• 11Mar

    Internship on Organic Farm and Value-Added Operation in Michigan, 2013

    Food for Thought Farm is a certified organic farm based in northwest Michigan.  The operation includes: a small on-farm, organic, value-added bottling facility to make organic and fair trade specialty foods; managed forests for wild leek harvesting; cultivation of a little under an acre of organic lavender flowers, basil, onions and peppers used as ingredients in bottled products.  There is also a staff garden and chicken coop.

    The farm is seeking an intern for the 2013 season. Duties include the maintenance of organic waste processing via composting and vermiculture; growing herbs and specialty crops for use in products, managing the chicken coop and staff garden. There will be opportunities for harvesting wild leeks in our forest in early Spring.

    For more information and how to apply, click read more

    Read more »

  • 11May

    Ramps, the wild leeks of the woods are in season here up north and many farmers are harvesting them to sell to co-ops, restaurants, at farmers markets, and including them in early CSA boxes.

    Ramps Wild Leeks

    Freshly harvested Ramps


    Many specialty food stores are selling them for over $10 per pound! They are wonderful tasting and easy to harvest. When they are young you can eat the leaves as well as the shoots (just like a scallion).

    The ones in the picture to the right we got this morning while we were morel hunting.

    At this time of the year they are tender and sweet. when they get older the bottom part can be chopped up and used like a leek or a green onion in all sorts of wonderful dishes.

    Pickled Ramps

    Pickled Ramps

    We actually pickle these bottom parts of the older ones, and eat them all year. They’re great on a cracker, in a salad, or just on their own.

    Some people worry that the value of these wild delicacies are causing them to be over-harvested in many places. I’ve not seen evidence of this myself, but try to leave parts of every patch I find so they will come up the next year.

    Look for them in the understory in older woodlands where hardwood trees grow.

    Ramps, are well worth the time they take to find, harvest, clean, and even pickle.

    - Taylor

  • 25Feb

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

    On Wednesday, February 23,  Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan held a press conference call regarding today’s release of the interim final rule for the Value-Added Producer Grant program.  Calling VAPG “one of my all time favorite programs,” Merrigan spoke about how the grants fund innovation and entrepreneurship among American farmers and ranchers and provide opportunities to expand the nation’s economy.

    Specific to the interim rule, the Deputy Secretary said the agency “really took to heart the input we had from the public” and then noted several changes from the proposed rule that are consistent with comments submitted by NSAC and its members.  For example, outlined in the interim rule, applicants can count time spent as an in-kind contribution up to 25 percent of the total project’s cost.  Explains Merrigan, “this is really important because there is no one who will be working harder than the entrepreneur.”

    Other achievements for NSAC and its member that Merrigan discussed included a greater emphasis on mid-tier value chains that “will go a long way for regional food systems” and an increase in the threshold for medium-sized farms to $1 million in annual gross sales, which benefits agriculture of the middle.

    In an effort to raise awareness about the substantial and widespread possibilities and benefits of VAPGs, Merrigan created a video in which she tests several value-added products that have received funding through the program. Click here to read the USDA press release about the interim rule and here to watch the video from the USDA test kitchen.

    Finally, Merrigan confirmed that the much-anticipated Notice of Solicitation of Applications (NOSA) for the next grant period is forthcoming.  NSAC will notify its members when this occurs.

  • 21Dec

    Title: Valued-Added Products Business Manager, ADAMAH Farm + CSA

    Type: Full-time

    Location: Falls Village, CT

    Compensation: Competitive Salary and Benefits. On-site housing is available.

    Position begins May 2011.

    The Value-Added Products Business Manager will oversee all operations of the Adamah Value-Added Products Business, including production (10%), marketing, sales and distribution (65%) and Adamah faculty (25%). Read more »

  • 12Dec

    This position has been filled, please do not apply.

    Title: Farm Manager, Heaven and Earth Farm

    Location: North San Juan, California

    Compensation: The farm manager position provides an on-farm cabin, most food, utilities, plus salary and bonus averaging $23,000 per year.

    Start Date: ASAP

    Heaven and Earth Farm, an established diversified organic vegy, fruits, berries, grapes, flowers, chickens, bees, nursery and farm seeks experienced, motivated young farmer to manage the farm, and teach young people farming and gardening. We have four acres of production on 11 acres in the beautiful Sierra foothills, 30 minutes from Nevada City, California. Read more »

  • 21Jun

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)


    HELP SHAPE THE VALUE-ADDED PRODUCER GRANT PROGRAM: Comment Deadline June 28, 2010 Family farm advocates have an important opportunity to help shape the Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG). USDA has requested comments on the administrative rules that will govern the implementation of this important program.   VAPG offers competitive grants to farmers and ranchers developing new farm and food-related business enterprises that boost farm income, create jobs, and increase rural economic opportunity.


    NSAC Applauds USDA Proposal for a Fairer Deal for Farmers and Ranchers in Livestock and Poultry Markets: On Thursday, June 18, NSAC issued a press release applauding a proposed regulation, issued by USDA’s Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), to increase protections for farmers and ranchers in their dealings with packers and processors.

    USDA Issues Assessment of Conservation Practices in Upper Mississippi River: On Wednesday, June 16, USDA announced the release of the reportAssessment of the Effects of Conservation Practices on Cultivated Cropland in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Nearly one-half the acres in the Basin are planted to corn or soybeans, so the Report focuses on the effects of nutrients and sediment from agricultural land on water quality in the Basin.

    First FSIS Public Hearing On Controversial Guidance On June 14, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) held the first of three public meetings to discuss and receive comments on their controversial HACCP Systems Validation Guidance document aimed at small and very-small meat and poultry facilities.  View the FSIS Press release here.


    NSAC Issues New Fact Sheet on the Conservation Stewardship Program: NSAC has issued a new five page fact sheet on the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The fact sheet reflects changes to the program made under the final rule issued on June 3, 2010 by USDA as well as other administrative changes affecting the current sign up now under way.  Farmers and ranchers wanting to enroll in the Conservation Stewardship Program have until June 25th to file a simple application form with their local NRCS office.

  • 07Jun

    From the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

    USDA News

    6/4/10 – Noble on EPA Ag Advisory Committee On June 3, the Environmental Protection Agency announced the 29 new members of the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Committee for its 2010-2012 term. We are proud to say that Martha Noble, NSAC Senior Policy Associate, has been renamed to the panel for a second term.  Noble is a lawyer and NSAC’s policy specialist on agriculture and environment issues.

    6/4/10 – Applications Invited for the Rural Microentreprenuer Assistance Program USDA’s Rural Business – Cooperative Service has issued a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the Rural Microentreprenuer Assistance Program (RMAP).   Published on Thursday June 3, in conjunction with the National Rural Summit, the NOFA announces the availability of $45.1 million in support for Microenterprise Development Organizations to provide loans and technical assistance and training to rural microentreprenuers and microenterprises

    6/4/10 – NSAC Delivers Research Comments; Opportunity to Comment Still Open On Wednesday, June 2, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) held a stakeholder listening session on its largest competitive research grants program, the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). NSAC’s Policy Director Ferd Hoefner and member organizations, the Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Union of Concerned Scientists, delivered oral remarks.

    6/4/10FSIS Announces Public Hearing on Controversial Guidance On June 4, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced a series of public meetings in response to the release of their controversial guidance document back in March on HACCP Systems Validation for small and very small meat and poultry processing facilities.

    6/3/10 – CSP Final Rule Released; Deadline Extended USDA published the final rule for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in the June 3 Federal Register.

    6/3/10 – 2009 Value-Added Awards Announced As part of today’s activities associated with the National Rural Summit hosted by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack in Hillsboro, Missouri, USDA announced the long-awaited awards for the 2009 round of Value-Added Producer Grants.

    Congressional News

    6/4/10 – Farm Bill Hearings to Commence In Senate This Tuesday, June 1, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) announced that the Committee will begin hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill at the end of this month.

    6/2/10 – New Farm to School Act in House Last Friday, May 28, Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN),  Tom Latham (R-IA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the National Farm to School Act of 2010 (H.R. 5456) along with 22 original cosponsors.

    5/28/10 - Congress Yet to Finish on Pigford, Farm Credit, Child Nutrition Funding Last week we reported on several major pending pieces of legislation.  At that time, two bills – the so-called tax extenders bill and the emergency supplemental appropriations bill – seemed like they might be resolved by today, the beginning of the congressional recess week for Memorial Day.  Alas, while progress was made on both this week, final resolution will now not occur until after the Memorial Day recess is over.

    Other News and Resources

    6/4/10 – Farm Aid Economic Stimulus Report On June 2, the day before USDA’s National Rural Summit, Farm Aid released a new report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Economy with Family Farm-Centered Food Systems.”  NSAC’s Ferd Hoefner, Shepherd’s Grain’s Karl Kupers, and Fred Kirschenmann with the Leopold Center joined Farm Aid in a press briefing on the role family farmers and local and regional food systems can play in economic recovery efforts.

  • 04Jun

    Organic Tree Fruit Field Day to be held June 19th in Berrien Center, Michigan

    When: Saturday, June 19th,  from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

    Where: Earth First Farms, 8335 Smith Road Berrien Center, MI 49102

    Why: The event will begin with a walking tour of the orchard with practical information and ideas for starting or transitioning to organic orchard management. In the field, Dr. Matthew Grieshop of Michigan State University will provide a hands‐on educational presentation on pest identification and discuss strategies for preventing orchard damage. Participants will also have an opportunity to learn about cider making from “cider guru” Bob Tritten, MSU Horticultural Extension Specialist for Southeast Michigan. A grower panel with successful growers from around the state will discuss marketing options, share experiences and answer questions. Take‐home resources on organic orchard production and certificaton will also be available.

    How: Cost: $25 (OTFA members receive a $10 discount for this and all other OTFA-sponsored events). To register and get directions, call or email Bridget O’Meara at (715) 808-0060, OTFAinfo@gmail.com . The field day is open to the public and includes a catered lunch. Registration deadline is June 12th.

    Cheese Making Class

    When: Two classes will be held June 12 & July 17, 2010, from 1-4 p.m.

    Where: WestWind Milling Company, 8572 Silver Lake Road Linden, MI 48451

    Why: You will leave with the skills and info to help you create your own cheese for your family.

    How: Cost: $20 each, Ages 10 through adult. Limit 14 for each class. Register soon to guarantee your space.  If interested call WestWind Milling Company (810)735-9192, advanced payment is preferred.

    Michigan Pollinator Short Course Offered at No Cost

    When: June 24, 2010

    East Lansing, MI (Contact Jennifer Hopwood for more information)

    Why: This training session provides an overview of pollinator-specific language within the Farm Bill, and how to translate that language into on-the-ground conservation.

    Training objectives:

    • Awareness of various federal programs and funding available for pollinator conservation.
    • Identify approaches to increase and enhance pollinator diversity on the land.
    • Knowledge of the current best management practices that minimize land-use impacts on pollinators.
    • Ability to identify bees and distinguish them from other insects.
    • Understand the economics of insect-pollinated crops, and the effects of pollinator decline.
    • Knowledge of the 2008 Farm Bill pollinator conservation provisions and how to implement those provisions in programs such as WHIP, EQIP, and CSP.
    • Ability to assess pollinator habitat and to identify habitat deficiencies.
    • Ability to make recommendations to farmers and land managers that conserve pollinators (including subjects such as tillage, pesticide use, irrigation, burning, grazing, and cover cropping).
    • Ability to design and implement habitat improvements, such as native plant restoration and nest site enhancements.

    How: Cost: Free of charge. To register contact Jennifer Hopwood, Midwest Pollinator Outreach Coordinator
    The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, P.O. Box 299, St. Louis, MO 63166-0299
    , Tel: 913-579-5241 Email: jennifer@xerces.org

  • 29Mar

    On a recent Friday morning, Wheatberry Bakery in Amherst, Massachusetts, was humming with activity. Behind hand-built wooden counters set with delicate French tiles, co-owner Adrie Lester dealt a brisk business in organic scones and muffins, loaves of fragrant artisanal bread, soups, and sandwiches. In the bakery’s kitchen, her husband, Ben, kneaded a batch of dough, then paused to slip a tray of sourdough baguettes into the oven.

    The Lesters opened their business in 2005 and quickly established themselves as a neighborhood fixture. But in early 2008, everything changed. Commodity crop prices went haywire, sending the cost of flour soaring. “It was catastrophic,” Ben said. The Lesters decided that basing their products on an ingredient produced thousands of miles away in the Midwest no longer made good business sense, and they began to ask what it would take to source grain from local growers.

    Two years later, an estimated 10 percent of the grains they use are locally grown, a number they hope to increase over time. In the meantime, the Lesters have poured their energies into a related endeavor: organizing the region’s first grain CSA, which in 2009 had approximately 115 members, with a waiting list to match. Last October, Ben and Adrie installed an electric mill in their bakery; now, a day rarely passes without a member stopping by to say hello and grind some grain into flour. The Lesters offer a remarkable example of the creative, community-focused thinking that has driven the local foods movement for the past decade, and they are not alone. From Maine and Vermont to New York and Pennsylvania, a growing number of farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, and food educators are working to create a regional grain network throughout the Northeast.

    To read the entire article, go to: http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/03/the-breadbasket-of-america-new-england/37830/

  • 22Feb

    Beginning Farmers is proud to present this guest article on Agritourism and Farm Stays, by our friend Michelle Nowak. Be sure to check our Michelle’s blog at: http://farmstays.blogspot.com/

    Farm stays are one form of agritourism that is popular elsewhere in the world, though not yet well known here in the United States. But Americans are hungering to reconnect with farms — and yearning for fresh air, fresh food, and authentic, affordable vacations. As the desire to support small family farms grows, so does the appeal of taking a farm vacation. Compared to other kinds of agritourism, farm stays can be personal and foster deeper connections between farmers and their guests.

    What is a farm stay?

    A farm stay is any type of accommodation on a working farm. Farm stays can be, but aren’t necessarily, interactive. Some are family-focused, offering kids the opportunity to feed the animals and collect eggs. Others don’t allow children at all, instead offering a peaceful retreat for adults. For the accommodations, guests normally pay rates similar to area bed & breakfasts or vacation rentals, although pricing varies considerably. The term “farm stay” can also describe a work exchange agreement, where the guest works a set number of hours per week in exchange for free or very cheap accommodations, such as those set up through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). Read more »

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