Jane Kuhn - Apr 24

The familiar little green and white circle sporting the “USDA Certified Organic” label is popping up with increasing frequency, peppering the grocery aisles and being waved like a flag at farmer’s markets across the country. With the number of organic suppliers expanding rapidly, taking the steps to get your farm certified organic is a smart, if not necessary, business move. Since the National Organic Program’s launch in 2002, the organic movement has been well underway, and yet the process of getting certified can seem like a headache. Between the 80 organic certification agencies to choose from, and the paperwork, records, historical reports, and receipts that all need to be collected and synthesized from the past year, or three….the details can feel overwhelming.

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Jane Kuhn - Apr 10

If you’re continuing to expand a hand-cultivated production system, sooner or later, you may find your production size has reached the “awkward stage.” The awkward stage is that blurry boundary where the cultivated ground is too much to keep up with by hand, but perhaps not quite big enough to justify the investment in a tractor. If you’re at the micro-production scale and are looking to improve efficiency, you might be a solid candidate for a two-wheeled, walk-behind tractor. Walk-behinds are typically selected by farmers who plant densely, have odd shaped fields (often due to maximizing limited space), or are concerned about compaction in high clay content soils. There are several walk-behind tractors on the market; BCS is a popular brand offering lots of options and serves as a good measure for assessing the potential costs and benefits of acquiring this type of tool.

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Jane Kuhn - Mar 27

Gearing up to make your first tractor purchase can be dizzying among the endless options, pairings, and add-ons to choose from, and determining what you need is highly dependent on farm systems and production goals. During a visit to my local Kubota dealer, C & N Tractors, in Watsonville, I got some advice from their sales manager, John Cooper. We discussed some of the different options on the market and how to start narrowing down your choices.

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Lauren Kaplan - Mar 13

Legumes, grasses, and cereals make up the majority of commonly-used cover crop species - but there are a few other non-legumes that have value in their niche strengths, particularly in diversified and small-scale farming. This post will take a look at a few crops that are champions when it comes to scavenging phosphorous, attracting beneficial insects, and serving as powerful biodrills and potent biofumigants.

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Jane Kuhn - Feb 27

For a special occasion, a special someone, or simply just “because,” flowers are a luxurious staple in our traditions of gift giving and nesting. Although not the center of attention amidst the local food movement, the toxic cut flower industry is getting more press and conjuring a rising interest in “local” and “organic” bouquets. If done right, flowers can be as lucrative as berries and tree fruit in compliment to a diversified crop production. From Oregon, to Indiana, to North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, Flower CSAs are popping up as both independent enterprises and as complements to existing production farms. To learn about growing & marketing flowers in a CSA model, I spoke with Molly Bullock, the Cut Flower Program Manager at Red Fire Farm in western Massachusetts. Red Fire has over 100 acres in diversified produce production, and runs an established flower CSA off of 1.5 of those acres. This supports a 150 member flower share with additional bouquets going to farmer's markets, the farm stand, and appearing on their wholesale availability list weekly.
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Lauren Kaplan - Feb 13

Yes, fun. I happen to really enjoy this part of selling produce, almost as much as I enjoy converting anyone in earshot to share my love of broccoli leaves. (Seriously: it’s going to be big.)

If you’re thinking I’m nuts, that promotion is pretty low on your list of preferred activities, and that you don’t really want to spend any more time on promotion than you need to… then good. This means that, unlike me, you won’t need to remind yourself that the goal, ideally, is to use minimal effort to attain maximum enrollment, thus freeing up more of your time for all those other items on your to-do list.
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Lauren Kaplan - Jan 30

When marketing your CSA, there are two main places that come to mind: the places where you will promote or advertise your CSA, and those where members receive their shares.

Let’s start with places where you will promote and advertise for your CSA.
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Lauren Kaplan - Jan 15

When pricing your community supported agriculture shares, where do you begin?

Having never started my own CSA, this seemed like an overwhelmingly complex question -- one I had long been curious about. Do you determine the retail value of the share by researching area prices for the crops you will grow? Do you start with your overall cost of production, look at how much you need (or want) to make, and work backwards? Or is there some other perfect formula for profitable farming that magically reveals itself to you when you become a CSA farmer? After a bit of this kind of pondering, I decided to reach out to my extended ag community to gather information.
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Lauren Kaplan - Jan 03

I like to think of CSA marketing as a sort of matchmaking process. (Just go with it for a moment.)

So you know this sweet bunch of vegetables, and you want to set them up with this totally great community you happen to know. They’re perfect for each other! To make the match, you’ll want to extol the virtues of your vegetables, of course… but in a way that speaks specifically to your community.

What I mean is that the first step in marketing your CSA is aligning what you have (your product) with what your customers want. To do that, consider the following three questions:
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Jane Kuhn - Dec 19

As the bumper sticker reads "compost happens." It sure does! The magical microbial breakdown process will happen regardless of particle size, moisture content, greens and browns ratio, number of turns, or temperature reads. And while a thoughtful recipe and diligent execution will make beautiful and speedy compost, such meticulous monitoring often requires far too much labor for the small-scale production farmer.  Food waste inevitably accumulates and the common kludge approach of stashing it in an unmonitored, far removed corner of the property will result in a sloppy anaerobic mess...not to mention make for a very welcoming rodent habitat. There are a variety of compost turning implements on the market, but starting costs often begin at $30,000. So what do you do if you’re farming at production scale but don’t have the implement for making your own compost?

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Jane Kuhn - Dec 05

In need of a new irrigation system? Looking to install a windrow of native plants? Hoping to build new high tunnels? Whether you’re starting a farm or looking to upgrade an existing production, the NRCS may be able to help! The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has several financial assistance programs designed to support farmers in accomplishing projects that will improve and protect the land, water, and surrounding habitat. Offering grants and technical assistance, the NRCS has regional and national offices that are here to support such efforts. The application process can feel daunting, so I interviewed Cindy Askew, a District Conservationist at the NRCS based out of LaFayette, Georgia, to see what insight she might be able to offer farmers embarking on the quest for financial assistance.
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Jane Kuhn - Nov 20

With thousands of connections made between small farms and eager visitors in the US and around the world, WWOOF is an incredible resource that should not go untapped. A sliding scale membership fee of $5-50 opens the door to thousands of enthusiastic visitors (WWOOFers) in search of their next farming adventure, ready to exchange a half day's work for room and board. Selecting your next WWOOFer can be a bit overwhelming, and finding the right match is crucial for a successful experience.
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Lauren Kaplan - Nov 06

For farmers that follow sustainable and organic farming methods, cover cropping is a common practice, with many great ecological benefits. Cover crops can literally cover the soil, serving as a mulch whether living or dead. They can also be incorporated into the soil as either a nitrogenous “green” manure, or as more mature, carbonaceous addition. Including cover crops in your rotation will improve soil fertility and tilth by adding organic matter (which also increases the water-holding capacity of your soil), breaking up clods, and fracturing compaction from tillage. Cover crops prevent erosion, suppress weeds, and provide habitat for beneficial insects, and allow you to fix (or add) nitrogen and mine or scavenge nutrients for your next cash crop. 
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Jane Kuhn - Oct 23

Unexpected blow outs in irrigation pipes and malfunctioning sprinklers are inevitable events that contribute to inconsistent water output. But, even when a system appears to be running smoothly, upon a closer look,  you may be surprised by the inconsistencies. Variable irrigations build upon themselves application after application- salts can accumulate, nitrogen can leach, and crops suffer. Running a simple distribution uniformity (DU) test can reveal how evenly water is actually being applied, enabling you to weigh the need for making improvements while also informing proper irrigation sets. Because uniformity has significant impact on yield and water usage, running the occasional DU test on drip and overhead systems is well worth the time.
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Jane Kuhn - Oct 10

The number of breweries in the U.S. has more than doubled since 2011, now approaching a count of 4,300, according to the Brewer’s Association. The craft beer business is booming; seasonal batches and unique ferments from local ingredients are filling the kegs of hip bars in every city. There’s no doubt beer is a product consumers are excited about, and hops are a key ingredient. Integrating hops into your crop plan is a significant commitment, but it’s worth entertaining; here are a few key considerations to get the juices flowing.
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Patrick Dunn - Sep 26

Social. Media. You can’t go one day without hearing those two words. They are everywhere. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, MySpace, and YouTube … the list goes on and on. Our lives are beginning to revolve around social media, whether we like it or not. For farmers, utilizing these incredible tools for marketing and raising awareness can either be a dream come true or a technological nightmare. In this article I hope to demystify social media and give tips on the best ways to use specific social networks to market, promote and raise awareness of your farm and organic agriculture as a whole.
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Jane Kuhn - Sep 12

In the current climate of convenience, retaining your community supported agriculture (CSA) members - the ones who leap into shared seasonal risks with you - can be a challenging feat. Whether you connect with your community of CSA members in person at the on-farm pickup, or simply via the weekly e-newsletter, surveying your members provides insight as to how the CSA is being received. An end-of-season survey is a great way to learn more; the trick is designing it to be effective, so that it doesn't take up too much time and provides relevant results.

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Jane Kuhn - Aug 29

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) strives to support the “hardworking farmer veterans who have chosen to serve their nation twice – once by defending it and once by feeding it.” The idea for the Coalition germinated out of a gathering convened by Michael O’Gorman, previously of Jacob’s Farm/Del Cabo, in 2007.
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Sally Neas - Aug 14

It’s no secret that when starting an organic farm, there is plenty to consider: soil building, crop planning, infrastructure, just to name a few. While these are obvious and necessary, it’s also important to considering developing a brand for your organic farm. One important aspect of branding is creating a farm logo.
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Sally Neas - Aug 01

Odds are pretty good that you got into farming because you love the feeling of dirt under your fingernails and sun on your face more than the glow of a computer screen.  And yet, even the most technophobic of us know that the digital world offers powerful tools for sustainable farms, especially when it comes to marketing.
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Patrick Dunn - Jul 18

Proper greenhouse management is extremely important for the efficiency and health of a farm. It may seem simple — put a seed in a tray with soil, add water, and voila, there are young plants to transplant into the field. In theory, yes, that’s all there is to it. But optimal air temperature and water delivery are crucial for the development of seedlings. Also, hidden in the air all around us, in the water coming out of a hose, and in the ground inside a greenhouse, there are many mysterious little life forms ready to wreak havoc on young plants. The three most important greenhouse management practices are optimal temperature control, consistent air circulation and proper moisture delivery. 
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Patrick Dunn - Jul 05

Tomatoes are by far one of the most prized and valued vegetable crops on the market these days. The mere number of varieties, types and growth techniques are head spinning. From heirloom to hybrid, beefsteak to paste, hot-house to dry-farmed, and the ever more popular grafted tomatoes, it’s hard to keep up with what’s what these days. This is the first in a series of articles that will try to alleviate the ails of understanding tomato culture and describe the most popular growth techniques as well as get to the bottom of what all the hype is about.
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Patrick Dunn - Jun 20

Here we will discuss three main types of CSA models that have been successful all over the country: “Boxed” Subscription Style, On-Farm “Market” Style and Farmers Market “Bucks” Style. All three have strong pros but also may not be the best fit for every farm. With a little bit of forethought you can save yourself money and headaches by choosing the best fit for you. 
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Lauren Kaplan - Jun 06

In our last post, we explored the first steps in planning a class, from defining your target audience and setting objectives to thinking logistically about space and resources. If you’ve got a plan and are ready to move forward, here are some ideas for marketing your class, getting other folks involved -- and planning ahead for the next one. 
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Lauren Kaplan - May 21

With the public interest in farming growing faster than a zucchini in July, now is a great time to think about offering a class on your farm. Workshops and classes are a fun way to connect with new and existing customers, sharpen your skills, increase revenue, and build relationships. 
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Jane Kuhn - May 08

A thriving population of parasitic wasps, beetles, and other beneficial insects are the lifeblood of biological control systems on any organic farm. Providing an adequate food source for these “beneficials” ensures their presence in your fields and increases their egg laying abilities. Perennial hedgerows hold a valuable place in any farmscape for inviting these populations, but they do require a bit of an investment - long term planning, purchasing plant starts, and time to install. In addition to perennial hedgerows, you can recruit beneficial insects to the farm with annual insectary rows that require minimal time commitment and are cost effective.
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Jane Kuhn - Apr 24

The vital role honey bees play in the pollination enterprise is certainly no secret; honey bees are among the highest valued pollinators in agriculture, and as evident in the last several years, are dying and disappearing at an astronomical rate due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). According to the USDA, 42% of all honeybee colonies were lost in 2014 - the second highest rate on record. Given that over a third of all global crops are dependant on pollinators (not to mention an even larger percentage of crops that are enhanced by bee activity), entomologists are already on the lookout for alternative pollinators.
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David Howe - Apr 08

Tend began when our Founder and CEO, Avi Benaroya, began growing food for his family on his property in Northern California. After searching for software to help manage a diversified farm and having little luck, an idea was born: a mobile and web app to help diversified farmers manage their crops and sell more produce. It’s been a productive journey since then, and today we’re excited to take one more step toward our mission of enabling quality food systems: the launch of our blog!
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