• 10Mar

    Winners Announced for the 4th Annual John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize! - Recipients to be Honored at Family Farm Defenders Dinner and Award Ceremony on Sat. March 14th from 5-9 pm at the UW-Madison Pyle Center

    Family Farm Defenders is pleased to announce the two winners of this year’s John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize.  They are Carsten Thomas from Moorhead, MN and Emmet Fisher and Cella Langer from Mt. Horeb, WI.  Carsten operates a diverse organic farm in the Red River Valley, honoring Native food heritage, and also offers many hands-on environmental education programs.  Cella and Emmet own Oxheart Farm producing food for farmers markets and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program.  Cella & Emmet also manage the Farley Center’s Farm Incubator and Land Link program outside Verona, WI.

    Each prize winner will be receiving a $2000 cash prize, as well as a local food fair trade gift basket, at an award dinner to be held on Sat. March 14th from 5-9pm at the UW-Madison Pyle Center (702 Langdon St. in Madison).  They keynote speaker for this year’s ceremony is Marty Strange, co-founder of the Center for Rural Affairs and author of the book, Family Farming: a New Economic Vision.  The title of his talk will be:  Family Farming – From Deep Roots the Remnant Restores.  Mr. Strange will be introduced by UW Prof. Jack Kloppenburg who will also be giving an update of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) which he helped officially launch last year. Read more »

  • 04Mar

    National Farmers Union’s (NFU’s) Beginning Farmer Institute is a risk management, business, financial and leadership development program for Beginning Farmers. All beginning farmers are welcome to apply regardless of production technique or geographic region. This program does not offer technical agricultural instruction, but instead focuses on other key skills in agriculture, particularly in the areas of risk management. Participants will attend weekend sessions that focus on various topics such as writing a business plan, agricultural accounting, direct-marketing, public speaking etc. These sessions will also feature experiential learning through field trips and interaction with other beginning farmers and ranchers.

    The program takes place over 3 sessions throughout the US. The first session is in Washington, DC while the second and third rotate throughout the country. All costs of participating (airfare, meals, materials etc.) in the program are covered. Participants pay a $100 enrollment/registration fee upon acceptance into the program—this is the only fee associated with participation.

    This program is a wonderful opportunity to further develop the skills necessary to succeed and grow a farm business as well as meet other beginning farmers from around the country.

    For more information please visit: http://nfu.org/education/beginning-farmer-institute

    To apply please visit: http://nfu.org/images/2015BFIApplication.pdf

  • 17Feb

    The latest ag census showed that a significant number of American farms are considered “beginning farms” 25.8% in total. The image below, from Farm Credit show where the numbers are highest and lowest.

    Check out the full blog post from Farm Credit and see more images like this at http://www.fccouncil.com/young-beginning/the-agrophile/census-operators-beginning-farms.html

    Beginning Farms

  • 05Feb

    USDA Invests $18 Million to Train Beginning Farmers and Ranchers: Emphasis on Veterans and Limited

    New Orleans, LA – Feb. 2, 2015 – Today, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (USDA) announced more than $18 million in grants to educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of farmers. The grants are available through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which was authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill).

    “As new farmers and ranchers get started, they are really looking to their community for support. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program empowers these farmers and ranchers to bring innovative ideas to the table when it comes to addressing food security, creating economic enterprises, and building communities,” said Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. “As we celebrate the first anniversary of the 2014 Farm Bill, programs like these are evidence that an investment in beginning farmers and ranchers is an investment in our future”.

    The grant announcement was made at Recirculating Farms Coalition in New Orleans. Recirculating Farms received a BFRDP grant to develop training sessions focusing on soil-based production and aquaculture for new and beginning farmers in New Orleans.

    The BFRDP program, first established by the 2008 Farm Bill, aims to support those who have farmed or ranched less than 10 years with workshops, educational teams, training, and technical assistance throughout the United States. NIFA awards grants to organizations that implement programs to train beginning farmers and ranchers. Today’s announcement was funded by the 2014 Farm Bill, which continued authorization of this program.

    The 2014 Farm Bill mandated at least five percent of BFRDP funding support veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers. Among today’s announcement, more than 15 percent of the funded projects have a substantial component that supports veterans and farming, while about 50 percent of the projects focus mainly on socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. A fact sheet with a complete list of awardees and project descriptions is available on the USDA website.

    • Since 2009, 184 awards have been made for more than $90 million through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. These awards are part of USDA’s deep commitment to beginning farmers and ranchers. Additional USDA investment in beginning farmers and ranchers include:
    • Since 2009, FSA has issued more than 8895,000 direct and guaranteed farm operating and farm ownership loans to beginning farmers and ranchers.
    • FSA’s microloan program, an important access point to credit for some new farmers and ranchers, has issued more than 9,600 microloans totaling $188 million. Seventy percent of these loans have gone to beginning farmers. Recently, USDA raised the ceiling for microloan from $35,000 to $50,000, giving new farmers access to more credit.
    • The 2014 Farm Bill also strengthens the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for new producers by reducing the premiums on buy-up level coverage by 50 percent for new farmers and waiving their application fee. USDA announced this new tool for farmers and ranchers in 2015.
    • USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grants program gives priority to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them increase revenues through value-added agriculture, marketing, and new product development. Since 2009, more than 25 percent of 853 awarded Value Added Producer Grants went to beginning farmers and ranchers. Read more »
  • 05Feb

    The Cornell Small Farms Program is excited to announce that they have been awarded a 3-year grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (BFRDP) that will enable them to provide new support services for military veterans seeking to farm, and for “advanced beginning” farmers who have 3-9 years of farming experience. Matching funds are provided by their collaborators at the NY Farm Viability Institute and the Local Economies Project.

    Since 2009 they have operated the Northeast Beginning Farmer Project, a vibrant educational and social network that delivers mentoring, information resources, and training to beginning farmers and service providers who support new farm viability. Their long-term goal is to ensure access to resources, education and supportive networks to all who are interested in farming in the Northeast.

    With these new funds they will create training programs and farmer-to-farmer networks to address the needs of two under-served farmer groups: military/veteran farmers and individuals who have been farming for 3-9 years. Our team of collaborators includes: Cornell Cooperative Extension, National Center for Appropriate Technology, NY Farm Viability Institute, Farmer Veteran Coalition, NY FarmNet, NY Dept of Veterans Affairs, Local Economies Project, Institute for Veterans and Military Families, and Heroic Food Farm School.

    Together they will:

    • Connect farm and veteran service providers to create the Farmer Veteran Coalition of NY
    • Offer annual 5-day intensive entrepreneurial “boot camps” to military veterans seeking to farm
    • Develop approved on-the-job training opportunities on farms, allowing military vets to use GI benefits to get hands-on farm experience
    • Create regional farmer veteran networking groups
    • Provide 40 advanced beginning farmers with intensive support from a “New Farmer Profit Team” of advisers
    • Develop 8 new online courses geared toward advanced beginners seeking to diversify with new enterprises
    • Design intensive trainings on scaling up, including wholesale marketing and equipment decision-making

    For questions or further details, please contact Anu Rangarajan or Erica Frenay by email, or call 607-255-9911.

  • 02Feb

    A large part of farming is raising your own chickens for eggs and/or meat. In a lot of cases, farmers may purchase eggs or day old chicks to raise, but beyond that many take interest in raising their own chickens. A necessity to the egg raising process is a virile rooster, of course, and he needs to be fertile in order for eggs laid to be able to hatch, but how do you know if your rooster is not only ready and willing but also able to hit the mark?

    One of the main reasons it is vital to have a fertile rooster is for the successful hatching of chicks. If you intend to raise future generations of egg layers or meat birds without purchasing those individuals, both your hens and rooster will need to mate successfully. It is unfortunate to have a hen lay eggs and then waste the 21 day incubation period sitting on those that will not hatch. This wastes precious egg laying time not only during those 21 days but also during the time it takes a broody hen to start laying again afterwards, which can vary amongst birds.

    There are many reasons a rooster may not be performing successful matings with the hens in his charge. For one thing, the ratio of hens to rooster needs to be realistic, which is typically about 10-12 hens per rooster. Try though he might to mate with all hens present, there may simply be too many for him to mate with each hen in turn, or he may play favorites, mating mostly with those he prefers. It is also possible that a rooster could be faced with infertility due to age. It may appear that he is doing his part to ensure egg fertilization when in fact he is just going through the motions which results in egg waste. It will then be necessary to retire that rooster should you wish to continue raising chicks.

    Photo: UC Davis

    Photo: UC Davis

    A quick and easy way to check the ability of your rooster to continually fertilize his hens is through candling. This method has been practiced for many years through the use of specialized lights (sold at farm and garden stores) held up to the egg. The goal is to locate the embryo to confirm a life is growing inside. In some cases, instead of being able to the see the actual embryo, the egg will instead appear opaque, which is another sign of a successful mating. As you candle eggs over the course of a few days, it will be possible to observe a growing embryo and shrinking air sack, although soonest visible are blood vessels. If the egg is not fertilized, the yolk will appear to float free and have a more uniform coloration.

    An alternative to candling involves actually cracking the egg open to check for fertilization, which is counter-productive if you wish for those eggs to hatch. However, this could be done intermittently to ensure your rooster’s performance or simply to sate your curiosity before you are ready to begin hatching eggs. As you crack the egg, take care not to bust the yolk as this will make it difficult to see the telltale signs of fertilization. Pour the shell contents into a bowl or pan of contrasting color and look for a white spot. If that spot is solid, it is a blastodisc and is not fertilized. However, if it presents as a bullseye, you have a blastoderm which is fertilized and would hatch under ordinary circumstances.

    Photo: North Macag Science

    Photo: North Macag Science

    After mating, fertilized eggs will be laid as soon as two days and hens can go on to lay fertilized eggs for up to three weeks from that very same mating. In the event that you wish to pair a certain rooster and hen, it will be necessary to keep that hen free of rooster exposure for three weeks in order for her to lay eggs from the future pairing you desire. Then, once that mating is complete, arm yourself with the proper light and candle resulting eggs for confirmation of a successful mating. Though candling can be a tough skill to master, once you have some experience under your belt, it is sure to save disappointment down the road as well as egg waste at the same time.

  • 02Feb

    Article: Ten ways to support the next generation of farmers

    A new wave of food pioneers, mostly from non-farming backgrounds, is turning to careers in agriculture. But farming is a career path filled with obstacles, and today’s young farmers need our support.

    By Maryann Conigliaro, The Christian Science Monitor

    “Over the last 30 years, the average age of farmers has steadily increased, according to the U.S. Census Bureau . The U.S. Department of Agriculture  (USDA) reports that half of all current farmers are likely to retire in the next decade, leaving a large gap for the next generation to fill. Fortunately, a new wave of food pioneers, mostly from non-farming backgrounds, is turning to careers in agriculture. This career path comes with its fair share of hurdles. According to Lindsay Lusher Shute , executive director and co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition  (NYFC), “Capital and land top most young farmers’ lists” as their biggest challenges. Here are 10 ways to help the next generation of farmers nourish future consumers:”

    Learn about 10 ways to support the next generation of farmers by reading the full article at: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Bite/2015/0126/Ten-ways-to-support-the-next-generation-of-farmers

  • 28Jan

    Earlier this month the National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) released a Request for Applications (RFA) for the 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

    The deadline for applications is 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 13.

    The RFA is posted on NIFA’s website: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/rfas/pdfs/15_bfrdp.pdf

    NIFA will host a webinar to answer questions about the RFA on Wednesday, February 11th at 4:00pm EST. Here is the link to the webinar:  http://nifa-connect.nifa.usda.gov/bfrdp15rfa/

    Additional resources, including an FAQ, is available on the NIFA website: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/funding/bfrdp/bfrdp.html

  • 21Jan

    Young Farmer PictureRookie Farmers Get the Dirt on How to Make It Work: Getting Schooled on How to Sprout a Farm Business

    By Nancy Matsumoto, Wall Street Journal

    At a two-day conference last week in New York’s Hudson Valley, Tyler Dennis was among the 250 attendees picking up pointers on how to make a living from the land.

    The agenda covered agricultural practices ranging from soil science, crop rotation and open-source tool sharing to rabbit husbandry and “farming with empathy.” A whole-pig butchering demonstration and lavish farm-to-table meals offered ample proof of concept at the event, which took place at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

    The goal is to help young newcomers such as Mr. Dennis, 25 years old and a recent Cornell University graduate, to sprout a farm business.

    Mr. Dennis hadn’t attended college with a vision of weather watching and dirty fingernails; he had majored in film…

    Read the full article at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/rookie-farmers-get-the-dirt-on-how-to-make-it-work-1418004362

    Also check out these articles about young and beginning farmers:

    Journal News: Young Farmers: the New Face of the Local Food Movement

    Innovation Trail: Teaching Sustainable Business to Young Farmers

    Huffington Post: Where Agriculture and Climate Change Meet

    New York Times, Dot Earth: On Smaller Farms, Including Organic Farms, Technology and Tradition Meet

    New York Times: Satisfying the Need for Dirty Fingernails

    National Public Radio: Who are the Young Farmers of ‘Generation Organic’

  • 19Jan

    Beginning farmers on-line training offered by Michigan State University Extension

    Attention beginning farmers! The MSU Extension 2015 Beginning Farmer Webinar Series is available for you to gain knowledge needed to plan your start-up farming operation, or add a new enterprise to an existing farm.  A series of twenty, 2-hour evening webinars covering a wide variety of farm- related topics is available, including:

    “Getting started with….”

    …Small Grain Production, Jan. 26  

    …Cover Crops in Organic Vegetable Crop Rotations, Feb. 2

    …Integrated Pest Management, Feb. 4

    …Manure Storage, Handling and Mortality Management on Small Farms, Feb. 11

    …Beekeeping for Pollination and Honey, Feb 13

    …Value-Added Agriculture, Feb. 18

    …Farm Food Safety, Feb 23

    …Sheep and Goat Management, March 2

    …USDA Organic Certification, March 9

    …Hop Production, March 11

    …Season Extension, March 16

    …Marketing, March 18

    …Small Fruit Production, March 23

    …Beef Cow-Calf Production, March 25

    …Direct Marketing, March 30

    …Managing Soil, Irrigation and Fertilization Interactions, April 1

    …Cover Crops in Field Crop Rotations, April 6

    …Poultry Production, April 20

    …Small Farm Equipment, April 27

    …Beef Feedlot Management, April 29

    A fee of $10 per webinar is required, or you can register for the entire series for $100.  Webinar recordings will be provided to all registered participants.  Participate from the comfort and convenience of your own home or office.  Registration, a brochure containing details on each individual program, and on-line or mailed payment options can be found at http://events.anr.msu.edu/beginningfarmerwebinars/

    Each program begins at 7pm eastern time and will last about 2 hours.  A  high-speed internet connection is required.  You will receive webinar connection information after you register.

    Contact the Alger County MSU Extension office at 906-387-2530 or isleibj@anr.msu.edu for more information.

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