Cultivating forest land for non-timber products

CN-MR-3-Cultivating forest1by Tamara Scully

Forest plants, native to the eastern United States, are in demand both domestically and internationally. While often wild-harvested, these medicinal plants can be readily cultivated in their natural environment. Whether it’s black cohash, goldenseal, or American ginseng, the potential for increasing forest cultivation of these crops is enormous.

“We’re talking about crops that have very exacting locations where they will grow,” Eric Burkhart, Program Director, Plant Science, at Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, Penn State University, said. “The way to approach it is to get to know your forest land. Don’t fight it. Work with that ecosystem.” [Read more…]

Dwarfing rootstock for new PYO business

CN-MR-2-ORCHARD RIDGE_1734by Sally Colby

The owners of a Gorham, Maine farm are hoping to become a hub for good, local food. “The general trend is moving toward becoming a suburb of Portland,” said Steven Bibula. “That’s good for us, because it’s an area that is densely populated by people who are very interested in local and artisan.” Bibula and his wife started Plowshares Farm with the intention of picking up where Bibula left off. His original farm enterprise was raising organic vegetables for a CSA, but it became apparent that their location was far enough inland that local customers weren’t willing to pay for CSA shares. Although Bibula was trained in organic growing, he has since abandoned that model in favor of carefully planned IPM that emphasizes appropriate rootstock, resistant varieties and minimal chemical applications. “I began moving away from the CSA model in 2012 by establishing fruit trees,” said Bibula, adding that he received significant help from state pomologist Renae Moran. “I found that I loved growing apples and the site was good for apples. The first planting was a modified tall spindle — it was modified to fit my equipment, with 15’ spacing between rows and 3’ to 6’ between trees depending on variety.” [Read more…]

Get ready for credit – prepare for your first farm loan Part 1

by Sanne Kure-Jensen

How does a beginning farmer secure their first farm loan? A farmer may wish to purchase equipment using a loan instead of taking on expensive credit card debt for cash flow until harvest brings cash. Most lenders seek similar business information to analyze when considering beginning farmer credit worthiness.

Short-term loans are used to finance seeds, fertilizers and/or other annual inputs. This can include cash to help farmers pay their farm and/or personal bills between harvests. Short-term loans are under a year and are repaid after harvest. Intermediate-term loans help farmers purchase capital equipment like tillers, tractors, coolers and have repayment terms up to seven years. Long-term loans for farmland may extend to 30 years.

Gary Matteson of the Farm Credit Council and Benneth Phelps of the Carrot Project shared their recommendations on planning for obtaining credit in a workshop for beginning farmer educators at the Beginning Farmer Learning Network Conference in late 2014. [Read more…]

Grazing dairy strategies

CM-CN-MR-1-Grazing strategiesby Tamara Scully

There’s a lot of talk these days about different grazing systems. Mob grazing, management intensive grazing (MIG), ultra-high stock density (UHSD) grazing and tall grass grazing systems. Most concentrate on beef cattle production. But can these systems translate to dairy cows? In a system where dairy profitability and milk production is dependent upon excellent forage quality and dry matter intake, can these type of grazing strategies make sense?

Mena Hautau, field and forage crop educator with Berks County Extension, recently decided to take a look at what type of “mob grazing” was already happening on southeast Pennsylvania grazing dairies. A Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant allowed her to observe grazing systems on four dairies which have already incorporated some type of intensive, managed grazing system, and are grazing tall grass, using frequent rotations, and grazing in higher densities. They were also all certified organic, although this was not intentional, and all were being managed by dairymen with more than two decades of experience. The dairies are grazing-based dairies with little grain or total mixed rations being fed. [Read more…]