Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR)

The 2009 USDA SBIR Grant request for applications (RFA) is now available. Funds may be awarded up to $80,000 for Phase I and up to $350,000 for Phase II. Success rates for applicants have been about 15% for Phase I and 50-60% for Phase II. Projects dealing with agriculturally related manufacturing and alternative and renewable energy technologies are encouraged across all 2009 SBIR topic areas. USDA SBIR's flexible research areas ensure innovative projects consistent with USDA's vision of a healthy and productive nation in harmony with the land, air, and water. USDA SBIR has awarded over 2000 research and development projects since 1983, allowing hundreds of small businesses to explore their technological potential, and providing an incentive to profit from the commercialization of innovative ideas. The deadline for applications to be submitted is September 4, 2008. Go to for more information and the application.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Woodland and Carbon Credit Field Day

Woodland owners learn about timber theft, carbon credits and more at field day and conference, June 20-21

WHO: Private woodland owners and tree farmers will visit a crime scene in “The Stolen Forest” and learn that even a university can be a victim of an unauthorized timber harvest.

WHAT: The 28th annual Missouri Woodland Owners Conference is sponsored by University of Missouri Extension, the Missouri Forest Products Association, the MU Center for Agroforestry and the MU School of Natural Resources.

Field trips include “The Stolen Forest,” in which participants will learn to detect or prevent timber theft; how to rehabilitate high-graded stands; and a tour of the Missouri Pacific Lumber Company’s mill in Fayette. Conference topics include news on earning carbon credits for managed forests and an update on efforts to revise state forestry laws.

WHEN: Friday, June 20 (field trips) and Saturday, June 21 (conference).

WHERE: MU Horticulture and Agroforestry Research Center, New Franklin (June 20) and the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Columbia (June 21).

For more info call Hank Stelzer, 573-882-4444; Glenda Fry, 573-634-3252

Monday, June 16, 2008

Missouri-grown tomatoes added to FDA ‘safe list’; consumers can feel confident when buying local

Missouri-grown tomatoes have been deemed safe to eat by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and placed on an official list clearing them of any association with recent salmonella outbreaks.

“This is excellent news,” said James Quinn, MU Extension regional horticulture specialist. “It means that consumers can be positive that they are safe when they purchase tomatoes from Missouri growers.”

The listing is also good news for Missouri growers, many of whom have been coping with an unusually cool and wet spring that has delayed production of field tomatoes. “It’s very important that these growers are not interrupted with this recall by having any questions about the safety of their tomatoes,” Quinn said.

While the FDA has not yet determined the source of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes that have so far sickened more than 200 people, Quinn said the FDA has been going through a process of identifying states not associated with the outbreak. “It’s great that the Missouri Department of Agriculture was able to respond as quickly as they could and get Missouri on the safe list so consumers can feel confident,” he said.

Consumers should be able to find Missouri-grown tomatoes at regional and independent groceries, farm stands, produce auctions and farmers markets, Quinn said. “Another source is to buy directly from the grower so you can talk to the grower.”

Quinn noted that prices might be higher for a while due to reduced supply. “It’s important to understand that the overall percentage of tomatoes being supplied by Missouri growers is not a very large percentage of the tomatoes that are consumed.”

If consumers are unsure about the source of a tomato product, the FDA advises consumers to contact the store where they purchased the tomatoes. “At a retail place just go ahead and ask, or maybe look for a sign distinguishing these tomatoes as being from a local source,” Quinn said.

The global nature of much of the fresh-produce market, Quinn added, “creates a situation where bad product can cause a very significant disruption.” He hopes the FDA safe listing will highlight the importance of local food systems.

“This listing should have a benefit for tomatoes produced by Missouri growers, at least in the short term, and I hope even in the long term, because it will emphasize the importance of regional or local production,” he said.

by Tamsyn Jones
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group

Source: James Quinn, 573-634-2824

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My FM Experience in CT

I am in CT and went to the nearest farmers market (FM) today. The FM had only about a dozen vendors: a rose/flower vendor, goat cheese and bottled raw goat milk; dairy sheep cheese; goat cheese and assorted goat value added products from the milk; lamp value added products but no meat cuts; veggies and bakery items; 1 egg vendor; and the rest were veggies. The market was busy and people were coming and going the entire time I was there. Only one vender was certified organic. All other vendors had no description such as naturally grown or raised or any other descriptor.

I was a little surprised at just how unfriendly the vendors were. Service was not the best and it seemed to take forever to stand in line and to check out. No one really seemed interested in assisting you until you specifically asked for it. One customer was frustrated because the producer promised her last weekend that he would bring her a black-eyed Susan plant this week and he hadn't. When another customer asked about the purpling on the cauliflower he was told why in what I thought was a kind of an abrupt way and the producer moved on. The only vendor who was friendly and interacted with his customers and took time to answer questions was the goat milk vendor who was handing out raw milk samples.

I overheard many customers asking about the tomatoes for sale and if they were safe to eat. The responses were that their tomatoes were grown in hothouses.

How produce was displayed was also interesting. Spinach was sold with their roots. Beets were sold in bundles rubberbanded together with the bulbs in water. Bakery items were in individual flat trays with covers and cut into slices. There were no descriptions on any of the flat trays to say what each tray held. There also were no ingredients lists on them either. There were samples galore to try. But there were no sneeze guards, toothpicks or any other what we in MO would expect from the county health department. You just used your fingers to pick up crackers or chunks of bread from a bowl to dip whatever was being sampled. And it was the same for meat (lamb sausages), just use your fingers to pick up a piece from a plate. I was very surprised with what little regulations there must be for bakery items and for sampling.

Here are the prices I paid for what I purchased. None of the items were certified organic.
Spinach - $1.99/pound
Lettuces, leaf - $1.50/bunch
broccoli - $1.49/pound
sugar snap peas - $3.50/pound
shell peas - $4.00 (I cleaned out the rest of the bin and know it was over a pound.)
strawberries - $6.50/quart
summer squash - $1.49/pound (When I asked about the squash and if it was grown in a greenhouse, I was told no it was from the field. I commented that it seemed awfully early for summer squash and he said no and moved on as if he didn't want to answer any other questions.)

I would have bought a dozen eggs but they were $6/dozen. I didn't need any and was glad. They were a tad bit more than I would have been willing to pay.

I hope writing about my experience of a FM from across the US helps you in your markets back home.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Missouri-Grown Tomatoes are Safe to Eat

FDA Adds Missouri to the “Safe” Tomatoes List

Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Katie Smith announced today that Missouri grown tomatoes has been placed on the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) “safe to eat” list this evening. Local Missouri farmers have not been adversely affected by the recent outbreak of salmonella in raw red tomatoes that has caused some restaurants and grocery stores to pull tomatoes from their menus and shelves in recent days.

“Missouri consumers can continue to enjoy fresh tomatoes at local farmers’ markets and fresh pick locations across the state,” said Director Smith. “Some stores across Missouri are voluntarily removing tomatoes from certain sources and locations to be safe. Consumers who are unsure of where the tomatoes have come from should contact the retail location for the point of origin.”

According to FDA, consumers who are unsure of where the tomatoes are from that they have in their home are encouraged to contact the store or place of purchase for that information. FDA also recommends if consumers are unable to determine the source of the tomatoes, they should not be eaten. Restaurants, grocery stores and food service operators have been advised by FDA not to offer the sale of service raw red plum, Roma or red tomatoes and products made from these types of tomatoes unless they are from one of the states listed on the FDA Web site as “not been associated with the outbreak.”

For more information regarding the salmonella outbreak in tomatoes, visit

(From A Look at Missouri Farmers' Markets Blog -

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Farmers markets more popular in urban areas, but rural communities still have opportunities

by Robert Thomas, Information Specialist, Univeristy of Missouri

While farmers markets may be more popular and viable in urban areas, rural communities still have opportunities to create successful local food systems, according to a newly published study.

The study, appearing in the journal Southern Rural Sociology, looked at six Illinois communities to understand their acceptance of farmers markets.

“We found that consumers value locally grown food despite location, but seek it out through different channels,” said Sarah Hultine, University of Missouri Extension community development specialist and a co-author of the study. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach. It requires creativity in developing local markets that build on current shopping behaviors of consumers.”

The researchers studied four rural and two urban markets. Only one of the four rural communities had what the researchers considered a vibrant farmers market.

In urban farmers markets, success often comes because markets provide a public space for consumers to interact with farmers and other consumers while buying fresh, high-quality produce, Hultine said.

Rural consumers, however, may not need the same sort of public space for community interaction and will focus more on buying food from individual local farmers they know and trust.

The one successful rural farmers market studied was Metamora, which focused on connecting with other downtown businesses, including local restaurants and a museum.

Farmers in rural Fairbury worked with a local grocery store to create an in-store venue for their produce, resulting in several thousand dollars in sales in each of the past four years.

“This market for locally grown food serves as a successful example of the alternative markets rural communities can create beyond a traditional farmers market,” said Hultine. The study shows that local food systems are more successful when they address the needs of the whole community and take into account existing shopping behaviors and consumption decisions within the community.

Mary Hendrickson, a rural sociologist with MU Extension, said the findings of the study can be relevant in the development of new farmers markets in Missouri.

Missouri has seen strong growth in farmers markets, with almost 140 markets now across the state.

To be successful, those organizing farmers markets must involve a wide range of individuals, organizations and businesses to make use of existing talents and community resources, Hendrickson said.

Anyone interested in starting a farmers market can consult the recently released MU Extension publication, “Starting and Operating a Farmers Market,” at .

The article from Southern Rural Sociology, “Produce Sections, Town Squares, and Farm Stands: Comparing Local Food Systems in Community Context,” is available online at

Source: Sarah Hultine, 573-729-3196; Mary Hendrickson, 573- 882-7463

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Missouri Youth Explore Urban Agriculture

Youth gardeners have the opportunity to explore urban agriculture in Kansas City, MO at the Troostwood Garden in Kansas City. Located on a corner lot donated for use by Rockhurst University, Troostwood Gardens is in an urban neighborhood.

There, a master gardener, and ten youth work with Ericka Wright’s “Urban Agriculture Youth Program,” building their urban agriculture skills. They grow produce to sell at the Troostwood Youth Garden Market.Through the help of a 2005 grant from the NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant Program, the Urban Agriculture Youth Program at Troostwood Garden’s hopes to in uence a change in youths’ lifestyle and at the same time improve their nutrition, environment, social and economic practices. Ericka Wright’s family started Troostwood Gardens on their property in 2000 as an activity for neighborhood youth.

“In the community I live in, we were the only house in the neighborhood with a swing set, so we had always kids in the yard. Many of the kids had low scores in reading and math,” explained Wright. “Most people enjoy eating, whatever level they’re at, and we  gured we could read a little, eat a little, do a little math, and learn together in the garden with the kids.”

At 41 years-old, Wright is disabled from muscular dystrophy, and values a healthful diet. Wright wanted to show children healthful nutrition as part of a healthy ifestyle.

“In terms of sustainable agriculture, our project falls in line with community. It brings people together in an outdoor classroom, and makes people aware of sustainable gardening practices in the inner city, saving seeds, and eating healthfully,” said Wright.

Youth begin gardening each March and continue working in the garden and at the Troostwood Youth Garden Market until the last vegetables are harvested, typically in late October.

“We’ve found that the youth developed better self esteem. They saw the fruits of their labor and how their hard work had paid off…They now have knowledge of a garden, what it takes to have and build one, and team work.”

(reprinted from the Winter/Spring 2008 issue of Field Notes [North Central SARE newsletter)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Spring/Summer Fruit Field Day

This sounds like a facinating full day of learning on small fruits and hihg tunnels. You probably couldn't get any better with Pat Byers (MU) and Ted Carey (KSU) presenting thier information on small fruit research and their high tunnel work. If you're interested in attending call the K-State Research and Extension Center at 913-856-2335 so they know to expect you. If anyone does go, post a comment and let us know what you leanred.

On another note, if you don't see a blog for each day don't be alarmed. I will be traveling the entire month of June. I hope to continue blogging at least every other day. So keep coming back to see what I have seen or learned about agriculture on my travels.

Spring/Summer Fruit Field Day Kansas Fruit Growers Association and K-State Research and Extension Saturday, June 7, 2008
K-State Horticulture Research and Extension Center
35230 W 135th St., Olathe, KS 66061
Gieringer Farms, 39675 W 183rd, Edgerton, KS 66021

1:00 p.m. Welcome and introductions.
1:15 to 2:30 Overview of production of strawberry, raspberry and blueberry, with emphasis on high tunnels. Pat Byers, Horticulture Specialist, University of Missouri and Ted Carey, K-State Research and Extension.
2:30 to 2:45 Break
2:45 to 3:15 Marketing your fruit crop. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Agricultural Economist, K-State Research and Extension. (Video presentation)
3:15 to 3:45 Marketing to retail outlets – Roundtable discussion with Brendan Kline, Whole Foods Market
3:45 to 4:00 Break
4:00 to 5:00 Tour K-State fruit plots, including blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and apricot plantings. Most of the crops are in both high tunnels and open field.
5:00 to 5:30 Travel to Gieringer Farms
5:30 to 6:15 Orchard and farm tour.
6:15 to 7:30 Barbeque dinner, networking and fellowship

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


When most people think of the word advertising they usually want to know how much it will cost them; big bucks they think. Well, not all advertising needs to be expensive. There are lots of things you can do that are considered advertising that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Here are some of those ideas.

* business cards – always carry them with you so they are handy to hand out
* create a colorful logo so even without wording people will know instantly who it is
* wear baseball caps with your logo and/or the name of your farm
* write press releases about your farm or farm products and send to the local newspapers
* wear t-shirts with your logo and/or the name of your farm
* place posters or colorful notices about your farm and products around town

This is just a short list but there are simply lots of creative ideas you can come up with that won’t cost you tons of money.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Renewable Energy Resources for Farmers

With the price of gas as high as it is everyone is looking to reduce their energy costs in multiple ways. I've been getting calls on making biodiesel, making ethanol, using solar panels and much more. With the surge for this type of information I will be adding more topic links to the MAC website on all sorts of bio and renewable energy. But in the meantime, check out these sites for renewable energy:

Database of State Incentives for Renewable Efficiency -

Environmental Saw and Poverty Center - - information on renewable energy for the farm, USDA grants

US Dept of Energy - - information on renewable energy applications for farms and ranches

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Organic Research Grant

The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has issued its Request for Proposals for organic research and education projects for Fall 2008 grants. OFRF offers funds for research on any topic that will improve organic production systems, and for education and outreach projects to share organic farming information with current organic producers and to farmers and ranchers considering transitioning their operations to organic. Proposals may request awards of up to $15,000 per year ($20,000 for fruit projects). Multi-year funding will be considered for fruit projects. Proposals are due July 15, 2008. Read more at:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Informing the Consumer

Another idea I picked up at the farmers' market this past Saturday was a creative way to display information. The picture shows what looks like wooden window shutters. I asked the vendor who said she bought them from a company that sells displays. But I bet you creative farmers out there could create somthing similar.

Anyways, this shutter like display holds information that you would like for you customers to see. For example, this vendor is trying to educate about her grass fed meat. You'll also notice she has a picture which she switches out from time to time. On the table she has a wooden box with recipes, a book about grass fed meat production and business cards. You can also see a table top electric grill for sampling of her meat.

There is no better way to educate the consumer than through information and sampling. If you do decide to provide samples, be sure to check with your local county health department for any regulations you will need to follow.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Farmers' Market Displays

With the growth of farmers' markets across the country many farmers' markets are running out of space to place their vendors. That's what's happening at the Columbia Farmers' Market. So I took a couple of pictures this past Saturday so I could show you a few ways to add space and dimension to your selling space.

The top picture is a vendor who built his own shelving to put the bins of vegetables in. The shelves were built on an angle instead of flat which allows the customers to actually see what he has available. This is what the grocery stores do with their display of produce.

The second picture is another example of the same concept but on a smaller scale. These shelves were built specifically for a product which in this case is honey bears. This shelving also enables the vendor to utilize his table space by placing more product on the table space.

As the season continues along, I will continue to take pictures of venders and their spaces to help you with ideas of your own.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Consider Nutrient Value of Manure

Well, almost. Manure won't truly smell like roses but there is a lot of work being done in the area of manure and manure management. The workshop yesterday was quite interesting and I did learn a lot about manure.

I think the one thing I learned that will stick with me is the nutrient value of manure. I thought that manure was just, well, manure. But John Lory (MU Extension - Environmental Nutrient Management Specialist) said that as feed gets more efficient for animals the nutrient value of the manure decreases. I thought about that for a moment and went, duh, you know that is common sense.

As scientists become more proficient in providing just the right amount of nutrients in the correct amount of feed rations animals need, then there will be fewer nutrients that are not absorbed by the animal and therefore fewer nutrients coming out the other end.

Why is this important? With the price of petroleum rising affecting the cost of fertilizer, some producers may think of cutting back on fertilizer purchases and relying more heavily on manure. But if the manure you spread comes from animals who are feed an efficient diet, will relying on more manure over purchased fertlizers be better in the long run for good crop production?

To learn more about manure nutrient management, send me an email and I can get you hooked up with John who can help you out.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Farm Fresh Eggs and Chicken Coming to the Table in Missouri

I took the liberty of reposting this blog from the North Central Region SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) blog since it pertains to producers in Missouri. The past NCR SARE blogs can be read at: Tomorrow I'll be bloggin about the Manure Entrepreneurs: Turning Brown to Green workshop that I'll be attending today.

What is the best way to promote small farm poultry flocks and save heirloom poultry breeds from extinction? A dedicated group of poultry producers in East Central, Missouri thinks creating a broader market for the birds is the key.

The group, consisting of Kelly and Phyllis Klober, Paul and Kelly Harter, Mark and Michelle Wagstaff, and Nathan and Sarah Price, recently received a grant of almost $6,000 through the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) Program. The goal of the grant is to explore new ways to market their poultry through the River Hills Purebred Poultry Marketing Alliance Project.

The River Hills Alliance growers specialize in raising heirloom poultry -- traditional and beautiful birds such as Orpingtons and Dominiques that used to be common on family farms but which now are rare and endangered. The birds are hardy and well adapted to the traditional and natural production methods these small farmers prefer.

The Alliance growers started out trying to preserve and promote heirloom poultry breeds by marketing the birds and surplus eggs through a local farmers’ market and to friends and neighbors. Now, the number of heirloom birds is increasing and the group hopes to take their poultry breed preservation work into the next era by creating a web site, publishing a directory of breeds and their availability, and creating public interest through outreach at a variety of events such as The Fall Poultry Fest on Sept.13, 2008.

“Our plan is to work through an alliance of small-scale producers of a number of breeds to form a plan of work to guide movement beyond local markets,” says Kelly Klober. In addition to their marketing and promotion efforts, the group will use their grant to explore shipping methods for eggs, chicks, and birds and how to turn their heirloom poultry table eggs into a distinct premium product tied to their region.

The River Hills Growers want their marketing plan to help heirloom poultry breeders nationwide develop markets that will sustain the birds and the farmers who raise them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wildlife Habitat Management

I often get calls from folks asking about how to attrack wildlife to their farm land or farm. There is lots of information out there but the most reliable will be from university and agencies. With that in mind, during 2006 and 2007 the Missouri Department of Conservation, USDA ,NRCS and MU Extension cooperatively developed a series of 21 “wildlife habitat management technical fact sheets” that provide information on specific practices that can be conducted to enhance habitats for a variety of wildlife species. These have been revised for 2008 and are easily accessible through the following two links: (click on any county)

The complete series includes the following:

Forest stand improvement for wildlife
Prescribed burn for wildlife
Permanent forest openings for wildlife
Shallow water management for wildlife
Edge feathering
Quail covey headquarters
Quail covey headquarters appendix (shrub planting guide)
Native forb and non-native legume interseeding
Downed tree structure
Woody cover control – fencelines and woody draws
Woody cover control – prairie, glade, savanna
Light disking
Food plots
Herbicide application for plant succession management
Temporary forest openings for wildlife
Wildlife watering facility
Forest trails and landings
Controlling undesirable species
Managing native hay prairies
Glade, prairie and savanna herbaceous establishment
Shrub lespedeza establishment

I will soon have these on the MAC website as well. They will be listed under the letter "W" for wildlife, attracting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

SARE Youth Grants

The North Central SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) offers grants to youth. The purpose of these grants is to provide opportunities for youth in the Missouri, age 8-18, to learn more about Sustainable Agriculture. Youth will design and carry out a Sustainable Agriculture project of their own and report their results to the public. Guidance from an adult sponsor and parents is encouraged but some independence on the youth part is expected.

Whatever project you choose is up to you and should show your own interests about Sustainable Agriculture. The grants are up to $250 per project.

Outreach with what the youth learn with your original project is required. Youth may write an article, have a field day demonstration, put up a web page, make a video, show a poster, give a speech or otherwise show the public what the youth did, what the youth learned and why it is important. After the project is finished a short final report is submitted.

For more information on the SARE Youth Grants contact the Jefferson Institute at 573-449-3518.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Loans for Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs

Most family farms have children as an active part of the farm and many of those children have projects of their own. If your child has a farm project and is wishing they had some financial assistance to help them, they are in luck. There are two projects specifically set up for youth. Below is one and tomorrow I'll discuss the second one.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) grants operating loans to individual rural youth to finance income-producing, agriculture-related projects of modest size in connection with their participation in 4-H clubs, FFA, and similar organizations.

Each project must be part of an organized and supervised program of work. The project must be planned and operated with the help of the organization advisor, produce sufficient income to repay the loan, and provide the youth with practical business and educational experience in agriculture-related skills.

To apply or learn more about youth loans or other loan programs, please contact your local USDA Service Center:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Farm Tax ID

from Ed Browning, Ag and Natural Resources Engineer, Jasper County

Every year, usually around springtime, we receive calls about where to get a farm tax id. There are two types of issues with this. First, if you are selling a product as a supplier to a consumer, you more than likely need a sales tax number in order to collect the sales tax and render to the Missouri Department of Revenue. The other would be to declare exemption from paying sales tax on certain agricultural supplies and equipment. Typically these calls are in regard to the latter.

Exemption from paying sales tax on agricultural purchases doesn’t require an id number, but a form must be filled out and given to each supplier. This form (Form 149, Sales/Use Tax Exemption Certificate) can be found online at This exemption is addressed in the Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 144, Section 144.030, Subsection 7, 22, 29 and 34. If you want to read more about items exempted from sales tax, go to MRS 144.030 at

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Peaches and Apples

Peach and apple growers in Missouri should now thin fruit from their trees to produce a good crop this year and get the trees back to a regular bearing cycle.

Last year's late-spring freeze destroyed both crops, resulting in an overabundance of developing fruit on trees this spring.

"Oftentimes when you have no crop one year, it sets you up in an alternate bearing cycle, especially on apples," said Michelle Warmund, University of Missouri tree fruit specialist.

Peach producers should thin off about 90 percent of the fruit in May to harvest a good crop this summer, she said. Not thinning enough results in small fruit with lower sugar levels.

Overabundant fruit on trees can also lead to limbs breaking from bearing too much weight.

When thinning peaches, leave one fruit every 8 inches. Thinning should be done before the peaches or apples reach the size of a dime.

Some peaches are fusing together like Siamese twins. This is a result of cold temperatures during pollination this spring. Such fruit is unsalable and should be thinned.

This year has had the coolest spring since 1998, according to Pat Guinan, MU climatologist.

Some growers thin by striking the peach trees with rubber hoses, but this can result in a loss of leaves.

Apples usually grow five fruits in a cluster. Thin clusters to a single fruit to increase fruit size, boost the amount of sugar in each fruit and improve pest control, Warmund said.

"When you have five fruits hanging together, moisture collects between the fruits, making a good environment for disease," she said.

"If you have a tree with 500 apples on it, you have 500 small apples. All the sugars must be distributed among 500 fruits. If you thin down to 100, you get a much bigger fruit size," she said.

"The earlier you do it, the bigger fruit size you will have at the end of the season," she said.

Source: Michelle Warmund, 573-882-9632

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Top Ten Topics of the Year

MAC has been an integral piece of MU Extension for more than 20 years. I have been with MAC for close to 15 of those years. Over the span of my tenure here, I have seen hot topics come and hot topics go. For example, remember when emu and ostriches were "the thing?" But once the breeders market collapsed so did the production of these birds simply because there wasn't a market for the meat and the industry for using the oil for lotions and other beauty products wasn't quite developed. As you read through this top 10 list of "hot topics" for the past 16 months, keep in mind the outcome - in other words, the market. Who will buy what you have to sell?

Top Ten Topics (January 2007 to April 2008)
1. Rabbits
2. Meat Goats
3. Smokehouses/Smokers
4. Nursery Production
5. Cooperatives/Cooperation
6. Medicinal Herbs
7. Worms
8. Agritourism
9. Marketing
10. Goats

Monday, May 12, 2008

Manure Entrepreneurs: Turning Brown to Green

This is an upcoming event that some of you may be interested in attending. I've already sent in my registration. So if you plan on attending, look me up and say hello!

The high price of commercial fertilizer makes poultry manure worth more money, said Dennis Feezor, High Point, Mo. He found that waste from his and his neighbors' poultry houses has become a product in high demand.

"We can't make enough of it," Feezor said. "It" is composted poultry manure. Feezor will speak as a "manure entrepreneur" at the annual Breimyer Seminar, May 22, at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

"Entrepreneurs are taking advantage of economic, cultural and environmental changes to transform what was once called a waste into a recognized resource," said seminar organizer Laura McCann.

McCann, associate professor of agricultural economics, lined up livestock producers, manufacturers, marketers and academics to talk about new uses for livestock waste.

Feezor and 11 neighbors formed a co-op to compost poultry manure for sale as a value-added product. "We started thinking we had a niche product for organic growers," Feezor said. "Now, with the price of fertilizer going out of sight, we are selling to crop farmers. We could have sold three times what we produced this year."

The Breimyer Seminar, which addresses a new agricultural policy issue each year, has a theme this year of "Manure Entrepreneurs: Turning Brown into Green." Other farmers will tell how they turn swine and cow manure into profits.

John Lory, MU Extension nutrient management specialist with the Commercial Agriculture program, will speak on "How High Fuel, Fertilizer and Commodity Prices Affect Manure Management Decisions."

The seminar is funded in part by a trust fund in honor of Harold Breimyer, longtime USDA and MU agricultural economist. This year's seminar is dedicated to Charles Fulhage, MU agricultural engineer in manure management, who died in a truck crash earlier this year.

Advance registration is required, though the $25 fee can be paid at the door. The fee includes lunch and a permit for on-campus parking.

For information or registration, contact Joyce White at or 573-882-6533. The program is available online at

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bike, Walk and Wheel

This morning is a morning that many students at my son's school looks forward to. It's Bike, Walk and Wheel Week in Columbia and on Friday of this week the school participates.

Bike, Walk and Wheel Week is a week that the Mayor has designated a week to get out doors and to get some exercise by either biking, walking or wheeling your way from home to work and back again. On Friday of this week, numerous "Breakfast Stations" can be found scattered about town. The Breakfast Stations are supplied by local restaurants with coffee, juice and assorted food items such as bagels, donuts, fruit etc. The food is offered free to those who participate in the event.

Any student and parent at my son's school who wishes can participate. Everyone meets at one of the Breakfast Stations and they all ride as a group down the MKT Trail to another Breakfast Station for a break and a bite to eat. Then they are off to finish their ride to make it to school in time for the first bell to ring. Over 100 students participated today!

So what does this have to do with alternative agriculture you might ask. Well, think about it. As a producer are you involved with your community? If your town has an event do you as a "producer" participate? Do you offer any of your farm products for the event? How could the event be connected with your farm? Or go a step further, could the event somehow be on your farm? Or could you create a community event utilizing your farm as the location?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I was reading the Missouri State Beekeepers Association newsletter and found something interesting. Have you ever thought about what bees really eat and why? Well, if you find yourself wondering that too, here is the answer straight from the May 2008 issue.

"Bees are attracted to pollens by taste, which is not necessarily indicative of nutrition. Alfalfa pollen, for example, is very nutritious but does not taste all that great, while dandelion pollen is just the opposite. Corn pollen, like most wind-borne pollens, tastes good but is low in protein; it does, however, contain a needed sterol, 24-methylcholesterol, which is also supplied by canola pollen. Honeybees require the same 10 essential amino acids as humans. (Wow, who would have thought that!) Pollens contain proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, sterols and carbohydrates. Different pollens contain different mixtures of these, so bees need many types of pollen for proper nutrition. Spring fruit and nut trees provide the most reliable balance of pollen for bee nutrition."

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

MU Plant Diagnostic Clinic

In your mind, now may not think that this is the time to think about plant diseases or insects, after all this is only the beginning of the growing season. I beg to differ. Now is the perfect time to get prepared on what actions you should take when diseases and insects do hit your crops and you know they will. So let me inform you about the University of Missouri’s Plant Diagnostic Clinic.
The Plant Diagnostic Clinic helps you with questions about your plant and disease problems that you may have. With a properly submitted sample and detailed background information, the Clinic can diagnose your plant disease/insect problems and give you useful management information. In addition, they can identify weeds and insects and tell you how to control those as well.
In order for the Clinic to correctly diagnose the problem, there are specific requirements the Clinic asks that you follow when sending in samples; from which part and how much of the plant to send in to just how the sample should be packaged for shipping. These requirements can be found on their website at You can also contact your local county extension office for assistance with this as well.
There is a $15.00 fee for general diagnosis, which applies to most samples. Some samples require an additional fee when additional testing such as pathogen isolation means extra time and lab supplies. If you’ve got any questions, you can call the Clinic at 573-882-0623 or email them at

Monday, May 5, 2008

Don't Forget Mother Nature

It's always interesting to see what kinds of creativity I see and hear from farmers. Some producers grow traditional crops, others grow alternative and heirlooms. But Mother Nature has a selection all her own. Take a moment of time to look at your land, I mean really look at what you have already on your land. What can you do with the trees? Do any of them bloom? How about cutting a number of small branches with flowers along with some interesting looking grasses, put them in a vase or even a clean mayo or jam jar, add a ribbon and you have something to sell! All it took was your time and ingenuity. What about wild flowers? Queen Anne's Lace added to any bouquet sure adds a nice touch. And this time of year, what about those deliciously sought after morel mushrooms? Also don't forget about wild medicinal herbs. A few things to keep in mind should you decide to take advantage of Mother Nature and it's not your property, always ask permission. If the land is public land, you must check with the MO Department of Parks and Recreation. If you're hunting for any medicinal herb be sure to contact the MO Department of Conservation. Some medicinal herbs are monitored.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Jeremiah Baker started from a very young age admiring and gardening unique plants in his garden. His passion soon turned into seed swaps and selling. In 1998 he started his own seed company Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offering over 70 varieties of seeds. Today he has over 1200 varieties of heirloom seeds for sale. Jeremiah and his seeds are widely known across Missouri to producers who grow heirloom varieties.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is hosting its 8th Annual Spring Planting Festival, May 4 & 5 from 10am - 7pm in Mansfield, where more than 5000 gardeners will gather for the largest heritage gardening event!

The Festival is held at Jeremiah's farm, near Mansfield, MO. Go to Mansfield and follow the signs. He is offering free tent and RV camping; no need to register. There are also hotels in the local area. Some food is available at the festival. Admission: $4.00 per person, pay at the event. Children 14 and under are free.

So, if you have an interest in the old varieties with unique shapes, color and flavor you may want to make it a point to stop in at the Festival. If you can't make it, check out Jeremiah's catalog at

Thursday, May 1, 2008

High Tunnel Bramble Production

Many producers are always on the hunt for a way to get the highest dollar out of their products. One good way is to be the first producer to have a product available and chances are you can ask for a higher price.

For example, customers will not pay a high price for tomatoes when it's tomato season, but have those same tomatoes available 2-4 weeks ahead of that time and no doubt you will have a line of folks waiting to buy the first tomatoes of the season.

One way of producing crops to have them available earlier in the season is with high tunnels. Many crops can be grown successfully in high tunnels especially vegetables. There are a few producers growing strawberries in high tunnels and now even raspberries and blackberries.

Researchers at Cornell and Pennsylvania State universities have published a guide on the latest and ongoing high tunnel research in the Northeast. The guide includes sections on site selection; the types of tunnels; construction; plant selection; tunnel, crop and pest management; early and late season extension techniques; and budgeting. High tunnels can extend the fruit season and help growers gain much higher prices for their fruit.

The High Tunnel Raspberries and Blackberries publication can be downloaded at

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grow Your Farm

Monday evening I gave a short presentation in Rolla to the first graduating class of "Grow Your Farm." The Grow Your Farm course is an extension program that assist new farmers or existing producers who are thinking of adding or changing an enterprise on their farm. The course emphasizes goal creation, assessing market opportunities, planning a farm operation, understanding rural legal issues and keeping track of finances. The course meets 11 times over a 16- to 18-week period. Classes include eight seminars and three farm tours.

I asked the participants in the class, now that the course is coming to a close was it worth their time and money to take the class. Each gave a resounding, yes, and they would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in farming.

To read more about this particular graduating class, read the article at

To learn more about the Grow Your Farm course go to

The next Grow Your Farm class will take place this coming Fall.

Monday, April 28, 2008


While at the Columbia Farmers' Market this past Saturday I was intrigued by the variety of radishes one of the vendors had displayed. What really caught my attention was the yellowish-brown radish. I had never seen this particular variety before.

The display had the radishes bundled together with a rubberband at the leaves. They were then placed on the table so the bulbs were face up so you could easily see each of the variety of colors. Each variety was then placed in rows.

The five different varieties from right to left:

1. Longu Red - elongated red shape with white ends

2. Cherry Belle - solid red globe (deeper red color)

3. Purple Plum - solid red globe (lighter red color)

4. Hailstone (also called White Globe) - solid white globe

5. Helios - yellow globe

Friday, April 25, 2008

Relationship Marketing

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only is nature blossoming back to life but the farmers' market season is upon us!

I love when the Columbia Farmers' Market finally opens. I know I'll be able to purchase loads of fresh and locally grown items; things I've missed during the seemingly unending winter. Besides being fresh and local, I like to buy directly from the farmer. Not only do I know most of the farmers at the market through work, but many of them I have developed a relationship with them outside of the working relationship. They know who I am; they know my kids and my purchasing likes and dislikes. This is called relationship marketing. Once a producer develops a personal relationship with a customer, it makes it awfully hard for that customer to stop buying from you.

So you might want to consider how you can develop relationship marketing within your marketing plan. Make it a point to learn your customers names, give attention to their children and always smile. For more information on marketing direct to the consumer go to the MAC website and click on the letter "M".

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Produce Auction & Strawberry Hoop House Tour

Date: May 2, 2008
Location: Jamesport, MO

One of the more interesting aspects of my job is the creativeness of farmers. For the last couple of years, several growers around Jamesport have been trying out hoop house strawberries.

The strawberries are grown in greenhouse-like structures, which for the most part are unheated. During the April freeze last year, some of the growers did use a little heat to save blooms. Other than extreme conditions like those we saw last year, no heat is used.
Hoop houses, sometimes called high tunnels, give these strawberry growers a jump on the season. Many crops will be picked several weeks earlier in hoop houses compared to the same crop outdoors. Last year, the hoop house strawberries were being picked close to one month before their outdoor cousins.

If you are interested in seeing how these strawberries are grown, University of Missouri Extension will be holding a tour on Friday, May 2nd.

The tour will start at the produce auction near Jamesport. The auction starts at 10:00 AM and is expected to end between 11AM and noon. This part of the tour is informal. Arrive whenever you like, and observe the auction in action. Lunch will be on your own. There is a lunch stand at the auction that you may wish to patronize before the rest of the tour begins.

When the auction is over, will assemble to travel to the farms. Before leaving, we will spend a few minutes to learn more about the auction. Atlee Stutzman, produce auction manager, will be there to explain how the auction works, and answer your questions.

The first stop will be the farm of Noah and Martha Kramer. Noah and his family are experienced produce growers, with a variety of fruits and vegetables to see. The hoop house strawberries will be highlighted, but there will be other interesting crops to see, such as an orchard and a tomato greenhouse. The strawberries should be in full production by May 2nd.

The second stop will be at the farm of Joe and Sarah Stutzman. This will be their second year of production. Although they are new strawberry growers, they did very well last year, and are expecting a good crop again this year.

This should be an exciting opportunity to learn about the auction, and how produce is grown by the Amish in Jamesport. We do have one request: please do not take photographs of the Amish themselves, to respect their religious beliefs.

The produce auction can be found on Highway F, just east of Jamesport. From the 4-way stop in downtown Jamesport, head east. The auction is about one half mile after you leave town, on the north side of the highway.

If you need further information, call the Daviess County Extension Center at 660-663-3232.

For more information about hoophouses/high tunnels, go to the MAC website and click on the letter "H".

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Consumer Trends

According to the "What's News in Organics" April 2008 e-newsletter of the Organic Trade Association, consumers are willing to pay more for ‘green’ environmentally friendly products, according to a recent MamboTrack™ study of 1,000 consumers by Mambo Sprouts Marketing. In the study, seven in ten consumers were willing to pay up to 20 percent more for environmentally friendly products. In addition, 56 percent of consumers identified the selection of healthy organic products and 49 percent the availability of organic produce as key factors in where to shop. Consumers were most likely to choose organic produce (60 percent), dairy products (54 percent) and child and baby food products (50 percent).

If you would like to request an e-mail notice when future issues are published, please contact OTA at The e-newsletter is published quarterly.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Alternative Agriculture Methods Meeting

Date: April 28th
Location: Star Theater, Willow Springs, MO

Do you wonder about those grape vines planted along U. S. Highway 60 just east of Willow Springs? Are you aware of mushroom production in Willow Springs? Do you know about range poultry and do you think natural grass fed beef will sell in competition with the corn-fed beef of the feedlots.

Methods of using alternative products and alternative production techniques in South Central Missouri will be the subject of a meeting held free and open to the public according the meeting sponsors. "We have some terrific speakers and some really interesting subjects," said Wendell Bailey, U. S. Small Business Administration regional advocate and National Rural Advisor for the Office of Advocacy.

Randy Saner, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist is coordinating the event which will be held at the Star Theater, on Main Street in Willow Springs at 7 p.m. on Monday April 28th. The Willow Springs FFA chapter will be helping at the event. Master of ceremonies for the event will be Larry Spence, Howell County Presiding Commissioner.

There is no admission charge and the public is invited. Extension programs are open to all.

Topics and invited speakers for the event include the following:
Alpaca production - Ron & JoAnn Alberts
Grape production - Jim Travor
Range poultry - Jim Protiva
Natural beef - Steve Willard and BUB ranch
Goat production - Debra Prince
Lease land production - John Beltz
Mushroom production - Jim Vokac

For more information contact the University of Missouri Extension Center at 417-256-2391

Monday, April 21, 2008


Welcome to the Missouri Alternatives Center's blog. The Missouri Alternatives Center (MAC) is a University of Missouri Extension Program. MAC was created about 20 years ago as an information center to answer questions on alternative agriculture.

The Missouri Alternatives Center maintains a website of links from extension, research and non-profit organizations on alternative agriculture. The website is Click on the link "Link List - Extension Information on Alternative Agriculture" and you will find a listing of the alphabet. Click on the letter "A" for agritourism, aquaculture; "C" for chickens, Christmas trees; "G" for goats, greenhouses; "M" for marketing; "V" for value added, you get the idea.

MAC also publishes a monthly e-newsletter and can be found at the link "Ag Opportunities." If you find this newsletter helpful, subscribe for free and you will receive an email each month letting you know the newletter has been updated on the website.

If you have any questions you would like answered, feel free to email me at Who knows, maybe your question might make it as the blog for the day!