I hope your season is going well and that you can take a few minutes to think about the work we farmers need to do that is not in the barn or field or boat.
This is an election year and every member of the US House, as well as a few of our New England Senators, is up for re-election. Many of these folks have been very supportive of NEFU’s policy platform and have been strong allies in supporting our efforts on the Food Safety Modernization Act, the Farm Bill and other issues. NEFU worked hard to get agriculture on the radar of these folks and they, in turn, have worked hard for the producers in New England.
Please take a moment, even in this busy time of year, to support those candidates that support us. Let them know you are out there, that you are concerned about the issues that impact your farm and family and that you vote.
I hope that I will see many of you at our annual convention, December 12-13 in Portland, Maine. Our policy platform is set by our membership at our convention. This year we have chosen the theme of “Navigating Change in New England Agriculture.”
The Farmers Union is your organization and we advocate on behalf of our members. You set the course for this organization. We’ll do our best to get to the destination. Whether it’s ensuring the farm bill meets the needs of family farmers or working with FDA to make FSMA a workable rule, we are at the table and making headway on your behalf.
But we can’t do this alone. We need your participation in developing policy, emailing and calling elected officials when needed, supporting the candidates that support our shared agenda, and recruiting more members. I hope you will participate in the annual convention, and also consider serving as a NEFU delegate to the National Farmers Union (NFU) Convention, which will be held in Witchita, KS, in March.
Beyond policy and legislative issues, we are also working on member benefits. I am very pleased to announce our alliance with Acadia Insurance. As a membership organization serving the family farmers of the region, NEFU has endorsed Acadia Insurance, a commercial property casualty insurer that formed in Maine in 1992, to offer targeted insurance coverages to our members. Qualified holders of a NEFU farm membership can obtain commercial insurance for their farm and equipment through brokers Kinney Pike Insurance or their current Acadia agent.
There is strength in numbers, and the more members we have, the greater our impact. Please help us grow our membership base. If you value our work, get friend to join NEFU. Or perhaps give them a NEFU membership as a gift.
Thanks for engaging in our shared work.
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NEFU Alliance will Provide Insurance Benefit
New England Farmers Union works diligently on behalf of its farmer members on issues that impact their bottom line. Through our advocacy on policy, support of co-operative enterprise development and education initiatives, we engage with members to protect and enhance the economic viability of the region’s family farmers, who face more risks than other business owners.
There are many reasons to join NEFU, including support of this work. There are member benefits—from discounts on car rentals and hotels to design services and office supplies. We are also pleased to provide our members with a competitively priced insurance product.
Acadia Insurance has been winning over New England’s producers because of its high quality coverage of farm businesses and superior customer service. Get a free quote today and compare it to your current plan. We are confident you will want to join NEFU and make the switch.
Ask a NEFU representative or your favorite insurance agent for the insurance quote for NEFU members!
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Farm Bill Opportunities – Act Now!
We all worked hard to ensure that the 2014 Farm Bill included programs important to New England producers. Several programs are still open — check them out here!
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Family Farming and the Local Economy: Connecting Consumers and Producers
By Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President
Local and regional food systems are important parts of America’s and the world’s movement towards increased sustainability within the food sector. Defining sustainability is difficult, but I will use it to mean a system of food production that encourages locally marketed food that directly connects farmers and consumers, reduces the environmental costs of moving food long distances, and benefits rural economies.
Examples of local and regional food systems include farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Farmers markets allow multiple farmers to sell directly to consumers in a single location. Demand for food from farmers markets has increased exponentially in recent years. USDA estimates that there are 8144 farmers markets in the United States today. That number is sure to grow in the coming years due to increased consumer demand and USDA programs such as the Farmers Market Promotion Program.
CSAs are systems in which a particular farm makes an arrangement with a group of consumers (usually within the same neighborhood or area) to provide fresh food on a weekly basis. One week the farmer may deliver a box of vegetables and the next a box of fruit. CSA’s are also growing quickly across the United States, with USDA estimating 12,549 operating CSAs today.
There are numerous benefits of local and regional food systems. But, above all it connects farmers and consumers. Over the past century, agriculture has become less and less connected to more urban areas as our economy has changed and people move into cities. The trend to source locally and participate in farmers markets and CSA is changing that dynamic.
There are all types of farmers and ranchers in the world. While one type of production practice is not necessarily better than the other, it is important to promote production systems that better connect farmers and consumers.
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Notes from the Farm to Table International Symposium
NEFU Board Member Tess Brown-Lavoie (who co-founded and manages Sidewalk Ends Farm in Providence, RI), attended the Farm to Table International Symposium during the first week of August. While there weren’t many farmers in attendance, Tess found it to be a hopeful experience.
Read her notes here.
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Grants Available for Organizations Assisting Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Producers
Grant funds are available for community-based organizations, higher education institutions and tribal entities to provide outreach and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers. Applications must be submitted by Aug. 25. Learn more here.
Funds are available through the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (the “2501 Program”). The primary purpose of the 2501 Program is to enhance the coordination of outreach, technical assistance, and education efforts, to reach socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in a linguistically appropriate manner and to improve their participation in the full range of USDA programs. The program was provided $10 million in yearly funding over the life of the 2014 Farm Bill.
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Complete this Survey to Inform EBT and MarketLink Policy
Take this survey by August 26th
Wholesome Wave and the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), co-chairs of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s (NSAC) Farmers Market Subcommittee, invite you to take this brief survey about your experiences offering Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for SNAP or other benefits at farmers markets. Your responses will be used to inform policy recommendations to Congress and USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to improve the use and administration of EBT at not only farmers markets, but also market stands and CSAs.
The survey also explores your experiences with MarketLink, a program administered by the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP) that provides farmers markets and direct-marketing farmers with a one-stop-shop to become an authorized SNAP vendor and take advantage of USDA funding to obtain free or low-cost EBT equipment. In 2012, the USDA allotted $4 million in funding to support an increase in SNAP acceptance at farmers markets by providing EBT systems. In 2013, an additional $4 million was provided for the same purpose and is available for eligible markets through MarketLink until September 30, 2014. Feedback on MarketLink will be used to inform additional policy recommendations for FNS and NAFMNP as they consider how to administer MarketLink moving forward.
Please take this 10-15 minute survey about your experiences with EBT and MarketLink by Tuesday August 26th. Your survey responses will provide FMC, Wholesome Wave, and NSAC with an understanding of current challenges to and opportunities for improving these systems. Please contact Gabrielle Blavatsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-226-1112 with any questions.
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Member Profile: Warren Facey, Our Family Farms
When he was a child, Warren Facey watched as the family farm was sold and subsequently “grew to houses.” Seeing that transformation, he said, made him a preservationist. During his youth, he worked on several farms, until he bought Bree-Z-Knoll Farm in Leyden in 1972—what he jokingly calls, “a 4-H project gone wrong.”
He started with 70 heifers. Later, his son got involved in the farm and eventually married into a farm family from Spencer with 80 cows. The operation steadily grew. Today there are 200 head in Leyden and 100 heifers in Spencer.
In 1993, Facey came up with the idea of a regional co-operative for marketing milk from family-owned dairies. In 1997, Our Family Farms began with six farms in western Massachusetts. The farmers sell their milk to dairy co-operative giant AgriMark, which processes the milk and sells it back to Our Family Farms, which then sells it at a slight premium to grocery stores, food co-ops, restaurants and institutions mainly in the Pioneer Valley. Today, four farms remain in the marketing co-op: Facey’s Bree-Z-Knoll Farm; Larry and Karen Gould’s Gould Maple Farm in Shelburne with 120 cows; Peter and Faith Williams’ Mapledge Farm in Shelburne with 50 cows; and Deb and Dave Duprey of Sunbright Farms in Bernardston with 50 cows. The cows graze on pasture in spring, summer and fall and eat hay and corn grown on the farm in winter.
Facey says that while the marketing co-op hasn’t been a panacea, it has helped these dairy farms stay viable, which is no small feat when dairies across New England are closing their doors. For now, and hopefully for generations to come, the fields are growing pasture for cows, not houses.
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Read a roundup of August news from the capitol.
From National Farmers Union (NFU).
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Resources and Tools for Growth
Check out our resources page, full of programs and services to help producers in our region. Here’s a new resource to check out:
Kiva Zip is helping small producers and agriculture through Kiva Zip’s crowdfunded, 0% interest rate loans. Kiva Zip gives producers a platform to share their story, passion, and products with thousands of people, and connects them to a global community of lenders, business owners, customers, and supporters.
If you have other resources you’d like to see listed, please send us an email.
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Please check the calendar on the New England Farmers Union website. We will post information about events where that we will attend, and events that are of interest to our members. Please send along information if you have an event you would like us to post.
NRCS is offering a series of Healthy Soil Webinars throughout the year.
Goatkeeping Workshop, September 24, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Hames & Axle Farm, Ashburnham, MA
2014 It Takes a Region Conference. Annual Gathering of the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG). November 11-12, Saratoga Spings, NY.
Save the Date: NEFU Fifth Annual Convention December 12-13, Portland ME.
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