Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Regenerative Landscapes & Ecological Training at the Permaculture Skills Center


A lush landscape at the Permaculture Skills Center, Sebastopol, CA

The Permaculture Skills Center (PSC) is a five-acre educational and vocational site to advance the modeling and replication of regenerative local food systems. Bringing together youth and adults, the PSC strives to educate participants about good business practices, natural resource preservation and social equity. They’re now accepting applications to their 9-month, 2014 Ecological Landscaper Immersion Program. Get professional training in all aspects of ecological landscape design, installation, and maintenance for your farm, vineyard or landscape business!

Written by guest bloggers, Adam Kliegman, Program Director of the Ecological Landscaper Immersion Program at the Permaculture Skills Center and Toby Hemenway, author and permaculture educator.

Back in 1959 in Tasmania, a biggish-sized island off the southeast coast of Australia, forester, trapper, and ecologist Bill Mollison was studying marsupials for a UN agency, and he had an insight that started a movement.

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FarmsReach Newsletter ~ December 23, 2013

Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 10.54.59 AMCheck out our latest newsletter! Topics in this edition:

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Note: If you’re not in the agriculture industry, please sign up for our general newsletter.

Sustainable Food News ~ New Website Like Yelp for California Farmers

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The FarmsReach Source Directory, the first online business directory for California farmers, was launched today by the Berkeley-based social enterprise, FarmsReach. The website links FarmsReach member farmers with approved providers of everything from deer fences to irrigation systems, as well as farm-friendly service providers like lenders, contractors and nonprofit organizations.

“Think of it as a Yelp for farmers,” said FarmsReach founder Melanie Cheng, referring to the widely used “crowdsourcing” website for consumers. “Farmers get most of their referrals by word-of-mouth from fellow farmers. Our online directory makes it easier for everyone to learn who does good work or offers quality services, so they can make smarter, more informed choices.”

Inspiration for the Source Directory came from the successes of similar offerings by social enterprises and farmer co-ops in Asia and Europe, which provide farmers with vital connections to trusted suppliers. “Directories like this for the U.S. agriculture community are long overdue,” Cheng said.

Founded in 2007, FarmsReach has grown to more than 600 members – primarily farmers, but also farm-related nonprofits, Cooperative Extension advisors, and providers of materials and services to the agriculture community. “We launched in California, our home base, but many of the online and offline resources we provide can be equally useful in other regions. We hope to expand our directory services into other parts of the country soon,” said Cheng.

FarmsReach adds new members daily while also creating collaborative, working relationships with organizations that serve its farmer members. “We’re driven completely by our members and partner organizations. Together, we are building a true support system for the agriculture community,” Cheng said. Continue Reading →

FarmsReach Debuts our Source Directory for CA Farmers!



FarmsReach hit another milestone this week with the launch of our new Source Directory, the first online guide to the best California contractors, input suppliers, lenders, and all things farming. A big thank you to the FarmsReach community for referring us to all of your favorite businesses and organizations!

We know that operating a farm requires tapping many support people and buying (and borrowing) a lot of equipment and supplies.  Our goal with the new Directory is to give all of our members an easy way to connect with trusted service providers and to make smarter, more informed choices for your businesses.

Click to view Johnny's "mini-site"

Click to view Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ custom pages.

This new section of our site will continue to expand and evolve as we add more listings and add new software functionality.  We’ve already compiled over 300 organizations, suppliers, contractors, lenders, labs and consultants that have been directly referred by FarmsReach members over the past year.  Going forward, we will continue to scour our online Conversations for leads, as well as from the Farmers Guild gatherings and casual conversations.

Like everything else in FarmsReach, the Source Directory is free for farmers to use.  And, for approved service providers, inclusion in the Directory is also free. Enhanced listings, or “mini-sites” that feature pictures, videos, educational articles or promotional offerings, cost between $50 to $1,000 additional per month.  You can check out a few samples from the  Source Directory main pages.

Because we offer so many non-revenue-generating programs for our members, we depend on the income from our Source Directory and other upcoming services to help cover our operating costs.  So, please help us spread the word about it, and write some reviews!  Your use of this new community resource and your reviews of the service providers you’ve worked with help us to attract more listings and support for the work that we do.

The Source Directory will also become more robust over the coming months as more businesses create their customized pages. Check it out!  As always, we would love to hear what you think.

Thank you again to all who’ve supported us in getting things up and live this month.  We hope you find it an essential resource.

For more information, please download the press release.

If you are a business or organization that serves CA farmers, learn more.

Featured Farmer Spotlight: Caleb Barron of Fogline Farm


The bounty of the harvest at Fogline Farm

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!

This week we’re featuring Caleb Barron, co-owner of Fogline Farm, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Caleb and his business partner, Johnny Wilson, produce a variety of fruits and vegetables, pastured pork and poultry, and have a growing CSA program.  They are some of our younger Featured Farmers, who were nominated by the community for their tenacity in facing the steep learning curve that is farming!

The mission of their business is to design agricultural systems to take full advantage of their landscape’s natural beauty and abundance. They strive to be stewards of the land in the most ecologically responsible ways, and to having their land free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and GMOs. All of their animals are raised on pasture and fed organic feed, and their crops are rotated in order to take advantage of the fertility and pest management the animals provide.

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Q&A with Member Dave Pratt: Ranching (and Farming) for Profit and A New Book Release!


Boots on the ground learning! Summer course 2013, Laramie, WY

This week we’re honored to spotlight one of our members, Dave Pratt of Ranch Management Consultants. Dave has taught the Ranching for Profit School in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and Africa, and is a respected authority on sustainable ranching. As a former Range & Livestock Advisor with UC Cooperative Extension for 14 years, and having grown up on a small ranch and worked for cattle and sheep ranchers, Dave has done a lot of research on management intensive grazing and strategic issues impacting the sustainability of ranches.

Over the years, he has earned a reputation for innovative teaching with a practical edge. Dave was instrumental in developing the Sustainable Ranching Research & Education Project, a large-scale, long-term effort to develop, research and demonstrate economic, environmental and socially sustainable ranching practices.

In 1991 Dave started working with Stan Parsons, who created the Ranching for Profit School and founded Ranch Management Consultants. In 1999 Dave became CEO of Ranch Management Consultants, Inc., and just released his first book “Healthy Land, Happy Families and Profitable Businesses: Essays to Improve Your Land, Your Life and Your Bottom Line“.

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The Growth & Impact of Women in Agriculture ~ Q&A with EWG’s Kari Hamerschlag


Lydia Sisson, Mill City Grows, Massachusetts

There has been unprecedented growth in women farmers across the US in recent years. Paralleling this upward trend, the number of women-focused agriculture networks, funding opportunities, and technical assistance training also continues to climb. Women farmers are [finally] being recognized for their contribution to agriculture, not only as farmers’ wives, but as farm owners and operators themselves!

This week we spoke with Kari Hamerschlag, Senior Analyst for the Environmental Working Group, who was the keynote speaker at last month’s 4th National Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN) Conference,”Cultivating Our Food, Farms and Future,” in Des Moines, Iowa. Kari spoke about the need for better policy-making to build a more democratized food system, and the important role that women farmers play in the future of agriculture.

Read on as Kari tells us why we need more women in the food and farming world, what obstacles they may face, and why support networks and community are so vitally important!

And, just today: We launched our New Women in Agriculture Toolkit with resources on the growth of US women famers, women farmer networks, funding opportunities and more. If you have additional resources to share, please let us know!

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Optimize Your Crops with Variety Trials! ~ Upcoming Field Day and Q&A with OSA’s Jared Zystro


Comparing different carrot seed varieties

This week we spoke with Jared Zystro, California Research and Education Specialist for the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), about the usefulness, ease and importance of on-farm seed variety trials. Although the variety trial process might seem intimidating, the benefits of better crop performance and new market opportunities make it worth every farmer’s time.

If you want to find out which vegetable seeds performed the best, learn variety trial techniques, and meet Jared, this weekend, Dec. 7th, OSA is hosting a Variety Trial Field Day at Riverdog Farm in Guinda, CA, to evaluate an ongoing organic vegetable trial. This is a great way to learn the basics, talk with an expert, and see what the folks at Riverdog are up to. See you there!

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Farm Hack Davis ~ Highlights from a Creative, DIY Weekend


Visualization of an open-source food distribution website

Farm Hack is a community-driven movement that brings farmers together with engineers, builders, welders, architects, software designers, and other skilled non-farmers to develop, document and build accessible, appropriate technology for more resilient agriculture. It’s based on the principles of sharing, open publication, and the evolution of design.  And, the recent Farm Hack Davis – the first in Northern California – booked up completely weeks before the actual event!

Cross-pollination was the word of the day! And not just among the one group collaborating to design an innovative new apiary. Another group was crowded around big sheets of paper sketching blueprints for a small-scale grain elevator, while another was devising a new website to connect farmers to local markets. From theoretical to practical, this day was about tapping into a wide diversity of creative ideas, to create tangible solutions to many on-farm challenges.

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