Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Can Help Make USDA Conservation Programs Work for Organic Farmers

HildeAttend a Free Farmer Workshop - Nov. 15 in Davis, CA

Long-time Farm Aid partner and grantee, the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), is hosting a day-long workshop for organic and transitioning farmers and ranchers on how to shape the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services programs so that they work better with organic agriculture systems.

This workshop will educate organic and transitioning producers about how USDA conservation programs work and what they can do to make these programs work better for them.

When: Monday, November 15, 8:30am - 5:00 pm
Where: UC Davis, Division of Agriculture & Natural Resources Bldg, Hopkins Road at Hutchison Drive, Davis, CA
RSVP: Tracy Lerman, OFRF Policy Organizer, or by phone at (831) 426-6606 x 108.
Limited space is available, so please RSVP by November 5.
More Info: Download the event flyer PDF.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and travel and lodging stipends are available upon request.

The workshop is cosponsored by UC Davis Agriculture Sustainability Institute, Center for Rural Affairs, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, California Certified Organic Farmers and Farm Aid; and made possible through a grant from the Organic Valley Farmers Advocating for Organic Committee.

If you are local to California or know people who might be interested, please spread the word about this important opportunity. If you can’t make the workshop but would like to learn more about how to get involved with conservation policy in your area, check out our online guide to state technical committees and local working groups (10MB PDF).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What We're Hearing From Farmers

JoelAfter the dust settles on concert season, you’d think Farm Aid might pause in order to take a breath, close the shutters and kick back for a little while. But that’s not how things go, of course. The annual concert generates a huge volume of post-concert calls and emails, and each staff member does his or her best to deal with the overflow during the post-concert after-glow. The 1-800-FARMAID hotline and email is no exception, with calls and emails from struggling family farmers reaching a peak every year before, during and immediately after the concert itself.

Ironically, perhaps, given that some reports are telling us that the farm economy is in good shape and possibly even immune to the recession—oh, really?—this month the hotline has received more calls and emails than any other single month since I began answering it back in 2006. As always, the majority of hotline contacts are family farmers seeking financial help just to stay afloat, as formerly dependable local banks say no to extending formerly routine operating loans, and as the federal Farm Service Agency—the “lender of last resort” for farmers turned away from private lending institutions—struggles to appropriate funds needed to keep up with a flood of farmer inquiries, loan applications and loan rejection appeals.

But hotline calls and emails about financing and credit are really only the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a sample of some of the other information folks are seeking from Farm Aid: a group of conventional farmers down South seeks organic conversion assistance in order to supply local schools with high quality food; a Northwest apple grower wants to supplement her income with on-farm educational programming; a Nebraska farmer’s son seeks medical help for his ailing dad; a Kentucky couple fresh out of college asks about new farmer training programs; a ranch widow in Montana seeks dependable hired help; an upstate New York community fights to fend off factory farms; a retiring Midwest corn and soy farmer with no children to inherit the farm seeks a sustainably-minded farmer to take over his farm so it won’t be gobbled up by encroaching suburban development.

With so many calls and emails coming in this month, it is inevitable that some have downright tragic stories to tell. Three contacts this month reported deaths of young people in terrible farm or rural highway accidents. I dedicate this blog posting to the grieving families. On a happier note, this month’s most inspirational hotline story concerns a farm whose silo collapsed—luckily no one was hurt—and the surrounding community came together as one to help (literally) pick up the pieces and restore a measure of order and calm to the farm.

Please, keep those calls and emails coming. We know what’s happening in the fields and urban farms of the country because we hear from you! We do our best to lend a hand to anyone who contacts the hotline. Remember also that our online Farmer Resource Network (FRN) can be readily accessed online. The FRN provides direct contact and services info to over 500 farm support organizations in every state in the union. Please, send us your feedback, suggest new organizations to add to the FRN, or just give us the latest news in your neck of the woods!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Weed dating: Pulling love from the ground?

JenFamily farmers are an innovative bunch—they've got to be to succeed in a job as tough as farming. Farmers are innovating ways to help our planet, alleviating climate change and building up the health of our soil. They're also creating and growing local and regional food systems that are stimulating our national economy. And they're creating ways to get healthy food into the places that need it most.

Here's another farmer innovation of a lighter sort—a creative way to help farmers find dates and get the fields weeded: Weed dating!

Weed Dating is not yet sweeping the country, but it might be by next growing season! For now, it's quite a hit in Vermont. Some creative and fun farmers came up with this play on speed-dating, the phenomenon of the early 2000s where singles move from chair to chair every 5-10 minutes, meeting a new potential mate with each chair change. Weed dating also gives singles a chance to meet many other singles, and also creates a volunteer work force for the farmer's fields! As USA Today explained it, "Weed dating takes place on farms among rows of sprouting produce. Participants weed a row with a potential romantic interest, then move on to another row and another partner. At the end of the day, some people might have cultivated a mutual interest — and no matter, the field is freshly weeded."

This is a terrific idea—even if no weddings ever come from these seeds, it's a brilliant way for farmers to get folks out to their farm and to also find a few extra pairs of hands for the tedious work of weeding! As Sarah "Kale" Heusner, one of the organizers of the first weed dating events in Vermont explains, "It isn't only about love and dating, it's also about making friends and community."

This past weekend NOFA Vermont held the last weed dating event of 2010—harvesting apples for the Vermont Food Bank. Folks seeking life-long partners, friends and honest work took part. If you'd like to get your hands dirty and maybe meet someone with a green thumb, good work ethic and loads of patience look for a weed dating event near you or, more likely, organize your own!

Heart graphic by Nevit Dilmen [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], from Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Funding Opportunity for Farmers in Massachusetts and Vermont

JenHere's good news from Farm Aid partner The Carrot Project. The Strolling of the Heifers Microloan Fund for New England Farmers and the MassDevelopment/Strolling of the Heifers Small Farm Loan Program will be accepting pre-qualified applications through November 5, 2010, for loans of $15,000 or less.

CowThe mission of the fund is to address the difficulty that some New England farmers have in obtaining credit for projects that improve their operations and increase their income, as well as for emergency needs.

Applicants must live in Massachusetts or Vermont and pre-qualify.

  • Farms with 250 or fewer acres in active production
  • Annual gross revenue of $250,000 or less
  • Primary focus on farms that use sustainable or organic methods (or are moving toward them)
  • Marketing at least a portion of their products to local markets.
  • Acceptable purposes for the loans are: capital investments and other expenses that help improve efficiency or quality, or that expand production and sales; repairs necessary to maintain farm operations; short-term operating needs such as inventory, supplies, or labor; and emergency funds to deal with business interruptions due to fire, natural disasters, or other unforeseeable events.
There are additional deadlines in January and March of 2011.

For more information, please click here or contact Dorothy Suput at 617-666-9637 or at

Friday, October 08, 2010

Farm Aid Auction Now Live

KariHelp us celebrate 25 years of Farm Aid concerts by bidding on memorabilia from the Farm Aid vault. This auction, which is winding down and has only days to go, is an unprecedented opportunity to own a piece of Farm Aid's history. You can bid on autographed concert posters, original 1985 concert tickets signed by Willie Nelson, a one-of-a-kind custom Farm Aid guitar, courtesy of C.F. Martin & Co., and many other unique items.

Each item purchased helps support Farm Aid and our mission to build a vibrant family farm-centered system of agriculture in America. Farm Aid and family farmers are doing their part for America — what can you do? Support Farm Aid today by bidding now!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Farm Aid 25 Available on YouTube

MattFarm Aid 25 rocked Milwaukee yesterday! If you missed out on the action, you can still catch the webcast in HD on our YouTube channel for the next six hours. After that, over the coming days, we'll be posting the live performances from this year's show.

Take a look and enjoy!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Farm Aid 25's Farm Fresh Food

What would Farm Aid concert be without farm fresh food? This year's concert concessions included local, organic and delicious produce and meats from family farmers!

Video: Jessica Gagne, Farm Aid Staff

Farm Aid 25 Live on YouTube

MattThe Farm Aid 25 HD Webcast is underway now on Farm Aid's YouTube channel. Check it out now!


Written Blog: Ryan LaLonde
Video: Jessica Gagne, Farm Aid Staff

The HOMEGROWN VIllage is not to be missed!

For the past few years, Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Village hosted fun, informative and interactive exhibitors, and this year is no exception! This year's village is outside the Miller Park walls, and farmers and fans alike are braving the Wisconsin Fall to get out there and learn more about family farms (the weather could be a lot worse!) Exhibitors are standing by to educate concertgoers on everything from creating heritage crafts, to beekeeping, sustainable agriculture. I stopped by a few of the exhibits:

American Farmland Trust – their crew was decked out in "Stop Factory Farms" T-shirts, and they were recruiting fans to play a amusing cow toss game. You can checkout their work to save farmland on their website at

Growing Power – This group is one of the leaders in the urban agriculture movement in the US today. The non-profit organization provides access to healthy, affordable and sustainably grown food for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. They have developed community Food Systems that grow, process, market and distribute food to low-income neighborhoods in Milwaukee. Growing Power's founder, and urban agriculture icon Will Allen was on sight to meet and talk to local farmers and fans.

Check out the video below to see concert goers enjoying Farm Aid's unique HOMEGROWN Village!

Farm Aid 25 Quiz

How well do you know Farm Aid and the artists of Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America? Take our quiz and see!

1Q: Which two Farm Aid performers were not even born yet when the first Farm Aid concert happened?

2Q: On October 4, 1985 – who took out a full-page ad in USA Today with an open letter asking President Ronald Regan, “Will the family farm in America die as a result of your administration?”

3Q: Whom did Willie Nelson ask to join the Farm Aid board in 2001?

4Q: Which 2010 Farm Aid performer has an avocado farm?

5Q: Which Farm Aid concert was the farthest West? And which city was it in?

6Q: In 1986, Farm Aid gathered an unprecedented 3,000 farmers across the country to created a united platform for farm policy that coalesced support for family farm agriculture. What was this “gathering” called?

7Q: Sparked by a suggestion from Neil Young, in 2005 Farm Sponsored what at Kenyon College?

8Q: About what percentage of all the 78,000 farms in Wisconsin are family farms? (Give or take a %)

9Q Wisconsin ranks what number, out of all the 50 States, for the most organic farms?

10Q: Which concert has been your favorite and why?

Farm Aid 25 Press Event

From Farm AId Blogger Ryan LaLonde:

The Media are Coming, The Media are Coming.

At this year’s press event, one could hear echoes of cracking bats and the lingering smell of roasted peanuts, because the stage for the event was plopped right in the middle of the Helfaer Field, the little league field just outside of Miller Park.

Media of all kinds packed the roads out front and the bleachers of the field. The stage was set-up on the pitchers mound – with photographers acting as lawn ornaments in the front.

It was a little cold but when the sun peeked through the clouds, it was quite bearable. As one local stated – “It is all a state of mind.”

In addition to different media outlets being attendance – including Judy Woodruff from PBS – who asked for directions as I made a pit stop at the “boys” room – there were many local family farmers. Like urban farmer Will Allen, dairy farmer Sarah Lloyd and third generation farmer Tony Schultz. All these people, at least in the eyes of the performing artists, are the true celebrities here at the concert.

It is true. The performers believe in the cause – that is why they are here. When they get to meet a family farmer, their eyes light up and they ask so many questions. At a certain point we have to pull them apart so the performers can perform!

Some other Farm Aid backers in attendance were political officials like Sen. Feingold, USDA’s Sherry Sherrod and Tom Barrett running for Wisconsin Governor. And some TV/public personalities lending their name to the cause like Tavis Smiley, Anna Lappe and Chef Michael Symon.

Check out what Dave Matthews had to say about Farm Fresh food at the Farm Aid Press Event!

Farm Aid Horoscope

From Farm Aid Concert Blogger Ryan LaLonde:

September 23 - October 22
You exhibit balance, justice, truth, beauty and perfection. Your sign is in motion – it is time to be Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky. But take each day One-By-One, planning can lead to a messy outcome. Eat apples. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s John Mellencamp (10/7) and Robert Francis (9/25)

October 23 - November 21
You are often transient, self-willed, purposeful and unyielding. Be on guard and prepared for future events. This is a time for Harvest, Keep your head up and beware of Déjà vu feelings. Eat bok choy. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s Neil Young (11/12).

November 22 - December 21
You often put philosophical thoughts into, motion, and live with experimentation and optimism. You have smooth sailing till the new moon. It is time for that home renovation – plan to plant that garden you have always wanted. Eat corn.

December 22 - January 19
You abide by your determination, dominance, perseverance and willfulness. This is a practical time for those small investments. It is time to decide if you are going to Stay-Or-Leave. The Awakening approaches. Eat eggs. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s Dave Matthews (1/9) and Lukas Nelson (12/25).

January 20 - February 18
You are quite the humanitarian and exhibit great knowledge, seriousness, and insightfulness. Water will mess up your plans – but make even better memories. Follow the rules, they are watching. Eat green beans.

February 19 - March 20
You have a great deal of depth, imagination and Indecisiveness. Time has come to for you to put yourself second, and volunteer with the community. Your spirit will change. Eat Raspberries.

March 21 - April 19
Most people consider you an active, demanding, determined, effective and ambitious person. But When the Sun Goes Down – the “werewolf” comes out and you like to let loose with no regard for public appearance. When you finally get in bed It Feels Like Home and you reconsider your actions. Eat Snap Peas. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s Kenny Chesney (3/26) and Norah Jones (3/30)

April 20 - May 20
People easily sense your security, subtle strength and patience. While you are typically a quiet person you can be quite the Troublemaker when you want to. You are the friend that everyone confides in but has no one to tell your secrets to. Eat okra. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s very own Willie Nelson (4/30)

May 21 - June 20
You are considered a good communicator, but are quite indecisive, inquisitive and intelligent. You like to show your true Colors when in an argument. You always have to be right and it leads to relationship issue. Let someone else win for a change. Eat Carrots. You share your sign with Farm Aids’ Amos Lee (6/20)

June 21 - July 22
You exhibit great emotion and intensity. While you can be impulsive and selective, your creativity usually prevails with the right outcome. Let loose and go with your heart instead of your brain – you will be surprised how Lucky you are. Eat Salmon. Your share your sign with Farm Aid’s Jason Mraz (6/23)

July 23 - August 22
Out of your friends you are the one who is ruling, warm, generous and faithful. Be guarded when making financial decisions, this is not the right time and it will not work out in the future. Focus on your education – learn a new hobby even. Eat Pickles.

August 23 - September 22
You can be quite practical, reflective and thoughtful. While your personality is like the sun, you are really More Like the Moon. Your reflective personality is your greatest asset. Your best career is as a writer. Eat Peppers. You share your sign with Farm Aid’s Jeff Tweedy (8/25) and 25th Anniversary Concert Host Tavis Smiley (9/13)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Farm Aid 25 will stream live in HD on YouTube!

MattSome exciting news about how to see Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America! You already know you can see it live in person at Miller Park in Milwaukee. And you also know you can see it live in HD on DIRECTV's The 101 Network, starting at 6pm Eastern. And now you know that the concert will also play live in an HD webcast on Farm Aid's YouTube channel starting at 6pm Eastern.

We think you'll be thrilled at the increased video and audio quality of this year's webcast and hope you'll join us and tell your friends.

For more details on seeing and hearing the show (live on Willie's Place on Sirius XM), take a look at this page on our website.

Farm Aid 25 Schedule

MattHere in Milwaukee at Miller Park, artist soundchecks are underway and the last details are coming into place. Take a look at the schedule (which is subject to change) for this year's performers:

Between 1pm and 3
The Blackwood Quartet
Robert Francis
Randy Rogers Band
Amos Lee

Between 3 and 5
Band of Horses
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Jamey Johnson

Between 5 and 7
Jason Mraz
Jeff Tweedy
Norah Jones
Kenny Chesney

Between 7 and 11
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
John Mellencamp
Neil Young
Willie Nelson

Doors open at noon and be sure to check out the policies for Miller Park on our Venue Information page.