Gabe Brown: Writing on the back of the check is better

CEW-MR-3-Gabe Brown1by Troy Bishopp

TOWANDA, PA — When North Dakota’s soil health evangelist Gabe Brown speaks: Farmers listen. They also fill fire halls and fields to visit with him about the finer points of regenerating soil, improving profit and actually having fun on the farm again.

The candid rancher spoke in front of over 150 farmers from three states at the Wysox Volunteer Fire Company as part of a 3-day soil health roadshow in Pennsylvania with Dr. Bernard Sweeney, Director of the Stroud Water Research Center and Norm Conrad from the Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). [Read more…]

Rotational grazing for maximum fertility and soil health

CN-MR-2-ROTATIONAL-GRAZING-4101by Sanne Kure-Jensen

Farmers have understood for centuries that animal manure helps return vital nutrients to crop fields. Many farmers pull mechanical spreaders behind fossil fuel-burning tractors to move manure into fields, but at Polyface farm, livestock spread their own manure. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley advocates rotational grazing; they blend livestock and pasture species to puzzle pests.

Well managed grazing concentrates livestock in one area for a short period and then move them on. At Polyface farm, portable electric fences contain grazing beef herds. Farmers move the fences and livestock daily. Salatin said his animals look forward to their fresh “salad bar” each morning. The cattle graze forage at a sustainable level. They trample their manure patties ensuring good soil contact and starting the decomposition process. [Read more…]

Fighting Fire Blight

CN-MR-2-FIRE-BLIGHT4940by Kristen M. Castrataro

The 2014 growing season was surprisingly difficult for many apple and pear growers in Southern New England. The warm, wet spring resulted in widespread fire blight, a bacterial disease whose symptoms include blossom blight, shoot blight, cankers, fruit lesions, and in extreme cases tree death. To help farmers combat this emerging disease, the Rhode Island Fruit Growers’ Association invited Jon Clements from University of Massachusetts Extension to address fire blight at their annual meeting held on March 18, 2015 at the RI Farm Bureau offices in West Greenwich, RI. [Read more…]

New England Farmers Union

CN-MR-1-NE FARM UNION(2)by George Looby, DVM

The New England Farmers Union (NEFU) was founded in 2006 as a chapter member of the National Farmers Union, an agricultural advocacy organization founded in 1906. With headquarters in Turners Falls, MA, it is a membership organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, fishermen, nurserymen and their customers through educational opportunities, co-operative endeavors and civic engagement. The members engage New England elected officials and public agencies to implement and enforce laws and regulations that will strengthen and support New England agriculture and fisheries. Regional legislators look to NEFU for advice and counsel when deciding on how to vote on issues pertaining to the Union’s mission. [Read more…]

Legal concerns around farm workers and employees

CN-MR-1-LEGAL CONCERNSby Sanne Kure-Jensen

Rachel Armstrong led an informative webinar on the legal considerations regarding unpaid and compensated volunteers. “Ag. law is incredibly complex,” said Rachel Armstrong, lawyer and former grower. Farmers should carefully distinguish between a volunteer and employee. A volunteer must not displace a regularly paid employee doing similar work. The largest volunteer risk is injury. Volunteers often arrive unskilled or untrained in specific farm activities and may not use the same caution as experienced farmers. Armstrong recognizes that consumers everywhere value their connection to the land, wanting to reconnect with the land and with farmers who grow their food. Many farm customers happily volunteer for their favorite farmer. Farmers must manage risks in all aspects of farming. Risk of injury, liability or employment law violations is serious. Accident prevention keeps everyone safe. Armstrong recommended all farmers purchase a Commercial General Liability (CGL) policy for interns, employees, seasonal employees and other farm guests who volunteer for compensation. A commercial policy also ensures coverage for off-farm activities (CSA drop sites) value-added processing, agritoursim, transportation to markets and for distribution, if you sell anyone else’s products. Armstrong also recommends a Farm Liability Insurance (like homeowner’s liability policy). This protects the landowner in case of an accident on the farm property. This is separate from a CGL. Shop around and describe all aspects of your business to potential insurance agents. [Read more…]