eNews May 2015

Dear  Friends of Food and Farms,


CFSA has connected thousands of folks with the farmers who grow their food through our farm tours, including the Piedmont Farm Tour which celebrated its 20th year this April. We had our fingers crossed for good weather, but we got just about the worst weather an outdoor event in April could have. Despite the rain and cold, our amazing volunteers and farmers braved the dreary conditions to greet those who came on the tour. As more than one farmer put it to me, “They are really getting the true farming experience this year!” Farming is not all about pretty, bucolic fields in the sunshine; it is also about dealing with whatever weather comes your way.


At CFSA, we’re proud of the way our farmer members grow and raise the local and organic food you value. It’s a big part of our mission to open the barn doors and farm gates on our Farm Tours – making sure that you know how your food is grown.  If you missed the Piedmont Farm Tour, join us next month for the Upstate Farm Tour in South Carolina.  We’re so excited to introduce you to the 7 new farms on the tour this year!  Another way we’re working to make farming more transparent is to advocate against the North Carolina Ag Gag bill.


Learn more about the other policy issues were following, check out our top resources for agripreneurs, learn about some common pitfalls of organic inputs, and meet Jillian Hishaw of F.A.R.M.S and learn about how CFSA is supporting her work to prevent land loss – all in this month’s eNews!



elizabeth signature

Elizabeth Read



In this edition:


F.A.R.M.S. Mission is Simple: To Retain Land, Market Produce, and Educate the Next Generation of Farmers 

Thanks for the Love on the Piedmont Farm Tour!

Apply to be a Farmer In Training at Lomax Farm

We’re Hiring a  Local Produce Safety Coordinator and an NC Food Systems Coordinator   



Top Online Resources for Agripreneurs

Check Out Our Other Awesome Online Resources!
We’ve got a NEW Agripreneurs Toolbox and loads of resources and tools for Consumers, Growers, and Policy Ag-tivists!



South Carolina Policy Update: Protecting Small SC Food Businesses from Onerous Food Safety Regulations, A Win for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and Industrial Hemp 

Don’t Let NC Hide Animal Abuse 

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act 



Avoid Common Mistakes with Organic Inputs 



A Night with Scott Avett, Joe Kwon and Vivian Howard to Benefit Lomax Farm
May 15, 7 pm
Ritchie Hill 391 Union St S, Concord, NC


CFSA’s Annual Organic Legislative Breakfast
May 27, 2015


2015 Upstate Farm Tour
June 6-7 from 1-6 PM




F.A.R.M.S. Mission is Simple: To Retain Land, Market Produce, and Educate the Next Generation of Farmers


A considerable amount of rural land in the Pee Dee and Lowcountry regions of South Carolina is referred to as “heirs property.” Much of this land is “owned” by small-scale farmers of color. The problem with heirs property is that it has been passed down from generation to generation without the benefit of a Will and is owned “in common” by many heirs, some of which have never paid property taxes or set foot on the land. Any single heir can sell their “rights” to another heir, which in turn can force the sale of the entire property in court. Over 30,000 acres of land owned by African Americans is lost annually due to these circumstances and others. And without the benefit of a clear title, many small-scale black farmers are not eligible for USDA grant assistance programs.


Jillian Hishaw, Esq., Founder and Director of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services, or F.A.R.M.S.

In CFSA’s ongoing feature highlighting recipients of our Food Projects consulting services, CFSA’s Stephen Nix sat down with Jillian Hishaw, Esq., Founder and Director of Family Agriculture Resource Management Services, or F.A.R.M.S., for short.


CFSA: Tell us about F.A.R.M.S.  How did the ideas for the business come about and how are they related?


F.A.R.M.S.: Family Agriculture Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.) exists to provide small farmers of color with legal services to protect their land, retail marketing assistance to generate revenue and programming to educate youth about agricultural science.


Three pivotal experiences shaped my desire to undertake farmer advocacy work.  First, as a Tuskegee University student, I observed the conditions small farmers of color endured. These were the same struggles my grandfather, who was raised on a farm and suffered land loss, was reluctant to share.  Every year, 30,000 acres of African American land is lost; unfortunately, my grandfather experienced this loss as a child.  These experiences sparked my interest.  During the Fall of 2005, when I was an agricultural law student at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville, I developed the idea that later became F.A.R.M.S.  In law school I read about farmers’ experiences in the Pigford v. Glickman and Keepseagle v. Glickman cases, involving discrimination class action suits against the USDA. The extent of discrimination imposed on farmers of color read like something out of a novel.  I realized the need for F.A.R.M.S. was imperative.


CFSA: What were you doing when you realized this project was the next logical step?  In other words, how did you get to this point?


F.A.R.M.S.: Living in the Blackbelt as a Tuskegee student, I’d never seen such a level of poverty, even as a child growing up in a low-income neighborhood.  It wasn’t until college that I realized the severity of rural poverty is different than poverty in urban areas.  Often, community resources in rural areas are scarce and unemployment is extremely high.  However, my experience as a law student taught me the legal and political reasons for such conditions.  Although the reasons can be explained in legal jargon, the conditions cannot be justified and are unacceptable.


CFSA: What about the Pee Dee region makes it the ideal location to start local food businesses?


F.A.R.M.S.: The Pee Dee region is the ideal location to start local food business because farmers in the area are receptive and knowledgeable about produce. It is humbling and wonderful to know, the Pee Dee region chose me! I wanted to make sure I focused on a region where F.A.R.M.S. could make the greatest impact.  Farmers in the Pee Dee region have been supportive of F.A.R.M.S.’ efforts to provide them services.


CFSA: Why are you passionate about using local, sustainable foods as part of your business?  How do you plan to work with local farmers and artisans?



FARMS recruited a local farmer to teach a workshop about farming at a rural SC elementary school

F.A.R.M.S.: Local food produces local jobs and local revenue aids in eliminating unemployment and poverty.  F.A.R.M.S. current work includes working with farmers to grow produce for Harvest Hope Food bank in Florence and classroom visits to local schools to talk to youth about farming.  In the Pee Dee region, there is a lot of idle land. By putting the land back into production, we hope to help farmers generate revenue to pay the taxes on the land and execute a proper farm succession plan to prevent land loss.  Additionally, helping farmers expand their markets (i.e. farms to schools programs) will increase farm production, contributing to the local economy and job creation.


CFSA: What are your goals for F.A.R.M.S., and where do you see it in 5 years?  What can CFSA do to help you get there?


F.A.R.M.S.: My goal for F.A.R.M.S. is to become a sustainable organization, in our four- state region, which continues to work with small farmers on a personal level to ensure longevity and trust among our clients. Raising funds to continue our work, hiring local staff, locating more farmers to provide assistance to, building partnership support, and continuing to expand our services into Georgia and Alabama are my ultimate goal within the next five years for F.A.R.M.S.


CFSA can assist F.A.R.M.S. in project collaboration, promoting events, and referring members to our upcoming Barnraiser crowd funding campaign.


CFSA: How will long-term success be defined?


F.A.R.M.S.: Long-term success will be defined by the number of acres protected through estate planning tools, the number of jobs created, the number of new retail markets created for farmers, the pounds of food donated annually to food banks, the monetary value of scholarships disbursed to college students majoring in agricultural science, and the number of youth we began educating as adolescents who pursue a career in agriculture.


CFSA: In addition to your work, what are your thoughts on how we can grow local and organic foods in the Carolinas?


CFSA has an invaluable presence in the Carolinas.  CFSA’s help in locating new retail markets for small farmers and continued USDA Organic certification program assistance will always be needed.  Due to the aging population of farmers, the need for CFSA is even more important, especially in offering training to new farmers.  Offering more GAP training support in South Carolina is an immediate start; part of the barriers holding back many of the farmers we provide assistance to is the lack of GAP certifications.


CFSA: Is there anything else that you would like CFSA’s members to know about F.A.R.M.S.?


F.A.R.M.S.: We thank CFSA for highlighting our efforts. We encourage CFSA members to visit our website at www.30000acres.org and follow us on social media


Twitter: @FARMS30000

Facebook: FARMS

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/farms?trk=company_logo


For more information about our programming, please contact F.A.R.M.S. at info@30000acres.org



Thanks for the Love on the Piedmont Farm Tour!

Woodcrest-Farm-on-the-PFT-2015A big thank you to all of the farmers, volunteers, and visitors who participated in the 20th annual Piedmont farm tour! This year April showers tried to put a damper on our weekend of farm fresh fun, but we were excited to see how many folks braved the rain to meet their amazing local farmers. Over 135 volunteers came out to support the tour, and we can’t thank them enough for their dedication! Plus, we’ve heard that this year’s crowd included some of the most passionate and interested visitors ever, and the farmers are saying they really enjoyed tour-goers enthusiasm. We’d like to say thank you to our partners at Weaver Street Market for supporting the tour, and of course a huge THANK YOU to the 40+ farmers that opened their farm gates to the public.


CFSA’s next Triangle-region farm tour will be in the fall, so go ahead and save the date for the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour – September 19th and 20th!



Apply to be a Farmer In Training at Lomax Farm!

lomaxSo, you want to be a F.I.T. (Farmer in Training) at Lomax Farm? Here’s how it works!

The average age of American farmers is 58.  CFSA is working to bring that number down. Lomax Farm has graduated 10 farmers into the sustainable agriculture movement. Accessing land in an increasingly expensive real estate market is tough. Beginning farmers need a supportive environment that provides knowledge and guidance through learning how to run a successful farm business.If you want to be a lawyer you go to law school, if you want to be a doctor you go to medical school. But if you want to be a farmer, where do you go for that education, training, and hands on practice? This is the vocational option for people that want to become farmers.

Individuals interested in starting a farm-based business can enroll in the program which provides classroom instruction on the business of farming in Cabarrus County as well as hands–on experience on the farm. Participants in the program develop and manage their own agriculture business while receiving guidance from staff and seasoned farmers. Farmers-in-training have a 3 to 5 year participation period at the farm and Lomax Farm staff aim to help the new farms find land of their own.


Learn more about the program and how to apply!

Heads up: Our next application deadline is July 1st.



We’re Hiring a Local Produce Safety Coordinator and a NC Food Systems Coordinator

The Local Produce Safety Coordinator is a full time position (40 hours/week), responsible for offering an innovative statewide training and technical assistance program to operators of diversified farms seeking USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Harmonized GAP Certification.  Applications are due by May 15, 2015. 


The NC Food Systems Coordinator is also a full-time position, responsible for managing program initiatives to build food system infrastructure and improve market access for local, organic, and sustainable foods across the Carolinas. The NC Food Systems Coordinator may either work from the Pittsboro, NC office or remotely, depending on their location. This position will require regular travel throughout North Carolina. Applications are due by May 22, 2015.


For more details and to apply, visit our website






CFSA has scoured the web and found the very best, free resources to help producers and agripreneurs grow their food businesses!


Check Out Our Other Awesome Online Resources!  

We’ve got a NEW Agripreneurs Toolbox and loads of resources and tools for Consumers, Growers, and Policy Ag-tivists!




South Carolina Policy Update:

Protecting Small SC Food Businesses from Onerous Food Safety Regulations, A Win for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and Industrial Hemp

by Rochelle Sparko, Policy Director 

1609957_10152361583774014_4769634644558669453_nThe legislative session is in full swing in South Carolina and CFSA is keeping tabs on a few of issues. First, Senate Bill 284, which will permit small food businesses to continue complying with existing good manufacturing practices laws, rather than the federal regulations implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Compliance with the FMSA regulations is expected to be onerous and is expected to cause a number of very small food businesses around the country to close their doors. This bill would make South Carolina a national leader in the local food movement, should it pass. The bill received a hearing in a Senate Agriculture Subcommittee and passed easily. The bill will be heard next by the full Senate Agriculture Committee.


Please visit CFSA’s website to learn more about this important legislation and sign up for CFSA’s Action Alerts to make sure you receive timely updates about opportunities to support this bill.


Second, CFSA is helping out with the effort to secure an appropriation for a Healthy Food Financing Initiative. If funded, the Initiative will create a revolving loan fund to be administered by the SC Community Loan Fund to provide affordable financing to farmers and food businesses. Lending priority will be given to those farmers and food businesses seeking to make healthy, local food more accessible in food deserts. We received great news last week: the budget that passed the Senate Finance Committee included a $250,000 appropriation to help farms and food businesses obtain affordable financing! The budget will move to the Senate floor, probably in the next two weeks.


Please visit CFSA’s website to learn more about how this appropriation will help farms, food businesses, and consumers strengthen the local food system in South Carolina, and sign up for CFSA’s Action Alerts to make sure you receive timely updates about opportunities to support this appropriation.


Finally, CFSA is following Senate Bill 559-Industrial Hemp. This bill builds on a law passed last year that legalized the growing of industrial hemp in SC. The law currently allows growing industrial hemp, provided the grower obtained a license. However, the law does not provide for any way for an interested farmer to obtain the license. Senate Bill 559 will correct this problem, tasking Division of Regulatory and Public Service Programs, College of Agricultural Sciences, Clemson University with establishing a licensing regime and providing instruction to the Division about who is eligible for a license. The bill was scheduled to be heard in a subcommittee of the Senate Ag Committee, but was postponed due to a scheduling conflict. The hearing has not yet been rescheduled.



Don’t Let NC Hide Animal Abuse

by Jared Cates, Community Mobilizer

piggieAround the country, legislators have introduced laws designed to stifle the exposure of illegal animal abuse at agricultural facilities. Proponents of these laws claim that the legislation is necessary to protect private property. Opponents of the laws claim that these bills inhibit transparency, threaten whistleblowers with criminal or civil liability, and generally erode the ability of the press and individuals to expose illegal activity when it takes place in private industry. Opponents refer to such legislation as “ag-gag bills.”


In North Carolina, bills to stop people from reporting illegal, on-farm abuse have been introduced several times. In the past, these bills have all failed to become law. This year, it appears certain that a bill designed to silence those who witness illegal abuse will be presented to the governor for his signature.


“The Property Protection Act” – House Bill 405 and Senate Bill 433 – would discourage whistleblowers from exposing any illegal activity at their place of employment, including: animal cruelty, worker mistreatment, food safety issues, elder abuse in hospitals and nursing homes, child abuse in daycares and schools, and workplace discrimination at any North Carolina business. On April 23, 2015, the House passed HB 405. It is expected to pass the Senate and will then be presented to the governor for his signature or veto.


Visit our website to learn more and to find out how you can take action today in opposition to this harmful legislation.



The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act

by Jared Cates, Community Mobilizer

Ben&JerryA bill was recently introduced in the US Congress that will make it more difficult for consumers to know what is in their food. The bill, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, is co-sponsored by two Representatives from North Carolina – Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-1) and Congresswoman Alma Adams (D-12).


Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are found in almost all processed foods and this act would eliminate state laws that require these products be labeled for consumers who want to avoid them. This bill would make it so difficult for consumers to understand what is in their food that opponents call it the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know Act).


CFSA has been working with our food council allies across the state to send the message to our Congresspeople that, if passed, this bill will only further confuse consumers and negatively impact the USDA Certified Organic brand.


For more information on this harmful legislation, visit our website.


If you live in either Congresswoman Adams’ or Congressman Butterfield’s districts, please contact CFSA Community Mobilizer Jared Cates at jared@



North Carolina Legislators In for a Treat: CFSA’s Annual Organic Breakfast

Legislative-BreakfastCFSA will host its annual Legislative Breakfast at the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday, May 27, 2015. This event is an informal, friendly way for you to meet legislators, educate them about your farm, and organic farming in general.


All CFSA members are invited to attend. An email invitation with more details is coming soon. We hope to see you at the Legislative Organic Breakfast!




Avoid Common Mistakes with Organic Inputs

by Keith R. Baldwin and Eric Soderholm

When it comes to inputs for transitioning or certified organic farms, there are plenty of mistakes that can easily be made that would start that three-year “transition” clock back to zero. A short review of some of these simple mistakes will hopefully keep some of you all out of trouble.


You really can’t go wrong if you don’t use any inputs whatsoever, but for most producers that’s not realistic. So, the first thing to look for is a “seal of approval” from an institution that reviews products and has the authority to make a call as to what is “Allowed” and what is “Prohibited.” Though this sounds black and white, know that may allowed products come with restrictions or annotations specifying when their use is acceptable.


The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) supports organic integrity by providing organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. When companies apply, OMRI reviews their products against the organic standards. Acceptable products are OMRI Listed® and appear on the OMRI Products List©. Be careful though, the OMRI label doesn’t necessarily mean go for it. Use of any material has to be considered in the context of your specific operation and the specific use of the product.


The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) Organic Program maintains a list of products that have been determined to meet the requirements under the National Organic Standards. WSDA’s list is not a comprehensive list of all materials that are allowed for use in organic agriculture, but WSDA certified organic operators can use products that appear on this list and maintain confidence that the use of these products will not jeopardize certification.


Many products are “allowed” even if they have not been “vetted” by either of these organizations. There are many reasons for this: commonly, manufacturers do not want to pay the costs associated with a review. So, before using any product, check with your certifier to make sure that the input is “allowed” by that certifier. The Organic System Plan (OSP) for your farm requires the identification of all inputs. You are required to notify your certifier before any “new” inputs not included in your OSP are used on the farm. Remember that a manufacturer can put anything on the label, including “organic”, “natural”, etc. It’s a “buyer-beware” world.


Ready to Rock?

A common mistake that many producers make relates to the use of soil amendments derived from mineral rock. For example, potassium sulfate or potash fertilizer (0-0-50) can be either allowed or prohibited, depending on the manufacturing process. The “Great Lakes” brand is allowed, while some other brands are prohibited because they contain a dust suppressant. The same is true for sul-po-mag (0-0-22), which is sold by Planet Natural as “K-Mag NATURAL.” It is highly likely that this material is prohibited because we have not been able to source an 0-0-22 that does not contain a dust suppressant.


Top 10 Input Issues

Fertilizer materials derived from fish or fish byproducts can also be problematic. Some contain emulsifiers that are prohibited; others may have preservatives added to prolong shelf life. Here’s an input “case” where that OMRI or other seal of approval can save you time, money and grief.


It’s somewhat ironic that animal manures, in particular poultry litter, are allowed for use in organic production even though they can contain byproducts of industrial agriculture such as antibiotics and arsenic. And in the same vein, cottonseed and soybean meal can be used on organic farms as soil amendments even though they may be derived from GMO cotton and soybeans that have had conventional pesticide applications (disclaimer: check with your individual certifier).


OMRI has developed a “GMO decision tree” that generally supports use of these products, though there is disagreement from some quarters, as you might imagine. The “logic” supporting use of these products assumes that as a soil amendment any “GMO” in cotton seed or soybeans is unlikely to be assimilated by crops. At the same time, that logic also stipulates that GMO-derived products must not have an “impact” on soil microorganisms (not sure who might be checking on that).


Here’s a list of some other things to watch for with respect to inputs:

  • “Allowed Synthetic” micronutrients (assumed to be synthetic because of the process used to produce the final product) can only be used when there is a “documented” soil deficiency as shown by soil or tissue testing.
  • Most organic pesticides can only be used when “documented” use of other (e.g. cultural, biological) control methods have proven insufficient.
  • Watch out for prohibited wetting agents in potting soil mixes.
  • Certified organic seed is required for cover crops. Untreated conventional seed can be used if organic seed (species or cultivar) is commercially unavailable.
  • Some inoculants for legume species contain synthetic ingredients or GMO Rhizobium bacteria that are prohibited.
  • Seed treated or coated with any synthetic substance is prohibited. This includes seed that is pelleted for uniformity and easier seeding. Some seed companies, like Johnny’s, do a good job of denoting which seeds have an NOP-compliant pelletizing agent.
  • Compost containing glossy, colored paper, compostable plastic and/or biosolids (sewage sludge) is prohibited. Always ask the compost manufacturer for the compost specs and run them by your certifier before purchase and use.
  • Liquid fertilizers that contain 3% or more nitrogen must be approved by an accredited material review organization (OMRI or WSDA) for compliance. The NOP decided that individual organic certifiers are not allowed to review and approve these materials after a case of fraud in 2009.


What’s at Stake?

On the livestock side of a diversified farm, one question that frequently puzzles producers is the use of “treated” fence posts. In my experience, the interpretation of the NOP rule regarding this “issue” varies considerably by certifier. But it’s something to keep pestering them about. A prominent certifier in North Carolina allows that after three years in the ground, a treated fence post “transitions” into an allowed status. Until that time, animals must be “buffered” from any forage within the lateral extent of the root zone of that forage, which may be four or five feet. An alternative is to “wrap the portion of the fence post that will be buried in the soil with an impermeable covering. Livestock must not be allowed to come into contact with the post, and a hot wire may do the job there. In South Carolina, a prominent certifier’s position is that if the post is in the ground at the time of the initial inspection for certification, it is considered to be “allowed.” Needless to say, choosing a certifier and knowing their position is an important part of doing business for a livestock producer.


Mulches: We’ve (Almost) Got It Covered

A last word on the use of mulches: Both black plastic mulch and (some/check) landscape fabric are allowed for use in organic vegetable production systems, but both must be taken up at the end of the growing season. A new opportunity is on the horizon as the NOP just approved the use of bio-based, biodegradable mulches. However, based on OMRI’s research and understanding of these products, most and possibly all, of the currently marketed bio-based mulch films contain some petrochemical feedstocks, and the feedstocks used are typically less than 50% bio-based. It is unlikely that OMRI will be able to add any biodegradable, bio-based mulch films to the OMRI Products List© this year.


Head spinning?  Check out CFSA’s Organic Production and Certification Consulting Services or contact Eric Soderholm for help getting your farm organic certified.




A Night with Scott Avett, Joe Kwon and Vivian Howard to Benefit Lomax Farm

May 15, 7 pm
Ritchie Hill 391 Union St S, Concord, NC


A few seats are available at an exclusive dinner to benefit the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm. Scott Avett, Concord native and founding member of The Avett Brothers, will attend in support of the farm and its mission. Mr. Avett will be joined by Joe Kwon, cellist for The Avett Brothers and food enthusiast. Acclaimed chef Vivian Howard of Chef & The Farmer restaurant in Kinston, NC, and the PBS television show “A Chef’s Life,” is preparing a meal honoring the spring season with produce from Lomax and other local farms.

Cost:  $1,000 per plate

Buy your ticket now! 


The 2015 Upstate Farm Tour is June 6-7 from 1-6 PM!


Meet Your Local Farmers! Farm Fresh Fun for the Whole Family!

Tour local, sustainable farms and discover the delicious meat, dairy, fruits and veggies produced right here in the Upstate!

CLICK HERE to Buy Your Ticket Now!



DOWNLOAD – Upstate Farm Tour Guide (.pdf)

  • Farm Descriptions and Map
  • Plan your tour and Get driving directions!

DOWNLOAD – Interactive Google Map


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