Monthly Archives: May 2013

Who Represents Your Farm Interests?

Photo From

Photo From

Thought it might be useful to include the following American Farmland Trust tool to help readers identify their representing politicians.

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Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture


For maps and registration for these field days, visit or call (410) 549-7878.

May 29 – Organic Orchard and Value-Added Farm Products

4:00 – 7:30 pm, Country Pleasures Farm – 6219 Harley Road, Middletown, MD 21769

Future Harvest CASA Members – $20; Nonmembers – $30

Rain or shine!

Processing and selling value-added products from the fruits and vegetables grown at Country Pleasures Farm is one of the successful farm profitability strategies pursued by organic farmers Eric and Lori Rice. “If we grow it, we make something from it!” Eric says.

The Rices will take attendees on a tour of their fields, hoophouses and orchard, the oldest certified organic orchard in Maryland. They will also talk about the development of farm kitchen processing rules in Maryland, differences in farm processing and commercial kitchen processing, and organic certification as both a stewardship commitment and a value-added strategy. Guest speaker Juli Obudzinski of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition will talk about available funding programs that can help with value-added production, including Value Added Producer Grants, the FSA microloan program, and SARE and other research funding.

A light lunch donated by Whole Foods Market Kentlands, along with a grassfed beef dish provided by Country Pleasures will be included.

June 22 – Retail Farming for Success on the Delmarva

10:00 – 1:30 pm, Greenbranch Farm – 5075 Nutters Cross Road, Salisbury, MD 21804

Future Harvest CASA Members – $20; Nonmembers – $30

Ted and Julia Wycall have transformed Greenbranch Farm, a former commodity farm where corn, soybeans and confinement chickens had been raised by Ted’s grandfather, into a diversified organic operation with a retail marketing model. All their sales come through retail/direct marketing channels, i.e., farmers markets, a CSA with more than 200 subscribers, and an on-farm store.

Their farm story includes tailoring their diverse product line, which includes produce and meats to attract the retail customer, pursuing methods that have relatively low start-up costs, and using production techniques that enhance long-term soil fertility.

July 13 – Engaging the Public Through Farm-Based Education
9:30 – 3:30 pm, Fox Haven Farm – 4855 Broad Run Road, Jefferson, MD 21755
Future Harvest CASA Members – $20; Nonmembers – $30

Optional workshops and Kids Program available for an additional fee.

How can you tap into the public’s fascination with agriculture and farms by offering farm-based educational programs? This field day at Fox Haven Farm will demonstrate some of the strategies for successful farm-based education.

Field day registration includes a walking tour of the farm led by Mark Eyestone and Dick Bittner, along with a discussion of conservation and alternative energy elements being demonstrated throughout the property; a presentation in the learning barn on engaging children through sustainable food and farming education by Peggy Eppig of the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation; and a light lunch.

After lunch, optional workshops allow you to participate in some of the farm-based educational programs offered by MAEF and Fox Haven Farm. Each one-hour workshop is an additional $20.

• Beekeeping with Peggy Eppig of MAEF and Maryland State Apiarist Jerry Fischer

• Food Forests and Rainwater Gardens with Greg Zahn and Mark Eyestone

• Herbs for Wellness and Food with Susan Hirsch

• The Seasonal Plate (cooking a truly local, seasonal meal) with Homeshed Kitchens (Jeanette Warne and Robin Grasso)

Bring the kids along! For only $20 for the entire day, your young ones will participate in fun activities such as a creek walk and scavenger hunt. You’ll all have fun learning all day!

July 21 – Farm Longevity and Multi-Farm CSA

2:00 – 4:30 pm, Potomac Vegetable Farms East – 9627 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA 22182

Future Harvest CASA Members – $10; Nonmembers – $20

In operation by the Newcomb family since the 1960s, Potomac Vegetable Farms on Route 7 near Tyson’s Corner is now the only commercial farm still operating in Fairfax County, Virginia. The farm has grown and prospered through a mix of hard work, perseverance and adaptations to changing markets over the years. This field day will focus on direct-market strategies that have proven successful for the farm, including farmers markets, a farmstand on Route 7, and a 550-member CSA, which includes produce from several cooperating farms in the area. The field day will take place during the cooperating farms’ weekly delivery time, so attendees can see how the various contributions add up to a full CSA share, and learn more about the mutual benefit to the farms that participate.

For maps and registration for these field days, visit

or call (410) 549-7878.

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As farmers age, planning for the future of their business grows

Christopher Doering, Gannett Washington Bureau11:07 a.m. EDT May 19, 2013

The aging farming population is forcing more operators to deal with the complexities of how to pass along the business to the next generation. Advocacy groups are trying to provide training.

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Catching the “Slippery Fish” on the Farm and Doing Good for Water

Originally posted

When it comes to balancing a farmer’s need to grow healthy crops and preserve water quality, nitrogen—an important component of fertilizer—can be quite a “slippery fish.” Many factors influence how fertilizer cycles in and out of soil, water, plants and the air. The Nutrient BMP Challenge®, a risk management tool that American Farmland Trust is implementing across the nation to encourage on-farm conservation and reduce the amount of fertilizer flowing from farm fields into our waterways, helps address some of that risky behavior. We recently visited a Virginia farmer and BMP Challenge participant who pitted his wits against a special soil test to predict how much, or how little, fertilizer his corn would actually need.
Farmers use a range of techniques to determine the right amount of fertilizer to apply to their crop; some use high-tech tools, others apply a rule of thumb. The risk protection of the BMP Challenge offers farmers peace of mind when trying something new. The program reaches out to farmers who are interested in adopting conservation practices to reduce the amount of fertilizer used and help preserve water quality but who may be nervous about the risk to their crop yield. A number of these practices provide farmers with techniques to get a better handle on that slippery fish and to use fertilizer as efficiently as possible.

“Now is the Time to Protect the Land”

Our visit to Kevin Craun on his farm in the Harrisonburg area of the Shenandoah Valley helps demonstrate this process. We met him in the corn field that he enrolled in the BMP Challenge this year. Craun has been an active participant in various soil conservation practices and farmland protection for some time now. As we stood in his cornfield above the creek, he pointed out fencing he had installed along the stream to keep out his cattle. A buffer of grass and trees varying from 50 to 100 feet in width protects the banks and can absorb nutrients that might runoff his filed in a storm. He is also participating in the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) on 40 acres of his property and has a conservation easement on additional sections of the property, which means that they can never be converted to development. He noted the assistance of American Farmland Trust when he and other community members were developing a farmland protection program for the county. “Now is the time to protect the land when the land prices are low,” remarked Craun.

Doing Good for the Water

The purpose of our visit was to take a soil sample to determine how much nitrogen was in the field before Craun made the final application of fertilizer. This information would allow him to apply an amount closer to what the corn actually needed rather than following a fixed formula. Being more accurate in this way would not only benefit the environment, but would help his profits by not paying for more fertilizer than the crop could use. Matt Heldreth, who took the soil samples and testing along with Jeffery Cline, Nutrient Management Specialist with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is a senior at Virginia Tech and a farmer himself and noted that “techniques such as the PSNT (Pre-Sidedress Nitrogen Test) help farmers match their management to the needs of their individual fields, crop selections and whole farm operation, allowing them to do well economically while they do good for the water.”
As we left, Heldreth asked Craun how much nitrogen he thought his corn would need. “Well,” said Craun, squinting thoughtfully at the knee high plants nestled in the rolling hills. “Maybe 80 pounds?” Wouldn’t you know, the PSNT test agreed! The test and his experience came up with the same estimate for the amount of fertilizer to add to his soil.

As our work with farmers across the country using the BMP Challenge increases, we hope to continue to expand on-farm conservation practices and, in turn, work to preserve water quality in more and more critical locations. Conservation has both public and private benefits, which are being generated by the farmers themselves. And now, as our Virginia farmer put it, we need to “get the story out there of what farmers are doing.”

About the Authors:

Jim Baird is Mid-Atlantic Director for the American Farmland Trust where he works to help maintain viable farms and clean water through the adoption of nutrient-related conservation practices and ensuring that farmer concerns are reflected in policy and program discussions.

Delancey Nelson is a Marketing Intern with American Farmland Trust. She has worked on numerous farms and vineyards abroad and holds a degree in Historic Preservation and Community Planning from the College of Charleston. She is also the market manager of the Lauraville Farmers Market in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Demand For Agriculture Education

A good article that spotlights the need for and value of agriculture education in our schools.

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Farm Manager Career Opportunity:

Floyd EcoVillage is looking for a talented and committed farm manager with experience and knowledge of permaculture principles and interest in intentional community living. The position is to manage two acres of active growing area, animal care, landscaping, and some facilities upkeep. This is a full time, year around position with stipend and a small energy efficient two bedroom / two bath home with laundry facilities. Please send Inquiries to or call Jack Wall at 540-392-4381. Floyd Eco Village is located at 718 Franklin Pike in Floyd. More information is on our website at .

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Why did the chicken cross the Capital Beltway?

Why did the chicken cross the Capital Beltway? That’s a good question. Another that might follow is, “Are there chickens close enough to cross the Beltway?” Actually, yes there are poultry operations near the Beltway along with a noteworthy number of other farm and agriculture enterprises. Hello, I’m Jim Hilleary, the Virginia Farm Mentor Network Coordinator in Northern Virginia. I’ll be posting to Virginia Beginning Farmer Connections regularly in the coming days so I wanted to take a moment to say “Hello”.

This post points readers to the 2010, Northern Virginia Local Food Assessment (American Farm Land Trust). Admittedly, in today’s information environment, a document published in 2010 is nearing old age; however, this report is still relevant. In subsequent posts, I would like to share information relating to beginning farmers, mentee farmers, mentor farmers, and other things Ag & Farm in Northern Virginia.

So why did the chicken cross the Capital Beltway? Propose an answer and let us know here at Virginia Beginning Farmer Connections.

Local Food System Assessment Northern Virginia August 2010

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