Thursday, October 31, 2013

Organic Pastured Poultry Nutrition Webinar November 5

Join eOrganic for a webinar on a nutritional approach to rearing organic pastured broiler chickens by Michael Lilburn of the Ohio State University. The webinar will take place on November 5 at 1 pm Central Time. Registration is free and open to the public and advance registration is required.


About the webinar

On small scale organic farms, novel grains and pastured organic broiler chickens could be valuable additions to a multi-year organic rotation program. The chickens would contribute to soil fertility and novel cereal grains produced on the farm could help reduce the cost of organic poultry feed in subsequent years. One such novel grain is naked oats which have been studied extensively in Europe. Naked oats are higher in crude protein, methionine, and lysine when compared with corn and thus would contribute higher levels of methionine to the complete diet. This webinar will discuss naked oats as an ingredient and the results from experiments in which pastured organic broilers (commercial, Red Bros) have been fed diets containing 75% naked oats.

To register click here.

Find all upcoming and archived webinars on organic farming and research here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

13th Annual Iowa Organic Conference

The 13th Annual Iowa Organic Conference, scheduled for Nov. 17-18, will once again bring national experts, the latest in organic agriculture production research, and the voices of local experience together for an educational event. The conference will be held in Iowa City at the Iowa Memorial Union with a reception and movie showing on Sunday evening and the full conference beginning at 8 am on Monday, Nov 18.

Conference organizers are Iowa State University Extension and Outreach organic agriculture, the Office of Sustainability at University of Iowa, and New Pioneer Food Cooperative in Iowa City. “This is the second year this partnership has organized the conference,” said Kathleen Delate, extension organic agriculture specialist with Iowa State University. “There is a great concentration of producer and consumer interest in organic production in eastern Iowa, with Iowa City being the central location for the some of the largest organic producer and consumer communities in Iowa.”
Organic producers, consumers, conventional farmers, and others interested in science-based research in organic agriculture and practical applications for farming systems will find a wide variety of topics and speakers at the 2013 conference. Keynote speaker is Bob Quinn, a Montana organic farmer with 4,000 certified acres producing organic grains, alfalfa hay, vegetables and fruits. He will speak about on-farm biodiversity and the benefits of multiple crops in terms of spreading risk and providing ecological services.
Other conference speakers include Miles McEvoy, USDA National Organic Program, speaking about efforts to increase the understanding of organic; Bill Stowe, Des Moines Waterworks, on curtailing nitrate pollution in Iowa’s waters; experts on many aspects of local food systems; area organic farmers offering tips for best practices during transition to organic farming; and Iowa State researchers – Delate and Cynthia Cambardella – sharing findings from a 16-year comparison of organic and conventional rotations and recent research quantifying carbon sequestration benefits.
A Sunday evening pre-conference reception at 6 p.m. and showing of the moving “GMO-OMG” at 7 p.m. will be held in the Memorial Union Ballroom on Nov. 17. Conference registration begins at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 18 with a welcome at 8 a.m. and concluding at 5 p.m. An all-organic lunch featuring regional foods will be served on Monday.
Registration options are available on the conference website. Additional details about the conference are available at here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Missouri Value-Added Grant Program Now Accepting Applications

The Missouri Value-Added Grant Program provides grants for projects that add value to Missouri agricultural products and aid the economy of a rural community. Grant applications will be considered for value-added agricultural business concepts that:
• Lead to and result in development, processing and marketing of new or expanded uses or technologies for agricultural products; and
• Foster agricultural economic development in Missouri’s rural communities.

Applications will be considered for expenses related to the creation, development and operation of a value-added agricultural business including:
• Feasibility studies,
• Marketing studies,
• Legal assistance,
• Marketing plans,
• Business plans,
• Prospectus development for cooperatives, and
• Operational consulting

How Does the Program Work?
Proposals will be selected on a competitive basis. Each proposal will be evaluated and rated using the following criteria:
• Economic development potential for the agricultural industry,
• Credibility and merit,
• Probability of near-term commercialization and practical application of project results
• Presence, source and level of matching funds, and
• Where the project will have an economic impact

Who is Eligible?
• Applicant must be at least 18 years old,
• Missouri resident, and
• Applicant may be groups of individuals, businesses, and organizations related to agriculture whose proposed value-added agricultural business concept is based in Missouri

Grant Amount and Terms
The maximum grant to any person, groups of individuals, businesses or organizations related to a value-added rural agricultural business concept is $200,000.

The grants cannot be used for:
• Business start-up except as detailed in program guidelines,
• Business expansion, unless qualified on the basis of program criteria,
• Paying off existing debts,
• Substituting existing efforts or research already underway,
• Covering institutional overhead costs,
• Production costs,
• Operational costs such as payroll, utilities, inventory, insurance, and advertising,
• Buying land, buildings, or equipment,
• Implementing feasibility studies, marketing studies, marketing plans, or business plans except as detailed in the program guidelines, and
• Application fee or grant writing expenses

A nonrefundable fee will be due with each application. The fee will be $150 for grant application requests of $25,000 or less and $300 for requests over $25,000. The application fee may be part of the applicant’s matching funds.

For funded grant requests, a MASBDA grant administration fee is due equal to ten (10) percent of the total grant awarded. The fee is due when the Grant Agreement is signed. The MASBDA grant administration fee may be included as part of the applicant’s grant request, or if paid by the applicant, may be shown as part of the applicant’s internal matching expenditures.

Application Information
Applications are now being accepted and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. December 20, 2013.  Download the application here.
To get an idea of what has been awarded in the past, click here and scroll down to news release articles about each awarded proposal.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Soil Health/Cover Crop Workshop

A Soil Health / Cover Crop Workshop will be held November 7th, 2013 at the USDA-NRCS Elsberry Plant Materials Center and American Legion Hall, 150 Hatfield Rd, Elsberry, MO.  Registration is $12 which includes lunch so please call 636-528-4877, ext. 3 to RSVP.

Presenters include:

·       Keith Berns, from South Central Nebraska, owns and operates Green Cover Seed, one of the major cover crop seed providers and educators in the United States.
·       Dave Robison, from Winona Lake, Indiana is the Forage Manager with Legacy Seeds, Inc. He is the co-founder and also the former national co-chairman of the Cool Season Grass Initiative, a founding member of the Midwest Cover Crop Council.
·       Charlie Ellis, Natural Resource Engineer, and Rich Hoormann, Agronomy Specialist, both with University of Missouri Extension.  Charlie Ellis works in Lincoln County, Missouri and Rich Hoorman, works in Montgomery County, Missouri.  These men have over 40 years of combined experience in the field of agriculture.  Currently, they are working with different cover crop species in a corn/soybean rotation.


NOTE:  Workshop starts at the NRCS Plant Materials Center and then moves to the American Legion Hall.

8:30 – 9:00 am         Registration at Elsberry Plant Materials Center

9:00-10:30 am         Tour of Cover Crops:  36 Cover Crop Species Planted at 6 Different Planting Dates, Slake Test and Rain Simulator – Keith Berns, Doug Peterson, Ron Cordsiemon,  Jerry Kaiser, and Allen Casey

10:30-11:00 am       Travel to American Legion Hall at111 Norville, Elsberry, MO

11:00-12:00             Producing and Scavenging Nitrogen with Cover Crops – Dave Robinson

12:00-1:00 pm         Lunch

1:00-2:00 pm           MU Extension Field Work/Study – Rich Hoorman/Charlie Ellis

2:00-3:00 pm           Keith Berns – The Positive and Negative Attributes of Different Cover Crop Species

3:00-4:00 pm           Dave Robison – Can I get a Return on Investment from Cover crops-YES!

4:00-4:30                 Question and Answer with the Speakers

This event is sponsored by USDA-NRCS and Lincoln County SWCD.



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Goats: 'Don’t Fence Me In'

Charlotte Clifford-Rathert
demonstrates some new portable
fencing options
Goats are curious animals and their gregarious social skills and healthy appetites know no boundaries, or fences.

However, new types of fences make it easier for goat owners to dissuade their “don’t fence me in” bleating, according to Charlotte Clifford-Rathert, small-ruminant specialist at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension and Research in Jefferson City.
Clifford-Rathert will speak at the MU Extension workshop “Pearls of Production: Women in Agriculture” Nov. 8-9 in Columbia and on Nov. 1 at the 2013 National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference, also in Columbia. She will be among the featured presenters at the Missouri Livestock Symposium, Dec. 6-7 in Kirksville. The annual event is organized by MU Extension and numerous sponsors.
Cost and flexibility are key considerations for choosing what type of fence to use, she said. Ease of construction and intensity of rotational grazing also are factors.

There are two types of conventional fencing: woven and barbed wire. Woven wire is effective, but expensive and inflexible, she said. To minimize horned goats from getting tangled in the wire, she recommends using 6 x 12-inch mesh wire spaced 24-36 inches apart.

Electric fencing is the least expensive type of fence and is durable, easy to install and flexible, she said. Goats are highly intelligent and learn quickly to respect electric fencing. For perimeter fence, she recommends using six to eight wires at least 48 inches high, with a bottom wire 6-8 inches from the ground, alternating hot and ground wires.

Sheep and goats can be controlled with five or more strands of 12 1/2-gauge galvanized high-tensile smooth electric wire. A minimum of 110,000 psi is recommended, with 170,000 psi preferred by most operators.

Two types of temporary fencing provide flexibility and ease for herd owners, Clifford-Rathert said. Electric netting or commercial portable electric fencing is lightweight and easy for one person to install for rotational grazing, immunizations, hoof trimming, training or predator control.

One type of portable interior electric fence system operates like a pullout clothesline, with four strands of wire unwinding simultaneously. Corner posts and braces anchor the wires. In brushy areas, Clifford-Rathert prefers this to netting, which sometimes tangles and breaks, causing shorts in the electrical system. Consider distance and access to water when choosing portable systems.

Reliable chargers are necessary for electric fences, with backup provisions for lightning, surge protection and electrical outages. The charger or energizer should be low impedance with a minimum 5,000-volt output of 35 to 65 pulses per minute. Solar chargers are good options in many areas.

Proper installation of the charger is essential for reliability.

Galvanized ground rods are readily available and should be used with galvanized clips on the energizer. You can use copper rods with copper clips on the energizer, but this can cause corrosion, she said. Regardless of what type of ground rod used, it should match the metal on the energizer clip. Manufacturer warranties require lightning protection, which should be installed properly to protect your fencing investment.

For more information on the Pearls of Production workshop, click here.
More information about the Missouri Livestock Symposium is available at, from Garry Mathes at 660-341-6625 or the Adair County Extension Center at 660-665-9866.
(by Linda Geist, University of Missouri Writer)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Frost and Freezing in Fall Vegetable Crops – Part 2

Vegetable crops can be protected from late-season freeze events.
Wind machines and heaters are expensive pieces of equipment used by large commercial orchards to combat spring frosts and freezes, but may not be economical for some vegetable growers. Luckily, many of the same techniques for extending the early season can be used for extending the late season for these crops.

A “water-soaked” appearance is a
common identifier of freeze damage on
fruiting vegetables. These decorative
gourds will still harden off, but
the discoloration is permanent.
How to tell if you have frost-damaged vegetables
If you see that your land has some frost on it, it’s best to check the plants and fruit twice after the sun warms them up. Freeze-killed leaves will at first turn brown and look somewhat transparent as they thaw – a term generally referred to as “water-soaked.” Once dry, they may curl up and become brittle. Check once more well after thaw to see if more leaves have turned brown as this is a sign that the vascular tissue of the plant was freeze-damaged as well. After thaw, the marketable part of the plant may also show signs of damage if it received any.

A “water-soaked” appearance is a common identifier of freeze damage on fruiting vegetables. These decorative gourds will still harden off, but the discoloration is permanent. Photo credit: Ben Phillips, MSU Extension

The list below is adapted from Purdue Extension Bulletin HO-203 and describes what to look for in freeze-damaged vegetables. For positive identification of suspected freeze damage, find an expert like a Regional Horticulture Specialist with the University of Missouri. Taking a photo and sending by e-mail is a real time saver these days.

•Beets: External and internal water-soaking; sometimes blackening of conducting tissue.

•Broccoli: The youngest florets in the center of the curd are most sensitive to freezing injury. They turn brown and give off strong odors upon thawing.

•Cabbage: Leaves become water-soaked, translucent and limp upon thawing; epidermis separates.

•Carrots: Blistered appearance, jagged length-wise cracks. Interior becomes water-soaked and darkened upon thawing.

•Cauliflower: Curds turn brown and have a strong off-odor when cooked.

•Celery: Leaves and petioles appear wilted and water-soaked upon thawing. Petioles freeze more readily than leaves.

•Cucumbers: Transparent, water-soaked appearance in cross section, just under the skin.

•Garlic: Thawed cloves appear grayish-yellow and water-soaked.

•Lettuce: Blistering; dead cells of the separated epidermis on outer leaves become tan; increased susceptibility to physical damage and decay.

•Onions: Thawed bulbs are soft, grayish-yellow and water-soaked in cross section; often limited to individual scales.

•Peppers: Dead, water-soaked tissue in part or all of pericarp surface; pitting, shriveling, and decay follow thawing.

•Potatoes: Freezing injury may not be externally evident, but shows as gray or bluish-gray patches beneath the skin. Thawed tubers become soft and watery.

•Pumpkins: Water-soaked spots on upper surface of fruit that soften the rind. Badly damaged fruit will eventually collapse in on itself.

•Radishes: Thawed tissues appear translucent; roots soften and shrivel.

•Squash: Water-soaked spots on upper surface of fruit. Ornamental and winter squashes may still harden, but others will soften and rot.

•Sweet corn: Reduced ear size and weight with shriveled kernels. Ears can take a “bar-bell” shape if they are still developing.

•Sweet potatoes: A yellowish-brown discoloration of the vascular ring and a yellowish-green, water-soaked appearance of other tissues. Roots soften and become very susceptible to decay.

•Tomatoes: Water-soaked and soft upon thawing. In partially frozen fruits, the margin between healthy and dead tissue is distinct, especially in green fruits.

•Turnips: Small water-soaked spots or pitting on the surface. Injured tissues appear tan or gray and give off an objectionable odor.

Mitigating freeze damage on vegetables
One of the amazing properties of water is that as it freezes, it releases a small amount of heat to its surrounding environment. So, one active measure that can be taken to reduce freeze damage on plant tissue is to apply consistent canopy irrigation at a low spray rate to keep a light film of water on the plants during the time of freeze potential. As the water freezes, it will keep the plant tissue from dipping below the freeze point.

A preventative freeze method can be to irrigate the soil around the plants during the day to absorb heat from the sun. This works best in dark-colored, low-porosity soils with high water-holding capacity (something positive regarding Missouri clay for once!). The heat held in the water between soil particles will slowly radiate up into the atmosphere, keeping the plants above freezing overnight. Further, supported or floating row covers made of clear or black polyethylene or polypropylene plastic can be used to create an insulated barrier overnight, which can protect vegetables down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the weight of the row cover.

However, important research in strawberries offers some valuable crossover information. In a trial across 20 freeze events in Florida, strawberry fields treated with a combination of canopy irrigation and row covers experienced a higher survival of flowers and greater fruit production than fields treated with just canopy irrigation or row covers alone.

•Effects of Cold Weather on Horticultural Plants in Indiana, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

•Understanding Frost (pdf), Cornell Cooperative Extension

•Frost protection: fundamentals, practice and economics (pdf), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

•Irrigation Method and Rowcover Use for Strawberry Freeze Protection, Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

•Row Covers for Commercial Vegetable Culture in Florida (pdf), University of Florida Extension
(This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. Adapted by James Quinn for University of Missouri, October 2013)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Frost and Freezing in Fall Vegetable Crops – Part 1

Late season vegetable plantings are up against frost and freeze events.

With frost imminent for Missouri it is good to review how the different vegetable crops respond when it occurs. Vegetable crops planted for fall harvest can be susceptible to early overnight cold snaps, and delayed summer plantings may not fully mature before cold temperatures put the brakes on growth. Preventative actions can be taken, but once severe freeze injury occurs, it is irreversible.

Frost versus freezing
A frost occurs when air temperatures dip to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower at ground level. With a frost, the water within plant tissue may or may not actually freeze, depending on other conditions. A frost becomes a freeze event when ice actually forms within and between the cell walls of plant tissue. When this occurs, water expands and can burst cell walls like cracks in roads in winter cold spells. However, some plants have more room to spare in their tissues and can withstand a certain amount and duration of internal ice-formation without serious injury. However, when freeze damage occurs, it is irreversible.

Climate and topographical conditions
Frost and freezing conditions can be combated in early fall by keeping up-to-date on weather forecasts and taking appropriate action. A “First Frost” map shows ranges when frost first occurs on average in a state; look for frost advisories from the National Weather Service and your local news services. In general for Missouri frost begins in mid-October and by mid-November all the state has had frost. North Missouri and higher areas of the Ozarks are hit first. On a very local level, cold air will flow down and ‘puddle’ in low areas, thus low lying fields will often be affected earlier. Lastly, small cities and metro areas will often stay a few degrees warmer (sometimes called a ‘heat island’) and thereby not be frosted as quickly as the surrounding countryside. The PlantMaps website compiles and displays interactive climatological data showing last frost ranges, heat-zones, drought conditions and plant-hardiness zones that can be useful for planning a season for a new crop.

Crop tolerance
Depending on crop tolerance, a killing frost can result from canopy temperatures dropping 2-5 degrees below freezing for 5-10 minutes, or from a sustained temperature 31.5-32 F lasting 3-5 hours. Fall vegetables have a range of temperature tolerances, reflecting their origin of domestication. Vegetables that come from flowers, such as vine and solanaceous crops, okra, sweet corn and beans have largely been cultivated and bred from tropical and subtropical plants and are easily damaged by a light frost (28-32 F). However, leaf and root vegetables are generally more capable of withstanding hard frosts (less than 28 F).

Table 2. Frost resistance of vegetables.*

very hardy1  Frost tolerant2   Tender3      Warm

Asparagus    Beet              Snap bean    Lima bean

Collards     Broccoli          Sweet corn   Cucumber

Endive       Brussels sprout   Tomato       Eggplant

Kale         Cabbage                        Muskmelon

Kohlrabi     Carrot                         Okra

Lettuce      Cauliflower                    Pepper

Mustard      Celeriac                       Pumpkin

Onion (sets  Celery                         Squash,

 and seeds)  Chard                           summer

Pea          Chinese cabbage                Squash,

Potato       Jerusalem                       winter

Rhubarb       artichoke                     Sweet

Rutabaga     Onion (plants)                  potato

Salsify      Parsnip                        Watermelon

Spinach      Radish


*Based upon information from university of Illinois publication VC 14 a2, Vegetable Planting Guide.

1very hardy vegetables can withstand freezing temperatures and hard frosts for short periods without injury. They may be planted as soon as the ground can be prepared. usually 4 to 6 weeks before the average frost-free date.

2Frost tolerant vegetables can withstand light frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the average frost-free date.

3Tender vegetables are injured or killed by frost, and their seeds do not germinate well in cold soil. They are usually planted on or after the average frost-free date.

4Warm loving vegetables cannot tolerate cold. They require warm soils for germination and good growth, and should be planted 1 to 2 weeks after the average frost-free date.

Table of tolerance adapted from Purdue Extension Bulletin HO-203 and Snyder et al. 2005


•Effects of Cold Weather on Horticultural Plants in Indiana, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service

•Understanding Frost (pdf), Cornell Cooperative Extension
•Frost protection: fundamentals, practice and economics (pdf), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

(This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. Adapted by James Quinn for University of Missouri, October 2013)


Friday, October 18, 2013

Understanding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Workshops

Lincoln University Cooperative Extension is sponsoring a GAPS Training Workshop.  This workshop will consist of two separate trainings.  The first training with take place on Tuesday, Nov 5th  in Joplin or Nov 7th in St. LouisUnderstanding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

The second part of the training will focus on Writing a Farm Food Safety Plan and will be held in three separate locations and three different dates: Wednesday, Nov 6th in Webb City; Friday, Nov 8th in St. Louis; Friday, Dec 6th in Springfield and Friday, Dec 13th in Webb City.

Food safety training is quickly becoming a serious issue for farmers across the United States.

GAP's (Good Agricultural Practices) is a comprehensive food safety approach that can be applied to any farm. With a food safety plan in place, both the consumer and farmer are at less of a risk for a food borne illness outbreak.
This workshop, led by national experts on Farm Food Safety, is for small and medium‐sized farms.

Day 1 is limited to no more than 100 participants and each of the Day 2 workshops are limited to no more than 25 farms so early registration is recommended.

Understanding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Workshop

Tuesday, November 5
9 am to 4:15 pm
Continental Banquet Center, 2802 North Rangeline, Joplin, MO


Thursday, November 7
8:30 am to 5:00 pm
Lincoln University Cooperative Extension St Louis Urban Impact Center, 9041 Riverview Dr. St Louis.

Led by Dr. Elizabeth Bihn, Cornell University, director of the Produce Safety Alliance and program coordinator for the National Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Program & Gretchen Wall, Cornell University, program coordinator for the Produce Safety Alliance

Understanding Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Agenda

8:30 am – Registration, coffee & tea
9 – Welcome & Introductions
9:15 – Food Safety Begins on the Farm – A review of Produce Safety Issues & Market Applications
9:45 – The USDA GAP/GHP Audit – An Overview
10:30 – Regulatory Updates – FSMA & the Proposed Produce Safety Rule
11 – FAPs – Worker Training & Record Keeping Overview
11:45 – GAPs – Manure, Compost Management, & Wildlife Management
12:15 – Lunch
1:15 – GAPs – Production Water Management
1:40 – GAPs – Postharvest Water Use & Packinghouse Sanitation
2:20 – GAPs – Traceability & Transportation
2:40 – Crisis Management: Things you should think about before a crisis happens!
3:15 – Developing a Farm Food Safety Plan – Resources & Getting Started
3:35 – What to Expect on Day 2
4 – Evaluations
4:15 – Adjourn

How to Write a Food Safety Plan Workshop
Pick one date (offered 9 am to 3:15 pm):

Wednesday, Nov 6th at the Webb City Public Library, 101 South Liberty, Webb City.  Led by Dr. Bihn & Ms Wall.

Friday, Nov 7th at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension St Louis Urban Impact Center, 9041 Riverview Dr. St Louis.  Led by Dr. Bihn & Ms. Wall.

Friday, Dec 6th at the Botanical Center, 2400 S Scenic, Springfield.  Led by University of Missouri & Lincoln University Extension Specialists

Friday, December 13th at the Webb City Public Library, 101 South Liberty, Webb City. Led by University of Missouri & Lincoln University Extension Specialists

How to Write a Food Safety Plan Agenda*

8:30 am – Registration, coffee tea
9 – Introductions
9:10 – Recap of GAPs & Key Elements of Writing a Farm Food Safety Plan
9:30 – Review of jump drive materials & begin writing your farm food safety plan
10 – Independent writing by growers
11 – Discussion: How is it going?
12 – Lunch
12:45 – Reach a stopping point on plan
3 – Wrap up and Course Evaluation
3:15 Adjourn

*You will need the following items on day 2 of the workshop:
1.  Laptop (unless you have reserved a loaner with your registration form)
2.  A list of crops you want to be USDA GAP/GHP certified in (if planning to participate in an audit)
3.  Farm maps with fields outlines that contain crops to be certified
4.  If you have a packinghouse, bring a packinghouse floor plan that shows product flow from the time it enters the packinghouse until it leaves. All diagrams/maps can be hand drawn & simple.
5.  A list of services you have contracted. This may include pest control, portable toilet rental/servicing, trucking/transportation, etc. & any record keeping documents they supply.

Each farm will receive a set of materials. There is no charge for these workshops, but seating is limited. Please register as soon as possible.

For more information, contact: Nahshon Bishop at (417) 846‐3948 for the Webb City workshops and Miranda Duschack at (314) 604-3403 for the St. Louis workshops.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Students Reap Rewards of 'Farm to School' Program

The Wentzville School District Child Nutrition Department is always looking for ways to get fresher, higher-quality foods onto the plates of students in school cafeterias. The goal of the district is to offer the best possible nutrition during the school day so students can achieve their academic goals, while also helping to reduce the country's growing child obesity epidemic. The “Farm to School” program is one example of these efforts.

Farm to School is a program that connects schools with local farms with the goal of serving healthier meals in school cafeterias. The program also provides agricultural, wellness and nutritional education opportunities while supporting local and regional farmers. Child Nutrition Director Susan Raster began a farm-to-school partnership in the district two years ago.

“There has been a push for the last four or five years to incorporate more fresh produce, and we want to support our local farmers, but Farm to School is also about educating students and teaching them where their food comes from,” she said.

The farm that supplies the district with fresh produce is called Three Girls and a Tractor and is located in nearby Marthasville, Mo., in the fertile Missouri River bottoms.

“The three girls are our daughters, and I guess I’m the tractor,” owner John Kopmann said. “It’s a family farm, we have about 20 acres that we cultivate. The girls help us in our family business. We also supply produce for Rockwood, Warrenton and the Wright City school districts.”

The district buys in bulk from Three Girls and a Tractor, and in recent weeks deliveries have included 1,000 pounds of watermelon and 800 pounds of cantaloupe. The produce is fresh and right out of the field, and there is often as little as 48 hours between harvest and when the fruits and veggies show up on students’ lunch trays.

The farm produces watermelon, cantaloupe, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, sweet corn and several varieties of squash.

“The fresher the produce is, the more nutritional value it has,” Kopmann said. “Sometimes if kids get a chance to try some of these new things, they find out that they’re really good!”

Vegetables like eggplant are a little harder for Raster and the Child Nutrition Department to incorporate into the menu, but part of the challenge is to expand students’ knowledge and tastes. During weekly “Taste it Tuesdays” the cafeterias puts out samples of vegetables that students might not otherwise experience. Recently, students were introduced to yellow tomatoes and fresh zucchini, and the cafeteria managers at each school survey the students and keep track of what students are eating to help determine future menus.

On a recent Tuesday at Frontier Middle School, eighth-grader Kale Catchings sampled the jambalaya that used some of the fresh onions and peppers from the farm.

“I tried the jambalaya, it was pretty good, and I think the fresh ingredients help the taste," he said. "I think there are a lot more nutrients in fresh produce, and obesity is a problem now in our country, so it’s important to keep kids healthy.”

“Student reaction has been phenomenal, they absolutely love the watermelon and cantaloupe, and they do eat some raw zucchini as well,” Raster said. “We’re trying to show them that there’s more than one way to serve these vegetables.”

Depending on the weather, the deliveries can continue well into October, and there will soon be plenty of pumpkins and gourds available. This year the first frost or snowfall won’t necessarily mean the end of fresh produce.

“We have a high tunnel or a hoop house, it’s a type of greenhouse,” John said. “It allows us to grow lettuce, spinach and squash during the winter as well.”

The Child Nutrition Department is hoping to be able to offer more fresh produce in the winter months, so students in the district will continue to benefit from healthier menu options.
(from St Charles County Journal)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

App Keeps Cattle Comfortable and Profitable

A new product that can help animal farmers reduce billions of dollars in heat-related losses was recently released by the University of Missouri.

ThermalAid is a smart phone app that monitors heat-related stresses on beef and dairy cattle and alerts farmers when there is a problem. The app also recommends which intervention strategy will be most effective.

“Cows are like the rest of us,” said Don Spiers, professor of animal sciences at Mizzou’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, and who led the team that developed the app.  “They slowdown in hot and humid weather. When stressed by too much heat, they stop eating, and thus fail to grain weight or produce milk.”

Hot weather means big losses for farmers. “Each summer, the dairy industry loses $900 million nationally in productivity and the beef industry $400 million. And that’s data from 2003 when the industry was smaller and summers less intense,” Spiers said.

Inexpensive App
The 99 cent app receives temperature and humidity data from the weather service according to the GPS location of the user.  The farmer tells the app if it is beef or dairy cow, if it is in the barn or outside, if it is on the pasture or feed lot, its health status, and other information.

With that, the app calculates the animal’s Temperature Humidity Index, or the THI. If the THI is not stressful, the app shows green for that cow.  If heat stress is an issue, the color goes to yellow and then orange. Red indicates a life-threatening condition.

The farmer can also measure each cow’s respiration rate, a good indicator of heat stress impact on the animal. A built-in timer can assist the user to record the respiration rate.

When farmers know that their animals are stressed, they can intervene with additional shade, fans or water misters to improve comfort and productivity. The app is tied to a MU database called ThermalNet which provides additional climate and weather data, as well as tips to manage heat stress.

ThermalNet has the ability to allow farmers to communicate with experts at MU Animal Science.

Improved Version Coming
ThermalAid took more than two years to develop.  This app will automatically pull in ambient temperature and humidity data from sensors that the producer places at different locations on the farm site, thus increasing accuracy of the THI calculation. Future updates might include information from sensors placed on individual animals.

If temperature and humidity conditions exceed a certain limit, the app warns the farmer that a cow is experiencing heat stress.

The upcoming app will create a regional database of heat stress information, giving farmers a new tool to combat losses, and scientists associated with the project will use the new information to develop better predictors of the impact of heat stress on animals.

“Ideally, we need temperature modules placed in different locations on the farm site that provide real-time readings and inputs — but that development is costly at present,” Spiers said. The challenge is to make a cost-effective product that is reliable and durable in a field environment.