Virginia Association for Biological Farming

E-News Dec 8 2013

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Southern SAWG Conference: Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms
Mobile, AL – January 15 – 18 (pre-conference courses and tours Jan 15-16; general conference January 17-18)

This is not to be missed!  Once again, the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group will bring over 1,200 farmers, educators, advocates, and community food activists together from across the South to learn, share, network, celebrate, and innovate together.  Almost every grower who attends learns something that they can apply on their farms to benefit production, net profits, quality of life for the farming family, and/or the ecological footprint of their operation.  A few farmers have  informed us that the information gained at this Conference made the difference between success and going out of buisness.

And even when the benefits are not quite so dramatc, the Southern SAWG Conference is simply a lot of fun, exciting, and a great way to recharge one’s batteries in the middle of the winter.

Events start on Wednesday January 15 with 1.5-day short courses. Thursday afternoon offers a choice among several half-day minicourses and several farm tours.  The General Conference on Friday and Saturday offer a wide variety of breakout sessions with top notch presenters.  See attached Word file for a sampling of what the Conference has to offer.

One special feature of the Southern SAWG conference is the abundance of networking opportunities. In addition to the serendipitious conversations in hallways between sessions, the program includes two 90-minute networking sessions organized by state and by topic.  These can be among the most valuable parts of the experience.

If Mobile seems too far way, consider getting a carpool or van pool together from your area – it is a fun way to travel, especially on the way home when everyone in the vehicle is fired  up by what  all they learned. If you are located in the Tidewater area, especially the Middle Peninsula or the Williamsburg area, you may be able to join the vanpool that Charlie Maloney of Dayspring Farm is organizing. Call him at 804-785-9401, or

To find out more and to register, visit, Early Bird rates are good throughDecember 20, after which there is a modest increase in registration fees for preconference events and the general conference.

Value Added Producer Grants Program is Now Accepting Applications
Application deadline February 24, 2014

The Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG)  provides competitive grants to producers for working capital, feasibility studies, business plans, and marketing efforts to establish viable value-added businesses.  Individual producers, groups of producers, or farmer-controlled coops or businesses may apply.  The current grant round will combine $10.5 million available from fiscal year 2013 and additional sums, expected to be more than $13 million, that will be available from fiscal year 2014 appropriations once Congress has passed an agricultural funding bill for 2014.

For more information, including a link to USDA web site and application procedures,  visit

Conservation Stewardship Program Signup for 2014 is Now Open
Deadline for Initial Application is January 17, 2014

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provides financial and technical support to farmers in attaining and maintaining a high level of resource conservation and environmental stewardship.  As a major co-developer of the original CSP, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) provides a Farmers’ Guide to the CSP, available for free download.  For more information, visit

Whither the 2013 (or 2014?) Farm Bill?

After months of frustrating gridlock that left the Farm Bill under the bus, both houses of the US Congress have finally named Conferees to develop a final Farm Bill based on Senate and House versions written earlier this year.  The Conference has made some progress, and the “gang of four” – Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow, Senate Ag Ranking Member Thad Cochran, House Ag Chair Frank Lucas, and House Ag Ranking Member Colin Peterson – are hammering out a framework for a final bill.  This framework will likely be as far as things get before the New Year – hopefully we will have a farm bill we can life with by the end of January.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is developing action alerts for folks in states or districts whose Senators / Representatives are serving on the Farm Bill Conference.  That does not include any of Virginia’s Members of Congress – not even Ag Vice Chair Bob Goodlatte.  Thus, we are not on the alert list at present.  However, it never hurts to let your Senators and/or Representative know what your farm bill priorities are – conservation; commodity title reform; restoring stranded programs for beginning farmers, organic, research, rural development, specialty crops;   removing destructive riders that would strip USDA authority to protect independent and contract livestock/poultry farmers’ rights or to regulat new GMO variety releases; or other.

FYI, regarding conservation and the Farm Bill, check out this blog post:   NSAC has posted other blog entries related to “what’s at stake” for organic ( ), beginning farmers, and other priorities.

In the event of a wider NSAC Action Alert  addressed to non-Conferee Members of Congress, I will let you know via this list.

Providing for the Full Eating Season: Succession Planting for Continuous Harvests
Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 3:00 – 6:00 pm –  Stultz Center, PVCC (501 College Drive, Charlottesville VA), Rm 131

The market for fresh food doesn’t end with the warm weather—people eat year-round! Join us for a workshop to learn how to produce a consistent supply of produce throughout the year.

The first half of the class will explain how to plan sowing dates for continuous supplies of popular summer crops, such as beans, squash, cucumbers and sweet corn, as well as year round lettuce. Using these planning strategies can help avoid gluts and shortages.

The second half of the workshop will tackle growing at the “back end” of the year, with details on crops, timing, protection and storage. This will include all the information you need to succeed: tables of cold-hardiness, details of four ranges of cold-hardy crops (fall crops to harvest before serious cold, crops to keep growing into winter, crops for all-winter harvests, overwintering crops for spring harvests); scheduling; weather prediction and protection; hoophouse growing; and vegetable storage.

This workshop will be taught by Pam Dawling. A writer for Growing for Market magazine, Pam has been growing vegetables at Twin Oaks Community in central Virginia for more than 20 years, where the gardens feed 100 people on 3.5 acres. Her book, Sustainable Market Farming: Intensive Vegetable Production on a Few Acres, was published in February 2013 by New Society Publishers. You can keep up with Pam on her Facebook page.

Register on-line at:

Note: I apologize to all of you for the short notice on this – it was in my in box for a couple weeks and I did not get to it – Mark

SustainFloyd Dine for a Cause Event Resheduled for Monday Evening at 6:00 pm

For those of you who live in or near Floyd County, and were planning to attend the annual SustainFloyd fundraiser, Dine for a Cause on Sunday evening, the event was rescheduled for Monday evening at the same time – 6:00 pm – because of today’s icy weather.

Thank You for your Comments on FSMA Proposed Rules!

The public comment period for the FDA proposed rules for produce safety and for food processing facilities is now closed. Thanks to the combined efforts of each of you, and of the many other individuals and organizations working independently or in partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), ears and minds have been opened significantly within the FDA regarding the realities of farming and the needs of family farms and local food systems for food safety  measures that do NOT stifle current trends toward more sustainable  farm and food entrepreneurs making a living by providing the public with expanded access to healthful, fresh, local food.

FYI, I am sharing a link from an especially well written article by PASA Director Brian Snyder, with regard to a key issue in the FDA rules: the FDA understanding of what a farm is.  Sounds pretty basic huh?  Somehow, they did not get it in a very fundamental way the first time around.  It is our sincere hope that they will get it now.  NOTE – Brian wrote this article before the close of the public comment period on November 22 – so there is no need to write FDAon this topic at the moment.  However, it may be necessary to re-iterate some of the vital points that Brian makes when the next set of proposed rules (or “interim final” rules) are issued for further public review and comment.

Here is the link:


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