Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Exploring a Market Farm Business

A market farm is often a food crop and/or animal product business that directly markets its produce/flowers/herbs/eggs/meat/dairy products, etc. to consumers or restaurants.

Many non-farmers enjoy growing and raising plants and animals, but without a solid business approach such ventures will be unsustainable and may be better pursued as a hobby. With that in mind, explore a market farm business through the following steps (these are not necessarily linear and will build on each other) prior to contacting the Extension office. An acre is 43,560 square feet, or roughly the size of a football field without the end zones.

1.  Develop a business plan. A market farm is a small business. The Grow Your Farm course was development for the program to focus on business planning and management. Assumptions and unknowns can plague your thought process as you explore a market farm operation. These include production costs, goal setting, risk management strategies, equipment needed, labor needs, etc. You may not know the questions to ask until you work through a template such as “Building a Sustainable Business” . Most ag lenders will require a business plan prior to any financing.

• If you are interested in farmers markets and ask yourself, “Am I a people person? Can I work with the public in an intensive way necessary to market directly?” Most new market farmers enter through the farmers markets.

• Visit local farms and look at the labor needs and ask yourself, “Am I physically capable of this stoop labor and/or can I afford to hire labor for planting, weeding, and harvest? Or feeding, milking, moving, etc.?”

• If you don’t own land, inquire about leasing private and public land and ask yourself, “Do I want a landlord and can I afford the lease? What terms of a lease are important to me?”

• Think about other ways to earn money and ask yourself, “Why do I want to be a market farmer? And what are my goals for embarking on this business venture? What will my business look like in 5 years?”

• Check out the equipment listed in some of the publications and ask yourself, “Which do I need? Which can I afford? How will I learn how to use this equipment?”

• National statistics show that on average 80% of small farm gross income is absorbed in production and marketing costs, netting a farmer 20% of total. Ask yourself, “Can I afford an annual operating budget of $50,000 - $150,000 (depending on scale)? Will I need financing?”

A market farm is a small business. Ask yourself, “Are you ready to manage employees, maintain equipment, keep records, make decisions based on limited information, file farm taxes, etc.?”

2.  Intern, apprentice or volunteer on local farms. This option (when available) gives you a sense of the hard work involved in market farm operations and may allow you to ask specific questions of local market farmers. It will help you learn the differences between gardening/raising livestock on a small scale and farming on a larger scale.

3.  Water. For a successful farming operation most producers must receive between 25-36 inches of rain fall. If at the right times this will provide not only good crop/plant growth but also replenish the soil moisture and restore water stored in ponds or lakes. Since rain doesn’t always come when the crops need it most, many people use surface reservoirs or ponds to store water for irrigation. If you are irrigating from a pond the amount of water is generally listed as acre feet of water storage. A foot of water in one acre of surface area of a pond is approximately 325,850 gallons or “acre/ft” of water. If you are using a pond for irrigation it is recommended that your drainage area (watershed) for the pond be a minimum of 10 acres of drainage for every acre of surface area. (Example – for a 3 acre lake you should have a minimum of 30 acres of drainage area going into the lake). This should provide adequate recharge of water into the lake. For irrigation you need to make sure you consider the cost of pump and piping equipment, the cost of building the pond (or digging a well) and the labor cost necessary for setting up and operating the irrigation equipment. If irrigating, you also may want to have the water tested for saline content and see if that will affect short term plant growth or long term soil health. If selling vegetables, you may need to get the water tested for bacteria or parasites to insure that you are providing a safe healthy product for customers. If you are concerned that you may not get enough rainfall in your area you can check this out by going to this website, to get daily rainfall events in all 50 states. If you are using a deep well you can check with the recharge and depth to water in over 100 monitoring wells statewide by visiting this website. Water is vital to most farming operations, whether for crops or livestock. Making sure you have enough available water is one key to a successful farm business.

4.  Read, read, read!!! There are many good publications that will help you to better understand the complexity of market farm operations, production and marketing related expenses, and production and marketing strategies. Many are listed on (and include) the Growing for Market website (“Market Farming Success”, “The Hoophouse Handbook”, “The New Organic Grower, “Four Season Harvest”, etc.) and other websites:

5.  Try selling your produce. Some farmers’ markets have provisions for new farmers and small operations to sell produce at the market. See if you enjoy it and note the volume of produce necessary to reach your business goals.  Start small and grow as your market grows.  To find a farmers' market near you try this website.

6. Attend workshops and conferences. Extension and other groups provide local, regional, and national market farming workshops and conferences for continuing education and networking. These are advertised on state and national listservs.

• Beginning Farmer programs such as the MO Beginning Farmers Program
• Local and regional workshops and conferences are listed in the Ag Opportunities e-newsletter.
State listservs are also available - SARA, SUSTAIN-AG, MOA and more.
• National conferences are often advertised (also with discussion) on SANET

7.  Lifestyle changes. Many new farm operations are challenged to make a profit for the first year or more. Long days in all weather conditions and weekends at farmers’ markets are physically challenging and require adjustments to other work, family and personal schedules. Will you work part time while you begin a farming operation? Are you physically ready for the work? Are your family and friends flexible with your availability? How will you adjust to these changes?

(written by Adrian Card, Boulder County Extension, University of Colorado adapted for Missouri)

Monday, August 29, 2011

SARE Youth and Youth Educator Grans

The 2011 North Central Region - Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Youth & Youth Educator Grant Call for Proposals is now available.

These grants are a part of the Farmer Rancher Grant Program. Their purpose is to provide opportunities for youth in the North Central Region to learn more about Sustainable Agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is good for the environment, profitable, and socially responsible. A total of approximately $34,000 is available for this program.

There are two options:

1. YOUTH GRANTS. These grants are for on-farm research, demonstration, or education projects by youth ages 8-18. Research and demonstration projects are for hands-on efforts to explore Sustainable Agriculture issues and practices. Education projects can involve teaching others about Sustainable Agriculture or attending a Sustainable Agriculture conference, workshop, or camp. $400 maximum.

2. YOUTH EDUCATOR GRANTS. These are grants for educators to provide programming on sustainable agriculture for youth. $2,000 maximum.

Interested applicants can find the call for proposals online as well as useful information for completing a proposal here.

Proposals are due by 4:30 pm, Thursday, January 12, 2012 at the NCR-SARE office in Jefferson City, MO.

Potential applicants with questions can contact Joan Benjamin, Associate Regional Coordinator and Farmer Rancher Grant Program Coordinator, at or 573-681-5545 or 800-529-1342. A hard copy or an emailed copy of the call for proposals is also available by contacting Joan Benjamin. We make slight revisions to our calls for proposals each year, which means it is crucial to use the most recent call for proposals.

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants Now Open

The North Central Regional-SARE has allocated about $400,000 for the 2011 Farmer/Rancher Grant Program. There are three types of competitive grants:

• Individual grants ($7,500 maximum)
• Partner grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum)
• Group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum).

Projects must be completed in 24 months. Farmer/Rancher Grants provide opportunities for farmers/ ranchers to use Sustainable Agriculture practices and their own innovative ideas to solve problems on the farm or ranch, and to share their ideas. Any farmer/rancher or group of farmers/ranchers who farm or operate a ranch in the North Central Region may apply. (A farmer/rancher is someone who raises crops or livestock, especially as a business.)

Since the start of the Farmer/Rancher Grant Program in 1992, over 800 grants have been awarded to farmers/ranchers studying topics such as alternative grain crops as animal feed, alternative uses for CRP land, biological weed & pest control, energy alternatives & conservation, health and safety of employees, holistic management, labor issues, livestock & crop production systems, marketing, organic farming, quality of life issues, rotational grazing, soil conservation, waste management, water quality, and water conservation.

The farmer/rancher grants are for sustainable agriculture research, demonstration, and education projects; they are NOT for everyday farming expenses.

• Applicants must identify specific problems and potential solutions to those problems.
• Maximum duration for grant projects is 24 months.
• Projects that involve whole farm systems and/or a youth component are encouraged.
• Livestock projects need to comply with reasonable animal care requirements to insure that animals are properly cared for.

Characteristics of Successful Proposals:

• Clearly define a problem that can be addressed and evaluated within the time and financial limits of the project. (Don’t take on too much – these are small grants.)
• Involve cooperators who assist with project planning, evaluation, and outreach. Cooperators may include Extension educators; staff of non-profit groups, local conservation districts, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); network coordinators; and soil consultants.
• Involve local or state groups which help share project results.
• Emphasize outreach such as field days, publications, videos, websites, and workshops.

Click here and go to the second red subtitle on the right side of the page to "Open Calls for Proposals" to read the entire farmer/rancher grant call for proposals.

To learn more about the Farmer/Rancher Grant join in on the September MO Beginning Farmers Program's Monday webinars. The webinars are held from 7-8:30 pm. Sign in as a guest with your name. All webinars are archived and can be found at the Online Learning Community.

Sept 12 - Overview of the Farmer/Rancher Grant - Debi Kelly, MO State SARE Coordinator

Sept 19 - SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Webinar with Linda Hezel, a 2008 Grant Recipient of Comparison of Coverings over Permanent Raised Beds to Extend the Growing Season for Year Round Food Production

Sept 26 - SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Webinar with Greg and Nancy Rasmussen, a 2010 Grant Recipient of Rainwater Capture and Re-use: Using Gravity and Solar Power

Friday, August 26, 2011

Harvesting and Storing Winter Squash

Winter squash can be harvested whenever the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the rind is hard. Harvest the main part of the crop in September or October, before heavy frosts hit your area. Cut squash from the vines carefully, leaving two inches of stem attached if possible. Avoid cuts and bruises when handling. Fruits that are not fully mature, have been injured, have had their stems knocked off, or have been subjected to heavy frost do not keep and should be used as soon as possible or be composted (watch for seedlings in the compost).

butternut squash

Store in a dry building where the temperature is between 50 and 55°F. For prolonged storage, do not pile squash more than two fruits deep. It is pref-erable, where space allows, to place the fruits in a single layer so they do not touch each other. This arrangement minimizes the potential spread of rots.

The squash family (Cucurbitaceae) includes pumpkins, summer squash and winter squash. They are really edible gourds. There are many varieties with a wide range of flavors and textures. Winter squash does not look the same as summer squash. Their tough outer shells can be smooth or bumpy, thin or thick and rock hard with a wide array of col-ors. The most popular winter squash includes acorn, buttercup, butternut, calabaza, delicata, Hubbard, spaghetti, sweet dumpling, and Turk's Turban. There are many more, but this section will be limited to the above-mentioned varieties.

acorn squash
Winter squash is planted in the spring, grows all summer and is always harvested at the mature stage in early autumn before the first frost. Imma-ture winter squash lacks flavor, so wait until the rind is hard. Harvest winter squash with two inches of stem remaining. A stem cut too short is like an open wound, which will cause early decay. For storage, harvest sturdy, heavy squashes with fairly glossy skin that is unblemished by soft spots, cuts, breaks or uncharacteristic discoloration. Most winter squash benefits from a curing stage; the exceptions are acorn, sweet dumpling and delicata. Curing is simply holding the squash at room temperature (about 70°) for 10 to 20 days. After curing, transfer to a cool (45 to 50 degrees), dry place such as the basement or garage for long term storage. Do not allow them to freeze. The large hard rind winter squash can be stored up to six months under these conditions. Warmer temperatures simply mean shorter storage time. Smaller acorn and butternut do not store as well, only up to 3 months. Store cut pieces of winter squash in the refrigerator. Refrigeration is too humid for whole squash, and they will deteriorate quickly.

Source: University of Illinois Extension

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Farmers Get Pricing Insight Through Market News

A wide variety of eggplant sold at the North Carolina Farmers Market. The North Carolina State Farmers Market is one of the local markets covered by USDA Market News.

The announcement this week that the number of farmers markets has grown by 17 percent nationwide comes as no surprise to the USDA’s Market News. As demand for local and regional foods has grown, USDA’s Market News has grown as well by providing coverage of farmers markets and auctions.

The coverage serves small and mid-sized producers by providing another piece of market information on a more localized scale. Many small and beginning farmers pursue a number of market outlets—including direct-to-retailer, direct-to-consumer (farmers markets), and farmers auctions—which allow many producers to aggregate their products and sell to buyers looking for local products in bulk.

Sometimes small and beginning farmers and ranchers struggle to establish pricing for their products at these trading levels and need detailed local information to do so. Market News provides that local information which, along with national and regional reporting, aids producers in marketing their products and allows for smarter competition.

Market News has produce information for the farmers markets and auctions in several of the recently named top ten states. For livestock and grain, Market News has 360 auction reports that provide weekly information on cattle, sheep, goats, and hay. Together the reports gather information from farmers markets and auctions in over 26 states.

Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is committed to supporting all agricultural business models and Market News is just one of the many ways we empower businesses—both large and small. Market News reports give businesses the information they need to evaluate market conditions, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, evaluate shipment movement, identify future trends and more.

Market News has been providing market information on cotton, dairy, livestock and grains, poultry and eggs, and fruits and vegetables for over 90 years.

Visit USDA Market News on the AMS website to view hundreds of pre-made reports—including the reports for farmers markets and auctions—or create a custom report to see only the information you need.

(by David R. Shipman, Acting Administrator Agricultural Marketing Service)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grow Your Farm Starts Sept 12 in St. Clair

10 Session Program which includes 2 farm tours to be held September 12, 2011 through October 31, 2011 at 400 N. Commercial, St. Clair, Missouri 63077.

Participants will have an opportunity to:

 Tap into the knowledge of skilled, innovative farmers.
 Network with other farmers and make friends.
 Learn critical farm management skills such as creative financing and innovative marketing strategies.
 See local farming practices being used on real farms under a variety of conditions.
 Learn to view a farm as an interconnected system and learn how goals determine farming practices.
 Craft a tailor-made farming and business plan.
 Meet farmers who have diversified their products.

Session 1: Identifying Values & Creating Goals - Monday, September 12th, 6:30 pm Dean Wilson, MU Ag & Rural Development Specialist Eric & Kathy Lober, Grass-fed beef, poultry, CSA

Session 2: Planning Your Farm - Monday, September 19th, 6:30 pm Greg Tucker, MU Small Business Development Specialist Karen Davis, LU Horticulture Regional Educator, former producer of specialty cut flowers to over 30 local florists

Session 3: Farm Tour - Saturday, September 24th, 9:00 am Eric Lober Farm, CSA, grass fed beef, natural pork, poultry and vegetable production Session 4: Assessing Opportunities, Monday, September 26th, 6:30 pm Miranda Duschack, LU Small Farms Specialist Todd Geisert, Pasture pork, roadside vegetable stand

Session 5: Developing Your Business Plan - Monday, October 3rd, 6:30 pm Ron Mueller, MU Small Business and Development Specialist Sheria Yancey, Farm Service Agency

Session 6: Walking the Farm - Monday, October 10th, 6:30 pm David Price, LU Small Farm Specialist

Session 7: Farm Tour - Saturday, October 15th, 9:00 am Stan & Sue Koch, Beef cattle, goats, Jersey cows, chickens

Session 8: Marketing Your Farm Products - Monday, October 17th, 6:30 pm Connie Cunningham, Goose producer and GYF alumni Paul Krautmann, Organic vegetables, dry beans
Session 9: Understanding Legal Issues - Monday, October 24th, 6:30 pm Ken Bolte, MU Ag Business Specialist Debi Kelly, Project Manager, Missouri Alternatives Center Session 10: Presenting Your Farm Plan Monday, October 31st, 6:30 pm
Register through Franklin County Extension, 116 W. Main Street, Union, MO 63084, 636-583-5141.  For more information contact Dean Wilson, Ag & Rural Development Specialist, 636-797-5391

Monday, August 22, 2011

Investing In Local Economies by Shopping at Farmers Markets

When I visit my local farmers market, I know that every peach, tomato, or strawberry I purchase helps local farmers pay their bills and support their families. Not only do I enjoy the health benefits and the wonderful flavors from fresh produce but I’m helping local farmers stay in business.

USDA’s latest National Farmers Market Manager Survey, published by the Agricultural Marketing Service in 2009, shows that sales at farmers markets in 2005 exceeded $1 billion. At the time, USDA counted about 4,300 farmers markets operating in the United States. Today there are 7,175 farmers markets listed in the USDA National Farmers Market Directory.

As the number of farmers markets grow across the nation so do their economic impact:

In Vermont, approximately 80 farmers markets generated nearly $7 million in gross revenues during 2009.

A 2008 report from Oklahoma noted that 21 surveyed farmers markets generated $3.3 million in gross revenues, and 113 full-time-equivalent jobs.

In Washington State, farmers market sales rose from $32 million in 2009 to $39 million in 2010.

That’s a lot of peach, tomato and strawberry purchases.

Understanding the economic impact of farmers markets goes beyond just counting up sales dollars. Farmers markets have the potential to be significant economic drivers and job creators in their local communities. In Iowa, for example, the state’s farmers markets were responsible for an estimated $71 million in overall economic impact in 2009, including $59.4 million in direct and indirect sales. In addition, Iowa’s farmers markets were linked to the creation of374 direct jobs and more than 200 indirect jobs. Similarly, researchers at Mississippi State estimated that vendor income from 26 surveyed farmers markets in the Magnolia State had an economic impact in excess of $1.8 million primarily generated by associated increases in business expenditures, wages, and tax revenues.

So the next time you are at a farmers market, think of the economic investment you are making to the local farmers and community.

(by Debra Tropp, Branch Chief, Farmers Market & Direct Marketing Research Branch, Ag Marketing Service)

Friday, August 19, 2011

The 2011 Missouri Blueberry School

The 2011 Missouri Blueberry School will be held October 7-8, 2011 at Missouri State University Darr Agricultural Center, 2401 S. Kansas Expressway, Springfield, MO 65807.  The workshop is sponsored in part by the Missouri Beginning Farmer Program.
Blueberries offer huge potential for Missouri farmers. Though a challenging crop to produce, blueberries are in high demand for many markets. The Blueberry School will offer educational sessions and a tour of innovative blueberry farms. Join local and nationally known blueberry specialists to gain expertise on:

 Selecting adapted blueberry cultivars

 Establishing blueberry plantings

 The economics of blueberry production

 Constructing and maintaining blueberry irrigation systems

 Blueberry fertility management

 Experiences of Missouri blueberry producers

 On-farm tours of innovative blueberry producers
Workshop Registration:
Information, including a registration form can be found at the Missouri Beginning Farmer Program's website.   Please contact Sabrina Brown at 417-881-8909 for more information on the Missouri Blueberry School.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Organic Grant

If you’re an aspiring organic farmer or sustainable agriculture student seeking a little extra help, then tell Raising Organic Family Farms what you need to be successful. You could receive a scholarship, grant or mentoring support and ensure a bountiful harvest for years to come.

Raising Organic Family Farms is a multi-year initiative designed to inspire a new generation of organic family farmers and provide financial, education and mentoring support to aspiring organic farmers.

Lundberg Family Farms® has launched a new initiative that will award up to $50,000 total in grants and scholarships. Aspiring commercial organic family farmers can submit a 500-word essay in one of three categories:

+ Seed money for equipment, supplies or repairs

+ Education funding towards schooling or conference registration

+ Mentorship with experts in business planning, marketing, retail, livestock management or crop planning.

To start the application click here.  The deadline for submissions is October 31, 2011.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Today, I'd like to try something a bit different with the blog.  I have a couple of questions to ask and hope that you will respond with some answers.

What federal or state programs have you as a beginning farmer applied for and received?  Have they helped you?  What programs would you like to know more about?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants Webinar

The SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant call for proposals will be coming out later in August. I will announce and post when it is out.  In the meantime, I am hosting 3 webinars to help producers understand the SARE Farmer/Rancher grant, the grant writing process, what makes a good proposal and answer questions you may have.

Each year there are minor changes for the grant and that is the case for this year.  Funding for the grants have increased!
One producer – up to $7,500
Two producers – up to $14,000
Three or more producers – up to $22,500

If you are interested in learning about the SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant, then join me on Sept 12th for the PowerPoint presentation about the grant and then join me on Sept 19th and Sept 26th to hear from past recipients about their grant.  So mark your calendars now!

Sept 12: 7-8:30 pm - SARE Farmer/Rancher Grants Webinar with Debi Kelly, University of Missouri. To join go to and sign in as a guest.

Sept 19: 7-8:30 pm -SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Webinar with Linda Hezel, a 2008 Grant Recipient of Comparison of Coverings over Permanent Raised Beds to Extend the Growing Season for Year Round Food Production. To join go to and sign in as a guest.

Sept 26: 7-8:30 pm -SARE Farmer/Rancher Grant Webinar with Greg and Nancy Rasmussen, a 2010 Grant Recipient of Rainwater Capture and Re-use: Using Gravity and Solar Power. To join go to and sign in as a guest.


The Accessing Farm Programs Workshop scheduled for this Thurs/Fri has been postponed until Oct.  When the dates are set I will let you know.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Direct Marketing Meat Webinar tonight

I you have ever thought about direct marketing your meat instead of selling it at the barn sale, then join us this evening for this very informative webinar with Mark Mahnken of Missouri Legacy Beef.  The webinar is from 7-8:30 pm (CDT).  To join the webinar go  to and sign in as a guest.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cover Crops and Green Manure Crops

A farmers’s goal is have productive fields every year. Applying synthetic fertilizers during the growing season is not sufficient for maintaining a sustainable soil.  After harvesting crops, a good management practice is to buildup and maintain the soil during the off season so that it will be more fertile and productive for the next growing season. Growing cover or green manure crops is a key for this desired goal since they help maintain soil fertility, soil health and productivity instead for harvesting. The terms cover crops and green manure crops are sometimes used interchangeably based on the growers perspective. A cover crop is usually a specific annual, biennial, or perennial grasses or legumes or a combination of two or more grown between regular growing seasons for the main purpose of preventing soil erosion by protecting and improving the soil. When cover crops are tilled into the soil while they are still growing is referred to as green manure crop. A green manure crop is usually grown to help maintain soil organic matter and nitrogen availability.

Why grow cover/green manure crops?
Cover crops can protect soil from wind and water erosion, suppress
weeds, fix atmospheric nitrogen, scavenge soil nitrogen, build soil structure, reduce surface crusting, improve water infiltration, break hardpan, improve soil/water quality and reduce insect pests. Benefits from these crops depend on the amount of growth of the crop, know as biomass, before the soil is prepared for the next crop. When cover crops are buried and tilled into the soil, the green manure that is added enhances soil fertility and structure by feeding soil microbial populations which also glue together soil particles to form soil aggregates. When plant material is decomposed by soil microbes, they break down and release nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil. Nitrogen accumulation and release is greater with legumes, which have nitrogen fixing bacteria in their roots.
crimson clover on left
hairy vetch on right

Cover Crop Nitrogen Accumulation*
  • Hairy vetch has 3.2 lbs/1000 sq. ft of nitrogen accumulation
  • Crimson clover has 2.6 lbs/1000 sq ft of nitrogen accumulation
  • Austrian winter pea has 3.3 lbs/1000 sq ft of nitrogen accumulation
  • Winter (annual) rye has 2.0 lbs/1000 sq ft of nitrogen accumulation
*Nitrogen accumulated in growing crop prior to tilling under
Source: ATRA: Overview of Cover Crops and Green Manures

Selection of Cover Crops
Success in the growth of cover crops requires proper selection of the cover crop, correct timing of seeding and management practices. Species selection depends on targeted planting date and the purpose for growing it. Legume cover crops have a symbiotic relationship with bacterial that fix atmospheric nitrogen into a form plants can use. Non legumes species scavage existing soil nitrogen and other nutrients and reduce leaching losses of nutrients your cash crops needs for the next year. There are many traditional cover crops to select from, including annual rye grass, cereal rye, winter wheat, oats, white clover, sweet clover, crimson clover hairy vetch and buck wheat. Grasses are easier to establish than legumes such as clover as they germinate quickly and do not require inoculation.

Early vegetable harvest begins in mid to late summer. Rather than leaving the ground open to weeds, the land can be improved by planting over crops. For planting in July/August the main choices are buckwheat, clovers and Sudan grass. These cover crops are best when sown during July through early August. If crop space becomes available after harvest in late August and September, barley, annual rye grass, oats and clover can be successfully established. The last date by which cover crops can be planted in Missouri will be the end of October to early November.  Winter annual grasses such as cereal rye and wheat can be planted by the beginning to mid October.
Given the growing conditions in Missouri, annual rye grass can be considered first for a vegetable cover crop. Winter rye is another good choice that is best for late planting.

Establishment of cover crops are similar to planting any garden seed including raking the crop area and removing the residues. Next broadcast the cover crop seed of your choice and lightly rake the soil to  incorporate the seeds with the surface soil and water the soil surface lightly to provide the required moisture for germination.

When to kill cover crops in spring?
Early to mid April is the best time to kill over wintering grass cover crops whereas legumes should be allowed to grow longer into the spring. They can be killed with an herbicide or plants can be killed by plowing them in to the soil.. To get the most nitrogen out of grains such as rye, the best time to kill is when they have greened up after winter and are about 6 inches tall. When rye is larger than 6” nitrogen can get tied up in soil by a process referred to as nitrogen immobilization which can prevent it from being available when your plants needs. To get the full nitrogen benefit from legumes they must be allowed to grow until they begin to bloom. Afterward they can be killed by shallow tillage.  Do not let them go to seed.

A good reference on cover crops and green manure crops is Managing Cover Crops Profitably which explores how and why cover crops work and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation.

(by Manjula Nathan, Director, MU Soil and Plant Diagnostic Service Laboratories and Tim Reinbott, Superintendent, Bradford Research and Extension Center)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One fish, two fish, no fish?

I have always loved fish, but recently I have been choosing smaller fish — such as anchovies and sardines — and staying clear of larger ocean fish; the combination of issues such as overfishing, questionable fish-farming practices and increasing mercury content has me pretty much convinced we need a better way.

After my recent tour of Troutdale Farm, I was happy to discover fish farming done in an exemplary and environmentally sustainable way.

I wondered why there weren’t more farms like Troutdale getting fish to local markets. So I called Chuck Hicks, an aquaculture specialist who started his research program in 2002 at Lincoln University.

“The buzz word these days is sustainable,” he said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “are interested in sustainable aquaculture. They are pushing it as a high priority because demand is high. We import more than $8 billion in seafood products annually.”

Sustainable farming means you don’t pollute the waters, he said. But “many of these Asian farms are raising fish in caged systems in polluted waters,” a good reason to ask the chef or market manager where the fish comes from before you buy it, he said.

Still, knowing where the fish is from won’t necessarily reveal if it comes from polluted cage systems, he said. “The FDA doesn’t check those fish.”

While fish farming must be environmentally sustainable, it “also needs to be economically sustainable for the farmers,” he said. “The catfish industry in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana has been hurt by substitute products raised in Vietnam and China,” but this isn’t what’s keeping Missourians from the business.

“The need is certainly there, and there are excellent marketing opportunities in St. Louis and Kansas City,” Hicks said, “but the infrastructure is not developed in Missouri,” and unlike other food crops, fish are regulated by multiple agencies. “They are regulated by the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Conservation” and by local laws. The rules for processing fish are very stringent and require lots of paperwork, he said. “I think it’s a lot easier to sell live fish for stocking ponds,” which is what most Missouri fish farmers do. With only about 10 well-established fish farmers in the state, fewer than a handful process their fish for market, he said.

Yet, pound for pound, fish use less water than farm animals, and “they are also the most efficient converters of food,” he said.

Researchers at Lincoln and, more recently, at the University of Missouri are working on ways to farm both fish and freshwater shrimp. Ray Wright is successfully farming seasonal freshwater prawns at Bradford Research Center. Hicks is working on ways to farm fish from the native sunfish, such as crappie, and largemouth and smallmouth bass. He and his crew have developed methods to raise a strain of bluegill and hybrid sunfish that can reach market size within 18 months and are working on a domesticated crappie for food production. A domesticated fish must also be sterile, he said, so it cannot reproduce if it escapes into the wild fish population.

The challenges are many. Fish farmers need support from university researchers and veterinarians; must have the mechanical ability to raise and process the fish; and they must persuade banks to lend them money for these enterprises.

It seems like a good investment, as Americans eat more fish every year.

“Europeans eat 48 pounds of fish per person every year; in the United States, that figure is closer to 16 pounds,” he said. Consumption keeps going up mainly for health reasons — the Omega 3 factor.

Meantime, I eat the local trout and I carry my little card from when I go to a restaurant or supermarket to make “sustainable” seafood choices.

I’m hoping we develop and support more healthy, economically sustainable ways to farm fish, so my grandchildren will also be able to savor seafood.
(from the Columbia Tribune article on Aug 2, 2011 by Marcia Vanderlip)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

12th Central Missouri Vegetable & Greenhouse Tour

Come join us on Wednesday August 31st, 2011 - Rain or Shine

Meet at the Central Missouri Produce Auction to visit 3 nearby growers of quality fresh produce. This event is free.

Schedule: (you are welcome to arrive up until noon)

10:00 AM - Gather & visit ‘on your own’ the auction

10:30 until ? - Question and Answer with Mark Troup

11 until 11:45 - Pick up a lunch box compliments of MVGA

Noon - A few words from the tour sponsors

12:20 or so - Leave to the first farm

Tour will conclude about 4:00 (about one hour per farm). Choose from one of two tour routes. Some features this year include:

• Mark Troup with Missouri Department of Ag will be on hand to talk about grading of fresh produce. Mark has years of inspecting experience and has recently been trained for GAP certification inspections.
• Lincoln University’s vegetable research program
• Tomato disease discussion including special guest Bob Pierce with MU’s nematode lab

Directions:  Located on Highway E, 12 miles south of US 50 or 10 miles north of Versailles.

Central Missouri Produce Auction
37808 Highway E Fortuna MO 65034
Auction Facility - 660-337-6227 (Auction days only)

Tour A (ends at Versailles)

Stop 1-A - To be determined
Field vegetables will be the focus of this stop.

Stop 2-A - Elmer, Samuel and Mark Leid, 70111 Westview School Rd Fortuna 65034
The Leid’s have been regular tour features over the years, and are always trying something new. They now have three separate greenhouse/high tunnel facilities. Elmer’s is a Zimmerman gutter connect (ridge vent) and is 360 ft long, built since we last visited. Mark’s facility has used glycerine and fatty acids as a fuel source (wood chips before that) and has been on the tour before. Samuel put up one of the used greenhouses that a number of other growers also picked up when a large greenhouse operation closed a couple of years ago. He’ll have a fall cover crop seeded since he’s just pulled out the spring tomato crop.

Stop 3-A - Capp’s Chestnut Orchard
Would you ever guess there is a commercial chestnut orchard right in the heart of Versailles? Learn how Tommy and Teresa purchased adjoining lots to turn their curiosity about this revived nut into much more than that. The timing is good as this is right at the beginning of the harvest season.

Tour B (ends in Jefferson City)

Stop 1-B - James Shirk, 37619 Highway E Latham 65050
James grows a variety of field vegetables and (in soil) greenhouse tomatoes. This stop will focus on diseases of tomatoes, including:
• Root knot nematode in (soil) greenhouse tomatoes. Bob Heinz with MU’s Nematode Lab will join us.
• Bacterial Canker, a disease that flared up in two MO regions this year.
• Use of Actiguard to prevent/control bacterial spot and speck.

Stop 2-B - Trinklein Brother Greenhouses, 7518 Tanner Bridge Road Jeff City 65101
Trinklein’s has about 2 acres of greenhouse production, including two 20,000 sq ft hydroponic tomato production units, which will have the new fall crop planted. Fall mums and poinsettias will also be in production. A diverse range of ornamental crops are grown in the spring.

Stop 3-B - Lincoln Carver Farm Vegetable Research
Sanjun Gu has been hard at work this summer, with a larger staff, including ‘Captain Hot Pepper’ (Steven Kirk). Added in 2010 were two Zimmerman high tunnels with ridge vents. A number of variety trials are being carried out including melons and tomatoes. Novel research approaches to some of Missouri’s vexing vegetable production issues are also being investigated.

To get your complimentary lunch
A RSVP is needed by Aug. 29th; provide a name and how many will be in your group to James Quinn, 573-634-2824.

Sponsored by:
Morgan County Extension Center
Missouri Department of Ag
Central Missouri Produce Auction
Morgan County Seeds
University of Missouri Extension (MU Extension)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Annual Women in Agriculture Conference Heads to Boonville

Boonville is the site for the 17th Annual Women in Agriculture State Conference. This educational conference, for women involved in any facet of agriculture, will be September 12-14 at the Isle of Capri Hotel.

The conference theme is "Taking Charge of Your Future." It will include a tour of Warm Springs Ranch, home of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses, lunch in historic Arrow Rock and a tour of Starr Pines Christmas Tree Farm.

Conference participants also can choose among workshops covering a variety of topics, including: preparing your child for the future; forest management & your economic returns; basic beekeeping; pesticide safety; and herb gardening. To see an agenda of the conference click here.

Former U.S. Senator Jean Carnahan will be the banquet speaker on September 12th, and KRCG television's Teresa Snow will speak during the Sept. 14th luncheon.

Registration is accepted until August 15. For more information, contact Amy Neier at (573) 422-3342.

Accessing Farm Programs Workshop

The Accessing Farm Programs Workshop scheduled for August 18-19 is fast approaching. If you plan on attending please email Lorin at and let her know you will be attending. We will be serving local foods for the meals and will need an accurate headcount so we will have enough good food for everyone to enjoy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Transfer of Funds Will Help Meet Urgent Credit Needs of Producers

More help is on the way for producers.

In an announcement earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said a high demand for farm ownership and direct farm operating funds has prompted USDA to transfer appropriated funds between programs to meet the urgent credit needs of producers.

The Secretary noted that demand is strong for direct operating loans and guaranteed farm ownership loans, while demand for subsidized guaranteed operating loans has stabilized. With these funds, USDA can help thousands of producers establish and maintain their family farming operations and obtain long-term credit assistance through a commercial lender.

The transfer will make an additional $100 million in loan funds available for the direct operating loan program, which will provide 1,600 small, beginning and minority farmers with resources to establish and maintain their family farming operations. An additional $400 million in loan funds will be made available for the guaranteed farm ownership loan program giving an additional 1,000 family farmers access to commercial lending backed by USDA. Both programs ran out of funds resulting in a backlog of approved but unfunded loan applications.

The measure will allow all backlogged loans to be funded and provide sufficient funding for new loan applicants.

To find out more about USDA farm loan programs click here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

USDA Forest Service Booklet Touts Value of Native Bees

The USDA Forest Service, along with Pollinator Partnership, has produced a booklet called Bee Basics: An Introduction to our Native Bees to educate the public and encourage people to help protect these essential insects.

The 40-page booklet primarily focuses on bees native to North America, of which there are 4,000 species, found in forests, farms, cities, wildlands and deserts. Although honey bees may be most noted for producing honey, the booklet explains that native bees are valued for pollinating plants.

“Much of the produce we eat is pollinated by bees,” said Larry Stritch, a USDA Forest Service National Botanist. “They pollinate about 75 percent of the fruits and vegetables grown in the (United States) and 80 percent of flowering plants. Take away bees and you greatly decrease our food source and food for animals.”

According to “Bee Basics,” ground nesting bees provide food to wildlife and aerate and enrich soil.

The North American bumble bee, characterized by their relatively large, black, furry bodies and bright stripes, may be most familiar to Americans. There are about 50 species of bumble bees, which are important pollinators of tomatoes and clovers, a forage crop for cattle.

Bumble bees are among the Apidae family of bees, which also include native carpenter, squash and cuckoo bees, and nonnative stingless, orchid and honey bees.

Honey bees are the only natural source of honey that’s healthy for humans. Brought to America from Europe, honey bees don’t pollinate native plants as effectively as native bees.

Along with information about a variety of bees, “Bee Basics” also contains pages of glossy, color illustrations of bees and plants. The booklet’s key message warns of the threat to native-bee survival that is posed by pesticides, competition for nectar from honey bees, and environmental destruction.

To learn more about native bees, read “Bee Basics” on the Forest Service website.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Missouri Legislative Committee on Urban Agriculture Holds Hearing in KCMO

Since many beginning farmers are from urban areas, I thought this article might be of interest to you.

On July 11, the Missouri Legislature's Joint Committee on Urban Agriculture held the first of four public hearings on the reality, opportunities, and needs of urban agriculture in the state, with the goal of developing a set of policy recommendations that could help the state more fully benefit from urban food production.

The hearing was held on the campus of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, with support from the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. It was chaired by Rep. Jason Holsman and attended by several committee members and advisory subcommittee members. Approximately 75 members of the public turned out to testify or follow the proceedings.

A local committee met several times in advance to recruit testifiers, plan out testimony, and do some basic research on potential policy initiatives. We set out the goal of introducing legislators to the basic framework of urban agriculture and presenting some initial thoughts on areas of policy. We learned from Rep. Holsman that the committee will be looking at urban agriculture from a production, distribution, and access viewpoint, so we recruited and prepared testimony from speakers to focus not only on the many ways that people are growing food in the city but also on how urban residents can access food grown on area farms through farmers markets, mobile markets, grocery stores, etc.

Our ad hoc committee, Beth Low from the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, and Cultivate KC staff researched urban ag policies in other states, hoping to glean best practices. Interestingly, we found that most of the urban ag policy work has happened at the municipal and county levels, with state level action being a relatively new phenomenon. Some of the issues we’ll be looking at include:

• Costs and challenges in developing empty lots including soil contamination/degradation and water access: are there ways that the state can provide incentives, support or guidance to municipalities and to individual growers to help Missouri cities create and protect productive greenspace on currently blighted land?

• Food distribution: while some Missouri cities have created or are on their way to creating food hubs and models for ensuring that locally grown food--both urban and rural--can get to city residents, there is still a need across the state for improved distribution models. Can the state more actively encourage and support food hubs?

• Participation in federal food assistance programs that benefit both consumers and local farmers: Missouri doesn’t participate in the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program nor does it allow for WIC coupons to be used at farmers’ markets. While there is some complicated history to this, these federal programs benefit consumers and both urban and rural growers who sell at markets serving low-income residents.

• An issue that has come up in nearly all the discussions around this process (as well as in several other food planning efforts in the metro area) is the tax on food. Both Kansas and Missouri have a sales tax on food. While it is hard to imagine in our current economic climate that we could remove (or even reduce) that tax, we are going to raise the issue and know that others will also. Sales taxes on food are regressive and hit low income consumers the hardest and farmers, unlike grocery stores, generally “eat” the sales taxes out of their posted prices at market, rather than adding them on top of the price per pound or unit. Eliminating the sales tax on food in general, or on locally grown food, would assist consumers and local farmers both.

The Committee will hold three more hearings, most likely in Columbia, Jefferson City, and St. Louis. We’re looking forward to working with the urban ag communities in each of those areas to ensure that the Joint Committee gets good information about the reality of what is happening in our communities and that we present policy options that would be real and meaningful for the folks on the ground.

(By Katherine Kelly with Cultivate Kansas City)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Farming With One Tractor

Farming with one tractor allows beginning farmers to start with less initial investment than may have been previously thought necessary.   When most  beginning farmers start looking at a tractor for their operation, they don't always take into account all the items they need to think about when selecting a tractor.  Your tractor needs are affected by 1. Farm size; 2. Labor availability; 3. Custom service availability; 4. Crop selection; 5. Cultural practices.

Costs associated with an equipment set — the combination of tractors and related equipment used in a farming operation — include labor, timeliness and ownership costs. Labor requirements are generally greater for smaller equipment sets. Small equipment sets may also delay field operations, resulting in timeliness costs such as reduced yield or crop quality. Unnecessarily large or extensive equipment sets incur unnecessary ownership costs. An optimum equipment set is a compromise between ownership costs and costs for labor and timeliness.

The MO Beginning Farmers Program (MBFP) has two options for you to learn more about tractors and equipment.  Last summer the MBFP held a workshop last summer called Tractor 101.  There is also a Farmers Forum, a place for farmers to ask questions and get answers, on Tractors and Equipment.  Handout materials from the workshop and the Farmers Forum can be found on the MBFP's Online Learning Community (OLC).  To join the OLC go here and click on "Online Learning Community" for directions.

To learn more about tractors, read the MU Extension Guide Sheet titled "Farming With One Tractor."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

What Size Farm Tractor Do I Need?

The purchase of a tractor and associated equipment is a substantial investment. The result of improper size can be costly - - a tractor too small can result in long hours in the field, excessive delays and premature replacement.

A tractor too large can result in excessive operating and overhead costs. It is important to know how to determine the size and number of tractors needed for a farm operation. The ideal equipment should get the work completed on time at the lowest possible cost. The size of the largest tractor should be based on getting critical, high-horsepower jobs done within a specified time period.
Tractors can be divided into 3 categories: 2-wheel drive, front-wheel assist or unequal 4-wheel drive and equal 4-wheel drive tractors.  Each one of these tractors has different tire configurations and different ballast requirements.
Not only do you need to understand the 3 categories of tractors but you also need to understand some terminology as well.  Several terms are used by equipment manufacturers to describe the capacity of their tractors such as horsepower (HP), brake horsepower and power-take-off-horsepower and draft (drawbar) horsepower.
To learn about the 3 categories of tractors and terminology associated with tractors, read the University of Georgia publication "What Size Farm Tractor Do I Need?"


Monday, August 1, 2011

Webinar Tonight - Direct Marketing Meat

Legacy Beef handing out samples
at the farmers' market.
Have you been thinking about selling your livestock direct to consumers as meat cuts instead of selling them at the livestock barn?  Do you know what it takes to sell meat directly to consumers?  What kind of label do you need to sell meat and where do you get that label?  What do you do with all those cuts of meat that no one wants to buy?  How do you actually get started and what is the best market for direct marketing meat? 

If you've had those questions in you mind and would like to hear the answers, then join us tonight and the next two Mondays to hear Mark Mahnken of Legacy Beef speak about how he went from selling his cattle at the livestock barn to selling cuts of beef direct to consumers.

Meeting Name: 08/01/2011 - Direct Marketing of Meat
When: Monday, August 1, 7:00 - 8:30 pm (Central Time)
To join the meeting go to and sign in as a guest

Meeting Name: 08/08/2011 - Direct Marketing of Meat Q’s & A’s Part 1
When: Monday, August 8 from 7:00 - 8:30 pm (Central Time)
To join the meeting go to and sign in as a guest

Meeting Name: 08/15/2011 - Direct Marketing of Meat Q’s & A’s Part 2
When: Monday, August 15  from 7:00 - 8:30 pm (Central Time)
To join the meeting go to and sign in as a guest