vendors, speakers, demonstrators and educational organizations!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Early Spring Grazing Tips: Manage Height, Cut Early

A frequently asked question in late May-early June is, “how come my pastures look so spotty grazed?”

The answer is fairly simple, but hard to do much about for that grazing season, according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“An evenly-grazed pasture in early summer usually results from optimal grazing pressure early in the spring. Get on the pastures early with enough cattle to graze it off like you would with a mower,” said Cole.

According to Cole, don’t leave the cattle on very long and plan on returning for several grazing bouts. When grass is growing fast, the rest period can be only 10 to 14 days.

“This type of grazing management reduces your chances of having that ragged, spot-grazed pasture later this year,” said Cole.

If a producer’s cattle population is too small to graze the pastures down to a three inch height, use power fencing to force the cattle to achieve that grazing height.

Keeping the grass, usually fescue, short early in the season also aids in new legume seedling establishment that may be in the mix. Pastures that get away and grow too tall should be cut for hay early in May.

“A May cutting makes excellent hay and sets the pasture up for hay cutting in July or it can be worked into the grazing rotation the rest of the year,” said Cole.

A three-day grazing school goes into more detail on grazing management. Grazing schools are being offered during 2011 on different start dates at different southwest Missouri locations: Halfway (April 26), Mt. Vernon (May 24), Neosho (June 14), Marshfield (Sept. 13), Forsyth (Sept. 19) and Bois D’Arc (Oct. 18).

Information about other schools around the state is available on the Missouri Forage and Grassland Council website.

Attendance is generally limited to 25-30 people. Cost of the schools varies by location, and includes all of the materials (grazing manuals, guides, grazing stick). Daytime schools usually include meals and breaks and some include transportation.

Schools are conducted and sponsored by USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Missouri Extension and Area Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sheep and Goat Conference May 1

Interest is expected to be high for the Southwest Missouri Sheep and Goat Conference planned for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 1, at the McDonald County Fairgrounds, (located between the McDonald County High School and Middle School) in Anderson, Mo.

Goats have been the fastest-growing livestock enterprise in the United States in recent years according to Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension.

"If you want to raise goats for meat or milk, you can learn how to raise them at this conference," said Pennington. “Participants will learn the basic information needed to work with goats.”

Topics like how to get started with goats, goat diseases, internal parasite control, goat nutrition including pasture and forage management and kidding management will all be addressed.

This conference will also include information about the current sheep industry in Missouri.

Speakers include nationally known goat nutritionist Dr. Steve Hart, from Langston University in Langston, Okla. Hart will discuss fencing to contain goats and to control predators as well as grazing goats with cattle.

Other speakers include Dr. Helen Swartz and Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert from Lincoln University Extension in Jefferson City. Swartz is a sheep and goat specialist who has worked with small ruminants for over 30 years. Clifford-Rathert is a small ruminant veterinarian who routinely works with goat diseases and internal parasites.

Pennington will talk about factors in getting started with goats. John Hobbs, an agronomy specialist with MU Extension, will moderate the meeting and conduct an information exchange.

For those who pre-register before April 23, the cost is $10 person. Registration is $15 at the door the day of the event.

For more information, call the Newton County Extension Center, 601 Laclede, Smith Hall (Crowder College), Neosho, MO 64850 at 417-455-9500 or email

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cover Crops: Managing Healthy Soils Workshop

Learn about the dynamic soil environment and how cover crops can improve soil health. Then tour fields at Bradford Farm and Jefferson Farm & Gardens where cover crops are incorporated into planting rotations for field crops and vegetables.

When: Thursday, May 12, 2011, 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Where: Bradford Research and Extension Center, 4968 Rangeline Road, Columbia, MO 65201

Speakers and topics:
Robert Kremer - Soil microbiology

Clark Gantzer - Soil/water conservation

James Quinn - Cover crop use in vegetable rotations

Tim Reinbott - Cover crop use in field crop rotations

This event is free for everyone to attend rain or shine. Snacks will be served.

Please R.S.V.P. by May 5 2011, by e-mailing Catherine Bohnert or call 573-449-3518.

Directions: From I-70 take Highway 63 south, take Broadway WW exit, turn left (east) on Broadway for 6.5 mi, turn right on Rangeline Rd for 2 mi, Bradford Farm is on the right

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Crop Rotation Critical for Successful Vegetable Production

Vegetable crop rotation is important for a healthy, productive garden, says a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist.
Growing a different types of vegetables in the same plot from year to year has many benefits, said Lala Kumar. It avoids the buildup of diseases and pests that can take place when the same or similar crops are planted in the same soil year after year.

“It also promotes good soil health by alternating crops with different nutrient needs, therefore avoiding depletion of any one necessary element present in the soil,” Kumar said.

Crop rotation can also benefit overall soil structure by alternating deep- and shallow-rooting plants, breaking up subsoil and reducing the effects of soil compaction.

A common approach is to rotate crops by botanical families so that individual vegetables from the same family do not follow each other in the rotation. The reason for this is that each family of vegetables has unique effects on growing conditions. “For instance, most vegetables within a given family usually fall prey to the same diseases and insects,” he said.

That makes it important to know the major vegetable families.

The legume family has an important role in crop rotation. Legumes, which include peas and beans of all kinds, are described as “nitrogen fixing” plants. “Legumes collect nitrogen from the air and fix it on the root systems in the form of nodules through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria known as rhizobia,” Kumar said. “Legumes are a great crop to alternate with heavier-feeding plants such as sweet corn and tomatoes.”

Other families common to farms and gardens:
- The goosefoot family includes beets, chard and spinach.
- The mustard family has many members—cabbage, collards, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnip, horseradish and radish.
- The parsley family includes carrot, parsley, celery and parsnip.
- The nightshade family encompasses potato, tomato, eggplant and pepper.
- The gourd family claims the vine crops—summer squash, winter squash, pumpkin, watermelon, cantaloupe and cucumber.
- The composite family includes lettuce, artichoke and Jerusalem artichoke.
- The lily family includes onion, garlic, leek and chives.
- Sweet corn is a member of the grass family.
- Last, but not least, is okra, which is claimed by the mallow family.

“A rotation is easy to plan and use,” Kumar said. First, draw a large circle on paper. Divide the circle into sections as you would cut a pie. The number of sections you have should be equal to the number of vegetable families that you intend to plant.

A simple example would be a garden with four vegetable families: 1) sweet corn (grass family), followed by 2) black-eyed peas and snap beans (pea family), followed by 3) cabbage, broccoli and radishes (mustard family), followed by 4) tomato, pepper and potato (nightshade family).

"To determine what family will occupy the four plots next year, simply rotate the plan clockwise one section,” he said. “Next year the black-eyed peas will be planted where the corn grew this year, and so on. Other more complicated examples can be worked out using the same procedure.”

To make the most of crop rotation, farmers or growers need detailed records of where crops were grown in the past as well as a written plan for how crops will be arranged in the future. Start by making a map of your farm or garden. Label the fields, subfields or plots with names and acreage. Keep a record of crop performance, including any serious pest or soil problems in a field.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NRCS Assistance Supports Organic Growers

Missouri's organic farmers and those transitioning to organic production have until May 20 to apply for the next round of financial assistance available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, State Conservationist J.R. Flores said.

Flores said about $1.3 million is available through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). That is Missouri's share of a $50 million nationwide initiative. 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.

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

Flores said conservation practices could include planting cover crops, establishing integrated pest management plans, constructing seasonal high tunnels, or implementing nutrient management systems consistent with organic certification standards.

Under EQIP Organic Initiative contracts, NRCS provides financial payments and technical assistance to help producers implement conservation measures in keeping with organic production. Beginning, limited resource, and socially disadvantaged producers may obtain additional assistance. The 2008 Farm Bill limits EQIP payments for organic operations to $20,000 per year per person or legal entity, with a maximum total of $80,000 over six years.

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

Monday, April 11, 2011

Drip Irrigation Workshop

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
2:00-5:00 pm
Southwest Research Center, Mt. Vernon, MO

Gain the knowledge and experience you need to install a drip irrigation system. You are invited to participate in an upcoming irrigation workshop lead by:

• Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Extension Horticulture Specialist
• Ed Browning, University of Missouri Extension Ag Engineer Specialist
• Bob Schultheis, University of Missouri Extension Ag Engineer Specialist
• Sarah Becker, Lincoln University 2501 Program Educator, Horticulture Specialist

Come for discussion and a hands‐on practical experience of what it takes to install a drip irrigation system from beginning to finish. Whether you are a backyard gardener, commercial farmer or hobby farmer you can master the basics of drip irrigation and reap the benefits it offers this 2011 growing season!

A registration fee of $10 per person will be charged to cover costs of refreshments and printed materials.

Please direct questions to Sarah Becker at (417) 597-4412.
Pre‐registration is required by Monday, April 25th with registration fee of $10* per person. Make checks payable to University of Missouri and mail to: Sarah Becker, 14548 Hwy H, Mt. Vernon, MO 65712

* Scholarships available upon request to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers as defined by USDA.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Pine Straw: A “New” Mulch for Missouri

Pine straw, the accumulation of naturally shed needles of pine trees, is an excellent landscape mulching material. It is commonly harvested in 20-30 pound bales and sold in the southeastern U.S., where it is the primary mulching material used in landscape plantings. However, loblolly pine, the predominant species used for pine straw plantations in the south, may not be tolerant to Missouri winters. Shortleaf, the only pine species native to Missouri, is not well suited to pine straw production because its needles are too short to bale.

That said, many sites in Missouri are suitable for pine straw production. Work is underway in the MU Center for Agroforestry to evaluate the potential of cold-tolerant selections of loblolly pine and pitch x loblolly hybrid pines for production of pine straw in Missouri. These trees have cold hardiness for Missouri with a similar needle length to loblolly.

Pine straw is a multi-million dollar industry in the U.S. A well-managed plantation in full production can gross up to $1,000 per acre from the sale of pine straw bales. While a tree can only give its bark once, it can give needles every year; pine straw production is sustainable agriculture. However, from a tree health standpoint, it is best to harvest only a portion of the plantation in a given year to allow trees to benefit from needle accumulation between harvests. Since pine straw is actually a leaf (needle), it benefits the landscape in much the same way as decomposing leaves benefit the forest floor by recycling nutrients and maintaining soil organic matter. In contrast, hardwood bark mulch, If overused, can cause a buildup of calcium and potassium in the soil, increasing pH and causing an imbalance in soil minerals that can interfere with nutrient uptake. The minerals in pine needles are balanced and therefore, their decomposition does not create an imbalance in the soil. Hardwood and pine bark mulch can wash away in a strong rain. Pine straw knits together and holds in place during heavy rain, helping to prevent soil erosion. Contrary to popular belief, mulching with pine straw does not make the underlying soil too acidic to grow most landscape plants.

The University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry is working toward creating a pine straw industry in the state of Missouri through research, product development and education, designed to encourage producers, retailers and consumers to adopt the use of this renewable, sustainable, natural mulch material. Numerous pine genotypes have been evaluated at the Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center (HARC), in New Franklin, Mo for their potential for pine straw production. Ultimately the goal is to establish a seed orchard from trees shown to be superior. Then, Missourians will be able to use the seed created to plant their own pine straw plantations.

At present, Missourians who wish to try mulching with pine straw will have some difficulty locating vendors. Some nurseries in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia are selling pine straw. However, this is mostly being shipped in from suppliers in Florida. Hopefully, some of the Missouri landowners who have already planted hardy loblolly and pitch x loblolly hybrid pines will be harvesting needles in the not too distant future.

To read information about pine straw check out this web page from the Center for Agroforestry.
(by Christopher Starbuck, Associate Professor, MU Horticulture)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Share the Gift of Blackberry Plants this Spring

Upright blackberries need dormant pruning to ensure adequate berry size, promote vigorous canes for next year’s growth and keep the fruit off the ground, says a University of Missouri Extension horticulture specialist.

“In addition to pruning, older plantings of upright blackberries may require thinning in order to keep the planting within reasonable bounds in the landscape or field,” said Marlin Bates. “When thinning mature plantings, consider reserving healthy plants for distribution to friends and family.”

Dormant pruning consists of reducing lateral shoot growth to a length of 12-15 inches, Bates said. “This reduces the number of flower buds that will develop, but results in larger fruits and ensures that the plant can support the expected crop load.”

Unlike trailing blackberry plants, which produce new shoots only from the crown, upright blackberries produce new shoots from both the crown and the surrounding root system, he said. An ideal upright blackberry row should be 12-18 inches wide. During dormant pruning, remove any canes that develop outside of the row.

“If the blackberry planting is healthy, the canes that require removal can be used to expand the planting or potted up to be shared,” Bates said.

When the crown region of upright blackberries begins to become too dense with shoots, you can divide the entire plant. “The 12- to 18-inch row of blackberry canes should have a density of about six to eight strong canes per linear foot,” he said. “Dividing the crown of established blackberry plants is a good way to establish the proper density of the planting. Again, the plant portion that is removed from the row can be used to expand the planting or given away as long as the plant is healthy.”

For more information on pruning and dividing bramble plantings, see MU Extension publication G6000, “Pruning Raspberries, Blackberries and Gooseberries.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


The  AgrAbility Project was created to assist people with disabilities employed in agriculture. The project links the Cooperative Extension Service at a land-grant university with a private nonprofit disability service organization to provide practical education and assistance that promotes independence in agricultural production and rural living. The AgrAbility Project assists people involved in production agriculture who work both on small and large operations.

The Missouri AgrAbility project engages Extension educators, disability experts, rural professionals, and volunteers in offering an array of services, including:

- identifying farmers, ranchers, or farmworkers with disabilities and referring them to appropriate resources;
- providing on-site technical assistance on adapting and using farm equipment and tools,
- providing on-site technical assistance on modifying farm operations and buildings;
- providing agriculture-based education to help prevent further injury and disability;
- providing training to help Extension educators and other rural professionals upgrade their skills in assisting farmers, ranchers, farmworkers with diseases, disabilities or disorders; and
- developing or coordinating peer support networks.

Those eligible for Missouri AgrAbility services may have any type of disability – physical, cognitive, or illness-related, for example:
- amputations
- arthritis
- back pain - blindness or vision impairments
- cancer - cardiac problems
- cerebral palsy - deafness or hearing impairments
- diabetes - mental retardation
- multiple sclerosis
- muscular dystrophy
- post polio syndrome - respiratory problems
- spinal cord injury - stroke
- traumatic brain injuries

If you are interested in AgrAbility services (e.g., training, site visit, on-farm assessments, technical assistance, or information about working directly with the farmer, rancher, or farmworker), please contact by telephone at 1.800.995.8503 or e-mail us at address provided below. For a complete listing of the Missouri AgrAbility staff, please jump to the webpage Team.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Food Safety for Marketing to Consumers Workshop

Thursday, April 14th 6:30 p.m.
Warren County Extension, 107 West Walton, Warrenton, MO 63383

This workshop is for people who want to grow or make foods for sale to consumers.

 Virginia Phillips, MO Dept. of Health will discuss food safety concerns associated with producing and marketing for sale.

 Don Falls, Missouri Milk Board will discuss safely producing and marketing milk.

 Martha Orr, MO Dept. of Agriculture will discuss safe egg production and marketing practices.

 Tony Anderson, MO Dept. of Agriculture will provide tips for successful marketing at farmers markets.

 Matt Herring, University of MO Extension Agronomist will discuss soil and manure management for vegetable production.

Please register by calling the Warren County Extension Center at 636-456-3444 by Wednesday April 13th.
Sponsored by the University of Missouri Extension and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011 Goat and Sheep Initiative Conference

(These regional goat and sheep conferences are partially sponsored by the MO Beginning Farmers Program.  debi kelly)

Lincoln University Carver Farm
Jefferson City, MO
April 16, 2011

8:15-8:45 am  -- Registration: $ 10 for pre-registration (to cover materials and lunch); $15 at the door.

8:45-9:00 am -- Welcome

9:00-9:45 am -- Factors in Getting Started – Dr. Jodie Pennington and Dr. Helen Swartz, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension

9:45-10:30 am -- Animal Health, What’s New – Dr. Charlotte Clifford – Rathert Lincoln University Cooperative Extension Service, Jefferson City and Dr. Scott Poock, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Columbia

10:30-10:40 am -- Break

10:40-11:15 am -- Market Grading: what producers need to know for uniformity – Rodger Parker, AMS, USDA

11:15 am-2:30 pm -- You Need to Know About: Stan Cook, Missouri Dept. of Agriculture

12:30-1:00pm -- Lunch

1:00-1:30 pm -- BioSecurity: Rules and Regulation Updates—Rachel Heimericks, Missouri Department of Agriculture Jefferson City, MO.

1:30-2:00 pm -- Producers View: Susan Everhart, Madison, Missouri

2:30–3pm -- Production Demonstrations (8 minute rotations) 1) hoof trimming 2) deworming, injections, 3) weight estimates, body condition scoring, and 4) bio-security on the farm.

3:30pm -- Evaluations, and Adjourn

This conference series is designed to bring the information to the producers. Each region will benefit from the same information on herd health, production, business finance, and marketing. Local producers have been asked to share their success stories.

April 16, 2011 at Lincoln University, Carver Farm
April 30, 2011 Kirksville, Truman University
May 14 Fredericktown Fair Grounds

Registration Fee

$10 Pre-Registration; $15 at the door  (Fees cover the cost of lunch provided and take home materials)
Questions, please call Vonna Kesel 573-681-5312 or Dr. Charlotte Clifford-Rathert 573-681-5169 or

April 16 conference registration deadline: April 11
April 30 conference registration deadline: April 25
May 14 conference registration deadline: May 10

Friday, April 1, 2011

MO Specialty Crop Block Grant

The Missouri Specialty Crop Block Grant applications (SCBGP) are now being accepted for projects that "solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops". Specialty crops are defined by the USDA as fruits and vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, maple syrup, honey, horticulture and nursery crops (including floriculture). Applications are due May 10, 2011.

Applicants may request up to $30,000 in SCBGP funds for a two-year specialty crop project. Applications will be considered on a competitive basis and ranked by a peer review panel. Selected applications will be included in the Missouri Specialty Crop State Plan and reviewed and approved by the USDA.

Projects must impact and produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or the public rather than a single organization, institution or individual. Single organizations, institutions and individuals are encouraged to participate as project partners. Grant funds may not be used for administrative overhead. Awarded projects cannot begin until Oct. 1, 2011. Applicants must be a legal entity and have the legal capacity to contract. Applicants are encouraged to provide a cash match for their projects.

Note: Farmers’ Market improvement and expansion projects should be done through the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP). This program was created through a recent amendment of the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976. The grants, authorized by the FMPP, are targeted to help improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.

Grant applications must be received by mail or fax and recorded by the Missouri Department of Agriculture before 4 p.m. on May 10, 2011. Late applications will not be accepted. In addition to mailing or faxing one hard copy, e-mail a copy of the entire application to the Ag Business Development Division.

Mailing Address
Missouri Department of Agriculture, Jennifer Brooks, SCBGP, 1616 Missouri Blvd., P.O. Box 630, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0630,

View the Specialty Crop Block Grant-FB Guidelines

View Project Plan Examples (Sample Grants)

Specialty Crop Block Grant Recipients for State Fiscal Year 2011

Specialty Crop Block Grant Recipients for State Fiscal Year 2010

Specialty Crop Block Grant Recipients for State Fiscal Year 2009

On Dec. 21, 2004, the Specialty Crops Competitiveness Act of 2004 (7 U.S.C. 1621 note) authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide grants to state departments of agriculture solely to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) amended the Specialty Crops Competiveness Act of 2004 and authorized the USDA to provide grants to states for each of the fiscal years 2008-2012 to enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.

Please contact Jennifer Brooks at 573-751-7213 if you have questions.