Category Archives: Hot Topics

All Things Agritourism: CA Workshops, Toolkit Resources and Q&A with HipCamp Farm Camping

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Today we’re covering everything about agritourism! ~ a new government-supported agritourism program in California, comprehensive practical resources to start and manage an agritourism operation, and an interview with the Land Manager of HipCamp, a booking platform that connects paying campers with unique places to camp (think AirBnB for camping).


Agritourism Intensive Workshops

This Fall the UC Small Farm Program received a USDA grant to support the California agritourism community through a series of educational workshops, webinars and resources. This new program is all thanks to the collaboration of UC Cooperative Extension, local community organizations, tourism professionals, and experienced agritourism operators.

Over the next few months, three different regions of California will each host a three-part series of Agritourism Intensive workshops:

Plumas County Agritourism Intensive

  • Dates: Tuesdays, Dec 1, 2015, Jan 12 & Feb 23, 2016
  • Times: 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each session (lunch provided)
  • Location: Mineral Building, Plumas County Fairgrounds, Quincy, CA 95971
  • Cost: $50 for 3-session course (only $20 for additional participants from same family or business)

Shasta County Agritourism Intensive

  • Dates: Wednesdays, January 6, February 10 and March 16, 2016
  • Times: 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. each session (lunch provided)
  • Location: The McConnell Foundation Lema Ranch, 800 Shasta View Drive, Redding, CA 96003
  • Cost: $50 for 3-session course (only $25 for additional participants from same family or business)
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Vision of ‘Soil Nutrient Management in Drought’ Series & Forage Crop Segment Kick-off!

Participants in the Nutrient Management Series: Please take UC SAREP’s two-minute survey to let us know what was helpful or not; and what information *you* would like to see in the future to help better manage soil nutrients and the reduced water supply.

Alfalfa hay at Prather Ranch, near Mt. Shasta.  – UC ANR

It has been five months since FarmsReach, UC Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (UC SAREP), and Sustainable Conservation together launched our Nutrient Management Solutions series.  These online, moderated forums and complementary Toolkit offer farmers of all experience levels practical information to manage soil nutrients in times of drought.

Now more than ever, farmers and ranchers seek solutions to maintain productivity despite the shortage of water, and today we’re sharing more of the background and vision for this timely, collaborative project.

We sat down with our partners at UC SAREP, Aubrey White and Ryan Murphy, to capture their story of how this project came about, and what they envision for the series in the future.

Today also marks the kick-off of the third topic in the series: Forage Crops.  The first two segments of the series covered orchards and trees, and wine grapes and vines.

To follow the conversation in the series or to participate, join the Nutrient Management Solutions group in FarmsReach.  (It’s free and takes minutes!)


FarmsReach (FR): First things first, why should farmers of all skill levels and all crop types be concerned about soil nutrient management, and especially now?

UC SAREP Aubrey White and Ryan Murphy: Soil nutrient management is so important to grow healthy crops, and every farmer always has an opportunity to improve how he or she uses and manages the soil.

Some practices are intended to build up the long-term fertility of the soil, while others (like nitrogen use) are meant to meet immediate needs, like building healthy foliage on crops. When done incorrectly, some practices may actually be harmful to the environment and human health.

For farmers today, water is probably their top concern.  And since soil nutrient management is closely linked with soil moisture and irrigation, farmers must adapt their nutrient management strategy as the water source, quality and quantity change in these drought years.  Thinking about the two issues together can help a farmer manage their farm more holistically and be better prepared for the likely upcoming years of drought.

Aubrey White, Communications Coordinator, UC SAREP

Aubrey White, Communications Coordinator, UC SAREP

FR: We often hear that newer farmers have a steep learning curve in managing their soil.  Do you have a sense of how skilled the typical newer farmer versus experienced farmer is regarding soil nutrient management? 

UC SAREP: Well, knowledge can be all over the map, and farmers work very differently.  Some are agronomists and depend on frequent soil sampling and data-driven information.  Others monitor and understand soil fertility based on sight, touch, and smell. Both types of farmers can be just as successful, but both need a set of practices they can use and trust to guarantee healthy crops.  Because farming doesn’t require any sort of formal training (no degree required), many farmers may start at ground zero.  I think a lot of the learning curve is in understanding your own soil and how to see the signs of healthy or unhealthy changes.  But yes, that can be a steep learning curve!

We know that farmers seek out informational resources, and there are a lot of resources available out there to get started.  But, when you’re in the field in mid-May and your crops are looking damaged and you have to troubleshoot, the vast amount of resources available can be overwhelming to sift through.   When you have an immediate problem, talking to someone with knowledge and experience can be invaluable.  It’s great to see farmers ask soil questions in FarmsReach and get answers from others in the community!

FR: Can you share a bit about how the UC SAREP Solution Center for Nutrient Management project came about?

UC SAREP: The Solution Center for Nutrient Management began as a project in 2013.  We want agricultural research to be easily digestible, available at the right time to growers, and relevant to the diversity of growers throughout the state. We also want to build a statewide network of people who are knowledgeable about nutrient management—growers, researchers, crop consultants, and others.  We think the power of information-sharing is in these networks, so we hope to create a variety of ways to open up communication on the topic, and use our collective minds to address big challenges growers face.

Initially, the Solution Center focused on the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and agriculture research of UC Davis’ Martin Burger and Will Horwath.  Going forward, though, the Solution Center will focus on nutrient management in general.  Currently, we have a small (but growing) database of research on our website, searchable by categories growers are interested in, with research summaries and links to related publications. We’re organizing field days, building toolkits on our website, and, of course, partnering with FarmsReach and Sustainable Conservation to host this series of online discussions on a variety of topics, and curating the Soil Nutrient Management Toolkit in FarmsReach. We hope to see this project grow over the years into a reliable source of information for growers, and a helpful tool for researchers who want to get the word out about their research. Continue Reading →

The California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) Hosting 4th Climate & Ag Summit!

Bruce Rominger at field day

Participants visit with Bruce Rominger at the 2014 conference

Our partner, the California Climate & Agriculture Network (CalCAN) is organizing its fourth California Climate & Agriculture Summit in Davis, CA on March 24 & 25, 2015! CalCAN is a coalition of the state’s leading sustainable agriculture organizations and farmer allies that come together out of concern for the impacts of climate change on California agriculture and to find sustainable agriculture solutions.

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Summit workshop 2014

At this year’s Summit, you will hear about the latest science, policy and practice related to climate change and sustainable agriculture in California. This is a great opportunity to get together and share knowledge and experiences with a diverse group of participants, including farmers and ranchers, researchers, policymakers, advocates and agriculture professionals.

The Summit begins on March 24th with farm tours in Yolo County starting at Rominger Brothers Farm with a focus on water conservation. Next at Yolo Cattle Co., you will learn about grazing management and native grass restoration. And lastly at Hedgerow Farms, you will see a variety of hedgerow and riparian plantings, and learn about their role in climate resilience. Lunch at Yolo Cattle Company is included in the price of the farm tour.

IMG_0935On March 25th there is a full day of plenary, workshops and poster presentations. The day begins with a keynote address by Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards and Chair of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, followed by a panel of farmers sharing their experiences in coping with the drought. More speakers, poster presentations and workshop sessions will fill the morning.

After a healthy and delicious catered lunch, the Summit will continue into the afternoon with more workshop sessions and poster presentations. To conclude this unique event, attendees are invited to a wine and cheese reception to cross-pollinate and mingle with all of the attendees. For more info on the day’s events, check out the full program.

This is a wonderful conference and an incredibly important issue. If you’re thinking of attending, earlybird registration goes until Feb. 7th, so get your tickets now!


For more information or questions about the Summit, contact: summit@calclimateag.org.

Interested in learning more about the impact of climate change and land development on agriculture? Check out our Farmland & Estate Planning Toolkit for more resources.

If you have questions or words of wisdom about climate change and agriculture, visit FarmsReach Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

New Marketing & Sales Toolkit Resources!

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We’re excited to announce that we recently added a whole new slew of resources to our Marketing & Sales Toolkit! As always, these resources were recommended, and many of them written, by our amazing community of farmers, ranchers and subject-matter experts. A big thank you to all of our contributors!

For a taste of what’s new, check out several of the resources highlighted below. To see the entire list, visit our Toolkits page. If you have a great resource to share, please send them our way.


Choosing Sales Channels

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Marketing Tip Sheet
Tips, advantages and considerations in choosing a marketing channel, including farmers markets, institutions, restaurants and wholesale.
Source: NCAT/ATTRA

Pricing Your Product

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Basic tips to improve your pricing strategy, competitively price your products, and track sales.
Source: FarmsReach

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More Crops Per Drop: No-Till Farming Combats Drought

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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.

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A Successful Nutrient Management Series & New Toolkit Resources!

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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:

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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

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

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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.

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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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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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