The decisions made inside the White House, State Capitols and even County Offices have
tremendous impact on how we farm. Ecological incentives, resources, minimum wage requirements,
and market prices are just a few of the countless facets our government influences agricultural.
Legislature can offer protection and support, but it can also overlook realities felt by the
farmer, particularly that of the smaller, ecological grower. This is precisely why it’s
important for farmers to voice their experiences and needs.
I spoke with Paul Towers, Organizing Director & Policy Advocate at Pesticide Action Network
for advice on how farmers can let their voice be heard. He outlines that each type of
legislation has different processes, “as you move up in government, they become increasingly
The takeaway is that you’re more likely to influence change on the state level. There’s a
reason “all politics is local” is a popular catchphrase at all levels of government.
In need of inspiration? New ideas? Or the opportunity to learn about some of the latest trends
in the farm business?2018 is full of diverse small-farm conferences happening all over the
The most beautiful, deep-green, aphid-free kale can make your heart sing while harvesting it in
the field and just as quickly make your heart break as you unpack wilty, rubbery bunches onto
your farmers market table. Produce goes through a bit of shock in its transition from field to
market, and proper post-harvest handling can either ease or worsen that shock. If building a
$20,000 packing shed isn't in your immediate farm plans, here are the basics of all you really
need to move produce from your field to your customer in good condition.
Sustainable farming techniques have never been more popular, but understanding what
differentiates each one is difficult. For someone looking to join the agricultural industry, is
it better to pursue organic compliance, follow the permaculture route, or commit to
Winter doesn't need to mean the end of farm income. There are plenty of towns with winter
farmers markets—and if yours doesn't have one, it might be time to start one.
You may know the farmers-market drill by now, and a farmers market in the off-season isn't much
different. There are extra perks to vending at a winter farmers market, like camaraderie among
vendors, time spent getting to know your customers without the bustle of the busy season, and a
good reason to get off the farm and come into town when the weather is dreary. On the other
hand, attracting and retaining customers when their thoughts turn from the lure of local
tomatoes to the stress of holiday shopping becomes more of a challenge.
In our previous post, we talked about many of
the benefits of email marketing. At this point, you probably know that email marketing is a
powerful tool. But, we need to look no further than an inbox full of unopened emails to know
that you can’t just send any email and expect the customers to come rolling in. This article
will cover tips about how to effectively leverage your email marketing.
In today’s ever expanding organic market, the importance of optimizing your farm's production
and marketability is extremely important. Keeping up with new trends and studying up on new
research can be discouraging and exhausting. But with a little curiosity and good ole fashioned
science experiments, farmers can stay well ahead of the pack in markets while giving farms added
stability and improving profitability. Through on farm variety trials, organic producers:
increase and optimize for yields; identify climate adapted varieties; increase marketability;
manage risks of pest and environmental factors; identify organic seed sources required by the
National Organic Program (NOP) and most importantly increase security for individual farms as
well as the greater sustainable agriculture community.
Most farmers know that soil sampling is an imperative practice in organic farm management and
soil stewardship. But sometimes it can seem like the reports are speaking a different language.
Most of the labs generating reports are operating from the school of thought that caters to
conventional, big scale, agriculture. But that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Here’s a few
suggestions for approaching soil testing with organic practices in mind.
No need to run for cover—unless you’re a cabbage worm. These are not your garden variety wasps!
These wasps are mostly stingless, at least to humans. What looks like a stinger is really an
ovipositor, used to deposit their eggs into or on top of crop pests, which they use as hosts.
Because of their small size, these beneficial insects often fly under the radar, and outside
the notice of many farmers… but they are worth looking out for, as they are capable of
performing significant ecosystem services, especially in organic farming systems.
Farms are crawling with bugs - especially those practicing organic farming methods. Pests may
be the first bugs that come to mind, but many of these are beneficial insects, providing
important services from pollination to pest control.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at one of the most familiar and classic of all beneficials:
the lady beetle.
In the last post, we looked at legumes and how their ability to fix nitrogen makes them vital
to most cover cropping systems. In the quest for sufficient nitrogen, grasses and cereals play a
different, but similarly vital, role. Here we will look at a few of the most broadly
regionally-appropriate grasses, whose popularity (see Chart 1) is an indicator of their many
Grasses are well known for being excellent nitrogen scavengers, capturing residual nitrogen
after harvest. Left in the soil, this nitrogen is fairly mobile and liable to be lost to
leaching or denitrification during wet winters. (Read more about N cycling in agricultural
systems at the Universities of Minnesota and Delaware extensions.) As adept nitrogen fixers,
most legumes do not need to be much good at scavenging nitrogen. Grasses, on the other hand, can
scavenge and hold residual nitrogen like champs.
The previous post began outlining initial steps for implementing an orchard starting with
assessing your skills as a grower and getting acquainted with what qualities to look for when
selecting a site. With these basics squared away, next steps are to make decisions around
design, sourcing, and scale.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago...the second best time is now” - Chinese
Well, sort of. Perhaps the more responsible answer would be that the second best
time to plant a tree is after you’ve conducted a soil test, planted cover crop, and memorized
your region’s heat index. Amidst the excitement of future pies, jams, and ciders, starting an
orchard implores careful investments and planning. But, the lure of fruit’s high dollar value,
the diversification of adding perennials to your system, and simply the joy of growing crops
that satisfy your sweet tooth, are reason enough to pursue orcharding.
The familiar little green and white circle sporting the “USDA Certified Organic” label is
popping up with increasing frequency, peppering the grocery aisles and being waved like a flag
at farmer’s markets across the country. With the number of organic suppliers expanding rapidly,
taking the steps to get your farm certified organic is a smart, if not necessary, business move.
Since the National Organic Program’s launch in 2002, the organic movement has been well
underway, and yet the process of getting certified can seem like a headache. Between the 80
organic certification agencies to choose from, and the paperwork, records, historical reports,
and receipts that all need to be collected and synthesized from the past year, or three….the
details can feel overwhelming.
If you’re continuing to expand a hand-cultivated production system, sooner or later, you may
find your production size has reached the “awkward stage.” The awkward stage is that blurry
boundary where the cultivated ground is too much to keep up with by hand, but perhaps not quite
big enough to justify the investment in a tractor. If you’re at the micro-production scale and
are looking to improve efficiency, you might be a solid candidate for a two-wheeled, walk-behind
tractor. Walk-behinds are typically selected by farmers who plant densely, have odd shaped
fields (often due to maximizing limited space), or are concerned about compaction in high clay
content soils. There are several walk-behind tractors on the market; BCS is a popular brand
offering lots of options and serves as a good measure for assessing the potential costs and
benefits of acquiring this type of tool.
Legumes, grasses, and cereals make up the majority of commonly-used cover crop species - but
there are a few other non-legumes that have value in their niche strengths, particularly in
diversified and small-scale farming. This post will take a look at a few crops that are
champions when it comes to scavenging phosphorous, attracting beneficial insects, and serving as
powerful biodrills and potent biofumigants.
Yes, fun. I happen to really enjoy this part of selling produce, almost as much as I enjoy
converting anyone in earshot to share my love of broccoli leaves. (Seriously: it’s going to be
If you’re thinking I’m nuts, that promotion is pretty low on your list of preferred activities,
and that you don’t really want to spend any more time on promotion than you need to… then good.
This means that, unlike me, you won’t need to remind yourself that the goal, ideally, is to use
minimal effort to attain maximum enrollment, thus freeing up more of your time for all those
other items on your to-do list.
When marketing your CSA, there are two main places that come to mind: the places where you will
promote or advertise your CSA, and those where members receive their shares.
Let’s start with places where you will promote and advertise for your CSA.
When pricing your community supported agriculture shares, where do you begin?
Having never started my own CSA, this seemed like an overwhelmingly complex question -- one I
had long been curious about. Do you determine the retail value of the share by researching area
prices for the crops you will grow? Do you start with your overall cost of production, look at
how much you need (or want) to make, and work backwards? Or is there some other perfect formula
for profitable farming that magically reveals itself to you when you become a CSA farmer? After
a bit of this kind of pondering, I decided to reach out to my extended ag community to gather
I like to think of CSA marketing as a sort of matchmaking process. (Just go with it for a
So you know this sweet bunch of vegetables, and you want to set them up with this totally great
community you happen to know. They’re perfect for each other! To make the match, you’ll want to
extol the virtues of your vegetables, of course… but in a way that speaks specifically to your
What I mean is that the first step in marketing your CSA is aligning what you have (your
product) with what your customers want. To do that, consider the following three questions:
In need of a new irrigation system? Looking
to install a windrow of native plants? Hoping to build new high tunnels? Whether you’re starting
a farm or looking to upgrade an existing production, the NRCS may be able to help! The Natural
Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has several financial assistance programs designed to
support farmers in accomplishing projects that will improve and protect the land, water, and
surrounding habitat. Offering grants and technical assistance, the NRCS has regional and
national offices that are here to support such efforts. The application process can feel
daunting, so I interviewed Cindy Askew, a District Conservationist at the NRCS based out of
LaFayette, Georgia, to see what insight she might be able to offer farmers embarking on the
quest for financial assistance.
With thousands of connections made between
small farms and eager visitors in the US and around the world, WWOOF is an incredible resource
that should not go untapped. A sliding scale membership fee of $5-50 opens the door to thousands
of enthusiastic visitors (WWOOFers) in search of their next farming adventure, ready to exchange
a half day's work for room and board. Selecting your next WWOOFer can be a bit
overwhelming, and finding the right match is crucial for a successful experience.
For farmers that follow sustainable and organic farming methods, cover cropping is a common
practice, with many great ecological benefits. Cover crops can literally cover the soil, serving
as a mulch whether living or dead. They can also be incorporated into the soil as either a
nitrogenous “green” manure, or as more mature, carbonaceous addition. Including cover crops in
your rotation will improve soil fertility and tilth by adding organic matter (which also
increases the water-holding capacity of your soil), breaking up clods, and fracturing compaction
from tillage. Cover crops prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide habitat for beneficial
insects, and allow you to fix (or add) nitrogen and mine or scavenge nutrients for your next
Unexpected blow outs in irrigation pipes and
malfunctioning sprinklers are inevitable events that contribute to inconsistent water output.
But, even when a system appears to be running smoothly, upon a closer look, you may be
surprised by the inconsistencies. Variable irrigations build upon themselves application after
application- salts can accumulate, nitrogen can leach, and crops suffer. Running a simple
distribution uniformity (DU) test can reveal how evenly water is actually being applied,
enabling you to weigh the need for making improvements while also informing proper irrigation
sets. Because uniformity has significant impact on yield and water usage, running the occasional
DU test on drip and overhead systems is well worth the time.
The number of breweries in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2011, now approaching a count
of 4,300, according to the Brewer’s Association. The craft beer business is booming; seasonal
batches and unique ferments from local ingredients are filling the kegs of hip bars in every
city. There’s no doubt beer is a product consumers are excited about, and hops are a key
ingredient. Integrating hops into your crop plan is a significant commitment, but it’s worth
entertaining; here are a few key considerations to get the juices flowing.
In the current climate of convenience, retaining your community supported agriculture (CSA)
members - the ones who leap into shared seasonal risks with you - can be a challenging feat.
Whether you connect with your community of CSA members in person at the on-farm pickup, or
simply via the weekly e-newsletter, surveying your members provides insight as to how the CSA is
being received. An end-of-season survey is a great way to learn more; the trick is designing it
to be effective, so that it doesn't take up too much time and provides relevant results.
The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) strives to support the “hardworking farmer veterans who have
chosen to serve their nation twice – once by defending it and once by feeding it.” The idea for
the Coalition germinated out of a gathering convened by Michael O’Gorman, previously of Jacob’s
Farm/Del Cabo, in 2007.
It’s no secret that when starting an organic
farm, there is plenty to consider: soil building, crop planning, infrastructure, just to name a
few. While these are obvious and necessary, it’s also important to considering developing a
brand for your organic farm. One important aspect of branding is creating a farm logo.
Odds are pretty good that you got into
farming because you love the feeling of dirt under your fingernails and sun on your face more
than the glow of a computer screen. And yet, even the most technophobic of us know that
the digital world offers powerful tools for sustainable farms, especially when it comes to
Proper greenhouse management is extremely important for the efficiency and health of a farm. It may seem simple — put a seed in a tray with soil, add water, and voila, there are young plants to transplant into the field. In theory, yes, that’s all there is to it. But optimal air temperature and water delivery are crucial for the development of seedlings. Also, hidden in the air all around us, in the water coming out of a hose, and in the ground inside a greenhouse, there are many mysterious little life forms ready to wreak havoc on young plants. The three most important greenhouse management practices are optimal temperature control, consistent air circulation and proper moisture delivery.
Tomatoes are by far one of the most prized and valued vegetable crops on the market these days.
The mere number of varieties, types and growth techniques are head spinning. From heirloom to
hybrid, beefsteak to paste, hot-house to dry-farmed, and the ever more popular grafted tomatoes,
it’s hard to keep up with what’s what these days. This is the first in a series of articles that
will try to alleviate the ails of understanding tomato culture and describe the most popular
growth techniques as well as get to the bottom of what all the hype is about.
Here we will discuss three main types of CSA models that have been successful all over the
country: “Boxed” Subscription Style, On-Farm “Market” Style and Farmers Market “Bucks” Style.
All three have strong pros but also may not be the best fit for every farm. With a little bit of
forethought you can save yourself money and headaches by choosing the best fit for you.
With the public interest in farming growing faster than a zucchini in July, now is a great time to think about offering a class on your farm. Workshops and classes are a fun way to connect with new and existing customers, sharpen your skills, increase revenue, and build relationships.
The vital role honey bees play in the
pollination enterprise is certainly no secret; honey bees are among the highest valued
pollinators in agriculture, and as evident in the last several years, are dying and disappearing
at an astronomical rate due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). According to the USDA, 42% of all
honeybee colonies were lost in 2014 - the second highest rate on record. Given that over a third
of all global crops are dependant on pollinators (not to mention an even larger percentage of
crops that are enhanced by bee activity), entomologists are already on the lookout for
Tend began when our Founder and CEO, Avi Benaroya, began growing food for his family on his
property in Northern California. After searching for software to help manage a diversified farm
and having little luck, an idea was born: a mobile and web app to help diversified farmers
manage their crops and sell more produce. It’s been a productive journey since then, and today
we’re excited to take one more step toward our mission of enabling quality food systems: the
launch of our blog!