• 27May

    Reminder: Microloans for Beginning Farmers

    Beginning farmers (or aspiring beginning farmers) and small farmers take note: in January 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) established a new Microloan program. The Michigan State University Cooperative Extension Service recently released this article reminding farmers to consider this funding opportunity.

    The new microloan program is designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans less than $35,000. The program provides a simplified application process compared to traditional farm loans, and it helps producers through their start-up years. These loans may be used for the following

    • Livestock and feed
    • Farm equipment
    • Fuel, farm chemicals, insurance and other operating costs, including family living expenses
    • Minor improvements or repairs to buildings
    • Refinance certain farm-related debts, excluding real estate

    For more information about these micoloans, please visit the Michigan State University Extension article noted above, or the Farm Service Agency microloan page.

    For additional information about funding resources for beginning farmers, please visit the beginningfarmers.org funding resources page.

  • 23Jan

    New Funding Opportunity for Small Farmers in Northern California and Delaware

    The FruitGuys Community Fund is a new non-profit (fiscally sponsored by Community Initiatives) started last year by The FruitGuys LLC to support on-going efforts in sustainable farming. The FruitGuys Community Fund mission is to support small independent
    American farms in their efforts for greater environmental and economic health, community engagement, and advocacy that supports sustainable agriculture.

    This first year they are focusing on small farms in Northern California and the Delaware Valley. Small grants ($2500-5000) will be made to farmers to aid in making their farms more sustainable. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2013. Apply at http://fruitguyscommunityfund.org/apply

    Please visit their website for more info: http://fruitguyscommunityfund.org/welcome

  • 15Jan

    USDA Finalizes New Microloan Program for Small Farmers, Veterans, & Socially Disadvantaged Producers!

    USDA Press Release 0010.13; Contact: Office of Communications 202-720-4623 

    Microloans up to $35,000 aim to assist small farmers, veterans, and socially disadvantaged producers

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced a new microloan program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. The new microloan program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. The microloan program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans.

    To learn how to apply click the “read more” tab. And for more information on farm financing visit: http://www.beginningfarmers.org/funding-resources/

    Read more »

  • 12Dec

    From Grazing to Goat Marketing: Grant Program Generates New Resources for Farmers

    The Cornell Small Farms Program is pleased to announce a variety of excellent new resources generated from project recipients of the 2012 “Small Farm Grants Program.” This program offers up to $5000 per year to organizations in New York that present compelling projects to serve and support small farms. This year, four projects were funded. An additional project to support a small dairy field day series during Summer, 2012 was also funded. Detailed reports reflecting on project successes and lessons learned, as well as additional educational materials for any of the initiatives below, are available at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/grants/

    New ‘How-To’ Grazing Video Series
    This new series of 12 “How-to-Graze” Videos was produced by Ken Smith and staff at Chenango County Cooperative Extension. If you’re a livestock farmer or educator looking to improve your understanding of grazing ‘best management’ practices, the series covers everything from setting up electric fence, water systems and laneways, to how to address weeds or periods of drought. The videos can all be found on the Cornell Small Farms Program You Tube Channel. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/cornellsmallfarms and scroll down to “Featured Playlists”. Thanks to CCE Chenango, Chenango County Grazing Farmers, Conservation Grazing Lands Initiative Educator Karen Hoffman, NRCS Educators Robert Declue and Lauren Johnson, among others for their collaboration on this series!

    Farmer Experiences and Models for Building Successful Farmer-Distributor Relationships
    Selling wholesale to the right distributor can save on the costs of direct marketing and move a larger quantity of product in an efficient manner. But is selling to a distributor right for your farm? Monica Roth of CCE Tompkins County and Becca Jablonski a PhD. Candidate in City & Regional Planning led this two-part research study. Phase I of the project consisted of interviews with NYS distributors to gage their interest in and requirements for selling to smaller producers. Part II of the project sought the farmer perspective. This second phase consisted of surveying small – mid-sized farmers to assess their experiences selling to distributors. The study indicates that there is increasing demand from local food retailers, restaurants and distributors for local foods and as a result, farmers are selling more produce to these buyers. For the medium sized farmers in the study, wholesale sales are now approaching half of their sales volume. Read interviews with distributors (Phase I) in 2012 issues of Small Farm Quarterly Magazine at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/quarterly/ Learn more about the farmer surveys and findings (Phase II) at http://smallfarms.cornell.edu/projects/grants/ For more information, please contact Monika Roth, mr55@cornell.edu or 607.272.2292 Read more »

  • 13Nov

    A new online platform for Farmers called FARMIST will be releasing soon for small farmers and the ag community to find, share, and organize their most valuable and relevant agricultural information. FARMIST will be especially valuable to organizations producing information, research, and opportunities for small farmers to make sure it is seen by as wide a farmer audience as possible.

    Please Like the Facebook page to join the conversation while we await the beta testing and full release: http://www.facebook.com/farmist.org

    You can also sign up for release information at www.farmist.org

    Best,
    Amy Sprague
    Founder, FARMIST
    http://www.facebook.com/farmist.org
    http://www.farmist.org
    @DesignPea
    amy@farmist.org

  • 04Jan

    Does the New Food Safety Bill Prevent Internet Sales by Small Producers? (click to read full article)

    EXCERPT: The new law will contain a provision that is intended to give small, local farmers and food producers some protection from the cost of developing risk management plans and product testing required by larger producers. Many small farms and food producers have embraced the Internet as a low-cost sales and marketing tool, and more and more consumers are buying online. The law can be interpreted in such as way as to restrict online sales as well…
  • 30Dec


    Michigan State University Extension Specialist Ron Goldy explores how to get started marketing your farm produce. In this first of three segments featured on Sustainable Farmer, Goldy talks about marketing options for small farmers ranging from opening a roadside stand to creating a full-blown farm market. He also explains how to make the decision about whether you should be a destination or drive-by farm market.

  • 14Dec

    The next head of the Senate Agriculture Committee has a history of helping small-scale producers… and supporting sustainable practices.

    Read the full article from the American Prospect

    EXCERPT: Stabenow has championed small producers. She supported a rural micro-entrepreneur assistance program that helps 10 or fewer employees to get small loans that provide start-up cash for organizations that provide training, marketing assistance, and other support for the businesses. In the food-safety bill… she sponsored a provision that would provide food-safety education and training for small farmers, and amendments that would exempt smaller producers from the record-keeping requirements many feared would drive them out of business. Stabenow has demonstrated concern over food deserts — areas in rural and urban landscapes that lack quality grocery stores — and many hope she’ll address food-security issues as chair.

  • 30Nov

    This information is presented in response to an e-mail inquiry from a reader. It is not an endorsement of the legislation, though I do believe the legislation is better for having these provisions included.

    The final Senate bill includes six amendments that each became part of the Manager’s amendment that the Senate has now approved.  Those include the amendments championed by:

    • Senator Sanders (D-VT) providing FDA authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.
    • Senator Bennet (D-CO) to reduce unnecessary paperwork and excess regulation required under the preventative control plan and the produce standards sections of the bill, including instructions to FDA to minimize the number of different standards that apply to separate foods, to make requirements scale appropriate, and to prohibit FDA from requiring farms and other food facilities to hire outside consultants to write food safety plans.
    • Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to provide for a USDA-delivered competitive grants program for food safety training for farmers, small processors and wholesalers, with a priority on small and mid-scale farms.
    • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to strip the bill of wildlife-threatening enforcement against “animal encroachment” of farms and require FDA to apply sound science to any requirements that might impact wildlife and wildlife habitat.
    • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-CO) to exempt farmers from extensive and expensive traceability and recordkeeping  requirements  if they sell food directly to consumers or to grocery stores, to allow labeling that preserves the identity of the farm through to the consumer to satisfy traceability requirements, and to in most cases limit farm recordkeeping to the first point of sale when the product leaves the farm.
    • Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Kay Hagan (D-NC) to give very small farms and food processing facilities as well as direct-market farms who sell locally the option of complying with state regulation or with modified, scale-appropriate federal regulation.

    To read the Managers amendment (without Tester-Hagan) go to: http://help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/WHI10337.pdf

    To read the Tester-Hagan amendment go to: http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/upload/tester_amendment_agreement.pdf. Note that this version has been changed in the following ways:

    • The FDA gains the authority to withdraw its exemption from a farm or facility that has been associated with a food-borne illness outbreak
    • The radius a facility or farm can sell direct within and still be eligible to be a “qualified end-user” has been reduced from 400 miles to 275 miles
    • Language has been added clarifying that farmers market sales are “direct-to-consumer” for FDA’s purposes

    You can find a .pdf with the full text of revisions to the Tester-Hagan amendment HERE.

  • 29Nov

    Article: Hagan Helps Keep Bill’s Onus Off Small Farms (NewsObserver)

    EXCERPT: The U.S. Senate returns to Washington on Monday preparing to pass a sweeping food safety bill that includes a key amendment supported by Sen. Kay Hagan. The amendment would exempt small farms from much of the Food and Drug Administration regulation that’s proposed in the bill. Hagan said the idea was to exempt farms that sell directly to consumers or restaurants and don’t have the lengthy farm-to-table production chain of larger producers. Such farms would still be subject to local and state regulations, Hagan said. The small farms amendment was opposed by big food producers, and its inclusion in the bill almost threatened to scuttle the legislation. But [Senator] Tester worked out a compromise last week. The head of the National Sustainable Agricultural [Agriculture] Commission [Coalition] told Food Safety News, an industry publication, that the organization was happy with the compromise. The compromise would reportedly allow the FDA to withdraw a small farm’s exemption if food-borne illnesses are found on the farm.

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