Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Video Series Takes Chapter-and-Verse Look at Intensive Grazing for Small Operations

There’s nothing quite like taking the “nickel tour” to gain an understanding of how farmers and ranchers make their operations work. But a video tour is a good option too.

Dave Scott, a livestock specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), is the co-owner of Montana Highland Lamb, a 30-acre irrigated lamb operation near Whitehall, Montana. Dave and his wife, Jenny, practice intensive grazing at Montana Highland Lamb, where they run 200 to 220 ewes and raise about 400 lambs, 330 on pasture.

In “Intensive Grazing: One Farm’s Set Up,” a new series of videos recently released on NCAT’s ATTRA website, Dave walks you through that set up. But it’s more than a recorded farm tour.

Each video is an instructional “chapter” covering a particular component of the intensive grazing system, from determining paddock size and monitoring the condition of the grass to developing a relatively simple stock-water tank layout and monitoring animal health.

Dave and Jenny started developing their intensive grazing system in 1982, running a small dairy herd on the same land.

“Intensive grazing allowed us to survive as a farm,” Dave said. “We can raise twice as many animals as we could with a conventional pasture-rotation system.” 

Dave also recently authored two ATTRA publications on intensive grazing.

·         Irrigated Pastures: Setting Up an Intensive Grazing System That Works is designed as a producer tip sheet that identifies the variables involved in creating a successful intensive grazing program, which include paddock grazing and recovery period considerations, effectively measuring yields, and establishing initial stocking rates.

·         Why Intensive Grazing On Irrigated Pastures? lists the advantages of intensive grazing programs over continuous grazing or haying as well as considerations and questions a producer should use to determine whether intensive grazing is right for them.

In addition to Dave’s recent publications, ATTRA recently released an updated version of its popular 2006 publication Pastures: Sustainable Management, an in-depth look at numerous aspects of sustainable pasture integration, grazing rotation strategies, and management options.

The publications can be downloaded free of charge and are available as paper publications for a small handling fee on the ATTRA website at www.attra.ncat.org. “Intensive Grazing: One Farm’s Set-Up can be found on the ATTRA website at https://attra.ncat.org/video/

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Guide to Help Growers Determine Best Options for Increasing Yields and Reducing Risk over an Extended Season

Farmers and other growers seeking to extend the production season, increase yields, or mitigate extreme and “normal” weather conditions can now turn to the Kansas Rural Center’s newest publication, Growing Under Cover, for a thorough assessment of which “polytunnel” options may work best for their situation.

Polytunnels are plastic-covered structures, such as high tunnels and low tunnels that can provide protection and increase productivity for specialty crops, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers. However, as Growing Under Cover explains, “plastic covered tunnels are no silver-bullet solution. They may require significant financial investment, be labor intensive to manage, and risk damage or destruction from extreme weather such as high winds, heavy snow, or hail.”

Growing Under Cover provides practical information and resources to assist growers in Kansas, or similar climates, aiming to avoid common mistakes and tunnel disaster, and to maximize return on investment from polytunnel purchases. Though the guide highlights several benefits and demonstrates clear potential for polytunnels in areas like Kansas, it gives even more focused attention to the unique challenges these structures face in Kansas’s harsh climate. For every challenge named (high winds, for example), several potential solutions are offered.

Much of the information in Growing Under Cover comes directly from farmers themselves. The guide heavily references information gleaned from sixty experienced Kansas high tunnel producers who responded to the Kansas Rural Center’s High Tunnel Survey in 2014. Surveyed growers answered 35 tunnel-related questions, including “What advice would you give to someone interested is purchasing a high tunnel?” and “What, if anything, would you do differently during future high tunnel construction?”

Gems of advice come in the form of numerous quotes from Kansas growers with years of experience integrating polytunnels into their productions systems.  One farmer advises: “I think that the more research one does before investing in a tunnel the better. I feel my investment has not been fully utilized. The tunnel can become a burden when not properly managed. I think scrupulous guidance would be helpful. Asking the difficult questions would have given me a more realistic look at what it means to own and operate a specialty crop operation with a tunnel.”

GrowingUnder Cover: A Guide to Polytunnel Options for Kansas Growers is available free at Kansas Rural Center webpage. This guide was produced as part of KRC’s Tunnel to Table Program, made possible through funding from Kansas Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant and Farm Aid.

The Kansas Rural Center is a non-profit organization that since 1979 has promoted the long-term health of the land and its people through research, education, and advocacy that advances economically viable, ecologically sound, and socially just food and farming systems. More information about the Kansas Rural Center and its work is available at www.kansasruralcenter.org.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Free Basic Coverage Plans and Premium Discounts Available for New, Underserved and Limited Income Farmers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that greater protection is now available from the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that traditionally have been ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops.

“These new protections will help ensure that farm families growing crops for food, fiber or livestock consumption will be better able to withstand losses due to natural disasters,” said Vilsack. “For years, commodity crop farmers have had the ability to purchase insurance to keep their crops protected, and it only makes sense that fruit and vegetable, and other specialty crop growers, should be able to purchase similar levels of protection. Ensuring these farmers can adequately protect themselves from factors beyond their control is also critical for consumers who enjoy these products and for communities whose economies depend on them.”

Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

The expanded protection will be especially helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are now eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum. For the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will be eligible as well.

“If America is to remain food secure and continue exporting food to the world, we need to do everything we can to help new farmers get started and succeed in agriculture,” Vilsack said. “This program will help new and socially disadvantaged farmers affordably manage risk, making farming a much more attractive business proposition.”

To help producers learn more about the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program and how it can help them, USDA, in partnership with Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, created an online resource. The Web tool, available at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap, allows producers to determine whether their crops are eligible for coverage. It also gives them an opportunity to explore a variety of options and levels to determine the best protection level for their operation.

If the application deadline for an eligible crop has already passed, producers will have until Jan. 14, 2015, to choose expanded coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. To learn more, visit the Farm Service Agency (FSA) website at www.fsa.usda.gov/nap or contact your local FSA office at offices.usda.gov. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), which administers the program, also wants to hear from producers and other interested stakeholders who may have suggestions or recommendations on the program. Written comments will be accepted until Feb. 13, 2015 and can be submitted through www.regulations.gov.

These new provisions under the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program were made possible through the 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America.  For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Soil Workshop in Eureka MO

Confluence BioFarms will be hosting Neal Kinsey at Claverach Farm on March 9th, 2015 for a day-long soil seminar.  To register, go to http://www.claverachfarm.com/neal-kinsey-workshop.  

Neal Kinsey is one of the leading soil consultants in the world and author of Hands-On Agronomy, the definitive text on biological soil fertility management. 

The focus of the seminar will be on balancing soil nutrients for maximum quality and yield, with an emphasis on soils of the St. Louis region.  Balancing soil chemistry can reduce pest, disease, and weed problems.  It can also produce crops, pasture, and livestock with higher nutrient-density.  Both organic and bio-friendly synthetic inputs will be considered.

Neal's principles and methods are based on a system of cation-exchange and base saturation developed by Dr. William A. Albrecht, head of the Soils Department at the University of Missouri from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Neal Kinsey is the preeminent torch bearer of the Albrecht approach to soil fertility.

This workshop will offer valuable information on how to improve and manage your farm's soil fertility.  Neal is planning on using soil tests from farmers attending the seminar as example case studies if participants use Kinsey Agricultural Services this fall or have recently done soil testing through his lab. Please contact us if you are interested in having your soil test used as an example.

The cost of the workshop is $75 per person and includes a farm-to-table lunch provided by Claverach Farm.  Registration for the workshop will close on January 9th, 2015.  Hands on Agronomy is recommended reading for workshop participants.

Friday, December 19, 2014

USDA Announces Availability of New Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance Protection

New 2014 Farm Bill Policy Provides Improved Safety Net for Specialty Crop Growers and Diversified Farm Operations

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced the new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance policy which is now available for the 2015 crop year. The policy allows producers to insure between 50 to 85 percent of their whole farm revenue and makes crop insurance more affordable for producers, including fruit and vegetable growers and organic farmers and ranchers.

Whole-Farm Revenue Protection allows these growers to insure a variety of crops at once instead of one commodity at a time. That gives them the option of embracing more crop diversity and helps support the production of a wider variety of foods.

“USDA is committed to making crop insurance available and affordable to as many producers as possible. Whole- Farm Revenue Protection is another example of how we’re working with, and listening to, producers to create a safety net that meets their specific needs,” said RMA Administrator Brandon Willis.

The 2014 Farm Bill allowed RMA to create the whole-farm crop insurance policy. However, RMA began working on this policy months before the 2014 Farm Bill was passed. Through input from key stakeholders, the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance includes a wide range of available coverage levels, coverage for replanting, provisions that increase coverage for expanding operations, a higher maximum amount of coverage, and the inclusion of market readiness costs in the coverage. Whole-Farm Revenue Protection is tailored for any farm with up to $8.5 million in insured revenue, including farms with specialty or organic commodities (both crops and livestock), or those marketing to local, regional, farm-identity preserved, specialty, or direct markets.

The whole farm policy is available in most states. The new policy will also provide a whole-farm premium subsidy to farms with two or more commodities as long as minimum diversification requirements are met, which means purchasing crop insurance will be more affordable for producers. Whole-Farm Revenue Protection can be purchased in conjunction with individual crop policies as long as those policies are at a buy-up coverage level.

More information, including availability of the product, can be found on RMA’s wholefarm web page.

Federal crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private insurance agents. Contact a local insurance agent for more information about the program. A list of insurance agents is available at all RMA regional offices or on the RMA agent web page.

This  announcement was made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill. The 2014 Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Beginning Beekeeping Workshop

The Jefferson County Beekeepers Association (JCBA) is pleased to announce a one day beginning beekeeping class.  The class will be taught by members of the JCBA and will focus on keeping bees in Jefferson County.  The content of the class will be on the basics of bee keeping including equipment, purchasing bees, set up and care of your colonies the first year. 

Date: January 17, 2015

Time: 8 am to 4 pm

Location:  University of Missouri Extension, 301 Third St, Hillsboro, MO

Cost:  $45 for the first family member and $10 per person for any additional family member.

To register call 636-797-5391.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Scholarships Available to Attend Great Plains Growers Conference Jan. 8th to 10th, 2015

Missouri Vegetable Growers Association (MVGA) is again supporting scholarships to attend the Great Plains Growers Conference. MVGA will support 10. The conference is held annually in St. Joseph, Mo. In 2015, the conference will be held Thursday January 8th – Saturday January 10th.

The conference begins with 6 workshops offered all day on Thursday, followed by the concurrent sessions all day Friday (5 workshops) and Saturday (6 workshops). Thursday’s workshops cost $55 if registered by December 31st and Friday & Saturday is $45 also if registered by December 31st per day (per person); lunch is included. Conference information is available to view at http://www.greatplainsgrowersconference.org/2015-conference.html.  Past conference information is also posted there.

Scholarships are available for $175.00 per farm or family to cover the cost to attend two days at the conference and one night’s lodging. Only Missouri growers who have not previously attended this conference are eligible. Both MVGA members and non-members are eligible.

Scholarships will be awarded on a first come basis, as determined by the USPS postmark day. There is no need to Fed Ex or Express mail the form.

Recipients must attend the Friday afternoon MVGA meeting where they will be presented with a check and recognized in front of the attending members. The check will be made out to the family or the business name indicated.

Copy and paste into a word document the following information and mail to the address below:

I _______________________ attest that I have never attended the Great Plains Vegetable
(Sign name)
Growers Conference in the past. Furthermore, I confirm that I am a commercial grower and if I receive this scholarship, I will attend the conference, including attending the MVGA meeting on Friday afternoon (Jan. 9th at 4:30 PM). I understand that at this meeting I will receive a check for $175, and failure to attend this meeting will result the loss of this scholarship. The scholarship check should be made out to

_______________________________________ ___________
City                                                                         Zip Code

Please return the form to:
Morgan County MU Extension Center
Debbie Klindworth
100 E Newton St., 4th Floor
Versailles, MO 65084

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grow Your Farm

Have you been thinking about making your hobby vegetable garden into a part-time business?  Are you considering raising goats?  Or perhaps you are a full time farmer and want to add a pumpkin enterprise to your corn and soybean operation.   If you ever thought about starting a farming operation, then the Grow Your Farm Program is for you.  The Grow Your Farm program will connect you with successful farm operators and business experts.  The program will be offered at the University of Missouri office, 301 3rd St, Hillsboro, starting at 6:30 pm on January 20th and running on eight consecutive Tuesdays.  The course also includes two Saturday farm tours in the area.

Grow Your Farm is a business planning course.  Most sessions will focus on business planning and the process of selecting enterprises that can be profitable, based on an individual’s resources and skills.  Most sessions will have farmer presenters that will share their experiences, challenges, and successes.  Some of the presenters’ operations include selling produce, eggs, meat, flowers, registered beef cattle, goats, peppers, pork, chicken, bedding plants, small fruits, organic production, and value added products.  An emphasis will be placed on marketing, with presentations by successful farm marketers. 

Class size will be limited to 15 operations with two members from each farming operation.   The registration fee is $250 and provides each operation with one set of course materials. Registration must be received by January 16th and is on a first come, first served basis.  The Grow Your Farm Course is for everyone, both those beginning or considering a farming enterprise as well as established farmers that are considering changing their operations.  It is applicable to small part time farms and to larger commercial farms.

For more information about program contact Debi Kelly, Horticulture/Local Foods Specialist, at 636-797-5391. You can also find the program brochure with the registration form at the Jefferson County Extension Center

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Much Hay Do You Waste?

It’s that time of year when Missouri beef producers start feeding hay. It is no secret that winter feeding costs have risen drastically over the last decade and it is estimated that forage waste during winter feeding costs Missouri beef producers in excess of $60 million annually. Dr. Justin Sexten, MU State Extension Beef Nutrition Specialist, and Wesley Moore, MU Animal Science Graduate Student, conducted an experiment to see how hay feeder design affected hay waste. They looked at three different feeder designs (open, sheeted, cone) that are pictured to the right. Their findings are below:

Percentage Hay Waste by Feeder Design
                                            Open    Sheeted     Cone
Fescue Hay                           19.2          13.6         8.9
Alfafla Haylage                      7.0            4.9         6.5
Corn Stover                          38.7          32.0       13.6
Ammoniated Corn Stover    37.9          20.6       13.6


Monday, December 8, 2014

Poultry Basics Tip Sheet

Chickens are a great addition to any farm or backyard. They can help increase your soil fertility, and even help with controlling pests, while also providing an income stream through the sale of meat and eggs. This tip sheet includes some helpful points on choosing chicken breeds, caring for your flock, and raising a flock in the city.

Key Questions before Getting Started
  • What are the regulations in your community? Many towns have ordinances against backyard flocks. Be sure to call your zoning office to find out what the rules are for your community. In addition, the website www.Municode.com has a searchable database of city codes. Many communities allow chickens but may have restrictions, such as minimum yard sizes and no roosters.
  • Do you have a safe place for your chickens? It is important to have a fenced yard to prevent dogs and cats from coming into your yard and killing your chickens. It is also important to have a place for them to be safe during the night—a small coop with roosts is ideal.
  • Do you have the resources to care for your flock? Chicken feed is expensive. It is also important to have a person that is able to look in on your flock and feed and water them regularly.
Raising a Flock in the City
Raising flocks in the city is becoming increasingly popular. You get fresh eggs, you’re more self-sufficient, and you get a small taste of country living. Other reasons for keeping chickens in your backyard include pest control and fertilizer for your garden, a use for your otherwise wasted kitchen scraps, and educational components for kids and even adults to learn about where food comes from.

Chickens are a great addition to any farm or backyard. They can help increase your soil fertility, and even help with controlling pests, while also providing an income stream through the sale of meat and eggs. This tip sheet includes some helpful points on choosing chicken breeds, caring for your flock, and raising a flock in the city.

Chicken Breeds
There are several breeds of chicken that are recommended for egg laying and some for both egg laying and meat production.  Here are brief descriptions of the breeds we are currently raising on our farm (source: McMurray Hatchery):
  • Rhode Island Red: This dual-purpose breed is known for being a very hardy bird. This breed is both cold- and heat-tolerant.  At maturity, the pullets will weigh around six and a half pounds and lay large, brown eggs.
  • Pearl-White Leghorn: This breed is suggested for the highest quality, uniform production of eggs in places with a small amount of space. The pullets weigh around four pounds at maturity and should start laying at four and a half to five months of age.  Eggs produced by these chickens will be large and white.
  • Red Star: These chickens will weigh six pounds at maturity and will lay large, brown eggs. This breed is a sex-link chicken.  This means at the time of hatching, these chickens can be sexed by their color.
  • Black Star: This is a sex-link chicken just like the Red Star. These chickens will also reach around six pounds at maturity and lay large, brown eggs.
Basic Chick Care
  • Purchase chick starter feed, heat lamp, feeders, and waterer.
  • Construct a brooder with available materials. A brooder is some type of heated enclosure for raising baby chicks. The goal is to have a brooder that will keep the chicks warm, safe from predators, and protected from drafts. You can learn more about a few types of brooders and the materials needed for them at http://diychickencoops.com/types-of-brooders.
  • When constructing a brooder for chicks, it is ideal for the corners to be rounded. When it gets cold, chicks tend to huddle together and smothering of chicks can occur.
  • If using the brooder type that calls for a heat lamp, keep the temperature under the heat lamp at 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week. After this, drop the temperature five degrees each week.
  • Depending on the breed and the time of year, the chicks should be ready to move out of the brooder within four to five weeks.
Basic Chicken Care
  • Chickens will need a coop to roost in at night and a nesting box to lay their eggs in.
  • Chicken food can be purchased at a feed store. Chickens are excellent at foraging, but they still need to be fed prepared food on a regular schedule.
  • Chickens require grit to aid in the digestion of food. This can be achieved naturally by consuming small rocks or course sand, or you can supplement grit, such as oyster shell, to the chickens’ diet. Take into account where the flock will be living when deciding how grit will be provided.
  • Fresh water is essential and must be provided at all times.
Mobile or Permanent Pen?
It is up to you to decide whether you want a mobile or permanent pen for your chickens. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, such as the following:
  • Having a permanent pen will save you a little time as you will not have to move it every so often.
  • Chickens are beneficial to soil. However, if kept in the same place long enough they can destroy the vegetation.
  • Mobile pens allow the chickens to have fresh ground to scratch on every time you move the pen.
  • If you choose a mobile pen, you will need to create a system for how, where, and when you’re going to move it. This will take a bit of extra time.
Raising a chicken flock in urban areas is a great way to provide fresh eggs for your family and fertility for your soil. It is important to know your local ordinances before your buy chickens and to be sure you have the time and resources to care for and manage your flock.

For more information on poultry, click here.
(story and photo by NCAT)

Friday, December 5, 2014

Midwest Tree Fruit Spray Guide and Midwest Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide Survey of Usage and Value

Fruit growers in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin are asked to participate in an online survey to determine the usage and value of the Midwest Tree Fruit Spray Guide and the Midwest Small Fruit and Grape Spray Guide.  Please use this link to access and complete the survey:  https://jfe.qualtrics.com/form/SV_b7Nenj3QQE4aqZ7.
This survey is completely voluntary and anonymous and should take about 15 minutes.  You may skip questions you are not comfortable answering.  Your responses will not be linked to you by name; all data will be combined and used in summary form only.  Results of the survey will be used to quantify the value of the spray guides and determine the best way to deliver this information in the future.  If you have questions, please contact Nicole Ward Gauthier, a plant pathologist who contributes content to these publications every year, at the University of Kentucky ... 859-323-1961.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Creating Economic Development through Local Food Systems Workshop

There is still time to register for the Creating Economic Development through Local Food Systems Workshop.  Below is the agenda.  

For any questions contact Debi Kelly at 636-797-5391. Registration is $20.  RSVP by Dec 9th to guarantee a local foods lunch.

Creating Economic Development 
through Local Food Systems
Friday, December 12, 2014
Kress Farm and Garden Preserve, Hillsboro, MO


9:00 am – Welcome
Debi Kelly, University of Missouri Extension, Jefferson County

9:10 am – Growing Local Food Systems: Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities in Emerging Local Food Networks
Dr. Mary Hendrickson, University of Missouri

10:15 am – Community Food Processing Facilities
Debi Kelly, University of Missouri Extension, Jefferson County

10:45 am – Break

11:00 am – Building a Curriculum in Sustainable Food Systems and Entrepreneurship
Dr. Millie Mattfeldt-Beman and Chef Steve Jenkins, Saint Louis University Dept of Nutrition and Dietetics

12:00 pm – Local Food Lunch

12:45 pm –Meat Food Hub: What Does it Take to Create One?
Todd Geisert, Geisert Farm

1:15 pm – Funding Opportunities for Local Food Systems
Dr. Van Ayers, University of Missouri Extension, Cape Girardeau County

2:00 pm – Kansas City Food Hub Feasibility Study
                        Katie Nixon, Small Farm Specialist, Lincoln University

2:45 pm – Round Table Discussions
Tish Johnson, University of Missouri Extension, Boone County
3:30 pm – Report Out from Round Table Discussions

4:00 pm – Adjourn

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Weekly Webinar Series on Small Farms

The Small Farm Webinar Series is a weekly educational series for the small farm community and provides practical knowledge on emerging topics which advance local food production in Illinois. This series of online events is aimed at providing small farm producers with a look at how leading practices in production, management, and marketing enable operations to improve profitability and sustainability.

Webinars air live each Thursday at 1:00 – 2:30 pm and include a question and answer session. If you cannot attend, a link to the recorded webinars will be available to view at your convenience for all those who register.

Date Topic
Jan. 15, 2015 – No-till culture for Peppers & Tomatoes
Jan. 22, 2015 – Growing Hops for Market
Jan. 29, 2015 – Potato Production
Feb. 5, 2015 – Sweet Corn Production
Feb. 12, 2015 – Perennial Crops for Small Farms
Feb. 19, 2015 – Understanding Insecticides
Feb. 26, 2015 – Blueberry Production
Mar. 5, 2015 – Hydroponics
Mar. 12, 2015 – Effective Farmers Market Displays
Mar. 19, 2015 – Veggie Compass Record-Keeping Software
Mar. 26, 2015 – Variety Selection & Rootstocks for Establishing Apple Orchards

To register for each webinar, log onto http://go.illinois.edu/2015winterwebinars.  For any question contact Miki White, University of Illinois Extension, Small Farms/Local Foods Program Coordinator at 309-342-5108.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Winter Livestock Care

To stay healthy, livestock need a dry place to escape cold rains, wet snow, and wind.
Rain, sleet, snow, ice, freezing temperatures – winter can be a real struggle for four legged animals.   Most livestock are well adapted to cold weather, but sick, elderly, or young animals and those under unusual stress are more susceptible.

Most livestock can handle wind chills about 20°F without much stress.  But, to stay healthy, they need a dry place to escape cold rains, wet snow, and wind.

While natural protection and windbreaks may be adequate, three sided sheds opening away from prevailing winds are best.  Allow enough room for livestock to lie down safely without being trampled or smothered.  The larger the animal the more room they will need.  Good, clean, dry bedding insulates livestock from the cold ground, which draws away body heat.

High Quality Food
Feeding good quality hay or alfalfa to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas) and horses is effective for body heat production during cold weather.  Body heat is generated when these animals are digesting these feedstuffs.  During cold weather, animals will need to eat more to maintain their body condition.

One of the most important considerations for winter feeding is adequate water.  Water is essential for digestion, which produces heat in fiber breakdown.  Do not assume that livestock can meet their water needs by eating snow – to get enough water eating snow would take most of their feeding time.  Ingesting large quantities of snow also reduces the core body temperature.
Feeding good quality hay or alfalfa to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas) and horses is effective for body heat production during cold weather.

Water above 40°F is ideal to ensure good consumption.  Automatic water units are best; if that is not possible, be sure to provide water several times a day.  In freezing temperatures, you will need to break ice or provide fresh water periodically if you don't have a tank heater.

Minimize Mud
All too often, where there are animals in the winter, there is mud.  Feeding in muddy locations increases the amount of feed wastage.  Mud makes foot and hoof diseases more likely.  Livestock walking on frozen muddy ground are more susceptible to foot and leg injuries.  With good management and planning, the negative environmental and animal health aspects of mud can be minimized.

The best winter practice is to make sure that your livestock is in good condition before cold weather hits.  Addressing the nutritional, environmental and health needs of livestock in the winter will help to ensure optimal animal welfare and performance.
(By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Livestock Educator)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Six Figure Farming for Small Plots Workshop: Techniques for Small Scale Intensive Organic Market Gardening

This is your chance to learn from one of the best new young farmers today.  Jean-Martin Fortier (JM) and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches are the founders of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognized micro-farm known for its high productivity and profitability using low-tech, high-yield methods of production.  A leading proponent of biologically intensive cropping systems, JM has more than a decade`s worth of experience in organic farming. 

"After much research and many discoveries, our journey led us to what is now a productive and profitable micro-farm. Every week, our market garden now produces enough vegetables to feed over 200 families and generates enough income to comfortably support our household. Our low-tech strategy kept our start-up costs to a minimum and our overhead expenses low. The farm became profitable after only a few years of production, and we have never felt the pinch of financial pressure." 

If you`re serious about making farming your career choice then you won`t want to miss this all day participatory workshop to learn the ins and outs of what it will take to turn your farm into a profitable business endeavor.  The workshop is intended to complement the explanation of Jean Martin`s cropping systems given in his book The Market Gardener, and will provide in-depth instruction about intensive methods for optimizing a production system. Topics will include: 

– Farm set up and design for biologically intensive cropping systems 

– Alternative machinery, minimum tillage techniques and the use of the best hand tools for the market garden 

– Best practices for weed and pest management 

– How to develop a systematic approach to crop planning and season extension 

December 15th, 2014

Registration & check-in:  8:30 am - 9:00 am 

Workshop begins:  9:00 am sharp 

10:30 -10:45 am:   Potty break & snacks 

Noon - 1:00 pm:  Lunch will be included/provided with your registration 

2:30 - 2:45 pm:  Potty break & snacks 

5:00 pm - whenever:  Social mixer to get to know JM and your fellow mid-Missouri farmers

The workshop will be held at Bradford Research Center in Columbia, MO.  To register click here.

**Please email us if you have dietary restrictions email.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Loans for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) makes and guarantees loans to eligible socially disadvantaged farmers (SDA) to buy and operate family-size farms and ranches. Each fiscal year, the agency targets a portion of its direct and guaranteed farm ownership (FO) and operating loan (OL) funds to SDA farmers. Non-reserved funds can also be used by SDA individuals.

An SDA farmer or rancher is a group whose members have been subject to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. These groups consist of American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African-Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and women.

The agency:
·         Helps remove barriers that prevent full participation of SDA farmers in FSA’s farm loan programs;
·         Provides information and assistance to SDA farmers to help them develop sound farm management practices, analyze problems and plan the best use of available resources essential for success.

Types of Loans and Uses of Loan Funds
Direct farm ownership loans (FO) and farm operating loans (OL) are made by FSA to eligible farmers. Guaranteed FO and OL loans are made by lending institutions subject to federal or state supervision (banks, savings and loans, and units of the Farm Credit System) and guaranteed by FSA. Typically, FSA guarantees 90 percent of any loss the lender might incur if the loan fails. FO funds may be used to purchase or enlarge a farm or ranch, purchase easements or rights of way needed in the farm’s operation, erect or improve buildings, implement soil and water conservation measures and pay closing costs. Guaranteed FO funds also may be used to refinance debt.

OL funds may be used to purchase livestock, poultry, farm equipment, feed, seed, fuel, fertilizer, chemicals, insurance, and other operating expenses. The funds also may be used for training costs, closing costs and to reorganize and refinance debt.

Terms and Interest Rates
Repayment terms for direct OL depend on the collateral securing the loan and usually run from one to seven years. Repayment terms for direct FO vary but never exceed 40 years.

Interest rates for direct loans are set periodically according to the government’s cost of borrowing.

Guaranteed loan terms are set by the lender. Interest rates for guaranteed loans are established by the lender.

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

To qualify:
The applicant must make a cash down payment of at least 5 percent of the purchase price.
The maximum loan amount does not exceed 45 percent of the least of (a) the purchase price of the farm or ranch to be acquired; (b) the appraised value of the farm or ranch to be acquired or; (c) $667,000 (Note: This results in a maximum loan amount of $300,000).

The term of the loan is 20 years. The interest rate is 4 percent below the direct FO rate, but not lower than 1.5 percent.

The remaining balance may be obtained from a commercial lender or private party. FSA can provide up to a 95-percent guarantee if financing is obtained from a commercial lender. Participating lenders do not have to pay a guarantee fee.

Financing from participating lenders must have an amortization period of at least 30 years and cannot have a balloon payment due within the first 20 years of the loan.

Land Contract (LC) Guarantees
These provide certain financial guarantees to the seller of a farm through a land contract sale to a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer. The seller may request either of the following:

Prompt Payment Guarantee: A guarantee up to the amount of three amortized annual installments plus the cost of any related real estate taxes and insurance.

Standard Guarantee: A guarantee of 90 percent of the outstanding principal balance under the land contract.

The purchase price of the farm cannot exceed the lesser of (a) $500,000 or (b) the market value of the property. The buyer must provide a minimum down payment of 5 percent of the purchase price of the farm. The interest rate is fixed at a rate not to exceed the direct FO loan interest rate in effect at the time the guarantee is issued, plus 3 percentage points. The guarantee period is 10 years for either plan regardless of the term of the land contract. The contract payments must be amortized for a minimum of 20 years. Balloon payments are prohibited during the 10-year term of the guarantee.

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

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

For more information
More information is available from your local FSA office.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

NRCS Announces December 19 Deadline for EQIP Funding in Missouri

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announced a cut-off date of December 19 to apply for funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Funding is available for general EQIP, as well as On-Farm Energy, Seasonal High Tunnel, and Organic initiatives.

EQIP helps producers of agricultural products improve water quality, build healthier soil, improve grazing and forest lands, conserve energy, enhance organic operations, and achieve other environmental benefits.

NRCS accepts applications for EQIP on a continuous basis, but producers must file applications by December 19 for the next round of funding. Applications filed after December 19 will be considered in the next ranking period if funds are available.

EQIP offers farmers, ranchers, and forestland managers options to conserve natural resources while boosting production. EQIP provides financial assistance for a variety of conservation activities, such as cover crops, rotational grazing systems, field buffers and animal waste management systems.

Farmers and ranchers can submit applications at local NRCS offices. To find the USDA service center nearest you, look in the telephone directory under, “U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture” or click here.

NRCS employees in county offices can provide more information about how to apply for benefits offered by NRCS.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Creating Economic Development through Local Food Systems Workshop

A one day workshop will be held on Friday, December 12, 2014 from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm at Kress Farm Garden Preserve, 5137 Glade Chapel Rd, Hillsboro, MO.

A food system includes everything associated with growing, processing, storing, distributing, transporting and selling food. Improving and expanding a local food system represents an opportunity to build entrepreneurship, small businesses and jobs.

This workshop will explore issues and road blocks beginning with opportunities and challenges including three key aspects: place, product, and promotion. Participants will also learn about the benefits and challenges of shared processing facilities (commercial kitchens, incubators and food hubs) as strategies for regional business development and job creation.

Workshop highlights:
  • Growing Local Food Systems: Benefits, Challenges and Opportunities in Emerging Local Food Networks
  • Community Food Processing Facilities
  • Building a Curriculum in Sustainable Food Systems and Entrepreneurship
  • Meat Food Hub: What does it take to Create One?
  • Funding Opportunities for Local Food Systems
  • Kansas City Food Hub Feasibility Study
  • Round Table Discussions
  • Strengths of the existing local food systems
  • Barriers to local food systems
  • Create list of those doing local food systems presently

Fee: $20 per person. Fee includes workshop materials, speakers, and lunch. 
Registration Deadline: December 9, 2014
Make check payable to: Jefferson County Extension Council and mail to: University of Missouri Extension P.O. Box 497 Hillsboro, MO 63050.

For any questions contact Debi Kelly at 636-797-5391

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Buzz in the City: St. Louis University's Pollinator Project

Bees are extremely important to us and our environment because they are fabulous pollinators, giving us a wide array fruits, veggies, beautiful flowers and much more. When people think about bees most tend to focus on honey bees and large agricultural plots. However, the honeybee is just one species out of roughly 450 in Missouri, such as Agapostemon virescens, the metallic green sweat bee. Many people are beginning to consider community gardens as reliable sources for their produce. Bees and gardens are important in urban areas where the core is shrinking along with access to fresh produce because they have the potential to provide food security for the local communities. Unfortunately not much is known about bee communities, their pollination services and how they react to urban environments. This is where the lab of Dr. Gerardo Camilo comes in.

Our lab is looking at bee diversity within urban community organic food gardens. We have been conducting a baseline survey in order to figure out what species of bees may be at each garden. This is our lab’s first year sampling multiple gardens with three located on the north side of St. Louis city, including EarthDance, and three on the south side. EarthDance is our most unique garden being that it is the largest and that it has a very distinct surrounding habitat. We have sampled 80 species of bees total from all gardens and 36 species total at EarthDance with six of these species sampled exclusively at EarthDance!

Increased bee diversity within food gardens is important because many species have their own preferences for certain flowers, have certain ways of collecting pollen and may only be around for a short time each year. For example, the bumble bee uses what is called buzz pollination; when the bee lands on a flower it vibrates its wings in order to release the pollen. This method is beneficial to crops such as cherry tomatoes due to the way the flower is assembled, making it difficult for other bees to collect pollen and easy for bees that use buzz pollination. Luckily for those readers who enjoy cherry tomatoes, four species of bumblebee have been sampled at EarthDance like Bombus impatiens, the common eastern bumblebee to the right.

We hope to use the information found in our survey to develop research questions and goals and to better understand how to provide for urban bee communities which will translate to a better understanding of how to best provide for people living in the urban core. Increase in bee diversity will lead to an increase in pollination services, leaving plants with bigger and better quality fruits and vegetables. There is potential to use bees and their services to transform these urban food deserts to flourishing food gardens.
(Interested in learning more about the Pollinator Project, or about bees? Contact Paige at Paigemuniz@gmail.com)
(Reprinted from EarthDance newsletter, Nov 4, 2015)