Local food and the USDA

by Tamara Scully

There isn’t a set definition of a local or regional food system within the USDA. But that doesn’t mean that local food isn’t a priority. In fact, local food systems are definitely on the USDA’s radar, and all initiatives focusing on local food are coordinated via the prominent Know Your Farmer/Know Your Food program.

Elanor Starmer, USDA’s National Coordinator and Advisor for Local and Regional Food Systems, outlined the characteristics of a local food system to a national audience, via a live webinar, “The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development,” held earlier this fall. Local food systems have all phases of the lifecycle of the food take place within a defined region, Starmer said. And, the benefits of such a food system impact the immediate community. These benefits include social, economic, environmental and nutritional improvements. Additionally, products in a local food system are identified as “local,” and “a lot of other values are conveyed with that product,” she said. [Read more…]

Chance for trophy buck makes 2015 Virginia Farm Show the ideal destination

CM-MR-2-VAFarmShow7by Jon M. Casey

Would you like to go on the deer-hunting trip of a lifetime? Well, the 2015 Virginia Farm Show can possibly make that happen, if you attend and register for the grand door prize that will be awarded Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at the Lee Publications, Inc. exhibit. Just ask the 2014 winners, Bob and Margaret Chandler of Staunton, VA about how exciting this prize can be.

It was at the 2014 Virginia Farm Show that Richard Huff III, co-owner of Keystone Valley Ranch, drew Bob’s name as the Grand Prize winner of a $2,000 credit toward a deer-hunting trip to Keystone Valley Ranch near Shermansdale, PA. Bob and Margaret got their trophy buck in late October. [Read more…]

The basics of farm transitions

CN-MR-1-Farm-transitions3389by Emily Enger

Transitioning the farm is one of the hardest things a farmer does. The process is both intimidating and emotionally exhausting. Where do you start? Who do you contact? How do you talk about it with your family? These issues and more led the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota to create the Farm Transitions Toolkit, a comprehensive, two year endeavor that now serves as a helpful, free resource to guide farmers through this tough process.

“People go through a farm transition once in their life,” said Karen Stettler, of the Land Stewardship Project. “So it’s not like you have previous experience to draw from. We’ve found that people have a lot of really good questions.” [Read more…]

Considerations for out-wintering the organic dairy herd

CEWM-MR-1-Outwinteringby Katie Navarra

Dairy operations are expensive. Costs to build and maintain facilities, purchase feed, provide proper ventilation, purchase bedding and dispose of manure add up quickly.

“It can be somewhat discouraging to new dairy farmers,” said Dr. Brad Heins at University of Minnesota-West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN, “a reduced input dairy (model) can be a way for new farmers to get involved without a lot of equity.”

Out wintering can be a successful method for managing a reduced input dairy herd. “The animals tend to stay relatively clean and you reduce bedding costs in out wintering systems,” he added, “but you must be able to respond to quickly changing weather conditions.”

In the webinar, titled Considerations for Out-Wintering the Organic Dairy Herd, which was hosted by eOrganic, Heins shared his results in out wintering University of Minnesota’s certified organic dairy herd. [Read more…]