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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Farm Advocacy Attorney Reflects on the CASFS Apprenticeship Program

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Written by guest blogger, Neil Thapar, 2012 CASFS Apprenticeship Program graduate and attorney focused on agriculture issues.

The shorter days and cooler nights of fall remind me that the year is coming to an end. As the planting season winds down, this is a time for reflecting on the past year and planning for the one ahead.

For the 35-40 apprentices who just completed the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System’s (CASFS) Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at UC Santa Cruz, this past week vividly marked that transition. After six months of “farming boot camp”, where they each lived, worked and learned both the theory and practice of small-scale, capital-S sustainable agriculture, the apprentices have graduated as its newest class of proponents, practitioners and advocates.

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Don’t Let the Food Safety Modernization Act Burden Family Farmers

The article below first appeared in Civil Eats on October 3, 2013.

Civil Eats is a valuable daily news source covering all topics around food and sustainable agriculture.  With over 100 contributors, the site has been a labor of love for the last four years.  Now with everyone’s help, Civil Eats would like to take their reporting and visually engaging content to the next level!  Please see their Kickstarter page to contribute to their continued coverage of our industry, and read on to learn about the very important issue of food safety policy!

Written by Dave Runsten (CAFF) & Brian Snyder (PASA).

Amidst the current furor over a government shutdown, the federal budget, debt ceiling, food stamps, immigration, and other programs that are either held up or being curtailed, another huge issue is quietly moving forward that could profoundly impact American agriculture and consumers.

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Put Your Hoes Down ~ A Weekend Celebration!

IMG_8274Full Belly Farm knows how to have a good time!  This past weekend marked the 26th annual Hoes Down Harvest Festival, which brings together over 6,000 people of all ages from Northern CA and beyond.  Under the hot sun of the Capay Valley, it’s fun to find some shade and relax with a beer, or stroll around and take in the breathtaking views of fields, orchards and rolling hills.  Or, take advantage of their jam-packed program of live music, local food, workshops, creek bathing and camping. We did it all!

Full Belly Farm, founded in 1985, is a pristine 300+ acre operation and is considered one of the best examples of diversified organic farming in CA.  The farm grows an amazing variety of over 80 vegetable, fruit and nut crops, as well as poultry, sheep, pigs, goats, and several cows.  One of their main priorities is the long-term environmental stewardship of the land, and for this, the farm focuses on regenerative systems such as nitrogen-fixing cover crops that improve soil organic matter, and planting habitat area for beneficial insects and wildlife.  With almost 30 years of trial and error under their belt, Full Belly Farm has worked hard to nurture the land so that each year leaves it more fertile than the last.

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Organic Checkoff Program? The Debate Continues!

OrganicFoodHealth_m_0904You may be familiar with well-known slogans such as “The Incredible Edible Egg,” “Got Milk?” or “Pork. The Other White Meat.” All of these are examples of advertising campaigns funded by commodity research and promotion programs, otherwise known as “checkoff programs”.

How they work

These programs are administered by the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and run by commodity producers to promote specific commodities (beef, pork, soybeans, eggs, milk, blueberries, avocados), through agricultural research and consumer marketing campaigns. The money to pay for these programs comes from mandatory fees (taxes) placed on commodity producers. For example, for every $100 value of pork sold, pork producers pay $0.40 towards the pork checkoff program. For the government, the purpose of these programs is to stimulate demand for the commodities that benefit from federal price supports. Once consumer demand increases, the government can reduce tax-funded payments to the farmers producing the commodities. In theory, this seems mutually beneficial for all involved in the program.

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Farm Bill 101 & Action Needed Now

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The Farm Bill is a 1001-page proposal that covers food, farming, nutrition, and land use, and is one of the primary tools for the US government to address issues that affect public health, climate, land and water. It’s drafted and hopefully passed through the House and Senate, and on to the President to sign every 5 to 7 years.

However, the days are limited for Congress to enact a new farm bill before the Sept. 30 expiration of current programs. For those paying attention, that Sept. 30, 2013 deadline was originally Sept. 30, 2012. Congress failed to complete its task last year, passing an extension in the early hours of Jan 1. 2013.

So, here we are – two years later – with no reform to outdated farm subsidies and funding stripped from nearly a dozen critical programs that help farmers and communities.  Programs that create jobs, invest in our next generation of farmers, and help farmers and communities build a more sustainable future.

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“Free Money!” ~ Q&A with NRCS Soil Conservationist, Ben Garland

Every week, we’ll be spotlighting a FarmsReach Featured Farmer or community Member.  Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community, and our Members comprise a mix of farmers, ranchers, Extension Advisors, nonprofits, and more.  

Last week’s North Coast Farmers Guild monthly meet-up was another great night of delicious food, fun conversations and valuable connections.  After dinner, we heard from two presenters, one of which was Ben Garland, Soil Conservationist (and funder) at the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

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The NRCS grants funds to farmers and ranchers for a wide variety of uses – all of which support healthy ecosystems and long-term sustainability.  Last year, the CA NRCS offices had $3.5 million to grant to organic or transitioning farmers, but only $3 million was used.

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VB6: Mark Bittman’s Vegan Diet for Meat Eaters

With a lot of news reporting on the rise in child obesity, the effects of genetically modified foods (GMOs), and the scarcity of natural resources such as water and oil, we all want a ray of hope – we want some good news, already! What can we eat? What is the healthy diet? How can we eat and live while leaving less of a carbon footprint?

The August / September 2013 issue of  The Commonwealth magazine printed an excerpt of chef Joey Altman’s conversation with Mark Bittman, New York Times food columnist and author of the book VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health… for Good. Bittman has long been a conscious eater, offering his discriminating taste and opinion, but also meshing his appetite with social and environmental consciousness. While an ever growing number of us are excited about eating locally, seasonally and buying directly from the farmer to support our health and our local food sheds, Bittman’s new diet is a serving of good news we’ve been waiting to hear.

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Featured Farmer Spotlight: John Bauer of Santa Cruz Seed & Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Every week, we’ll spotlight a FarmsReach Featured Farmer. Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community. Feeling a spark of curiosity? There’s no question too simple or tough. Ask a question or add a Conversation and we’ll be sure it’s answered within a day or two.

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John at Eco-Farm 2013

This week, we’re featuring John Bauer, produce farmer of 25 years, advisor to many(!) farmers in California, owner of Santa Cruz Seed, and seed sales consultant for Johnny’s Selected Seeds.  He is a busy man!  Here are his answers to our Q&A survey we captured over a sunny lunch in Half Moon Bay.

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Featured Farmer Spotlight: Paul Underhill of Terra Firma Farm

Every week, we’ll spotlight a FarmsReach Featured Farmer. Our Featured Farmers are brimming with great ideas and knowledge to share with the farming community. Feeling a spark of curiosity? There’s no question too simple or tough. Ask a question or add a Conversation and we’ll be sure it’s answered within a day or two.

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This week, we’re featuring Paul Underhill, from Terra Firma Farm – ”a non-traditional version of a ‘family farm’“.  Paul is a partner on the farm along with Paul Holmes and Hector Melendez-Lopez, who has several family members who all work intrinsic positions on the farm.

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