Planting season is right around the corner, despite the snow and cold temps. Soon the sap will be flowing and the snow banks retreating and we’ll be taking to our fields to start another season.
Two weeks ago, NEFU hosted a convening on co-operatives in Vermont. Co-op members, policy makers, and NEFU members came together to discuss the opportunities for co-operatives in our region. We heard stories of success, and discussed many of the challenges. NEFU is pursuing several initiatives to advance co-op development, and the day provided an opportunity for us to learn where the largest needs are, as well as a chance to showcase our resources.
I have been busy getting ready for the National Farmers Union annual convention, which is coming up in a couple of days in Santa Fe, NM. Each NFU chapter sends delegates to the convention. These delegates participate in setting NFU’s priorities for the upcoming year. NEFU’s delegates are Ned Porter, Beth Hodge, and myself.
I am running to serve as the Vice President of the National Farmers Union. New England is a model for our nation’s family farmers. We are growing in numbers and influence and we are being heard in Washington, D.C. If elected to the Vice Presidency, I will aim to broaden and expand the impact of NFU, just as NEFU is broadening and expanding its impact here in our region.
I hope you enjoy this month’s news. And I really hope the snow melts soon.
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Co-op Convening a Great Success
|Diane Bothfeld, Deputy Secretary for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, at the Co-op Convening
Against the backdrop of fresh powder and the prospect of a long weekend, a group of New England farmers, leaders from Vermont’s farmer, worker and consumer co-ops, and state policymakers gathered in Burlington, VT, last weekend for the 2014 Co-operative Convening, organized by New England Farmers Union (NEFU).
From the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives in 2012, to the release of the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade in 2013, and now the International Year of Family Farming in 2014, this is a unique moment for the co-operative enterprise. Indeed, the co-operative business model is receiving renewed attention as an effective tool for addressing some of the core problems in our current food system: persistent food insecurity, growing awareness of the gap between demand and supply for local and regional foods, and a pervasive concern that those producing our food are not gaining a viable livelihood from their effort.
So what can we do to encourage the growth of the co-operative model in our region? What are the key challenges and opportunities for co-ops? And what role can NEFU play moving forward? Read more about the co-op convening here.
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Farms on the Rise in New England
The preliminary results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture have been released.
“Nationally, the number of farms may have declined however, across the New England States, the number of farms actually increased 5 percent from 2007, up to 34,878 farms” according to Gary Keough, USDA NASS State Statistician for the New England States. Read more about preliminary census of agriculture results for New England.
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Family Farming and the Marketplace
By Roger Johnson, National Farmers Union President
Farmers Union was founded on the idea that farmers can work together to find power in numbers. That’s why 10 farmers and rural residents in Texas formed the Farmers Union in 1902. Whether farmers need to organize to receive better shipping rates for cotton, as those founding 10 did, or to start a cooperative that can process and market their crops and livestock, or to have a louder voice on legislative issues to regulate markets, farmers have been coming together through the NFU to have a larger say in the marketplace for more than 110 years.
Read more about family farming and the marketplace.
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NFU Convention Will Set Priorities
New England Farmers Union members benefit every day from our relationship with the National Farmers Union (NFU). NFU, founded over a century ago, has developed a strong track record of relationships and accomplishments in Washington, D.C.
NFU’s grass-roots policy development process ensures that New England’s voice is included in their policy agenda. The annual NFU convention is where the organization sets the policy priorities for the upcoming year. NEFU sends up to three delegates to the annual convention. This year, Ned Porter, Beth Hodge, and Roger Noonan, are the New England delegates.
This year is the 112th Anniversary National Farmers Union Convention. The theme is “Spicing Up Family Agriculture,” and it will take place March 8 to 11, 2014 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In addition to policy adoption, the event also includes award presentations, educational sessions, and local tours. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has been invited to deliver the keynote address. Click for more information and to register for the NFU Convention.
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How Co-ops Can Help Young Farmers (webinar)
Check out New England Farmers Union member Fay Strongin in this webinar How Young Farmers Are Using Cooperatives to Build Successful Farms. The webinar was produced and hosted by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) in partnership with Democracy Work Institute. The webinar features several co-ops, including Little City Growers Co-op, which Strongin helped organize in Providence, RI. Little City Growers is made up of local farms like the Sidewalk Ends Farm, Southside Community Land Trust, Scratch Farm, and Red Planet Vegetables, along with independent growers.
A USDA official from Wisconsin and representatives of producer and multi-stakeholder co-ops from the Midwest and West round out the participants.
You may also want to check out another webinar by NYFC and Democracy at Work Institute: An Introduction to Worker Cooperatives for Farmers and Start-Ups.
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Still Time to Apply for NFU’s Beginning Farmer Institute
National Farmers Union (NFU) has extended the application deadline for its 2014 Beginning Farmers Institute (BFI) program to April 7.
The annual program, now accepting its fourth class of students, is open to individuals who are new to farming, are in the process of transferring an operation from a relative or non-relative to themselves, or are contemplating a career in farming or ranching.
The BFI program helps participants gain insight and practical skills needed by beginning farmers and ranchers, including business plan writing, financial planning, and researching available programs to help starting up and sustaining a successful operation.
Applicants accepted into the 2014 program will attend three separate education sessions. One will be in Washington, D.C., one in Minneapolis, Minn., and a final session culminating at NFU’s annual Convention in March 2015 in Wichita, Kan. Program topics at the education sessions will include business planning, U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, tax and record keeping, estate transfer and marketing.
The Beginning Farmers Institute is supported by the FUI Foundation, Farm Credit, CoBank, CHS Foundation and the NFU Foundation.
Interested applicants can download the 2014 application here. VIsit NFU’s education Facebook page for updates and further information on NFU’s youth and young adult education programs. Applications must be postmarked on or before April 7, 2014
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Upcoming RMA Deadlines (March 17)
USDA’s Risk Management Agency reminds producers of the fast approaching winter and spring sales closing dates for multiple peril crop insurance programs, whole farm insurance programs, the Adjusted Gross Revenue Pilot, and Adjusted Gross Revenue-Lite. AGR and AGR-Lite cover most farm-raised crops, animals, and animal products. Get more RMA information here.
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Read a roundup of March news from the capitol.
From National Farmers Union.
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Resources and Tools for Growth
Agritourism: Is it Right for You?
This University of Vermont website can help you decide.
ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, is a program of the Center for Appropriate Technology. The site features an “ask the ag expert” online query, workshops, internships, and more.
The Carrot Project
The Carrot Project offers specific programs for loans and related financial technical assistance for farm and food enterprises. Capital or operating loans of $3,000-$75,000, at 4.99-7% interest, are available to farm, forestry and fishery businesses, and to processing, distribution and storage enterprises with any type of local agricultural product.
Extension Training for Agricultural Tourism
Rutgers University’s resource on agritourism can help those who advise farmers assess their readiness for inviting the public to their farm.
Farm Credit East web resources on the Affordable Care Act.
Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network
The Farmer Resource Network connects you to Farm Aid’s resource partners and hundreds of organizations providing services, tools and opportunities for family farm profitability and sustainability, as well as immediate support.
Field Guide to the New American Foodshed
This is a field guide to finance and accessing support resources developed by Farm Credit, Eco Farm, Greenhorns, MOSES, the Wallace Center and many other partners. It was funded by Risk Management at the USDA. Recruiting new farmers is a good way to reduce risk in the US food system.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass
Tools to learn about how the USDA and federal partners support local and regional food economies. Explore the map to see what projects are happening near you.
New England Farmland Finder
This is a new online service that helps farmers and landowners find each other. Farmers looking for land? Land looking for farmers? This farm property clearinghouse is free, simple, up-to-date, and privacy protected. It contains information and resource links to inform and support farm seekers and landowners.
This new blog, written by Dr. Rachel Gilker who developed the pasture program at UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, includes articles about grazing management, pasture health, livestock and more. Check it out!
USDA Microloan Program
On January 15, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new microloan program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. The new microloan program is aimed at bolstering the progress of producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. The microloan program will also provide a less burdensome, more simplified application process in comparison to traditional farm loans. To learn more and begin the application process, contact your local Farm Service Agency Office.
Vermont Open Farms
A resource for farmers on Agritourism.
WWOOF organizations connect volunteers to organic and sustainable projects.
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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.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture presents a series on farm labor, through March, Holyoke, MA.
Growing Over to the Dark Side (winter vegetable production) March 6, 8:30 am, Sturbridge, MA
Webinar: Co-operative Management Education at Saint Mary’s University, March 6, 1:00 pm.
New England Meat Conference March 7-8, Concord, NH
National Farmers Union Annual Convention, March 8-11, Santa Fe, NM
NRCS Soil Health Webinar: Soil Health and Production Benefits of Mob Grazing, March 11, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Cost-Reducing Strategies for Dairy and Livestock Operations, March 18, UMass Animal and Crop Research Center
Webinar: How to Sell Domestic Foods to the USDA, March 20, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Farm Share Fair. (CSA Fair) March 20, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, Cambridge, MA
Massachusetts Agriculture Day at the Statehouse, March 26, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Boston, MA
Local Beef to Local Institutions, Strafford County Conservation District, NH March 27 1:00 – 6:00 pm.
Massachusetts Poultry Enhancement Council Meeting, March 27, 6:00 – 8:15 pm, Auburn, MA
NRCS Soil Health Webinar: Managing for Soil Health on Dryland – A Farmer’s Perspective. April 8, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
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NEFU in the News
Roger Noonan, NEFU president, is quoted in this coverage of the 2014 Farm Bill in the Greenfield, MA, Recorder.
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