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."

For information on how to subscribe to this newsletter,

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