Author Archives: Fr Admin

Inaugural CA Farmer Educator Summit: Overview & Resources

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On September 9, 2016, UC SAREP and FarmsReach co-hosted the inaugural CA Farmer Education & Support Services Summit in Sacramento.

Over 30 farm education organizations of California were represented in the day-long strategic meeting. With the help of facilitators Gigantic Idea Studios, participants collectively identified priorities and key action items to improve collaboration and efficacy across the California sustainable agriculture sector. (The Summit built on outcomes from the 2015 strategy meeting co-hosted by FarmsReach and MESA.)

More online resources will be released in the coming months summarizing details of the inaugural Summit.  In the meantime, below are key resources and priorities that were identified.

Sincere thanks again to Rabobank for their assistance with the Ecosystem Map and Chart, and the USDA-NIFA funded Growing Roots project for their assistance with facilitation costs. The Summit was primarily funded by the California Department of Food & Agriculture (CDFA), Specialty Crop Block Program.

Resources: Who’s Who

Note: These are “living documents.” You can always access the latest versions in our shared Google drive.

If you would like to add your organization to the Directory, Map or Chart, please complete the Farmer Educator Network survey. UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links above.

New Google Group

In a Communication Survey conducted during the Summit, participants expressed a desire for a shared list-serve, so we have set up a Google group for Summit participants.  Other California organizations that would like to join the conversation are welcome to request to join!

In-Person Regional Networks

The strongest need we heard – whether for program impact or collaborative fundraising – was for stronger in-person regional connections among organizations.

For those wanting to get started in your region, check out: Developing & Running a Farmer Education Network, the How-to Guide from CASFS (also stored in our shared Google drive).

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Top 15 Priority Focus Areas Identified

These priorities can also be viewed in a separate 15 Priority Focus Areas document.

A) Build capacity for the collective movement.

  • Create a “backbone team” to coordinate strategies we together prioritize.
  • Broaden stakeholders governing the movement and bring NEW and minority voices to the table and/or go to them directly.
  • Strategically communicate/translate diverse values (and impact metrics) to funders, policy-makers and farmers themselves.

B) Build capacity for measuring collective impact.

  • Explore common metrics of impact that balance economic, social, cultural and political factors.
  • Share data collection online tools.
  • Establish participant-driven metrics of success.

C) Foster relationships, communication and collaboration (prevent duplication of effort & reinventing the wheel).

  • Coordinate more in-person regional meetings among organizations.
  • Continue state-wide strategy sessions, possibly: Expand FEN meeting at EcoFarm, schedule pre/post-CA Small Farm Conference meeting, and/or continue annual Summits each year.
  • Include funders in discussions.

D) Build capacity for organizations’ INTERNAL operations.

  • Get training in cultural competency and outreach.
  • Share organizational personnel for operations that can be done remotely (e.g., accounting, bookkeeping, etc.)
  • Take time to hire and train more diverse staff and boards of directors.

E) Build capacity for organizations’ EXTERNAL operations (strategic, high-impact farm education & support services).

  • Create more/better programs for non-English speaking farmers.
  • Share best practices in delivering technical assistance, especially culturally appropriate assistance.
  • Establish a shared online platform to connect geographically isolated farmers and to post/archive farmer training materials for CA.

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Additional Priorities Identified

  • Identify opportunities for political advocacy and change.
  • Research and analyze fundamental farm viability for different farm sizes and diverse markets.
  • Help farmers to self-organize.
  • Create new programs to prepare farmers for larger-scale operations.
  • Identify strategies to influence large-scale operations to adopt more sustainable practices.

Collaborative Fundraising Strategies

Below is a synthesis so you can take action in your region as soon as you’re ready!

Assumes:

  • Engaging farmer feedback throughout the process. Ideally, farmers’ needs guide programs, which then guide where to access funding.
  • Funders are educated on meaningful metrics; there’s a common language and straight-talk among farmers, organizations and funders.

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Suggested Steps:

  1. Reflect honestly on your own organization’s strategy, capacity, core competencies.
  2. Have regular in-person meetings with other regional organizations (can switch to phone later). Need for in-person, authentic relationships among organizations to build trust.
  3. Reach out to and include complementary organizations outside of ag to fill gaps and provide professional development (e.g., economic and community development organizations, local food policy councils).
  4. Reflect as a group about roles and core competencies. Could be done with a survey, followed by discussion. Make adjustments and re-alignments as necessary.
  5. Divide load of researching funding opportunities via “fund-seeking team” or committee. Consider potential for more capacity grants (e.g., for shared HR, research or identifying best practices), targeting new audiences (e.g., socially disadvantaged farmers), or reaching larger/different funders or grants when applying as a group.
  6. Co-develop the grant proposals from the start (not last minute!).  Allow time for collaborative thinking. Place realistic value on service you provide.
  7. Develop new collaborative fundraising strategies from new sources:
    • specific, local donors to serve specific, local farmers
    • commodity boards, industry groups, private sector (while not compromising values)
    • collaborative online/physical fundraising day or month (like Big Day of Giving)
    • retail stores for e-script
    • fundraising from farmers market shoppers
    • new NGO-for-profit partnerships

 Many thanks to all who participated in the Summit!  Stay tuned for the upcoming online resources with more details.

If your CA farmer organization hasn’t already done so, please fill out the  Farmer Educator Network survey.  UC SAREP and FarmsReach will periodically post updated versions of these resources at the links below.

Quick links:

Revisiting Your Agritourism Strategy for Increased Income

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Hoes Down Fest – Guinda, CA

Are you one of the thousands of California farmers and ranchers who invite the public to your land to shop at your farm stand, pick their own fruit, taste wine, stay the night, learn a skill, enjoy a festival, or tour your operation?

It’s no secret that many family farms supplement their income by getting jobs off the farm or setting up agritourism programs.  In fact, of the commercial farms that had positive farm income, only 77% of their total household income came from farm operations (USDA Economic Research Service).

As farmers and ranchers learn more about the diverse types of agritourism programs that fit their specific location, operation, assets or preferences, the U.S. continues to see an ongoing increase in the number and types of agritourism offerings for the general public. And, most importantly, we see an increase in the number and types of farms that are expanding their customer base and improving their bottom line.

Agritourism Lunchtime Webinars & Online Conversations

Starting May 19th, the UC Small Farm Program is hosting five, free practical webinars – designed especially for those with some type of agritourism program already set up.  (Those who don’t yet have an agritourism program are still welcome! We suggest reviewing the FarmsReach Agritourism Toolkit resources first.)

Every two weeks, we’ll start with a live webinar sharing lessons about an important theme for successful agritourism programs (which will be immediately archived for convenient access).  Between webinars, we’ll continue the conversation online in FarmsReach with the webinar presenters and other experts answering questions and moderating discussion so that anyone involved in California agritourism can easily share ideas, ask questions of others, and get help.

To follow the conversation online, join the new Agritourism Group in FarmsReach.  Soon, all the presenters will be “on call” in the Group, ready to answer your questions before and after the webinars take place.

SCHEDULE – all webinars will be 11am-12pm PT:

Join us!  Webinar registration is required, but there is no charge for the webinars. After you register, you will be emailed the link to join the webinar.

If you are not able to join the webinars, you can email us your questions at any time to have the presenters answer them in the online Conversations.  And, be sure to join the new CA Agritourism group to get notified when the archived webinars are posted!

Background & More Resources

The UC Small Farm Program has been working for more than fifteen years with UC Cooperative Extension advisors and others to develop resources and connections for California agritourism operators. Their popular Agritourism Intensive workshop series have been offered in eleven different counties.  The UC agritourism website hosts useful factsheets and research.  Their online agritourism directory and calendar helps visitors find farms and ranches to visit. And, their monthly California Agritourism newsletter helps share news and resources for the agritourism community.

FarmsReach is hosting the new CA Agritourism group, and also offers an Agritourism Toolkit and online Conversations forum for information-sharing among the agricultural community.

Together, we hope to nurture the statewide agritourism conversation, and welcome your insights and questions!


Hitting the Books: THE Reading List from Agrarian Elders

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Attendees of the second Agrarian Elders (& “Youngers”) Gathering in Big Sur, 2016. (Full list at bottom.)

Revised and reprinted with permission from Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm.

The first Agrarian Elders Gathering was held in Big Sur two years ago.  The event captured the attention of the New York Times, and talented Noel Vietor created a masterful chronicle of the wisdom and ideas shared, which spanned the following topics:

  • Scale And Quality: How Large Can An Organic Farm Be?
  • How Small Farmers Survive And Thrive In A Co-Opted Market
  • Finding The Sweet Spot
  • The Challenge Of Certifying “Organic”
  • Regulation: The Burden Of Getting Big
  • The Limits Of Corporate Funded Scientific Agriculture
  • Honoring Observation And Intimate Participation With Nature
  • Is There A Perpetual Agriculture?
  • The Organic Farm As Organism And Ecosystem
  • How Monsanto Bought 10,000 Years Of Seed-Saving Power
  • The Crisis Of Participation
  • “Too Soon Old & Too Late Smart” – The Challenge Of Retirement
  • Succession Strategies That Succeed
  • Giving The Land A Voice
  • Community Education – A Natural Strength Of Organic Farming

There is great conscious of the critical need to generationally pass along knowledge. Therefore, this year’s Agrarian Gathering was re-constituted to bring together a dozen of the Elders along with a dozen Youngers selected for their leadership qualities from among the next generation of organic farmers.

As preparation for this Agrarian Elders Gathering, the well-known Eliot Coleman of Four Seasons Farm on the coast of Maine, took it upon himself to create and distribute a reading list for Elders to study ahead of time.

Eliot’s collection of pertinent articles and studies is nothing short of stunning.  We share with you Eliot’s treasure trove below.


Eliot Coleman’s 2016 Agrarian Elders Reading List

Note: “Some of these articles were included, not because I thought they had merit, (Nathaniel Johnson, Tamar Haspel, and Forbes are all shills for the Dark Side) but because I thought our discussions would be more focused if we were up-to-date on what the other side was saying.”
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What are we doing? Why are we organic farmers?
Motivation? Inspiration? Goal? Wider picture? Long-term expectations?
It has been said that organic farmers “are the last beacons of light, the last autonomous independent examples of human beings who have not been co-opted by the system. Organic farmers are the only force preventing the total takeover of the food system by artificial, industrial thinking.”
Campaign For Real Farming: Key Ideas for Enlightened Agriculture
Campaign for Real Farming: How Farming Can Lead the World Out of Its Current Mess
Sustainable Food Trust: How To Farm Properly

Sustainable Soil Fertility: How best to achieve it?
Mixed Farming – Livestock plus field crops, vegetable crops, fruit, etc.
Fertility Without Fertilizers – Green manures, cover crops, crop rotation?
American Society of Agronomy: Sod-based Rotations
NY Times: Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil
USDA: Are Some Crops Synergistic to Following Crops?

Organic Fertilizers – biological? mineral? foliar? sources? Sustainability index?
The Atlantic: Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture

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CA Farmer Survey: Preliminary Results & Invitation to Participate

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This post is Part 2 of 2 re: “A Year of Learning.”  Also see Part 1: “Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session” posted July 29, 2015.

Thank you to everyone who has already completed the short Farmer Survey over the past several months. Below are the preliminary results.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please share your thoughts!  Your opinion matters, and it only takes about 10 minutes.  Plus, there’s one last $250 prize for respondents.  (Congratulations Steve Fitch of Pocket Creek Farm for winning the first of two prizes!)

Background: On January 21st, folks from FarmsReach CommunityMultinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA)Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF)Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL)ATTRA/National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)UC Cooperative ExtensionFarmer Veteran CoalitionSustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE)Rogue Farm CorpsFull Belly FarmNorth Coast Opportunities (NCO), and Ag/Tech Mixing Bowl came together to design new, shared tools to more effectively serve small- and medium-scale California farmers and ranchers. The original context was educational curriculum for farmers, and MESA and FarmsReach had invited the primary organizations that offer these services in California.

Better understanding farmers needs and preferences was one of many priorities. (For more details on the convening, see Sobering, Inspiring Results from Agriculture Organization Strategy Session.)

Preliminary California farmer survey results are below:

* New questions were added to the survey based on initial farmer responses. Results will be shared once we collect more data.  If you already took the survey and wish to submit your responses to these new questions, you may do so here.

Farmers:  We invite you to take the survey.  It takes less than 15 minutes, and you could win $250!


Acreage

Percentage of respondents with different farm acreage. For context, below is the USDA’s report on farm size and cropland distribution.

 

Farm Size Distribution

This USDA graph included for context only. The data has nothing to do with the CA farmer survey.

Sales Channels

Percentage of respondents selling through each channel.

 

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Your Input Needed (and Great Chances to Win $250) ~ Guidance for CA Agriculture Organizations & Industry Ecosystem Maps

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Terra Firma Farm, Winters CA ~ taken with Droid Turbo phone

View the preliminary results of the Farmer Survey, posted October 4th, 2015.


The current FarmsReach platform launched in 2013 with the ethos of “Driven By Community”.  Now we are asking you, our active and opinionated community across CA (and beyond), what would be most valuable to YOU?

Farmer survey results will be shared with over a dozen partner organizations so that we can collectively better serve your needs.

Organization survey results are being used to create new, shared Ecosystem Maps, showing where and what we all are working on across California, and Funding Maps, showing where funding is currently available — and needed.

Please take 5-10 minutes to fill out our survey, and win one of two $250 prizes!  The first prize will be chosen from the first 250 members to complete the survey. The second will be chosen from all who complete it over the next few weeks.

Farmers: click here!
Organizations: click here!

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Labor Series: Pt 9 ~ Navigating Labor Contractors ~ Tips from AgSafe’s Amy Wolfe

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Written by guest blogger, Amy Wolfe, President and CEO of AgSafe. AgSafe works to provide employers and employees in the agricultural industry with the education and resources needed to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. 

In today’s agricultural industry, contract labor is playing an increasingly important role in getting our vast array of commodities to consumers. Whether it’s a result of labor shortages or growers’ desire to minimize the risks inherent in being an employer, the number of licensed farm labor contractors (FLCs) is on the rise to help fill that need. It is imperative that farmers understand the legal parameters for FLCs and how to ensure they are working with a business legally in compliance.

Read on as I discuss the basics of farm labor contractors, how to find those that are legally registered, and what additional paperwork a farmer should request before working with one.

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El Pais ~ From Field to Table in 24 Hours (in Spanish)

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Report from the Food IT: Soil to Fork Conference at Stanford University, June 20, 2014.

by Rosa Jiménez Cano

“¿Por qué no hacer mostaza con vino tinto, con mi cabernet?”, proclama Barb Stuckey, autora de Taste un libro que invita a explorar nuevos sabores y quiere servir de inspiración para que los agricultores procesen su materia y lo vendan directamente en el mercado.

En el auditorio de la Universidad de Stanford, un centenar de productores, estudiantes con inquietud por dar con cómo será la comida del futuro e inversores con aire desaliñado atienden.

Stuckey, experta en crear nuevos productos, alerta de las tendencias a las que tendrán que adaptarse para mantenerse en el mercado. Instacart , Google Shopping Express y Amazon Fresh son tres servicios dedicados a enviar comida. La de Google no tiene productos frescos, pero sí empaquetados, a domicilio en menos de 24 horas. Se pide por la noche y la mañana siguiente está en casa. Otros optan por recibirlo a última hora de la tarde, antes de volver a casa y ya consumirlo ahí. “Es un nuevo intermediario, con el que antes no contábamos”, advierte, “pero que a la vez es una gran oportunidad”.

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Press Release: FarmsReach & CCOF Offer Financial Assistance to Aspiring Organic Farmers

FR_CCOF_FGMay 12, 2014

Berkeley, CA – Today FarmsReach and California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) launched a new program to attract more California farmers to get their organic certification.  Any member of FarmsReach and their Farmers Guild Network can request a CCOF application fee-waiver, which saves farmers $325.

While many believe the application fee is a small investment for the premium prices earned selling certified-organic products, for many farmers the $325 application fee is cost-prohibitive.

“We’re excited about our new partnership and serving community-minded farmers that need financial assistance,” says Elizabeth Whitlow, CCOF Inspection Operations Supervisor.  “Often, a farmer may want to apply for certification, but they simply can’t afford it, may be misinformed about the process, or are overwhelmed by the application paperwork. We like the idea of building a community of aspiring and currently certified organic farmers through FarmsReach and its Farmers Guild Network.”

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The Union ~ Putting Down Roots

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by Laura Brown

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.29.06 PMThe Farmers Guild, a networking and resource group for farmers, is cropping up in a number of Northern California communities.

Some are looking into ways to start a farm guild in Nevada County.

Started in 2011, the guild is a group of farmers, ranchers and members of the local food community that gathers each month to share resources, information, a farm-grown dinner and a few drinks after a day in the field.

It began almost two years ago when just a few young farmers out in Valley Ford, Calif., began gathering around a ranch-house table.

Over a casual dinner of farm-fresh food, they began to trade stories, compare planting patterns and share gossip from the feed store.

And very soon that group began to grow: from six to 10 to 20 to way too many to fit within our kitchen,” said Evan Wiig, community manager of The Farmers Guild.

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Capital Press ~ Farmers Collaborate Online & Offline Through Farmers Guilds

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by Evan Wiig

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.33.12 PMFarmers guilds help farmers get together to compare notes on many subjects revolving around agriculture.

Farming is more than ever an entrepreneurial endeavor, a high stakes game that is fraught with risks, not the least of which is extreme and unpredictable weather, such as the drought we’re currently facing here in the West.

It’s no wonder that many multi-generation farming and ranching families are disappearing from the landscape. Many of those who have stepped up to take their place are finding that their success depends on collaborating and connecting online and offline with other farmers and ranchers.

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