Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Farm Fresh Eggs and Chicken Coming to the Table in Missouri

Dominique Chickens - photo by Mark A. Fields, Clark, Missouri

What is the best way to promote small farm poultry flocks and save heirloom poultry breeds from extinction? A dedicated group of poultry producers in East Central, Missouri thinks creating a broader market for the birds is the key.

The group, consisting of Kelly and Phyllis Klober, Paul and Kelly Harter, Mark and Michelle Wagstaff, and Nathan and Sarah Price, recently received a grant of almost $6,000 through the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program. The goal of the grant is to explore new ways to market their poultry through the River Hills Purebred Poultry Marketing Alliance Project.

The River Hills Alliance growers specialize in raising heirloom poultry -- traditional and beautiful birds such as Orpingtons and Dominiques that used to be common on family farms but which now are rare and endangered. The birds are hardy and well adapted to the traditional and natural production methods these small farmers prefer.

The Alliance growers started out trying to preserve and promote heirloom poultry breeds by marketing the birds and surplus eggs through a local farmers’ market and to friends and neighbors. Now, the number of heirloom birds is increasing and the group hopes to take their poultry breed preservation work into the next era by creating a web site, publishing a directory of breeds and their availability, and creating public interest through outreach at a variety of events such as The Fall Poultry Fest on Sept.13, 2008.

“Our plan is to work through an alliance of small-scale producers of a number of breeds to form a plan of work to guide movement beyond local markets,” says Kelly Klober. In addition to their marketing and promotion efforts, the group will use their grant to explore shipping methods for eggs, chicks, and birds and how to turn their heirloom poultry table eggs into a distinct premium product tied to their region.

The River Hills Growers want their marketing plan to help heirloom poultry breeders nationwide develop markets that will sustain the birds and the farmers who raise them.

Kansas Producer Reducing Commercial Fertilizer Costs Using Legumes

With the cost of commercial fertilizer mirroring the price of oil this past year producers like Calvin Adams are looking at other fertilizer options. Legume crops do not require nearly as much commercial fertilizer as other crops thanks to their nitrogen fixing ability. If including nitrogen fixing plants into cool season smooth bromegrass pastures can potentially reduce production costs as well as protect the ground and surface water sources from potential pollution then producers in the North Central Region of Kansas may have found an economic production advantage.

For years farmers and ranchers have been trying to answer the question of how to maintain optimum production of cool season pastures while decreasing costs and improving late season forage quality. Many have tried to include alfalfa and sweet clover into the grass mix but haven’t been able to maintain persistent and productive stands of legumes or forfeiting grass production or quality.

Adams of Beloit, KS, along with Keith Harmoney, of Kansas State University, and Dwayne Rice, of NRCS, hope to solve this problem using a grant Adams received from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE). With the $2,758 dollars in grant funding Adams will look at the effects of adding legume crops such as grazing tolerant alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, hairy vetch, and several others to his pastures.

The trial will be set up in two paddocks of a 12-paddock rotationally grazed smooth bromegrass pasture. The two test paddocks have distinct soils. One soil is an upland soil with a moderate slope, while the other is a lowland soil with a minimal slope. This will allow Adams to examine which legumes work best on the predominant soils found in the North Central region of Kansas.

Adams will also examine the effects of fertilizer on the legume crops. A portion of each test strip will be fertilized while the remainder will be unfertilized throughout the growing season to see how the legumes establish in both fertilized and non fertilized areas. The fertilized and unfertilized strips will later be compared for total forage production to ascertain the economics of reducing the amount of commercial fertilizer while optimizing cattle production.

Adams’s results will be shared through the local grazier’s group and Kansas Graziers Association farm tours. There are also plans to write newsletter and journal articles so that others can benefit from the findings.

Photo of birdsfoot trefoil from the NRCS National Plant Materials Center Photo Gallery, NETSC

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Two Weeks Remaining to Submit Applications to the Sustainable Agriculture Standards Committee

This is a reminder that two weeks remain to submit applications to participate on the Standards Committee that will work toward development of an American National Standard for sustainable agriculture.

Stakeholders interested in working on specific advisory subcommittees are also encouraged to apply during this period.

To Learn More
Please click here for the official Standards Committee application deadline reminder sent to stakeholders and interested parties.

Please click here for the Leonardo Academy press release announcing the Standards Committee application deadline reminder.

Call for Standards Committee Applications If you have not already submitted your application to participate on the Standards Committee or supporting subcommittees, we encourage you to apply! Please note: In the event that a Standards Committee member is not able to attend a meeting, an alternate from their organization can be appointed to serve as a proxy for that meeting. Knowing that you may have to miss a meeting should not prevent you from applying to the committee. Please help us increase awareness about the efforts to develop an American National Standard for sustainable agriculture among potentially interested parties and stakeholders by forwarding this announcement and the attached press release to anyone you know who may be interested in and/or affected by this standard. If you have any questions, please contact Amanda at Leonardo Academy (608-280-0255,


Amanda Raster
Leonardo Academy

phone: 608-280-0255

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Green Beings CSA Awarded SARE Grant to Put Dinner on the Table in St Louis

With food costs and energy costs rising it is becoming more and more important to find more economical ways to put dinner on the table through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The folks at Green Beings CSA in St. Louis, MO are hoping to do just that.

Typically, a CSA consists of a group of individuals who pledge support to a local farm in order to share in the risks and benefits of food production. Members pay in advance (or work on the farm) and then receive shares of the farms bounty through the growing season.

Sabrina Hilton with Green Beings CSA applied for and received funding for a grant through the NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program.

NCR-SARE’s farmer rancher grant program provides funding for on-site research performed by farmers and ranchers in a 12 state region.

The project for which Hilton has received funding will focus on finding ways to economically grow healthy food using techniques that are good for the environment. Five interested low income families have been selected to work with the project, and become members of the CSA.

The five families will learn about food preparation, nutrition, canning/drying, seed saving, garden planning, garden maintenance, composting, and raising livestock (chickens) in the city during training sessions at the Culver Way Community Housing site.

With these tools the families will learn how to grow their own food as well as how to produce extra food which can be sold to generate income. The great thing about it all is that it can be done right in their backyard.

Notes and observations will be taken throughout the entire process making the pilot project easy to replicate. If all goes as planned Hilton hopes to create a model that other low income families can use to help them become self reliant and healthier even during tough economic times.
You can learn more about Green Beings CSA by visiting their website at

self portrait by Sabrina Hilton