Monday, March 30, 2015

Sustainable agriculture tutorials available

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Whether you’re just considering getting into sustainable agriculture or are looking for help with specific issues affecting your operation, ATTRA’s expert staff, publications, databases, and other resources have been a go-to source of information for more than 25 years.
And ATTRA is now offering two new additions to the series of possibly its most comprehensive resource – sustainable agriculture tutorials.
The free, self-guided tutorials are more than just online talks. They contain multiple lessons with ATTRA specialists and other well-known experts in sustainable agriculture. They’re designed so you can delve deeply into the subject while working at your own pace and include calculators, worksheets, resource lists, and other downloadable tools.
And as further encouragement, the tutorials include “case study” conversations with successful producers who know what it takes to make a go of farming.
The tutorials are available on the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s ATTRA website at
The two new tutorials are geared toward current producers:
Scaling Up for Regional Markets 
There are many risks and challenges associated in scaling up, especially as a farmer prepares to gain access in to the wholesale market. This tutorial provides lessons and information for farmers who have success in smaller and more direct marketing channels and who are interested in expanding their operations to meet a growing demand for local food.
Pest Management
This tutorial focuses on giving you tools to implement ecologically-based pest management strategies. The five lessons in this tutorial provide information on what ecological pest management is, how to get started, how to implement preventive strategies, biological controls, and how to use NCAT and ATTRA resources. There are also resources to help you develop your own ecological pest management strategy for your farm.
Other ATTRA tutorials will help participants in developing a business plan for their farm.
Farm Business Planning and Marketing for Beginners
Are you a beginning farmer? Do you want to expand your markets? Do you want to add sheep, goats, or poultry to your operation? This "beginner" online course will help you develop a basic business and marketing plan for your operation, and provide you with information and worksheets to help you meet your farm goals. There's lots of information about small livestock production, too. The resource provides information in visual and audio formats.
Most of the information in this tutorial is available in English and Spanish
Getting Started in Farming: An Introduction to Farm Business Planning
If you are thinking about farming as a career you've come to the right place. The eight lessons in this course will guide you through the process of imagining and planning a successful farming enterprise. You'll also hear from several farmers who have made their dreams a reality.
Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers, NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.
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Helping people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Today is National Agriculture Day!

National Agriculture Day is a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture! A good place to get involved in the celebration of food, farming and family is

Agrilicious connects consumers with over 130,000 farms, food hubs, CSA’s and farmers' markets throughout the U.S. Agrilicious is the first of its kind national online resource and marketplace for All Things Local Food and Handmade Goods.

Agrilicious is at the heart of the food movement providing an exciting way to participate in the local food experience while expanding the family-and-farmer connection. Agrilicious has become the go-to source for all things local food. Follow on Twitter @AgriliciousSPC.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Missouri workshops target toxic fescue

(Editor’s Note: This article relates to cattle production, but fescue toxicity also affects goat production. Converting pastures to toxin-free fescue would benefit goat producers as well as cattlemen.)

Justin Sexten, University of Missouri beef nutritionist, sees a way to protect fragile land and make profits with forages. He knows better grass provides better cow nutrition. Sexten is part of the Alliance for Grassland Renewal, which conducts schools on converting pastures of toxic Kentucky 31 fescue into toxin-free novel endophyte fescue. Five new varieties are available for farmers.

“CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) ground that was planted to crops when grain prices shot up may be ready to reseed to grass,” Sexten says. “Cropping a couple of years eradicates toxic K-31.”

Grazing new novel-endophyte fescue varieties will improve productivity, Sexten says. The toxic endophyte cuts calf gains, reduces cow’s milk and hurts conception rates. Novel-endophyte fescues avoid those problems.

There is an added advantage. Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied to the new varieties to produce more pounds of grass per acre. With the old fescue, adding nitrogen increased toxin levels. That defeated the advantage of added pounds of grass.

Four fescue schools held across Missouri will teach the steps in killing old fescue and planting new. Management is needed in both steps: eradicating and reseeding. If K-31 plants and their seeds in the soil are not killed, toxic fescue will return and crowd out new seedlings. The new grass must be protected with careful grazing.

Economic outlook favors conversion. With current high prices for beef calves, and a strong outlook, there should be quicker payback for pasture conversion.
Staff at the fescue schools will urge starting small on best pastureland and increasing the renovations year by year.

The schools and local contacts for registration are:
• March 31, Mount Vernon; MU Southwest Research Center. Carla Rathmann, 417-466-2148.
• April 1, Cook Station; MU Wurdack Research Center. Will McClain, 573-775-2135.
• April 2, Columbia; MU Beef Research and Teaching Farm on Highway 63 South. Lena Johnson, 573-882-7327.
• April 3, Linneus; MU Forage Systems Research Center. Tamie Carr, 660-895-5121.

Space is limited at each school. The research centers are part of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. The Alliance for Grassland Renewal brings together all players in the renewal process, Sexten says. That includes MU research and extension, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, seed companies, fescue testing labs, nonprofits and farmers.

“All work together now,” Sexten says. “Land taken out of CRP and put in crops is an ideal place to start raising new fescues,” he says. “That land was not top-grade crop ground when it was enrolled in CRP. Now it can be returned to grass to slow soil erosion. At the same time it can be a profit center on the farm.”

However, current toxic K-31 pastures can be no-tilled into crops. Corn and soybeans can be used as smother crops in the MU-perfected “spray, smother, spray” fescue eradication. Cropping helps pay the cost of pasture reseeding. Otherwise, the smother crop can be an annual grass used for beef forage.

See school registration details at

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Couple finds success operating B&D Genetics

Brittany and David Carwell of B&D Genetics.

David and Brittany Carwell are living a dream come true. The young couple finished graduate school in 2011 when they were both 23, receiving their Master’s degrees in Reproductive Physiology at Louisiana State University. The couple married and returned to David’s family farm in Cherry Valley, Ark., where they launched their business, B&D Genetics. The company offers a variety of reproductive services for small ruminants, including embryo flushes and semen collection and storage.

“For me this is something I have always wanted to do,” David said. “My whole family has farmed or run their own businesses. My parents have played a huge role in my life. My dad taught me to work hard and be honest and fair with people at all times. He is the reason I pursued graduate school at the early age of 21. Without his guidance I don't feel as if I would be where I am today. My mom is still living and is significantly involved in our business on an everyday basis.”

He added, “Brittany grew up on a small farm in East Texas. When we first met, her dream was to raise a family and to farm. We go hand-in-hand, as you might say.”

To read more about the Carwells and B&D Genetics, check out the March 2015 edition of Goat Rancher magazine. To subscribe or read it online, visit

The magazine also can be found in all Tractor Supply Co. stores.

New homesteaders learn a lot in a year!

Lauren Linahon's article will have you laughing out loud as she recounts how the purchase of six baby chicks turned into a full-fledged adventure in Homesteading.

Lauren and Bill Linahon are a young family (she’s 26, he’s 32) with three children and one on the way. Last April, they started their homestead, Herman’s Homestead, in Boone County in central Iowa. It is a small, family-owned, integrated livestock homestead that includes Nubian goats, Southdown Babydoll sheep, turkeys, chickens, rabbits and pigs (coming in the spring). 

Their story is a lesson in what can be accomplished in less than a year. Read Lauren Linahon’s humorous account of their new adventure in self-sufficiency in the March 2015 special Homestead Edition of Goat Rancher magazine. If you’re not a yet a subscriber, visit for more information.