Monday, March 31, 2014

Plight of the Bumble Bee: Conserving Imperiled Native Pollinators

You’ve probably heard about the problems facing honey bees across North America, as hives disappear in the face of “colony collapse disorder.” You also undoubtedly know that this loss of pollinators could have severe impacts on food production.

But you may not know this:  honey bees get the press, but they’re not the only pollinator in trouble. In fact, native bumble bees have been facing even more alarming declines across the continent.

This loss of bumble bees could have severe consequences for native ecosystems and for agriculture.

Bumble bees are perhaps the most charismatic of all bee species: they’re fuzzy, colorful and non-aggressive. And they’re one of the very few insects to inspire a symphony.

They’re also vital pollinators – more important to ecosystems than the non-native honey bee. Fifty species of North American bumble bees pollinate native plants, which in turn produce flowers and seeds that feed everything from songbirds to grizzly bears.

The Xerces Society, an organization devoted to invertebrate conservation, reports that bumble bees are also the most important pollinators for blueberries, cranberries, clover, greenhouse tomatoes and other crops.

But they’re in decline. According to the Xerces Society:
“At least four species of formerly common North American bumble bees have experienced catastrophic declines over the past decade – two of them may be on the brink of extinction. Preliminary investigations by many scientists indicate that a number of other formerly common species are also less abundant than they were in the past.”

What’s going on here? Is there anything conservationists can do about it?

Where Have All the Pollinators Gone?
An incident in an Oregon parking lot last summer dramatically illustrated the plight faced by native pollinators.

At a mall parking lot in Wilsonville, people began finding dead bumble bees – unbelievable numbers of dead bumble bees. It turned out to be the largest bumble bee die-off ever recorded, with more than 50,000 dead bees littering the area.

A wildlife mystery? Not quite.

It turns out that someone had sprayed 55 flowering trees with a pesticide known as a neonicotinoid, legal for use but deadly for insects, including beneficial ones like pollinators.

How many other times do such die-offs occur, out of sight of people? As the Xerces Society’s  executive director Scott Black said in a Grist interview, “If these events had not happened over areas of concrete, I am not sure anyone would have ever noticed. The insects would just fall into the grass to be eaten by birds as well as ants and other insects.”

Oregon has since restricted the use of some neonicotinoid pesticides to protect native pollinators. Currently, on the federal level, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) have drafted a bill that will suspend use of the worst neonicotinoid pesticides and direct EPA to perform a deeper evaluation of their impacts on pollinators — Saving America’s Pollinators Act (HR 2692).

In addition to pesticides, bumble bees face a long list of other threats – habitat loss, climate change, competition from non-native bees, introduced diseases.

According to the Xerces Society, habitat loss in particular is having a profound effect on bumble bees (and other native pollinators).

Bumble bees need a mix of native plants to feed on as well as grassy areas to burrow. They once found this habitat in plenty on the edges of farms and yards, and even in roadside ditches. But there has been a tendency to “clean up” – to remove the wilder edges around human development.

That’s bad for bees and other pollinators
A neatly trimmed grass lawn may be green but it’s not green – especially if it is sprayed with pesticides and all native plants are removed.

We often think of habitat loss as an irreversible problem, or one that can be solved only by intensive restoration activities. If a subdivision goes in and takes out part of a wolverine’s range, it is not like you can plant a few trees and bring back wolverines.

But with bumble bees, you can reverse habitat loss. Yards, ditches and abandoned lots can make a big difference. Your personal actions can native pollinators – protecting not only cool critters but also vital ecosystem services.

How You Can Be Bee Friendly
Bumble bees live across North America, Europe and Asia in a wide variety of habitats and climates. Adding some flowering plants to your yard will add some variety to the neighborhood, and also benefit bumble bees.

The Xerces Society gets you started with a complete guide to home gardening for bumble bees. Ideally, you can add a mix of flowering plants that bloom in the spring, summer and fall – providing a more year-round food source.

There’s a great satisfaction in creating your own wildlife haven, and it is probably easier than you think.

My wife Jennifer, who runs the agriculture program for the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, tore out our front yard nine years ago and replaced it with drought-tolerant and native high desert plants (appropriate for our arid environment in Boise, Idaho).

Admittedly, the neighbors expressed some consternation when we tore out a “perfectly good lawn.”

We don’t hear those complaints any more, as the yard is alive with beautiful wildflowers, waving tall grasses and cover-providing bushes.

We have fence lizards and valley quail and goldfinches and dragonflies. And we have pollinators. Lots of pollinators. Including bumble bees.

Bumble bees are generalists – they don’t key in on a specific flower. They move from species to species, buzzing around our lawn. We can mark spring by when the first bumble bees show up.

But this year, we won’t just be watching them. We’ll be photo-documenting the bees  and sending info to researchers. This initiative, Bumble Bee Watch, is one more way you can assist with pollinator conservation.

With 50 species of bumble bees, it can be hard to track population trends. Bumble Bee Watch asks citizen scientists to photograph any bumble bees they see and report them. You can download a handy bumble bee identification guide, and Bumble Bee Watch can help you identify species.

The news about pollinators can often seem grim. But wherever you live, this is definitely a conservation issue where your actions can have a direct influence.

Plant some flowers, watch for bumble bees and lay off the pesticides – you’ll be well on your way to creating your own pollinator preserve!

(By Matt Miller who is a senior science writer for the Nature Conservancy. Photos by Chris Helzer and Dale Rehder with the Nature Conservancy. )




Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vegetable Grower’s Guide to Organic Certification

The National Young Farmers Coalition released a new guide for farmers, designed to demystify and encourage organic certification for beginning farmers.
The Vegetable Grower’s Guide to Organic Certification is meant for vegetable farmers who embrace the philosophy of organic agriculture, but aren’t yet certified.  It addresses some of the challenges to certification and helps farmers explore the decision for their own farms.

Organic certification is a valuable tool that farmers can use to communicate growing practices and philosophies.  Beginning farmers face a large number of challenges as they begin their operations, from barriers to land access to regulatory obstacles.  Certification can help ease that transition by boosting marketing and helping to connect with larger potential customer bases. 

“There are many paths to success in farming and many ways to communicate the value of your product and production methods,” says Emily Oakley, author of the new report, “but by skipping USDA certification some farmers may be missing a valuable marketing opportunity.  This guide is intended to help you understand the advantages of certifying your farm and the steps to making it happen.”

The guide includes:

  • A detailed history of organic certification, and how we got to where we are today
  • An overview of certification
  • A step-by-step guide with practical tools and examples
  • An appendix, including further reading and sources for seeds and materials


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What to Plant, When to Plant and When to Harvest

Being the SARE Co-coordinator for Missouri, I am "friends" on Facebook with the 4 regional SARE pages.  I saw this post from the Northeast SARE page and had to share it with you!

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

With so many options to choose from, proper planning techniques are key for an efficient (and blooming) garden.

Master grower Eliot Coleman outlines the 48 most promising crops and charts the harvesting seasons for each to help you decide when and what to plant.

Go to  Scroll down a bit and you will see a 6 page excerpt from one of Eliot Coleman's books.  You can download these 6 pages and keep them on your computer for future reference.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cover Crop and Soil Health Workshop

The USDA-NRCS & Lincoln County SWCD are hosting a Cover Crop Workshop at the Elsberry Plant Materials Center, 2803 N. Hwy. 79, Elsberry, MO 63343 on Wednesday, April 2 starting at 8:30 am.

Registration starts at 8:30am and presentations will begin at 9:00am. Lunch is FREE and will be provided by the Lincoln County SWCD. View demonstration cover crop plots planted in the fall of 2013 and listen to several different speakers talk about characteristics of healthy soils, why you should consider planting cover crops, benefits of grazing cover crops, different types of cover crops and available programs within NRCS that benefit soil health.

Topics to be covered include:
  • Cover Crop Grazing Cattle – Rob Kallenbach, University of MO
  • Cover Crops in Corn/Bean Rotation: Follow-up – Charlie Ellis, University of MO
  • Soil Cores – Ralph Tucker, USDA-NRCS
  • Soil Health:  Right Reason to Plant Cover Crops – Doug Peterson, USDA-NRCS
  • Cover Crop Basics: Starting with the Right Species – Jerry Kaiser, USDA-NRCS
  • Soil Health Programs – Renee Cook, USDA-NRCS NRCS
  • Cover Crop Demonstration Plots: Follow-up – Ron Cordsiemon, USDA-NRCS
  • Cover Crop Demonstration Plots: Follow-up – Allen Casey, USDA-NRCS

Registration RSVP is due by March 21(free and it includes lunch). Seating is limited to the first 50 people. Please respond to Janice Cragen at the Lincoln Co. SWCD at 636-528-4877 ext 3. For more information you can call the Elsberry Plant Materials Center at 573-898-2012.

Directions to the Elsberry Plant Materials Center:

·       From I-70 take exit 220, Hwy 79, north 28 miles, turn left at the USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Center sign. The PMC is before you get to Hwy JJ.

·       From Hwy 61 turn east on Hwy B, travel 11 miles until you get to the intersection of Hwy B and Hwy 79, then turn right (south) and travel approximately 1 mile and turn right at the drive after Hwy JJ.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Missouri Regains No. 2 in Cow Numbers as National Herd Size Continues Decline

Missouri returned as No. 2 beef cow state in the nation, with a 63,000-cow increase in 2013. The USDA cow count shows Missouri rose from No. 3 back to the position it held from 1983 to 2008.

The state has 1.82 million cows, down from more than 2 million in 2008. The annual U.S. Department of Agriculture inventory shows Missouri to be one of only three states to grow herd size by more than 50,000 cows.

In 2013, Kansas went up 86.000 cows. Oklahoma grew by 51,000. Arkansas rose 31,000, making it fourth-fastest-growing cow state in the nation.

Texas remains No. 1, with 3.91 million head. In a long-term drought, Texas cow numbers dropped 1.1 million head from the 2011 USDA report.

Nebraska, which had been No. 2 for two years, dropped to No. 4, with Oklahoma No. 3 in beef cow numbers.

In contrast, 37 states declined or held steady at 2013 levels, says Daniel Madison, research economist at the University of Missouri Division of Applied Social Sciences.

Nationally, the cow herd continued declining, losing 255,000 head in 2013. The U.S. herd now has 29 million cows, the lowest level since 1962.

Observers anticipate an upturn in cow numbers. Declining beef supply brought sharp increases in cattle prices. Meanwhile, sharp drops in feed prices give economic signals for higher profits. That should lead to rebuilding the cow herd.

However, droughts and doubts about grass and hay supplies cause caution for herd owners nationally. Dry weather continues in parts of the United States.

“The economics seem to be in place for future growth in the beef cow numbers,” says Scott Brown, MU beef economist.

“Missouri producers see those signals,” he says. “Heifers retained in the herd are an indicator of optimism.”

Nationally, 1.7 percent more heifers are in the inventory over 2013. In Missouri, heifers are up 5.2 percent.

“Unlike the last few years, feed price projections are more promising for anyone raising cattle,” Brown adds. “Feedlots are selling fed cattle at prices never seen before. Now that their feed bills are dropping, they pay more for feeder calves. They want to refill their lots.”

The strongest developing trend in cattle prices is higher premiums for quality beef.

“The biggest premiums are paid for USDA prime grade cattle,” Brown says. “Missouri producers in the Quality Beef by the Numbers program gain current high market price, plus grid premiums in some cases of hundreds of dollars.”

However, more than economics are in play, he adds. “Drought continues to be a concern. California and Nevada herds are being reduced because of lack of water and grass.”

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions ranging from abnormally dry to moderate drought cover a swath from northern Missouri through Iowa, to southern Minnesota.
(By Duane Daily, MU Writer.  Photo by Gene Schmitz, MU Extension)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Microloan Program

Farm Service Agency (FSA) developed the Microloan program to better serve the unique financial operating needs of beginning, niche and small family farm operations.   FSA offers applicants a Microloan designed to help farmers with credit needs of $35,000 or less. The loan features a streamlined application process built to fit the needs of new and smaller producers.  This loan program will also be useful to specialty crop producers and operators of community supported agriculture (CSA).

Eligible applicants can apply for a maximum amount of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses.  As financing needs increase, applicants can apply for a regular operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA’s Guaranteed Loan Program.  Individuals who are interested in applying for a microloan or would like to discuss other farm loan programs available should contact our office.

You can locate your county’s FSA offices at:


Monday, March 17, 2014

USDA Enhances Farm Storage Facility Loan Program

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the expansion of the Farm Storage and Facility Loan program, which provides low-interest financing to producers.  The enhanced program includes 22 new categories of eligible equipment for fruit and vegetable producers, and makes it easier for farmers and ranchers around the country to finance the equipment they need to grow and expand. 

This is part of a broader effort to help small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers, as announced today by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Producers with small and mid-sized operations, and specialty crop fruit and vegetable growers, now have access to needed capital for a variety of supplies including sorting bins, wash stations and other food safety-related equipment.  A new more flexible alternative is also provided for determining storage needs for fruit and vegetable producers, and waivers are available on a case-by-case basis for disaster assistance or insurance coverage if available products are not relevant or feasible for a particular producer.

Additionally, Farm Storage and Facility Loans security requirements have been eased for loans between $50,000 and $100,000.  Previously, all loans in excess of $50,000 required a promissory note and additional security, such as a lien on real estate.  Now loans up to $100,000 can be secured by only a promissory note.

“The Farm Storage and Facility Loan program has helped American farmers and ranchers to finance on-farm storage for almost 13 years,” said Farm Service Agency Administrator (FSA), Juan M. Garcia. “We anticipate these changes will increase the number of individuals who qualify for these loans and help them access new market opportunities.”

The low-interest funds can be used to build or upgrade permanent facilities to store commodities.  Eligible commodities include grains, oilseeds, peanuts, pulse crops, hay, honey, renewable biomass commodities, fruits and vegetables.  Qualified facilities include grain bins, hay barns and cold storage facilities for fruits and vegetables.

Other new changes to the Farm Storage and Facility Loan program will allow FSA State Committees to subordinate Commodity Credit Corporation’s lien position.

These changes to the program were issued via an official notice to state and county Farm Service Agency offices and are effective immediately.

More than 33,000 loans have been issued for on-farm storage, increasing grain storage capacity by 900 million bushels since May 2000.

More information about tools and resources available to small and mid-sized farmers will be rolled out in the coming months, including information about access to capital, risk management, food safety, and locating market opportunities on USDA's Small and Mid-Sized Farmer Resources webpage.

Visit or an FSA county office to learn more about FSA programs and loans, including the Farm Storage Facility Loan Program.
(photos from Wholesale Success: A Farmer's Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rabbit 101 Workshop for New (or hopeful) Rabbit Owners

Know what you are getting into before you buy that rabbit this spring.

Farm stores and individuals are starting to sell rabbits just in time for Easter. Although small and cute, they are much different than a dog or cat in how they behave and what they require.

Whether you’ve already purchased a rabbit or are still thinking about it, there is a lot to learn. University of Missouri Extension will be offering a program on March 26 in Maryville to help educate new and potential rabbit owners.

“Rabbit 101” will cover how to select a rabbit, supplies needed, basic care, what to expect, and opportunities. The program will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Northwest Technical School in Maryville. The fee to attend is $10 per adult or $5 for youth (17 years and under).

Registrations are required by March 25. To register, contact the Northwest Technical School at 660-582-8311 or visit their website.

For more information about the program, contact AmieSchleicher at the Atchison County MU Extension Center at 660-744-6231.

(by Amie Schleicher, MU Livestock Specialist)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

2014 Regional Grazing Schools Across Missouri

The 2014 regional grazing schools are gearing up across the state.  Check to see where the nearest one to you is located.

Northwest Region

TBA – Albany (at Hundley Whaley Research Farm), contact Nathan Bilke (660) 582-7125 x 123 or Jim Humphrey (816) 324-3147

East Central Region

April 1-2 – Warrenton (at Warren County Extension Center) contact Sarah Szachnieski (636) 456-3434 x 3

May 20-21 – Fulton (at Callaway MU Extension Bldg.) contact Joshua Stewart (573) 592-1400 x 3  

September 3-4 – Union (Location TBA) contact Lori Nowak (636) 583-2303 x 3 

Central Region

April 10-11 – Rolla Phelps County SWCD contact Paula Wade (573) 364-6202 x 3

September 4-5 – Tri-County School-Maries County contact Maries County SWCD Sandy Stratman (573) 422-3342

September 25-26 – Wurdack contact Crawford County Extension (573) 775-2135

South Central Region

April 23-25 – West Plains contact Logan Wallace (417) 256-2391

May 12-14 – Hartville contact Missy Wollard (417) 741-7343 x 3 or Ted Probert (417) 741-6134

July 28-30 – Houston contact Sandy Wooten (417) 967-2028 x 3
or Sarah Kenyon (417) 967-4545  

August 4-6 – Squires contact Stacy Hambelton (417) 679-3525  

September 10-12 – Willow Springs contact Regan Hughston (417) 256-7117 x 3 or Jamie Kurtz (417) 256-7117 x 3  

September 22-24 – Centerville contact Vera Pyles (573) 648-1035 or Jeff Lawrence (417) 778-7561 x 106  

October 6-8 – Alton contact Sarah Stubbs (417) 778-7561 x 3 or Sarah Kenyon (417) 967-4545  

Southeast Region

May 6-7 – Park Hills (at Mineral Area College) contact Selma Mascaro (573) 224-3410 x 3

September 17- 18 – Jackson contact Selma Mascaro (573) 224-3410 x 3

Southwest Region

April 29, May 2, 6, 9 (evenings), May 3 field day (Saturday daytime) – Halfway contact Dallas County SWCD (417) 345-2312 x 3

May 21-23 (daytime) – Mt. Vernon contact Lawrence County SWCD (417) 466-7682 x 3

June 3-5 (daytime) – Neosho contact Nathan Witt (417) 451-1007 x 3

September 23-25 (daytime) – Forsyth contact Aaron Hoefer (417) 581-2719 x 3 or Cindy Dalton (417) 546-2089

October 7-9 (daytime) – Bois D’ Arc (NW of Springfield 10 miles) contact Greene County SWCD (417) 831-5246 x 3

Southwest Central Region

May 14-15 – Osceola (at Osceola Baptist Church) contact Margie Best (417) 646-8108

TBA – Harrisonville (at MU Extension Office) contact Jamie Bokern (816) 884-3391 or Katrina O’Farrell (816) 884-3391 Katrina.O’  

October 8-9 – Lincoln contact Tina Dulaban (660) 547-2456 x 3

Northeast Region

May 30-31 - Monroe County contact Darren Hoffman or Lena Sharp (660) 327-4117 x 3

August 22-23 – Novelty (at MU Greenley Center) contact Karisha Devlin (660) 397-2179 or Tim Clapp (660) 385-2616 x 113

Linneus Schools

September 29-October 1 – Linneus contact Joetta Roberts (573) 499-0886

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Keys to Successful Composting!

A workshop on composting will be held at the MU Southwest Research Center, 14548 Hwy H, Mt. Vernon, MO 65712 on Thursday, March 27th from 9:30 am - 4:30 pm.  The workshop is being offered by Lincoln University Cooperative Extension (LUCE) with a day long workshop on the do’s and dont’s of composting!

·       Educational topics include: Aerobic composting, vermicomposting, Effective Microbe
·       (EM)/Bokashi composting, and compost tea brewing.
·       Learn how to build your own low cost composting bin.
·       Overview of GAP and FSMA food safety standards for applying compost to your crops.
·       Hands on demonstration
·       A registration fee of $10 (includes lunch, materials and entry for one person). A farm may register additional individuals for $10 each (Only one set of training materials per farm).

The workshop will be led by:
·       Dr. Hwei-Yiing Johnson, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension
·       Patrick Byers, University of Missouri Regional Horticulture Specialist
·       Shon Bishop, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension

Make Checks payable to: University of Missouri Extension-Greene County and mail to 2400 S. Scenic Ave. Springfield, MO. 65807.

For more information or to register contact Lorri Winters at 417- 881-8909.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

3/24 Acidified Foods Workshop and HACCP Implementation for Food and Meat Industry Workshop

The Acidified Foods Workshop will be held March 24-25 in Columbia MO, is a Better Process Control School (BPCS) event specifically for processors of acidified food products and meets the requirements of 21 CFR Part 114 for FDA regulated food manufacturers.

Those who would like to process low acid canned foods should attend a BPCS event designed for thermal processing (retorting) of low acid products such as one offered at Oklahoma State University ( June 11-13, 2014 or at the University of Arkansas ( November 4-6, 2014.  Low acid canned foods training will not occur in Missouri this year.

The two-day (7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) workshop is best for managers or process operators responsible for the safety of acidified foods. New or relatively inexperienced employees are welcome and a reduced registration fee will be available for multiple representatives from a single company. The registration fee will cover all educational materials, exams, and a food safety textbook plus refreshments and two lunches. In addition, the registration fee includes a laboratory analysis of the pH and water activity for one product per participant.

At the end of the program, there will be a "walk-through" of the paperwork needed to file an acidified food process with FDA conducted by a Process Authority. Every participant that successfully completes the workshop will receive a certificate that may be used to verify the training for FDA or Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services records.

Day 1
7:30-8:00 am   Registration
8:00-8:10         Welcome and Course Introduction, Andrew Clarke, MU
8:10-8:45         FDA Regulations (Chapter 1), TBD, Consumer Safety Officer, FDA
8:45-10:15       Microbiology (Chapter 2), Steve Seideman, UA
10:15-10:30     Break
10:30-11:45     Acidified Foods (Chapter 3), Andrew Clarke, MU
11:45-12:45     Lunch
12:45-1:45       Principles of Thermal Processing (Chapter 4), William McGlynn, OSU
1:45-3:00         Food Plant Sanitation (Chapter 5), Andrew Clarke, MU
3:00-3:15         Break
3:15- 4:30        Food Container Handling (Chapter 6), William McGlynn, OSU
4:30                 Questions & Discussion
4:45                 Adjourn
7:00                 Laboratory Analysis Demonstration (optional*)

Day 2
7:30- 8:00 am  Exam Retakes
8:00- 9:30        Records for Product Protection (Chapter 7), Andrew Clarke, MU
9:30-10:30       Process Room Instrumentation, Steve Seideman, UA
Equipment and Operation (Chapter 8)
10:30 10:45     Break
10:45-12:00     Closure of Glass Containers (Chapter 16), Dr. Andrew Clarke, MU
12:00-1:00       Lunch
1:00-2:15         Closures for Semi-rigid and Flexible, Steve Seideman, UA           
Containers (Chapter 17)
2:15-4:00         Process Authority Services and Filing Process Schedules with FDA, William McGlynn, OSU
4:00                 Questions, Evaluations
4:30                 Workshop Concludes
* The optional Laboratory Analysis Demonstration is open to all participants and will involve the use of common techniques for determining pH and water activity of selected food products.  Participants may bring a sample of their own product for the demonstration. A confidential analysis of pH and water activity of one product per participant is included in the workshop registration. Additional products can be tested for a fee (please contact Andrew Clarke at for rates).

The registration fee is $425 for the first person from a company and $325 for each additional person from the same company. All participants will be provided with workshop materials as well as lunches and refreshments during breaks.

Space is limited to the first 100 participants so early registration is encouraged.  Registration deadline: March 10, 2014.  To register, please send an e-mail with contact information (participant name, company name, address, telephone and e-mail) to

We will confirm your registration and provide directions to the meeting location by e-mail reply.  If you have any questions or do not have e-mail access for registration, please contact Ms. Starsha Ferguson, 573-882-4113.

The University of Missouri will also host a workshop for Implementation of HACCP for the Meat and Food Industry on March 26-28, 2014. Separate registration is required for this workshop which is accredited by the International HACCP Alliance for certificate-based instruction that satisfy USDA and FDA training requirements. Contact either Andrew Clarke at or Starsha Ferguson at for more information about the HACCP Workshop.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Southwest Missouri Sheep and Goat Conference

The Southwest Missouri Sheep and Goat Conference will be held March 22 from 9 am to 3 pm at the McDonald County Fairgrounds in Anderson, MO.

Topics will include:
  • budgets for sheep and goats
  • pros and cons of sheep and goats
  • multi-species grazing
  • grades and grading of sheep and goats
  • marketing of your animals
  • producer panel on helpful hints to make a profit with sheep and goats
Cost per person is $10 as pre-registration which includes lunch and educational materials ($15 at the door).

Contact the Newton County Extension Center at 417-455-9500.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Understand Food Safety and Putting it into Action on Your Farm

Have you been wondering what all this Food Safety and Food Modernization talk is all about?  Perhaps some of your customers have asked you how you address food safety on your farm.  This 2-day workshop is meant to teach just that. By the end of it on the second day, we want you to be well on your way to completing a food safety plan for your farm, which is he first step to getting food safety certified. Thanks to a grant through the USDA we can offer this training free of charge.  At the workshop we will feed you lunch both days and provide over $50 worth of materials that will assist you in practicing food safety on your farm.

The workshop will be held March 14th and 15th at the Lincoln University Urban Impact Center, 1028 Paseo Kansas City, MO 64106 (parking is off of 10th st. on the West side of Paseo).

Day 1 - 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
Why food safety?
What is food safety?
From the field to delivery
Food Safety Modernization act
Water and Sanitation
Compost and manure
Record keeping
Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Audit Process

Day 2 -  9:00 am - 2pm
Starting a food safety plan for your farm
Getting a GAPS Audit

Instructors include:
Patrick Byers, University of Missouri
Miranda Duschack, Lincoln University
Shon Bishop, Lincoln University
Katie Nixon, Lincoln University
Doug Goodson, USDA
This workshop is FREE.  SPACE IS LIMITED. Please bring a laptop computer (if you have one) to start writing your plan.

To guarantee your spot and lunch registration deadline is March 7th Register with Katie Nixon at 816-809-5074.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Top Ten Successful Marketing Strategies

Schryock's Callaway Farms
NOTE:  This is an article from Jane Eckert, national known consultant on agrimarketing.  I thought this was a good article on marketing to share with you.  Some of you may think you don’t have time for her suggestions.  If I didn’t post to the blog or Facebook almost every day would you forget to come read it?  Sure you would.  The same is the case for your customers.

By most accounts 2013 was a very good year for direct farm marketers, with an average of eighty-eight percent increasing their revenues. Most of those showing growth in revenue reported increasing by more than 15% over 2012. That’s a nice increase.  This information is based on more than 125 farms representing every region of the U.S. and Canada that completed my annual year end survey.  Over the next few months I will be sharing more of this information, but the most important responses impacting you right now is to hear how these farms increased their revenues and how they spent their money.

Here’s a little bit of a surprise: on average, these farms actually reduced their marketing budgets and increased their sales.  It can be done, and especially right now for businesses transitioning to more cost effective internet marketing.  To grow sales while reducing marketing expense requires some clear planning and those that did so took advantage of the greater efficiencies of the multitude of Internet tools available today. Please note that I didn’t say they spent less time on marketing, just less money.  Here’s what the farms reported.

10. Most farms reduced their advertising in local newspapers and did not see a reduction in sales. If your customers are families with children, it has been shown that this demographic no longer gets their news from the newspaper.  So it may be time to redirect those funds to something more effective.

9. Farms tended to focus on targeted television and cable programming as their local media of choice. While it can be a bit overwhelming to make these buying decisions due to the multitude of media channels, it is a most visual medium to show off your farm experience.

8. Local radio spots with special promotions, give-aways and contests continue to provide good results for many.  Finding the right station and time of day to air your commercial is a challenge, and often takes a little trial and error.  Don’t leave this to chance-take the time to study the station reports and select times and programs that appeal to your customers.

7. Billboards, roadside signs and increased on farm signage were often stated as a primary reason business increased.  Highway signage can be expensive so it’s always important to study the traffic count, their speed of travel and the proximity to your exit to see if this is right for you.

6. Online advertising with Google, Facebook, banner ads and mobile placement appear to be gaining in popularity and use.  These ads can be well targeted by zip code, sex, age and income to reach the type of active folks with money that you want to come to your farm.

5. Traditional brochures still play an important part in delivering our marketing messages and showing your farm experiences.  Instead of the one-size fits all brochure for a farm, you are increasingly producing more niche brochures with a single purpose, such as picnics, birthday parties, weddings, tours etc.

4. Internet tools gained in popularity and usage this year as well.  We all know about the benefits of e-newsletters direct to our customers, coupon website offers, and QR codes, but Pinterest and Instagram are now registering with greater utilization and effectiveness for those that take the time to use them.

3. Improved farm websites are on the “must have” list of effective Internet strategies, especially those that have worked with their web designer on specific search engine optimization (SEO).  Mobile websites have now been created by almost 20% of the farms that responded to the survey, and this was up from 7.5% in 2012. There is no doubt in my mind that our use of Smartphones will change the way we create our online marketing strategies.

2. Facebook was the most utilized online resource by 87% of the farms saying they have a Facebook page.  Even more amazing about this number is that almost 40% of them make daily posts during their season.  In general, the daily posts are made by a family member, but there are farms now outsourcing this daily task to a hired professional.

1. The number one marketing strategy ranked as most successful to bringing in new customers remains word of mouth. Whether you realize it or not, word of mouth begins by providing good customer experiences and courteous staff, reinforced by consistently maintaining these positive opportunities over the length of time in business.  Positive word of mouth begins and ends with our ability to pay attention to the details, day in and day out.  If your customers are pleased, they will tell others, and having others deliver your message is indeed “priceless.”

Finally, the survey shows that there was also a big increase in the number of farms that had free media this year on television and in print.  The incredible fact about the free media this year was that it is was not directly solicited—instead, the news entities approached the farms and asked if they could do the story. As the fall season numbers continue to explode, and the local food movement is being featured by all levels of media, we can all expect these calls to increase. 
(by Jane Eckert, Eckert AgriMarketing)