Thursday, September 24, 2020

Welcome to the Agrihood Wins Two Book Awards



NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2020 - The latest book by nationally recognized housing expert Anna DeSimone, Welcome to the Agrihood – Housing, Shopping, and Gardening for a Farm-to-Table Lifestyle, released in April, has garnered rave reviews and earned two book awards.

Welcome to the Agrihood takes readers on a virtual tour of agrihoods—residential communities centered around a working farm. With amenities such as charter schools, boating, golf, horseback riding, swimming, walking, hiking, and biking trails, it’s no wonder that agrihoods are winning awards across the nation for “best places to live.”

Serving as the nation’s first published directory, the author provides a directory of 90 communities throughout the U.S., with housing characteristics for owners, renters, over-55, and mixed-use communities in both urban and suburban locations. 

“Since agrihoods are a fairly new concept, homes are sustainably built with energy-efficient features—and in settings that support a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages,” says DeSimone.

But you don’t have to move to an agrihood to enjoy the farm-to-table lifestyle. Welcome to the Agrihood also shows readers how to grow their own organic food on their porches, balconies, or backyards with helpful tips, planting guides, illustrations, and valuable resources about sustainable, chemical-free, environmentally friendly growing methods. It also teaches the basics of organic certification, food safety, biodiversity, beekeeping, soil testing, composting, and local laws.

Shop from the Farmer You Know is a strong theme throughout the book, which includes a 50-state resource directory of more than 2,200 farms with full-service markets, food hubs, and farms offering CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs.

“There is knowledge for every gardener, homeowner, and newcomer to learn in any environment–from urban agriculture to backyard farming.” ~Washington Gardener

“You don’t have to live in the country to enjoy farm-to-table dining every day if you plan your eating habits accordingly. Anna DeSimone lights the way in her book, Welcome to the Agrihood, a practical guide for how to indulge in farm-to-table living.” ~ The Environmental Magazine

Author: Anna DeSimone is author of Housing Finance 2020, which received the Axiom Business Awards Silver Medal in Personal Finance, Retirement Planning, and Investing. A nationally recognized expert in housing finance, she has authored more than 40 books and hundreds of articles on the topic of fair and responsible home financing. She is retired founder of Bankers Advisory, an audit and consulting firm based in Boston, Massachusetts, acquired by Clifton Larson Allen LLP in 2014.

Welcome to the Agrihood – Housing, Shopping, and Gardening for a Farm-to-Table Lifestyle by Anna DeSimone; Housing 2020 Publishing; nonfiction; Home and Garden/ Sustainable Living/Gardening; Paperback $15.99 978-0-578-561-5; eBook $2.99 ASIN   B087GBQFYP; Availability:, Apple iBooks, Google Books, Books-A-Million,



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

How to Hold Over Show Animals the Low-Stress Way

By Shelia Grobosky

Public Relations Coordinator

BioZyme® Inc.


(SAINT JOSEPH, Mo., Sept. 23, 2020) Summer shows may be coming to a slow down, but in another 60 to 90 days fall shows will be ramping up. Just 45 to 60 more days winter majors start. Have you thought about holding over one of your animals that wasn’t quite dialed in this summer for one of those fall or winter shows? Perhaps you have; but there is a lot to consider: the animal’s body type, genetic makeup and their current weight should all be taken into account to make sure that animal can be carried over and fed properly with the least amount of stress involved.

According to Blaine Rodgers, Show Livestock Business Development for BioZyme® Inc., not every animal is built to carry to a later endpoint. Exhibitors and feeders need to evaluate their animals’ body types, condition and growth patterns before knowing if their animal is a candidate for a later show. 

“If you have a tall, big framed animal that is fast growing, chances are you are not going to have success holding it over. However, one that is boxy, moderate, good proportioned, gets fat pretty quick and has a lot of good muscle shape, you can hold those forever,” Rodgers said. “You surely can hold livestock for a long period of time if you understand nutritionally how to do it, but the biggest thing is to understand which ones are the kind you can do that with.”

Regardless if you’re talking lambs, steers or even pigs, the more moderately sized animals that don’t grow fast and put on fat easily are better to hold because you can feed them slower. Their growth curve and maturity pattern factor in to how long you can hold one. 

Use Supplements Correctly

Rodgers suggests that it is preferable to put animals on a base ration when they are young. Let them be livestock and grow, using their given genetic potential. Then, use the targeted supplements needed, usually fat and protein, toward the last one-third or one-quarter before their final show

“Supplements become very important in holding livestock because they contain a very potent nutritional value of whatever you’re trying to do,” Rodgers said. He explains.

The total volume of your animal’s diet can be reduced by adding a concentrated supplement; therefore, instead of feeding a full amount, it can be reduced by half by using smaller amounts of supplements to maintain fat and protein levels. 

“When you hold an animal, you want to increase the fat and protein levels so their muscle doesn’t deteriorate, and so they have enough energy to meet the requirement so they are not starving and burning all the fat off their body, and you do this with high concentrated supplements and a low volume of feed,” he said.

Buy Time 

One way to make sure your project animal reaches its desired endpoint, is to count the days you have until that show. Then, calculate the pounds you have to work with before that show, so you know how much time you need to buy. 

Rodgers suggests evaluating the last third of your feeding time before your endpoint. For example, if you have a pig that only has 30 pounds of wiggle room, and there are 30 days until the show, and you know that pigs typically gain two pounds per day, he’d be 30 pounds over your endpoint. You would need to hold your pig for a small portion of time to buy some time and push it at the end to make sure it is freshest when it needs to be.

He said one of the common mistakes feeders make is holding the animals too soon. Then it fills up early and takes off. When it is time to get dialed in for that later show, the animal just won’t be ready to eat again. 

Know your Weight and Evaluate

With any livestock project, it is important to get a regular, consistent weight on your animals. This means weighing them on the same scale, at the same time and at the same degree of fullness. For instance, you might decide to weigh every Sunday evening before chores or Saturday mornings after feeding. Whichever time you decide, stay consistent and weigh the same time each week. Weighing full one week and empty the next can really skew your records. 

Record your weights. Find a spiral notebook or a white board that hangs in the barn to record the dates and weights. A spiral notebook works as a good resource that you can record any feed changes or vaccinations in, too.

Another thing that Rodgers suggests is to have someone you trust in the industry come in periodically and evaluate your animals for changes. It is imperative to look for differences and see these changes – both positive and negative – like an increase or deterioration in muscle or condition. Sometimes it is hard to look at our stock that we see day after day, so it is important to have a neighbor or colleague that you trust to come into your barn for an honest evaluation.

“I have relationships with outside people that can come check on them. I rely on guys to come look at our stuff, because I see our livestock all the time, and it is harder to see the changes, but when you see them once every other week or so, you can really see the changes,” Rodgers said.

Final Advice

It is critical to keep the rumen working in the cattle, lambs and goats, so be sure to include hay in their daily diets. Another way to keep their digestive tract in check is by feeding a supplement with Amaferm®, such a product from the Sure Champ®or Vita Charge® lines. Amaferm is a precision prebiotic that impacts intake, digestion and absorption, for optimum health and performance.

Sure Champ is line a of livestock show supplements that proactively work to assist with the challenges created by the show environment. Vita Charge is a fast-acting, multi-specie livestock supplement for use during stressful times when livestock need protection or assistance in recovery. The Vita Charge product line offers versatility in many forms making application easy depending on what is best for your animal.

All animals should continue to exercise during their hold over time. This is especially important for sheep, which are predominately evaluated on muscle shape and handle.

Let the animal realize its genetic potential. 

“Don’t buy animals that are excessively large and try to hold them right out of the gate. Because at a young age you need to establish muscle shape and you need to establish bone and skeletal growth. Keep livestock on full feed. It’s toward finishing stage that you want to hold them,” Rodgers reminds.

Holding a livestock project over is a science and an art. Make sure you’re working with an animal that has the potential to last an additional 30 to 90 days. Use your supplements correctly, rely on a set of outside eyes to help you evaluate progress and buy as much time as you can. Don’t forget the Sure Champ with the Amaferm advantage to help your animals #preptowin every step of the way. To learn more, visit


Monday, September 21, 2020

Warm-season grasses ready for autumn care

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture 


Fast Facts: 

  • Native grasses can be grazed between mid-April until the end of August, but no grazing should occur after early September 
  • Burning, grazing and bush-hogging key to maintaining pastures year-to-year 



LITTLE ROCK — By their very nature, native grasses are suited to survive year-to-year in their native environs. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things the calendar-minded pasture manager can’t do to help maximize a land’s potential. 

Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said perennial warm-season native grasses, such as big bluestem, indiangrass, and eastern gamagrass are very good forages with a sufficient degree of nutritive value that can be grazed between mid-April until the end of August, but no grazing should occur after early September. 

“Native warm season grasses substantially reduce their growth during shortening days in the fall and go fully dormant with freezing temperatures,” Philipp said. “Since these grasses are very tall and generate substantial amounts for senesced material, managing the thatch can be challenging.” 

Philipp offered some pointers and recommendations to go about bringing native grasses through the winter and to ensure lush regrowth in spring, including burning, grazing management and bush-hogging. 

“Burning is by far the most efficient method of minimizing the amount of thatch prior to regrowth in spring,” he said. “These grasses are well adapted to burning and ecologically the best method of managing senesced material. Burning should occur sometime short before green-up, such as early to mid-March in the case of Arkansas.” 


Philipp recommended that pasture managers seek help and advice before burning though, as local regulations may apply. 


With regards to grazing management, Philipp said that senesced material — grasses that have deteriorated with age — can actually be grazed during the wintertime.  


“Cattle will graze of large parts of the dead leaf material if they are supplemented, or have access to other forages as well to maintain nutritional needs,” he said. 


Bush-hogging can be done before green-up, as well in February or early March the latest. Removing senesced material earlier may compromise temporary habitat for wildlife, so pasture managers should be careful not to rush this step.  


“Bush-hogging requires on-pasture traffic and diesel, so keep in mind this is less desirable than burning, simply from a sustainability standpoint,” Philipp said. “When bush-hogging is necessary, go slowly to chop up everything, to avoid covering regrowth.” 


Philipp also recommended removing all dead material from pastures in the fall and winter, to ensure lush regrowth during spring. By monitoring the grasses over the years and making incremental adjustments as necessary, it’s possible to maintain stand biomass and quality. Grazing, Philipp said, may need to be deferred more in some years than in others. 


“Last but not least, try to keep travel across native warm season grasses to a minimum,” he said. “Every so often, pickup travel can seriously damage the grass sod, any time of the year.” 


To learn more about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.  



USDA Assists Farmers, Ranchers, and Communities Affected by Western Wildfires



The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of assistance for residents and agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires.


As of today, wildfires have burned nearly 6.9 million acres across 11 states. More than 31,000 personnel from the local, state and federal levels are working to contain 61 large fires. The USDA Forest Service has more than 7,800 personnel committed to firefighting efforts along with airtankers, helicopters, and other air and ground firefighting resources.


Food waivers and flexibilities


On August 27, 2020, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved California’s waiver request to allow for the purchase of hot foods with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in select counties. As many California residents are not able to store food or access cooking facilities, households in those counties can purchase hot foods with SNAP benefits through September 23, 2020.


On September 3, 2020, FNS also approved California’s request to issue automatic mass replacements of SNAP benefits to impacted households. This waiver allows households in certain counties and zip codes to receive replacement of 50% of their August SNAP benefits as a result of wildfires and power outages that began on August 17, 2020. For more information on either of these actions, contact the California Department of Social Services.


Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters


When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. This program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.


Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.


Livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought condition or fire on federally-managed land during the normal grazing period for a county may qualify for help through USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.


Helping operations recover after disasters


USDA can also provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.


Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program. USDA's Emergency Watershed Protection Program can also help relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by fires and other natural disasters that impair a watershed. Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.


Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues in filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of discovering damage and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Visit the RMA website for more details.


Helping with the long-term recovery of rural communities


USDA Rural Development has more than 50 programs available to rural and tribal communities for the rebuild, repair or modernization of rural infrastructure including drinking and waste water systems, solid waste management, electric infrastructure, and essential community facilities such as public safety stations, health care centers and hospitals, and educational facilities. Visit the USDA Rural Development website for more information on specific programs.


Visit USDA's disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.




Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New to Farming Because of the Pandemic? USDA Can Help


Carissa has a small acreage farm in Montgomery, Vt., where she and her husband have two purring queens, eight feathered clucking ladies, one bouncing bunny friend and one that likes to crow all parts of the day! Carissa’s goal is to be able to produce 1/3 of their annual food needs on their property in the next 5 years.

By Ciji Taylor, USDA


Are you new to farming because of the pandemic? USDA can help you get started – everything from helping you register your farm to getting financial assistance and advice. 


Our team members, based at USDA Service Centers across the country, are hearing from people who are interested in more space and working the land, and we want to let you know we can help. 


“Farming means access and availability of food and a healthy life. It might be the very reason you’re considering taking up the title ‘farmer.’ And here at USDA, we offer a range of services that can help you get started,” said Carissa Stein, a soil conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Saint Albans, Vt.


Get Started with USDA

First, you want to make sure your farm is registered. If you purchased land, it might already be established with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) with a farm number on file. If not, FSA can help you register your farm. 


To obtain a farm number, you’ll bring an official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID) and a property deed. If you do not own the land, bring a lease agreement to show you have control of the property to your FSA representative. If your operation is incorporated or an entity, you may also need to provide proof that you have signature authority and the legal ability to enter contracts with USDA. 


Access to Capital

USDA can provide access to capital through its farm loans, which is a great resource when producers aren’t able to get a loan from a traditional lender. Loans can help with purchasing land or equipment or with operating costs, and FSA even offers microloans, which are especially popular among producers with smaller farms. For more information, check out our Farm Loan Discovery Tool.


Conservation Practices

We can help you make conservation improvements to your farm, which are good for your bottom line and your operation. From improving the health and productivity of your soil to making your croplands or grazing lands more resilient, conservation programs offered by NRCS can help. We’ll help you develop a conservation plan as well as apply for financial assistance that’ll cover the bulk of the costs for implementing. To learn more about some of the conservation practices that we help producers with, check out our Conservation at Work Video Series.


If you purchase land, and you don’t want to farm all of it, you can look at either a conservation easement or managing for native shrubs and grasses through either the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program or Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Easements are long-term, while a CRP contract is 10-15 years. These are good options for lands with land that is not optimal for production or sensitive lands like wetlands and grasslands.


Last year, Carissa worked with a producer in a high tunnel at a small, veganic Vermont farm. High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons – growing earlier into the spring, later into the fall, and sometimes, year-round. Read moreabout this Vermont farm.


Additional Resources

NRCS and FSA work with all kinds of farms – big, small, organic, row-crop, etc. “There is no acreage pre-requisite or certain category of farmer you have to be to work with us; we are very fortunate to have such diverse landscapes and farmers,” Carissa said. 


Depending on your farm, you may want to look at crop insurance. The USDA’s Risk Management Agency provides crop insurance to help you manage risks on your farm. There are many types of insurance products available for a wide variety of production practices, including organic and sustainable agriculture.


Your local communities also have great resources for farmers including conservation districts, Rural Development, cooperative extensions, and different farming groups. 


“Get to know your deeply rooted local resources, and don’t be afraid to reach out to them,” Carissa said. “As a new farmer, you are the hope to keep food security in this country sustained. We have every reason to want to see your farm flourish, so make an appointment with your local service center today!”


More Information

To get started with USDA, we recommend you contact your local USDA service center. All USDA Service Centers are open for business, but because of the pandemic, some are open by phone appointment only. Be sure to call ahead to schedule an appointment. You can find your local Service Center at