Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Missouri Aquaculture Meeting

The Missouri Aquaculture Association Winter Meeting will be Friday and Saturday, January 8-9, 2016 in Jefferson City.

Friday, January 8
Friday’s activities will be at Hy-Vee which is at 3721 W Truman Boulevard. We have never met here but the store is easy to find since it is large and is just off the highway next to the mall. The meeting room we will be using is upstairs, above the dining area. To find it, just go to the deli in the front corner of the store and take the stairs that are next to the dining area. If stairs are a problem, there is an elevator on the other side of the deli towards the back of the store, next to the bathrooms. On the second floor, the meeting room is at the opposite end of the hall from the elevator. There will be three events Friday afternoon:

2:30-3:00 - MAC meeting
The four members of the Missouri Aquaculture Council will meet to conduct the business of the aquaculture feed checkoff.

3:00-4:30 - MoAA Board meeting
The Missouri Aquaculture Association officers and board will meet to discuss industry issues.

5:00 – Dinner

Russ Heindselman, a long-time fish producer from LaGrange will share some of the innovations he has developed on his farm. Come prepared to share the ideas you have implemented on your farm during a friendly competition for some great prizes.

Saturday, January 9
The meeting on Saturday will be at Lincoln University’s George Washington Carver Farm which is a couple miles south of the Lincoln University campus at 3804 Bald Hill Road. If you have trouble finding it the day of the meeting, the phone number at the Carver Farm office is (573) 681-5540.

The agenda for the Saturday meeting is packed and we are pleased with the great line up of presentations this year. We appreciate the speakers’ willingness to cover a number of important topics.

9:00-9:15 – Welcome, David Emerson, MoAA President, Crystal Lake Fisheries

9:15-9:45 – On-Farm Evaluation of Traditional and Non-Traditonal Trout Feeds, Dennis VanLanduyt, Troutdale Farm

9:45-10:30 – Algae and Control Methods, Brian Lind, Western Regional Sales Manager, Applied Biochemists

10:30-11:15 – Aeration and Water Quality, Roy Watkins, President, Air-O-Lator Corporation

11:15-11:45 – Missouri Department of Conservation Update, Brian Canaday, Fisheries Division Chief, Missouri Department of Conservation

11:45-12:15 – The Realities of RAS: Future of Aquaculture or Pipe Dream? Dr. Chris Weeks, Aquaculture Extension Specialist, NCRAC

12:15-1:30 – Lunch
Following lunch, there will be two options:
 * MoAA business meeting
 * Tour of the Lincoln University aquaculture research ponds and indoor fish holding facilities.  Some photos are online at http://www.lincolnu.edu/web/aquaculture-research/facilities.

1:30-2:00 – USDA APHIS Update, Parker Hall, State Director, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

2:00-2:30 – The Realities of RAS: Future of Aquaculture or Pipe Dream? Dr. Chris Weeks, Aquaculture Extension Specialist, NCRAC

2:30-2:45 – North Central Region Aquaculture Center Update, Allen Pattillo, Extension Program Specialist, Iowa State University

2:45-3:00 – Industry Update, Dr. Chris Weeks, Aquaculture Extension Specialist, NCRAC

3:00-3:15 – What’s New in Aquaponics, Allen Pattillo, Extension Program Specialist, Iowa State University

3:15-3:45 – Fish Farm Composting for Managing Organic Waste and Recycling Nutrients, Dr. Hwei-Ying Johnson, State Extension Specialist, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension

3:45-4:15 – Missouri Department of Agriculture Update, Dr. Linda Hickam, State Veterinarian, Missouri Department of Agriculture

4:15-4:30 – Wrap Up, David Emerson, MoAA President, Crystal Lake Fisheries

We make an effort to keep the cost of the meeting low but could not do it for what we do without the help of our great sponsor, Skretting USA. They are well known for the quality feed they consistently provide the aquaculture industry. We appreciate the way they support Missouri fish producers with a wide selection of quality feeds and thank them for sponsoring our event this year. Learn more about their products at www.skrettingusa.com

Registrations will be accepted the morning of the conference; however, knowing how many people to expect helps tremendously with planning. Receiving registrations in advance and having a great sponsor are the key reasons we can keep the registration cost so low. As a result, a discount is offered for registrations received prior to Monday, January 4.  If you have questions, please call Vanessa at (417) 683-2301.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Midwest Winter Production Conference Returns to Webb City Area

The Midwest Winter Production Conference will be Thursday and Friday, January 21 and 22, 2016, at the Continental Banquet Center, 2728 North Rangeline, Joplin.  Aimed at professional and aspiring professional growers interested in three- or four-season production, this is the third reginal conference since 2013 hosted by the Webb City Farmers Market.  Winter production, and extended season production in the spring and fall, have become increasingly important sources of revenue for Missouri farmers.  Off-season production is also essential for year-round markets and their customers who want fresh local produce throughout the year.  There are currently about 30 winter markets in Missouri including Webb City, Farmers Market of the Ozarks, Greater Springfield, City Market in Kansas City, and Columbia.

The conference will include multiple tracks covering:

·         * High tunnel siting, choices of equipment, costs and returns
·         * Economics and marketing for winter grow leafy greens
·        *  Marketing strategies for winter sales
·        *  Winter storage crop production and economics
·         * Integrated pest control in tunnels
·         * Starting your own plants for winter production - seed selection, crop varieties, seeding time table, cost, quality control
·        *  Adding value and expanding profit through storage crops and dried products
·         * Lacto fermentation of sauerkraut and dill pickles
·         * Garlic – production, storage and marketing
·         * Raspberry production in high tunnels

The conference also includes a Farmer Symposium with top winter producers from winter markets discussing their favorite winter production tools, crops and techniques. The conference will finish with a tour of a local farm operating both heated and unheated high tunnels, as well as a hydroponic lettuce greenhouse.

This conference features national and regional presenters including:  

Dru and Adam Montri operate 17,900 square feet of high tunnels for winter production, as well as farming in the field year-round on their farm in Bath, Michigan, Ten Hens Farm.  They sell their products through a variety of outlets, including farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores and a medium-sized distributor.  Adam is also an outreach specialist in the Michigan State University Department where he works with farmers throughout the state on high tunnel funding, construction, year-round production, marketing, and economics.  Dru is director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association as well as on the board of the Farmers Market Coalition, the national farmers market association, giving her contacts with year-round markets throughout the country.

Patrice Gros operates Foundation Farm, Foundation Farm, a 5-acre USDA certified organic farm which includes three high tunnels in full winter production in Northwest Arkansas.  Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bCfPh1drUE for a tour of his high tunnel operation taped this month.

Dan Kuebler operates The Salad Garden and sells year-round at local farmers markets and restaurants in Columbia. He has a special interest in lacto fermentation of sauerkraut and dill pickles, including it in his product mix and holding workshops on the processes.

Tammy and Greg Sellmeyer operate two greenhouses & four high tunnels.   They sell at the Columbia and the Fulton Farmers Markets, and have a CSA. Their winter sales include a wide variety of storage crops and dried products from produce raised on their farm.

The Midwest Winter Production Conference is sponsored by the Webb City Farmers Market, Lincoln University Co-operative Extension and University of Missouri Extension.  It is underwritten by a specialty crops grant from the Missouri Department of Agriculture.  Complete conference information is available at webbcityfarmersmarket.com or by calling 417 483-8139.  Pre-registration is required and is $50.  Additional registrations from the same farm or family are $40 each.  Registration at the $50 level includes the publications New Seed Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel and the 2016 Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Great Plains Growers Conference and Trade Show

The 20th annual Great Plains Growers Conference will attract home gardeners and commercial growers from the Midwest and beyond.

The three-day conference, Jan. 7-9, 2016, in St. Joseph, will feature knowledgeable speakers from across the country.

“There are five states that participate in this conference. The extension services of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota share horticulture expertise with conference attendees,” said Tim Baker, horticulture specialist for University of Missouri Extension and one of the conference organizers.

For the first time, the conference will feature several workshops on mushrooms.

Mark Gleason of Iowa State University will provide morel mushroom certification training. Anyone wishing to sell wild-harvested morels in Missouri must be certified as an inspector by an approved trainer.

“He regularly provides this training in Iowa, and a number of Missourians have traveled up to Iowa to get this training,” Baker said. “We’re bringing him down here so people can get that certification training and be able to legally sell morels in Missouri.”

If you want the state-required certification letter at the completion of the workshop, it will cost an additional $50.

There will also be a class for those interested in harvesting wild mushrooms for personal use. Correct identification is vital because some mushrooms are deadly and making the wrong choice can be life-threatening. Stan Hudson, with the Missouri Mycological Society, will discuss Missouri and Midwest mushroom identification and how to spot dangerous look-alikes.

There are also presentations for those who would like to grow shiitake and other specialty culinary mushrooms.

Other topics at the conference include organic growing, honeybees and scaling up small farm production.

MU Extension’s James Quinn and others will provide workshops on MarketReady, an educational program designed to help small farmers and ranchers build supplier relationships with restaurant, grocery, wholesale and food service buyers.

The keynote speaker will be Anthony Flaccavento, an organic farmer from Abingdon, Va. Flaccavento is a recognized leader in sustainable economic development and the founder of SCALE (Sequestering Carbon, Accelerating Local Economies).

The conference also includes a comprehensive trade show that will provide resources helpful to both home gardeners and commercial growers.

“The cost to attend the all-day Thursday workshop is $55 per person. The cost for Friday and Saturday is $45 per person per day,” Baker said. “The price includes lunch on all three days.”
To register, see a complete conference schedule and for more information, visit www.greatplainsgrowersconference.org.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Farm Law Education Series Starts Dec 15th

Ahh the winter… a time for farmers to kick back, relax, and catch up on all that reading that they missed over the season. Right? Ha!  For many farmers, this is the time that they relocate from the fields to their desks to plan, learn, and strategize.

This winter, Farm Commons has eight new tutorials in our Farm Law Education Series as well as eight roundtable sessions all designed to help you build a strong and resilient farm business.

Also new this year – you can sign up for all the online events you want at the same time on our new and improved website! All you need is to create a free account – watch our short video or blog post if you have any trouble.

First, let’s talk terminology:
Tutorial – our updated version of the webinars that you already know and love (and if you aren’t already familiar, check out last year’s recorded webinars, which are still available for free on our website. Tutorials focus on the basics you need to understand and apply the law to your farm business. They include farmer stories, practical tips, and an overview of the topic at hand.
Roundtable ­– We are introducing a new component to our tutorial series. For this first time ever, tutorial participants have the opportunity to follow up one week after our live tutorials with solutions-based, interactive roundtable sessions. These sessions will be deep dives into the topics, and you must attend the corresponding tutorial in order to participate. You can find more information about roundtables at the bottom of this post.  Webinars are Free and Roundtables are $25 each.

2015/16 Education Series:

Find out dates, detailed descriptions, and register for all online events here. Registration is FREE

So what exactly is a roundtable session?
Roundtables will focus on actionable components of the tutorial subjects and help you come up with creative solutions for your farm business. Our practical approach is geared towards giving you the tools and guidance you need to take action on the foundation of knowledge you’ve built from the tutorials and other free resources that Farm Commons provides. These advanced sessions will use collaborative learning facilitated by experts to help you work through paperwork, develop creative solutions to problems you’re facing, and answer any questions that came up during or following the tutorials. The exact content of the sessions will tailored to the specific needs and preferences of the registrants, so you can be assured that these sessions will be useful and relevant to you and your farm business. After you’ve registered for the corresponding tutorial, we will send you more information about the roundtable session.

Registration is $25 and it's simple to sign up at our website. Each roundtable is limited to 10 participants, so sign up soon to guarantee your spot. If cost is a barrier, ask us about scholarship opportunities.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What’s Up with USDA Food Labels? Changes Made to USDA Process Verified Program

The new “USDA Process Verified”
shield that will allow consumers
access  to more specific information
about a USDA PVP product online.
The fate of mandatory GMO labeling may still be unknown, but some companies are already using voluntary non-GMO labels through a third party certification or verification service, such as the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) Process Verified Program (PVP). On December 7, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced changes to PVP that aim to give consumers what they want: more transparency.

What is the Process Verified Program?
AMS receives its authority from the Agricultural Marketing Act, overseeing quality verification on labels so that farms, farm-based businesses, and large food manufacturers can make certain claims for marketing purposes. The claims that AMS certifies or verifies, including PVP claims, are voluntary and market-driven.

The PVP approval process involves a desk audit (submission of a quality manual), an on-site audit, and an annual audit. Companies with approved PVP products may use the “USDA Process Verified” shield on marketing materials.

Examples of PVP claims include “grass fed,” “no antibiotics ever,” “all vegetarian diet,” and “raised by independent farmers.”

In conjunction with the changes to PVP that are detailed below, AMS published a blog providing a step-by-step explanation of how companies go through the PVP approval process. Click on the infographic to the right for additional information on the PVP approval process.

What are the new changes to the Process Verified Program?
This week, USDA announced two main changes to PVP.

First, AMS is instituting a single management structure for PVP that works across commodity programs. In 2013, AMS merged two program areas — the poultry program and the livestock and seed program — into the Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program. Although the programs merged, AMS had yet to completely marry the services. Now there are uniform requirements and auditor procedures, ensuring consumers will get the “same level of transparency regardless of the product,” said AMS Public Affairs Specialist Sam Jones-Ellard.

Second, marketing claims and verified process points will now be clearly defined using plain language on the USDA website. The new AMS website has an official listing of approved USDA Process Verified Programs. Products that have the “USDA Process Verified” label will display the USDA website address to help direct consumers to the information online.

“There’s increasingly a lot of marketing claims on packages and this is a way for consumers to know exactly what they’re buying,” Jones-Ellard said. Jones-Ellard indicated there has been a lot of interest in PVP and these changes were made to ensure consumers can access the most accurate information.

We support increased transparency and welcome these changes, but believe further improvements are needed to PVP and other USDA labeling programs. In coming months we hope to report on specific labels or labeling issues and how to make the process work better for farmers and consumers.
(By National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, December 8, 2015)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tips for a Successful Farm Startup

This is from a column from a colleague at the University of Vermont.

Twenty years of observing new farmers has taught me that you are an enthusiastic, passionate, ambitious lot. This is a good thing because farming, especially in the early years, will take a toll -- not just your body but your brain and sometimes your commitment as well. It takes a lot to get a successful farm business launched and when the results are not quite what you hoped, it can be a major blow to your dreams.
In sorting the successful start-ups from the challenging ones there are some lessons to be learned. They are not easy lessons but for your consideration:
Avoid the tendency to over-diversify your production. Especially in the early years when you need to focus on product quality and efficiency. Taking on too many profit centers can stretch you thin and leave you with mediocre results. In the early years concentrate on excellence in one or two areas -- then expand.
Invest in post-harvest care. It is a shame to spend all that time and money on producing high-quality products that you mishandle. At the end of the day post-harvest washing, packing, and storing will impact the quality and flavor every bit as much as the careful selection of seed and your production practices.
Limit your market channels. It sounds counter-intuitive but in exactly the same way that over-diversifying your product line can lead to chaos, over-extending your market reach can yield bad results. If you are focusing your startup on direct marketing then choose one or two channels that will compliment one another. For example, farmers' markets and a CSA can work well together. Once you have some production experience you can always add markets and/or leave some markets behind. Concentrate your efforts on learning your costs of production so you.
Listen to your customers. The hardest thing for any business owner is to hear negative feedback. I often hear farmers talking about customers' "unreasonable" demands and lack of knowledge. Ok, some customers are clueless jerks. But, here's the thing...the customers you have close relations with are sort of like family...they are not going to want to tell you the bad stuff. It's the difficult customers you might hear the truth from, even if the way they deliver that truth is mean-spirited. So, even though it is hard, listen to the negative feedback and mine it for the tidbits that you can use to improve. Maybe those beans were a little past their prime. Those last steaks were really tough. And that lettuce...it was gritty and buggy.
Have a mechanization plan. Even though you may not have the resources to buy every piece of equipment that you need, that should not stop you from having a plan in place. Keep a list of the equipment you need and prioritize the list. What do you need first and what can wait a few years? Then start taking classes in how to maintain and repair equipment. Learning how doesn't mean you have to do the work yourself--it means you will be better able to explain your needs to others and gauge the quality of their work.
The tricky part of farming is that you can do everything right and still not end up where you hoped to be. And that is why you need to plan carefully, proceed with caution and love what you do.
(By Mary Peabody, University of Vermont)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Small Farms Winter Webinar Series

University of Illinois Extension will present a weekly educational series for the small farm community to provide practical information on emerging topics that advance local food production in Illinois. These online presentations will give small farmers a look at how leading practices in production, management, and marketing enable operations to improve profitability and sustainability. This year's series includes new topics such as farm pond ecology, producing Shiitake mushrooms, the emerging local grain economy in Illinois, raising meat birds on pasture, and growing great blackberries. Webinars will be held from noon -1:00 pm on Thursdays and are free.

Choose any number of the following webinars to attend when you register.  Topics include:

Jan. 14 - Lean Farming: Cutting Waste and Maximizing Efficiency on Small Farms, Zack Grant, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Jan. 28 - Farm Pond Ecology: Managing for Desirable Plants and Fish, David Shiley, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Feb. 4 - Producing Shiitake Mushrooms, Grant McCarty, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Feb. 11 - Managing Horse Pastures on Small Farms and Acreages, Jamie Washburn, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Feb. 18 - The Emerging Local Grain Economy in Illinois, Bill Davison, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Feb. 25 - Food Safety Modernization Act: Changes for Small Scale Producers, Laurie George, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Mar. 3 - Getting Your Beehives Ready for Spring, Doug Gucker, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Mar. 10 - Raising Meat Birds on Pasture, Andy Larson, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Mar. 17 - Using Cover Crops on Small Farms, Nathan Johanning, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Mar. 24 - Growing Great Blackberries, Bronwyn Aly, University of Illinois Extension Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator

Mar. 31 Setting Up a Grazing System on a Small Farm, Jay Solomon, University of Illinois Extension Energy and Environmental Stewardship Educator

The webinars can be accessed on-line from your personal computer. In case you cannot attend these dates, register anyway to view an archived, recorded version. Information will be provided via email (the Monday after airing) for viewing at your convenience. They can also be accessed on our website at: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/smallfarm/webinar.html.  For more information, contact: Andy Larson, University of Illinois Extension, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator at 815-732-2191 or andylars@illinois.edu.  When you register, PLEASE MAKE SURE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS IS CORRECT.