Thursday, June 2, 2011

We've Moved! New Site Opens Door to Sustainable Agriculture Grants and Information

The NCR-SARE blog has moved!
Please visit our new news feed online at
To subscribe to the new news feed, visit

Grant information, videos, books, online courses, profiles of cutting-edge, on-farm research and much more—it's all available with a click of your mouse at the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program's (SARE) new websites.

Visit any of SARE's redesigned national or regional sites and navigate seamlessly between them to find a wealth of information about where America's farmers, ranchers and ag professionals live and work. A state-of-the-art search function makes it easier than ever to find grant information and dig deep into SARE's library of educational materials, database of research projects and calendar of sustainable ag events in communities across the country.

And all sites are mobile-device friendly and offer a bare-bones mirror site for people with slow internet connections. You can share SARE, too, with RSS, Facebook, Twitter and other share functions.

Visit our new site at
To subscribe to the new news feed, visit

Thursday, April 7, 2011

NCR-SARE Announces 2012 Call for Research and Education Preproposals

The 2012 North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) Research and Education Grant Program Call for Preproposals is now available online at

NCR-SARE’s Research and Education program supports innovators with competitive Research and Education grants. Individual grants range from $10,000 to $200,000. NCR-SARE expects to fund about 8-12 projects in the twelve-state North Central Region.

Potential applicants can contact or 612-626-3113.

The deadline for Research and Education Program preproposals is 4:30pm CDT June 9, 2011.

Since 1988, NCR-SARE has awarded more than $40 million worth of competitive grants to farmers and ranchers, researchers, educators, public and private institutions, nonprofit groups, and others exploring sustainable agriculture in 12 states. NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council represents various agricultural sectors, states and organizations. It sets program priorities and makes granting decisions for the region. A collection of farm and non-farm residents, the Administrative Council includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in our 12 states. Council members come from regional farms and ranches, university extension and research programs, and nonprofits. In addition, the Administrative Councilincludes regional representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state agencies, and agribusinesses.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hopyard Spring Training Event

Dodgeville, WI - Simple Earth Hops ( announced today that Matt Sweeny is opening up the hopyard for a Spring activities workshop. Prepare to get your hands dirty as you participate in this hands-on workshop to show the Spring time maintenance in the hopyard including training hop bines and stringing the hop trellis. Attendance to this free ticketed event does require registration at . This event is limited to ONLY 40 tickets.

When: Saturday, May 21 · 11:00am - 2:00pm - CST

Where: Hopyard at Greenspirit, 4352 State Road 23, Dodgeville, WI

Contact: For further information please contact Matt Sweeny at /

About Simple Earth Hops:

Founded in 2009, Simple Earth Hops provides locally grown ethical hop solutions to local brewers in Wisconsin and the Midwest. Connect with them on Facebook for up-to-date information about this event or register for free tickets at Eventbrite.

This training is being held is association with NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant project FNC09-748.

Missouri Grazing Dairy Farms to Host National Meeting

Source: University of Missouri Pasture Based Dairies

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The latest in dairy farming from the farm to the international view will be told at the Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, July 6-8, at Joplin, Mo.

The program will be in the Holiday Inn Conference Center the first and third days. On the middle day, July 7, bus tours will go to grazing dairy farms in Southwest Missouri.

The conference held every two years brings dairy producers from across the nation and the world. Primary emphasis is on Midwest grazing.

"Most all topics will apply across the country," said Tony Rickard, MU Extension dairy specialist, Cassville, Mo. "We're not just talking about the fescue belt."

In the opening session, Jay Waldvogel, vice president, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), will give a global view: "Where Grazing Dairies Fit In."

That afternoon, Rickard will talk to local users. He will describe "Hybrid Systems-How to Bring Grass into High Production System.

"We're finding that producers with high performance herds on mixed rations are finding ways to use both winter and summer-annual grazing. That lowers feed costs by 85 cents to a dollar per head per day."

Other topics that afternoon include "Environmental and Regulatory Issues," "Milk Quality on Pasture," "Heifer Raising, Grazing Systems" and "Using the Grazing Wedge." Those topics will be by Missouri speakers.

Managing Pasture-based Systems in Hot Climates," "Mob Grazing," and "Once-a-Day Milking" will be discussed by speakers from afar, including New Zealand.

Buses will go to Meier Dairy, Monett, Mo., Wentworth Dairies, Pierce City, Mo., and Mariposa Dairies, Pierce City, Mo.

The third morning features speakers at the Convention Center.

Rob Kallenbach, MU Extension forage specialist, Columbia, and Dennis Hancock, forage specialist, University of Georgia, will start the program. Their topic: "Planning Forage-Agronomy Systems."

Paul Rapnicki, University of Minnesota, will talk on "Low-stress Dairy Handling." Joe Horner, MU Extension dairy economist, will tell "Key Drivers of Profitability on Pasture-based Dairies."

Randy Mooney, dairy grazier, Rogersville, Mo., and chairman of the DFA board, will give a closing summary.

Mooney was an early adopter of managed grazing, Rickard said. He went from using temporary fences and hauling water to installing permanent electric fences and trenching in water lines.

After lunch the last day, attendees can visit other Missouri grazing dairies on their way home. Maps will be given to those who sign up.

Registration for the three-day event is $150 per person until June 20. Late registrations will add $25. Discounts for spouses and other members from the same farm are available. Early registration is encouraged.

Presentations from the grazing conference will be available free on the website or in a bound book for $25 after the event.

Details and registration forms are available at For more information, call Ryan Milhollin: (573) 882-0668 or

University of Missouri Pastured Based Dairies was a Missouri State SARE Professional Development Program activity for 2 years. For more information, contact Debi Kelly at

The Low-Down on Local Foods

Interest in where our food comes from, sparked by a desire for more healthful foods, and has spawned a newfound appreciation for local foods and communities. This webinar complements the First Quarter 2010 issue of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA ) peer-reviewed science magazine Choices -

Moderator - Lindsey Loving, Senior Director, Food Ingredient & Technology Communications, International Food Information Council Foundation

"What Does Local Mean?" Larry Lev, Ph.D. Oregon State University Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Presentation will describe current concepts of local, the central role that farm-direct marketing channels play in consumer perceptions of local, and the limited opportunities these channels offer for increasing local food consumption.

"Can Local Go Mainstream?" Robert P. King, Ph.D., former NCR-SARE Administrative Council member and University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics
Talk will focus on the prospects for and barriers to local foods gaining a greater share of sales in mainstream supermarket and food service distribution channels.

"Nutritional Differences and Consumer Insights on Local Foods" Mary Lee Chin, MS, RD
Registered Dietitian and President, Nutrition Edge Communications
Presentation will focus on nutritional comparisons of foods that are from local, regional, and national origins, as well as discussing consumer insights.

Please join us for this exciting event!

How to Register: To RSVP for the event please register prior to the webinar at

The presentations will be saved using web-seminar technology.
Registration is free but space is limited.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Missouri No-tiller's Quest

Source: No-Till Farmer, April 2011
By Martha Mintz, Contributing Editor

SOME DIG DEEP to identify the yield robbers on their farms. Jules Willott only
had to dig 3 inches.

After years of letting his fertilizer rep take his soil samples, the Mexico, Mo.,no-tiller decided to do the job himself. What he discovered as he dug his soil samples was a shallow compaction layer.

"There was good, loose soil for 3 inches, then a 1.5-inch layer that was hard and then good soil below that," Willott observed. "Our roots were getting through, but I think it must have slowed them down a little."

The 15-year no-till veteran wasn't convinced it was compacted enough to hurt yields on his soybean, wheat, clover and milo crops, but it was on his mind. When bad weather kept him from planting a crop in 2009, he decided to seize the opportunity to experiment with some compactionalleviating cover crops.

Montgomery City, Mo., regional extension specialist Richard Hoormann was more
than happy to help. He'd been looking for opportunities to see how cover crops that
had been successful in other regions would perform locally.

Together, they broadcast-seeded two timings of nine different cover crops on Willott's challenging claypan soils. Wheat, purple-top turnips, oil radishes; tillage radishes, annual ryegrass, Austrian winter peas, rape and other turnip varieties were planted in 22-by-125-foot plots.

Diverse Benefits

The cover crops were planted from August through October. They grew, winter killed and then Willott no-till grow deeper.

"They may also work to scavenge some nitrogen and phosphate from deeper in the
soil profile." Willott hopes these benefits can boost soybean yields. Milo and wheat are more profitable for Willott, but he drilled soybeans into the plots in spring of 2010.

Wet conditions in the fall of 2009 meant the later September and October seedings didn't emerge well. But the August-seeded covers grew well and showed several benefits.

"The radishes provided some weed suppression, which I didn't expect," Willott recalls. "In the spring of 2010, there were absolutely no weeds where the radishes had been used as a cover crop."

Hoormann noted that across the plots there was a lot of cheatgrass, Japanese brome and a variety of broadleaf winter annuals.

But the plots where tillage radishes, oil radishes or purple-top turnip were planted were virtually weed-free in early spring. He credits this largely to their broad rosette canopies blocking weed-seed germination.

"This would be a great benefit for those who want to use cover crops but want to do an early planting in the spring," Hoormann says. "They would be able to plant early without having to worry about burndown for a cover crop or weeds."

There were no weeds, but the radishes and turnips did leave 2- to 3-inch-diameter holes that extended through Willott' s shallow compaction layer.

"I'm definitely considering working them into my rotation and they should fit easily behind my wheat crop," he says. "It looks like they will be able to loosen up that compaction layer and serve as a channel to help guide the roots of my other crops to grow deeper.

"They may also work to scavenge some nitrogen and phosphate from deeper in the
soil profile."

Willott hopes these benefits can boost soybean yields. Milo and wheat are more profitable for
Willott, but he must keep soybeans in the rotation due to the allelopathic effect milo has on wheat. If they're going to stay, he wants to push them out of the 30-to-40- bushel yield range and into the 50-to-60- bushel yield range.

His cover-crop experiment may have put him on the right path. Besides compaction alleviation and weed suppression, soybean harvest brought another pleasant surprise
from the cover-crop plots.

"The yield monitor was bouncing around all over the place when I harvested," Willott
says. "Yields were higher in the cover-crop plots, especially where we planted the tillage radishes."

In four replications of the August timing, tillage radishes were shown to increase soybean yields by 3.5 bushels per acre. It isn't conclusive data, but it's a step in the right direction.

Willott volunteered his acres for another round of cover-crop plots last fall. Several other area producers are joining in, too, as part of a larger project to expand cover-crop
usage and education in Missouri.

Cover crops are already gaining strong interest from extension and producers. Willott's cover crop plots drew about 35 visitors during a 2010 field day despite heavy rains - a credit, Hoormann says, to the growing interest in cover crops in Missouri.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Students Learn about Sustainable Agriculture in Worthington, MN

Source: Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — Students in Worthington High School’s Ag 10 and Floriculture classes received a challenge Monday morning — to find a way to feed a growing world population with finite resources, and do so in a manner that protects the land and sustains it for generations to come.

Sustainability is a buzz word in today’s world of agriculture, and Monday marked the first class in a three-year project to get today’s youths thinking about tomorrow’s global food and fiber needs. Rolf Mahlberg, former WHS and Minnesota West Community and Technical College ag instructor, and Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator, are leading the project locally, thanks to a Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education (SARE) grant. The two, along with Minnesota West ag teacher Jeff Rogers, recently completed training provided by the University of Minnesota’s Southwest Research and Outreach Center.

“Our goal is to say your generation needs to figure out how agriculture can stay sustainable,” said Mahlberg. Recent events in Japan that have led to elevated radioactivity in food and soil have highlighted further the need to protect lands used for production agriculture.

Mahlberg said students today need to be problem solvers for the demands that will be placed on agriculture production in the future. From 1900 to 2011, the world population grew from 1 billion to nearly 7 billion people.

By 2050, the population is expected to reach 10.5 billion people. At the same time, the amount of available land for production agriculture will stay the same. That means farmers need to find ways to get more production from the land without destroying it for future generations.

“We have to produce food in a sustainable fashion so that the people that will follow us on this planet have the same opportunities to feed this world that we had when we inherited it,” Mahlberg said.

On Monday, he and Livdahl took the first step in explaining sustainability by having students create a crop residue measuring tape. Students attached beads at one-foot intervals along a 53-foot-long cord, which will be used during a visit to the Mahlberg farm later this spring. There, they will stretch the measuring tape out across the grain of the field and calculate the amount of residue present based on the number of beads that come in contact with it. A field with a minimum of 30 percent residue present is considered a sustainable ag practice, Mahlberg said.

Why is sustainability important on agricultural land?

“When raindrops strike exposed soil, they will break the structure up and allow that particle to become mobile and flow with water,” Mahlberg said. “If rain hits the residue, the destructive force of that raindrop is absorbed by the residue. More residue means more erosion control.”

More erosion control leads to less soil loss and improved productivity.

“We don’t want farmers to sacrifice a bunch of income,” Mahlberg said. “We want them to think in terms of sustainability and production. We need to grow food.

“This world is ours for today, but it isn’t ours to use up,” he added. “It’s ours to be supportive of.”

Sustainability is not destroying the planet while trying to grow large crops to feed the world.

“Whatever we do has to be economical — it has to be good for the people that do it,” added Livdahl. “Our population is growing quickest in the countries with the least resources. Food and fiber will be needed to meet people’s basic needs.”

Livdahl said as a growing world demands more, non-renewable resources will be more expensive, like gasoline and fertilizers.

“We are 5 percent of the world population and we use 25 percent of the resources,” he said.

Students of today are needed to become the scientists of tomorrow — to answer the tough questions about sustainable agriculture, from food production to converting grain into energy, Mahlberg added.

Mahlberg and Livdahl will meet with WHS students again today as they plant corn in soils containing varying fertility rates. Throughout the remainder of the quarter, students will monitor plant progress and record data on nutrient management for use in proving or disproving a hypothesis.

Students will also take a field trip to Mahlberg’s farm to measure crop residue this spring, and summer field trips are planned as well.

Mahlberg and Livdahl plan to lead classes on sustainability at Round Lake High School this spring as well.

“I want every student that I can get a hold of exposed to the subject,” Mahlberg said.

Midwest Aronia Association to Hold 1st Annual Conference

Source: Vinton Today

By Pattie Upmeyer, Benton County Extension

Midwest Aronia Association will hold their 1st Annual Conference, bringing together the largest gathering of aronia pioneer, growers, and producers in the United States, on April 8th & 9th, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Featuring speakers from the US and Poland, information will be presented on the science, growing, and marketing of the aronia berry. Recent research into the nutritional and healthful value of aronia melanocarpa indicates high levels of antioxidants, prompting regional, national, and world-wide interest in cultivation and consumption of the aronia berry.

The impressive line up of speakers includes Dr. Stanislaw Pluta, an Associate Professor at the Research Institute of Pomology and Floriculture in Poland who has been involved in fruit plant breeding at the institute since 1985 and has had extensive research work and educational experiences throughout a number of countries.

The MAA is pleased to introduce Dr. Pluta as the keynote speaker, and also welcomes Maury Wills, Bureau Chief of the Agriculture Diversification and Market Development Bureau of IDALS; Doug Stryuk, legal council and policy advisor to the Iowa Secretary of State; Dr. Jonathon Smith, PhD, founder/co-owner of Wisconsin-based Alpine Foods, a company that processes value-added fruits; Harlan Hamernick of Clarkson, NE, founder/past owner of Bluebird Nursery, Inc. and current owner of Wild Plums, a nursery specializing in rare and unusual woodies and the propogation of 'Superberries'; Andy Larson, ISU Extension Specialist in Small Farm Sustainability and coordinator for the Iowa SARE Professional Development Program; Joanna Skorzynska, co-owner of Firma Weremczuk, a Polish company that manufactures aronia berry harvesters used in Poland and other EU countries; and Tatania Emmick, Associate Scientist, and Jiang Hu, Regulatory Affairs, from Kemin Ind.

This event, open to MAA members and the public, is co-sponsored by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Mark your calendars for this rare and exciting educational and networking experience regarding the aronia berry. For more information, or to register for this limited seating event, please visit

Food to Market Workshop Rescheduled

Source: Hot Springs Star

HOT SPRINGS - A workshop for entrepreneurs interested in marketing food products will be held March 28 in Hot Springs. This session was rescheduled from Feb. 25 due to weather. The day-long workshop is sponsored by the South Dakota Cooperative Extension Service, and costs include lunch and materials. Scholarships are available to Horizons communities and through SARE.

Registration for the day begins at 9 a.m. at Canyon Cottage on the grounds of the State Veterans Home in Hot Springs. It will conclude by 4:30 p.m. To register for a lunch count, please call the Fall River County Extension Office at 745-5133.

The workshops are designed for people who plan to sell foods they have made at home, producers interested in marketing meat products, and growers thinking of expanding sales of food products. Topics will include food-safety in production and handling, SD regulations for sales, product labeling, Farmers Market and direct sales, researching market trends, and building a marketing plan. The end of the day will feature SD resource providers offering their assistance in small group sessions.

Extension Food Safety Specialist Joan Hegerfeld-Baker said Extension staff at the workshops can explain the new state laws and make sure sellers are on the proper path to earn money from products they made or grew at home.

Conservation Program Offered for Boone County Women Farmland Owners

Lynn Heuss, 515-201-9405,
Leigh Adcock, 515-460-2477,


BOONE—Women who own or manage farmland in Boone and neighboring counties are invited to participate in a free conservation discussion and field tour on Thursday, April 14, from 8:30 – 3:30 p.m. at the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid. The program is called Women Caring for the Land.

Women own or co-own 47% of Iowa’s farmland, and often express strong conservation values in meetings and surveys. However, many are unsure of exactly how to reach their conservation goals and what resources are available to help them. Women Caring for the Land offers a peer-to-peer, informal discussion format to allow women landowners to talk about their individual land stewardship goals, facilitated by women conservation experts who can share resources available such as USDA cost-share programs, state loans, and other tools.

All interested women are welcome, including owners, operators and inheritors of farmland, regardless of their degree of knowledge about conservation. A free lunch will be provided. In order for us to get an accurate meal count, please RSVP by Monday, April 11, by calling Lynn Heuss at 515-201-9405 or emailing her at

The program begins with registration and coffee at 8:30 a.m. at The Iowa Arboretum, 1875 Peach Ave., Madrid. The discussion will begin at 9 a.m., and will include a segment on protecting, rescuing and restoring land so it is able to sustain wildflowers, grasses and trees for habitat and beauty. Discussion leader for this topic will be Danielle Wirth, who has worked as a park ranger, an environmental educator, a volunteer restoring prairies and woodlands, and has designed and taught these techniques to students at Drake University and Des Moines Area Community College. Danielle is also certified as a Wildlands Firefighter II. Other topics of conversation for the day may include management of pasture and timberlands, prairie and pond restoration, alternative cropping options, using leases to manage conservation with tenants, and others according to the interests of the participants.

After lunch, participants will have a chance to talk in more detail in small groups about their particular areas of interest. A field tour of nearby prairie and savanna restoration sites will be offered in the afternoon. The meeting will end at the Arboretum with a wrap-up and dessert around 3:30 p.m.

This session of Women Caring for the Land is sponsored by Women, Food and Agriculture Network in partnership with the Boone Soil and Water Conservation District, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship - Division of Soil Conservation, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The series is funded by a grant from the USDA’s North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.

Learn more about WFAN on the web:


For more information on this NCR-SARE Research and Education Grant program project, visit the SARE reporting site at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

NCR-SARE Announces 2011 Call for PDP Preproposals

The 2011 North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program’s (NCR-SARE) Professional Development Program Call for Preproposals is now available online at

NCR-SARE's Professional Development Program (PDP) provides funds for professional development projects that provide sustainable agriculture training to agricultural professionals and educators in the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), other governmental agencies, and educators in the profit and non-profit sector serving the food and fiber system.

Projects can be up to three years in duration, and funding level is capped at $75,000 for each project, but projects requesting less than full amount are encouraged. Approximately $365,000 will be available for funding projects.

Any questions regarding the North Central SARE PDP program should be addressed to PDP Regional Coordinator, Dr. Rob Myers at 573-882-1547 or

The deadline for preproposals is 4:30 pm CDT on Wednesday, May 18, 2011.

Cover Your Cover Crops: A Guide

A Guide to Which Programs are Most Likely to Partially Reimburse You for Cover Cropping

Source: Corn & Soybean Digest

Need help with cover-crop expenses? It’s available through a virtual smorgasbord of government and state programs.

The alphabet of programs – EQIP, CSP, SARE, MRBI, GLRI and more – offer qualifying growers $20-50 or more/acre in assistance. They are available through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and some state entities and are especially a hit on no-till and strip-till operations. (Program descriptions and application instructions are available at the NRCS website:

Brothers Keith and Brian Berns, Bladen, NE, use cover crops in their corn, soybean and wheat rotation and depend on a CSP (Conservation Stewardship Program) contract to make it happen. They also operate Green Cover Seed Co.

“We saw three times as much interest in cover crops this year over last,” says Keith Berns. “A lot of guys are working off a CSP program checklist. It’s a good program.” The Berns follow their winter wheat with “a mix of grasses, legumes and other components” to help increase the biological life of the soil until corn is planted. The result is less moisture and soil loss in winter and a stronger start for corn.

Many cover crops are planted after fall crops, a timing situation that causes many to forego the process, according to a survey last year by Corn & Soybean Digest (see, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC), West Lafayette, IN.

But the value of cover crops in preserving precious water and soil while enhancing nutrients can’t be challenged. It’s causing more growers to use them and seek financial assistance to help cover the cost, says Bill Kuenstler, NRCS conservation agronomist, Central National Technology Support Center, Fort Worth, TX.

Adds CTIC’s Karen Scanlon, “I think assistance is one way to increase their adoption. With the right financial and technical help, growers will select the best cover crops for their operation and know how to adapt their management to maximize the benefits of cover crops.”

EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) is popular for growers without a full-fledged NRCS conservation program. In Iowa, for example, growers in 2010 could receive up to $60/acre for planting winter-hardy species like cereal rye or winter wheat. Up to $41 or more was available for non-winter-hardy, such as oats and spring wheat. For a living mulch, such as common vetch, about $56/acre was available.

“EQIP and related initiatives such as GLRI, Agriculture Water Efficiency Program (AWEP), or Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI) are popular in Indiana and other states,” says Barry Fisher, NRCS Indiana state agronomist, pointing out that cover crops could receive priority over other practices when assistance funding is considered.

Kuenstler says most growers should be eligible for EQIP, since it helps address soil erosion and quality, nutrient and pest management problems.

“CSP, on the other hand, is aimed at producers already doing a pretty good job of managing resource problems and want to do an even better job. So a producer who has erosion and nutrient-management concerns under control, but wants to improve soil quality, would qualify for the enhancements that include cover crops.”

Fisher encourages growers to take advantage Conservation Cropping System workshops and other programs in Indiana and elsewhere. Information on applying for EQIP and other programs is available online, as well as cover-crop management tips.

“While there, check with the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to see if it or any of its partners offer any assistance through a special watershed project or a water-quality grant,” he says. “Many SWCDs have cover-crop funds to offer.”

Fisher says other assistance is available through Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG). Under CIG, EQIP funds are used to award competitive grants to non-federal governmental or non-governmental organizations, tribes or individuals.

Keith Berns says the cost of a typical cover-crop seed is $20-30/acre, so EQIP, CSP and other funding can help cover much of the cost. His family company ( has a cover-crop calculator to help determine a program’s cost. Indiana and other state NRCS offices also offer cost calculators.

Funding for 2011 NRCS programs should be available, says Fisher, but could tighten as the year progresses. Also, the popularity of cover crops may cause seed shortages, particularly for higher quality seed varieties, he adds. “Do your homework on best varieties for your area and talk to your seed dealers early. Be cautious of cheap VNS (variety not stated) seed.”

Even if funds aren’t available, consider that many cover crops can scavenge 50-70 lbs. of nitrogen that would otherwise be lost through leaching or denitrification.

“Cover crops will also break up compaction, build organic matter and reduce soil erosion, all of which lead to healthier, more productive soil,” he says.


Keith Berns was a 2007 NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant recipient. To read more about Berns' project, visit the SARE project reporting site at

Monday, February 28, 2011

Agritourism Event for Farmers in Kansas

Source: Kansas Farmer

If you've been thinking there might be an agritourism application for your farm or if you are interested in Farmers Market direct marketing, then a Feb. 26 conference in Clyde is one you don't want to miss.

The "Direct Marketing Tools for Farmers Markets and Agritourism Enterprises" Conference will cover different aspects of of agritourism, profitability, marketing and high tunnel production.

Conference speakers include farmers market managers, fruit and vegetable farmers and others experienced in agricultural marketing and agritourism.

The conference will be held at the Clifton-Clyde High School. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the conference will end at 4:30 p.m. The registration fee is $10 per person and includes lunch. Checks can be made payable to "Clyde Economic Development" and mailed with an accompanying registration form to Direct Marketing Conference, 1651 N. 270 Road, Clyde, KS 66938.

Sponsors of the conference include K-State Research and Extension's River Valley District, Clyde Economic Development, North Central Kansas Specialty Crop Project, Kansas Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, Washington County Farm Bureau, Kansas Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka.

More information is available on the Web at or by contacting David Coltrain, community development and horticulture extension agent for the River Valley Extension District, at 785-325-2121 or

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NCR-SARE Seeking Nominations for Administrative Council Members

NCR-SARE is seeking nominees for five seats on its Administrative Council (AC) as follows:
  • Kansas – farmer/rancher*
  • Indiana – extension representative
  • South Dakota – research representative
  • At large** – USDA-NRCS representative
  • At large – agribusiness representative
*Should be actively engaged in farming or ranching in Kansas.
**At large representatives should be from one of the 12 states that comprise the North Central SARE region. Those states are IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, and WI.

The term for each of these SARE Administrative Council slots is four years, and is expected to include two meetings a year, typically 3-day meetings in November and March at various Midwest locations. Travel expenses are fully covered for travel to AC meetings, and farmers/ranchers receive a modest daily honorarium. Nominees should have a basic understanding of sustainable agriculture and be comfortable with reviewing grant proposals and participating in a group decision-making process. More information about NCR-SARE and the AC is at

To nominate yourself or someone else for a seat on the NCR-SARE AC, submit the following information by 4:30 pm, Feb. 28:
  • an email or letter regarding the nomination, which must mention which slot the nomination is for and what the nominee would bring to the AC
  • indication that the nominee is willing to serve and come to meetings if elected
  • a brief (two pages or less) bio or CV for the nominee
Nominations can be emailed to or mailed to 1390 Eckles Ave, Suite 120, St Paul, MN 55108. We will acknowledge receipt of the materials and send a reply regarding the outcome of the election.

Since 1988, NCR-SARE has awarded more than $40 million worth of competitive grants to farmers and ranchers, researchers, educators, public and private institutions, nonprofit groups, and others exploring sustainable agriculture in 12 states. NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council represents various agricultural sectors, states and organizations. It sets program priorities and makes granting decisions for the region. A collection of farm and non-farm residents, the AC includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in our 12 states. Council members come from regional farms and ranches, university extension and research programs, and nonprofits. In addition, the AC includes regional representatives of the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state agencies, and agribusinesses.

Monday, February 7, 2011

South Dakota ‘Goat Lady’ Wants Everybody to Say Cheese!

Source: The Brookings Register
BY: Vicki Schuster

Joan Williams of Arlington demonstrates how goat milk is pasteurized to make a soft cheese called chèvre.

There’s an extra dozen kids – give or take one or two – running around Joan and Gordon Williams’ farm these days.

They aren’t human – they’re the “goat kind” of kids, a mixed herd of Alpine and Saanen dairy goats.

They’re there because Joan Williams has a dream – a cheesy dream.

Over the past decade, Joan has been adding to her herd of goats at the family farm southwest of Sinai in hopes of making and marketing chèvre – a creamy, tart cheese made from goat milk.

Being creative and ambitious by nature, Joan was turned on to the idea of starting a goat-cheese business after watching an episode of the “Martha Stewart Show” that featured small U.S. cheese producers.

“It just kind of looked like fun,” she says. “So (my husband and I) found some goats, and I started playing around with my idea.”

What she makes is called farmstead or artisanal cheese, which means that the cheese is made from the milk of animals on the property. Joan says her goats provide the milk not only for fresh chèvre (which is French for “goat”) but feta, crottins, St. Maure and other varieties.

Looking out the window of her bakery and smiling at the sight of her 20 hoofed friends (many of whom have been born on her farm), she says she couldn’t be more than satisfied with her career choice.

The bakery, by the way, is another part of the couple’s well-known Cider Hill Farm business.

The Williams family started Cider Hill, now a 120-acre produce operation, about 14 years ago when Joan wanted to find a way to make a living and stay home with her kids (the human kind). She had run a small graphic design company in Sioux Falls, but her yearning to return to the house and area where she grew up brought her back to Brookings County. (The farm’s location is usually given as Arlington.)

“We had little kids at the time, and I was looking for something to do that allowed me to stay home with them,” she says.

Inspired by trips to France, Joan began baking bread to sell at area outlets.

“I started out with gardening and going to farmers’ markets and very quickly decided that was too short of a season, so I expanded into bread.”

The bakery has taken off like wildfire. She bakes at least 300 loaves a week – and as many as 100-200 loaves a day during her summer “busy season.” In all, Joan has about 19 artisanal varieties from which to choose.

“If I had my way, I’d spend all day making sourdough,” she jokes.

She uses locally produced ingredients in her breads whenever possible, giving preference to organic items.

She also makes pies, lefse, scones, caramel rolls and cookies and bars.

She added “80-proof pies” to her line in 2009. She jokes that she was “unable to find lard that doesn’t taste like bicycle grease,” so she had to find a replacement recipe for her mom’s never-fail pie crust.

Another product the company markets that customers can’t seem to get enough of is a tasty wood-fired pizza. (Gordon and Joan even haul their wood-fired pizza oven to special community events.)

Cider Hill now has outlets not only in nearby Brookings, but in Madison and Sioux Falls, and the Williamses even sell products at the farm.

Lots of Red Tape

Implementing the cheese and milk into her business has been a slow and gradual process, Joan says. The demands that come with raising five (human) kids, her bread sales and “government red tape” have slowed her down.

About eight years ago, she got a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to help underwrite some of the costs of developing her cheese operation. She said there isn’t really a lot of farmstead cheese being made in South Dakota, so the state is working on the criteria for her licensure. Currently, Dimock Dairy Cooperative in Dimock is the state’s lone producer of artisanal cheese, distributing its product in a five-state area.

“(The S.D. Department of Agriculture) doesn’t quite know what to do with me,” says Joan. “It seems like every time I’m ready to start selling, they throw something new at me. Hopefully, by the summer they’ll give us the OK.”

But she will wait patiently. Joan, who happens to be a Brookings Farmer’s Market vendor, is keeping her fingers crossed that she will be selling cheese by May 1.

In the meantime, to help her business remain successful, the whole family pitches in. When husband Gordon, a registered nurse, isn’t helping dialysis patients at the Brookings hospital, he takes charge of daily farm operations such as maintaining equipment and feeding the goats.

Over the years, the family’s noticed that the animals have a “real personality” to them. “Yeah, if you walk by them and don’t say something to them, they give you this look like they’re almost mad at you,” says Gordon.

No More Chickens, Cows

At one time, the family had chickens and tried cows, but Joan says it was “more than we wanted on our plates.”

Her son, Zach, 23, does most of the milking of the goats, once a day using a vacuum pump. Son Andrew, 11, helps take care of the goats, too. Max, 21, makes wood-fired pizzas and takes them, along with her breads into Brookings.

Daughters Anna, 32, and Molly, 28, have left the farm, but in the past helped with production and marketing.

During the summer, which is Joan’s busiest time of the year, she also employs two part-time helpers.

Although phasing in the goat milk and cheese operation has been a gradual thing, Joan has been able to make some money in the meantime off “Billy and Nanny.” A change in state law last year has enabled her to get a license to sell raw goat milk. Goat milk is appealing to many – especially to those people with cow milk allergies – because goat milk fat is easier to digest than cow’s milk. It’s more similar to human milk than cow’s milk, too.

In most of the non-Western world, goat milk and goat cheese are the preferred dairy product. In fact, goat cheese has been made for thousands of years and is probably one of the very first “manufactured” dairy products.

Once Joan’s cheese operation is in full swing, she says it won’t take long to crank out the final product. The one-day process requires pasteurization of the milk, letting it cool and then adding some culture and rennet. Rennet allows protein components in milk to form (curd) and permits liquid components to separate and run off as whey.

The mixture is left to sit overnight and then is drained using cheesecloth or a colander.

Approximately one gallon of milk can make one pound of cheese. Joan estimates her goats produce a half-gallon of milk per goat per day.

20 is Enough

Although she considers herself a creative individual, she says once the State of South Dakota gives her the green light, she doesn’t anticipate adding to her herd.

“I don’t think I want to milk more than 20 to 25 goats per day,” she says. “I’ve got enough of them for what I want to do.”

But she hopes to bring her love for the local food culture full circle, especially to consumers who crave a new, and unique dining experience. In the past, Joan and Chef John Gilbertson have organized an outdoor event called HarvesTable near Renner. Its purpose is to get the chef, guests and producers together for a special meal in an outdoor, rural setting. Only locally produced foods go on the menu.

Joan and Gilbertson hope to organize more of them in the future, perhaps in the Brookings or Arlington areas.

And she may even take the idea to another level by using the back area of her bakery to someday put in a small restaurant.

“I love the idea behind what I’m doing,” she says. “The possibilities are endless.”

Until the Brookings Farmer’s Market opens in April, Brookings-area shoppers can get Williams’ Cider Hill breads locally at Nature’s Paradise Health Foods every Tuesday. Cider Hill is also a producer on the South Dakota Local Foods Cooperative. For a complete listing of products, prices, locations where customers can buy Williams’ goods and other product inquiries, check out the company’s web site at

It’s ‘Farmville – For Real’: Farmers map out plans for new revenue opportunities

Source: The Messenger

MARSHALLTOWN - They were as diverse as the farming operations they came from, or wanted to start.

Forty people attended an afternoon-long session called "Farmville - For Real" on Friday at Marshalltown Community College during the first of a two-day annual conference for Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Some were young farmers just getting a start. Others were older farmers looking to expand their operations into new revenue streams. Others were ending "town career" and wanted to retire into farming. Before they left, each operation had the chance to sit down with one of eight mentoring farmers who would review their plans and offer advice for getting started.

Leading the workshop was Andy Larson, coordinator for the Iowa State University Sustainable agriculture Research and Education office. Larson is also an ISU Extension field specialist in small farm sustainability.

Larson told the 40-person audience, that they would begin the first steps in identifying what they envisioned for their farms in the near- and long-term future, as well as understand the skills they had available to make the dream come true and where they would need outside help.

At the event was Joe Monahan, who has a small fruit and vegetable farm in Jackson Township in northeast Boone County. His dream is to add an acre or two of vegetable crops with some mechanization to sell at area farmers markets. He said he said several unused outbuildings and is also studying if any of them can be economically converted into greenhouses.

Monahan sells through the Ames farmers market, as well as through an online CSA, or customer supported agriculture. He's looking for something unique that will make his food stand stand out among the others. He said his wife bakes artisan bread for the venture, often selling out before the vegetables. He recently built her a wood-fired oven that will bake 12 loaves at a time.

"Her bread is more marketable than my vegetables," he said.

He recently found another niche at the market by planting Indian and Asian vegetables that were well-received in the university town. He's hoping that expanding a couple of more acres will give him the chance to plant more unique vegetables that will find those niche consumers.

"I want to be outside farming," Monahan said. "I don't want to farm from the office."

Values and Visions

Larson had the workshop open with a values study that helped each participant understand what they value most in farming and being farmers. Once he had them distill their key values to find their No. 1 priority, he told them, "This value will influence every decision you make on your farm."

Following that exercise participants had to draw picture of how they would want to see their farm sometime in the future. Participants drew in buildings, livestock, conservation practices, quality of life images and even a few wind turbines.

This was followed by a critical look at each person's available skills in bringing the new farm operations into existence and in what areas they would need help in making it happen.

"You don't have to go solo to get these things done," Larson told the audience. "There's something to be said about hiring out or have a management team.

"I mean are you going to be your own soil tester and consultant?"

Meet with Mentors

Following a break, the workshop attendees met with eight mentoring farmers who had experience in a variety of local foods and niche marketing experiences.

"This is a reality check," Larson told the group.

Monahan met with Sean Skeehan, of Chariton. Monahan said he has built a hoop building for vegetables. His chickens' eggs are used for the artisan bread. He wanted to know how to prioritize the operations various revenue streams.

"Conventional farming is a whole lot easier," Monahan told Skeehan. "I don't want to be a gentleman farmer. I want a return on my investment."

Skeehan told him that income "is a tricky thing." The Monahan operation have to learn to live with less, especially paying for its own health care coverage.

"Diversity is essential," Skeehan said. He explained that when some of his vegetables had been damaged by herbicide drift from a neighboring farm, other parts of the operation, such as his honey business, helped to balance the books.

He recommended the Monahans use a spreadsheet program for projecting incomes and using social media to build a following of customers, letting them know where he will be on market days.

"Don't play the price cut game," Skeehan said. "We set the price and stay with it. If we have to take some of it home, we do."


For Joe Monahan, time spent with mentor Skeehan was helpful.

"A lot of us don't have the background experience," Monahan said. "We didn't grow up on farms and our fathers didn't farm. So getting the feedback and hearing others experiences is helpful."

He's hoping to get more confidence in the years to come in know the right price for his vegetables that will be good for him and the customer.

He said he also picked up ideas for keeping produce fresh enroute to the market and how to properly display vegetables at the market.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, ext. 453, or at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Agritourism Risks, Liabilities To Be Detailed At Workshop


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Farmers wanting to get into the agritourism industry can better understand the risks and potential liability they will face by attending a workshop being held next month in conjunction with the Indiana Horticultural Congress and Trade Show.

The workshop will be on Jan. 18 at the Wyndham Hotel, 2544 Executive Drive, in Indianapolis near the old airport terminal.

Participants will learn about risks and liability associated with such agritourism activities and operations such as hayrides, workshops, seasonal festivals, petting zoos, bed-and-breakfast inns and wineries.

"The list of entertaining and educational opportunities right here in Indiana seems almost limitless," said Roy Ballard, a Purdue Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Hancock County and a workshop organizer. "But an issue that farmers must consider before entering into an agritourism venture or expanding an existing operation is how to manage risk and limit liability when inviting the public onto a working farm."

One session will feature a panel of producers who will discuss how they manage risk as part of their business planning. They are Amy Kelsay of Kelsay Farms, Whiteland; Greg Hochstedler of Boondocks Farm, Knightstown; and Tom Dull of Dull's Tree Farm, Thorntown.

There also will be a roundtable discussion for those who have an agritourism venue or are considering the possibility and want to share experiences, opportunities and trends in the industry.

Featured speakers and titles of their presentations include:

* Phil Lehmkuhler, Indiana state director of USDA Rural Development, "The State of Rural Indiana and the Role of Agritourism in its Future."

* Shannon Mirus, staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center, University of Arkansas, "Anticipating and Managing Risk and Liability in Your Agritourism Venture" and "What is Limited Liability for Agritourism and How Are Other States Employing It?"

* Debbie Trocha, director of the Indiana Cooperative Development Center, "An Indiana Direct-to-Consumer Association: How Can it Benefit Your Operation?"

Those wanting to attend the workshop should register online ( for the Indiana Horticultural Congress and Trade Show, which will be Jan. 18-20. Cost is $65 for one day of admission, with children under 16 admitted for free. Individuals without Web access can register by contacting Tammy Goodale at 765-494-1296.

Those attending all three days of the horticulture congress can pay an $85 fee, allowing them to attend all of the sessions and the trade show.

The full agenda of the agritourism session is available by contacting Ballard at 317-462-1113,

The Agritourism Workshop, now in its seventh year, is sponsored by Purdue Extension, Indiana Office of Tourism Development, Indiana State Department of Agriculture, Indiana Cooperative Development Center, and U.S. Department of Agriculture's North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

More information about the Indiana Horticultural Congress is available at For questions and additional information, contact Goodale at 765-494-1296,

Grant Advising for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers

Source: MISA

Need help with your NCR-SARE grant proposal?

If you are a farmer who is a member of a historically socially disadvantaged group*, you are invited to use a grants advising service of the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.

MFAI’s GrantAdvisor can help you apply to grant and cost-share programs of your state or the federal government that could help you improve your farming business. These can be programs of any federal or state agency, not just the USDA. We will assist individual producers or associations of farmers who have never received a federal grant or cost-share before. We will also work with young nonprofits that are working directly with socially disadvantaged farmers to start or improve food-related businesses. We will also assist those working with disadvantaged youth involved in food or fiber production.

The Grants Advisor helps you decide whether a grant would be the best way to achieve your goals. If so, she will help you choose a grant program that fits your goals and help you outline a plan of work for you to follow to meet the application deadline and all proposal or application requirements. If not, she will suggest other resources you may choose to approach. The Advisor will help you identify local partners (agency staff, nonprofit organizations, or local volunteers with experience in grants and project management) to strengthen your project, to help you complete the proposal, and, if funding is awarded, to manage the project. The Advisor can assist you in preparing the proposal to ensure timely submission with necessary forms, attachments, and letters of support.

Most grant program deadlines are during the winter months, so please act now. Even for deadlines next fall or winter, it is best to start working now with the Grants Advisor. You can get your plan of work organized so that the next deadline does not sneak up on you. MFAI funds for this service are limited, so the sooner you contact the Grants Advisor, the greater the chance that you can use this service to advance your project or those you know who would qualify.

For more information please contact the Grants Advisor, Deirdre Birmingham, at (608) 219-4279 or .

This project is funded by Farm Aid.

* For purposes of this project, MFAI uses the USDA Risk Management Agency’s definition: “A socially disadvantaged (SDA) farmer, rancher, or agricultural producer is one of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic, or gender prejudice because of his or her identity as a member of the group without regard to his or her individual qualities. SDA groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.”

While MFAI will consider the application of other producers, the funders of this project set a priority on serving socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.