Updates from Mark Schonbeck

August 4, 2013

Dear All,

Some more  timely  announcements,  including an update on late blight in our region; also some links to articles, etc related to GMO food labeling.  NOTE:  because the late blight piece is the longest here, I have put it at the end – so if you are growing tomato family crops and are concerned about this threat, be sure to scroll all the way down even if some of the other stuff is of less interest.

Sincerely,

Mark

EVENTS

NRCS Webinar:  Crop Rotations on Diversified Farms
August 6 , 3:00 – 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight TimeInstructor Dr. Charles Mohler of Cornell University

         Participate in this training to learn about the many variables to consider when developing crop rotations on diversified operations. Emphasis will be placed on considerations for weed, pest, and nutrient management, based on examples and input for farmers. Weboinar instructor Dr. Charles Mohler of Cornell University will focus on material available in his manual, Crop Rotations on Organic Farms. Join us for an overview of how crop rotation can be used as a multi-functional management technique to address pests and weeds in diversified systems.
To participate - Join 15 Minutes Before Start Time
Join the Webinar at ConservationWebinars.net
Click, Open, Save to Calendar

Transition into USDA Certified Organic Production and Marketing of Goats and Sheep
Friday, September 6, 2013, at 8am-3pm - 4415 River Road, Petersburg, VA 23806

Dr. Scott Updike of the National Organic Program  will discuss USDA certified organic requirements for small ruminant production on new and transitioning farms.  VSU Extension Marketing Specialist Theresa Nartea will cover value added products and marketing outlets in Virginia for organic goats and sheep.

Paid Registration of $10.00 per person includes a Hot Breakfast & Lunch.  Space is limited to first 200 producers.  Register Online at:  http://tinyurl.com/vsugoatexpo2013

SustainFloyd Fall Pocket Farm Class Series
Monday evenings September 9 through October 14, 6:00 – 9:00 pm – Floyd, VA (Series I -  production)
Monday evenings November4 through December 16 (no class Nov. 25) (Series II – marketing, business planning, and business management)

SustainFloyd will again present its two 6-week Pocket Farm Class Series this fall, at the Floyd Country Store in downtown Floyd.  Series I covers production  of vegetable crops based on a 1.5 acre Pocket Farm model developed by Tony Kleese of Earthwise Consulting.  Topics include crop planning and succession planting, soil improvement and management, crop protection (against weeds, pests, and diseases), harvest, and post harvest management.  Seris II addresses enterprise budgets, business planning and management, market research and marketing, and guides the student through the initial steps of adapting the Pocket Farm model to her/his needs and developing a business plan.

The classes are based in part on curriculum developed by the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program (www.vabeginningfarmer.org), and in part on a model for farming profitably in the “pockets” of arable land in Appalacha, developed by instructor Tony Kleese (http://earthwiselife.com/).

To register, or for more information, contact Mason Adams, Operations Coordinator for SustainFloyd at 540-745-7333, ormason@sustainfloyd.org; or visit  http://sustainfloyd.org/agriculture/pocket-farm-class/

Home-Scale Permaculture Class – Six Weekends in Fall 2013 & Spring 2014 – Towson, MD
Sept. 14-15; Oct. 19-20; Nov. 16-17; Mar. 8-9; Apr. 5-6; May 3-4

Sliding scale $900 -1,100; after August 15, $1,000 – 1,200

Do you want to learn more about permaculture before registering for the certificate course?  Come to our Happy Hour Introduction to Permaculture on  Friday, July 26, 5-7 pm at Cromwell Valley Park.  Sliding scale $10 – $20.  RSVP by Wednesday, July 24: pjceglia@gmail.com.  For details click here.

For more information: visit:  http://www.heathcote.org/cms/content/home-scale-permaculture-design-course
call: 410-357-9523, or  email: education@heathcote.org

Register online at:  http://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1232083

POLICY RELATED UPDATES

Food Safety Propose Rule Public Comment Period Extended through November 13

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced an extension of the public comment period on the Produce Safety Rule for farms and the Preventive Controls Rule for food processing and handling facilities. FDA also released two new Rules related to imported food. This allows stakeholers more time to analyze issues and develop comments, and to consider proposed rules for domestic and imported produce together.  Now is a good time to become informed on the issues and begin to develop your comments.  For more information, visit  http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/

Plant Breeding Listening Session

VABF has been invited to a listening session about Plant Breeding in Washington, DC on August 15th. Our Executive Director, Janet Aardema is enrolled to attend, and would very much like to learn more about plant breeding and selection, and germplasm conservation efforts around the state of Virginia.

Are you involved in Plant Breeding here in Virginia? Are you working on improved varieties for organic production, varieties or strains better adapted to your locale or resistant to problematic diseases or pests?  Are you actively engaged in conserving or expanding the “genetic commons” (public, non-patented, farmer-ready crop varieties, including but not limited to heirloom varieties)?  Or, do you have specific proirities for such public classical breeding efforts, based on the production challenges you have encountered? (Some examples might include a late blight resistant tomato, or a sweet potato that performs consistently in the cooler regions of Appalachia.)

If so, please let us know and share your concerns! Email janet@vabf.org as soon as possible.

Farm Bill Mothballed for Now

Once again, the House of Representatives has gone on break without taking the next vital step toward completing the 2013 Farm Bill. The Senate has done all its preparation for the “Conference” in which key Senators and Representatives would work out a final Farm Bill based on the current Senate and House verisions. Meanwhile, the House, after passing an incomplete farm bill (no Nutrition Title), talked about doing that Nutrition Title and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a separate bill so that a full Farm Bil could happen, but did nothing about it.

A short term extension is likely; a five year, 2013 Farm Bill is possible but not at all guaranteed by the end of the year.  For more information, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net, and click on Farm Bill.

Labeling of Genetically Engineered (GMO) Foods

The campaign to push state governments, and ultimately the federal government, into adopting a mandatory GMO food labeling policy continues full steam ahead.  If you have not heard much about this movement lately, that is how the biotech patent holders want it, and that is probably why you hear so little, if anything about this ongoing grassroots effort.  For example, did you know that both Maine and Connecticut have passed GMO food labeling laws by wide margins in their state legislatures? And that there is a campaign to mandate GMO labeling in Washington State through a ballot initiative (and of course the Gene Giants and the industrial food industry are again pouring millions into an anti-labeling disinforamtion counter-campaign)?

For more information, check out the following links:
An interesting and thoughtful article on the international trade issues related to GMO labeling, by Michael Lipsky, husband of long time organic farmer and VABF member Hiu Newcomb.  Visit the following link to read the article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-lipsky/will-european-requirement_b_3535795.html
        The Organic Consunmers’ Association is a leader in the GMO labeling campaign, and is seeking donations as well as grassroots action.  For more, visit www.organicconsumers.org/ and click on their Genetic Engineering page.
Gary Hirshberg and others are leading the Just Label It campaign, including a petition drive and other actions.  Visitwww.JustLabelIt.org.

Petition to New EPA  Administrator to Protect Honey Bees from Neonicotinoid Pesticides

Honey bees are responsible for producing 1/3 of our food but they are being wiped out by the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids.  It is the job of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review such pesticides for safety and to take action if they are found to be harmful. Yet, EPA has taken no action on these bee-toxic pesticides, and doesn’t even plan to make a decision for five more years!

Neonics are the most widely used insecticides in the world, and exposure to neonics has become a key culprit in bee population losses. Over the past decade, honey bee populations have been rapidly declining, with a recent government-sponsored survey indicating that on average, U.S. beekeepers lost 45.1 percent of the colonies in their operation during the winter of 2012/2013. In June 2013, 50,000 bumblebees were killed in a parking lot in Oregon by these very chemicals. This past spring, the European Union placed a two year ban on most neonics.

Recently,  Gina McCarthy became the new leader of the EPA.  As head of the agency it will be up to her to make sure EPA protects bees and other pollinators from these toxic pesticides. Please urge her to take prompt action to take these pesticides off the market to protect honey bees and other pollinators.  To sign, visit http://bit.ly/BuzzAtEPA.

ANNOUNCEMENTS and RESOURCES

Kiva Zip offers Interest-free Buisness Microloans up to $5,000

Kiva Zip is a new initiative to make small business loans to entrepreneurs in the United States. Kiva Zip aims to expand access to capital for microenterprises, to lower costs of capital, and to increase connections between borrowers and lenders.  We help entrepreneurs “crowd fund” loan capital from individual lenders around the world at a 0% interest rate.  These lenders not only supply interest free capital, but also act as brand ambassadors for your business, and can be used as a valuable resource for feedback, support, and advice.

Loans for up to $5,000 for a maximum of 24 months, are offered to applicants with a strong business plan, strong character, annual income under $100,000, and a current debt : income ratio below 35%.  To inquire about a buisness loan, visit: https://zip.kiva.org/borrow.

Ride for SNAP Benefits at Farmers Market Takes Place This Week
August 4-10 - Donations sought

Richmond patrolman and Carytown Farmers’ Market organizer Patrick Warner will begin his week-long bike ride linking Farmers’ Markets across Virginia, leaving this Saturday August 3,  making stops in Williamsburg, Richmond, Lexington, Catawba (near Roanoke), and through southwest Virginia, ending at Big Stone Gap on Saturday the 10th.  His goal is to raise awareness and funds for non-profits like FeedRVA and the Virginia Farmers Market Managers Association (VFMMA), that aim to provide matching funds to public assistance recipients so that groceries from farmers markets are no more expensive than those they get at the grocery store. Providing a match for SNAP customers is a win-win situation, because it enables the customer to have the ability to purchase affordable fresh produce, and it puts double the money into the local farmer’s pocket, as well.

To make a donation, or to learn more, visit www.VaMarketRide.com.

Position Open:  West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition seeks Executive Director

The West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition seeks a dynamic, entrepreneurial, committed leader to help build and support West Virginia’s rapidly growing local food system.  Since 2010, the Coalition ( www.wvhub.org/wvffc) has supported a statewide network of West Virginians working to grow food and farm businesses while improving access to healthy local food.  The position of Executive Director requires a special individual who is willing to work hard, think outside the box, be an advocate for farmers and consumers, and build partnerships outside of traditional “silos” in order to continue the Coalition’s success in promoting food and agriculture as a critical part of West Virginia’s economy.

Download the full job description here  or see it here on our web site.

Waynesburo Farmers’ Market Seeks Additional Vendors

The Waynesboro Farmers’ Market is seeking additional vendors, in particular for the Saturday morning market. The Wednesdaymarket is well established; the Saturday market is relatively new and has turned a corner such that we need more vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, honey, etc. to keep up with customer demand.
For more information, visit www.waynesborofarmersmarket.org or call 540-466-4679.

Produce Donations Sought for Bear Cubs

The Virgnia Wildlife Center is seeking donations of surplus produce to help feed bear cubs, almost anything except spicy items like onions and hot peppers. This year they have a record number, with 16 cubs being housed until January. So if anyone is at the point where they won’t be able to sell their stuff to humans, and want to donate it to the Center, well, it’s just that — a tax-deductible donation!

The Center is located at the edge of Waynesboro, right off I-64 for easy drop off seven days a week, or may be able to arrange pick-up and/or collection point(s). Contact the center to discuss the possibilities at wildlife@wildlifecenter.org or (540) 942-9453.

Surplus Whey Available for Hog Food or other purposes

Caromont Farm (http://www.caromontfarm.com; Esmont, VA; 40 mins south of Charlottesville), is a cheese manufacturing facility that seasonally produce about 300 gallons of whey a week. It’s quite suitable as a feed source for hogs, but possibly other ruminants and chickens. We typically have 2 hog farmers who pick up, but produce more than they can use. We are basically looking for 1 – 2 more hog farmers that would want to pick up either once every 2 to 4 weeks until the end of our season (~Thanksgiving). All we ask is to bring your own carrying vessel (a 275 gallon IBC tote on a trailer is what seems to work best for our other hog farmers), and we can show you how to use our pump, etc to pick up the whey.

If you are interested, please contact us by email address: caromontfarm@yahoo.com  Thanks – Bridge Cox / Caromont Farm

VITAL  PRODUCTION INFORMATION

Late Blight in Confirmed in Tomato and Potato crops in Virginia
… and what we can do

Late blight, a severe fungal disease of nightshade family (Solanaceae) crops has been identified on tomato and/or potato crops in several locations in Virginia over the past couple of weeks (July 20-current).  Caused by the water mold pathogen Phytophthora infestans, late blight is promoted by the kind of cool, wet weather we have had this summer. It can spread extremely rapidly and cause a total crop loss in tomato within a week or two.

Initial symptoms include small, dark-green, water-soaked, or grayish-brown spots on the leaves.  If the humidity is high, you can see a fuzzy mold growth on the underside of the lesions.  If cool, moist weather continues, the disease spreads extremely rapidly; a stretch of hot, clear, dry weather can slow or even stop an outbreak.  Fruit lesions are large, roundish, shiny or greasy-looking, brown spots. The fruit remains firm at first, until secondary rot organisms enter the lesion to destroy the fruit.

In a notice dated July 23, 2013, Virginia Tech plant pathologist Steve Rideout, Ph.D, states:
“Late blight is a historic disease that was responsible for the great Irish Potato Famine in the 1840′s.  This fungal disease is favored by moist conditions.  Yesterday Virginia Tech’s Plant Disease Clinic (diagnosed by Elizabeth Bush and Mary Ann Hansen) received samples testing positive for late blight from Check and Floyd, VA (both in Floyd Co., VA) and one today from Montgomery Co., VA.  All samples came from tomato, but, one should assume there are isolates in the area capable of infecting potato tissue.
“Rainy conditions continue to favor this disease.  Commercial potato and tomato growers are urged to make applications of materials specific for late blight.  Previous research has indicated that Curzate, Forum, Gavel, Presidio, Previcur Flex, Ranman, Reason, Revus Top, and Tanos are the most effective options.  Also, remember to include a protectant material (containing either chlorothalonil or mancozeb) in your spray mixture.  In potato, Omega and Agri-Tin/Super Tin are also available options.”

I included that second paragraph for the benefit of those of you who are not USDA certified organic, and who make the decision that judicious use of a synthetic would be better than to risk losing your crop.  The remainder of this notice is intended for those who are certified organic or who want to stick with organic methods.

Virginia Cooperative Extension has published an excellent information sheet with lots of photos of the disease and the pathogen, as well as life cycle of P infestans, and a number of practical tips on prevention and control.  The link is:- http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/ANR/ANR-6/ANR-6_pdf.pdf .

If you do not yet see late blight in your crops:
 Prevention is vital.  Apply protectant sprays to your crops every 4 to 7 days, especially as long as the weather stays cool and moist or showery.
Don’t wait until you see late blight!  Be prepared by using the late blight forecasting tool at http://www.uspest.org/risk/modelsThe model allows you to select your location and find out the risk level based on recent weather conditions.  If risk is moderate to high, start spraying protectants TODAY.

Three materials available through Seven Springs Farm ( www.7springsfarm.com) that can protect crops from fungal diseases include:
Copper fungicides – two formulations approved for organic production are available through Seven Springs:  Nordox 75 WG, and Cueva Flowable Liquid Copper.
Serenade (TM) biofungicide, based on the bacterium Bacillus subtilis, which releases antibiotics against many pathogenic fungi and water molds.
Regalia (TM), a plant-based extract that works by enhancing the crop’s natural defenses against pathogens.  This new product is not a fungicide per se, but can have protectant value.

Alternating applicaitons of Serenade and copper have been recommended. Some have even tank-mixed the two materials. Although copper kills many microbes, it apparently is sufficiently compatible with the B. subtilis in Serenade that tank mixing the two has given greater protection than either alone.

Floyd County Extension agent Jon Vest has also recommended alternating copper and epsom salts on a weekly basis, and at least one grower has reported apparent success with this.  The same grower noted that Nordox persists well on the plants, with some still visible one week after application despite a few rain showers.

I have been tank-mixing Regalia and Serenade, sometimes with a seaweed extract powder (a general plant tonic and anti-stress material) added.  The three materials appear comptible (does not clog sprayer or precipitate out) and safe when applied together (no phytotoxicity or leaf damage).  These treatments seemed to slow-down the progress of other diseases (early blight, septoria, etc) and our plants were very healthy despite all the rain until the late blight arrived on or about July 20.  It is not clear how effective they are against late blight.

New, cutting-edge materials and methods to prevent late blight
        Two other experimental approaches to preventing late blight or even stopping an incipient outbreak include: a biodynamic preparation based on horsetail; and some new materials (microbial inoculants and microbial foods) designed to enhance the population, diversity, and activity of beneficial micro-organisms that can outcompete or directly suppress pathogens like P. infestans.
The biodynamic preparation is Preparation 508, horsetail, which apparently counteracts the physiological effects on crops of cool wet conditions that lead to disease susceptibility.  The preparation is foliar applied, and can be ordered through the Josephine Porter Institute for Applied Biodynamics.  For more information on the use of Prep. 508 to protect against late blight and other diseases, contact heirloom tomato seed grower Amy Hamilton, aphrikalissa@gmail.com, or 828-625-1970
The new microbial products are Soluplks (a microbial food based on fermented plant products), Soil ProVide (a diverse inoculum of beneficial soil micro-organisms), and Soil ReVive (a microbial food based on humic acids).  Soil microbiology consultant Vail Dixon is working with these products, believes they have promise for protecting tomato and potato crops against late blight, and would like to evaluate their efficacy on multiple farms this year.  Beneficial soil microbes can inhibit crop pathogens by outcompeting them or crowding them out of the ecosystem (soil or leaf surface), by releasing antibiotics, and/or by consuming or parastizing the pathogenic organism directly.  Application of both inoculum and microbial food together can enhance the numbers, activity, and diversity of these beneficial organisms.   To order these materials for a trial in your tomato crop, contact Vail Dixon at  Vail Dixon, Simple Soil Solutions, tel. 434-547 – 3198, e-mail simplesoilsolutions@gmail.com.

If you see the first signs of late blight on tomato:
If possible, remove all infected plants from your field or high tunnel ASAP.  Do this when leaf surfaces are dry, to minimize spread of the organism or its spores.  If practical, enclose the symptomatic plant in a large garbage bag, then uproot it or cut it off at the soil surface.  (I realize that, depending on your trellising or caging system, this may not be practical).
Use protectant sprays, including copper to protect uninfected plants.  Or, if you are adventurous, try one of the above experimental treatments.  Note that the microbial approach is not compatible with copper sprays, as the copper will kill off many of the desirable organisms.
Note that in a high tunnel environment, you have a somewhat greater chance of controlling the outbreak, as the roof keeps rain off the leaves. Be sure to manage temperatures, ventilation, etc. to prevent or minimize condensation and leaf wetness.
Stay out of the field or high tunnel whenever there is any moisture present on the plants – harvest in the late afternoon of sunny days.
And, check your potatoes for late blight too!

If you see late blight on the foliage of your potato crop:
If the crop is late in its life cycle – a couple weeks post-bloom, for example – you probably already have at least a partial yield of tubers. They are at risk of becoming infected by P. infestans, via either of two routes:  the organism growing down the stem to enter the tubers from within the plant; and spores shed upon the soil either being washed down into the soil profile and into contact with tubers during downpours; or potatoes coming into contact with the spores during harvest.
Note, however, that this pathogen cannot survive long away from a host, and it also cannot survive exposure to much heat or drying. Thus, if there are spores on the soil surface but not  in contact with living potato tissue, they will soon die, especially if the soil surface is exposed to direct sun and temperatures above 86 degrees F.
Thus, if you see late blight in the potato  foliage, your goal is to get rid of the inoculum and the tissue on which it depends for survival - remove and burn or hot-compost the infected foliage.  If it is late in the potato’s life cycle (and the tubers mostly set), by all means cut and remove all the top growth even if the disease is spotty and early-stage.  This could save the crop.
If you cull your potatoes during harvest, do not leave cull piles – burn, bury, or hot-compost the culls so that they do not later become a late-blight source.
Also, potatoes missed in harvest can become a source of inoculum if they volunteer next year.  Harvest as thoroughly as possible, and remove volunteers in the following season.

Final note:
Late blight is an extremely difficult disease to control organically, and much remains to be learned about the efficacy of the newer products for organic growers.  So – any observations you have about the efficacy or ineffectiveness of any or all of the above materials and strategies in your crop would be very helpful.  Please share by replying to this e-mail – key findings will be shared with this list in a future e-mail.

May 8, 2013

Farm Bill Update and Grassroots Action

Things are moving fast with the Farm Bill in Congress. The Senate Agriculture Committee is planning to finish drafting (“marking up”) a 2013 Farm Bill for Senate floor debate next Tuesday May 14, and the House Agriculture Committee will complete its 2013 Farm Bill draft on Wednesday May 15.  Be prepared for grassroots action alerts in the next 7 to 10 days related to specific provisions, programs, or amendments in these Farm Bill drafts.

This week we are putting on a final push to get more Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act (S 837 and HR 1727) and the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (S 679 and HR 1414).  See the VABF Update you received this Monday (May 6) for more detail on these two bills.

The more co-sponsors we get on these bills by the end of this week, the more likely their key provisions will appear in the draft Farm Bills that come out of the Agriculture Commttees next week.  Even those that do not make it into these drafts will have a greater chance of being added through floor amendments if the BFROA and LFFJA have broad, bipartisan sponsorship.

Contact your Senators and Representative to ask them to co-sponsor these two bills.  When you call, tell them how the beginning farmer and local food provisions will assist your farming operation or local food enterprise.  For example, note that the BFROA would restore full funding to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which has funded the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, and thus the Farm School classes taught over the past year through VABF, SustainFloyd, Appalachian Sustainable Development, and several other Coalition partners in Virginia.  Including the BFROA in the 2013 Farm Bill will make it possible for the Coalition and for similar projects in other states to continue and expand their work, helping new farmers acquire land and credit, as well as the training and technical support they need to succeed.

In Virginia – Senator Mark Warner can be reached at 202-224-2023; Senator Tim Kaine at 202-224-4024; and Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-6th district, and Vice Chair of the House Agriculture Committee). If you are in the 6th district, your calls to Rep. Goodlatte are especially important. If you are in another district and do not know your Representative’s DC phone number, call the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Watch for additional Farm Bill updates and grassroots action via the VABF e-newsletter.

Appalachian Sustainable Development 2013 Local Food Guide
Listings invited for 2013

From Tamara McNaughton of Appalachian Sustainable Development in Abingdon, VA  ( www.asdevelop.org):

Good Morning,

Following are the links to list for FREE in Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Local Food Guide.

Please feel free to share this with others.

The link for Businesses/Restaurants is found at:
http://stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=3A7E4F65-26EC-42BE-934F-8DFB968F5638&

The link for Farms is found at:
http://stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=7A1F3913-E26B-4FEA-B6A4-E33E9AA3448C&

For Farmers Markets, the link is:
http://www.stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=7B613C41-EB0A-4ED4-BBC9-1D42D85E0C13&

The link for Grower Organizations is found at:
http://www.stellarsurvey.com/s.aspx?u=8EB3D158-A973-4E31-8F4B-F3363E44AE9F&

April 17, 2013

FDA Proposed Rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act

Public comment period closes May 16

In January, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published two Proposed Rules as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2011.  The Produce Rule covers on-farm food safety practices related to fruits and vegetables, and the Preventive Controls Rule covers practices in food processing facilities.

The FSMA instructs FDA to develop regulations that would substantially reduce risk of foodborne illness from fresh produce and other foods, without creating undue burdens (exessive costs, unnecessarily complicated record keeping procedures) on smaller farms and food businesses.  The regulations must also be compatible with good conservation practices and with the USDA National Organic Program.  Most important, the rule must be “scale appropriate” and appropriate to the kind of operation – no “one-size-fits-all” industrial model  regs.

Since the Rules were published, a team of sustainable agriculture advocates and analysts, coordinated through the Food Systems Integrity Committee (FSI) of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) have been working diligently to evaluate the Proposed Rules (which come to some 1,700 pages), and determine whether they actually meet the requirements of the original Act and allow family farms, local food businesses, and organic farmers to thrive while helping them maximize the safety of their products.  A number of issues have emerged through this analysis, including some areas of ambiguity (some of which FDA itself is requesting input from stakeholders), and others that definitely raise red flags.

Over the next few weeks – between now and the close of the comment period, we will need as many farmers, food entrepreneurs, and sustainable agriculture and local food organizations as possible to submit their comments regarding how the proposed rule will affect them and their businesses, and how it must be modified to protect their livelihoods.

The NSAC FSI committee is in the final stages of writing up their analysis and key talking points to help you write your comments.  NSAC has launched a web site with in-depth information about the FSMA.  It is now live at http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma. Stay tuned to additional developments related to the Proposed Rule by visiting this web site periodically.

Note that this web site is still “in process” and more and more content will be added to provide more information on key issues related to the Rule, and guidance for developing your comments.

One thing that most of you will want to know ASAP is “am I affected by the new Food SAfety Rules?”  The FSMA includes provisions, offered by Senator Jon Tester of Montana (who is an organic farmer), to provide less-burdensome alternative food safety procedures (“exemptions”) for small farms and small food businesses (gross proceeds under $500,000 annually); the Propused Rule reflects these provisions.  To find out how the proposed Rule might affect your farming or food business, visit http://sustainableagriculture.net/fsma/who-is-affected/

Watch for grassroots action alerts related to the Proposed Rule and comments over the coming weeks.

UPDATES

2013 version of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act Introduced into House and Senate

Co-sponsors sought – ask your Representative and Senators to support this bill

One of the more exciting parts of the 2012 Farm Bill process was the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act (LFFJA) which included dozens of provisions designed to help family farms make a good living by supplying food systems in their local areas, to strengthen community-based local and regional food systems, and to improve access to healthy local food for all Americans regardless of income.  In so doing, it would also create jobs and business opportunities.

Although the 2012 Farm Bill never saw the light of day (a casualty of Congressional gridlock), the Agriculture Committtees are gearing up for a 2013 Farm Bill.  In anticipation of this effort, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine have introduced a 2013 version of the LFFJA.  Provisions include increasing opportunities to use SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets and CSA’s, increased funding for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program, improved crop insurance options for diversified and organic farms, an expanded Farmer Market and Local Food Promotion Program (this is currently a “stranded” program -  funding suspended since the 2008 Farm Bill expired last September), and a local and regional food system enterprise facilitation initiative through Extension.

Call your Senators and Representaive today to urge them to co-sponsor the 2013 Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act.  In Virginia, reach Senator Mark Warner at 202-224-2023, and Senator Tim Kaine at 202-224-4024.  If you do not  know your Represenatitive’s DC phone number, call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  For those of you not in Virginia, you can reach your Senators also through this switchboard.

EVENTS

Local Foods Grower/Producer marketing event at Blossom & Grow Fest

Draper Mercantile, Draper, VA – Saturday, April  20, 9 am – 3 pm

Application deadline for StoryBooth is April 17 (see attached pdf file at Blossom and Grow “Story Booth” Application)

On Saturday, April 20th Southwest Virginia Fresh (formerly Pulaski Fresh) is holding its annual regional Local Foods Grower/Producer marketing event during our Blossom & Grow Fest at Draper Mercantile in Draper, VA.  There are a few improvements this year, too.

This is a FREE opportunity to market yourself as a seller of local foods to potentially new customers, letting people know “you’re out there.”  Seriously, “who’s out there?” is an ongoing refrain we hear every few days from all over the region!  This is one of the ways we’re trying to remedy that for you.

You do NOT need to have anything to sell, however if you do, that’s fine and by all means do so.  If you’re just starting out & testing the waters, this has been shown to be a wonderful start (& don’t feel you have to guarantee you will have a lot to sell this season).

We’ll have prize drawings for the public who visit your booths.

You bring your own table to suit your needs in an area set aside specifically for this (porches are open too).

Draper Merc has become a favorite place for people to go, and It’s a great opportunity to be seen & talk to customers AND to exchange ideas with other producers.

Please see the attached form to apply for setting up a StoryBooth at this event.  Questions? – contact Debbie Lineweaver of Southwest Virginia Fresh, <mtn2mtn@psknet.com>

Growing Garden Mushrooms Workshop 

Sharondale Farm near Charlottesville – Saturday April 20th, 9 am-noon

Mushroom Cooking Class and Farm Lunch

Sharondale Farm, Saturday April 20, 12:30 – 2:00 pm

Learn simple methods for growing mushrooms as garden allies on
straw, woodchips and compost.  Hands-on demonstrations include:  preparing materials by composting, pasteurizing and fermenting;  and inoculation methods for intercropping several species of mushrooms in your garden including: Garden Giant, Oyster, and Almond Portobello.  Registration is $75

Mushroom Cooking Demonstration and Farm Lunch follows the workshop. Sharondale Farm is excited to offer a Mushroom Cooking Class and Farm Lunch on April 20 from 12:30 – 2. We’ll fire up the earth oven (pizza!) and Angel will prepare three seasonal dishes, each featuring one of our farm fresh mushrooms and other garden goodies. In addition to a tasty lunch, you’ll learn nutritional basics about mushrooms and come away with some culinary inspiration.  Cost is $30 per person.

Register for both at www.sharondalefarm.com/workshops
Save $5 when you register for a mushroom growing workshop and the lunch.

OPPORTUNITIES

FY 2013 AFRI Food Security Challenge – Request for Applications

Letters of Intent due to USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture by April 29th.
Full applications are due July 17th. 

Program websitehttp://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/foodsecurityafri.cfm
Link to 2013 RFAhttp://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/foodsecurityafri.cfm

The focus of this year’s RFA is on managing losses in pre- and post-harvest production and understanding the nature of loss throughout the whole food system (production, harvesting, storage, processing, distribution, and consumption). The RFA solicits proposals to develop and extend sustainable, integrated, or biologically-based control strategies to reduce pre and post-harvest losses caused by diseases, pests, and weeds in crop and animal systems

In addition to integrated REE projects, this RFA is also soliciting applications for Food Security Conference Proposals that address the following topics: food systems, research gaps, knowledge exchange, technology and production, infrastructure, marketing and distribution, ecosystem services and land management, consumption, waste and loss, and cross-cutting issues such as behavioral and policy factors that contribute to food security, systems integration, and collaboration.

__________________

April 3, 2013

Southwest Virginia Fresh’s first annual “Spring into Action”
April 6 – Wytheville
Southwest Virginia Fresh’s first annual “Spring into Action” regional spring gathering will take place on April 6th at Beagle Ridge Herb Farm near Wytheville, and it’s going to be a wonderful, diversified opportunity for everyone to get out of the house and get excited about spring!  Open to the public!
See attached flyer for more.Beginning Beekeepers Workshop:
April 24 from 6PM – 9PM at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center
April 27 from 8AM – 5PM at the Catawba Sustainability Center

Workshop to be led by Mark Chorba, beekeeper in Copper Hill VA.  Registration: http://www.cpe.vt.edu/reg/beekeep/
See attached flyer for more details.

2013 Regional Agritourism in a Creative Economy workshop
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 – Vinton, VA

The 2013 Regional Agritourism workshop will take place on Wednesday May 8, from 9:45 am until 3:30 pm at the Braeloch, 2136 Hammond Drive, Vinton, Virginia.

“This training combines information on land conservation and the legal considerations for agritourism and the best practices for launching an agritourism operation,” said Martha Walker, community viability specialist for Extension.  Attendees will gather information on agritourism possibilities, liability issues, marketing strategies, and land conservation, and legal considerations for agritourism.  Our team is thrilled to have Patty Leonard, owner of Cows n Corn, a successful agritourism operation in Fauquier County, speak on her experiences and creative operational practices, said Walker.

Registration:  The workshop is free, but you must register.  Register by emailing Leslie R. Prillaman, Roanoke Unit Coordinator atlesliep@vt.edu or calling Kathy Sturgill, Administrative Assistant, 540.772.7524 ext 254 by Friday, May 3.

Sponsors include: Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, and Virginia Tourism Corporation in partnership with Virginia Mountain Country Center, LLC and Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.
For more information on agritourism programs, please contact Dr. Martha A. Walker, Virginia Cooperative Extension, by phone at434-766-6761 or by e-mail at walker53@vt.edu.
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Martha A. Walker, Central District Office, at 434-766-6761 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event.  *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.

Garden Plots Available in Pulaski

From Debbie Lineweaver:  It is time to think about planting a garden.  The Fairview Community Garden in Pulaski County is now offering plots to interested gardeners in the Pulaski area.  Reserve space to grow your own fruits and vegetables at the new Fairview Community Garden located behind Fairview Home. Fee per 10′ x 10′ plot is $10. You may also enjoy the walking trail.

Plots will be divided into 10′ x 10′, 20′, 30′ and 40′ areas. There will be 10′ buffer zones between garden plots to help reduce insect and fungus migration. Participants are encouraged to raise all plants to comply with organic gardening standards. Monthly workshops will be hosted by Pulaski Extension Agents, Master Gardeners and 4-H Gardening Club. There will be monthly workdays to help maintain common areas around garden plots. Peggy White of the Chamber will be the Garden Co-ordinator to arrange events and keep people up to date on activities. For more information or to reserve your plot, contact the Visitor Center (674-4161).

____________________________ 
March 24, 2013
Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rule
Public Comment Period  closes May 16
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published Proposed Rules for Produce Safety and for Preventive Controls at food facilities, as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act passed by Congress and signed by the President in 2011.  Over the past six weeks, policy analysts with National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and several NSAC member organizations have been combing through the 1,700 pages of the act to identify potential areas of concern for family farms and small food businesses seeking to make a living by meeting the soaring demand for fresh, high quality, local and regional foods.In writing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Congress included provisions to ensure that new food safety regulations are appropriate to the scale and kind of operation, not “one-size-fits-all”, so that the FSMA final rules do not make it harder for family farms, community food systems, and smaller food enterprises to stay in business.  The Food Systems Integrity Committee of NSAC has identified several areas of concern, and is in the process of developing talking points and supporting materials to empower individuals and organizations to write and submit comments.

In addition to detailed comments based on this in-depth analysis, we are going to need as many individuals and sustainable food and agriculture organizations to submit comments in their own words to ensure that the final Rule is both effective in protecting food safety and also supportive of local, organic, and sustainable farms and food systems.

I will forward talking points and guidelines for submitting comments (or web links thereto) as soon as they are issued by NSAC.  Meanwhile, I attach to this e-mail an excellent article about the issues raised by the FSMA Proposed Rule, written by Brian Snyder, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, whose contributions on the Food Systems Integrity committee have been invaluable.

Continuing Resolution
Update and next steps

The Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government open for the next six months has now passed both houses of Congress and is now on the President’s desk for his signature.

The good news is that the CR corrects the budgeting error that had temporarily shut-down new signups for the Conservation Stewardship Progra (CSP).  With this correction, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can begin to sign up additional farmers for the CSP this year.

The bad news is that the CR does not restore funding for any of the other stranded programs, such as the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (which funds, among other things, research into organic management of invasive exotic pests like Brown Marmorated Stink Bug), the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (which funds projects like Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project), and the Organic Certification Cost-share.

The worse news is that the CR contains two “poison” riders: one that revokes the courts’ authority to stop the planting of new genetically engineered crop varieties that the USDA finds have not completed the proper review and approvalprocedures; and one that revokes USDA authority to enforce any of the provisions of the new Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) Rule that protect the rights of farmers raising poultry or livestock under contract with agribusiness, and protects fair and open markets for independent livestock farmers.

The silver lining around this cloud is that all our calls and e-mails to Congress over the past couple of weeks on these issues DID have an impact – they caused the Senate to slow down its process and consider some of these issues (and indeed, to correct the CSP funding error).  In particular, the GIPSA issue is on Congressional radar now, and we may have some traction in future efforts to reinstate implementaiton of this “Farmers’ Bill of Rights.”  Also, the  “biotech rider” is technically in effect only for the six months of the CR, and can also be corrected in future.

The 841-page bill before the president to keep the government open from March 27 through the end of the fiscal year (September 30) is called House Resolution 933, and the “Monsanto rider” buried in it is Section 735.  Although it is not realistic to expect him to hold up government funding on any of the above issues, it is worth calling or e-mailing the White House to let the President know of our dissatisfaction and concerns over these serious flaws in the funding bill.  In particular, the biotech rider is an example of corporate power attempting to trump our nation’a democracy and is in fact unconstitutional.
Contact the White House at 202-456-1111, or via their web site www.whitehouse.gov.

____________________________
March 28, 2013
EQIP Organic Initiative – Expanded Offerings and Extended Deadline in Virginia – Sign up now
Applications will be reviewed, ranked, and awarded April 19 and again May 17 in Virginia
There is lots of money left in the EQIP Organic Initiative for the 2013 season in Virginia.  If you are certified organic, or are transitioning to organic and plan to seek USDA certification within the next three years, this program can offer financial and technical support in adopting conservation practices, including those that will help you achieve or maintain compliance with the NOP standards.  The EQIP Organic Initiative can be especially valuable to farmers who have purchased new land that has undergone some soil or other resource degradation that needs to be addressed before organic farming will be successful, or that has ecologically sensitive features such as wetlands or highly erodible land.  It is also valuable to new and beginning organic producers.This year, Virginia NRCS has expanded and refined its offerings for organic producers and specialty crop (vegetable, fruit, cut flowers, etc) growers. Some examples include:
CPS 595 Integrated Pest Management - a small diversified organic or specialty crop farm can receive up to $655 for implementing a comprehensive Integrated Pest Mamagement Plan that addresses multiple resource concerns (water quality, wildlife, soil).  Larger specialty crop farms can receive payments up to $110 per acre, and orchards $170 per acre.  This is the first time that EQIP has offered payments for Integrated Pest Management in Virginia, and it can be a tremendous hand-up for both small and larger scale specialty crop farmers who want to adopt ecologically sound, Earth-friendly pest management strategies.
CPS 590 Nutrient Management - for organic systems $33/ac; small diversified specialty crop farms can receive $480 to develop and implement a Nutrient Management Plan for the whole operation, or $1,140 for an “adaptive nutrient management plan”(more precise and extensive management through the season).
CPS 328 Conservation Crop Rotation - if you add a perennial sod break to your specialty crop rotation to conserve soil and enhance soil quality, payments are $1,550/ac for certified and transitioning-organic systems.  If you adopt a continuous no fallow / continuous live cover rotation (a “tight” rotation of annual production and cover crops in wihch bare soil periods are kept to a minimum) for organic specialty crops, payment is $700/ac.
        CPS 327 Conservation Cover - If you design the practice to provide pollinator habitat scenario, conservation cover plantings are paid at $320/ac.
CPS 340 Cover Crop - $40 – 110/ac for organic producers, depending on the main objectives of cover cropping (erosion control, nitrogen fixation, weed suppression, etc).
CPS 484 Mulching - with natural materials for erosion control or weed control/moisture conservation ($260 – 325/ac).
CPS 332 Contour Buffer Strips - these are strips of permanent vegetations on contour on a sloping field to prevent erosion losses during annual crop production. Paymnts tare $260 – 400 per acre of land converted to buffer.
CPS 386 Field Border - these are permanent vegetation habitat plantings at edges of fields – again includes income foregone, and much higher for pollinator habitat and organic seed:  Mixed grasses and forbs $290/ac in the border planting; organic seed $480; pollinator habitat $600/ac, and organic seed for pollinator habitat $930.
CPS 412 Grassed Waterway - these are swales in permanent grass to divert runoff away from tilled fields, high tunnels, etc, to prevent gully erosion.  $1500/ac for organic and high tunnel initiatives.
CPS 422 Hedgerow - $1.90 – 2.70 / linear foot.  Scenario with pollinator habitat under the hardwoods paid 30 cents/ft higher than others.
CPS 528 Prescribed Grazing - $25/ac, $28/ac organic.

Even if you are not USDA certified organic or in transition to certified  organic, most of these practices and payments are available through the regular EQIP program, at somewhat lower but still substantial payment rates.
        For more information, contact our VA state coordinator for organic producers using NRCS programs:
Ron Wood
ProTracts, PRS, Toolkit, eAUTH -  Coordinator
Organic Initiative/WHIP Manager, Virginia NRCS
804 287-1660; e-mail Ron.Wood@va.usda.gov, FAX 804 287-1736

To initiate the application process, visit your local NRCS office ASAP. There will be some paperwork to fill out – if your farm is not already registered with Farm Services Agency (FSA), you will need to do that as well – so give yourself at least two weeks before the deadline to start the process.   If your local NRCS staff are not able to answer all your questions or guide you through the application process – contact Ron Wood at his phone or e-mail  above.

         Special note: The EQIP Organic Initiative is offered in large part as a result of years of advocacy efforts to obtain recognition of the great conservation benefits of organic systems, and to build on the natural alliance between the organic/sustainable and conservation communities. A promising recent development within NRCS is the Soil Health Initiative, which focuses on improving soil biology and soil organic matter as well as conservation, through high-biomass, high-diversity cover crops, conservation crop rotations, and other measures to build healthy, living soils.  The agency is holding workshops and webinars to build capacity of NRCS field staff to help organic and other farmers adopt the best soil health improvement systems and practices.  As NRCS Cropland Agronomist Chris Lawrence said in a recent workshop in Hanover, VA, “we need to go way beyond ‘T’ [the "tolerable" rate of annual soil loss]and really build soil quality so that we can feed everyone sustainably in the long run.”
Now that EQIP Organic Initiative funds are available and NRCS is building its capacity to help us do the best we can for the land that feeds us, let’s make the best use of this opportunity.

Conservation Stewardship Program: yes, there will be a signup this year
2013 signup deadline not yet set – applications accepted any time

The Continuing Resolution passed by Congress and signed this week by President Obama has restored funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The CSP is a working-lands conservation program that rewards producers for adopting high-level conservation practices that go beyond the “non-degradation” level to restoring and enhancing soil quality, water quality, and other resources on our  farms.  Established just five years ago by the 2008 Farm Bill, CSP is already one of the most widely-used NRCS programs, having enrolled nearly 39,000 farmers working 50 million acres in 5-year conservation contracts worth $3.5 billion.

Because of an error in budgeting, Fiscal Year 2013 began with insufficient funds in the CSP, so that NRCS was not able to offer any additional contracts earlier in the year. However, now that the Continuing Resolution has corrected the error, NRCS can now proceed with enrolling at least 11 million acres of farm and ranch land in the program this year.

A number of farmers in Virginia have benefited greatly from the CSP, which has helped them set  up management-intensive rotational grazing systems and other  high level conservation systems.

The signup cutoff date for 2013 has not yet been set, though it is likely to be sometime in May.  However, farmers can apply at any time, so if you  are interested, inquire at your local NRCS office to begin the application process. To locate your NRCS local service center, visit http://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?agency=nrcs.

If you have questions that local offices cannot answer, contact your state NRCS office – in Virginia, call  (804) 287-1638, and ask for the person in charge of the CSP,  Chad Wentz.

Virginia State NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) Request for Pre-proposals
Pre-proposals due May 3, 2013

Virginia NRCS has posted our State CIG announcement on Grants.Gov under announcement number USDA-NRCS-VA-13-01.  The information is also on the home page of the NRCS website at the following link: http://www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/

Virginia pre-proposals are due by May 3, 2013.  Full proposals are due June 28, 2013.  See attached press release for more information.  For the full announcement of this grant opportunity, including application directions, contact me (by return e-mail) or NRC directly.

Conservation Reserve Program – General Signup
May 20 – June 14, 2013

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) offers rental payments to farmers to convert ecologically sensitive croplands to long-term resource-conserving perennial cover.  Priority is given to farmland located within national or state CRP conservation priority areas.  The entire Chesapeake Bay watershed, which includes a substantial part of Virginia, is a national priority area; in addition, several state priority areas have been established elsewhere in Virginia for wildlife habitat conservation.  Certain highly-erodible croplands located outside of the priority areas are also eligible for CRP.

If you have land that you would like to enroll in the CRP, contact your local Farm Services Agency (FSA) office, or visit FSA’s web site at www.fsa.usda.gov/crp. Or, contact your state NRCS office (in Virginia, 804-2887-1638) for more information.

Small Plot and Raised Bed Workshop
Saturday March 30, 1:00 – 4:00pm – Pulaski, VA

The initial workshop,  held last Saturday, was such a success despite the cold, wet weather, that Southwest Virginia Fresh is offering it again this Saturday.  See attached flyer for details.

Webinar Series 3:  Business Assistance Resources for Virginia Beginning Farmers and Ag Entrepreneurs
Wednesday, April 17, 3:00 – 4:00 pm

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project is offering this Webinar by Stephen Versen, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
To participate in this webinar please go to: http://connect.ag.vt.edu/businessassistance

Politicians love small businesses; they also love farmers.  As a result, farmers and entrepreneurs in Ag-based businesses enjoy a bigger suite of government assistance programs than just about any other group.  However, there is also a lot of confusion about what really is available:  reasonable loans to beginning farmers (yes), grants to raise alpacas (no).  To help sort all this out, Stephen Versen, a Project Manager in the Agriculture and Forestry Development Services unit at VDACS (Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services), will be discussing some of the most useful state and federal programs and answering your questions about accessing them.  Major topics to be discussed are USDA loan and grant programs, as well as assistance available through the Commonwealth of Virginia, including:  the Virginia Grown/Virginia’s Finest programs and the new Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID). For more information about the webinar or questions, please contact webinar organizers Matt Benson (mcbenson@vt.edu) or Kim Niewolny (niewolny@vt.edu).
Check out the project website at www.vabeginningfarmer.org for recordings of past webinars and to see what other exciting initiatives are being developed!

System Requirements for PC-based attendees: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
For Mac®-based attendees: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer

No registration is required. A few minutes before 3PM, go to the website address above and login by typing in your name under the “guest account”. You will then be taken to the webinar. Once logged in, run the audio wizard setup (Select MEETING/RUN AUDIO SETUP WIZARD) to ensure your computer speakers are hooked up and on. To hear the audio and presenters, speakers must be turned on. For additional technical assistance, contact Carl Estes with Virginia Tech at (540) 231-1385. During the webinar, questions can be typed into the chat box on the left hand side of the screen.  A recording of this webinar will be available at the Virginia Beginning Farmer Project website afterwards.

Small Flock Poultry Workshop
Saturday, April 20, 10:00  am – 12:30 pm – Rockcastle Farm in Goochland, VA

Next month as part of the Center’ for Rural Culture’s “Homestead Series”.we are offering a Poultry Workshop designed to get you started raising chickens at home.Today more and more munisipalities and subdivisions are reviewing and changing their zoning ordinances and covenents to allow residents to have chickens.This has created a great interest in this fun and rewarding hobby. We hope through this program we can remove any misgivings you may have about having chickens at home. There is nothing better then a fresh home grown egg in the morning and this program will get you started on producing these delicious eggs for your family.
Chickens make great pets for the family. They are a courious, friendly addition to the household and will help teach children the responsibility of taking care of pets. Not to mention the added reward of harvesting and enjoying fresh eggs.

This fun filled and enlightening program will answer all your questions about raising chickens at home. Some of the topics we will cover include coop design basics, space requirements, rearing baby chicks, protection, feed, eggs or meat production, handling and storage of eggs.

Click on the link below to sign-up for this fun workshop
Register Now!
I can’t make it
Register to enjoy the morning! This program will be outside on the farm, come dressed for the weather and walking around on the farm.

Out Here with Animals – an American Livestock Breeds Conservancy event
May 18 – at all Tractor Supply stores

Tractor Supply Co. will be hosting an Out Here with Animals event in all TSC stores on May 18, 2013. This event celebrates the joy and richness that animals bring to our lives by combining education, demonstrations, and product specials at every store.
Why get involved?
If you are part of an organization or business involved with animals, this is an excellent opportunity for you to interact and promote your organization and its services to other animal lovers in your community.
Once you have signed up, work with your local store manager to determine how best to tie in with the event and meet the needs of your organization.
Rescue Groups: Raise awareness, display needy animals for adoption, and fundraise
Breeders: Show off your stock, raise awareness to your breeds, find customers for your goods
Not for Profits: Raise awareness and money for your cause, recruit members or volunteers
Businesses: Demo your services, raise awareness and attract customers

What do I need to do?

  • Commitment to be present at a store 5/18. Most stores are open from 8am-8pm. Although not required to be there for the full day, you are welcome to be. Once you have signed up you will work out particular details with the individual store manager.
  • Identify special needs. You are welcome to bring materials about your organization and set up a booth or table. Plan this with the store manager to determine available space, tables, chairs, etc.
  • Present your organization or business and Tractor Supply Co. in a professional manner.


How do I sign up?

  • Visit www.TractorSupply.com and enter your zip code to find stores in your area
  • Make contact with the manager and work out details for your event. Some stores may have space or other restrictions that may limit the ability to accommodate multiple group or certain activities. Therefore you must confirm details and scheduling with the store manager.


Questions you may have?

  • May my group be at multiple stores in my area? If your organization has the staff/resources to cover multiple locations, this is welcomed by TSC. Please be sure to indicate all locations you wish to cover when you call.
  • Are we allowed to bring animals on site? Yes! TSC strongly encourages you to bring animals needing new homes. In rare situations, a landlord agreement or local ordinance may demand otherwise. Your TSC manager can advise.
  • Are we allowed to solicit donations or raise money? Yes, as long as you have cleared this with the TSC store manager and the activity is not otherwise prohibited.
  • Will we be given space inside or outside of the store? This will vary by location. TSC will work to accommodate your organization as best as we can. Please work with your local manager.
  • To download and print ALBC brochures to take to the event, click here. Sincerely, ALBC staff
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March 17, 2013

Dear All,

Things are still in flux with the Senate Continuing Resolution – call your Senators this Monday the 18th if you did not get aq chance to call last week.  Other positions open and upcoming event announcements follow.

Mark

Urge Senate to Remove Destructive Riders from CR, and to Fund Needed Programs
Thank you all who called our Senators last week – you have had an impact!

Update:  The Senate did not complete its work on the Continuing Resolution last week as it has planned.  The reason?  A large volume of citizen input raising concerns with various aspects of the CR under consideration on the Senate floor – including our calls protesting the “biotech rider” (which would block USDA and court authority to enforce a review of new GMO crops before their release) and the “anti-GIPSA rider” (which would have abolished the contract farmers’ protections so carefully crafted by the USDA as mandated in 2008 Farm Bill). In other words, we have given the Senate pause – and they are taking extra time to consider these issues.

On a different but related vein, the Senate’s CR restores full funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program to allow additional farm signups this year.  However it does not restore funding for other stranded programs such as Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), or Organic Certification Cost Share, or Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.

For those of you who called our Senators in response to the last two e-mails - Thank you!   For those of you who have not yet called – Monday the 18th (the day most of you will be opening this late-night Sunday e-mail) is the day to do so.  Ask your Senators to support Senator Tester’s two Amendments to withdraw the biotech ridr and the anti-GIPSA rider from the Continuing Resolution. Thank the Senate for restoring CSP funding. And urge the Senator to do whatever s/he can to restore funding for the BFRDP, FMPP, organic programs, rural development programs, or any other of the curently-stranded programs that are especially important to you.  Although it is highly unlikely that the CR can be modified at this point to restore funding for these programs, it is still worth letting our Senators know how important they are, and how disappointed we are that their funding has not been restored.  It will increase pressure on the Senate Ag Committee and then the full Senate to move a better 2013 Farm Bill that includes full funding for these programs.

In Virginia – Senator Tim Kaine is at 202-224-4024; his agricultural Legislative Aide is Nick Barbash (and when I talked with him on Friday he acknowledged having received multiple calls on these issues).  Senator Mark Warner is at 202-224-2023; his agricultural Legislative Aide is Caitlin Runyan, and she is especially committed to advancing local food systems and the use of SNAP (food stamp) benefits at farmers’ markets.

For those of you outside of Virginia – if you do not know your Senators’ phone numbers in Washington, DC, call  the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Position Open:  Farmer or Farm Manager

The position involves two farms, one located in Southampton County and the other located in Greensville County. The farm located in Southampton County is 64 acres with 7.7 acres open. The farm located in Greensville County is 114 acres with 57 acres open. We would like to start with the smaller farm, and then if successful, add the larger farm as well. A tractor is available, along with tillage equipment. We could also provide assistance with housing, in the form of a 3 bedroom, two bathroom brick rancher, or a mobile home.

With respect to compensation, we are flexible. We would like to encourage as much entrepreneurship as possible, thereby structuring the arrangement as either a farm management position or a farm lease. The farmer/farm manager can keep a large percentage of all profits from sales. Moreover, if the relationship is successful, and the farmer/farm manager prefers a salary we could arrange that in future years. In addition, we would be willing to provide additional capital to assist with farming equipment/supplies/labor. The farmer/farm manager would also have access to food grown/raised on the farm for personal consumption.

Our goals are to convert both farms into profitable, sustainable farms. We are willing to give the farmer/farm manager freedom as to select what vegetables/fruit are grown, and what livestock are raised, as long as they employ sustainable practices.

Interested?  Please contact:
M. James Faison, President
Green Harvest Capital LLC
Office: + 1 804 457 8458
Email: mjfaison@greenharvestcapital.com

Position Open: Policy Associate in Marketing, Food Systems, and Rural Development
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

NSAC is hiring a new Policy Associate to develop and implement policy and strategy focused on marketing, food systems, and rural development, especially as these relate to increasing farm income, creating economic development opportunities, and redeveloping local and regional agriculture.  The Policy Associate will be working at NSAC’s Washington, DC office, and will be conducting direct advocacy on Capitol Hill and before the Executive Branch, in addition to developing policy proposals and strategies.  See attached pdf file for more details and application procedure.

Internship Positions Open:
Heart Root Herbs Internships in Nelson County, VA

I am currently looking for an intern or 2 to work at Heart Root Herbs at Shannon Farm in Nelson County 2 days per week starting ASAP.  Duties will include all aspects of growing, harvesting, and processing medicinal herbs and produce.  Compensation includes a wonderful learning experience, lunch, and herbs and veggies.  To learn more please contact Terry at tygerlilley@gmail.com or call 434-296-3963.

Veggie Garden Interns in Central Virginia

Innisfree Village Gardens is now seeking 3 Garden Interns to assist with the seasonal needs of vegetable operation to support a 50+ member CSA. Compensation includes a $400/month stipend, room in family style accommodations and farm fresh meals. Come join a rich, varied community life into which interns are welcomed wholeheartedly. Positions begin in mid/late March for a minimum 3-month commitment.
Contact the Innisfree Village Gardens at 434-823-5646 for more information.
Vegetable Garden
http://www.innisfreevillage.org/

Virginia State Conservation Innovation Grants
Pre-proposals due May 3

The Virginia office of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has released its Request for Applications for state Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG).  The State CIG announcement has been posted on Grants.Gov under announcement number USDA-NRCS-VA-13-01.  The information is also on the home page of the NRCS website at the following link: http://www.va.nrcs.usda.gov/

Virginia pre-proposals are due by May 3, 2013.  Full proposals are due June 28, 2013.  The announcement and news release are attached.  Questions?  Contact Wade Biddix, Assistant State Conservationist (Programs) at (804) 287-1675, e-mail: Wade.Biddix@va.usda.gov.

Soils 201 Workshop
Local Food Hub in Charlottesville – this Thursday March 21, 4:00- 7:00 pm

From Local Food Hub: What do you need to understand about soils to be a good steward? In this class we will explore the physical, biological, and chemical properties of soils. We will look at soil fertility and what you can do as a manager to improve your soil’s health and productivity. All of this taught from a layperson’s perspective, aimed at practitioners.
When: Thursday, March 21, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Location: Maple Hill Farm
Cost: $25
Instructor: Ellen Polishuk
RSVP: info@localfoodhub.org | (434) 286-2176
http://localfoodhub.org/workshops/workshop-soils-201/
Greenhouse and Hoophouse Construction Workshop – structures for growing healthy food and sustainability
Forrest Green Farm in central Virginia, March 23, 9 am – 5 pm

Registration for this day-long workshop is $100.  To register, visit http://www.forrestgreenfarm.com/

The key to our design is a small manageable size and extremely strong galvanized hoops.  The small size (7’ inside height) has many advantages most importantly being, it
is efficient to heat (for winter growing) and to cool (for summer growing). Hoops are hand formed for a unique structural quality with Hot Dipped Galvanized thick
wall (.133”) tubing. Most kits on the market are made of 16 ga. (.065”) or 18 ga. (.049”) tubing.

Topics covered:
• Site considerations – Learn how to use a sun chart
• Foundation layout and ground slope
• Types of greenhouse designs
• Frame design and build
• Hoop design and form
• Different plastic greenhouse coverings
• Different techniques for securing film
• Cooling and heating techniques (we use woodstoves)

This is a hands-on workshop with a unique opportunity to actually see and participate in constructing a greenhouse. Tasks performed during workshop:
• Ground post layout and sink into the ground
• Baseboard installation
• Bend hoops on site and install
• We will actually remove the old and replace the greenhouse film on one of our greenhouses

Food and drinks will be available throughout the day.

16th Annual Certificate Permaculture Design Course Online
Class begins on April 14.

Cycle 16 of the Elfin Permaculture annual course online begins April 14. Enrollment has begun.  To allow for other projects, we may, at the conclusion of Cycle 16, discontinue annual offerings of this program for some years, or permanently.  To accommodate students enrolled in our deliberate track, which involves students during two of our-six month course cycles, we will have some sort of program for Cycle 17, but we may well accept only non-certificate students not submitting designs.  The decision will be made during, or shortly following, Cycle 16.

The Elfin Permaculture Design Course Online is singularly rigorous and complete, with 21 course modules of one week or more, most covering multiple topics. Full details of the course structure and content may be read in the course preregistration package, which is a free download at http://www.barkingfrogspermaculture.org/preregistration.pdf

________________________

March 14, 2013

Dear All,

Following up on the e-mail I sent this morning regarding the “anti-GIPSA-rule” and “biotech” riders on the Continuing Resolution in the Senate, I offer several additional bits of information in this e-mail:

Senator Warner’s telephone number in DC is 202-224-2023
Senator Tim Kaine’s telephone number in DC id 202-224-4024.

Senator Jon Tester has now filed his two amendments to get these damaging riders taken out of the CR. The Amendment to remove the biotech rider is Amendment 74; I do not have an amendment number for the one to remove the anti-GIPSA rider.  The Senate is expected to vote on these Amendments tomorrow (Friday the 15th).  I think both of our Senators can be persuaded to vote for the amendments (against the riders) if enough of us call in to let him that is what we want him to do.  Call as early in the day as you can and leave your message.

See helpful link here.

Thank you for all that you do for a sustainable farm bill.

Sincerely,

Mark

_______________________

March 10, 2013

Position Open: Farm Assistant
Gordonsville, VA

Legacy Farm in Gordonsville, VA is looking for a Farm Assistant for the 2013 season. The farm has been producing organic vegetable, fruits, and small grains for three years. The person would be responsible for all aspects of vegetable field work, including greenhouse propagation, field cultivation, irrigation, harvesting and direct marketing.  Prefer 1 year organic farming experience and someone that is self motivated, but would receive guidance and mentoring. The person should have knowledge of small farm equipment (rototiller, tractor, hay equipment). General farm activities will include pasture mowing and haying, fence repair, and general landscape up-keep. Production season is generally full-time from March to October. Part-time may be available during the winter months. Compensation is salary and benefits based on experience.  Please submit resume and cover letter to Legacy Farm, 667 Red Hill Road, Gordonsville, VA or dsjerkins@gmail.com.

Available:  Raised Bed and Row Cover Equipment

Machine has been used for 3 years in summer vegetable production and kept under cover during winter season. Comes with 2 row drip tape attachment and makes 3′, 4′, or 5′ rows beds. Also available 1 roll of 4′ X 5000′ biodegradable black plastic and 2 rolls of Toro Aquatrax drip tape (8 mm, 12 “emitter spacing, 5/8″ diameter). Originally purchased from Market Farm Implements. Price: $ 3,600 or best offer. Please contact: Diana Jerkins at 540-832-3334 or dsjerkins@gmail.com.

Exploring Best Food Safety Practices and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) Certification for Beginning Farmers
Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project – Webinar Series, No. 2
Wednesday, March 20, 3:00 – 4:00 pm

This Webinar will be presented by Wythe Morris, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent, Commercial Horticulture
To participate in this webinar, please go to: http://connect.ag.vt.edu/vabeginningfarmergap

Local and regional food systems that connect farmers to nearby markets are continuing to grow throughout Virginia and the U.S. Because of this, many farmers are experiencing a wider array of marketing opportunities such as through farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals. Through a 2011-2012 survey of Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers, respondents indicated that they had lower levels of knowledge about food safety and good agricultural practices (GAP) certification compared to other production practice needs. Virginia beginning farmer respondents also indicated that they were utilizing numerous direct and intermediate marketing channels for distribution and sale of their products. The purpose of this webinar is to help Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers and other agricultural service providers understand the policies, regulations, and processes that allow for safe food production, distribution, and consumption. Please join us for a presentation by Mr. Wythe Morris, Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent in Commercial Horticulture as he describes best food safety practices and the GAP certification process. Following this presentation, you will have an opportunity to ask Wythe your questions as he helps guide you through safe food production and certification. For more information about the webinar or questions, please contact webinar organizers Matt Benson (mcbenson@vt.edu) or Kim Niewolny (niewolny@vt.edu).

Recordings of past webinars can be found on the project website: http://www.vabeginningfarmer.aee.vt.edu/webinar/Archive/webinar-archive.html .

System Requirements

PC-based attendees – Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Mac®-based attendees – Required: Mac OS® X 10.5 or newer

No registration is required. A few minutes before 3PM, go to the website address above and login by typing in your name under the “guest account”. You will then be taken to the webinar. Once logged in, run the audio wizard setup (Select MEETING/RUN AUDIO SETUP WIZARD) to ensure your computer speakers are hooked up and on. To hear the audio and presenters, speakers must be turned on. For additional technical assistance, contact Carl Estes with Virginia Tech at (540) 231-1385. During the webinar, questions can be typed into the chat box on the left hand side of the screen. A recording of this webinar will be available at the Virginia Beginning Farmer Project website afterwards.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project is sponsored through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Award # 2010-49400-21720.

Farmer Participants Wanted!
Nationwide Survey of Urban and Peri-Urban Farms
March 2013

We are currently looking for farmers in or around urban areas to take part in a national study (through a survey) being led by New York University, The Pennsylvania State University, and the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

The study seeks to examine the state of urban and peri-urban farming in the United States, including the: (1) technical assistance and information needs on the part of urban farms that can be met through outreach programs; (2) production, management, and marketing risks for urban farms and the development of programs to address those risks; and (3) increased awareness on the part of policymakers and communities of the benefits of urban farming. A national outreach and technical assistance program will be developed based on the results of this research.

The online survey for farmers (not in Philadelphia) should take approximately 20 minutes to complete and can be found at:https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/urbanfarms

For farmers in or around Philadelphia, we ask that you complete the following survey, which covers additional aspects of interest to Penn State Extension staff: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/urbanfarmsPhilly

Reminder:  Make those calls to your Senators on Monday

This week – possibly as early as Monday or Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the Continuing Resolution needed to keep the government in business through the rest of this Fiscal Year.  This is an opportunity to restore funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, underfunded by error so that the NRCS cannot sign up any new producers or acreages this year, and for dozens of small but important programs stranded by an incomplete extension of the old Farm Bill after Congress failed to complete a new Farm Bill in 2012.  Some of these programs include:
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
Value-Added Producer Grant Program
Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
Rural Energy for America Program
Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives
Farmers Market Promotion Program
Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers
Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program

If you have used any of these programs and found them beneficial to your farming operation, your story will be especially persuasive with Senators.

In Virginia, call Senator Mark Warner at 202-224-2023, and Senator Tim Kaine at 202-224-4024.  In other states, if you do not know your Senator’s phone number in Washington, DC, call the US Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

______________________________

March 8, 2013

Dear All,

Many of you have participated in, or know about. the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, through which VABF and other Coalition partners have offered Farm School classes, and are developing farm mentoring networks throughout the state. VABF offered a successful Farm School series last fall, a one-day Farm School the day before our annual Conference in Richmond, and is starting another series this spring.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, and many others like it across the US, are funded by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), a competitive grants program.  After four years’ funding under the 2008 Farm Bill at $19 million per year, the BFRDP has been left stranded without funding in for 2013 because no new Farm Bill has been passed, and the extension of the 2008 Farm Bill enacted at the beginning of this year failed to continue funding for BFRDP and 30 other small-budget USDA programs. Among these stranded programs are the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (which has funded research into organic control of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug); the Organic Certification Cost share on which many of Virginia’s USDA certified organic farmers depend, and the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.

Unless the Senate acts to fix the situation next week, 2013 is on track to be the worst setback for sustainable agriculture in years.  Opportunities for farmers to implement smart conservation practices will be severely limited.  Training opportunities for the next generation of beginning and minority farmers will dry up.  Microloans to the very small businesses that drive economic recovery in rural America will cease.   Organic farming research and cost share funding will be greatly diminished.

What’s going on?
Back in the fall, Congress made a mistake that prevents farmers from signing up for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) this year, leaving over 9,000 farmers high and dry.**  And when Congress extended the old farm bill on New Year’s Eve, they left out dozens of critical sustainable agriculture programs – leaving them stranded without funding for the year!*

On Monday, the Senate will take up their own version of the Continuing Resolution, the bill to fund government programs through the rest of 2013 – and they have a chance to fix the CSP mistake and to restore funding for key sustainable agriculture programs.  But they’ve got to know these issues matter.

The House failed to include these priorities in the funding bill it passed this week – the Senate can fix this!

Don’t let Congress leave these programs stranded!  Speak out today!

Please call Senator Mark Warner at 202-224-2023, and Senator Tim Kaine at 202-224-4024.  Our Senators are supportive of our priorities, especially conservation, local food systems, and beginning farmer training and technical assistance – but they may need our support and urging to seize the opportunity now before them.

When you call, deliver a message such as:  “I am calling about the Continuing Resolution.  Please take this opportunity to support mandatory funding in the bill for the programs that were stranded in the farm bill extension, including Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program [and any of the stranded programs listed below that are top priority for you[.  Also, support a measure in the Continuing resolution to restore full funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program so USDA can hold a farmer sign-up this year.

Making a call takes only a few moments - please call right now!

Thanks for all that you do,

Mark

For more information, visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition website, www.sustainableagriculture.net.

* Some of the programs currently stranded without funding include:
"       Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
"        Value-Added Producer Grant Program
"       Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
"       Rural Energy for America Program
"       Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative
"       National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
"       Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives
"       Farmers Market Promotion Program
"       Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers
"        Conservation Reserve - Transition Incentive Program

** The problem impacting the Conservation Stewardship Program is a technical error that is currently preventing USDA from conducting a 2013 sign-up for the program.  This error can be corrected with a no-cost fix that will allow USDA to help farmers and ranchers install conservation practices this year!

_____________________

February 12, 2013

Dear All,

More farming opportunities, events, webinars, and resources.

Sincerely,

Mark

Shenandoah Graziers' Network
A new resource for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Matt Booher of Virginia Cooperative Extension and Alston Horn of Chesapeake Bay Foundation have issued an open invitation to new and beginning livestock farmers to join a beginner graziers' network here in the Shenandoah Valley.  In the words of VCE Specialist in Community Viability Eric Bendfeldt, "The network will be encouraging peer-to-peer learning and networking around topics such as stocking management, rotational grazing, soil fertility, weed control, fencing and watering systems, animal health and nutrition, and marketing strategies for local and specialty markets."

For more information, see attached flyer, or contact Alston Horn, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 540-487-9060AHorn@CBF.ORG, or Matt Booher, Virginia Cooperative Extension
540-245-5750mrbooher@vt.edu.  To join the network, fill out the attached Member Profile Form and e-mail it to Alston or Matt.

40-Acre Certfied Organic Farm Available for Lease in Hanover, VA
And a farm equipment liquidation sale on February 15 and 16

Linda Wickenheiser and Peter Perkins  at Red Rake Farm are retiring. We have 40 acres including a 3 acre orchard that we would like to lease. There is a great irrigation system, and the
farm had been certified organic since 1998.

On Friday February 15 and Saturday February 16th, 9am-3pm, we are having a liquidation sale of farm equipment, greenhouse, and farmers' market suplies.

We are located 10 miles East of Kings Dominion ( exit 98 on Rt 95) on Rt 30.  Address is 1933 King William Rd. ( Rt. 30), Hanover, Va., 23069.

Interested? - Please contact Linda and Peter at phone 804 994-2408, E-mail linwickenheiser@aol.com.

Farm Internship Position Open
Abingdon, VA - Position open on February 18

Seeking aspiring farmer or farm couple:  Abingdon Organics, a small, diversified organic farm in southwestern Virginia, is seeking an individual or couple for the 2013 season to help with all phases of our farming operation.  Abingdon Organics and its owners, Anthony and Laurel Flaccavento, have been  leaders in the  local foods and sustainable farming movement in the region for nearly two decades.  Their farm produces more than 50 different types of vegetables and fruits which are sold at the farmers market, to local restaurants and other outlets.  The farm has many innovations, including several high tunnels and hoop houses, cover crops and beneficial insect habitat, and ongoing trials of varieties, soil improvement and insect control.  The farm is located 3 miles from Abingdon, a town with a strong art, music and local food scene.  Even a local brewery!

Qualified individuals should have at least one season of experience as WWOOFers, farm interns or apprentices on a produce farm.  You will be involved in greenhouse production, all phases of field and high tunnel production, marketing ,and planning and tracking production and profitability.  A certificate will be provided detailing the skills and knowledge you’ve built during your time here.  In addition to the learning opportunity, compensation includes comfortable lodging in our home, wonderful food and a small stipend.  No pets, please.  If interested, email Anthony at flaccavento@ruralscale.com or call 276 698-8956.  Position is open beginning February 18th.

Local Food Producers' Smorgasbord Regional Workshop
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 8:30 am – 3:00pm - Wytheville, VA.

Southwest Virginia  Fresh and Virginia Cooperative Extension are co-sponsoring a multifaceted one-day workshop for small local foods producers and sellers on Saturday, February 16, 2013, from 8:30 am until 3:00pm at the Wytheville Meeting Center in Wytheville, VA

Regionally renowned Food Safety expert Wythe Morris and a team of Extension experts will cover food safety requirements including who falls under GAP certification and who does not, considerations for selling at a market, value-added product decisions, and other key business knowledge and skills.  It is oriented to what direct marketers in the region need and many are surprised at how easily they can meet required or suggested procedures.

Any Southwest Virginia grower/producer who is or may want to be selling their products at farmers markets or directly from their home or farm is encouraged to attend.  Locally grown and produced foods are in growing demand and this is an opportunity for small entrepreneurs to begin or expand and to take the mystery out of key business expectations.

Cost is $45 per person or $75 per farm (2 participants) with lunch included.  Pre-registration is requested but not required by February 14 in order to ensure that adequate materials and lunches are available, and the first 12 registrants will receive a $20 discount courtesy of Southwest Virginia Fresh.  To register, please email mtn2mtn@psknet.com or call 540-980-3094 and ask for Southwest Virginia Fresh.

Latino Farmers' Market Producers Meeting
February 19, 9 am - 12 noon - Room 300 in L. Douglas Wilder Building at Virignia State University in Petersburg, VA

The Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program and La Plaza Farmers' Market are co-sponsoring a meeting for Latino producers who would like to market at La Plaza.  See attached flyer for more details

Webinar:  Exploring Farm Credit Programs Available Through the Farm Service Agency
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 | 3:00pm to 4:00pm

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project is holding a Webinar on Farm Credit Programs available through the USDA Farm Services Agency.  Presenters will include Pete Adamson, Chief, Farm Loan Programs and Kim Depasquale, Farm Loan Manager.

To participate in this webinar please go to: http://connect.ag.vt.edu/vabeginningfarmerfsa/

Interested in learning more about farm credit programs? Thinking about borrowing money to start or expand your farm operation and business? Then this webinar is for you! The purpose of this webinar is to help Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers and other agricultural service providers learn more about farm credit programs available through the Farm Service Agency. Join webinar presenters Mr. Pete Adamson, Chief, Farm Loan Programs for Virginia and Ms. Kim Depasquale, Farm Loan Manager in the Fredericksburg FSA Office as they discuss different farm credit options that are available for diverse Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers. Following their presentation, you will have an opportunity to ask Pete and Kim your questions as they help guide you through the farm loan planning process. Please join us for this exciting learning and networking opportunity!

For more information about the webinar or questions, please contact webinar organizers Matt Benson (mcbenson@vt.edu) or Kim Niewolny (niewolny@vt.edu).

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project is sponsored through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Award # 2010-49400-21720.

Webinar:  Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) - a Webinar designed for the Organic/Sustainable Ag Community
Sponsored by the National Organic Coalition (NOC - www.NationalOrganicCoalition.org )
February 27, 2013, 2:00 pm Eastern

FDA will present a short power point and will take questions from participants.  If you would like to participate, please RSVP to National Organic Coalition by calling 914-443-5759, or e-mailing  info@NationalOrganicCoalition.org

RSVP is required -- call-in details will follow.

Virginia State University and USDA Outreach Workshop
March 7, 2013  - L. Douglas Wilder Builidng at Virginia State University in Petersbyurg,VA

From Antonio McLaren, USDA/1890 Program Liaison, Virginia State University

Virginia State University (VSU) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will host the 2013 Outreach Workshop on March 7th. This event will take place on the VSU campus in the L. Douglas Wilder building. This one-day workshop will bring members of the VSU, USDA, and farming community together to share information and resources. Farmers will benefit from USDA and VSU resources that will help them enhance the sustainability of their agricultural enterprises. Specific topics that will be presented during the Outreach Workshop include marketing, business planning, getting access to USDA programs, and more. The event will include a producer-led panel discussion, topical breakout sessions, and USDA information tables/booths.

This workshop is FREE, but pre-registration is required to reserve your seat. Deadline for pre-registration is February 28th.

Lunch is included with pre-registration, and all attendees will benefit from networking throughout the day's activities. Pre-registration includes name, phone number, and an e-mail address for each person that plans to attend, and all information should be provided by February 28th. To pre-register or to get more information, please contact Antonio McLaren, USDA/1890 Program Liaison on(804)-524-6872 or amclaren@vsu.edu.

________________________________

February 3, 2013

Dear All,

Lots to share after a week's hiatus. I hope to see many of you at the Conference in Richmond.

Mark

Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Friday-Saturday February 8-9, 2013 - Richmond, VA

You can still register, even at the door - but it is cheaper to do it on line by February 5 (this Tuedsay).  www.vabf.org, click on 2013 Conference.

Seven Springs Farm Organic Farming and Gardening Supplies - Bulk Delivery at Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Friday February 8 - Richmond, VA
Order deadline February 5 - this Tuesday

Seven Springs Farm Organic Farming and Gardening Supply Catalog is once again offering a bulk delivery to the VABF conference on Feb 8th. This year we will donate 10% of profits from the sales of this bulk delivery to the Andy Hankins Memorial Fund. The delivery will go to the Holiday Inn Koger Conference Center in Richmond were the conference is taking place. All orders must be picked up on Feb 8th when you come to the conference. We may be able to compliment a few people that can not come to the conference until the 9th. Orders can be placed directly with Seven Springs by email or phone. Deadline for orders will be Feb 5th. Shipping charges will be determined after all orders are compiled.
If you need a catalog call or view it online. www.7springsfarm.com/catalog.html
Ph # 800-540-9181 or 540-651-3228; Email 7springs@swva.net

Maryland Organic Food and Farming Association (MOFFA) Winter Meeting
February 16, 2013 (Snow Date February 23), 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Maryland Dept. of Agriculture, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD

More than an annual meeting, this is a truly affordable one-day conference featuring top of the line speakers on food safety, cover cropping in vegetable production, and more.  Come hear Dr. Ray Weil  and Natalie Lounsbury of University of Maryland and several innovative farmers and researchers on cover crops, tillage, and soils; Ariane Lotti of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Deanna Baldwin of Maryland Department of Agriculture, and long time organic farmer and social justice advocate Mike tabor on food safety legislation and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Laura Lengnick on climate change, and Margaret Morgan Hubbard on EcoCity Farms.  Bring a dish of homegrown food for potluck  lunch, particiate in a seed swap, silent auction, and opportunities for informal networking with peers - all for just $20!  For more information, go to www.marylandorganic.org

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary 2013 Class Schedule - all classes in Floyd,VA
March 9, 10 am - 1 pm - Beekeeping Series starts with Getting Started - First Steps
March 23, 9 am - 1 pm - Gardening Series starts with Gardening with the Rhythms of Nature
April 27, 9 am - 4 pm -  Biodynamic Series starts with The Healing Landscape: Biodynamic Soils & Preparations

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary is pleased to announce our 2013 class schedule. We have expanded our class offerings this year to include biodynamics and gardening as well as sustainable beekeeping. We have also implemented a new online registration process and are accepting credit card payments. Please visit our website at www.spikenardfarm.org/training.html to learn more, to view the complete schedule of classes, and to register.

Beekeeping Series of four classesRegister for all four classes for $175, a saving of $45.
        March 9, 10 am - 1 pm - Getting Started and First Steps.  This class will cover what you need to know to get started with a natural  beehive including hive choices, sources for bees and general information.  Tuition $25.
April 13 - 9 am - 4 pm - Fundamentals of Biodynamic/Sustainable Beekeeping.  Join us as we examine the current state of the honybee and explore the principals and practices of sustainable/biodynamic beekeeping.  Tuition $65.
May 4 - 9 am - 4 pm - Expanding the Apiary. Topics include swarm management and the correct timing and procedure for making splits.  Tuition $65.
August 17 - 9 am - 4 pm - Hive Health & Winter Preparation. Medicinal teas, mite monitoring, biodynamic treatments, honey harvest and winter feeding. Tuition $65.

Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary's mission is to promote sustainable and biodynamic beekeeping through education, experience-based research and a honeybee santuary and to help restore the health and vitality of the honeybee worldwide.

Farmland Available in Virginia

Great Farming and Ownership Opportunity near Floyd in southwest Virginia
         A total of 44 acres now offered for sale in southwestern Virginia, near Floyd, the Blue Ridge Parkway, wineries and Floydfest. Properties include upgraded farmhouse, strong creek, barn, woods, pasture, roads and more. Without any non-organic products since at least 2006. Visit website: http://www.ownmyfarm.com to learn more.
To inquire, contact the owner, Lori Day by email at ldaync@gmail.com

25-Acre Organic Farm with Beautiful Farmhouse
Pamplin, VA (Appomattox County), 40 minutes from Lynchburg, 1.5 hours from Richmond, Roanoke, and Charlottesville
         This is a ready-to-go farm that has been under organic vegetable production on 12 tillable acres for the past four years.  Underground irrigation system provides water to all production fields from year-round creek; 30 by 48 ft greenhouse, walk-in cooler, tool shed, and chicken coop, as well as a beautiful 2200 sq ft farmhouse.  You can see lots more details, and photos, on our LandAndFarm listing.
Contact Lisa Moussalli at lisa.steinbrueck@gmail.com

Community Garden Plots Available in Pulaski, VA
A message from the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce:
         Reserve space to grow your own fruits and vegetables at the new Fairview Community Garden located behind Fairview Home.   Fee per 10' x 10' plot is $10. You may also enjoy the walking trail.
Plots will be divided into 10' x 10', 20', 30' and 40' areas.  There will be 10' buffer zones between garden plots to help reduce insect and fungus migration.  Participants are encouraged to raise all plants to comply with organic gardening standards.  Monthly workshops will be hosted by Pulaski Extension Agents, Master Gardeners and 4-H Gardening Club.  There will be monthly workdays to help maintain common areas around garden plots.  There will be a Garden Coordinator to arrange events and keep people up to date on activities. For more information or to reserve your plot, contact the Visitor Center (674-4161).

Positions Open in Sustainable Agriculture

Farm Manager Sought to grow Three Acres of Organic Vegetables
Suffolk, VA
         My name is David Sella-Villa. I work for a company that recently purchased farm land in Suffolk, Virginia. We would like to turn part of it into an organic farm focused on vegetables and fruit. To that end, we are looking to hire a farm manager to set up and run an organic farm.  I will be attending the VABF conference in Richmond this week - so if you would like to find out more about this opportunity, you can talk with me there, or you can contact me at
We have approximately 20 acres of cleared land that had never been farmed.  This season, we would like to take three plots, one acre in size each, and farm vegetables consistent with USDA organic certification standards.  Though we have some equipment, a barn, and an irrigation pond, we would task the farm manager with purchasing all necessary equipment and infrastructure.  The farm manager would also oversee the installation process.  The farm manager would be required to prepare these 3 plots for production this season.  Our goal for this year is to have some crop to bring to a local farmer's market, may be not every week, but throughout the season.
The farm manager would work closely with an individual at the company focused on providing the farm manager administrative and financial support.  Though the farm manager would lead the process of USDA organic certification, as well as any other required permitting and licenses, the individual at the company is prepared to provide significant assistance.  The farm manager would be asked to focus on developing the farm.  The individual at the company, in addition to supporting the farm manager's efforts, would work on growing and expanding the customer base for the farm's product.

Farm Internship Positions Open in Floyd County
Fertile Crescent Farm seeks 2 Interns for their farm and 1 intern for nearby Plenty! food bank farm
         We currently have 2 intern positions open for our farm and 1 intern position open for the Plenty! farm here in Floyd. Interns work 5 1/2 days per week on all aspects of our operation from soil preparation and planting through harvest, packing, and delivery. Internships are for 6 to 8 months, beginning in March or April, and include on site housing, access to farm produce, and a weekly stipend.  For more information, see our listings on the ATTRA website:
https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/farmdetails.php?FarmName=&City=&State=VA&Keyword=&allDate=0&page=1&FarmID=2754
https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/farmdetails.php?FarmName=&City=&State=VA&Keyword=&allDate=0&page=1&FarmID=3203

To apply, contact Darbi Jewell, Fertile Crescent Farm, 540-763-2302,  fertilecrescentfarm@gmail.com.  To learn more about the farm, visit www.fertilecrescentfarm.com

Position Announcement: Policy Associate in Conservation and Farm Programs
Location: Washington, DC

Description
        The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.  NSAC is currently seeking a Policy Associate for conservation and farm program issues.  This position is located at NSAC’s DC office on Capitol Hill.
NSAC’s Policy Associate will help to develop and implement policy and strategy focused on agricultural conservation, especially working lands programs, and on farm program reform, especially crop insurance programs.  The Policy Associate will advocate before the US Congress and executive branch agencies, particularly the US Department of Agriculture.  The Policy Associate will staff and help lead NSAC’s Conservation, Energy & Environment Issue Committee, and will also have assignments within NSAC’s Farming Opportunities and Fair Competition Committee.  The associate will draft documents, including legislative language, policy papers, testimony, advocacy materials, and comments relating to USDA working lands conservation programs, climate change, crop insurance, and other issues.  She or he will contribute to the organization’s annual planning and priority setting, budgeting, and fundraising; participate in the planning and execution of coalition-wide meetings; assist with grassroots and grasstops outreach; write policy blogs; represent NSAC at Conservation Coalition and other similar DC partner meetings; and represent NSAC at events and to the media.  The Policy Associate, one of four Policy Associates at NSAC, reports directly to NSAC’s Policy Director.

Qualifications
        An understanding and passion for sustainable agriculture, including farm conservation and environmental protection and family farm livelihood and opportunity
Knowledge of the federal policy-making process
A minimum of three years Hill/lobbying experience or other agricultural policy experience
Experience advocating in support of conservation programs or farm program reform is preferred
Background with grassroots advocacy campaigns
Excellent written and verbal communications and public speaking skills
Experience with print, radio, and online media
Experience with large, multi-organization grassroots coalitions
Ability to both work independently and be a good team player
Willingness to work around a demanding congressional schedule and administrative deadlines
Willingness to travel domestically several times a year

Compensation and Benefits
        Salary is on a non-profit scale and will be commensurate with experience and qualifications.  NSAC offers an excellent employer paid benefits package and a lively and collaborative work environment.

Application
        Please send resume, cover letter including an explanation of your interests in sustainable agriculture, salary history, and the names of three references to Emily Gilbert at egilbert@sustainableagriculture.net.
NSAC is an equal opportunity employer.  We actively encourage people of color to apply for this position and all positions at NSAC.

_______________________________

January 22, 2013

Dear All,

Following are information about a new USDA Microloan program, the FDA's proposed rule based on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a bill in the Virginia legislature that would lighten regulatory burden on small farmers, and Anthony Flaccavento's eloquent rebuttal to some recent anti-organic opinion (based on shaky science).

Mark

USDA Finalizes New Microloan Program
Microloans up to $35,000 aim to assist small farmers, veterans, and disadvantaged producers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15, 2013 — Agriculture Secretary Tom VVilsack 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, and will provide a much better alternative to relying on credit cards or high-interest personal loans to finance start-up..

Administered through USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) Operating Loan Program, the new microloan program offers credit options and solutions to a variety of producers. Producers can apply for a maximum of $35,000 to pay for initial start-up expenses such as hoop houses to extend the growing season, essential tools, irrigation, delivery vehicles, and annual expenses such as seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, and distribution expenses. As their financing needs increase, applicants can apply for an operating loan up to the maximum amount of $300,000 or obtain financing from a commercial lender under FSA's Guaranteed Loan Program.

USDA farm loans can be used to purchase land, livestock, equipment, feed, seed, and supplies; to construct buildings; or to make farm improvements. Producers interested in applying for a microloan may contact their local Farm Service Agency office.

Food Safety Modernization Act Proposed Rule
Public Comment Period Closes May 15

On January 4 of this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued for public comment several major portions of its Proposed Rules for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President in 2011. These are:
Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption (the "Produce Rule")
Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food (the "Preventive Controls Rule")
Qualitative Risk Assessment Risk of Activity/Food Combinations for Activities (Outside the Farm Definition) Conducted in a Facility Co-Located on a Farm ("Risk Assessment").
A Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Produce and Preventive Control Rules.

The Produce Rule is the part that will most directly impact farms.  It covers food safety regulations related to irrigation and wash water, "biological" soil amendments (manure, compost), wild and domestic animals, farmworker hygiene, and the whole gamut of production practices from growing through post-harvest handling.  The Preventive Controls Rule addresses food processing and manufacturing activities, both on farm and by off-farm food processors and enterprises.  The Risk Assessment was conducted specifically for farms that also conduct some food processing on-site.  This document identifies certain foods and food handling activities (such as washing, grading, packaging, canning, salting, extracting oils, etc.) as sufficiently "low risk" to warrant an exemption for "small" on-farm food processing facilities (total annual gross less than $500,000 annually).  Small farms that conduct only low-risk processing activities will not have to jump through all the hoops under the Preventive Controls Rule, such as exhaustive Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Plans.
The good news is that, thanks in large part to diligent efforts by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and other advocates, Congress passed a FSMA that includes measures to allow small and mid-size farms and food businesses to meet food safety and record-keeping requirements without costly new investments or excessive record keeping burdens.  Congress also included provisions to ensure that new food safety regulations do not undermine on-farm conservation practices to protect water, soil, and wildlife, and do not conflict with National Organic Standards.
The bad news is that the proposed Rules come to some 1,700 pages total - and sustainable ag advocates will need to "divide and conquer" - each plowing through mangeable chunks of the rule to evaluate impacts on small diversified farms or on conservation, identify potential problems, and develop comments and recommendations. The Food Systems Integrity (FSI) Committee of NSAC has organized itself into task forces to begin this work, and we are seeking farmers and food entrepreneurs who are willing to review sections of the Produce Rule or the Preventive Controls Rule and provide feedback from their viewpoint.
If you would like to help the FSI Committee of NSAC in this vital work of analyzing the rule and developing comments and talking points, please contact Ariane Lotti at NSAC, alotti@sustainableagriculture.net, 202-547-5754, or let me know by return e-mail, as soon as practical.  Your input is valuable - and we will give you manageable sub-sections of the proposed rule, addressing topics of greatest concern to you.
 Note:  after the initial analysis and gathering of input from stakeholders, NSAC will organize a grassroots campaign around the FSMA Proposed Rule to address any major problems or issues through multiple comments from individuals, farms, and organizations.  The Public comment Period closes May 16, which gives us some time to develop our talking points and strategy.
Comments on the Risk Assessment are due February 15; fortunately this is a relatively short (95 pages) and less problematic document; several members of the FSI committee are reviewing it at this time.
For more information on advocacy efforts around FSMA, including links to text of the Proposed Rule itself, visithttp://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fda-releases-food-safety-regulations/ .

Virginia Food Freedom Act
HB 1839 in the Virginia State Assembly

Virginia state delegate Scott Lingamfelter has introduced the Virginia Food Freedom Act into the State Legislature as House Bill 1839.  Let's all call our State Senator and State Delegate and ask for their support for this bill.

From Bernadette Barber of Virginia Food Freedom

Whereas Virginia is experiencing an serious economic downturn;
Whereas Virginians are seeking locally produced healthy foods by people and farms they know; and
Whereas Virginians can create their own jobs and determine the healthfulness and safety of the foods of their choosing without government interference.

We urge the State Legislature to pass the Virginia Food Freedom Act:  HB 1839

There will be no restrictions for the sale of foods that are processed in the home or on a farm and sold directly to the end consumer, as long as it has a label that states the name of the producer, address, ingredients and the disclosure "not government inspected."

For the purpose of this bill the definitions are as follows: Home: the residence of the producer. Farm: an agricultural facility that has five or fewer employees outside of family.

Support HB 1839 Please call your representative and ask to please pass the VFFA Our communities and our economy need it

For more information
804-462-7255              www.virginiafoodfreedom.org

Anthony Flaccavento Rebuts "Environmentalist" Mark Lynas on GMOs and Agricultural Biotechnology

Many of you may have heard about British environmentalist Mark Lynas's "conversion" to science, and his public about-face on GMO crops and agricultural biotechnology.  A longtime opponent of genetically engineered crops, Mr Lynas recently came out with a 5,000 word statement to the effect that he had been wrong to stir up public opposition to agricultural biotechnology, which he now considers the greatest promise for feeding the world.

Well, other scientists, such as University of Michigan Professor of Biooogy John Vandermeer, have pointed out that Lynas's self-proclaimed "discovery of science" is still at a high school level of sophistication, and (assuming Mr Lynas continues his scientific education), he will come to understand the complex and unpredictable risks of GMO crop technology as he moves through college and graduate levels of understanding.

Closer to home, agricultural consultant, Congressional candidate, and former Executive Director of Appalachian Sustainable Development Anthony Flaccavento has written the following rebuttal of Mark Lynas's recent public manifesto. Anthony asked me to share it with you all.

Some of you may have heard that a prominent "environmentalist" in England - Mark Lynas - recently slammed organic farming and unabashedly endorsed genetic modification in a presentation at a conference at Oxford.  A colleague shared the text of his presentation with me.
After reading it, I wrote the following "rebuttal".  Since Mr Lynas' original text is beginning to make the rounds, I thought that you might appreciate a counterpoint to his...dribble.

anthony

Bill,
Wow, I can't begin to tell you all the errors, overstatements, unsupported claims and assumptions this paper makes.  He claims the mantel of science, yet consistently uses anecdotes to prove his point (for example the terrible, but exceptional circumstance of the tainted organic bean sprouts).
Here are just a few of the deficiencies and inaccuracies in this polemic:

1.  The consistent equating of organic farming as "anti progress", unscientific, pre-modern.  He uses the frequently employed stunt of using yields from 1961 as a proxy for "organic" in order to show that it is "40% to 50% less productive" and would therefore require far more land for the same yield.  In fact, published, peer-reviewed studies of many different cropping systems - rice, corn, wheat, soybeans, several different vegetables- show that organic production can meet or exceed modern chemical production on a per acre basis for most if not all major crops.  Organic production systems are particularly strong - and superior to conventional systems - during periods of drought, something which is becoming increasingly commonplace.
2.  Far from being unscientific, organic and sustainable farming has been at the forefront of innovation and research in agriculture.  When you realize that until about 10 years ago, most major universities, USDA and Cooperative Extension largely ignored organic production, it is actually quite amazing that organic research and practices have advanced as much as they have. Perhaps that is why, in my experience, a far greater proportion of organic and sustainable farmers hunger for and read the latest research on new varieties (or breeds), practices, equipment and farming systems.
3.  There is an unstated premise throughout that GM technology has significantly increased production of many major crops and is therefore an utterly essential weapon against hunger and famine.  In fact, studies of GM corn and soy production - the two GM crops with which we have the most experience - show minimal if any increases in yield per acre, at best in the 5% range and often not exceeding the latest hybrid varieties.  He mentions how production increases have leveled off in recent years, somehow citing that as further reason to expand and accelerate the use of GM crops, yet this is the very period where GM corn and soy varieties have become utterly dominant in the major grain producing countries (US and Canada in particular).  If GM technology were so effective in increasing output, we should have seen major yield increases over the past 15 years, but instead, yields have largely plateaued.
4.  His statement that glyphosate (Round Up) is "completely harmless" is contradicted by studies of both health impacts and the impact on soil biology, a critical part of soil fertility and yield potential.
5.  While using GM to impart pest fighting capabilities into a crop - for example Bt corn or Bt cotton - has reduced the use of some chemical insecticides, there are serious problems with this.  First, evidence is growing that it propels the development of resistant pests much more quickly than when used selectively.  Enabling a corn plant to produce its own Bacillus Thuringensis (Bt) is analogous to doctors prescribing too many antibiotics, speeding the development of resistant strains of bacteria.
This resistance is beginning to show up in the lepidoptera pests of corn and cotton; it is already widespread as weeds now immune to glyphosate.  So, farmers have responded by using more, not less, Roundup, and now Monsanto is working on a new GM corn that can withstand much more potent herbicides than glyphosphate.  There is no doubt that weeds will also become resistant to these, more toxic herbicides, and far more quickly and pervasively than if farmers were using them selectively.
He also dismisses concerns about GM crops pollinating other farmers' crops,as though this was some sort of elitist issue.   This is ludicrous. Monsanto and its ilk, whom he casts as farmer advocates, routinely sue farmers whose crop is pollinated by a neighboring farm using one of their GM varieties.  Several hundred farmers have been sued by Monsanto, with the majority settling out of court and losing a great deal in the process.
6. His statement that scientific studies prove that organic is no better nutritionally than conventional, is at the very best a gross overstatement. In fact, the studies present a mixed picture with some (peer reviewed) showing organic with significantly higher levels of various minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants, while others showing no significant differences. Logically, organic almost has to improve overall nutrient density for this reason:   The nutritional value of a specific leaf or fruit is partly determined by its own genetics - a tomato has different nutrients than broccoli - and partly by the mineral and micro nutrients of the soil in which it is grown.  The steady decline in soil organic matter over the past 60+ years of "modern agriculture" is well documented.  Along with that has been a decline in available nutrients for plants, leading both to greater dependence on fertility inputs and to an overall decline in the vitamin and mineral content of the produce we eat, estimated to be about 25% (the decline).  Organic farming or using organic practices restores those nutrients by building up the organic matter and improving soil microbiology (also a critical component of plant health and nutrient uptake).
7.  The greatest advantage of organic and sustainable farming, whether for crops or livestock, over industrial and GM methods is that over time you can achieve comparable productivity, sometimes greater, while becoming more self-reliant.  This is no small thing, for any farmer,  and certainly an enormous and critical need for the farmers and people in
developing countries the author claims he wants to help.   Organic farmers build their own fertility by building up the organic matter, which serves as a "bank" for nutrients and water, and by increasing the biological health of the soil, ie the beneficial fungi, bacteria, worms and other organisms that then both provide and recycle nutrients.  Livestock farmers using management intensive grazing and multi species systems end up with far more productive pasture land (that is, they can support more animals per acre), with dramatically fewer inputs, whether fertilizer or herbicide or corn for feed. Numerous studies show that ecologically diverse, organic or sustainable farms have lower levels of pests and disease, reducing the need for interventions of whatever type.   You don't have to be certified organic to employ such practices, but most larger scale, conventional farmers become reliant on inputs to a much greater degree, a dependence that eventually becomes both financial and agronomic.

I don't know anything about the author, but in my assessment - based on experience and a pretty extensive reading of the research over the years - it was much more of a rant than a thoughtful contribution to the debate. It certainly was not science-based, and the author's obvious exasperation with what he considers to be an emotionally driven, irrational group of people - environmentalists and organic advocates - led him to his own semi-hysterical tone and poor quality analysis.

I don't know with whom you shared the original article, but I'd appreciate it if you would circulate my critique with the same group.

Thanks,

anthony

___________________

January 22, 2013

Dear All,

Lots to share.  If you are seeking a farming position (or know someone who is), or are seeking an apprentice for your orchard, be sure to scroll down through this whole e-mail.  Positions open and position sought listings are the last items.

Mark

Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Holiday Inn Koger Center near Richmond - February 8-9

There is still plenty of space for more participants.  Registration for VABF members is just $135 through January 28 - and you can become a member at the time you sign up for the Conference. To register or for more information, visit http://vabf.org/conference/.

Bulk Delivery of Seven Springs Farm Organic Farming and Gardening Supplies
Virginia Biological Farming Conference - February 8

Seven Springs Farm Organic Farming and Gardening Supply Catalog is once again offering a bulk delivery to the VABF conference on Feb 8th. This year we will donate 10% of profits from the sales of this bulk delivery to the Andy Hankins Community Development Fund. The delivery will go to the Holiday Inn Koger Conference Center in Richmond where the conference is taking place.

All orders must be picked up on Feb 8th when you come to the conference. We may be able to accommodate a few people that can not come to the conference until the 9th.

Orders can be placed directly with Seven Springs by email or phone. Deadline for orders will be Feb 5th. Shipping charges will be determined after all orders are compiled.
If you need a catalog call or view it online. www.7springsfarm.com/catalog.html
Ph # 800-540-9181 or 540-651-3228
Email 7springs@swva.net

Special Workshop and Farm Tours - preceding the Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Holiday Inn Koger Center near Richmond - February 7
All events run concurrently from 9 am - 5 pm and include lunch.  Farm tours depart from the Holiday Inn Koger Center at 9 am sharp.

Farm School for Beginners - Whole Farm Planning, based on the Curriculum developed by the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project. $75
Farm School - Advanced Vegetable Production - taught by long time farmer and VABF member Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms. $85  VABFmembers, $95 nonmenbers
Farm Tour - Commercial Compost, and Pastured Dairy, Beef, Pork, and Poultry.  Watkins Nursery and Avery's Branch Farms in Amelia $40 members, $45 nonmenbers.
Farm tour - Hydroponics and Winter Vegetable Production.  Windmill Produce Farms, Twin Oaks Community.  $40 members, $45 nonmembers

Andy Hankins Community Development Fund
Providing agricultural education opportunties for youth in Virginia, and much more

Donations of any size much appreciated.  See attached pdf flyer for more.

SustainFloyd Small Acreage Profitability with Vegetables
Class I - Introduction to Farm Planning and Organic Production
Feb. 11 - Mar 18 - Monday evenings 6:00 - 9:00 in Floyd, VA.

SustainFloyd ( www.sustainfloyd.org), a partner in the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project (www.vabeginningfarmers.org) is offering two 6-week classes on Small Acreage Profitability with Vegetables during the first half of 2013.  Class instructor Tony Kleese of Earthwise Company ( http://www.earthwiselife.com/) has designed these classes around a model 1.5 acre intensive vegetable farm, and curriculum materials developed by the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition.
The 6-week classes will be taught by Tony and guest speakers (local farmers, Extension, and consultants), at 6:00 – 9:00 pm Monday evenings, at the Floyd Country Store in downtown Floyd, VA.  Class I, Introduction to Farm Planning and Organic Production will be taught on February 11 – March 18, and will cover the basics of farm planning, site evaluation, marketing and budgeting; soil and nutrient management, crop production and pest management, harvest, and post-harvest handling.
Class II, Developing Your Farm Business Plan will take place Monday evenings April 15 – May 20, and will address whole farm planning, business planning, and market analysis in greater depth.  By the end of this class, each student will complete an individualized business plan for their chosen farm enterprise.
Tuition for each six-week class is $100, with scholarship options available.  Completion of Class I is a prerequisite for enrollment in Class II.  However, attendance at the January 19 introductory session is not prerequisite for either class – so if you missed that event, don’t let that stop you!
To enroll, or for more information, contact Mike Burton, 540-745-7333, or mike@sustainfloyd.org, or visit www.sustainfloyd.org.

Honeybee Sanctuary Fundraiser
Lewis Ginter Botanical Sanctuary in Richmond - Saturday February 23, 11:30 am - 2:00 pm

Whole Foods has an exciting fundraiser coming up on Saturday, February 23rd for the Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary in Floyd. The fundraising luncheon will be at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. The founder of the sanctuary, Gunther Hauk, will be the keynote speaker. In addition to being a world renowned biodynamic beekeeper, Gunther has been featured in the films Vanishing of the Bees and Queen of the Sun.  The event includes a buffet lunch, and tickets are $40 per person, with every penny going to the Honeybee Sanctuary. See attached flyer for more.

Appalachian Farmers' Market Association 5th Annual Conference
"This Business of Farmers' Markets"
March 9, 2013, 9:00 am - 4:45 pm at The Slater Center, 325 McDowell Street • Bristol, TN

See attached flyer for more.

FARMING POSITIONS OPEN

CSA Garden Partner

Waverly Farms in Burkeville, VA is seeking a CSA/Garden partner.  The ideal person or family would be committed to sustainable, organic and biological farming and bring significant experience and a proven track record in CSA and Market growing success.  He or she would be respectful of GAP and Organic Certification documentation and other requirements, be capable of planning and fiscal management, have a strong work ethic and excellent organizational skills, be a good manager of others, and be totally committed to filling CSA boxes and Market baskets with an abundance of high quality food.  With 235 acres of pasture, woods and gardens that are free of potentially harmful pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, the owners of the farm provide the land and equipment needed to garden and market, including established and new gardens, wells and irrigation equipment, tractors and implements, a packing shed with triple washing sinks, a walk-in cooler kept at 42 degrees F and another walk-in storage room kept at 60 degrees.  A van, reusable CSA boxes, market tables, tents, signs, cash registers, scales, cartons, etc. are also already on site.  Website, marketing, payroll, and management assistance are provided by the owners at no charge to the CSA/Garden operation, in exchange for great food!

We believe in an integrated approach to farming that includes animals and vegetables.  Our farm supports heritage breed and other animals, including 100 laying hens, 12 Black Angus cattle, 60 Spanish and Savanna goats, 16 American Guinea Hogs and six Honey Bee hives, with more being added in 2013.  On-farm hay and compost is used for weed management and nutritional supplementation.  We feed only organic feed to our animals so that our pastures and gardens are clean.
We currently sell through a small but very satisfied group of CSA customers, online directly and through Local Harvest, and at farmers’ markets.
Interested applicants should send an inquiry to Patti Rosenberg at patti_rosenberg@hotmail.com or call 214-914-0323.  More information about Waverly Farms can be obtained on our website at www.waverlyfarmsvirginia.com

Organic Cattle Farmer

Kinloch Farm is looking for a person with comprehensive experience in organic cattle operations to help us with our transition to Certified Naturally Grown certification. A good background in soil science and pasture management is important. You would also assist in the marketing as well as working the cattle. Initially this would be a one-year contract with the potential to become fulltime/year round for the right individual. Housing as well as benefits are provided.  We are a grass-finished, cow-calf and bloodstock operation with 300 head located in The Plains, Virginia. If interested please contact: Jonathan Duffy jrd.kinloch@verizon.net or call540-272-0798

Organic Farmer in New Residential Community

We are seeking an organic farmer to work a parcel near the Blackwater region on Smith Mountain Lake, near Union Hall, VA.  The developer wants to integrate sustainable agriculture into a new subdivision with agricultural rights preserved for 30+ acres of community open space. Generous and flexible terms with possible rent abatement and subsidy. Contact Andrew Schneck ataschneck@mindspring.com or call 703-627-6673.

Apprenticeships in Vegetable and Flower Production

Broadfork Farm seeks apprentices for the 2013 season. Broadfork Farm is a Certified Naturally Grown produce and flower farm 30 miles south of Richmond, VA.
Hard workers interested in learning in-depth the operations of a small, organic farm needed. Full-time, March through October. Learn planning, cultivation, management, and marketing of Certified Naturally Grown vegetable, flower, and mushroom growing, including use of season extension and Biodynamic preparations. Must be able to lift and carry 40 pounds and be able to work around small children.  Farming experience not necessary but enthusiasm to learn and work hard is required! Financial incentives after 6 months consecutive work. Learn more about us on our website: www.BroadforkFarm.net
        Please submit resume and cover letter to BroadforkFarm@yahoo.com or 9501 Deer Range Rd, Moseley VA 23120.

POSITION SOUGHT

Apprenticeship in Organic Orchard

I am seeking a hands-on learning opportunity with an established organic orchard in the northern/central Virginia area.  My goal is to start a small nonprofit organic orchard and community garden to supplement local food-based charities. If you are interested in this win-win situation, where you gain free labor from a personable, enthusiastic individual and I gain experience from someone willing to teach, please contact: Scott Gallimore, sgallimo@gmail.com703-850-1097 (c), 571-248-0134 (o).

___________________

January 20, 2013

Dear All,

Several VABF related announcements.

Mark

Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Friday-Saturday, February 8-9 - Holiday Inn Koger Center near Richmond, VA

There is still plenty of room for more participants at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference.  Registration is $135 through January 28, after which it increases.  The Conference planners have developed an excellent program this year, and you won't want to miss it.  For more information, including the complete program, and registration, visit http://vabf.org/conference/
We hope to see you there!

Silent Auction at the Virginia Biological Conference:
Donated Items wanted

The Silent Auction at the annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference is an important fund raiser for VABF that helps us continue with our programs.  Value added organic or ecologically grown food products, farm or garden tools and supplies, seeds and planting stock (especially heirloom varieties), gift certificates, arts and crafts, books on topics related to sustainable agriculture and sustainable living, are some of the kinds of items that bid well at the auction.  So, bring something from your farm, homestead, or local community to be auctioned off during the Conference (let us know beforehand by filling out and returning this form) - and check out the auction yourself and place some bids.

VABF Annual Meeting
Saturday, February 9, 12:30 pm - Holiday Inn Koger

The Annual Meeting will take place during lunch at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference, and will include the VABF Board of Directors election.  We will be filling five seats from a slate of six candidates - three who are running for re-election to another term, and three who are new candidates.  Please see the attached document with announcement of the Annual Meeting, biographical sketches of the six Board candidates, and proxy ballot.  If you are unable to attend the Conference and the VABF Annual Meeting, use this proxy ballot to cast your vote.

___________________________

January 11, 2013
Deadline is MONDAY JANUARY 14th, in order for announcement of the annual meeting and Board election to be published and sent to the membership at least 10 days prior to the meeting, as set forward in the bylaws.
Annual Meeting and Election is at conference Lunch, Saturday February 9. Send names and a brief bio or statement to William Hale,wnhale@louisa.net, or call 434 981 6286 to get the ball rolling.

2013  Growers' Academy - Registration deadline January 20
Tuesdays January 22 - March 12, 6-9 pm (no class on February 19) -  Roanoke

Time is running out to register for the 2013 Growers Academy. We're extending the registration deadline through January 20, but don't delay, sign up now, at: http://www.cpe.vt.edu/grac/
        The Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center is offering the fourth annual Growers Academy<http://www.cpe.vt.edu/grac/>, a series of courses specifically designed to help new and transitioning agricultural businesses succeed. This eight week learning series is focused on low input, small scale production and starting your own agribusiness. Instructors include resource professionals and farm business owners. Topics include:
• Planning for Success: Setting Goals and Establishing Targets
• Soils and Composting
• Marketing
• Business Plan Development
• Equipment for Small Farms
• Preventative Pests and Weed Management
• Crop Production and Planning
• Business Plan Review
• Farm Tour on Saturday, March 9

The Growers' Academy will be held on January 22 ­ March 12 • Tuesdays, 6-9 pm (no class on February 19), at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center ( http://www.vtrc.vt.edu/index.asp) in the Roanoke Higher Education Building at 108 North Jefferson Street
To register, or for more information, contact Josh Nease, Manager, Catawba Sustainability Center,jnease@vt.edu(540) 553-2311.

Virginia Forage and Grassland Council Winter Conference Series
January 22 through 25 2013.

These events willI be hosted at several (four) locations across Virginia with participation by leading producers and research specialists.
For more information, visit:  http://vaforages.org/ - or see this flyer, which includes a registration form.

VABF member Don Faulkner adds the following about these events:
         Attached is a Flyer/Registration form for Four Conferences January 22-25 around the Commonwealth hosted by the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council, Virginia Cooperative Extension, and the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The program and content of this Conference and especially its keynote speaker, Jim Gerrish, offer an exceptional opportunity to gain a solid understanding and appreciation of managed-intensive  grazing-based farming and ranching as a prime road to more profitable family farming and ranching in Virginia and worldwide…  the consequent Increase in the conservation, revitalization, and restoration of the soils, waters and wildlife of our watersheds...the Increase of family farms and ranching,  next generations of family farmers and ranchers, working landscapes... healthier soils, water, rural communities in The Valley, our Highlands, the Piedmont, and over most of Virginia.
We have a world of land, pasture, and farms over all of Virginia which can be and will become much more productive, profitable, and healthy as more and more farmers put into practice the ideas, methods, and management that these conferences  of the Virginia Forage and Grasslands Council have as their aim to promote and teach.
Jim Gerrish is that rare combination of longterm farmer, rancher, researcher, writer, teacher who has  pioneered Managed-Intensive Grazing [MIG] throughout the US and in other countries who speaks, teaches, and writes in a manner that opens minds and invites learning. His books are easy, informing, persuasive reads.
This series of 4 conferences across Virginia could be, and likely will be, a catalyst of even greater effect than past Conferences [the last several years having been 'sell outs']… Leading in the years ahead to a dramatic and healthy change in the rural  landscape of Virginia.
In place of miles of idle farms, unproductive land, pastures grazed to the ground, hayed and bush-hogged fields; bare ground, eroded soils, cattle in our waterways; struggling and failing farms, mega-mansions and sprawling subdivisions, dying villages and small towns, rural exodus and long daily commutes to city  jobs…there can be more and more farms, family farmers, managing their grasslands in healthiest, most productive ways producing dairy products, beef, lamb, pork,  goats, and poultry in Natures way for local sale and consumption on land grazed in a managed-intensive manner… contributing Virginia-wide to healthier farming, soils, water, families, food, local economies, and communities.

Uranium Mining Ban in Virginia – update, and State Senators to call

Our best chance to protect our farmland, water, and food supply from the possibility of future uranium mining in the Commonwealth now lies with the State Senate.  If your Senator is in the first or second list below, please call him/her and urge them to vote NO on regulations that would permit uranium mining and milling, and YES to uphold the current moratorium and make it permanent.  The Senators on the third list are already with us and do not need to be pestered on this issue, though a thank-you from a constituent might be appreciated.

From Freeda Cathcart, founder of Mothers United Against Uranium Mining: Forward this information to other people who support Keep The Ban.

The following are Undecided Senators – URGENT to call NOW!
Report back (to Freeda at 
stonecart1@gmail.com, or Mark at mark@abundantdawn.org) if they take a position:
Black [R] Ag 804-698-7513 district13@senate.virginia.gov Loudoun County (Part); Prince William County (Part)
Colgan [D] C/L 804-698-7529 district29@senate.virginia.gov Manassas City (All); Manassas Park City (All); Prince William County (Part)
Miller [D] Ag 804-698-7501district01@senate.virginia.gov Hampton City (Part); James City County (Part); Newport News City (Part); Suffolk City (Part); Williamsburg City (All); York County (Part)
Newman [R] C/L 804-698-7523 district23@senate.virginia.gov  Bedford City (All);
Obenshain [R] Ag C/L 804-698-7526  district26@senate.virginia.gov Harrisonburg City (All); Page County (All); Rappahannock County (All); Rockingham County (Part); Shenandoah County (All); Warren County (All)
Peterson [D] Ag 804-698-7534  Fairfax district34@senate.virginia.gov aide is our side Fairfax City (All); Fairfax County (Part)
Puckett [R] C/L and Ag 804-698-7538 district38@senate.virginia.gov land County (All); Buchanan County (All); Dickenson County (All); Montgomery County (Part); Norton City (All); Pulaski County (All); Radford City (All); Russell County (All); Smyth County (Part); Tazewell County (All); Wise County (Part)Blevins Ag 804-698-7514); Manassas Park City (All); Prince William County (Part)
Stosch C/L 804-698-7512 district12@senate.virginia.gov Hanover County (Part); Henrico County (Part)
Stuart [R] Ag, C/L 804-698-7528 district28@senate.virginia.gov King George County (Part); Prince William County (Part); Spotsylvania County (Part); Stafford County (Part); Westmoreland County (Part)
Wagner [R] C/L 804-698-7507 district07@senate.virginia.gov  Norfolk City (Part); Virginia Beach City (Part)

Try to talk to the following Senators’ aides to see if they have a position if you get answering machine leave message opposing uranium mining and milling along with your locality.  Report back if you talk to the aide and find out their postion:
Hanger Ag 804-698-7524
Norment [R] C/L 804-698-7503 district03@senate.virginia.gov Gloucester County (All); Hampton City (Part); Isle of Wight County (Part); James City County (Part); King and Queen County (All); King William County (All); New Kent County (All); Poquoson City (All); Suffolk City (Part); Surry County (Part); York County (Part)
Martin C/L 804-698-7511

These Senators firmly support Keep The Ban and oppose uranium mining.  They don’t need thank you calls and prefer for us to concentrate on the undecideds:
Ebbin [D] Ag 804-698-7530Marsden [D] Ag 804-698-7537
McEachin [D] Ag 804-698-7509
McWaters [R] C/L 804-698-7508
Bedford County (Part); Botetourt County (All); Campbell County (Part); Craig County (All); Lynchburg City (Part); Roanoke County (Part)
Northam [D] Ag 804-698-7506
Ruff Ag 804-698-7515

__________________________________________________________________

January 9, 2013

Dear All,

More details on beginning farmer training in Floyd, and a farm manager position open.

Mark

Full-time Farm Manager Wanted for 1st-year Working Model Farm in Floyd County
E-mail cover letter and resume to: Mike Burton, Directormike@sustainfloyd.com

For more information, see this flyer, and/or contact the SustainFloyd office: (540) 745-7333.

New Strategies for Small Plot Vegetable Farming: Learn how one farmer can earn a comfortable living on 1.5 acres
Floyd, VA – January 19, 2:00 – 5:00 pm

This is a free introductory presentation by consultant Tony Kleese.  See this flyer for details.

Upcoming Class Series on Whole Farm Planning, Production (from soil to harvest), Marketing, and Budgeting
Floyd, VA – Mondays February 11 – March 18

This series is based on the Curriculum developed by the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project. Watch for more details in the near future.

2013 Northern Piedmont Specialty Crops School
March 1 – Roxboro, NC

The North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is offering its annual Specialty Crops School at the Person County Cooperative Extension Center at 304 S. Morgan Street, Roxboro, on March 1, from 8:00 am until 3:00 pm.  Topics include asparagus, rhubarb, shiitake, markets for specialty mushrooms, and a history and development of High Rock Farm.  Registration is $25 for the first person in a family or business, and $15 for each additional person.

Registration deadline is February 22.  Contact Carl Cantaluppi, 919-603-1350carl_cantaluppie@ncsu.edu.

________________________________________________________________________

January 7, 2013

Dear All,

Lots happening nowadays.  We need VABF Board nominees, and the deadline is Jan 14, a week from now.  Details follow.
Also – be sure to scroll through to the end for an opportunity to stand up for farmers’ rights.  There will be a major event on January 10 in Washington, DC related to the OSGATA lawsuit against Monsanto.

Mark

VABF Board Seeks Nominees for 2013 Board Election
From Board member William Hale:

Dear VABF family:
It’s that time of year again!  Not only for our wonderful Va Biological Farming Conference, but for new people to join the VABF Board.  As usual, we are looking for a variety of experience and ambitions to represent our membership on its governing and guiding body.
Our bylaws require us to publish the list of candidates in the Newsletter previous to the Conference.   So we have a deadline, and it is the end of this coming weekend!  Print deadline Jan 15.
The only requirement for Board membership is VABF membership.  If you would like to participate on this level, or know someone else who is willing to do so, here is what is required:
Send a short paragraph bio or statement of intentions to William Hale, chairman of the nominating committee, at wnhale@louisa.net, or 249 Baker’s Branch Lane, Louisa VA 23093, or call me at 434 981 6286.  I will include your name and statement in a mailing to Mark Schonbeck who will publish them in the upcoming newsletter.  After that, as many of you know, we will hold elections at the Saturday lunch at the Conference.  Each candidate will, however, have to make a brief statement to the assembled.  It’s a relaxed and encouraging crowd, however.  It’s always interesting to hear what people are doing and what they want VABF to do, so I look forward to this, along with many of the rest of you, again this year.
Membership on the Board has roughly the following responsibilities: three or four face to face meetings in the course of the year, in addition to meeting at the conference, as well as participating in a half dozen evening teleconferences of about an hour and a half.  And helping with a committee your interest area.   The face to face meetings generally take place in Central Virginia, or wherever is decided is the easiest for all to gather.   Terms are generally two years, with the option of reelection to one additonal sequential term.   Pay is the same as always: satisfaction that you are helping a cause in which you believe deeply.
So whaddaya say?  Let’s see some new folks step up and help.  We have amazing opportunities for which we have been waiting a long time, and now the time is come.  VABF will be in the forefront of helping establish a sustainable agricultural and horticultural infrastructure to benefit everyone.  And you will meet remarkable people and see interesting places and learn a lot about what is going on in our field.  Get tips from some really sharp farmers and gardeners!
But remember, NOW IS THE TIME to step up.   Nominations need to be in to me by next Monday, Jan 14.   Anyone with questions, please feel free to contact me at the above addresses.
I am volunteering for another two year term, so I look forward to getting to know several of you better over the next couple of years.  You won’t regret it, and neither will I.

All best regards, and I look forward to seeing so many of you at the Conference.    William Hale, for the VABF Board.

Position Open:  Lead Project Developer of a Food Processing Facility under development
SustainFloyd – Floyd County, VA – deadline to submit Proposal – January 31

SustainFloyd has successfully completed a feasibility study on establishing a Food Processing Facility for producers marketing locally grown and processed value added products in Floyd.    The second phase is to begin developing plans for construction of this facility, and SustainFloyd is hiring a Project Developer to coordinate this phase of the project.  The facility will source locally produced specialty crops for production of regionally branded value-added products.
For more information, and details on writing and submitting a proposal, contact Mike Burton, 250-0111, ormike@sustainfloyd.org.

Farm Equipment Available
Richmond

If you or someone you know is looking for farm equipment please check out the following link.  We’ve been in operation outside of Richmond, VA for the past 4 years and are closing down. Most of our remaining equipment is for chicken raising and processing but there are a few items left from our days as a produce farm, including a small greenhouse and a bcs tractor.
http://rootforcecollectivefarm.com/equipment.php

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture – 14th Annual Farming for Profit & Stewardship Conference
January 18 & 19, 2013 – National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA

Keynote by farmer David Cline, What is the Future of Small-scale Agriculture?   Pre-conference workshops for farmer mentors and trainers, farmers’ market managers, business management planning, mobile poultry processing, and more.  Conference tracks include beginning farmers, scaling up, fruits and vegetables, grass-based livestock, local food systems, and the business of farming.  For details of conference program, and registration, visit http://www.futureharvestcasa.org/ and click on Annual Conference. Deadline for on-line registration and hotel room reservations is Janury 11.

SustainFloyd -  Whole Farm Planning Six-week Course, using the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition’s Curriculum
Floyd, VA – Free introductory workshop Saturday January 19, 2-5 pm; Course sessions weekly February 11 through March 18

This six-week course will be taught in Floyd, Virginia.  Prospective students may attend a free introductory workshop from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19. Cost is $100 for the course.  For more information, contact SustainFloyd Director Mike Burton at 540/745-7333 or mike@sustainfloyd.org.

Virginia Forage and Grassland Council Winter Conference Series
January 22 through 25 2013.

These events willI be hosted at several (four) locations across Virginia with participation by leading producers and research specialists.
For more information, visit:  http://vaforages.org/ 
(Note: the website was not been fully operating as of Sunday January 6, so if you have trouble, contact Kim Niewolny for information, 540-231-5784, or niewolny@vt.edu)

NOFA-New York – Winter Conference
January 25-27 – Sarasota Springs, NY

Keynote Speakers include Shinji Hashimoto, Leader in Japan’s Organic and Community Supported Agriculture, and NOFA Farmer of the Year  Scott Chaskey, who owns and manages  Quail Hill Farm, a CSA that has been in operation for 23 years.
It’s a long way away, but worth attending if you happen to be planning to be up north later this month. www.nofany.org

Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers Winter Expo
February 22 – 24, 2013. The Holiday Inn– Harrisonburg, VA

For more information:
https://www.signup4.net/Public/ap.aspx?EID=2013108E

2013 Local Food Networks Conference
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 – Virginia Farm Bureau Office in Richmond, Virginia

This conference is co-sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation & Rural Sustainability (Virginia FAIRS) and Virginia Farmers Direct Marketing Association (VFDMA,) in partnership with USDA Rural Development and Lulus Local Food.  It will focus on best production, harvesting, and handling practices for food safety, and on networking buyers and sellers in local markets and food systems.  The cost is just $20 including meals.  To register, visit https://vafarmbureau.org/Agriculture/LocalFoodNetworksConference.aspx and complete the registration page.
Questions?  contact Chris Cook at Virginia Farm Bureau Federation ( 804.290.1111 , emailccook@vafb.com), or  Martha Walker  434-766-6761, cell 434-709-1084, e-mail  walker53@vt.edu.

From Food Democracy Now! – OSGATA vs Monsanto  court action to protect farmers from genetic trespass and abusive lawsuits
Two options – participate in person, or sign petition in support

On January 10, family farmers will enter a courtroom in Washington DC to take part in the appeal of OSGATA vs Monsanto et al, a court case filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s GMO seed, which contaminates organic and non-GMO farmer’s crops and opens them up to abusive lawsuits by Monsanto.

Thank you to those of you who have RSVP’d to attend the Citizen’s Assembly gathering to support these brave farmers and plaintiffs in Washington DC. If you are planning on attending, but have not RSVP’d, clickhere.

If you can’t attend, but would like to show your support, please join us in standing with family farmers in their pursuit of justice against Monsanto!

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/747?t=10&akid=715.73509.UJI0zd

Since 1997, one year after the approval of Monsanto’s GMO Roundup Ready soybeans, the world’s leading chemical and biotech seed company admits to filing 150 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. During this time, Monsanto has investigated an average of more than 500 family farmers each year.

Due to these aggressive lawsuits and investigations, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.

At Food Democracy Now!, we believe it’s time to end Monsanto’s campaign of fear and intimidation against America’s farmers!

This is a crucial moment for America’s family farmers and the future of our food supply. Will you let farmers know you support them on January 10th?

To add your name of support, click here to say: “I Stand With Farmers”.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/747?t=13&akid=715.73509.UJI0zd

We’ll deliver your comments to the farmers before they enter the court to stand up for their right to grow food without threat of intimidation and harassment.

In March 2011, Food Democracy Now! joined the lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto during the first round of plaintiffs, in what could be an historic lawsuit that protects family farmers and challenges the legitimacy of Monsanto’s patents on their genetically engineered (GMO) seeds and their right to sue farmers indiscriminately.

The upcoming decision on the appeal of OSGATA vs Monsanto is a critical hurdle that the case must clear in order for it to move forward.

Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was heard in Federal District Court in New York City on January 31st, 2012. In February 2012, Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald ruled to dismiss the case, stating that the farmers lacked legal standing regarding the concerns over genetic contamination and resulting economic harm.

In March 2012, Plaintiffs appealed the District Court’s decision to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which scheduled oral argument in the case to be heard on January 10, 2013.

Lawyers from the Public Patent Foundation, who are representing the farmers, have identified numerous reversible legal and factual errors committed by the judge, which they assert caused her to mistakenly dismiss the case.

Family farmers need your help today to send a message to the world: It’s time to put an end to Monsanto’s campaign of fear.

Click here to say “I Stand with Farmers” so we can deliver that message loud and clear to the farmers who travel to Washington DC to take part in the lawsuit and for farmers everywhere who struggle against Monsanto’s unfair genetic contamination of their crops.

Thank you for participating in food democracy,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team

P.S. For those who are interested or able, Food Democracy Now! and our fellow plaintiffs invite you to take part in a Citizen’s Assembly for Support Family Farmers vs. Monsanto in Lafayette Square in Washington DC in an effort to stand up for America’s farmers at this crucial moment in their quest for justice. Click here to RSVP and learn more about how to participate in the Citizen’s Assembly.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/745?t=18&akid=715.73509.UJI0zd

___________________________________________________________________

January 5, 2013

Dear All,

I received the following e-mail from VABF Executive Director Janet Aardema, regarding participation in the Farm Census.  Unfortunately, the deadline for requesting a census form is today, January 5 – hopefully midnight tonight- so those of you who happen to download this, you can still request a form if you have not received one already, and you meet the USDA definition of a farm and want to participate.

There was an unfortunate typo in the alert / announcement regarding the uranium mining ban in Virginia, and some of you might not have realized it was a separate item because the headers were not in bold large print as usual.  I am re-running it here with improved formatting and wording.

Ag Census

Mark,
Can you send an email out to all about the Ag Census? I posted details here:

http://vabf.org/2013/01/04/ag-census-information/ 

As you will see there, There’s a deadline of tomorrow (i just found out moments ago) for folks to request a form for participation this year if they havent yet received a form.

Thanks!

Here’s what you need to know:

- A farm for the purposes of this census is an operation that grossed or could have grossed $1,000 in sales last year.

- If you received a form, please fill it out and mail it back or respond online here: http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/index.php 

- If you have not received a form as of today, please request one on this page: https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/  Saturday, January 5th is the deadline for requesting to participate this year! (You must receive a form in order to respond online, as the form provides you with a unique identifying number that must be used in the response process.)

Virginia Uranium Mining Ban:  Citizen Input to State Legislators is VITAL
Call your State Senator and State Delegate today: uphold the Ban on Uranium Mining in Virginia

As you all are no doubt fully aware, any mining or milling of uranium ore in the Commonwealth would pose unacceptable risks to the livelihood of any of us who farm for a living (who would want Virginia Grown, especially if harvested downstream or downwind of a uranium operation?), to say nothing of risks to drinking water and irrigation water supplies, air quality, and health.

When I wrote e-mails recently to my State Senator Ralph Smith and State Delegate Nick Rush, Delegate Rush responded as follows:

Dear Mr. Schonbeck, Thank you for contacting me about your concerns with uranium mining. It is an important topic and many people have reached out to me on both sides of this issue. I have not decided one way or the other on uranium mining — I am waiting to hear from all of my constituents who want to share their opinion with me, before I make a final decision. If uranium mining should come up for a vote in the General Assembly, I will take your opinions and concerns into consideration before voting. Thank you for contacting me and please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. Sincerely, Nick Rush

In other words, we each need to make our voice heard by our state legislators!  A vote on the issue is highly likely in late January or early February.

Virginia Uranium, the subsidiary of a Canadian-based transnational corporation is working behind the scenes to persuade the Virginia General Assembly to end the uranium mining ban (replacing the ban with “regulations” even though science has not verified any way to mine and mill uranium safely in a high-rainfall, highly populated state with agriculture as a major industry).  Virginia Uranium stands to make a few billion in profit at their initial proposed site in Pittsylvania Co (assuming the global price of uranium does not fall any further) – and would leavie behind about 120 million tons of finely-ground, toxic, and radioactive tailings, stored either aboveground or belowground in the mine shafts (where it may still leach into groundwater).  Part of their tactic is to arrange for as many calls as possible in to State Senators and State Delegates to the effect of “lift the ban – uranium mining industry is good for our economy.”

Thus, it is absolutely vital for as many of us as possible to “cast our votes” on this issue by calling or e-mailing our state legislators.

Call your State Senator and Delegate and say something to the effect of: “Keep the ban on uranium mining and make it permanent.  I farm / eat / live here in Virginia.  The risks posed by uranium mining and processing to food, water, land, and the reputation of “Virginia Grown” and “Virginia’s Finest” are just too great.”

One can also make a “business” argument for the ban, as Lieutenant Gov. Bolling has, that the presence of uranium mining operations will drive away other businesses and thereby foreclose job opportunties.

For names and contact information of your State Senator and State Delegate, visit this link:http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform

If you do make a call or send an e-mail, let me know how it went, whether and how your Senator or Delegate responded.  Many thanks!

Farm Bill – Where to Read More
NSAC Publishes Blog Posts, Offers Help Writing Press Statements

For a detailed, blow-by-blow description of the Farm Bill Extension process, click here:http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/farm-bill-extension-fiscal-cliff/
For the NSAC press statement on the Farm Bill extension, click here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/january-1-farm-bill-extension-deal-is-a-disaster-for-farmers/

If you would like to write a press staement of your own for your local newspaper, feel free to contact NSAC staff for assistance in drafting one.  Call 202-547-5754 and ask to speak with Sarah Hackney or Shavaun Evans

____________________________________________________________________

January 3, 2013

Dear All,

Following are some policy related updates and some events to put on your calendar.

Mark

2012 Farm Bill RIP – 9-Month Extension a Raw Deal
2013 Farm Bill – here we come!

As you have all no doubt heard through the news media, Congress struck an 11th hour deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff”, but postponed many of the tough budget issues to deal with in February and beyond.  How did the Farm Bill fare in all this?  Not well.  Attached to the “fiscal cliff deal” is a 9-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill (through September 30, 2013), that:
- Continues the wasteful “direct payments” farm subsidies (per-acre cash payments regardless of commodity prices – something which both Senate and House Ag Committee drafts of the 2012 Farm Bill would have discontinued).  Cost to tax payers: $5 billion.
- Addresses dairy program issues in a way that favors milk processors but hurts dairy farmers
- Cuts conservation funding so that no new enrollments in the Conservation Stewardship Program will be possible in 2013
- Fails to provide mandatory funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG), Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), Rural Microenterprise Assistance Program (RMAP), and other rural development, organic, and research programs that were left high and dry when the 2008 Farm Bill expired last September 30.

Note – the suspension of BFRDP and other programs does not derail projects already awarded or in progress, such as the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project.  It does mean that no newRFAs will be issued and no new grants will be awarded until the situation is corrected – hopefully through a 2013 Farm Bill.  In other words, if Virginia Tech, VABF and the 25 other partners in our Coalition were to seek additional funding to continue and expand this work beyond the life of the current grant, there is currently no BFRDP to whom to apply.

In commenting on these disappointing developments, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) said, “The Senate Agriculture Committee will once again begin work in the new year to enact a new farm bill that works for our farmers and rural communities as well as American taxpayers.”

Similarly, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will be right in there fighting for a sustainable, family-farm-friendly Farm Bill as well.  In short, it is “start all over with the 2013 Farm Bill.”  Stay tuned.

Virginia Uranium Mining Ban:  Citizen Input to State Legislators is VITAL
Call your State Senator and State Delegate today: uphold the Ban on Uranium Mining in Virginia

As mentioned in my December 28 e-mail, any of us who farm or garden in Virginia, or who eat Virgina grown, face a major threat to our farmland, groundwater, and food supply in the potential of uranium mining and milling, initially at a site in Pittsylvania County, and subsequently elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

When I wrote e-mails recently to my State Senator Ralph Smith and State Delegate Nick Rush, Delegate Rush responded as follows:

Dear Mr. Schonbeck, Thank you for contacting me about your concerns with uranium mining. It is an important topic and many people have reached out to me on both sides of this issue. I have not decided one way or the other on uranium mining — I am waiting to hear from all of my constituents who want to share their opinion with me, before I make a final decision. If uranium mining should come up for a vote in the General Assembly, I will take your opinions and concerns into consideration before voting. Thank you for contacting me and please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. Sincerely, Nick Rush

This illustratres just how impotant our voice is!

Virginia Uranium, the subsidiary of a Canadian-based transnational corporation is working behind the scenes to get the uranium mining ban lifted so that they can make a few billion in profit in Pittsylvania Co (leaving behind about 120 million tons of finely-ground, toxic and radioactive tailings in the process).  Part of their tactic is to arrange for as many calls as possible in to State Senators and State Delegates to the effect of “lift the ban – uranium mining industry is good for our economy.”

Thus, it is absolutely vital for as many of us as possible to “cast our votes” on this issue.

Call your State Senator and Delegate and say something to the effect of: “Keep the ban on uranium mining and make it permanent.  I farm / eat / live here in Virginia.  The risks posed by uranium mining and processing to food, water, land, and the reputation of “Virginia Grown” and “Virginia’s Finest” are just too great.”

One can also make a “business” argument for the ban, as Lieutenant Gov. Bolling has, that the presence of uranium mining operations will drive away other businesses and thereby foreclose job opportunties.

For names and contact information of your State Senator and State Delegate, visit this link:

http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/VGAMain?openform


The 2013 Organic Commodities and Livestock Conference

February 14-15 – Nash Community College, Rocky Mount, NC

On-farm workshops on February 14 include Lindale Dairy a certified organic dairy in Snow Camp, NC and Hocutt Farms, a certified organic vegetable farm in Sims, NC.  General Conference on February 15 in Rocky Mount include keynote by Thor Oeschner, owner of Oeschner Farms in Newfield, NY (600-acre farm with mill and bakery), and workshops including organic grain varieties, organic tobacco production, holistic vet care, soil fertility, and organic disease management.  For more information and registration, visit http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/oclc/

FarmRx: a Prescription for Better Health – Georgia Organics 16th Annual Conference
February 22-23 – Georgia International Convention Center, Atlanta, GA

Keynote speaker is Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent.  A choice of eight Farm Tours includes communty garden projects, a network to help refugee immigrants who had been farmers in their homeland get establsihed on small farms in Georgia, urban farming with intensive production on limited land areas, a goat dairy, and a farm-to-campus project.  In-depth workshops and breakout sessions on a wide range of topics such as basic organic gardening, crop pest and weed management, livestock, marketing, growing a business, food hubs, food access, food and health, and more.  For more information and registration, visithttp://georgiaorganics.org/conference/.

Business of Farming Conference
February 23 – Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa NC (near Asheville)

The conference, held by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) is for those currently farming or seriously considering farming as a profession, and covers many of the business planning and management aspects of farming.  This conference sells out soon so register early.  Visit http://www.asapconnections.org/and click on links to information about the conference, and registration.

Organic Growers School Annual Spring Conference
March 9-10 – near Asheville, NC

The Organic Growers School Spring Conference is a one-of-a-kind event that brings people of all walks of life together for a weekend of learning and networking near Asheville, North Carolina. Since 1994, the OGS Spring Conference has been the best way to kick-off the season, with over 70 classes and hands on workshops on a variety of topics, from starting your first vegetable garden, baking bread, and saving on home energy costs, to raising your own goat herd. The mission of OGS is to provide down-to-earth, practical advice on growing and sustainable living, while remaining affordable and accessible to anyone wanting to participate.  For more information and registration, visit http://organicgrowersschool.org/annual-spring-conference.

SAVE THE DATE :

Organic & Sustainable Blueberry & Brambleberry Growers Conference
October 21-22, 2013 – Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA

See this flyer for details.

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December 30, 2012

Dear All,

A few quick announcements.

Mark

Photos, Videos, and Audio Recordings Wanted for Special Presentation in Tribute to the Work of Andy Hankins
Presentation at Virginia Biological Farming Conference, Richmond, VA – Feb 8-9, 2013

From Patricia Stansbury:
Dear Friends in our Food System,
I have the honor of preparing a tribute to the work Andy Hankins did during his too-short life.  This presentation will be given at the Virginia Biological Farming Conference, on Friday evening as we begin dinner.
As you may well know, Andy was a great grantsman.  He won grants and distributed money to support many projects over 3 decades.  You may have experienced and benefited from some of these funds in the form of trips, field days and materials for your work.
I have audio from interviews he gave me for my radio show and I’ll pull a bit from there and add some appropriate music.  If you have a recording of his voice, please let me know.
I’d like to add photos of fields of flowers, stands of ginseng, rows of cover crops, squash, people eating all kinds of good foods.  These photos could come from work you did with funds he secured with you as a cooperator, or work inspired by his words and example.
Please let me know very soon if you can help with this.  All photos will be credited, and a caption about each is welcome.
Thanks for this consideration.  Email your ideas and photos to EpicGardens@gmail.com or call me at(804) 617-6312 to discuss other options.

Virginia Biological Farming Conference – Richmond, VA – Feb 8-9, 2013
Last Chance for Early-Bird Registration

Deadline December 31.  Visit www.vabf.org and click on Conference registration.

Farm Bill Update

As part of the last minute “fiscal cliff” negotiations, the House leadership has filed a one-year extension of the 2008 Farm Bill.  Thankfully, this extension restores funding for many of the beginning farmer, rural development, organic and specialty crop research, and minority farmer outreach programs that were left high and dry when that Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2012.  It is not yet clear whether the extension would allow signups for new contracts for Conservation Stewardship Program and the Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program.

Stay tuned.

__________________________________________________________________

December 21, 2012

Dear All,

Happy Holidays!  Following and attached are a few updates on happenings in the world of sustainable agriculture here in Virginia and beyond.

Sincerely,

Mark

Virginia Biological Farming Conference – Friday-Saturday February 8-9, 2013 – Holiday Inn Koger Center in Richmond, VA
Early-bird Registration Extended through December 31!

The Early-bird Registration discount for our annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference has been extended through December 31, 2012.  In other words, if you have been too swept up in the holiday rush to register for our great conference yet, you can do so during one of the quieter moment between Christmas and New Year’s Eve – and still get the lowest registration rates available.

The full conference brochure (pdf version) is now available on the web here. Also, check out the workshops and farm tours before the conference (Thursday Feb 7).  Choose among Farm School for Beginners (using curriculum developed through the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition, of which VABF is a partner), Farm School Advanced Vegetable Production, Farm Tour featuring composting and grassfed mixed livestock production, and Farm Tour featuring hydroponic, high tunnel, and outdoor vegetable production year round.  All events run from 9 am – 5 pm; farm schools are held at the Holiday In Koger Center (same site as conference); farm tours leave from this site at 9 am.  A flyer for these events is found here.

Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition – December 2012 Newsletter
See newsletter here.

The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project is moving ahead full steam, with seven partner groups, including VABF, piloting the use of the Curriculum in different and creative ways to help train and establish new and beginning farmers.The newsletter features VABF’s Farm School, and announces a recently-launced monthly Webinar series on beginning-farmer topics from land access to marketing and business management.

Southern SAWG Hiring Program Specialist
Applications still open

The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group is hiring a Program Specialist with emhasis on communications to help Southern SAWG reach out more effectively to beginning and established farmers and community food systems organizers across the southern region, thereby enhancing Southern SAWG’s capacity to realize our common vision of a sustainable agriculture and food system in the region.  See position announcement, or visit www.ssawg.org.

Kick-Start Your Career in Food Sustainability
Allegheny Mountain School Fellowships for 2013

Do you know someone interested in food sustainability?  Allegheny Mountain School is looking for seven to nine inspiring individuals to participate in our 18 month fully-funded fellowship program.

Allegheny Mountain School (AMS), located in Highland County, VA, is a not-for-profit  experiential fellowship program designed to serve our region’s communities in developing a more secure food system.  In the spring of 2013, Allegheny Mountain School will assemble its third cohort and we are currently accepting applications for these roles.  Applicants should be highly curious, responsible, hardworking young adults with a strong interest in learning  the “how” and “why” of growing and preparing one’s own food and teaching those skills to members of our local communities.

AMS is a two phased program.  In Phase I (April 28 – November 1, 2013), AMS Fellows will study sustainable food production, land stewardship and community development in an intensive, hands-on, cooperative learning residency.  Work and study both take place on the farm and at community projects in surrounding areas.  Workshops and seminars will occur both on and off campus.  In the year following (January 1 — December 31, 2014), AMS Fellows enter Phase II and will work in the service of Partner Organizations in our region and  focus on activities such as building community gardens, advocating sustainable land use and teaching nutrition and cooking for a healthy lifestyle.

AMS Fellows learn sustainable food cultivation and restorative, nourishing traditions. Our vision for this year of service is that each AMS Fellow will have touched the lives of at least ten families in their community through their work and become lifelong ambassadors for a local food culture and earth stewardship. AMS Fellows are provided room and board during Phase I and there are no program fees (other than to apply).  AMS provides basic kitchen staples and the Fellows grow much of their own food.  At the end of the six months, AMS Fellows receive a $1,000 stipend for successful completion of this portion of the program.   During Phase II, Fellows receive a $1,250 monthly stipend for their work for the duration of 12 months and are expected to help build capacity in our Partner Organizations as they share and teach the skills they have learned during their first six months in the program.

For more information, visit www.alleghenymountainschool.org/apply-2013 or email us atinfo@alleghenymountainschool.org.  Allegheny Mountain School is a program of The Highland Center in Monterey VA.  You can reach The Highland Center at (540) 468-1922.

Ellen Butchart, Outreach Director, Allegheny Mountain School
www.alleghenymountainschool.org
or visit us at our Allegheny Mountain School Facebook page

2012 Farm Bill:  Still in Limbo
But be prepared to act on short notice

As of this Wednesday December 19, when I participated in a teleconference with others at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Congress had not moved toward a resolution regarding federal spending for the coming year; thus, neither a full 5-year Farm Bill reauthorization nor an extension of the current (2008) Farm Bill is moving forward yet.

At this time, completion of a 5-year Farm Bill by the current Congress appears highly unlikely; there is a greater probability that some kind of extension of the 2008 Farm Bill will be adopted.  Whether that extension is for 3 months or so, with plans for the new Congress to get a full Farm Bill completed early in the year, or for longer (up to 12 months) to allow more time to develop the next Farm Bill; and whether the extension will include funding for vital beginning farmer, rural development, organic, research, and conservation programs – is at this time unknown.

When things do happen on the agricultural federal policy front, they may happen very fast.  Watch for updates and action alerts in e-mails in the near future.

November 11, 2012

Dear All,

Last call for the petition to Congress to pass a sustainable Farm Bill. The petition site will close sometime tomorrow (Monday)  The link is:

http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5735/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6702&tag=VABF

More on this from National Sustainable Ag Coalition below.  Thank you to all who have already signed the petition and especially those of you who have also forwarded it to others.

Second call:  Spotted Wing Drosophila task force developing grant proposal on organic control of this new pest:
Seeking farmer participants in study

A couple weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to this list asking if any of you had been dealing with the new fruit fly (spotted wing drosophila) that attacks fruit while it is still on the plant and just getting ripe.  I got just one or two responses thus far.
This pest attacks bramble fruits and blueberries especially, but can also damage peaches, plums, grapes, and other relatively soft-skinned, juicy fruits.  It causes part of the fruit to “melt down” and the fruit contains tiny maggots (the larvae of spotted wing drosophila) – and is definitely unmarketable.

The task force is interested in farmer stories about this pest and any attempts to manage it.  We are especially interested in hearing from anyone who is interested in participating in research into organic management strategies.  We are having a teleconference on Nov 16 (this Friday) - let me know before then if you have a story to share and/or would like to be considered as a possible research partcipant.  Note that we will be selecting about a half dozen farmers nationwide for this – so we cannot guarantee participation for all who express interest.

Many thanks!

Mark

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November 9, 2012

Dear All,

For those of you who did not receive a Conference brochure in the US post recently, following is some more information on the upcoming Southern SAWG conference in Little Rock, AR.  I know that is a long way off, but for those of you who might consider it, the Southern SAWG conference is the best way to connect with like minded farmers, agricultural professionals and educators, and community food system organizers from across the Southern region from Texas and Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast, and the southeast including Virginia.

The following summary includes an outline of our excellent pre-conference course and farm tour offerings, links to more complete information on the web site, and a call for posters that allow innovators to share their findings with a wider audience.

We are also seeking Conference sponsors, should any of you feel so inclined.

Having trouble viewing this email? Click here 
[] Watch your mailbox for your conference brochure
or take a look at our full program online! 
We’ve put together an outstanding program for you this year. There are more conference sessions this year than ever before–62 educational sessions, plus networking sessions! We’ve got a lot of valuable pre-conference offerings also (see below)! Don’t miss this year’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference.

Great Pre-Conference Courses

Four Short Courses 
If you are looking to start or expand a farming venture, our 1½ day pre-conference short courses are designed to give you the knowledge you most need to be successful. These are intensive learning experiences that provide comprehensive information in class and with extensive take-home materials. The short courses we are offering this year are:

  • Start-Up Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing 
  • High Tunnel Production and Marketing 
  • Controlled Grazing Management: Theory and Application on Livestock Farms 
  • Growing Farm Profits

To learn more about these four Intensive Short Courses, click here.

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Four Mini Courses 
Our ½ day Mini Courses give participants an opportunity to get in-depth information on specific topics. Our expert presenters will dive into these topics, provide you the latest information and answer your pressing questions. This year’s courses are:

  • Lambs to Market: Raising Sheep for Meat and Profit
  • A Cut Above: Fresh Ideas for Growing and Marketing Cut Flowers 
  • Bug-Tusslin’ with Dr. McBug: Sustainable Pest Management for Your Vegetable Crops 
  • Regional Food Hubs: Moving From Ideas to Action

To learn more about these Mini Courses, click here.
Five Exciting Field Trips

Our ½ day field trips are always popular. With five excellent field trip options, we’ve got an in-the-field learning opportunity for everyone! Field Trips are geared toward organic and sustainable production and marketing of horticultural crops and livestock, school gardens and community food initiatives. The field trips we offer this year are:

  • Arkansas Natural Produce: Focus is on marketing and high tunnel production.
  • Laughing Stock Farm and Little Rock Urban Farming: Participants will visit two excellent examples of farming enterprises operated by young farmers. Trip will focus on what it takes to start a small-scale farming enterprise.
  • Heifer Ranch: This trip will focus on the educational component of Heifer Ranch, demonstrating how they shape programs based on age groups, while giving you a tour of the Ranch.
  • Freckle Face Farm: Focus is on livestock production practices, meat processing and marketing strategies.
  • School Gardens: Field trip participants will visit two diverse models of educational gardens.

Click here to learn more about these outstanding field trips.

Arkansas Natural Produce

Save Those Seeds

We will provide space on Thursday night for those who wish to swap seeds. Bring photos and samples if you can, too.

Exhibitors Invited

If you have products, services or programs you’d like conference participants to learn about, click here. You can reach a lot of people through our conference. We’re expecting over 1,200 registrants!

Registration and Fee Waivers

The Southern SAWG conference is always a great bargain, given the quality of the information to be gained and the networking opportunities that come with such a large turnout of the South’s most innovative and successful producers, organizers and advocates in sustainable agriculture. Your farming operation or local foods organization can’t afford to miss this event.

For a listing of fees and a printable registration form, or to use our safe and secure online registration system, click here.

This year we have three options for those looking for a fee waiver to participate in this conference. To learn more about fee waivers and how to apply, click here.

Call for Posters!

If your research or program provides practical information relevant to organic and sustainable family farmers and/or to those working to build local food systems, you are invited to display a poster about your work at the 2013 Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference.

Those interested in displaying a poster or posters must first submit a brief abstract for each poster. Abstracts are due November 16, 2012. Members of the Southern SAWG Scientific Committee will review all submitted abstracts and make decisions regarding acceptance. Click here to learn more and download the full details.

Be a 2012 Conference Sponsor

Your presence as a sponsor will help hundreds of farmers, community food advocates, educators and researchers across the South, and with the visibility this event affords, it will distinguish you as a supporter of the sustainable agriculture movement. Click here to learn more and show your support.

Note to organizational and institutional leaders: We can provide letters of support to your potential funders if you are seeking funds for producers in your area to participate in the pre-conference and conference activities. Just contact us with the details.
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Keep up with Southern SAWG through Facebook and Twitter. Show your support for Southern SAWG by liking and following us!

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November 9, 2012

Dear All,

New River Valley Ag Expo
Saturday November 17, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm – New River Valley Fair Grounds in Dublin, VA

Note - a catered lunch (barbeque, baked beans, cole slaw, drink) will be offered for $6; however you need to reserve your lunch today (November 9) by contacting: Pulaski County Extension Office at 540-980-7761 or email Scott McElfresh, mcelfres@vt.edu with your name, phone number, and number of people attending.
I apologize for the short notice on this – I only learned about the event and received the promotional material this week.

There will be a number of vendors and exhibitors, including Virginia Beginning Farmer Coalition, and short presentations on topics related to farm management during winter.  See attached flyer for more information.

2013 Growers’ Academy
Roanoke, VA – Tuesdays January 22 – March 12 at 6-9 pm  (no class on February 19)

Registration for the 2013 Growers Academy is underway. Please forward this email to anyone who may be interested. For more information, see attached poster, or visit the Growers Academy web site: http://www.cpe.vt.edu/grac/

The Virginia Tech Catawba Sustainability Center is offering the fourth annual Growers Academy, a series of courses specifically designed to help new and transitioning agricultural businesses succeed. An eight week learning series focused on low input, small scale production and starting your own agribusiness. Instructors include resource professionals and farm business owners.
Topics include:
• Planning for Success: Setting Goals and Establishing Targets
• Soils and Composting
• Marketing
• Business Plan Development
• Equipment for Small Farms
• Preventative Pest and Weed Management
• Crop Production and Planning
• Business Plan Review
• Farm Tour on Saturday, March 9

Classes will meet at the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center ( http://www.vtrc.vt.edu/index.asp) in the Roanoke Higher Education Building at 108 North Jefferson Street, Roanoke, VA.

Contact:  Josh Nease, Manager, Catawba Sustainability Center, nease@vt.edu, 540) 553-2311

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition seeks Member Input on Campaign Priorities for 2013
Please take this opportunity to let us know of your priorities – see attached Word document

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has invited its member organizations to submit their policy advocacy priorities for 2013.  As VABF’s policy liaison, I am extending this invitiation to you to let me know what programs and issues are most important to you.  Your responses will be taken into consideration as I work with the VABF Board to finalize our responses to this survey.

See the attached document, which is a simplified form of the survey that NSAC just sent out to its member groups.  You can respond on the form and return as an attachment, or simply in the body of your reply to this e-mail.

Because I will be filling out the survey on behalf of VABF, input from VABF members will receive the most “weight” – however I invite ANY of you on this list to share your perspective with me, as you may have direct experience with issues or programs that have not been on my “radar” during my years of policy work.

Many thanks!

_____________________________

November 9, 2012

NSAC Petition to Congress: Give us a Sustainable 2012 Farm Bill
Last chance to sign on – this weekend, November 10-11!

Dear All,

Thank you to those who have signed the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) petition to Congress to complete and pass a better and more sustainable 2012 Farm Bill during the post-election session, and before the end of this year.

Thus far, we have garnered some 17,000 signatures.  We would like to get that number up to 50,000 before NSAC staff submit the petition to Members of Congress this coming week.

The petition site will remain open through this weekend, and will be closed out by the end of the business day on Monday November 12.  This will give NSAC time to prepare the petition and signature list for submission on Capitol Hill by midweek.

If you have not already signed the petition, you can do so at the following link:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5735/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6702&tag=VABF

In case someof you did not have time to read through the previous e-mails on this petition, following is a summary of what we are trying to achieve.  It is not just any Farm Bill (though the Senate’s verison of the 2012 Farm Bill would be substantially better than the current status quo of no-farm-bill and many key programs suspended and unfunded!).  We need a farm bill that:

-         Invests in healthy family farms, food, and people, not processed junk.  This means adequate funding for programs like Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program that has funded projects like the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (and hence VABF’s Farm School this fall), the Value Added Producer Grant program, the Rural Energy Assistance Program, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Certification Cost Share, and many others.
-         Rewards farmers for good resource and environmental stewardship, and does not create incentives to overtax the soil and pollute water and air through intensive industrial production.  The Farm Bill must provide robust and secure funding for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service programs and technical assistance.
-         Protects the livelihoods of small and mid scale family farmers, not further expand the profits of megafarms, packers, and other corporate agribusiness.  This means reforming farm subsidies, so that megafarms and absentee investors can no longer collect millions in tax dollars and use them to bid yet more land away from aspiring family farmers.

As a member of NSAC, Virginia Association for Biological Farming is participating in a drive to gather as many signatures on this petition as we can – when Congress returns to Capitol Hill after the November election, NSAC wants to deliver at least 50,000 signatures.  To add your signature to this petition, visit:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5735/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6702&tag=VABF

Finally – whether you have already signed the petition, or are just doing so now - please share this far and wide with your e-mail list or facebook friends. Be sure to tell them that the petition needs to be signed by Monday.

Next step:  On Thursday, November 15, the day after submitting the petition to Congress, NSAC is organizing a mass call-in to all Members of Congress on the Farm Bill and key farming issues.  Watch your e-mail for updates!

_____________________________

November 2, 2012

Dear All,

Two important policy action updates follow.

Sincerely,

Mark

NSAC Petition to Congress: Give us a Sustainable 2012 Farm Bill
Prospects brighten as House Majority Leader Commits to bringing Farm Bill to the floor.

Key USDA rural development, beginning farmer, organic, and resaerch programs remain unfunded for 2013 while Members of Congress do last minute campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s election.  This week, as we prepare to vote in Presidential, Congressional, and state/local races, let us remember that we have another vote to cast – one for a better food and farming system for our nation!

A week ago, I sent you an e-mail announcing the opening of a petition to all Members of Congress, organized through the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, demanding that Congress pass the 2012 Farm Bill during its post-election session, and before the end of this year.  Thank you to all who have already signed the petition – for those of you who haven’t, check it out at:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5735/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6702&tag=VABF

Already, there are signs that the House of Representatives (in whose court the ball now rests) may actually move on the 2012 Farm Bill.  In a news report in the Idaho Statesman on October 25, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (who is from Virginia) was quoted as stating that he will bring the Farm Bill to the floor of the house and do what he can to line up the votes to pass it.

But we don’t need just any farm bill.  We need a Farm Bill that:

-       Invests in healthy family farms, food, and people, not processed junk.  This means adequate funding for programs like Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program that has funded projects like the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (and hence VABF’s Farm School this fall), the Value Added Producer Grant program, the Rural Energy Assistance Program, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Certification Cost Share, and many others.
-       Rewards farmers for good resource and environmental stewardship, and does not create incentives to overtax the soil and pollute water and air through intensive industrial production.  The Farm Bill must provide robust and secure funding for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service programs and technical assistance.
-       Protects the livelihoods of small and mid scale family farmers, not further expand the profits of megafarms, packers, and other corporate agribusiness.  This means reforming farm subsidies, so that megafarms and absentee investors can no longer collect millions in tax dollars and use them to bid yet more land away from aspiring family farmers.

As a member of NSAC, Virginia Association for Biological Farming is participating in a drive to gather as many signatures on this petition as we can – when Congress returns to Capitol Hill after the November election, NSAC wants to deliver at least 50,000 signatures.  To add your signature to this petition, visit:
http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5735/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=6702&tag=VABF

California Genetically Engineered Food Labeling Law, Proposition 37, Now in Trouble
Call your CA friends and family to debunk Monsanto et al. disinformation campaign

After maintaining a large 26% lead in polls earlier this fall, California’s Proposition 37, mandating consumer labeling of all foods containing genetically engineered (or GMO) ingredients, was reportedly some 10% behind in the latest poll.  The huge swing apparently resulted from a $50 million campaign by a group of large ag and food corporations, with Monsanto in the lead ($8 million) to promulgate false and misleading TV ads claiming that a GMO labeling law would cause food prices to soar and disrupt the US farm and food system.

Passage of Prop. 37 would indeed initiate a sea change, one that might strike fear in the heart of a Monsanto executive, but should be a breath of fresh air to farmers, especially those who serve non-GMO markets, or are concerned about the loss of diversity in our crop germplasm and farming system.  It will also honor California residents’ right to know what is in their food and to choose whether to eat GMO foods.  The California labeling law would then create a model for the rest of the US, and would put the brakes on Monsanto et al’s efforts to take over the world’s food systems.

What can we who live far from California do about this?  We can call folks we know in California and urge them to support Prop 37.  If they raise concerns about food prices or disruption based on the TV ads, we can point out that these ads come from special interests who want to keep them in the dark about the GMO content of their food.  We can urge them to contact others between now and Election day – YES on Prop. 37!

_______________________________________________

October 27th, 2012

Dear All,

An event, a position open, and release of the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s Request for Applicaitons for research proposals.

Sincerely,

Mark

Virginia State University’s Ginger Field Day
November 14, 2012; 9:00 – 11:00 am – Dayspring Farm in Cologne, VA

Are you interested in learning about the many benefits of growing ginger?  Then, we welcome you to come and see high tunnel production of baby and mature ginger. Learn about marketing, growing, harvesting and cleaning fresh ginger!  For more information, please see attached flyer, or contact Mollie Klein at 804.524.5960 or email mklein@vsu.edu
         Pre-registration is required, and the event is limited to 50 people.  Sign up now to be sure you are in. The cost is only $10 per person.

This event is hosted by VABF members Charlie and Miriam Maloney of Dayspring Farm in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Directions to Dayspring Farm:
Take I-64 East from Richmond towards Virginia Beach
Take Exit 220 to merge onto Rt. 33 E / Eltham Rd. towards West Point
Continue 14 miles on 33 E, through West Point and across 2 bridges
Turn right onto VA-14 E/ Buena Vista Rd, toward Mathews
Continue 2.8 miles. Farm will be on left hand side

If lost, call:  804-785-9401

Farm Manager Position Open
Meadowview, VA

We have an opening for a salaried full-time restaurant farmer/grower, starting as soon as someone is willing to commit. The job includes onsite housing. Attached is a poster of the position, and there is a more thorough description available on our website:
http://www.meadowviewfarmersguild.com/Jobs.html

Thank you,

Steven Hopp
Meadowview Farmers Guild
and Harvest Table Restaurant
PO Box 601
Meadowview, VA 24361
(276) 944-5140
www.meadowviewfarmersguild.com

Federal funding available for research on sustainable food, agricultural, and community systems

Someof you may have heard that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently announced the availability of over$136 million in funding for basic and applied agricultural research, as part of its “foundational program” within the Agriculture, Food, and Research Initiative (AFRI) – a federal competitive grants program administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
This is an opportunity for the researchers among us, or like minded scientists whom we may know, to obtain USDA funding to advance sustainable and organic agricultural priorities through their research activities.
Since no Request For Applications (RFA) was released for this program last year, this year’s RFA includes a substantially larger pot of research funding, including over $19 million for research grants under AFRI’s Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities program area.
This program area in particular, funds research that is especially relevant to sustainable agricultural systems, such as the sustainability of small and medium-sized farms, rural entrepreneurship, rural development, economics and environmental externalities.

There are several new priorities worth nothing in this program area, including research on:

  • the development of local and regional food systems,
  • assessing the impact of immigration policies on the cost of farm labor,
  • the economic impacts of local markets on food supply, and
  • programs that assist beginning, small and medium-sized farms.

Click here to see examples of previously funded research projects within this program area.

There are also opportunities for much needed public plant breeding work within the Plant Health, Production, and Plant Products program area, which includes a new priority on Plant Breeding for Agricultural Production.  We encourage public and sustainable/organic oriented plant breeders to submit proposals intended to lead to the release of new public, farmer-ready crop cultivars.
        There is also much potential for ecologically oriented weed scientists to secure much needed research funding form the Controlling Weedy and Invasive Plants program area, which includes a new focus on ecological processes related to Integrated Pest Management and herbicide resistance in weeds.  This offers a major opportunity for researchers interested in developing new innovative components of organic and sustainable weed management strategies.

Application Deadlines
         There is no Letter of Intent (LOI) required for the Ag Economics and Rural Communities program area, and grant applications are due on May 22, 2013.  All other program areas, however, have LOI deadlines that are less than one month away:

Plant Health and Production and Plant Products – $37 million available – Letters of Intent due November 26, 2012

Animal Health and Production and Animal Products – $33 million available – Letters of Intent due November 15, 2012

Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health – $18 million available – Letters of Intent due November 19, 2012

Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment – $17 million available – Letters of Intent due November 15, 2012

Agriculture Systems and Technology – $12 million available – Letters of Intent due November 20, 2012

Agriculture Economics and Rural Communities – $19 million available – no Letter of Intent requred.

We strongly encourage all sustainable, organic, and ecologically focused researchers to consider applying for funding from this substantially larger pot of federal research dollars, or to begin assembling a research team and project proposal for next year’s RFA. Please share this with any University or other scientists whom you know and who are engaged in or interested in any of the above aspects of sustainable agriculture and food systems.
         With several sustainable/organic agriculture research programs on hold with the expiration of the farm bill, this program represents one of the sole opportunities to leverage federal support for truly sustainable food and agriculture systems.

Another way you can help promote sustainable ag research within the USDA, if you do not plan to apply for an AFRI grant in 2012, is to serve on a review panel.  It’s one step to get high-quality sustainable ag research proposals in the door, but it’s another to ensure these research priorities are considered during USDA’s peer review process. Click here for more information on serving on peer review panels.
For more information on any of these priority areas, feel free to contact Juli Obudzinski at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition at jobudzinski@sustainableagriculture.net, or the appropriate USDA National Program Leader for the program you’re interested in applying to.

_______________________________________________

October 19th, 2012

Dear All,

Some happenings of interest – including the upcoming Southern SAWG annual conference, for which I am forwarding an e-mail announcement from Southern SAWG.

Sincerely,

Mark

Organic Certification Cost Share – Application Deadline October 31
From Maureen Wilmot, Executive Director of Organic Farming Research Foundation

Get Your Reimbursement for Organic Certification Costs TODAY! Hurry up and get reimbursed for 75% of your organic certification costs. That’s up to $750 back in your pocket!
All you have to do is apply and BOOM! you’re guaranteed reimbursement. The 2008 Farm Bill provides a substantial amount that’s just waiting for you.

How Do I Get My Cost Share Bucks?
         Organic Certification Cost Share funds are distributed by state departments of agriculture. Find your state’s application materials and contact information HERE.
Most states are accepting applications for Organic Certification Cost Share until October 31st. Some, such as California, accept applications through November. Check out your state’s specific site for deadline information.
In 2011, Organic Certification Cost Share has already helped 4,000 growers across America. At OFRF, we are diligently fighting to maintain and expand certification cost share initiatives so that organic farming remains attractive and viable to you.
Please take advantage of this reimbursement and send in application materials today!

Happy Harvest – Maureen

Whole Farm Planning Short Courses – to be offered at two locations in southwest Virginia
Tuesdays Nov. 27, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11 – Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, VA
Thursdays Nov. 29, Dec. 6, and Dec. 13 – Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center, Abingdon, VA
All sessions start at 6:00 pmThe first session is an Introduction to Whole Farm Planning, the second is Developing Markets for Your Farm Products and Raising Products for Local Markets, and the third is Developing a Farm Business Plan, Getting Started in Farming, and Farm Transition.  See attached flyer for more information.  Contact: Tom Peterson, Appalachian Sustainable Development, 276-623-1121.

Appalachian Heritage Seed Festival
Sunday, December 2,  2:00 – 5:00 pm – Bristol, TN

This seed exchange event is free and open to the public.  In addition to the seed swap, the afternoon features a presentation by Brook Elliott, manager of Fort Boonesborough’s (KY) historic gardens.  See attached Word flyer for details and directions.  Contact: Tom Peterson, Appalachian Sustainable Development, 276-623-1121.

2012 Virginia Farm to Table Conference
Wednseday-Thursday December 5-6 – Weyers Cave, VA

The 2012 Virginia Farm to Table Conference is planned for Wednesday, December 5 and Thursday, December 6, 2012 at Blue Ridge Community College Plecker Workforce Center in Weyers Cave, VA.
The theme of the two-day conference is ‘Food and Farming at a Profitable and Sustainable Scale.’ A specific focus of the conference will be to encourage collaboration, conservation and community. Day 1 will focus on food and farming in the 21st century and the second day will focus on community supported investment, capital needs of emerging and beginning farmers and entrepreneurs, cooperatives, community food enterprises, and scale.  The conference includes a session with Ray Archuleta, Conservation Agronomist on the USDA-NRCS’ Soil Quality Team, who will be discussing how healthy soils are an essential component to healthy food.  A number of other exciting speakers and informative sessions are included on the agenda.
On Wednesday evening, a Buy Fresh Buy Local Networking Mixer will be held to encourage business conversation among Virginia producers and buyers. As part of the evening, Michael Shuman will speak about his recent book, ‘Local Dollars, Local Sense.’ His presentation will be preceded by music from a local band.
The conference is being hosted by Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Virginia Food System Council with support from community organizations, state agencies and area businesses.
For more information about the 2012 Virginia Farm to Table Conference, you can contact Eric Bendfeldt of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Office at (540) 432-6029 Ext. 106 or Kathy Holm of USDA-NRCS (540) 434-1404 Ext. 114.
For information about the Buy Fresh Buy Local Networking Mixer – connecting food service providers with farmers—and how you can be involved, please contact Francie Kennedy at 540-432-6029 Ext. 107.
More conference and registration information is available at www.conference.virginiafarmtotable.org

Southern SAWG’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference
January 23-26, 2013 – Little Rock, AR

Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2012 13:01:00 -0400 (EDT)
From: Southern SAWG <news@ssawg.org>
Reply-To: news@ssawg.org
To: mark@abundantdawn.org
Subject: Now Available! Conference program and registration is online!

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[]
Now Available!
2013 Conference and Registration Information

on the Southern SAWG Website.

[]
[]
The 2013 conference program and registration information is now available on the Southern SAWG website. You will love the program we have put together for this year’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference. There are even more sessions and pre-conference events this year!
Pre-Conference Offerings:
Wed & Thurs – Jan. 23-24

Short Courses
Our popular 1½ day pre-conference short courses are intensive learning experiences that provide comprehensive information on whole farming enterprises. With the in-class presentations and the extensive take-home materials, they give you the knowledge you most need to be successful with your enterprise. Click here to learnmore about the short courses we are offering this year.

Mini Courses
Our ½ day pre-conference mini courses provide in-depth information on specific topics in greater depth than is possible in our regular conference sessions. Our expert presenters provide you the latest information and answer your pressing questions on the topics you requested. To learn more about these valuable mini courses, click here.

Field Trips
For those who learn best by getting out in the field, we offer five outstanding field trips this year. Our ½ day pre-conference field trips are geared toward organic and sustainable production and marketing of horticultural crops and livestock and community food initiatives. Click here to learn more about these outstanding field trips.

Arkansas Natural Produce
General Conference Info:
Fri & Sat – Jan. 25-26

Expert Presenters
Each year conference participants tell us the great line-up of presenters with their practical experience is what makes our conference program so valuable. These people know their stuff and are willing to share their expertise. One older farmer said “I sure wish I had had access to this kind of expertise when I got started. I’d have gotten a lot further a lot faster!” Click here to see the incredible expertise our presenters are bringing to this program!

Sessions

62 Educational Sessions
The general conference, running all day Friday and Saturday, offers more choices: 62, 1½-hour sessions on a broad range of topics for start-up and seasoned producers alike. Sessions include; sustainable and organic production and marketing information for commercial horticultural and livestock producers, enterprise management lessons, farm policy education and community food systems development information. Click here to see the full description of sessions on this year’s program.

Arkansas Natural Produce
Registration and Fee Waivers

The Southern SAWG conference is always a great bargain, given the quality of the information to be gained and the networking opportunities that come with such a large turnout of the South’s most innovative and successful producers, organizers and advocates in sustainable agriculture. Your farming operation or local foods organization can’t afford to miss this event.

For a listing of fees and a printable registration form, or to use our safe and secure online registration system, click here.

This year we have three options for those looking for a fee waiver to participate in this conference. To learn more about fee waivers and how to apply, click here.

Call for Posters!

If your research or program provides practical information relevant to organic and sustainable family farmers and/or to those working to build local food systems, you are invited to display a poster about your work at the 2013 Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference.

Those interested in displaying a poster or posters must first submit a brief abstract for each poster. Abstracts are due November 16, 2012. Members of the Southern SAWG Scientific Committee will review all submitted abstracts and make decisions regarding acceptance. Click here to learn more and download the full details.

October 11, 2012

Dear All,

Here we go again – another new invasive pest, another task force!  Plus some additional information on the VABF Farm School, an upcoming Request for Applications for USDA competitive research grants program, a brief Farm Bill update, and a reminder that the special offer on soil foodweb tests is still open.

Spotted Wing Drosophila – Task Force for Organic Control
Let me know by return e-mail if you have encountered this pest – your observations are important to this new effort!

On October 10, 2012, I participated in a task force teleconference meeting on organic management strategies for the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), a relatively new, invasive, exotic pest that is causing serious damage to fruit crops across the United States.  Ted Rogers of USDA Agricultural Research Service, who also organized the task force to identify organic strategies to combat the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) in 2010-11 (which has resulted in a substantial research grant proposal), is convening the new Task Force on organic management of SWD.
Most of the call participants, which include many of the same folks on the forefront of the BMSB organic control effort, have observed SWD in fruit crops in their area, often with severe losses.
Spotted Wing Drosophila is cloesly related to the tiny fruit flies that make themselves a household nuisance when overripe or rotting fruit is left out on kitchen counters or in uncovered compost buckets.  SWD can also be a household pest – but they differ from other fruit flies in that they lay their eggs in fruit that is just approaching full ripeness, rather than waiting until it has started to spoil.  SWD does its worst damage in the field, laying eggs in soft-skinned fruit that is approaching harvest readiness.  Eggs hatch into tiny maggots, and the fruit becomes soft and watery, or “melts down” near the site of maggot activity. Affected fruit is unmarketable and perhaps inedible.
Raspberries and other cane fruit, and blueberries, are most susceptible.  Peaches, plums, grapes, and strawberries can also be damaged by SWD, whereas this pest rarely attacks tougher-skin fruits like apples or pears.  SWD has several generations per year, and can cause damage anytime from late spring until the falll frost date.  Typical signs of damage include a soft/watery area on ripe, harvest-ready berries, and sometimes the visible presence of tiny maggots in the affected area. Several organic-allowable pesticides – Entrust spinosad, pyrethrin, neem – are partially effective, and it appears likely that a multi-component control strategy will be needed.

If you have seen anything like this in any of your fruit crops, please let me know by return e-mail. This information will be important to the Task Force’s efforts to develop a strategy and a research grant proposal.  If you are farming for part or all of your living, and you have experienced significant economic losses to suspected or confirmed SWD on berries or other fruit, and you might be interested in getting more involved in the SWD organic control research effort, give me some details of your experience wiith this pest, any strategies you have used to manage it, and how it worked.

Small Farm Family Conference
October 30-31 – Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, 150 Slayton Ave., Danville, VA 24540

This Conference offers sessions on a wide range of topics, such as farm planning, nutrient management, high tunnels, production of specific crops like sweet peppers and fingerling potatoes, and GAPs (food safety) training, as well as sessions for beginning farmers and those wanting to learn more about disaster relief programs, and the politics of the current Farm Bill.  You received an attached flyer with details in my September 29 e-mail; the same information can be found at the link shown below.

For overnight accommodations, please contact one of these hotels:
- Comfort Inn and Suites,   100 Tower Drive, Danville, VA 24540   Phone: (434) 793-2000   Rate: $70 + tax
- Holiday Inn Express,   2121 Riverside Dr., Danville, VA 24540   Phone: (434) 793-4000   Rate: $77 + tax

Be sure to mention “Virginia State University Small Farm Conference” when booking a room to receive the conference rate.
Full details and registration for the conference can be found here:    http://tinyurl.com/sffc2012

Please email Mark Klingman at mklingman@vsu.edu if you have any questions.

Soil Food Web Tests Still Available at Drastically Reduced Rates

Interested in bringing LIFE back into your soil?  Want to understand the proper balances of microbial biodiversity for healthy plant production?

Want to improve your understanding of compost and tea technologies?

If so, Vail Dixon, Virginia grower and Soil Foodweb Advisor, is offering Soil Foodweb Laboratory testing at a heavily discounted rate through December 31, 2012.  Package and bulk rates available upon request.

You can send samples to the SFW lab under her account and receive the discount.  Interpretation of test results and phone consultation can also be included at $30 per hour.  Farm visits – please inquire for rates and availability.

Soil, Composts, and Tea samples  $50
(full Foodweb analysis)
Mycorhizal Fungi analysis $20
Leaf assays $10
E. Coli Testing $10
pH $5
EC $5

For more information, and to print out sample submission instructions and  form, visit the Soil Foodweb Oregon lab’s website at:   http://earthfort.com/lab-services.html

Vail Dixon
Simple Soil Solutions
(434) 547 – 3198

simplesoilsolutions@gmail.com

Farm Bill Update

As I mentioned in an e-mail to you all, dated September 18, the US House of Representatives walked away from the 2012 Farm Bill, allowing the 2008 bill to expire on September 30.  While funding for food stamps, commodity, and conservation programs will continue for the  time being, funding for a long list of smaller programs, including at least a dozen that are vital to sustainable agriculture and rural development, was terminated effective October 1.  These include the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and the Value Added Producer Grants (VAPG).  The BFRDP funds the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, through which VABF is offering this fall’s Farm School.
The suspension of funding does not affect projects for which awards have already been made, but it does mean that no new beginning farmer projects or other rural development or farmer training projects can be funded in Fiscal Year 2013 or beyond, unless and until a new Farm Bill or extension of the 2008 farm bill restores funding.  The Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), to which the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Task Force has applied for funding to identify effective organic controls of this invader, is similarly cut off – our proposal will still be considered, but there will be no call for proposals in 2013.
We the people can still turn this situation around during the upcoming “lame duck” session of Congress, or early next year under the new Congress.  Watch for details on how to take simple and effective action in the coming week or so.  Meanwhile, FYI, check out the following National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition blog posts:
         http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/life-without-a-farm-bill-whats-at-stake/
         http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/whats-at-stake-bfr/
         http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/stories-from-the-field-bf/
         http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/whats-at-stake-value-added/

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative
Call for Proposals coming soon

The researchers among you might want to take note that the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA)’s flagship competitive grants program, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, will issue a large Call for Proposals in the coming weeks.  I will let you all know as soon as these are released.  We want to get as many high quality, sustainable agriculture oriented proposals into AFRI as we can.

October 3rd. 2012

Southern SAWG Conference now open for Registration
January 23-26, 2013 – Little Rock, AR

[] 
Now Available! 
2013 Conference and Registration Information

on the Southern SAWG Website.

[] 
[] 
The 2013 conference program and registration information is now available on the Southern SAWG websiteYou will love the program we have put together for this year’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference. There are even more sessions and pre-conference events this year!
Pre-Conference Offerings:
Wed & Thurs – Jan. 23-24

Short Courses
Our popular 1½ day pre-conference short courses are intensive learning experiences that provide comprehensive information on whole farming enterprises. With the in-class presentations and the extensive take-home materials, they give you the knowledge you most need to be successful with your enterprise. Click here to learn more about the short courses we are offering this year.

Mini Courses
Our ½ day pre-conference mini courses provide in-depth information on specific topics in greater depth than is possible in our regular conference sessions. Our expert presenters provide you the latest information and answer your pressing questions on the topics you requested. To learn more about these valuable mini courses, click here.

Field Trips
For those who learn best by getting out in the field, we offer five outstanding field trips this year. Our ½ day pre-conference field trips are geared toward organic and sustainable production and marketing of horticultural crops and livestock and community food initiatives. Click here to learn more about these outstanding field trips.

Arkansas Natural Produce
General Conference Info:
Fri & Sat – Jan. 25-26

Expert Presenters
Each year conference participants tell us the great line-up of presenters with their practical experience is what makes our conference program so valuable. These people know their stuff and are willing to share their expertise. One older farmer said “I sure wish I had had access to this kind of expertise when I got started. I’d have gotten a lot further a lot faster!” Click here to see the incredible expertise our presenters are bringing to this program!

Sessions

62 Educational Sessions
The general conference, running all day Friday and Saturday, offers more choices: 62, 1½-hour sessions on a broad range of topics for start-up and seasoned producers alike. Sessions include; sustainable and organic production and marketing information for commercial horticultural and livestock producers, enterprise management lessons, farm policy education and community food systems development information. Click here to see the full description of sessions on this year’s program.

Arkansas Natural Produce
Registration and Fee Waivers

The Southern SAWG conference is always a great bargain, given the quality of the information to be gained and the networking opportunities that come with such a large turnout of the South’s most innovative and successful producers, organizers and advocates in sustainable agriculture. Your farming operation or local foods organization can’t afford to miss this event.

For a listing of fees and a printable registration form, or to use our safe and secure online registration system, click here.

This year we have three options for those looking for a fee waiver to participate in this conference. To learn more about fee waivers and how to apply, click here.
Call for Posters!

If your research or program provides practical information relevant to organic and sustainable family farmers and/or to those working to build local food systems, you are invited to display a poster about your work at the 2013 Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference.

Those interested in displaying a poster or posters must first submit a brief abstract for each poster. Abstracts are due November 16, 2012. Members of the Southern SAWG Scientific Committee will review all submitted abstracts and make decisions regarding acceptance. Click here to learn more and download the full details.
Be a 2012 Conference Sponsor

Your presence as a sponsor will help hundreds of farmers, community food advocates, educators and researchers across the South, and with the visibility this event affords, it will distinguish you as a supporter of the sustainable agriculture movement. Click here to learn more and show your support.
Note to organizational and institutional leaders: We can provide letters of support to your potential funders if you are seeking funds for producers in your area to participate in the pre-conference and conference activities. Just contact us with the details.
Keep up with Southern SAWG through Facebook and Twitter. Show your support for Southern SAWG by liking and following us!

Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition launches You-Tube Channel

Want to see Virginia beginning farmers in action?
Want to learn from folks working in agriculture every day?
Want to learn at your own pace and time?

If the answer is yes, visit our new YouTube Channel:
www.youtube.com/user/VABeginningFarmers

Visit the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition’s YouTube Channel for case studies and short videos of real farmers sharing their experiences in agriculture.  This is a wonderful way to connect with and learn from other farmers on your own time, in the comfort of your home.  Examples of video themes include; agriculture philosophy, sustainable agriculture practices, and advice for beginning farmers, plus a wide range of other interesting agricultural topics that effect beginning and transitioning farmers in Virginia.  You will see a number of diverse farming enterprises, including dairy operations, multispecies livestock production, vineyards, vegetable & food production, and commodity/row crop production.  Add the Virginia Beginning Farmer YouTube Channel to your favorites list today, and stay posted for updates.

We are always looking to capture the experience, skills, ideas, and thoughts of farmers across Virginia.  If you are interested in participating in the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher video series, please contact Kelli Scott at kecott1@vt.edu.

To Learn More about the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project and the Virginia Farm Mentor Network, visit us online at:
·         Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project official webpage:  www.vabeginningfarmer.org
·         Virginia Beginning Farmer Connections~  A blog for working farmers:  news.cals.vt.edu/vabeginningfarmer/
·         Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Facebook Page:
www.facebook.com/pages/Virginia-Beginning-Farmer-Rancher-Coalition/239686926056659
·         Virginia Beginning Farmer YouTube page:  www.youtube.com/user/vabeginningfarmers?feature=results_main
·         Beginning Farmer & Rancher Listserv:   Want to get Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher news, updates, and events sent to your email inbox?  Email Kelli Scott at kescott1@vt.edu  to be added to this listserv specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers!

September 20, 2012

Dear All,

This e-mail features a special beginning farmer training opportunity offered by VABF this fall.

Mark

FARM SCHOOL – A Virginia Whole Farm Planning Educational Program for Farm Start-up and Development
Monday evenings 6:00 – 9:00 pm, Oct. 22 – Nov. 26, plus
Farm tours 1:00 – 5:00 pm Sunday Nov. 11 and Networking Event 2:00 – 4:00 pm Sunday Dec 2
Goochland, VA

VABF is pleased to announce that registration is now open for our six-week Farm School for Beginners.  Classes will be held at the Goochland Campus of J. Sargent Reynolds Community College on Dickenson Road in Goochland, VA.  The Farm School is based on four Modules of the Curriculum developed by the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project ( www.vabeginningfarmer.org), in which VABF is a partner.  The modules are:
Introduction to Whole Farm Planning (October 22 and 29)
Marketing (November 5)
Sustainable Farming Practices (November 12 and 19)
Holistic Business Management (November 26)

In addition the Farm School includes a Farm Tour on Sunday November 11, featuring Shalom Farms (vegetable production, regional food security project) and Keenbell Farm (pasture-based beef, pork, chicken, and eggs).

Tuition is $240 for VABF members, and $325 for non-members. Enrollment is limited to 30 participants.

To register, visit the VABF website http://vabf.org/ and click on the link to the event announcement and on-line registration.  For more information, contact Lisa Dearden at (804) 314-9141, or by e-mail at chiknegg@gmail.com.

September 18, 2012

Dear All,

It is now official: the House of Representatives has decided to do NOTHING about the Farm Bill before leaving this Friday September 21 to hit the campaign trail in their home districts.  Neither a 2012 Farm Bill nor an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill will come out of Congress before the November 6 General Election.

This is the first time in the past 75 years of US agricultural policy that anything like this has taken place.  What does this mean?  Effective this October 1, the USDA will no longer have a law under which to conduct its business (technically, it reverts to a Farm Bill passed in 1949).  What are the practical impacts of this?
The Commodity Subsidy, Conservation (Title 2), Crop Insurance, and SNAP (food stamps) programs will not suffer an immediate impact and will be allowed to continue as they are for the time being.  Dairy programs will be severely impacted by the beginning of 2013, and dairy producers are seriously worried.  Even worse, funding for well over 30 smaller rural development, research, beginning farmer, minority farmer, and other programs will expire on October 1 and remain dormant unless and until either a 2012 Farm Bill or an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill with specific provisions to restore funding for these programs is adopted.
Among programs that will lose funding on October 1 are the following 10 high-priority beginning farmer, rural development, and sustainable/organic programs:

• Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
• Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers
• Value-Added Producer Grants
• Farmers Market Promotion Program
• National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
• Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives
• Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative
• Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
• Rural Energy for America Program
• Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program

The House of Representatives did pass a six month “continuing resolution” (CR) to keep all government agencies up and running for the next six months.  However, this is not the same as a Farm Bill extension, and it does not restore funding for any of the above-mentioned programs.  Furthermore, the particular CR that was passed cuts the Conservation Stewardship Program and three other conservation programs severely enough so that no no acreage can be signed up for these programs unless and until a new Farm Bill or extension restores funding.  The Senate is expected to vote on this CR before the end of this week.

What Can We Do Now?

We can – and must – collectively build pressure on Congress to complete and pass a final 2012 Farm Bill during the post-election “lame duck” session, a Farm bill that maintains robust funding for these important programs and for conservation.  At the very least, Congress must enact an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill that maintains this vital funding, and effects needed budget savings through effective reforms to commodity and crop insurance subsidy programs.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and some of its most active partners, such as Organic Farming Research Foundation, are rapidly coming up with creative strategies to impel Congress to meet its responsibility to the nation’s farmers and to the nation’s food system.  Watch for additional updates over the coming days and weeks.
Individuals can help by contacting our Representatives in Washington, DC this week to let them know how important this issue is, and that we expect effective action before the end of the year. You are probably sick and tired of me saying this, but it is true – messages from Rep. Goodlatte’s constituents (6th district) to his office, 202-225-5431, are especially important. We don’t need to badger our Senators – the Senate passed a 2012 Farm Bill – and our Senators helped out by voting for several key Amendments that resulted in a significantly better bill than came out of the Senate Ag Committee.
Following is one specific action we can all take part in this week.

America’s first Organic Phone Flash Mob!

Join hundreds of callers on September 19, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. EST in the first American Organic Phone Flash Mob to Congress. Leaders and supporters of organic farming will be gathering in Baltimore, MD at The Organic Summit, where OFRF will present The Organic Political System: How Organic Farmers’ Voices are Best Heard in the American Political Conversation.

At 3 p.m. EST, hundreds of callers will compel Congress to Support Organic Farmers and Stop Stalling on the Farm Bill.

With the 2012 Farm Bill hanging in the wind, OFRF will lead constituents in a mass plea to Congress to move on the Farm Bill before the November elections and to sustain organic programs that are most critical to our health and prosperity.

In our presentation, we will highlight America’s extraordinary opportunities in organic production and why the U.S. Government must invest in what is the fastest growing form of agriculture in America. Our presentation will also include a video that illustrates how easy it is to call your Representative. The presentation will culminate with an audience participation Phone Flash Mob to Congress.

Join the Phone Flash Mob! Pick up your phone and call Congress on September 19 at approximately 3:00 p.m. EST and say:
“Hi, my name is _______ and I live in _______. I am callling to ask that you please support the organic initiatives in the 2012 Farm Bill. Please invest in organic research, certification cost share, and transition assistance programs for farmers.”

Find your Representative’s phone number here.

Make sure your Representative knows about OFRF’s report, Organic Farming for Health and Prosperity.

This is a science-based, peer-reviewed report on the multiple benefits of organic farming in North America. The report engages leading scientists, researchers and experts in organic agriculture who contribute perspectives on the multiple benefits of organic farming.

Lets Dial It Up for Organic Farmers,

Maureen Wilmot, Executive Director, OFRF

September 17, 2012

Webinar – Link between Organic Systems Biodiversity and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Practice Standards
September 27 – contact Contact: Rich Myers, richm@ncat.org406-494-8675

This webinar is intended for farmers, NRCS personnel, and other agricultural professionals.  It will be co-presented by Jo Ann Baumgartner of Wild Farm Alliance in California; Jim Riddle, former chair of National Organic Standards Board; and Tom Broz of Live Earth Farm, a 100 acre organic farm.  See attached pdf file for more information.

VABF Farm School
First Session Monday evening October 22 – J. Sargent Reynolds College near Richmond

The Farm School offers a unique beginning farmer training opportunity for VABF members and others, and will meet weekly for six weeks.  Enrollment limited to 30.  More information and application details coming in a couple days.

10th Annual Small Farm Family Conference
October 30-31 – Danville, VA 24540

Virginia State University will offer its 10th Annual Small Farm Family Conference at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, 150 Slayton Ave, Danville, VA 24540, on Tuesday and Wednesday October 30-31, 2012.  If you need financial assistance for one night’s lodging, please contact Mark Klingman at 804-524-5960 or mklingman@vsu.edu no later than September 29.

Positions Open – Agriculture Program Manager, and Fellow
Appalachian Sustainable Development, Abingdon, VA

Appalachian Sustainable Development (Abingdon, VA) has announced two new job openings:
Agriculture Program Manager:  ASD is expanding their Agriculture program by hiring a full time individual to manage the farmer-focused aspects of their work.
Fellow:  This position will be responsible for key aspects of ASD’s local food system development work.

For more information, see attached announcements, or contact Kathlyn Terry, Executive Director, Appalachian Sustainable Development
kterry@asdevelop.org

Farm Bill Update – Still Time to Act
House of Representatives in Session all of this week

It remains unclear whether and in what form the 2012 Farm Bill, or extension of the 2008 Farm Bill will move forward in the current Congress, either this week, or during the “lame duck” session after the election through the end of the calendar year. Howver, this week is your last best chance to communicate your concerns and priorities to your Representatives.  Let him/her know how important programs like Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Value Added Producer Grants, Organic Research and Extension Initiative, Organic Certification Cost Share, etc. have been to your operation.  Urge Congress to pass a Farm Bill that continues funding for these important beginning farmer, rural development, organic, and resaerch programs, and that does not slash conservation program funding as an “offset” to drought disaster relief spending.   Stories from farmers within Rep. Goodlatte’s district, called in to Rep. Goodlatte or his agricultural legislative aide Carrie Meadows are especially effective at this time.  Call 202-225-5431

It is helpful to our campaign if you could let me know of any action you take, and the outcome or tone of the conversation if you reach someone at your Representative’s office.

The Senate remains in session all this and next week. Virginia’s Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb have been very supportive of sustainable agriculture priorities, especially conservation – so give them a word of thanks and encouragement to stay the course on conservation and other key programs if and when a Farm Bill or extension comes up for a floor vote.  Senator Warner is at 202-224-2023; Senator Webb is at 202-224-4024.

Spotted Wing Drosophila Organic Task Force plans first call in October

Has any of you had problems with raspberries, other cane fruit, blueberries, or strawberries suddenly “melting” from the bottom up just before full ripening?  Have you seen tiny maggots in the damaged berries?  You may be dealing with a new pest, the Spotted Wing Drosophila.  This is a close cousin of the common fruit fly that makes itself a house nuisance when you have overripe fruit or tomatoes lying around.  Unfortunately, SWD does not wait for the fruit to get overripe, but instead attacks it on the plant so that it becomes inedible just as it ripens.

Once again, Ted Rogers, biologist and senior policy analyst is organizing a task force to develop organic solutions to this pest.  He sent an e-mail out to the long list of farmers, scientists, and extension pesonnel on the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug task force, and already several have shared their observations and ideas.  SWD is apparently all over the US and has seriously impacted some berry producers.

An initial exploratory teleconference forthe SWD organic task force has been scheduled for October 10 at 1 pm Eastern Daylight Time. Let me and/or Ted know (202-720-3846 ted.rogers@ars.usda.gov) if you would like to participate.

September 13th, 2012

Dear All,

This is a one-topic e-mail – focus on Farm Bill related next-steps in Congress.

Sincerely,

Mark

2012 Farm Bill or Extension of 2008 Farm Bill?
Either way, now is the time to make ourselves heard!

Yesterday, in downtown DC, hundreds of farmers rallied to demand a  Farm Bill now! - holding signs such as “a farm bill is a jobs bill!” We join that call, with the added proviso that the Farm Bill must maintain tax dollar investment in conservation, and must continue vital beginning farmer, rural development, research, and organic programs.

With the current Congress fast running out of time to cobble together a 2012 Farm Bill out of the Senate’s verison and the House Agriculture Committee’s version, it is becoming more likely that Congress will instead adopt a 6 to 12-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill, and let the next Congress put together a new farm bill in 2013.  The problem with this is that many key programs such as Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) have no “baseline” funding beyond 2012, and would actually disappear for the duration of the Extension, unless specific provisions are included to continue their funding.

In addition, there have been various moves within Congress to authorize emergency disaster relief funding in response to the severe and widespread drought of 2012 – but these proposals would offset the spending by corresponding cuts to conservaiton programs, especially the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Wetlands Reserve Program.  In other words, taking funding out of the very programs that help farmers adopt practices that make their farms more resilient to drought and other weather related disasters.

Furthermore, the Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill includes several key reforms to commodity and crop insurance subsidy programs that would save many millions of tax dollars (could very likely provide the needed offset for disaster relief without raiding conservation), and would also strenghten conservation compliance requirements.  The House Ag Committee bill lacks many of these, but it does end the most wasteful form of subsidy, called “direct payments”.  The Senate bill also does this, so the days of “direct payments” are over (saving several billion) - except that an extension of the 2008 farm bill would leave direct payments untouched, unless specific provisions are adopted to do otherwise (e.g. axe them as an offset for disaster relief).

What you can do

Call Virginia’s two Senators – Senator Mark Warner (202-224-2023 - ask to speak with his agricultural legislative assistant Caitlin Runyan), and  Senator Jim Webb (202-224-4024 - ask to speak with his ag legislative assistant Trevor Dean) and emphasize that we need Congress to act ASAP to pass a new Farm Bill that protects conservation and key rural development, beginning farmer, research, and organic programs.  Note that our Senators have been strong advocates for conservation programs, so thank them for their past support here, and ask them to do what they can in the next couple of weeks to move a conservation-friendly Farm Bill forward (or extension if a new Farm Bill cannot be completed).
Tell your story – if you have used or benefited by any of the programs at risk in this process (for example, by participating in the Virginig Begninning Farmer and Rancher Coalition – a BFRDP funded project), a factual account of how the program(s) are important to your famring operation is especially effective.  See below for more details on the programs in question.

Call your Representative on Capitol Hill and ask to speak with his/her Legislative Assistant in charge of agricultural policy and urge your Representative’s support for continued funding for key programs like BFRDP under either scenario (new Farm Bill or extension of current one).  If you do not know your Representative’s phone number, call the Capitol Hill Switchboard, 202-224-3121.

If you are in Representative Goodlatte’s district - he is Vice Chair of the House Agriculture Committee and will likely play an important role in shaping the Farm Bill or extension that comes out of the current Congress before it concluded at the end of the year.  Again, if you have used or benefited from any of the conservation, beginning farmer, rural development, or other programs, tell your story.  One way is to write it up succinctly and e-mail it to Rep. Goodlatte’s Agricultural Legislative Assistant, Carrie Meadows -Carrie.Meadows@mail.house.gov.  Or, you can call Rep. Goodlatte’s office at 202-225-5431, and ask to speak to Carrie – in the likely event that she is busy, leave a phone message for her.

More Information – Harnessing economic opportunities and investing in the future of American agriculture

Creating jobs in rural America, seizing market opportunities, and ensuring the success of the next generation of farmers are national priorities. The Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-passed 2012 Farm Bills reflect these priorities by funding key programs from the 2008 Farm Bill. Unless they are reauthorized, these innovative programs expire on September 30. If Congress moves to extend the current bill, then it must take action to maintain the investment in expiring programs that boost rural economic development, leverage local initiatives, and ensure the future of American agriculture.

A true extension will extend and fund these innovative and successful programs. Ten crucial programs are set to expire on September 30:
• Value-Added Producer Grants
• Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program
• Rural Energy for America Program
• Organic Agriculture Research & Extension Initiative
• National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
• Organic Production & Market Data Initiatives
• Farmers Market Promotion Program
• Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program
• Outreach & Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers & Ranchers
• Conservation Reserve – Transition Incentive Program

Why It Matters
• Rural Job Creation: Small-scale entrepreneurship is the one economic development strategy that consistently works in rural communities. Over half of all new jobs created in the most rural areas come from small, nonfarm business ventures. Rural development programs targeted at small business development spur growth in rural areas.
Value-Added Producer Grants (VAPG) program is a successful competitive grants program that enables producers, groups of producers, or producer-owned businesses or cooperatives to develop value-added, producer-owned enterprises and stimulate economic growth in the agricultural sector.
Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP) supports the development of entrepreneurial activities in rural areas by providing financial assistance to small businesses, primarily sole proprietorships or businesses with fewer than 10 full-time employees, and microenterprise development programs.
Renewable Energy Assistance Program (REAP) provides loans and grants to assist farmers and rural businesses in energy efficiency and renewable energy production projects.

• Market Opportunities: American consumers are demanding value-added and organic foods and want to buy these products from local and regional sources. Research and marketing programs ensure producers can seize these market opportunities.
Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) is USDA’s flagship competitive grants program for integrated organic research and extension projects that underpin the strong growth that the organic sector has experienced.
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) provides cost share assistance to help partially defray the costs of organic certification for producers and handlers of organic products.
Organic Production and Market Data Initiatives (ODI) is a multi-agency initiative that facilitates the collection of basic data about the organic agriculture sector, providing information to policymakers and other USDA agencies that need data to develop appropriate crop insurance and
loan options for organic farmers.
Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) provides grants to assist farmers and communities seeking to meet the increased farmer and consumer demand for expanded direct marketing venues and options.

• The Future of American Agriculture: The average age of an American producer today is 57, and if we let current trends go unchecked, that number will only increase. Providing training and technical assistance to the next generation of farmers can help buck the trend and ensure future food security and overall economic well being.
Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is the only USDA program dedicated to training the next generation of farmers and ranchers. This highly successful initiative provides competitively awarded grants to academic institutions, state extension services, producer
groups, and community organizations, to support and train new producers across the country.
Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers (OASDFR / Section 2501) program helps our nation’s historically underserved producers gain access to federal credit, commodity, conservation, and other programs and services. The program supports technical assistance to producers through the community-based organizations, tribes, and educational institutions best prepared to reach and serve them.
Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentive Program (CRP-TIP) helps beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers access land by encouraging landowners with expiring CRP land to sell or long-term lease their land to new producers.

More Information – Conservation Program Funding
(from NSAC action alert summary)

In the face of the most disastrous, widespread drought in a generation, what’s the worst possible thing Congress could do?

Play politics with disaster aid? It’s happening.
Cut conservation programs – the very ones that help farmers protect themselves from the worst ravages of drought? It’s about to happen.

Help us tell Congress this is unacceptable – call your Representative and Senators today! (see contact info above)

In times like these, when more than 65%  of our nation’s farms are in the midst of a withering drought, farmers and ranchers depend upon conservation tools to help them deal with extreme conditions.
The core farm bill conservation programs – Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) – work together to help farmers conserve water, protect and rebuild soil, and provide clean water and wildlife habitat.  They’re a smart, long-term investment in the future of our agricultural lands – and our nation’s food supply.

This week, it’s make or break time for the 2012 Farm Bill. Congress is negotiating the future of the farm bill – and conservation programs are a major part it.

Help us tell Congress:  we need a farm bill now that funds conservation! And don’t pay for disaster aid by cutting conservation!
As noted above, effective commodity and insurance subsidy reform can help offset the cost of drought disaster aid – even simply eliminating the wasteful direct payments program would likely provide the offset.

______________________________________________________________________

September 6, 2012

Dear All,

Lots going on, including some great mentorship and funding opportunities for farmer-initiated resesarch and community food projects, as well as upcoming events.  Also – more ways to help put the brakes on GMOs.   - Mark

Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition offers Mentorship Opportunities – Application Form Attached.
From Kelli Scott, Farm Mentor Coordinator for southwest Virgiinia:

We have been making some process with the Virginia Farm Mentor Network.  A Mentee Application (see attached pdf file) has been finalized as an official process to determine serious, committed beginning farmers and ranchers eligible for the program.  This application will be available online and in print.  In addition to the application, all beginning farmers and ranchers enrolled in the Farm Mentor Network must complete a module on Introduction to Whole Farm Planning.  This will provide the beginning farmer a focus and allow him/her to establish a mission/goals for the short and long term of the farm operation.  The intro module will be implemented by one of the 3 Farm Mentor Coordinators for the Commonwealth; Kelli Scott-Southwest VA, CJ Isbell- Central VA, and/or Jim Hilleary-Northern VA.
All participants for the Virginia Whole Farm Planning programs are automatically enrolled into the Farm Mentor Network, but we ask all beginning farmers & ranchers to fill out an application for database purposes.  We will work with all of the Whole Farm Planning teams to make sure everyone has the correct forms.
If you have any comments or concerns about the attached application form.
Thanks for your interests in the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project and the Virginia Farm Mentor Network.

To Learn More about the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project and the Virginia Farm Mentor Network, visit us online at:
         Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project official webpage:  www.vabeginningfarmer.org
         Virginia Beginning Farmer Connections~  A blog for working farmers:  http://news.cals.vt.edu/vabeginningfarmer/
         Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Virginia-Beginning-Farmer-Rancher-Coalition/239686926056659
         Virginia Beginning Farmer YouTube page:  http://www.youtube.com/user/vabeginningfarmers?feature=results_main
         Beginning Farmer & Rancher Listserv: Want to get Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher news, updates, and events sent to your email inbox?  Email Kelli Scott at kescott1@vt.edu  to be added to this listserv specifically for beginning farmers and ranchers!

Southern SARE Releases Call for Proposals for Producer Grants and On-Farm Research Grants
Submissions Deadline November 15

On-Farm Research Grants are open to nongovernmental organizations working with farmers, as well as Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and university personnel.  Grants awards will be for up to $15,000 over a two year period, and will be announced in February 2013.  Eligible applicants for Producer Grants include individual producers (up to $10,000) or producer organizations (up to $15,000)

Below are the links to the press releases by Southern SARE for the Call for Proposals for our On-Farm Research Grants and our Producer Grants. You can directly access the Call for Proposals and applications procedures from these links.
http://www.southernsare.org/News-and-Media/Press-Releases/On-Farm-Research-Grants-Emphasize-Ag-Professional-and-Farmer-Rancher-Collaboration
http://www.southernsare.org/News-and-Media/Press-Releases/Producer-Grants-to-Further-Sustainable-Agriculture-Now-Available2 

USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Releases Community Food Grants Call for Proposals
Applications Deadline November 17, 2012

NIFA requests applications for the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program (CFPCGP) for FY 2012 to support the development of Community Food Projects with a one-time infusion of federal dollars to make such projects self-sustaining; planning projects to assess the food security needs and plan long-term solutions to help ensure food security in communities; and a project that provides training and capacity building on a nationwide basis to entities interested in developing new Community Food Projects or assisting current grantees and others to effectively operate their food security projects.
Community Food Projects should be designed to meet the food needs of low-income people; increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs; and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues. Projects should also be designed to meet specific state, local, or neighborhood food and agriculture needs for infrastructure improvement and development; for planning for long-term solutions; or for the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers.
Private, non-profit entities with experience in the area of community food systems are eligible to apply.  Grants types including training and technical assistance (T&TA), planning grants (max $25,000), and community food project grants (max $125,000 for 1 year or $300,000 for 3 years).  A total of $5 million will be disbursed through this Call for Proposals.  Applicants must match the federal grant dollar for dollar, except for T&TA proposals.
For more information, contact program director Elizabeth Tuckermanty, Phone: +1 (202) 205-0241, Fax: +1 (202) 401-0776,etuckermanty@nifa.usda.gov, or visit:
  http://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/communityfoodprojects.cfm

Workshop:  Cover Crops and Permanent Bed Systems
Maple Hill Farm, Scottsville, VA -  Thursay, September 27, 4-7 pm

The Local Food Hub of Charlottesville area is hosting a workshop by VA Tech Professor Emeritus Ron Morse, who has pioneered organic no-till and conservation-tillage production systems for vegetable crops.  With the goal of achieving maximum farm profitability, Ron integrates cover crops, specialized small farm equipment, biological inoculants, and tillage systems. In the workshop, he will be discussing his move towards a permanent bed system, where you practice zone tillage of your “grow zone” while leaving your “traffic zone” (isles or pathways) in cover crop.

More details on our website here: http://localfoodhub.org/events/workshop-cover-crops-and-permanent-bed-systems/

American Livestock Breeds Conservancy – 2012 Annual National Conference
Cary, North Carolina (Raleigh-Durham area) – November 9-10

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is holding its annual national conference in our region this year – at the Raleigh-Durham Embassy Suites just minutes from the airport. Excellent workshops on livestock and poultry breeding and husbandry, raising chickens on local (on-farm) feed as part of an integrated system; small business enterprise in rabbits and ducks, and choosing heritage breeds from the chef’s viewpoint.
Registration deadline is October 7.  Visit www.albc-usa.org/legacy, or call 919-542-5704 for more information.

More Ways to Put the Brakes on GMO
Supporting the California Ballot Initiative 37 – the California GMO Food Labeling Initiative

In a recent e-mail, you read about recent and ongoing efforts to limit the incursion of genetically engineered crops and foods into our nation’s agricultural system, including a list of large corporations who are trying to have it both ways, making millions from organic products from milk to snack bars, and at the same time opposing California’s Ballot Inititaive 37 to mandate labeling of GMO foods sold in the state.  I suggested that we can support California’s GMO labeling initiative by boycotting these foods.  Better yet is to contact the companies and let them know that you will not buy their organic products unless and until they drop their opposition to California’s GMO Labeling initiative.  Attached is an updated version of my earlier communication on this subject, with contact information for each of the food companies in question.  The file is called “Opponents-to-CA-37-contact-info.”

Governor McDonnell Announces Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund Now Open to Applicants ­ $2 Million Economic Incentive Fund to Spur More Processing/Value-Added Projects

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that guidelines for the newly created Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund have been finalized and localities are now able to apply for AFID grants that will enable them to support economic development and job creation efforts. With the release of these guidelines, Virginia, for the first time, has an economic development grant program designed specifically to support agriculture and forestry development projects.

For the full press release, visit http://www.governor.virginia.gov/news/viewRelease.cfm?id=1393

__________________________________________________________________

August 22, 2012

Dear All,

The USDA has just released a call for proposals for its Value Added Produer Grants program. Please share this with others who might be interested.

And be sure to scroll down for a farming opportunity in Newport, VA (near Blacksburg), resources for coping with drought from the USDA SARE program, and an exciting leadership training opportunity for spokespeople and organizers in the organic/sustainable movement.

Sincerely,

Mark

Value Added Producer Grants – Applications Due October 15

Release No. 0276.12
Contact:  Weldon Freeman (202) 690-1384

USDA Seeks Applications for Grants to Help Agricultural Producers Bring Increased the Value to Their Products

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2012 Agrriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited agricultural producers to apply for grants to increase the value of their products.
“Producers can greatly enhance the bottom line of their businesses and improve their economic prospects when they improve the value of their products, thus expanding their markets and customer base,” Vilsack said. “The Value Added Producer Grant program (VAPG) has a proven track record of doing just that and I am pleased to announce that we are inviting producers to apply for these grants by the deadline. The funds in this program enable America’s farmers, ranchers and rural business owners to find ways to expand their product offerings, revenue streams and create more economic opportunity by bringing additional value to what they already produce.”

Applicants have until October 15, 2012 to apply. Vilsack emphasized that far too many producers are missing out on significant economic opportunities when their products are enhanced further away from the farm. “When our producers keep their value-added activities closer to the farm, it not only improves their bottom line; it strengthens our rural economy and strengthens our rural communities.”

USDA Rural Development is making up to $14 million in grants available for projects that help farmers and ranchers produce bio-based products from agricultural commodities. The grants, which are competitively awarded, are available for planning activities or for working capital expenses, but not for both. The maximum grant amount is $100,000 for planning grants and $300,000 for working capital grants. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities and increasing producer income are the goals of the VAPG program.

For example, Unruh Greenhouse LLC in West Union, Iowa received a VAPG working capital grant to process and package local produce for nearby grocery stores, universities and hospitals. Schmidt Farms Inc. in Rawlins County, Kansas received a working capital grant to expand the market for their product lines which includes beef, chicken, and eggs. The company is a family farm that has been in the meat business for the last 25 years. They have been marketing their home grown beef directly to customers. Schmidt Farms is building and expanding the market not only for their beef, but also for their chickens and eggs. The product lines will be marketed as being produced locally and produced farm fresh. Beef produced is promoted as being all natural and chickens as being free range and antibiotic free.

Businesses of all sizes are encouraged to apply, but priority will be given to operators of small and medium-sized farms or ranches that are structured as family farms, beginning farmers or ranchers, or those owned by socially-disadvantaged farmers or ranchers. Grants are available for projects up to 36 months in duration.

For information on how to apply, see page 48951 of the August 15, 2012 Federal Register, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-08-15/pdf/2012-20082.pdf

Farming Opportunity in Newport, 15 minutes west of Blacksburg

I have a nice farm in Newport, 15 min west of Blacksburg. I’d like to offer space for one or more interested people to do their gardening / farming projects here. I’d love to have more energy and contact here and it’s a lovely place that could do a lot of good.
We have nice soil, flat growing areas, horse manure available, and a very good well. 2.5 miles from 460. I’m thinking of a market garden, back of the calendar, specialty crop, nursery, eggs, even possibly milk cows. I’m waffling about beef, though we have a great set up for it. Or whatever marvelous other ideas are out there.
So I’m starting to put it out to see who might be suited by our set up. I’m looking for joyful, yet steady, feet on the ground sorts of relationships. We’d do some sort of process to be sure we’re aligned about commitment, responsibility, methods, etc., to maximize the probability of success.
Sarah Chabot

Interested?  Please contact Sarah directly at <terrestrials@pemtel.net>

SARE Program offers New Resources for Water Conservation and Water Use Efficiency in a Time of Drought

From SARE Outreach Coordinator Sean McGovern:

Smart Water Use on Your Farm or Ranch

Karl Kupers saw improved water-use efficiency on his 4,400-acre eastern Washington grain farm when he replaced a wheat/fallow system with expanded crop rotations and no-till seeding.
In western Colorado, crop farmer Randy Hines developed a tillage tool that leaves vegetative residue on the soil while creating irrigation furrows in every other 30-inch row. He saved water by using half the typical number of irrigation furrows and saved money through fewer tractor trips across his fields.
Illinois farmer Ralph “Junior” Upton broke up a 6- to 8-inch layer of compacted clay by planting cover crops after soybean and corn harvests, thereby enhancing his soil’s ability to store water for upcoming crops.
With drought conditions gripping more than half the United States this summer, water-saving strategies are more critical than ever for America’s farmers and ranchers. That is why SARE’s 16-page bulletin, Smart Water Use on Your Farm or Ranch, is an excellent primer on conservation-oriented approaches to water use.
Smart Water Use on Your Farm or Ranch spotlights innovative, SARE-funded research into a range of conservation options including soil management, such as using compost, conservation tillage and cover crops; plant management, featuring crop rotation, water-conserving plants and rangeland drought mitigation; and water management strategies such as low-volume irrigation and water recycling.  The bulletin also includes farmer stories, and a list of resources.
Because there is a wide range of soil management practices that can have a significant impact on water use and availability, these other SARE titles offer important guidance to farmers and ranchers concerned with water issues:

Other resources available through SARE include:

IFOAM Organic Leadership Course fosters innovation, connections

         The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) will hold an Organic Leadership Course in North America in 2013. Participants will gain knowledge, skills and a comprehensive understanding of organic principles and the organic sector in North America and globally while they develop leadership skills and deepen their networks of like-minded people. With over 150 hours of comprehensive training and intensive skill-building, this course is ideal for preparing managers and staff to be leaders and spokespeople. Please spread the word about this program and encourage people with leadership potential to apply. If your business would like to reach out to these leaders or provide scholarships for deserving participants, funding opportunities are available. Contact:Katherine DiMatteo, the North American regional partner for the course.

REMINDER - Virginia State University’s Agriculture Field Day
Randolph Farm near Petersburg, VA – August 28 – 8 am – 1 pm

Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:00 am.  Tour begins at 9:30 am.  Tour stops include soil testing and evaluation, cole crop production with mushroom compost, growing vegetable transplants, mechanical harvest of edamame soybean, Good Agricultural Practices (food safety) for organic vegetables, antique and modern farm equipment, nutrition and health, Cool-Bot for post harvest produce storage, dairy sheep, and more.

Admission is free, and pre-registration is required by August 23 (that’s tomorrow).  Contact Andy Hankins at 804-524-5960, or e-mail mjklingman@vsu.edu.

Second Annual Farm to Fork Gala – Celebrating the Taste of Local
Heartwood, Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway – Saturday, September 8, at 6:30 pm

This is a fundraising benefit event for Appalachian Sustainable Development. Tickets are $100 per person or $175 per couple (tax deductible).  Heartwood is at I-81 Exit 14 in Abingdon, VA.
RSVP required – by August 24 (this Friday).  Call ASD at 276-623-1121

_________________________________________________________________________

August 19th, 2012

As I noted in my last e-mail, now is an excellent time to bring our sustainable agriculture priorities to Members of Congress, while they are home in their districts. This is especially true for members of Agriculture Committees. In Virginia, that would be Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-6th).  However, if you are in a different district, it is still valuable to meet with your Representative – or either of Virginia’s Senators or their staff.

For any of you who has the time, energy, and inclination to connect with your Representative or Senator(s) during this recess, I have provided below -  some information from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition on in-district meetings and some general tips on lobbying.

Let me know by e-mail (mark (at) abundantdawn.org) if you are interested in an in-district meeting or other action this month, and I will put you in touch with Sarah Hackney, Grassroots Coordinator at NSAC.  Thank you so much for whatever you are able to do.  Even a simple call in to a district office stating your priorities and what action you would like the Member to take can be helpful.

Depending on how things develop, there may be an opportunity and need for farmers to come to Capitol Hill toward the end of September to bring their priorities to key Representatives and Senators. I will keep you posted.

Sincerely,

Mark

NSAC’s original message on in-district meetings (sent at beginning of August):

It’s officially August recess time, and you know what that means:  in-district meeting opportunities!

Now, before you say “I DEFINITELY don’t have time for that”, read on – there’s something for everyone here:

(And – importantly – thank you to everyone who’s already done fantastic in-district events this year, and to everyone who’s already planning / considering August events!!!)

So here’s the deal. Both the House and Senate are headed out today for a month-long recess – they won’t be back in DC until the week of September 10! And with the House having left without taking floor action on the 2012 Farm Bill, they’re in our sights for additional pressure and advocacy – the committee bill is, as you well know, bad. They need to know this too. Fortunately, as the fall election approaches, they’re going to be keen to meet with constituents and earn your vote. Time to make ‘em work for it. Here are a few ideas for how, in ascending order of time commitment:

— Simply email your legislator’s district scheduler (cc’ing the Ag LA and any other contacts you have with the office) and inquire as to their schedule over recess – share a few events coming up that he or she may want to attend (say, a farmers’ market, field day, fundraising dinner, etc – anything you’re already planning) – and slip in a few farm bill talking points along the way. If they don’t bite, no worries – you’ve still let them know you’re paying attention, reminded them of the good work you’re doing, and dropped a few key talking points that the Ag LA will see.

— Got a bit more time? Do the same as above, but also specifically ask if they have time for a meeting. Follow up once a week if you haven’t heard back. If you get a meeting (or a promise that they’ll attend your event)? Scroll to the bottom of this email for some time-tested in-district meeting guidance from Margaret Krome.

— Want the in-district gold medal? Do all of the above – PLUS check out their website for any public events, town halls, or in-district schedules (you can email the district office for this as well) – then recruit farmers, advocates, and/or your own staff to attend them, armed with friendly but firm farm bill and sustainable ag-related questions. Share their schedule with your farmers and members – encourage them to attend too. Make sure everywhere your Rep goes, he or she hears, repeatedly, that sustainable agriculture matters in his or her district.

Got more ideas? Don’t hesitate to share them with the list!

Got a meeting and looking for help / advice on how to make it great? Note that we here at NSAC are ready to help you prepare talking points, questions, and materials as needed, along with any intel we have on a legislator’s past votes or current stance – we can also refer you to other fantastic member groups who’ve pulled off very successful in-district events large and small this year. Just let us know!

On messaging – a good one-two punch would be to frame your messaging along the lines of “we need a farm bill this year! and in that bill, the House needs to step up and support [critical program X] that directly impacts this community!” Consider also framing your messaging with the BFROA and LFFJA status update charts – if your Rep did sign on, it’s a great way to quickly show them where the Senate and House did well, and where it didn’t, on those key provisions. They’re available on our (NSAC) blog.

Some tips on lobbying, developed by Margaret Krome of Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in Wisconsin

1) Set up your meetings early. Start now; it often takes weeks. Visit the Congressional Dictionary to find your legislators’ district office phone numbers. Call and ask for the district scheduler.  When they ask you about the topic, it’s fine to keep it general: “2012 Farm Bill” or “Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations.”  Be prepared to nudge the scheduler every week or so until the meeting is set.
[OK I know this message is coming too late to start early - but even if you can't get an August meeting, you might be able to set something up, either on Capitol Hill if you can travel, or next time Members will be in their home districts.]
2) When they ask you who will attend the meeting, be clear, especially with House members, that these will be constituents.  You may not know the names of everyone you will ask at the time you talk with the scheduler, and that’s OK, but later you will have to tell them who will be there.  
3) Try to meet with the member himself/herself if possible.  Members’ district staff are not as influential on policy issues as their Washington, D.C. staff, and as constituents, you are who your legislator wants to know.
4) Keep your numbers small (4-6 people) and choose your participants carefully to reinforce your message, dispel stereotypes, and demonstrate that important and varied groups of constituents care about your agenda.  Introduce yourselves and clearly state what issue you want to discuss. Then let each person tell quick, personal stories, reinforced by key facts to communicate your message.
5) Participants’ power lies in their short, brief stories, illuminating key points of your agenda; you can be responsible for providing any reinforcing numbers, data, and one-pagers.  Set up a quick call or pre-meeting ahead of time to identify who will cover which parts of your message.  
6) Anticipate arguments they might present. Rebut them firmly, factually, and pleasantly.
7)  After you make your pitch, allow the member/aide to respond, and listen well. Bring the conversation back to your issue if the member evades it or goes off on a tangent.
8) If you don’t know answers to a question, say you’ll find out. Don’t pretend to know what you don’t. Don’t respond defensively, and don’t ever threaten! Always tell the truth.
9) Think about what the member and his/her staff wants (e.g., good media, public thanks, good information, etc.) and provide it if you can.
10) Thank the member and/or staff for anything legitimate you can.
11) Leave them with brief fact sheets, outlining your position.
12) Let us know! If we at NSAC know you’ve had a successful meeting, this helps inform our work in DC! A simple email or phone call letting us know the meeting has been scheduled, and a quick recap after it occurs, is great.  After the visit, write down information you learned about the member’s position to share with others for strategic purposes.
13) Send a thank-you note. Thank your legislator for meeting with you, and restate your key message one last time.

_________________________________________________________________________

August 9th, 2012

Farm Bill Update and What We Can Do Now
Congress on August Recess is Opportunity for In-district Meetings

Yes, the 2012 Farm Bill is “in limbo” after Senators and Representatives left Capitol Hill for a month long recess through Labor Day without the House passing its version.  The soonest the Farm Bill could move ahead to the next stage is right after Labor Day, and that is not at all certain.
However, whether Congress manages to complete the new Farm Bill before the end of this year, or whether they end up extending the current 2008 Farm Bill for another year, the priorities stated in e-mails from this source over the past several weeks remain:  protect funding for Beginning Farmer, Rural Development, Organic Research, Organic Cost Share, and Conservation programs; protect the recent GIPSA Rule (new regulations to protect contract farmers’ rights), and accomplish real reform in commodity and crop insurance programs.
I just got back from a very energizing meeting of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, where we were reminded that the next several weeks, with our elected Representatives and Senators in their home districts / states, is an important opportunity to communicate our farm policy concerns and priorities.  Although we do not have specific bills or amendments to advocate for at this time, it is very effective to tell our stories, and what we want or need in the way of federal farm policy to help family farms and rural communities thrive, improve public health and child nutrition, and to sustain our food and agricultural system over the long run.

Is your Representative or Senator holding a town hall meeting, listening session, or other event at which they seek to hear directly from constituents? If so, you can simply attend the event – arrive early and ask event organizers for a time to speak. You will have a few minutes to communicate your message directly to your Representative or Senator (or, in some cases, one of their top Legislative Assistants).   Call his/her office to find out when and where such sessions might take place.
Otherwise, see if you can set up an appointment to talk with the Rep / Senator in person, or with one of their staff who works on agricultural issues.  For those of you with working farms that demonstrate successful organic or sustainable enterprises, it can be extremely effective to invite your Representative or one of his/her staff for a tour of your farm.  While it is a bit late to begin planning for the current recess (and I apologize for not getting this suggestion to you a month earlier), it is worth a try, and even making an initial contact and getting an answer of “too busy now, let’s set up something next time ___ is in the district” would be a valuable step in opening the dialogue.

If you find yourself wondering which of the myriad of issues to focus on, I would suggest the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).  The BFRDP funds the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, coordinated through Virginia Tech with some 25 partners including VABF, several other non-profits, and several farms, as well as VA Cooperative Extension and other agencies.  BFRDP has funded dozens of other beginning farmer training, networking and assistance programs across the US.  With today’s crisis of shrinking and aging farm population and farmland loss, BFRDP and other programs that help establish a new generation of sustainable farmers make a vital contribution to the future of our agricultural and food system
BFRDP is currently funded at $19 million a year.  The Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill would cut it slightly to $17 million, while the House Ag Committee version would slash it to $10 million, and a one-year “extension” of the 2008 Farm Bill would zero it out unless a special provision to restore BFRDP funding is explicitly included in the extension.  (Several other key programs would be in the same boat, including Organic Certification Cost Share, Specialty Crops Research Initiative, and Organic Research and Extension Initiative).
If you are involved in or have benefited from the VA Beginning Farmer Coalition, you are in a great position to speak on this issue.

Special request: if you are in Bob Goodlatte’s district (6th VA), and you would like to set up an in-district meeting with him or a staff person, and you would like some help or collaboration on this, let me know ASAP by return e-mail.  Either I or some of the wonderful folks at the NSAC office in Washington, DC can help you with logistics, messaging, and other specifics. I may be able to attend an event with you – the main reason I am not trying to set one up on my own is that I am not in his district, and would not get much “traction” on my own.
 As Vice Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Goodlatte will play an important role in the Farm Bill outcome regardless of what path it takes.  And, with a strong BFRDP-funded coalition helping new farmers in Virginia, I believe we can persuade Rep. Goodlatte to go to bat for this program.

USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) – opportunity for sustainable agriculture research
Request for Applications for Foundational Research Projects to be released later this month

The USDA’s largest extramural competitive grants program for research, education, and extension projects will soon issue a large Request for Applications to disburse two years worth of funding under the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.  The 2008 Farm Bill mandates that a portion of AFRI funding be devoted to community food systems, sustainable production, classical breeding and public variety development, and other priorities supportive of sustainable and organic programs.  Unfortunately, the proportion of AFRI projects to date that address these priorities is not as high as hoped.  One way to address this is to advocate with USDA for better implementation (NSAC continues to work on this), but another is to get as many high quality applications in for truly sustainable and organic oriented projects as possible.

If you or an agricultural scientist(s) whom you know or work with have a project in mind for which you are seeking funding sources, this could be an important funding opportunity. Watch for more, including links to the actual Request for Application and application forms, in a future e-mail.

Edible Food Fest in Orange, Virginia!
Downtown Orange, VA on Saturday, August 11 from 11 until 5PM.   [Yes, I know that is two days from now - no need to pre register, just come on by!]
Come visit the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network table!

Everyone knows the Earth to Table movement is gaining more and more steam around the nation and the world. Here in Virginia, as in so many other places, this growing trend became as a way of life, and remains so for countless people who in many cases have spent generations engaged in the sustainable lifestyle. As we began to talk about this event, we were struck by how important a role our region plays and continues to play in both the Earth to Table movement, and in its history.

http://ediblefest.com/

27th Annual Agriculture Field Day:  Practical Tools and Soloutions for Virginia Landowners
August 28, 8:00 am – 1:00 pm – Randolph Farm, Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA

Registration and continental breakfast begin at 8:00 am.  Tour begins at 9:30 am.  Tour stops include soil testing and evaluation, cole crop production with mushroom compost, growing vegetble transplants, mechanical harvest of edamame soybean, Good Agricultural Practices (food safety) for organic vegetables, antique and modern farm equipment, nutrition and health, Cool-Bot for post harvest produce storage, dairy sheep, and more.

Admission is free, and pre-registration is required by August 23.  Contact Andy Hankins at 804-524-5960, or e-mail mjklingman@vsu.edu.

The Heritage Harvest Festival

 Monticello’s West Lawn – Friday Sept. 14 – Saturday, September 15; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission $5 – no pre-registration required

The event includes several workshops taught by the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network (BRPN) on Friday,   Come visit the BRPN table on Saturday.

Celebrate the harvest and the legacy of revolutionary gardener Thomas Jefferson at the 6th annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. Taste a bounty of heirloom fruits and vegetables and learn about organic gardening and seed-saving during this fun, affordable, family-friendly festival ­ unlike any other ­ held on the breathtaking West Lawn of of Jefferson’s Monticello.

http://heritageharvestfestival.com/

Permaculture Class
September 17 and 18-25, 2012 – Green Building Institute, Jessup, MD

Wayne Weiseman is offering a Design Certification Class September 18-25, 2012 with an Introduction to Permaculture Discussion on the evening of September 17, 2012.

Permaculture, very simply, is providing what humans need by working with nature instead of against her. In the land and built environment around you, you can provide your own food, collect water, produce energy and improve the environment for the benefit of all creatures great and small – including humans. Permaculture, from the words “permanent” and “culture” teaches us how to observe and learn from nature and natural processes in order to design the places in our lives – homes, balconies, yards, schools, rooftops, offices, farms – whatever space or building you have the power to change. The Permaculture Design Certificate is a course that teaches the methodologies developed by Permaculture founder Bill Mollison and covers the basics of: natural observation, soil, water, climate, waste, food and shelter.

Green Building Institute web site: www.greenbuildinginstitute.org
Green Building Institute email:  info@greenbuildinginstitute.org
Green Building Institute phone: 443-733-1234

_______________________________________________________________________

August 1, 2012

2012 Farm Bill Update  – “dirty” Extension Bill pulled

Thanks in large part to a tidal wave of dissent from both sustainable and conventional agriculture interests, a recent attempt by the US House of Representatives leadership (not the Ag Committee per se) to abort the 2012 Farm Bill and supplant it with a truly lame 12-month “extension” of the existing 2008 Farm Bill (with severe cuts to conservation in the name of providing drought disaster relief funding, and zeroing-out of a dozen key beginning farmer, sustainable ag, and rural development programs) has been defeated.  Faced with the intense opposition, the leadership decided not to even bring it to a vote.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that there are still plans afoot to pass a drought disaster relief funding bill (which is OK) and to “offset” the expense thereof by taking the funds out of the Conservation Programs under the 2008 Farm Bill (self defeating, considering the vital role of conservation in helping farms survive the drought!).  Watch for potential updates and action alerts from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC).

What is the next step with the 2012 Farm Bill?  Answer: still unknown at this point in time. However, note that the Senate and House will be on recess from next Monday August 6 through Labor Day weekend.  This will be an excellent time for in-district meetings with our Senators and Representatives, to communicate our concerns and priorities related to the Farm Bill.  The 2012 Farm Bill could go into “conference” where the Senate-passed farm bill and House Ag Committee draft will be combined and reconciled into a final bill.  There is even a slight chance it could go to the floor of the House in September.  Or, there may be a (hopefully more reasonable) extension agreement to go into effect when the 2008 bill expires September 30, with the expectation that Congress will get to work to create a 2012 or 2013 Farm Bill as soon as practical after that.  I will forward any new information and action alerts as things unfold – it is likely that there will be more to share after the NSAC summer meeting on August 6-8.

2012 Virginia Ag Expo -
Grainfield Farm, Mechanicsville, VA

From Kim Niewolny of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition:
         This is a quick note to remind you about the 2012 Virginia Ag Expo to be held August 2 at Grainfield Farm in Mechanicsville, Va.   The McGhee family of Grainfield Farm in Hanover County is hosting the 2012 Virginia Ag Expo. This is a great opportunity to share with each other and the farmers you work with.  The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program will have a booth under the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech, tent.  Hope to see you there!
         For more information about the event, please see the attached flyer.
         And for more information about other recent “beginning farmer” events your organizations and farms are hosting, please visit the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition program website:  www.vabeginningfarmer.org. Also visit our Facebook page for recent programming and outreach activity.

Farm Link and Transition Pilot Workshop
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 10:00 AM TO 4:00 PM, Lunch included!
Weyers Cave Community Center, Weyers Cave, VA

Again, from Kim Niewolny:
The 3rd in a series of pilot workshops throughout Virginia designed in partnership between the Virginia Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Farmland Preservation in an effort to enhance the Virginia Farm Link Program, and to aid discussions of how to effectively create successful farm transitions through mentoring partnerships in the future.
Audience: (Anyone is welcome, so please bring your spouse and interested family members too!)
• Any farm owner or farm seeker interested in meeting people who are serious about agriculture’s future, and those who may not currently have a path to extending their farm business
• Farm or land owners who would like to know more about how to successfully transition at minimal expense or discover new ways to utilize currently owned farm land
• Farm owners willing to mentor farm seekers looking to either start or expand their farming operations
• Farm seekers looking to meet farm owners interested in providing agricultural mentoring opportunities
• Farm family members who are interested in exploring farm transition options

Resources:
• Attorney, accountant, financial and estate planners, lending professionals, and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialists
• Whole farm planning specialists and programming for new and beginning farmers/landowners
• VDACS Office of Farmland Preservation, Virginia Farm Bureau. USDA Farm Service Agency, Farm Credit, First Bank/AgCredit and more

To register or for more information visit: http://events.signup4.com/farmlinkworkshop
- or:
At VDACS, contact:  Kevin Schmidt, 804.786.1346, kevin.schmidt@vdacs.virginia.gov
At Virginia Farm Bureau, contact Ron Saacke, 804.514.4202, ron.saacke@vafb.com

Local Grains for Milling Sought
Woodson Mills of Nelson County seeking Virginia-grown dry corn, wheat, or buckwheat for milling

Woodson’s Mill, a historic grist mill in Nelson County, is looking for high quality, local grains for grinding, including wheat, buckwheat, yellow and white corn. Organic preferred but not required. Please contact Will Brockenbrough at wmb@woodsonsmill.com or visit www.woodsonsmill.com for more information.

Call for Proposals:  USDA Small Business Innovation Resaerch program

The Small Business Innovation Research Program:  Objectives of the SBIR program include stimulating technological innovation in the private sector, strengthening the role of small businesses in meeting Federal research and development needs, increasing private sector commercialization of innovations derived from USDA-supported research and development efforts and fostering and encouraging participation by women-owned and socially and economically disadvantaged small business firms in technological innovation.

The application deadline is September 6, 2012.

Who Is Eligible to Apply:    Small businesses and small proprietorships that are in business for profit are eligible to submit applications to this program. Each organization submitting a proposal must qualify as a small business concern for research or research and development purposes. To be eligible for Phase II, applicants must be Phase I winners as described in the RFA.

Link to Announcement: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/fo/sbir.cfm

July 10, 2012

Dear All,

The House Agriculture Committee will begin marking-up the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill tomorrow (Wednesday July 11), and will likely complete the process by the end of the week.

As I mentioned in a recent e-mail, the draft bill offered by the committee leadership (Chair Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson) has some major gaps and deficiencies when it comes to sustainable agriculture and family farms. There is a chance that some of these can be addressed right in the Committee during this week’s markup.  These include strengthening beginning farmer programs, and a provision to facilitate school systems purchasing from local farms for USDA funded meal programs.

Others may need to be addressed from the floor of the House, owing to a lack of support within the Committee.  Examples include the Organic Certification Cost Share program, and conservation compliance.

For those of you in Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s district (6th Congressional District of Virginia), now is the time to contact his legislative aide for the Farm Bill and other agricultural  issues, Carrie Meadows, at 202-225-5431.  Rep. Goodlatte is vice chair of the House Ag Committee, and is thus a very important player in the Committee’s work this week.  If you do not reach Carrie directly, by all means leave a message on her phone, or send her an e-mail, <Carrie.Meadows@mail.house.gov>.

For those of you not in Virginia’s 6th, but whose Representative also serves on the House Agriculture Committee, call your Representative’s office in DC (if you do not know the number, call Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121), and ask to speak with the staff person in charge of Farm Bill and other agricultural issues.

For those of you whose Representative does not sit on the House Agriculture Committee, stand by for future action alerts related to Farm Bill action from the floor of the House of Repreesentatives.  This could happen very soon – within a week or two.

Farm Bill Update by Teleconference
This evening (Tuesday July 10) at 6:00 pm – call 1-800-977-8002, code 577467#

Get the latest on the Farm Bill, including a compliation of additional Amendments lined up during the course of today, as well as more detailed suggestions for grassroots action than I can give in this e-mail.

Sarah Hackney and/or Shavaun Evans of National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will join policy coordinators Lydia Villanueva and Gabrielle Lane of Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group to bring you the latest.  They can also provide specific guidance for communications with Representative Goodlatte and other members of the House Agriculture Committee.

Please join us at 6 pm sharp by dialing 1-800-977-8002, and entering the access code 577467# at the prompt.

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and other Beginning Farmer programs

The draft House Farm Bill would cut funding for the highly successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program by nearly 50%. This is clearly a step backward!  Our nation’s farmers are aging, and we can’t afford to wait any longer to help the next generation of farmers and ranchers get off to a strong start.  Programs that invest in the future of American agriculture and provide assistance to beginning and historically underserved farmers and ranchers deserve full support in the Committee’s bill.

Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R) and Tim Walz (D) will introduce an amendment to restore BFRDP funding and strengthen other beginning producer programs and provisions in the Farm Bill.  When you contact Rep. Goodlatte’s office to urge his support for this Amendment, emphasize that the BFRDP is already funding the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, coordinated through Virginia Tech; that the Coalition has developed an extensive beginning farmer training curriculum to be piloted this year by seven of its 25 partner groups, and is developing a statewide farmer mentoring network; and that beginning farmer training programs like this create new job and entrepreneurial opportuntiies and promote economic recovery.  If you are personally involved in, connected with, or benefiting from (or expect to benefit from) the VA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project, tell your story!  According to NSAC policy associates (who have daily direct experience working on Capitol Hill), the overriding question in many Representatives’ minds will be: does this program have positive impact in my district or my state?  For BFRDP, which funds the VA Beginning Farmer Coalition, we can truthfully say it most certainly does!

In addition, Represntatives Gibson and Boswell will offer an amendment to establish a Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison at USDA. The purpose of this Liaison will be to facilitate beginning farmer training for returning military vets who want to get into the farming profession.  Finally, Representatives Fudge and Fortenberry will offer an amendment to allow USDA to make small business loans tailored to meet the needs of small, young, beginning, and military veteran farmers and ranchers. These two Amendments will support and strengthen the impact of the Fortenberry-Walz amendment – again, any stories of how these measures would benefit you, your family, or anyone you know (e.g., a family member returning from the Afghanistan war for whom a farming career would help them make a successful transition back to civilian life) would be the most powerful advocacy.

Farm to School Provision

Our nation’s schoolchildren deserve to eat fresh, healthy, local food in schools – and with that, the opportunity to develop healthy eating habits for life. Produce and meat from nearby farms on school lunch trays – it seems like a smart, simple concept.  Yet the opportunity for farmers to create jobs, spur economic growth, and provide healthy and wholesome foods to schoolchildren in their neighborhoods is often harder than it seems because of arbitrary barriers to school meal programs accessing local food.

In its draft Farm Bill, the House Agriculture Committee missed an opportunity (that would cost nothing!) to make it easier for schools to purchase fresh, healthy, local food for children’s lunches.

Representatives Ellmers (R-NC), Pingree (D-ME), and Gibson (R-NY) want to seize this opportunity, and have introduced an amendment that will make it easier for farmers to supply food to local school districts.  It establishes pilot projects to allow schools to use program dollars from USDA Foods (a school food distribution program) to purchase fresh produce from local farmers.

When you call your Represenative, emphasize that this is a job-creating amendment that costs no money – and it can help to boost our local economy by supporting our local farmers!  And that it is a win-win amendment for the state’s farmers and schoolchildren.

Watch for additional Farm Bill alerts and updates in the coming days.

Sincerely,

Mark Schonbeck

July 8, 2012

2012 Farm Bill Process Begins on House Side
Grassroots Action Needed in the Next Couple Weeks

Chairman Frank Lucas and Ranking Member Collin Peterson of the House Agriculture Committee released their initial draft of the House version of the 2012 Farm Bill, on which the Agriculture Committee will base its “mark-up” to release for debate by the full House of Representatives later this month.  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) staff have studied the initial draft and describe it as an “anti-reform” bill, for the following reasons:

  • It would slash $35 billion out of the Farm Bill over five years, of which $6 billion would come out of conservation and a whopping $16 billion out of nutrition programs, especially Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – food stamps).  [Do I hear "then let them eat cake" in this move?]
  • Crop insurance subsidies are increased to an unprecedented $10 billion per year, with no caps, no income limits, and no conservation compliance requirements
  • Commodity subsidy payment limits are increased to 2.5 times the levels in the Senate bill – and there is no attempt to close loopholes that allow single large farms to collect multiple subsidies.
  • Acreage enrollments for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) are cut by 30%.  In other words, farmers are being told, “if you want to save soil and protect water and wildlife, then do it on your own dime.”
  • The current draft bill cuts the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program by half (similar to Senate farm bill before the Brown amendment restored most of the slashed funds), also cuts minority farmer programs by half, and rural development by 88 percent.
  • The bill would repeal the Organic Certification Cost Share program – yet another attack on organic.

The House Ag Committee is scheduled to markup the draft bill on July 11 – this Friday.

NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner noted that, because of its many defects, the House Farm Bill will need to undergo substantial revision and improvement before NSAC could support it.  “The Committee should address these major deficiencies when it meets to markup a bill next week,” said Hoefner.  “To the extent that does not happen, we are confident that these will be topics of major amendments when and if the bill reaches the House floor.”

As mentioned in earlier e-mails from this source, Virginia’s Representative from the Sixth District – Bob Goodlatte – is vice chair of the House Agriculture Committee, and is therefore a key person to contact ASAP to urge him to support the commodity and crop insurance reforms in the recently passed Senate bill, and to suppport full funding for BFRDP, rural development, organic certification cost share, and conservation programs.  Those of you in his district, and especially those of you with personal experience or stories relating to the benefits of BFRDP, rural development programs like Value Added Producer Grants, Organic Certification Cost Share, and/or conservawtion programs, can have a particularly substantial impact on the outcome of this week’s Ag Committee process.  Please give his office a call at 202-225-5431, and ask to speak with the Agricultural Legislative Assistant, Carrie Meadows.

More detailed and focused action alerts will follow during the course of this week.

Critical EPA decision on bee-killing pesticide – petition signature drive

The Pesticide Action Network has launched a petition to EPA to ban the pesticide Clothianidin, implicated in the Colony Collapse Disorder that has been destroying honey bee hives across the US in recent years.  The petition has already garnered well over 100,000 signatures – so let’s go for a million and

In the next week, the EPA is expected to issue a decision on the pesticide Clothianidin — which scientists believe is a major factor in the alarming decline in U.S honey bee populations, known as Colony Collapse Disorder.

Since 2006, one third of U.S honey bee populations have been dying off. One third. Every year. That’s a terrible rate of species destruction on its own, but it’s also a serious threat to our food supply. Honey bees play a crucial role by pollinating 71 of the 100 most common crops, which account for 90% of the world’s food supply.

The EPA will be issuing a decision soon. If the agency doesn’t act, it won’t review Clothianidin again until 2018 — and by then it could be too late for the bees.

To sign the petition to EPA, click on the following link:

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/bee_decision/?r_by=-902592-vECRfFx&rc=paste1