Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 11 ~ GAP 101, Group GAP Certification & Online Food Safety Tools

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Today our Marketing & Sales series continues with guidance and tools to help you improve on-farm food safety. We hear from Raman Maangat, Food Safety Program Manager with the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) on the ins and outs of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate with the Wallace Center on a new Group GAP (GGAP) certification program slated to launch in 2016, and Conor Butkus, Business Development Program Coordinator with familyfarmed.org about their easy-to-use food safety tool.

Read on to learn more about why GAPs are important, ways to easily incorporate them into your on-farm practices, and how Group GAP certification and a user-friendly online food safety tool can save you time and money!


Written by Raman Maagnat.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) are practices that growers adopt/adapt on their farm in order to minimize the risk of contaminating the food they produce. The key for growers is to understand their own practices and how they may be impacting the safety of the produce they are growing, and where necessary, adapt/adopt new practices.

The push to implement GAPs may be driven by a number of factors including your customers, insurance companies, and changing regulations, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to be finalized in 2015 and/or state laws like California’s AB 224 (direct marketing and CSAs) & AB 1871 (direct marketing and farmers markets).

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Effects of Organic Insecticides on the Bagrada Bug

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The invasive stinkbug known as the bagrada bug has been aggressively moving north through California. First discovered in LA County in 2008, it has now been identified as far north as Yolo County. The FarmsReach Conversations have been active with concerns, questions and suggestions for how to deal with these persistent pests. See what others are saying and chime in!

Shimat Joseph, PhD, IPM Advisor for UCCE Monterey County, has published findings on the devastating effects bagrada bugs have on brassicas and offers some possible solutions for pest management. Read on to learn more about dealing with this pest and possible ways to prevent [further] damage.

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Free Drought-Focused Soil Nutrient Management Series Offered by UC SAREP, FarmsReach, and Sustainable Conservation

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Below is the press release announcing our partnership with UC SAREP and Sustainable Conservation to hold a series of virtual field days on the topic of Soil Nutrient Management in Times of Drought.


Davis, Calif. – November 10, 2014 – From November 2014 until January 2015, the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP), FarmsReach, and Sustainable Conservation are hosting a free, online drought-focused soil nutrient management series for farmers in California and beyond.

“Farmers and ranchers have to continually adapt their management of soil nutrients to changing conditions,” says Aubrey White, UC SAREP’s Communication Coordinator. “Adaptation during this extreme drought presents a new challenge for growers and researchers alike. A forum dedicated to the issues farmers will face next season is an opportunity to share resources, research, and ideas for success.”

Kicking off on November 17th, the Nutrient Management Solutions Series will offer the agriculture community:

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 10 ~ Labeling Solutions & the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI)

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with information on the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), including a Q&A with Top 10 Produce founder, John Bailey.

Many members of our farming community are already familiar with PTI regulations and have found labeling solutions that work for them. However, if you’re new to these requirements or are thinking of selling your product outside of direct to consumer sales channels, this is important information to know.

Read on to learn more about how the PTI was developed, what type of labels are required for your product, and why Top 10 Produce may be a great starting point if you’re a small farmer looking into labeling solutions.


Why was the PTI developed?

Federal and state agencies and the produce industry have had difficulty quickly identifying the source of foodborne illnesses, as shown by the difficulty of backtracking outbreaks in recent years. This has prompted the produce industry to work nationally and internationally on an industry-wide, voluntary, electronic Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). This initiative was started by 48 leading produce companies and is endorsed in the US by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 9 ~ CA Takes a Bite Out of Farmers Market Fraud

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Our Marketing & Sales series continues today with an article on the new legislation to fight farmers market fraud. This new law, aimed at vendors trying to cheat the system by reselling wholesale items they didn’t grow, is the latest in an effort to maintain the farmer-grown reputation of farmers markets across California.

Read on to learn more about the rules of the new law, how it came to be, and why the punishment for false claims should have everyone paying attention!


Written by Brie Mazurek, Online Education Manager at CUESA.

Most people take it for granted that all the fruits and vegetables at the farmers market are grown by the farmers who are selling them. And with good reason: the purpose of farmers markets is to foster direct relationships between producers and consumers. Values like knowing your farmer, transparency, and nurturing the local foodshed are at the core of why people shop at farmers markets.

But recent reports of fraud threaten to undermine that foundation of trust. In 2010, an undercover investigation revealed farmers purchasing wholesale produce from Mexico to sell at Los Angeles farmers markets. Last year, LA County boosted enforcement at markets and rooted out 19 vendors selling produce they didn’t grow.

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FarmsReach Social Media Roundup

On the FarmsReach Facebook and Twitter pages, we post a mix of news, inspirational quotes, photos and more each day.

For those who shy away from the information overload of tracking each of these social sites, here is your monthly “best of” roundup of posts.

If you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access the information flow. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of best picks!


Organic vs. ‘Climate-Smart’: Can the UN Fix Farming in Time?, Civil Eats
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From the United Nations Climate Summit to the People’s Climate March and the accompanying Flood Wall Street action, all eyes have been on the climate this week. Amidst heated discussions of global policy change, greenhouse gases, and emissions caps, food and farming–and the impact they are having on climate change - were also in the spotlight. After all, agriculture is one of largest contributors of human-caused emissions.

California Takes a Bite Out of Farmers Market Fraud, CUESA
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Most people take it for granted that all the fruits and vegetables at the farmers market are grown by the farmers who are selling them. And with good reason: the purpose of farmers markets is to foster direct relationships between producers and consumers. Values like knowing your farmer, transparency, and nurturing the local foodshed are at the core of why people shop at farmers markets. A new law boosts enforcement to weed out vendors who are cheating the system.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 8 ~ Agritourism as a Value-Add to Your Farm Business

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Wagon tours at Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down Festival in Guinda, CA

Written by guest bloggers, Penny Leff, Agritourism Coordinator for the UC Small Farm Program, and Scottie Jones, Founder of U.S. Farm Stay Association.

Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on the many things to consider when offering an agritourism experience on your farm. Agritourism continues to grow in popularity across the US and abroad as farms and agricultural businesses realize the potential for additional revenue and an enhanced customer experience. There are many types of agritourism – farm tours, U-pick, barn dances, and even overnight stays – each having its own set of considerations, benefits, and drawbacks.

Read on for some great tips to prepare you to add an agritourism element to your business. From a business plan to insurance, permits, and making sure your neighbors are on board, these tips will help ensure your new endeavor is a success!


1. Sell the experience; the products will sell themselves if your guests are having fun.

Think about what you, your family, and friends enjoy doing on your farm or ranch, and what aspects you are passionate about. It could be gathering eggs from your pastured chickens, picking fruit, making music under the stars, riding horses, distilling lavender oil, pruning trees, helping with the harvest, or just watching birds.

Think about how you might offer these experiences to the public for a fee. Could you offer tours or demonstrations? Workshops for do-it-yourselfers? A U-Pick operation? Farm dinners with a local chef? A fishing or hunting club? A festival? Farm camp for kids? A farm stay? A farm stand? A corn maze or pumpkin patch? An event facility for weddings, parties and retreats? Tastings?

And consider multiple agritourism offerings. If you’re offering a cheese-making classes, for example, maybe those same guests would love to stay overnight. How about U-Pick and then a Farm-to-Table Dinner with a cooking class for the preparation? How about a sheep shearing demonstration and then a weaving class with already cleaned roving from the farm.

Think about ways to add value to your venture so you can step up the income. This might not happen right away, but listen to what your customers are saying, and ask them for suggestions about what else they would love to do on your farm. You don’t need to charge for everything, and a package price is often better overall. Be creative and look for those added-value opportunities.

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Member Spotlight: Mark Tollefson of Fairview Gardens

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This week in our Member Spotlight, we are heading south to Goleta, CA to meet Mark Tollefson, the Executive Director of Fairview Gardens. Fairview Gardens is a non-profit educational farm 100 miles north of Los Angeles.

Mark originates from Alberta, Canada and comes from many generations of farmers. He is a chef, owned his own restaurant, and has been a survival skills instructor. He is the past Executive Director of another non-profit – Wilderness Youth Project, and has traveled worldwide, including helping open an international high school in New Zealand, and building a sustainable agriculture organization in Belize.

Since the late 1800′s the land in and around Fairview Gardens has been used for agricultural purposes and rests on some of the richest topsoil in California. In 1997, the farm manager, Michael Ableman purchased the farm with a group of local activists, formed a non-profit and placed it in the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. Today, the farm runs a robust CSA program, farm stand, hosts classes for adults and children, camps, and tours.

Read on as Mark talks about his views on wilderness, urban communities, and how places like farms can be the pillar of a community.


FarmsReach: Wow, that is a broad background! What inspired you to begin working for Fairview Gardens?

Mark Tollefson: Being a non-profit education farm, Fairview Gardens offered me the perfect foil to be able to blend my talents and passions into one place.

While I was working with youth and adults in wilderness settings, I realized that I could help them effect powerful transformation in a very short time. Then we would get back to our camp or vehicle and they would open a bag of Doritos potato chips.

I realized that not only do we have a huge disconnection between people and nature, we have an even bigger disconnection between people and food.

If we were lost in the wilderness, the first things we would do is find shelter, water, and then fire. These three things would need to be accomplished in the first 3 – 5 days. After that, 80% of our time would be spent gathering food.

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FarmsReach Policy News Roundup

On the FarmsReach Newsroom page we post a variety of timely news stories from around the country, every day. 

For those who are too busy to track all the latest headlines, we’ve decided to give you a distilled roundup of the latest policy updates affecting farmers in California.

Feel free to visit our Newsroom to get the latest stories or if you like, you can “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to access even more great information. Otherwise, we hope you enjoy our digest of the latest updates!


Historic Groundwater Bill Passed in CA

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills to set in motion statewide regulation of CA’s underground water sources in response to the devastating effects GWcanal1000from this three-year drought. Since CA’s founding, water has been considered a property right and this is the first time that groundwater will be managed on a large scale. However, in spite of the new restrictions, it might take decades before CA’s most depleted basins recover.

Many agricultural interests are opposed to the Bill, including the CA Farm Bureau Federation, under the grounds that it will harm food production. However, other agricultural interests are pleased because the bill allows the water to be managed locally, which means individual counties can monitor water use. Learn more about this bill.

The Farm to Fork Movement in CA is Sprouting Office Space

la-me-pc-gov-brown-signs-farm-to-fork-measures-001Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed seven pieces of legislation referred to as the “Farm to Fork Bills”, including the creation of the Office of Farm to Fork within the CA Department of Food and Agriculture.

The bills have been collectively described as coordinating efforts to encourage fresh food access and identify under-served areas for new farmers markets, and other non-profit food delivery operations. Additionally, included in these bills is a state review of neonicotinoids, which may play a role in the decline of bee populations. There will be an evaluation period of these neonics and control measures will be taken if needed to ensure they do not harm bees, and affect the pollination of CA’s food crops. Learn more about this bill.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 7 ~ Tips for Creating an Inviting & Usable Website

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Smolak Farms website, North Andover, MA

Written by guest blogger, Myrna Greenfield, founder of Good Egg Marketing

Creating your first website or considering a relaunch? Whether you hire a professional or build it yourself for free, having a website is still one of the most effective ways to market your farm. Often farms will set up a Facebook page instead of build their own site. Remember, social media sites are great way to get the word out about your brand, but can’t house all of the information potential customers might need.  So, don’t use them instead of having your own site; consider using them as a supplement to your site.

If you can, it can be helpful to hire a professional to set up your website, but if it’s not in your budget, there are several free or inexpensive web platforms that are surprisingly easy to use. In addition to WordPress, the favorite of most small businesses, sites like Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace, have lots of attractive features.

No matter which platform you choose to use, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you’re planning your site!


1. Keep it simple. Visitors to your home page should be able to “get” you in one glance.

  • Keep your topline navigation menu short, with easy-to-understand tabs.
  • Choose images that make your offerings as clear and compelling as possible.
  • Don’t use too many colors, fonts, flashing images, or boxes.
  • Be careful about using photographs as background images for your site. They can be distracting and compete with the main images on your page. Unless you’ve got good contrast between the background and the rest of your site, use a matching color instead.
  • Make sure the text is easy to read – no shadow typefaces, limit your use of italics and white type reversed out of dark background.
  • If your name of your farm isn’t self-explanatory, a tagline or brief descriptor can help explain what you do.

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