More Crops Per Drop: No-Till Farming Combats Drought

soil_Iowa_NRCS-e1409025913916-680x403

This week’s feature comes from Civil Eats and discusses no-till farming. For those who don’t already know, no-till is the practice of planting crops directly into the soil without overturning the earth beforehand. It’s biggest benefits are increased soil organic matter and water storage capacity. As California and other parts of the US continue to deal with drought pressure, this form of soil management could be an important tool during adaptation.

Read on to learn more from Northern California’s Singing Frogs Farm and a number of experts on how this type of soil management can greatly benefit your soil’s productivity. Nothing happens overnight, so if you’re able, the sooner you test these practices, the better!


Written by Olivia Maki on August 26th, 2014.

Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser of Northern California’s Singing Frogs Farm grows fruit and vegetables completely without machinery, a system Paul refers to as “non-mechanized, no-till.” He said goodbye to his tractor and tiller seven years ago after he felt he was unnecessarily harming wildlife, saw too many machines break down, and watched his soil quality decrease. Now, his eight-acre farm has a robust community supported agriculture (CSA) program, and his soil is full of life.

“I wanted greater productivity and healthier soils with less reliance on machinery,” Kaiser says.

Continue Reading →

A Successful Nutrient Management Series & New Toolkit Resources!

downtimebkgrd2

We want to extend a big Thank You and Great Job to the folks at UC SAREP and Sustainable Conservation for the successful start of our ongoing Nutrient Management Series. In case you missed the conversation, join the Nutrient Management Solutions Group to see all the great Q&A.

For those who are new to this level of detail around nutrient management, or for those who simply want to read more about these concepts and ideas during times of drought, we’ve created a Toolkit with hand-picked resources for both the beginner and more advanced farmer. Read more below for a preview.


 A few resources for those new to the concepts within soil nutrient management:

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.52.21 PM

Building Soils for Better Crops
A thorough, easy-to-read guide for ecological soil management, including nutrient management, nutrient cycles, cover crops, and other soil-improving practices.
Source: SARE

Continue Reading →

Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 12 ~ ‘Speed Dating’ Connects Farmers and Schools

egg_producers1-e1414639732849

Today, we conclude our Marketing & Sales series with a great article from Civil Eats on San Diego’s “Let’s Go Local” event. In its second year, this meet-and-greet or ‘speed dating’ event brings together farmers, food distributors, and representatives from dozens of area school districts to build connections and have conversations that lead to sales.

As San Diego’s farm to school programs continue to grow, events like this are a great way to build relationships and get more local food into school district kitchens. Read on to learn more and perhaps consider hosting an event like this in your area!


Written by  on October 30, 2014.

On a recent Friday outside San Diego, California, 26 farmers and eight food distributors set up tables at a local ranch. Representatives from dozens of area school districts (plus a few folks from universities, hospitals, restaurants, grocers, senior centers, and preschools) shuffled from booth to booth, tasting growers’ products, shaking hands, and hashing out potential business deals. When asked how he’d done at the end of the day, Colin Bruce, salesman for the award-winning hydroponic farm Go Green Agriculture, pulled a wallet-sized stack of business cards from his pocket and fanned them out. “This is a unique event,” he said.

The “Let’s Go Local!” produce showcase was sponsored by the San Diego County Farm to School Taskforce, a project of a local obesity prevention program. The event was designed to make possible what many farms and institutional buyers have trouble navigating on their own—conversations that lead to sales. Call it speed-dating for farmers and institutions in a place where the farm to school movement has officially taken off.

Continue Reading →

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

food-safety-starts-on-the-farm

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).

Continue Reading →

Effects of Organic Insecticides on the Bagrada Bug

Bagrada-hilaris2

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.

Continue Reading →

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

almond_orchard

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:

Continue Reading →

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

PTIimagesmall1

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.

Continue Reading →

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

kale_farm_stand

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.

Continue Reading →

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
safe_image.php
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
safe_image.php
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.

Continue Reading →

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

Hoes Down Fest 100309 034.crop

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.

Continue Reading →