• 19Dec

     Ag Opportunities Newsletter:

    December 2013 Issue Highlights Winter Learning Opportunities for Farmers

    In this post, we’re highlighting the Ag Opportunities newsletter, a product of the Missouri Alternatives Center of the Missouri Cooperative Extension service.

    The Ag Opportunities online newsletter is oriented toward small farms, new farms, and agricultural alternatives. The December 2013 issue of the newsletter lists a bunch of opportunities for learning this winter for farmers in Missouri and beyond. Also, the Missouri Alternatives Center offers many great resources for beginning farmers, which you can find here.

    The newsletter is archived all the way back to 1990, with helpful articles such as “As a New Farmer, What Funding Opportunities are Available to Me?”; “A Series of High Tunnel Articles”; “Building a Low Cost Cold Room”; and “Financing for Beginning Farmers.”

    What’s in the newsletter this month? Here’s the list of topics:

    • Lots of Learning This Winter Season
    • Monthly Beginning Farmer Webinars – IPM, Irrigation and Cold Storage
    • Great Plains Growers Conference Agenda
    • Farm Commons Webinars (Legal Topics)
    • Free Marketing Webinar Series
    • USDA Announces Notice of Funding Availability for Value-Added Producer Grants
    • Farmers Market of the Ozarks and CRAFT Educational Courses
    • Small Farms Winter Webinar Series
    • Grants and Financial Assistance
      In Print/On-Line/In The News
    • On The Calendar
  • 10Dec

    Free Webinar: On-Farm Vegetable Crop Storage

    The Missouri Beginning Farmers Program’s monthly webinars are suitable for beginning and experienced farmers alike. On-Farm Crop Storage: Planning, Design and Management with Scott Sanford from the University of Wisconsin was presented on December 2, 2013. Though the live event has obviously now past, the webinar was recorded and added to the Online Learning Community (OLC). Each Missouri Beginning Farmers Program webinar is added to the OLC, so click the link above to access many archived presentations.

    Scott Sanford has been working with farmers on on-farm storage for years. He just recently completed a grant about on-farm cold storage; he shares his findings in the December webinar.

    The next webinar will be February 3, 2014:Farm Equipment – Tractor and Implement Sizing, with Charles Ellis, University of Missouri Extension Regional Ag and Natural Resources Engineer Specialist.

    To join the February 2 webinar live, click here and sign in under “guest” with your name. All webinars begin at 7 pm and end by 8:30 pm. As noted above, each webinar will be recorded and added to the Online Learning Community.

  • 09Dec

    Free Beginning Farmer Webinar Wed., Dec. 11th 3-4:15 pm (Eastern)

    Connecting Beginning Farmers to New MarketsStart-up Advice & Resources for Gaining Access to Farmers Markets

    Panel Presenters: Leanne DuBois, VA Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Grown Program; Ellen Stewart, Blacksburg Farmers Market; Meredith Ledlie, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Family Nutrition Program

    To participate in this webinar, please go to:http://connect.ag.vt.edu/access2farmersmarket/ (click “read more” for more information about how to connect to the webinar)

    Summary:   Farmers markets are a growth industry in the nation and a great venue for new farmers to reach customers and sell products.  This panel discussion covers three related themes to help you gain access to farmers markets.  First, learn about farmers markets in the state, unique marketing opportunities and resources available to assist in marketing and promotion through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS).   Next, learn a few “best practices” for applying and participating in a local market.  There are many variations in farmers markets.  How do you find the best fit for your business?   How do you apply?   Third, learn the ins and outs of accepting SNAP benefits (food stamps) at the farmers market or by applying for your own machine as a new vendor, discussed  by our Virginia Cooperative Extension, Family Nutrition Program.   And don’t miss the question and answer session at the end of the panel discussion! Read more »

  • 05Dec

    Lansing Roots Beginning Farmer Program in Michigan 2014

    Lansing Roots is a program of the Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB), designed to help beginning farmers from the greater Lansing area begin successful market gardening and farming enterprises through an incubator farm setting.  Our primary purpose is to encourage beginning farmers to grow produce for sale in Mid-Michigan.

    The GLFB has been supporting home and community gardens for over thirty years through the Garden Project. With a network of over 90 community gardens, the Garden Project served over 5,000 individuals in 2012. Lansing Roots will serve as a complement to the GLFB’s on-going support for community gardens by encouraging successful gardeners and interested entrepreneurs to develop farm enterprises, and by lowering the barriers to success.

    Designed to host new farm businesses for 2-5 years, the incubator plots for first year farmers are 100’ x 100’ (1/4 acre). With opportunities to expand in later years, participants will have the opportunity to scale up their farm production to support their new businesses.   Lansing Roots is also home to a Demonstration Farm which grows donation produce for the GLFB to distribute to the 200+ agencies it serves. In addition, it provides an outdoor classroom for farmers, interns, and volunteers as it hosts workshops and showcases different styles of crop production.

    Lansing Roots focuses on limited resource and historically under-served individuals and is made possible through a Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program grant through the USDA-NIFA.  With an emphasis on refugee, immigrant, minority, low-income, and women farmers, we accept applications from all beginning farmers.  Applicants should have a background and strong interest in farming or gardening. Most successful applicants will have participated in a farmer training program, apprentice or internship, will have an agricultural background from their country of origin, or have completed multiple seasons of community gardening successfully.

    You can get a lot more information about this program by clicking Read More -> Read more »

  • 05Dec

    A Beginning Rancher’s Experience with NRCS

    A beginning rancher, Jorge Espinoza, is featured on USDA’s blog regarding his experience with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Read an excerpt from the blog post below.

    Excerpt: Despite the ongoing drought in part of Texas, there are always people who want to get into the cattle raising business. A growing segment of these new beef producers are non-traditional small-tract landowners, such as Jorge Espinoza of Laredo.

    Espinoza just purchased his first 50 acres, and he quickly learned that if he was to be successful, he needed expert advice.

    Through word of mouth, Espinoza heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency that works with farmers and landowners to implement conservation on private lands… 

    To map out how to accomplish his long-term goals, Espinoza worked with NRCS to create a conservation plan. That’s when Espinoza found out that he qualified for assistance through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative, and through it, would be able to install a solar pump on an existing water well. The new pump eliminated his need to pump water from the well with a generator, saving energy and money.

    You can read more about Jorge’s experience here.

     

  • 04Dec

    Local Food Leaders Hang Out

    And Talk About Beginning Farmers

    Want to learn more about how the Land Stewardship Project has used USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to train new and beginning farmers in Minnesota? Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project was one of the panelists during a Google+ Hangout (a live, virtual panel) on November 21; she discussed beginning farmers issues in relation to the development of local food systems.  

    The Google+ Hangout was hosted by Elanor Starmor, National Coordinator and Advisor, Local and Regional Food Systems, at USDA. On her blog post about the hanout, she wrote: “Each panelist spoke eloquently and passionately about how USDA programs have supported their work.  They were loud and clear that without a Farm Bill and USDA resources, this important work they do in the local and regional food community is at stake. But don’t take my word for it.  Take theirs.  You can view the entire conversation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBI5VYRhOU.

    You can read more at Elanor’s “Local Food Leaders Take a Break to Hang Out” post or watch the recording of the Google+ Hangout linked to above.

  • 03Dec

    New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

    Farm Business Planning Course, Massachusetts and Online, Winter 2013-2014

    New Entry Sustainable Farming Project is offering two versions of its flagship Farm Business Planning Course again this winter. Learn to develop and plan for your farm business in either a classroom setting or a web-based learning environment!

    Both courses will cover all aspects of planning for the long-term financial success of your farm business, including how to: Select farm enterprises, create enterprise budgets and develop a farm business plan; Identify the markets in your area and promote your farm products; Find and evaluate the materials, equipment, and additional information and resources you will need as a farmer; and develop a crop production or livestock husbandry plan.

    Apply now for the winter session of either the classroom-based or the online Farm Business Planning Course!  Please select which learning style (classroom or online option) works best for you.

    Option 1: Classroom-Based Farm Business Planning Course

    Dates: January 8 – February 26, 2014 * Schedule: Wednesday evenings, 6-9 pm * Location: 155 Merrimack Street, Lowell, MA * Course fee: $400, or sliding scale, based on tuition scholarship application ($80 – $400) * Application Deadline: December 20, 2013 * Questions? Email Sam Anderson at sanderson@comteam.org or call (978) 654-6745.

    Option 2: Online Farm Business Planning Course

    Dates: January 4 – March 22, 2014 * Flexible schedule and location with 1 mandatory in-person orientation session to be held in downtown Boston, MA * Course fee: $500, or sliding scale, based on tuition scholarship application ($100 – $500) * Application Deadline: December 20, 2013 * Questions? Email Meredith Epstein at meredith.epstein@tufts.edu or call (978) 654-6745.

    Read more »

  • 02Dec

    What to Watch for this Winter

    Over at Agriculture.com, Jeff Caldwell, the Multimedia Editor posted “Things to Watch for Young Farmers This Winter.” He largely relies on the advice of Iowa State University Extension field specialist Shane Ellis to say a thing or two about the challenges young and/or beginning farmers might face this winter.

    Excerpt: “The opportunities and challenges for beginning farmers have never been so pronounced. Extremes in interest rates, commodity price volatility, land values and rental rates are all converging to both encourage and prevent the entrance of new beginning farmers into production agriculture,” says Iowa State University Extension field specialist Shane Ellis. 

    Taking advantage of those opportunities has been made more difficult than normal this year. Many young and beginning farmers rely on federal loan programs, some of which have yet to receive funding for the coming year. So, planning around the absence of those federal funds may be a reality unless the federal government takes action soon, Ellis says. But, if you can hold off and wait for those programs to kick back to life, they’ll eventually be fed.

    Perhaps Ellis’s words are not applicable to all beginning farmers in all places. Nevertheless, you can read more from Caldwell and Ellis by clicking the link above.

  • 28Nov

    It’s Thanksgiving!

    And that means… microloans?

    Ok. Thanksgiving doesn’t really have anything to do with microloans. But, just because I want to write about microloans doesn’t mean I should pretend it isn’t Thanksgiving, right?

    Right. So, some readers may recall that USDA introduced a new microloan program earlier this year. What’s the status of this program? The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) wanted to find out, and asked: “Are USDA Microloans Reaching Farmers Across America?

    The short answer is: Yes!

    A still relatively cursory, but slightly more expository answer might go something like: 3,400 loans have been granted in more than 50 states, more so in some locales than others, more so to some demographics than others, and there’s probably some room for improvement, but things are looking pretty good!

    Beginning farmers are a big part of the microloan story. NSAC notes, “Although there is no explicit priority or set-aside for microloans made to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers,” typically the beginning farmer population operates a smaller than average operation and has smaller credit needs. Thus, NSAC was unsurprised that 68 percent of all microloans made this year went to beginning farmers. NSAC reports: “In total, over 2,300 beginning farmers benefited from this new streamlined loan program, and were able to secure over $44 million to invest in their up and coming farming operations this year.”

    You can find in depth analysis of state of the microloan program on NSAC’s blog here. You can also access many great funding-related resources on our aptly named funding resources page.

  • 23Nov

    Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

    On November 21, 2013, USDA announced new appointments (farmers, advocates, technical service providers and bankers) to serve on the Advisory Committee for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC): This well-established though recently dormant advisory committee serves an important role in providing a direct link between the beginning farmer community, lenders, and USDA, and helps to inform federal programs and policies that expand opportunities for new farmers to build a career in agriculture.   Specific expertise and areas of focus for the committee include farm transition, generational farm transfers, new farmer training, access to land and credit, and emerging opportunities for new farmers within local and regional food systems.

    According to NSAC, the committee’s next meeting will be announced in the Federal Register prior to the meeting and will include the meeting date, details and topics for discussion.

    Links! The USDA’s press release can be found here. The committee’s website can be accessed here, though it’s not yet updated with the new members yet. You can see a list of new members on NSAC’s blog here and read more about the committee.

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