Monday, April 30, 2012

Here are 3 events being sponsored by Missouri State University.

Edible Landscape Gardening
Saturday, May 12, 2012 8:45am to 11:30am
Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Faurot Hall 101/102
$5.00 per person
Susanne Howard, Horticulturist, School of Agriculture will present information and conduct a tour of the Horticulture Demonstration Garden. The first 36 people to register will receive a plant.

Spring Wine Premier
Thursday, May 24, 2012 3:00pm to 7:00pm
Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Faurot Hall 101/102
Free of charge.
Mountain Grove Cellars presents the 2011 Vintage wines.
Come as you are. Be among the first to taste and purchase the new wines.
Featuring Vineyard Photography by Joyce McMurtrey

High Tunnel Open House
Wednesday, June 6 2012 1:00pm to 4:00pm
Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station Faurot Hall 101/102
Free of charge.
Begin with presentations, then out to the high tunnel! Next, we’ll tour the Sun Crest Farms high tunnel between Mountain Grove and Cabool. Jeff and Tammy Johnston’s produce is naturally grown, with a greenhouse and two high tunnels as season extenders. Tammy markets fresh greens and vegetables in Springfield.

For information about any of these events contact Pam Mayer, Evans Library at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station at or 417-547-7533.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Benefits of a Well-Drained Soil

An ideal soil is half solid and half pore space by volume, and that pore space should be equal parts air and water. Gardening practices greatly influence pore space in cultivated soils.

“Most gardeners don’t have an ideal soil, particularly as it relates to pore space,” said Marlin Bates, University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

“We need soils to hang on to an appropriate amount of water while maintaining empty pore space for soil aeration,” Bates said.
A raised bed like this can be used to get
around poorly drained soils, but may
provide a soil that is too well-drained.

In poorly drained soils, water occupies most if not all pores after a rainfall or irrigation. “This leads to plant stress by reducing microbial activity and root function,” he said. “In addition, since poorly drained soils can quickly become saturated at the surface, they are often subjected to runoff and erosion.”

Well-drained soils, on the other hand, not only allow for percolation of more water, which reduces runoff and erosion, they also leave empty pore space after infiltration, which leads to better plant growth.

But soils can also be too well-drained. “The issue here is reduced soil structure—the arrangement of soil particles into aggregates—or lack of organic matter,” Bates said.

These soils often can be found where substitute soil has been brought in. “For instance, many raised beds are filled with a soil and compost mixture that has been pulverized,” he said. “With little to no soil structure to bind water in these beds, gardeners are constantly irrigating their gardens because they dry out very quickly.”

You can perform a percolation test to determine where your soil lies on the drainage spectrum, Bates said.

Simply dig a hole 12 inches deep, even on the sides and level on the bottom. Fill the hole with water and let it sit for one hour to soak the soil. Refill the hole with water and note the rate at which the water level falls over the next few hours.

“An ideal percolation rate is 2 inches per hour,” Bates said. If the water drains at an average rate of more than 4 inches per hour, it is too well-drained. If it drains less than 1 inch per hour, the soil is poorly drained.

“Interestingly, the best way to deal with either scenario is to increase organic matter,” he said. Additional organic matter can both increase infiltration of poorly drained soils and reduce high infiltration of soils that are too well-drained. How you apply that organic matter may differ depending on the situation.

“For poorly drained soils, cover crops may be the best way to improve percolation,” he said. Fibrous-rooted grains like winter wheat or rye will develop root systems that navigate through heavy soils, opening up channels for percolation when the roots die down.

“It is important to understand that this benefit will only be realized if the cover crop is not tilled into the garden, but left undisturbed under the soil surface,” he added. This approach may take a few cover cropping seasons to improve drainage. For new garden areas with poorly drained soils, some gardeners install subsurface drainage systems to help with water percolation.

For soils that are too well-drained, adding bulk organic matter to the soil will increase its water-holding capacity and slow percolation by enhancing structure and microorganism populations.

“By incorporating this amendment into the profile of the soil after applications, gardeners will realize the benefits very quickly,” Bates said.

In gardens with well-drained soil, maintain it by preserving soil structure. “Limit or eliminate the frequency with which the tiller enters the garden and refrain from any activity that compacts the soil, especially when the soil is wet,” Bates said.

For more information from MU Extension about gardening topics, including publications, websites and events, click here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Is it cost-effective to bale your own hay?

The greening of pastures and the rising of temperatures have led ruminant-livestock owners to start thinking about the upcoming haying season.

“Because hay is a relatively inexpensive feed when grass is unavailable, many livestock owners want to produce hay for the winter from the abundance of grass that their pastures yield in the spring,” said Whitney Wiegel, University of Missouri Extension agriculture business specialist.

Some farmers own and operate their own hay equipment. Others use a custom baler or purchase hay.

“To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of owning and operating hay equipment, a livestock owner needs several pieces of information,” Wiegel said. “First, he needs to know his costs of both owning and operating a fleet of hay machinery.”

Machinery ownership costs include depreciation, insurance, interest and property taxes.

“These costs depend upon the market value of the equipment, how each equipment purchase is financed, insurance costs and property tax rates,” he said. “Machinery ownership costs are often prohibitive when equipment is not used to its full capacity or when the hay produced has little value.”

Machinery ownership costs are relatively fixed in the short run, meaning that no matter how much hay is baled, ownership costs do not change for the hay enterprise. But when calculating production costs for each unit of hay produced, these costs are spread out over all units of production. “Therefore, the situation of owning hay equipment is made more favorable when the volume of hay produced with the equipment can be increased,” Wiegel said.

Operating costs also affect the cost-effectiveness of baling hay. Operating costs include labor, fuel, maintenance and repairs due to equipment use.

“These costs are considered variable costs because the cumulative dollar value of these expenses will vary with the quantity of hay baled,” he said. Like ownership costs, these costs are, theoretically, spread across all units of production.

“Dividing the total ownership and operating cost by the units of hay baled provides a dollar value that signifies the ownership and operating costs embodied in each unit of hay,” he said.

After calculating the machinery ownership and operating costs per unit of hay, producers can compare their costs to the going custom rate for hay baling.

“When a hay producer’s machinery ownership and operating costs are less than the custom rate, it is cost-effective for the hay producer to bale his own hay,” Wiegel said. “When his costs are greater than the custom rate, he should consider hiring a custom baler.”

For more information on machinery economics and custom rates, contact a county MU Extension center.

(by Milly Carter, Administrative Associate, West Central Region, University of Missouri Extension)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Need Help Applying for EQIP Funding?

Organic farmers and farmers who are transitioning to an organic operation have until June 1 to apply for a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) program that can help them pay for conservation measures. And the National Center for Appropriate Technology's ATTRA program staff can help them meet the deadline.

NRCS has up to $50 million dollars to award in the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). The program is a significant opportunity for organic and transitioning organic farmers to get financial assistance to implement conservation practices that are consistent with organic production practices.

Some of the practices that NRCS has identified as being beneficial to organic producers include the following:

• Irrigation and water management, including such items as efficient irrigation upgrades, irrigation scheduling, and tailwater recovery systems

• Grazing management, such as fencing, stockwater systems, and range and pasture planting

• Nutrient management, including manure-storage structures, planned nutrient applications, and soil testing

• Pest management, including crop- and pest-monitoring activities and planned pesticide applications

• Erosion control, such as grade-control structures, diversions, and water- and sediment-control basins

• Wildlife-habitat enhancement, such as stream buffers, fish screens, fish passage, and upland wildlife-habitat establishment

EQIP funding is competitive; however, there is a significant amount of funds still available just weeks before the deadline.

If you need more information on applying for EQIP funds, check the ATTRA program website for details or call our the toll-free hotline at 800-346-9140.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wholesale Buyers

Last week the University of Missouri Extension hosted a Successful Wholesale Marketing Workshop in Warrenton, MO.  It was a huge success with nearly 50 producers and 7 wholesale buyers in attendance.  Below is the list of wholesale buyers that attended the workshop and those who did not attend but are interested in making new contacts with producers.  Note that this is not a complete list of wholesale buyers across the state.  These are buyers we were aware of from the eastern portion of Missouri.  Feel free to give them a call or send an email.

Eat Here St. Louis
Andy Ayers
7036 Bruno Avenue
St. Louis, Missouri 63143

Missouri Farm to Institution Project
Lorin Fahrmeier, Coordinator (connects producers with schools for institutional buying)
1205 University Place, Ste. 1100
Columbia, MO 65211
816-655-6015 (Blue Springs Office)
573-882-3273 (Columbia Office)

Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District
Healthy Eating with Local Produce (HELP)
Robert Rusan

Maude’s Market
Maude Bauschard
4219 Virginia Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63111

Ole Tyme Produce Inc.
Joan Daleo
92-98 Produce Row
Saint Louis, Missouri 63102
(314) 436-5010 or (314) 436-5011

Sappington Farmers' Market — Farm to Family, Naturally LLC
Nancy Smith
8400 Watson Road
St. Louis, MO 63119
(314) 843-7848

Truman State University (with Sodexo)
Garrett Grider

US Foods
Jeff Shaw
8543 Page Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63114
(314) 473-3225

Not in attendance at the workshop but were invited to attend and who will buy local foods.

Bon Appetit
Jill Duncan
Washington University Dining Services

Missouri Grocer’s Association
Dan Shaul
315 North Ken Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802

Root Cellar
Bryce Oats
1023 East Walnut St.
Columbia, MO 65201

Monday, April 23, 2012

Seedless Watermelons - How Do They do That?

Seedless watermelon has advantages and disadvantages, but everybody wants to know, “How do you grow watermelon if it doesn’t have seeds?”

Commercial production of seedless watermelon began in the 1990s. Since then it has steadily increased to be a major part of today’s watermelon market. Early seedless varieties did not have the sugar and flavor levels of seeded types, but plant breeders have improved these traits and new varieties no longer have these problems.

However, one problem that does continue is seed germination. Initially, seed germination of seedless watermelon was quite low. One solution is to keep seed warm (90°F) until it germinates and emerges from the planting media. Still, this is difficult in cool climates where well water can have temperatures in the 40°F range. Each time the seeds are watered it lowers their temperature.

Yellow Seedless Watermelon
from the Bradford Farm Trials

On a small scale, warm temperatures can be maintained by watering transplant flats, covering them and letting them heat up in the sun in the greenhouse for a day or more. Then, plant the seed and cover them again until seedlings emerge. On a large scale, they can be placed in dark rooms heated to 90°F with 95 percent relative humidity and held until seedlings emerge. Either process will take four to five days. After emergence, seedlings are then finished off in the greenhouse for three weeks and then transplanted to the field late May or early June. Following these steps generally produces a more than 90 percent germination rate. High germination rate is important since seed of seedless types is quite expensive compared to seeded varieties.

The standard number of chromosomes in watermelon is 22. This is called the diploid number (di meaning two, as in dissect – cut in two). With this even number, cell division is highly regular and produces pollen and egg cells with 11 chromosomes that recombine to produce seed with the usual 22 chromosomes. Through a chemical process, the chromosome number can be doubled from 22 to 44 (tetraploid, tetra meaning four). Cell division in plants with 44 chromosomes is, again, highly regular and will produce pollen and egg cells with 22 chromosomes that recombine to produce seed having 44 chromosomes. However, if pollen from a plant with 22 chromosomes is placed on a female flower of a plant with 44 chromosomes, the resulting seed will have 33 chromosomes (triploid – three sets of the base number of 11 chromosomes). This odd number does not produce (or rarely produces) viable pollen and eggs in the resulting seedlings.

Seedless watermelon fruit will have white seed traces, but only occasionally will it have a mature, brown, hard seed. Since the pollen of these plants is not viable, a diploid, seeded watermelon needs to be planted along with the seedless variety. The diploid will provide good pollen for the bees to move around and pollinate the flowers of the seedless variety. Viable pollen is needed to stimulate fruit set and growth, even though the resulting fruit will be seedless. These diploid varieties can be commercial, seeded types or simply be there as a pollen source.

Seed companies maintain diploid and tetraploid parental lines and then perform controlled crosses by hand pollination to produce seed. These additional expenses in seed production are what cause seed for seedless types to be more expensive. More watermelon information can be found at the National Watermelon Promotion Board website.

(This article was published by Michigan State University Extension.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

FFA Competition

The Missouri State FFA Competition has been happening yesterday and today. Yesterday I was a timer for the Ag Issues competition and today I am proctoring the Ag Mechanization test. Lots of great kids and tons of school. Needless to say its busy here on campus. How I wish a lot of these kids would stay in agriculture and be our future farmers.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

University of Missouri Field Day Schedule Set for 2012

Droughts, floods, spring deluges, and late and early frosts are all possibilities that face Missouri farmers—sometimes in a matter of days. While no one can control the weather, you can learn the best ways to prepare for it and adapt to it at CAFNR’s Field Days across the state.

Researchers and extension agents from the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri will share research developments to enhance your operations, and help you save money and resources while conserving the natural environment. Whether it’s new strategies for stockpiling forages, establishing silvopastures, becoming an elderberry entrepreneur or improving soybean yields, the Field Days across the state will address your agricultural challenges and questions.

“Research presented at our field days is almost totally driven by those we serve,” said John Poehlmann, assistant director of the Missouri Agricultural Experiment Station. “Our scientists gather information about problems farmers are facing and work to solve those. Research is done in collaboration with farmers, industry, government and other universities in order to determine the best approach – economically, environmentally and socially – for the challenges that confront Missouri farmers.”

CAFNR has 17 unique research centers around the state, many of which host multiple educational events, workshops and tours throughout the year. The events and Field Days are also an excellent time to connect with friends and learn from Missouri’s growing agricultural community.

Save the date for the events in your area and explore innovative and practical developments in production agriculture, forestry, horticulture, natural resources management, soil fertility and more.

For more information about each research farm, click here.


June 21 - Bobwhite Quail and Native Pollinator Field Day, 1-7 p.m. Bradford Research Center, Columbia, 573-884-7945

June 30 - Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center Field Day HARC, New Franklin, 660-848-2268


July 12 - IPM Field Day (morning) Farmer Field Day (afternoon) Bradford Research Center, Columbia, 573-884-7945


Aug. 7 - Greenley Field Day Greenley Research Center, Novelty, 660-739-4410

Aug. 28 - Graves-Chapple Field Day Graves-Chapple Farm, Rock Port, 660-744-6231

Aug. 29 - Hundley-Whaley Field Day Hundley-Whaley Center, Albany, 660-726-5610

Aug. 31 - Delta Research Center Field Day Delta Research Center, Portageville, 573-379-5431


Sept. 6 - Tomato Festival Bradford Research Center, Columbia, 573-884-7945

Sept. 11 - Bradford FFA Day Bradford Research Center, Columbia, 573-884-7945

Sept. 13 - Southwest Center FFA Day Southwest Center, Mt. Vernon, 417-466-2109

Sept. 14 - Southwest Center Field Day Southwest Center, Mt. Vernon, 417-466-2109

Sept. 18 - Thompson Farm Research Center Field Day Thompson Farm, Spickard, 660-485-6576

Sept. 22 - South Farm Showcase South Farm, Columbia, 573-882-4450

Sept. 25 - FSRC Field Day and Ag Ed Day Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, 660-895-5121

Sept. 27 - Hundley-Whaley FFA Day Hundley-Whaley Center, Albany, 660-726-5610

Sept. 28 - Graves-Chapple FFA Day Graves-Chapple Farm , Rock Port, 660-744-6231

Oct. 4 - Wurdack FFA Day Wurdack Farm, Cook Station, 573-884-7991

Oct. 5 - Wurdack Field Day Wurdack Farm, Cook Station, 573-884-7991

(by Mike Burden, MU Senior Information Specialist)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to Avoid 'Snake Oil' Products

(This article caught my attention.  It might be controversial for some of you but it does give you something to think about.  debi)

Jim Downer, UC Cooperative Extension advisor, got into character for his presentation. The presenter twisted his mustache before grabbing hold of the podium.

"You will double your production! And you will have no pests, no diseases," he said, emphatically promoting an unnamed agricultural product to the audience gathered.

"You ask me, how can you afford this product? I ask you, how can you not afford it?" he said.

After his roaring introduction to participants at the California Small Farm Conference, the presenter Jim Downer, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Ventura County, proceeded to explain the real purpose behind the workshop session. His presentation wasn't about selling a product, but about cutting through promotional language to avoid wasting money on ineffective products.

"I guess what this talk is really about is knowing when you're being sold and when you're buying a product that can help," he said.

Downer explained that many ineffective products make scientific-sounding claims, but often cite studies that are nonexistent, unpublished or even unrelated to the product. He reminded the audience that any product claiming to control a pest — but not registered as a pesticide — is illegal.

"It is a violation of state and federal laws to apply products as pesticides when they are not labeled for that use," he said.

He also specifically addressed:
•Mycorrihizal fungi
•Biological control
•Soil Food Webs
•Compost teas
•Vitamin B-1
•Horticultural myths

Downer has written an informative article about recognizing horticultural "miracle products" and urban legends in Topics in Subtropics. In the article, he explains:

"Snake oil products almost always offer numerous testimonials to support their use. Those who provide testimonials are usually not researchers. Professional horticulturists, farmers and gardeners should be able to recognize snake oil products and avoid their use—we should base our horticultural decisions on sound research based information, not on marketing claims and testimonial based admonitions."

Read the rest of Downer's article "Snake Oil, Horticultural Myths, Horticultural Urban Legends, and Persuaders in our Industry."

(by Brenda Dawson, Small Farm News, University of California - Davis)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Urban Farmsteading Workshop

Basic skills for self-sufficient living will be taught at the Urban Farmsteading Workshop on April 21, 28, May 5, 12 19 & 26 (each are Saturday mornings) from 9 am to noon at Mineral Area College, Arts & Sciences Bldg. Room 114 (Ag Classroom).

No matter what your motivation is for living more sustainably, this class is for you! The mission of the Urban Farmsteading Program is to help individuals achieve their self-sufficiency goals by providing reliable infor-mation, tools, tips and encouragement.

Who can sign up?
Even those with limited or no space can take steps to achieve their sustainable-living goals! Everyone, regardless of age, experience or space available, is encouraged to sign up!

What others have said about Urban Farmsteading:
“Networking with others in the class is the best aspect!”
“I really enjoyed the variety of speakers and the extent of their knowledge.”
“I have a wealth of resources to use now, so the sky’s the limit!”
“This class helped me realize that it’s okay to fail and that baby steps are better than no steps at all.”

Saturday, April 21
Course Introduction
Instructor & Participant Introductions
“What It’s All About”

Saturday, April 28
Gardening Basics
Container & Square Foot Gardens
Composting & Soil Fertility
Hybrid vs. Heirloom
Organic vs. Traditional Gardening

Saturday, May 5
Food Preservation Methods—Freezing, Drying, Jellying, Fermenting and Canning Basics

Saturday, May 12
Saving Food Dollars
Consumer Meat Choices - Organic, Traditional, Hormones & Antibiotics, Grass fed vs. grain fed
Cutting Grocery Bills
Healthy Eating for Less

Saturday, May 19
Reducing Household Expenses
Money Leaks, Budgeting and Farmsteader’s Credit
The Farmsteader’s 6 Rs
Frugal Strategies

Saturday, May 26
“What’s Stopping You?”
Identifying Barriers to Living Sustainably
Participant’s Topics

Registration is $50 and includes the 18 hour workshop, resource workbook, resource CD and refreshments.  For more information contact the Washington County Extension, 113 N. Missouri St. Suite A, Potosi, MO 63664, 573-438-2671.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Economical High Tunnel Design

Compared to off-the-shelf units, this DIY (do it yourself) design can lower cost and increase flexibility.

In early March, Patrice Gros was in Kansas City to offer a workshop while putting up our high tunnel. Niles Home for Children received a Get Growing KC grant for the materials and Lincoln University Cooperative Extension helped cover Patrice's expenses. I was surprised at how easy building our high tunnel was. The most difficult part is to create the tube bender. That requires a template and cutting, bending and welding some steel tubing.

Orientation: Pick a level site to locate your high tunnel. Decide whether you are going to orient it east-west or north-south. I searched for orientation information and it seems that our latitude is on the border between the generally recommended east-west orientation (in northern latitudes) and the generally recommended north-south orientation (in southern latitudes). We positioned ours east-west because it allowed us to easily cover our existing beds and will give all plants the most sun.

Layout: Our high tunnel is 50'x16 1/2'. We marked our rectangle out on the ground with four pieces of rebar. Then we ran a tape measure diagonally from corner to corner. When the two corner-to-corner diagonals are the same length the rectangle is square.

Hoop Spacing: We wanted the spacing to be 6 feet or less. Our hoop spacing came out to be 5' 6". We drove 24" pieces of 1/2" rebar into the ground at the location of each hoop. The hoops will later be slid over and held in place by the rebar.

Hoop Bending: Hoops are made from 1"x1" 24-foot long, 16 gauge, galvanized square tubing. The tubing was bent using a home-made tube bender. The diagram for making the bender can be found on page 2 of the Kerr Center's How to Build a Low Cost Hoop House. Three people are ideal for the job of bending hoops, two persons bending and one stabilizing the curved tubing as it extends up into the air. The bender is moved along the tube making a bend every four inches.

Placing Hoops: The bent hoops are then shoved down over the rebar on opposite sides of the house.

Anchoring Sides to Ground: Along each side of the house at ground level runs a long stretch of 1" EMT conduit. The pieces of conduit are coupled together by metal connectors. The conduit is attached to the bottom of each hoop by a metal strap held in place by a 3/4" #8 self-tapping screw. Five 1-foot soil augers with their "eyes" bent slightly open to accommodate the conduit were screwed into the ground along each side to keep the house from going to Oz in a wind.

Hip Boards: When the sides are anchored to the ground one end hoop is held plumb by tying it to a T-post. The hip boards of 1"x3" lumber are bolted to the hoops with 2"x1/4" carriage bolts at a height of 3 feet along the curve of each hoop. Make sure that each hoop is plumb before drilling holes. Drill holes with the best quality 5/16" bit. The sheet of poly covering the hoop house will be attached to these hip boards using a "U" channel and wiggle wire. After the hip board is in place, attach the "U" channel down the center of the side board from end to end.

End Wall Channel: Screw "U" channel onto the top of the end wall hoops from the ground over the top to the ground on the other side. For this we used #8 3/4" self-tapping screws spaced approximately one foot apart.

Putting On Clear Greenhouse Plastic: It took about eight people to put on the clear Tufflite covering. Fortunately the wind was not a big problem. We adjusted the sheet so that the same amount overlapped at the ground on both sides and over both ends. Starting at one end, keeping it stretched evenly, the wiggle wire was then pressed with the plastic into the channel. It looked great.

Roll Up Sides: Where the Tufflite plastic film draped onto the ground along each side of the hoop house, we now placed a 50' piece of 3/4" EMT conduit, the pieces held together with metal connectors. On a table saw we had also ripped 50 feet of 1 inch PVC into equal halves. The conduit nestles nicely into the PVC halves with the Tufflite in between. Self tapping screws were then drilled through the PVC and Tufflite into the conduit, fastening the Tufflite onto our 50 foot roller. A crank was then fashioned out of the one inch PVC and attached to the roller with a coupler and screws. The whole side could then be rolled up leaving a 3-foot space for ventilation between the ground and the hip boards.

End Walls: These are not finished yet. We are considering two options at the moment. First, we could run 2"x4" lumber across the bottom ends and attach wiggle wire channel to hold down the endwall plastic at ground level. Alternatively, we are thinking about attaching the endwall plastic only to the hoop itself (using the channel we fastened to it), leaving some plastic overlapping at ground level but not attaching it to anything. I'm sure a wonderful solution will arise.

(reposted from Urban Grown, the newsletter of Cultivate Kansas City.  Marty Kraft is a long-time Kansas City gardener, farmer and environmentalist, currently growing food on two main sites associated with Niles' Home for Children. In early March he teamed up with no-till vegetable farmer Patrice Gros to conduct a high tunnel construction workshop here in Kansas City. Patrice has developed a practical, easy-to-replicate tunnel design for use on his Foundation Farm ( near Eureka Springs, AR. Patrice has been a contributor to Urban Grown and we thank him for sharing his expertise with us through articles and workshops. Many thanks also to Marty Kraft for bringing Patrice to Kansas City again and for generously contributing this report. To learn more about Marty's no-till and ecological gardening techniques see his website at

Friday, April 13, 2012

How Insects Survive Cold: The Potential Effect of a Mild Winter

(Even though this article is from Michigan, I think it helps us to understand just how insects are effected by a harsh or mild winter.  debi )

Large insect populations are possible this year, but many factors determine overwintering survival and success.

Freezing temperatures are detrimental to many forms of life, including most insects. Insect are exothermic (cold-blooded), which means they cannot produce their own body heat. So to survive and thrive in climates such as ours, insects have developed several ways to deal with cold weather.

The first strategy is to avoid freezing conditions altogether. The classic example of this is the monarch butterfly, which migrates south in the fall to overwintering sites in Mexico. In the spring, the monarch population makes its way back north. Eventually the children or grandchildren of last year’s monarchs return to Michigan. Pest insects such as armyworms, earworms, potato leafhoppers, and some grain aphids do not survive the winter in Michigan either. Instead, populations continuously reproduce in southern states, and insects move north with spring weather fronts to recolonize northern states. The mild winter of 2011, and above normal temperatures this spring, did not allow these insects to survive in Michigan, but much of the central United States has been above normal as well, giving some migratory insects a head start. For example, on March 22, the University of Kentucky reported armyworm moth catches in their pheromone traps at levels that are at least two weeks ahead of normal.

Insects that do overwinter in Michigan have ways to survive typical winter weather. Death by freezing isn’t so much related to low temperature itself as it is the result of ice crystals forming in the body. Rapid formation and expansion of ice crystals cause cells to burst, resulting in organ and gut damage. Some insects are freeze-tolerant – they actually survive the formation of ice crystals in their body by producing ice nucleating proteins that “control” the freezing process.

Other insects are freeze avoidant – they accumulate antifreeze in their cells prior to the winter. The antifreeze is composed of specialized carbohydrates (in a fancy term, “cryoprotectants”) that lower the freezing point of the body fluid, preventing the formation of ice crystals. Examples of cryoprotectants are the sugars trehalose and mannitol, or the sugar alcohol glycerol (we humans use glycerol as an antifreeze in industrial processes). These cryoprotectants are effective as long as the insect body cools gradually (i.e., the insect acclimates to the cold, as in the fall, triggering the production of the compounds) and until temperatures get really cold (beyond the freezing point of the antifreeze).

To avoid exposure to severe cold and or fluctuating temperature, many insects overwinter under plant debris or burrow into the soil. As air temperature changes, the temperature under the cover rises and falls slowly (especially when insulated by snow cover), giving insects a far more stable environment.

Some examples: A first generation corn borer larvae collected in June is easily killed by cold. However, a second generation corn borer collected in December is freeze tolerant, and can survive for months at -4°F, even with ice crystals in its tissue. Overwintering eggs of many aphid species contain protectants like glycerol and mannitol to avoid freezing. In the case of soybean aphids, which spend the winter in the egg stage on exposed branches of buckthorn, eggs can be super-cooled to -29°F. Bean leaf beetles overwinter as adults, and typically survive temperatures only into the 20s°F. However, beetles overwinter in protected areas in woodlots or under leaf litter to avoid colder temperatures. In general, milder winter temperatures put less stress on these and other overwintering insects, and likely increase overall survival into the spring.

Once an insect successfully overwinters by avoiding freezing, it must successfully emerge, perhaps feed, colonize a crop, and eventually reproduce. A mild spring can help or hurt this process. For many adult insects (and some larvae) emerging from winter sleep, often the first task is to find food. Until food is available, they must live off of fat reserves stored in the body from the previous year. For other insects that overwinter as late-stage larvae, feeding is not an option; the fat reserves have to last through pupation, and even into the adult stage. If insects do not find food or complete development before energy reserves run out, the result is lower fitness, less reproduction, or even starvation. Thus being active too early or out of synch with a host crop can lead to reduced overall fitness. For example, alfalfa weevils emerging now in southern Michigan will likely find legumes to eat. But ladybird beetles that emerge early may not find enough prey to survive.

Early insect emergence often times coincides with earlier green-up of perennial crops or bud break on overwintering hosts, giving the insect population a head start and leading to larger pest populations. However, a cold snap can still kill spring vegetation and set the population back. For example, in 2007 a hard freeze damaged emerging leaves of buckthorn. This reduced the feeding sites for soybean aphids that had just emerged on these leaves, and 2007 ended up as a low aphid year in the state, although initial spring populations were high. Likewise, early pest emergence may coincide with earlier planting of the host crop (based on degree days), again leading to larger pest populations. However, a cold or wet period can suddenly set planting or emergence back, so that the insect life cycle and crop are out of synch. For example, in some years with delayed planting, corn rootworm larvae emerged into bare field or corn borer moths did not find tall enough corn to produce a large first generation.

So the bottom line is to be observant as the spring progresses. Chances are that we will see a few unusually large insect populations, or some population peaks occurring earlier than expected. But, there could be weather events in April and early May that kill insects, or create synchrony problems between insect life cycles and crops. From the perspective of many insects, this is just another year in a bug’s life.

(by Chris DiFonzo, Fred Springborn and Megan Chludzinski, Michigan State University Extension, Department of Entomology)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Goat and Sheep Camp - April 21st

Saturday, April 21, 2012 at George Washington Carver Farm, 3804 Bald Hill Road, Jefferson City, MO 65102.  Cost is $15.
Missouri Youth Goat and Sheep Camp will prove to be an exciting educational event for those 4-H and FFA members who are interested in small ruminant animal production. Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE), University of Missouri Extension/4-H and Missouri State University Agriculture Department are proud facilitators of this event.  Experts in the field of nutrition, selection, animal health and carcass composition, as well as producers with years of experience in the goat industry, will guide participants through the basics and finer points of choosing and feeding commercial, registered or show herds.

Youth and their adult leaders will work in small groups to ensure individualized attention.  The day will be broken up between adult and youth workshops.  Each adult and youth will have the opportunity to attend four workshops in the morning and gain hands-on experience in the afternoon.

The youth tracks have been developed as a result of requests on evaluations from previous years’ camps. Older 4-H youth or FFA members may choose to attend the adult sessions if the youth sessions are topics in which you already have a working knowledge


• To increase the knowledge of care and management of small ruminant animals.
• To increase the awareness and importance of the small ruminant industry.
• To develop proper showmanship skills.

Saturday, April 21, 2012
Registration 7:30 a.m.
Orientation 8:15 a.m.
Workshops begin 8:30 a.m.

Adult Workshops - Morning sessions will be 45 minutes each
8:30-9:15 a.m. - Marketing: Know Your Target Market Needs/Wants.
9:15 – 10:00 a.m. - Foot Care and Health: What is foot rot? Prevention, care and management.
10:00 –10:15 a.m. - BREAK
10:15 – 11:00 a.m. - Parasites: Discuss deworming, how to prevent resistance and non-chemical parasite management.
11:00 –12:00 a.m. - Working facilities/sustainable goat management/raising sheep, goats and cattle together.

Youth Workshops
8:30 – 9:15 a.m. - 4-H Business Start-up: Entrepreneurship/project ideas and record keeping.
9:15 – 10:00 a.m. - Ethics For Youth In And Outside The Show Ring.
10:00 –10:15 am - BREAK
10:15 – 11:00 a.m. - Feeding Your Goat/Lamb: Proper nutrition for the show animal. Learn which plants can harm your lamb or kid.
11:00 – 12:00 a.m. - Understanding Small Ruminant Behavior: Tips for effective handling and safety.

Lunch (Provided) 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.

Afternoon:  Hands-on Workshops 1p.m.- 4p.m.

Adult Workshops
1:00 – 2:30 p.m. - How To Do Fecal Egg Counts and FAMACHA® Certification

Youth Workshops - 30 minutes each, rotating blocks
1:00 p.m. - Selecting a show animal: what to look for.
1:30 p.m. - Check the health of your animal: Body Condition Scoring, FAMACHA®, hoof trimming.
2:00 p.m. - Proper vaccination and deworming techniques.

General Session - Adults and Youth
2:30 – 4:30 p.m. - End the day by giving attendees an opportunity to practice showing – LU Ag Club
4:30 p.m. - Turn in Evaluations.

Fitting for Show (goats and lambs): cover clipping, lead training, foot trimming and end with showing.

Upon completion of the workshop the youth will have earned their Show Me Quality Assurance (SMQA) certification.

For more information contact Vonna Kesel at (573) 681-5312 or

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Vegetable Grafting Workshop - St Louis

A Vegetable Grafting Workshop will be held on Saturday, April 21, 2012 from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m.  The workshop will be held at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) St. Louis Urban Impact Center (SLUIC), 9041 Riverview Dr., St. Louis, MO 63137.

This workshop is offered at no cost. Space is limited to 30 participants.

Most heirloom cultivars lack genetic disease resistance and are more susceptible to epidemics in the field. By physically joining (grafting) heirloom plants with a modern rootstock, growers can create grafted transplants that have the disease resistance, stress tolerance, and vigor of the modern rootstock and produce the high-quality fruit of the heirloom. Come to this “hands –on” workshop to learn this technique on tomatoes and cucurbits.

Workshop presented by Dr. Sanjun GU, Assistant Professor and State Extension Horticulture Specialist, Cooperative Extension and Research, Lincoln University of Missouri

To register please contact Miranda Duschack.  For more information, contact Karen Davis at (573) 999-6293.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Grants Advising for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers in the Midwest

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

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

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

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

This project is funded by Farm Aid.

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

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

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grazing Goats Webinar Tonight

The second webinar on Grazing Goats with Mark Kennedy is this evening from 7-8:30 pm.  Go to the following website and log in as a guest -   Mark will finish his PowerPoint presentation.  Mark has been raising goats successfully for years, plus he is a grasslands specialist with NRCS, so he has a number of great help ideas on grasses and grazing for goats.

In case you missed last week's webinar, it is archived and can be found at the Missouri Beginning Farmer Program's Online Learning Community (OLC).  The OLC is a single location for all past activities that have taken place with the Missouri Beginning Farmer Program.  You will find all 37 past webinars, materials and handouts from all 11 past short courses and farmer forums.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cheese Making Class - Hermann MO

Cheese Making: Cheddar, Swiss, Brie, Chevre, Ricotta, Blue, Gouda and Mozzarella.

Learn to make cheese in Hermann, MO, April 21-22 from  9 am to 5 pm (choose both days or one) with Merryl Winstein, Cheesemaker from St. Louis, MO.  A complete array of traditional and professional methods will be taught using both cow and goat milk.  You'll leave the workshop to go home ready to make all your favorites. Hermann is an hour east of Columbia, MO.

Saturday April 21 - Traditional cheddar, swiss/alpine, brie/camembert, soft spreadable chevre, & ricotta

Sunday April 22 - Blue, gouda, traditional mozzarella (not the quickie citric acid type), & ricotta

You will learn about correct curd textures, acid development, and moisture, observing with all your senses so you can create great tasting cheese that store well.  Everything supplied for class itself; other supplies available at class.

Be sure to bring your own lunch since there will be very little time to go out to eat lunch.

Merryl Winstein has raised dairy goats in her back yard in Webster Groves, MO for 19 years, and sells raw goat milk, which is legal in Missouri (see article in Missouri Life Magazine, Feb/March 2012 issue, page 58).

The cost of the workshop is $145 per person per day or $280 for two registrations.  You can choose one or both days to attend.  Pre-registration is required. Register online, or by phone at 314-968-2596

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants Available

Bus wrap funded through FMPP.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking grant applicants for the 2012 Farmers Market Promotion Program.

Approximately $10 million is available for marketing operations such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture and road-side stands. The grants, which are administered by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), are available through a competitive application process on The grants aim to increase the availability of local agricultural products in communities throughout the county. They will also help strengthen farmer-to-consumer marketing efforts.

"These grants will put resources into rural and urban economies, and help strengthen efforts to provide access to nutritious and affordable foods," said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan. "This program not only supports the health and well-being of local communities but also the economic health of their farms and businesses."

Projects that expand healthy food choices in food deserts or low-income areas (where the percentage of the population living in poverty is 20 percent or above) will receive additional consideration. USDA, in coordination with the Departments of the Treasury and Health and Human Services, seeks to increase access to fresh, healthy and affordable food choices for all Americans, while expanding market opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Information on applying for a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant will be published in the April 6, 2012, Federal Register and available online. Applications will only be accepted via and must be received by May 21, 2012. Applications that are incomplete, hand-delivered, or sent via U.S. mail will not be considered. Applicants should start the registration process as soon as possible to meet the deadline. Contact Carmen Humphrey, Program Manager, by phone: (202) 720-8317, or e-mail: for more information.

Authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1976 and amended by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill), the Farmers Market Promotion Program is in the seventh year of funding direct markets that benefit local and regional economies.

The Farmers Market Promotion Program is part of USDA's commitment to support local and regional communities. These investments are highlighted in USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass. KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content.

A large selection of USDA-supported programs and projects is also visible on the KYF Map, which can be displayed by theme, program, or recipient type. Both the KYF Compass and map will be regularly refreshed with new data and case studies.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Will there be a 2012 Farm Bill?

With this early spring, most farmers are out in the fields trying to figure out which crops to plant with both ambient and soil temperatures higher than normal.  But there is also a lot of action taking place in Washington DC where discussions about food and agriculture are heating up in case there really is a 2012 Farm Bill. 

Why are we writing about the Farm Bill on a beginning farmers’ blog?  Well, the 2008 Farm Bill provided significant funding for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, under which our Missouri Beginning Farmer project got started.  Beyond that, that Farm Bill provided for a national Conservation Stewardship Program, expanded the Organic title, and helped put in place the use of the Environmental Qualities Incentives Program funds for high tunnels.  All of these programs can be useful to beginning farmers, as well as many other Farm Bill programs that help sustainable farmers.   (If you are interested in learning more about the farm bill, you may find this publication, A Grassroots Guide to the Farm Bill from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition very useful.)

Farm Bills are written every 5-7 years and since the 2008 Farm Bill is supposed to expire this year, there are considerable rumblings that we will have a new Farm Bill in 2012.  In fact, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack touted the need for a 2012 Farm Bill in many different places in March, including the National Farmers Union convention and the 2012 Commodity Classic.   Congress has been holding hearings and bills have been introduced that contain Farm Bill provisions. It may mean that a new Farm Bill will be written this year, or it may mean that we will continue to operate under the old one for a while longer.  So that means everyone is weighing in on what they want in the next Farm Bill. 

Farm Bills are fiercely contested and include a number of different interest groups that have widely varying priorities.  For instance, the Food Research and Action Center is fighting hard to keep nutrition programs funded, while members of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture have priorities for conservation, beginning farming, and local food systems.  The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy weighed in on the farm bill last week by publishing “What’s at Stake in the 2012 Farm Bill?”   MU’s Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) published the a briefing book that provides benchmark data analysis of agriculture commodities that Congress will use as they debate the Farm Bill. 

Overwhelmed? Don’t be.  The Farm Bill is an interactive and dynamic process. If you’re interested, find a way to engage.  The American Farm Bureau, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, commodity groups, public health groups, environmental groups and hunger groups all provide avenues for participating – find the one that best fits you and pay attention to policy. It does have an impact on your farm!

(Written by Mary Hendrickson)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Get Ready to Cut Your Farm’s Energy Costs!

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Energize Missouri Agriculture Program and EnSave Inc. will provide energy audits at no cost for Missouri farmers. The energy audit will analyze your farm’s energy use and determine specific recommendations to improve energy efficiency.

If you’re interested in saving money on your energy bill, an energy audit will help identify which energy efficient technologies make the most sense for your farm. The audits and energy consultation will reveal potential energy savings and how long it will take to pay for energy efficiency upgrades—just what you need to make an informed business decision.  An energy audit can also help unlock other funding opportunities available through federal energy efficiency programs.  You might be surprised to learn exactly where your energy dollars are going on the farm and how easy it can be to start reducing your energy costs.  An energy audit can identify energy savings between 10% – 35% of total energy use.

All Missouri farms are eligible to apply for this program, but only a limited number of farms can participate. Call the program hotline at (800) 732-1399 to find out if an energy audit makes sense for your farm.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reminder -- Grazing Goats Webinar tonight!

Remember to attend this webinar on managing goats in your farming operation TONIGHT, Monday April 2 at 7 pm.  To attend go to and sign in as a guest.

Every farm counts in the Census of Agriculture

It doesn't matter if you have a small farm with a few thousand dollars of agricultural sales, or a farm that sells millions -- USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service wants your farm to count.  Every five years NASS conducts a census of all agricultural operations with sampled surveys occurring between censuses. And guess what – 2012 is a census year! That means YOU need to make sure you will receive a census survey form.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture – like all of them – will be a count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every farm is important to gain a complete measure of U.S. agriculture.  And that complete picture of U.S. agriculture informs everyone -- from Congressional staff seeking out information on their state's agriculture while preparing positions on farm policy to local meetings of the League of Women Voters or American Association of University Women interested in understanding women farmers.  

Support for organic agriculture is a case in point.  Special efforts to reach organic farmers have been made in the last couple of censuses. And in 2008, the Farm Bill contained provisions for an organic title.  Now, the census didn't accomplish that -- but having good information helped organic agriculture advocates gain traction in farm policy.  You can find stories about how the census of agriculture helped farmers here.

As a beginning farmer, you will want to stand up and be counted so that programs and policies better serve you.  Again every farm counts -- from retirement/lifestyle farms and ranches that grow a small amount of plants or crops or keep only a few animals, up to the largest of operations and everything in between. Landowners that only have income from government programs are also counted as farms.

NASS will mail the 2012 Census of Agriculture later this year and data will be collected into early 2013. As a preliminary step, NASS is currently conducting a National Agricultural Classification Survey to help determine who should receive a 2012 Census of Agriculture report form. Classification Surveys have been sent out and NASS asks everyone who receives one to respond, even if they are not farming, so that NASS can develop an accurate and comprehensive mailing list to account for all of U.S. agriculture in the Census.

If you just started farming in the last couple of years, you will want to find out more and register for a survey.  For more information about NASS, the Census of Agriculture, or to add your name to the Census mail list, visit