Friday, May 29, 2015

2015 Alternative Agriculture Organic Field Day and Workshops

I was at Lincoln University's Busby Farm the beginning of this week and I guarantee you will not be disappointed in this Field Day they are hosting.  Plus the workshops look really great as well.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Small Farm Guide to Selecting and Purchasing Equipment

A webinar to be held on Tuesday, June 9th at 2:00 pm (CDT) will focus on Small Farm Guide to Selecting and Purchasing Equipment.

The goal of this webinar is to assist operators of small and beginning farms in selecting and acquiring safe and appropriate agricultural equipment that will increase their likelihood of successfully meeting personal and production goals. The presenter will discuss how to ask the right questions during the search phase of purchasing equipment and avenues for researching equipment in selecting what will best suit the needs of specific enterprises. The webinar will also discuss the many sources and formats for buying equipment, be it new or used, and key things to look for before buying that allow producers to make an informed decision.

The  Presenter:
Shawn Ehlers is a doctoral student in the department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, where he also earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees. He is from southeastern Indiana where he is the sixth generation of his family’s grain farming operation. Shawn has worked as a mid-range mechanical development intern engineer at Cummins Engines in Columbus, IN., an instructor at Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, IN., and a teaching and research assistant at Purdue University, all while maintaining active involvement in his family’s farming operation.

Shawn’s current research focuses on agricultural safety and the implementation of assistive viewing technology. He is evaluating the effectiveness of assistive viewing devices, such as cameras, to increase visibility of the surrounding area of self-propelled agricultural equipment – primarily focusing on the area to the rear – for operators with and without impairments to their range of motion. Shawn’s research also entails the use of similar devices to monitor high risk locations such as confined spaces to assist in minimizing human exposure.

To participate in this free webinar, click here to access the online registration form by Friday, June 5. Instructions for accessing the session will be sent to registrants by Monday, June 8. Please pass on this invitation to others you believe may be interested. Contact AgrAbility at 800-825-4264 or email if you have questions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Insect Cost Share for Spotted Winged Drosophila

Unlike other vinegar (fruit) flies, Spotted Winged Drosophila (SWD) attacks healthy thin-skinned fruits close to harvest causing infested fruits to decay or drop.  Specialty crops at greatest risk of SWD infestation are the small fruit crops:  blackberries, raspberries (especially fall crops in high tunnels), blueberries, elderberries and late season strawberries.  Monitoring and insecticides are now important production tools.  This serious new invasive fly has been found in 40 counties since first detected in Missouri in 2013.

The MO Dept of Ag has an insecticide cost share program for the 2015 and 2016 season through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.  Funding is available to reimburse 50% of the purchase price of SWD insecticides to participants up to a maximum of $750 per grower. The insecticide cost share program will benefit Missouri’s small fruit industry by helping farmers to transition to additional management strategies to reduce populations of SWD, reduce damage and retain market share.

Requirements to qualify for this cost share program are:
  • Grow fruits for sale that are susceptible to SWD infestation (non-bearing plants aren't at risk)
  • Provide proof of purchase price for labeled insecticide products or insect barrier netting
  • Have training in SWD identification and how to manage crops to minimize impact: 1.) Proper identification of SWD is important to avoid unnecessary insecticide applications; 2.) Training can be through workshops, online, etc.
  • Using a monitoring tool to facilitate initial timing of insecticide application (traps, degree day model, etc.)
  • Have a pesticide applicator’s license (the most common type is a certified private applicator license): 1. Private applicator training is available year round through your county Extension Center; 2.) This license is necessary to use or purchase restricted use pesticides.
For an information packet with details about the insecticide cost share, contact Anastasia Becker, MO Dept of Ag at 573-526-0837.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Webinar to Explore Benefits of Diversity in Whole-Farm Revenue Crop Insurance

A free webinar on "The Benefits of Diversity: Another Look at Whole-Farm Revenue Protection in Iowa and Midwest” will be held Thursday, May 21, from 12 to 1 p.m.(CST), offered by the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

The webinar’s focus will be on how WFRP may improve coverage and lower insurance cost for field crop farms that have, or are contemplating, adding greater diversity to their cropping systems or even considering new livestock production.

To register for the free NCAT WFRP webinar:

NCAT is a national nonprofit that champions small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.

According to the webinar’s presenter, NCAT Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director Jeff Schahczenski, Iowa and Midwest producers have had their first chance to sign up for the new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) crop insurance program in early 2015. A relatively small number of producers opted to participate in Iowa and the Midwest. Numbers were much greater in other states and regions, where similar products have been available prior to the new WFRP crop insurance program, created under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“We want to make sure that Midwestern farmers have the best information to consider this new program that expands insurance options for specialty crops, organic, and diversified crop and livestock producers,” Schahczenski said.

WFRP offers a whole-farm premium subsidy to farms with two or more commodities that is the same as those provided for single crop policies, as long as minimum diversification requirements are met. The WFRP policy offers a higher premium subsidy for diversified and specialty crops than previous crop insurance products.  Coverage levels can range anywhere from 50 to 85 percent, depending on the level producers feel is appropriate for their businesses.

The webinar will be recorded for future viewing online. The parties involved are equal opportunity providers.

Other Resources
NCAT has a 4-page “Primer on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Crop Insurance: New for Iowa Producers in 2015” that can be downloaded for free.

NCAT’s Midwest Regional Office in Iowa was awarded a Risk Management Education Partnership cooperative agreement through the RMA. More information about the WFRP pilot program is available on the USDA Risk Management Agency website at
 All federal crop insurance is sold solely through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs), who are required to offer the WFRP pilot program to all eligible persons in the pilot area. The signup deadline has already passed for the 2015 crop year, but producers should contact their agents if they want to consider this new option for the future. A list of approved crop insurance agents by state can be found at:

Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director,, 406-494-8636 or Ann Y. Robinson, NCAT Midwest Regional Office Director,, 479-587-3474

Monday, May 11, 2015

Value Added Producer Grants

Approximately $30 million in funding is available to help agricultural producers enter into value-added activities for FY 2015.

The grants help agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products or developing new uses for existing products.

The maximum award per grant is $250,000 for working capital and $75,000 for planning. Planning grants can be used to facilitate economic planning activities to determine the viability of a value-added venture, and may include costs for an independent feasibility study and development of a marketing and business plan. Working capital grants are used for operational costs directly related to processing and/or marketing of the value-added product.

USDA Rural Development is funding an array of projects involving locally produced and marketed foods. These include cheese, wine, reduced-cholesterol dairy products, produce, packaged poultry, pork and beef products, and a variety of processed or prepared foods from locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Applications must be submitted by July 7, 2015 in order to be considered for funding.

For more information on VAPG contact (573) 876-9321 or email

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Know Your Tree Fruit Bud and Flower Stages

Recommendations for applying pesticides are usually listed by the stage of bud, floral, and fruit development. The reason for this is because certain pests and diseases are often prevalent at specific stages of plant development. Also, some pests are only problematic at specific range of temperatures or after a number of hours in a range of temperatures have accumulated. For example, streptomycin is only applied during bloom and petal fall for fire blight control on apple trees because this is when bees transfer the pathogen to the flowers during pollination and environmental conditions (temperature and moisture) are favorable for infection. Insecticide applications are often targeted to the insect stage when they are most susceptible. For instance, Lorsban insecticide is recommended to control the American plum borer on apple trees at petal fall which is generally the time of peak egg laying of the first brood. It is also important to know the bud stages because certain pesticides, such as dormant oil can cause foliar damage if applied at the wrong time. Lastly, as flower buds develop, they are more susceptible to spring frost injury. Thus, charts have been developed to predict the temperatures at which a range of injury will occur at each floral development stage and are listed in the 2015 Midwest Tree Fruit Spray Guide.

The table below summarizes the floral and fruit developmental stages used for applying pesticides for apple.  Peach fruit bud stages for chemical applications include dormant, pink, full bloom, petal fall, shuck split, and fruit set, and are similar to those described for apple. Shuck split is when the dried floral remnant splits away from the developing fruit and is sloughed off after petal fall.

Apple Stage.........Appearance of Fruit Bud, Flower, or Fruit
dormant................Fruit bud scales are tight, no green tissue visible from buds
silver tip...............Bud scales slightly separated with gray color at tips
green tip...............Green leaf tips emerged from buds, about 1-2 mm green visible
half-inch green.....When leaves (center one between floral buds on peach) are 1 cm long
tight cluster..........Tiny green flower buds are visible on apple
pink .....................Flower buds tightly closed and pink
full bloom............80% or more of the flowers are open
petal fall..............About 75% of petals have dropped off
fruit set...............Tiny fruits are visible

(By Michele Warmund, University of Missouri)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Crop Insurance for Small Farms

National Good Food Network is offering a webinar on Crop Insurance for Small Farms - A Crash Course” on Thursday, May 14 from 2:30 - 3:45 pm Central Time.

Free! Register Now

Crop insurance is a critical part of a comprehensive risk management strategy. Matching operations with crop insurance options is important. In addition, identifying and matching a farm's overall business goals to other insurance tools is an important step in the growth and sustainability of the operation.

Learn about crop insurance options, what it means to be in an insurance contract, how to think about the best options for your farm, or the farms that you advise and work with.

Reserve your spot - click here

Monday, May 4, 2015

Better Results Now

Here is some wisdom from Chris Blanchard, a well respected farmer from Northeast Iowa.  Chris has spoken many times at the Great Plains Growers Conference and on several webinars through the Missouri Beginning Farmers Program.

Systematically better results don’t usually result from the acquisition of a new tool, or doing a “better” job of adjusting your cultivators, repairing the leaks in your drip tape, or washing the carrots. Instead, better results come from better organization and coordination of the resources you have available and the activities you do with them.

On my own farm, and in my work with farmers around North America, the key to systematically better results has been to spend time managing – not weeding, not planting, not telling employees what to do, but engaging in the relatively simple act of observing, capturing information about what needs to be done, and making a plan to do it.

In my experience, the weekly field walk is the key black-belt move that makes the difference between managing and reacting. Every week, every field, high-tunnel, and greenhouse should get a visit for the sole purpose of observing and recording the work that needs to be done there: what weeding tool should be applied? Does the cover crop need to be mowed? Are the crops going to be ready to harvest this week or next? Are the transplants being over- or under-watered.  By observing with intention, you increase the opportunities to catch problems before they get out of control, monitor the results of the choices you made previously, and plan the appropriate actions in response.

By engaging in this sort of ongoing development of a high degree of situational awareness, you set the stage for being pro-active, rather than re-active. You can plan your cultivation activities so that when the weather is right (or when the employees go home, or the crops are harvested), you aren’t trying to decide what to do, you just do it. You don’t miss weeds going to seed in your cover crop, or allow it to go past the optimal plow-down stage. You can find recipes for the CSA box before you’re writing the newsletter, and you can let wholesale accounts know that the broccoli will be ready, rather than that it is ready, allowing buyers time to adjust inventory. You can correct errors before they become chronic problems or flat-out crises.

A weekly review of what needs to be done and the overall condition of the farm elevates you from putting out fires to watching for hot spots, and puts you in the driver’s seat rather than just being along for the ride.