Expert Tips

Bad Weather Ahead? NAP Could Have Your Farm Covered

by Rochelle Sparko, CFSA’s Policy Director

bad weatherCatastrophic flooding hit NC last year and SC the year before, damaging many farmers’ crops. These widespread disasters got me wondering whether CFSA’s member-farmers are aware of the different ways they can protect themselves from the financial consequences of natural disasters. To that end, I’ve put together some basic information about NAP. Take a look, and if you have questions, contact your local FSA office.

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Whole-Farm Revenue Protection

by Thomas Moore, CFSA’s NC Food Systems Coordinator

flooded fields - image from newsstand.clemson.edu

Photo from http://newsstand.clemson.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/poststorm4.jpeg

While attending Atina Diffley’s Wholesale Success workshop last month in Durham, NC, I was introduced to a valuable resource that can help new farmers mitigate risk of financial loss due to crop failure. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) within the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now running a Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Pilot Program. Through this program farmers with at least five years of experience (you may qualify with fewer years if you qualify for as a beginner farmer or rancher) can insure their entire farm at local fair market value. Crop value is not based on commodity pricing, which is a great benefit for organic growers. This program could be a huge help for local growers across the Carolinas and should be something to consider when it comes to risk management assessment.

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Soil Sampling Basics

by Gena Moore, CFSA’s Organic Research Coordinator

Soil sampling, Gena Moore (2)

Soil sampling is an essential task for almost every grower. Whether you’re a home gardener, market gardener, commercial row-cropper or somewhere in between; you’ll end up needing your soil tested at some point. Knowing how to best sample your soil, where to send the sample and how to interpret the results are all important tasks. Below are some tips for successfully sampling your soil and understanding the results!

First, decide on a soil testing lab. There are several labs that test the soil in multiple ways. Remember, there is no “perfect” soil test and you always need to accept a margin of error in results. The best practice is to pick a testing lab that will give you your needed soil information and continue testing with the same lab for most future soil tests. This will provide the most reliable way to track any changes in your soil.

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Irrigation in High Tunnels

by Gena Moore, CFSA’s Organic Research Coordinator

Overhead Irrigation in a High Tunnel

A cover crop stand of sunflowers in a high tunnel irrigated with a wobbler head sprinkler system at Lomax Farm.

Irrigation is a much debated topic among many farmers. Some simply rely on rain and hand watering while others meticulously run drip tape and spend countless hours monitoring and adjusting irrigation schedules. Whether you produce in the field, high tunnel, or greenhouse, water amounts can greatly impact the health and vigor of your crops. For example, bitterness in cucumbers can be caused by the lack of or inconsistent watering. Also, crops like tomatoes require varying amounts of water throughout their life cycle. Adjusting irrigation amounts for tomatoes can impact the marketable quality of fruit. No one likes bitter cucumbers or ugly tomatoes so taking the time to research and plan irrigation can influence marketable harvests and, in-turn, profit. Learn More

Extend Your Produce Sales Through the Winter

by Thomas Moore, CFSA’s NC Food Systems Coordinator

cooler 

As the growing season comes to an end it is important for farmers to develop strategies that ensure sales for twelve months a year.  Even though North and South Carolina have long growing seasons, produce farmers who do not use season extending production methods will have a four-month production gap. In order to bridge this production gap and provide product to your customers year-round, proper storage practices are essential. By properly preparing your produce for storage and providing ideal storage conditions, farmers are able to store their products from one to twelve months, depending on the product.

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Successful Transplant Production

by Gena Moore, CFSA’s Organic Research Coordinator

Photo from Windcrest Farm's Facebook page

Photo from Windcrest Farm’s Facebook page

All farmers and gardeners must make the decision whether to grow their own or purchase transplants.  This decision is made considering several factors including: equipment needs; supply needs; amount of transplants needed; time of year; and, of course, price.  There are a few people out there who, against all odds, can generate beautiful transplants year-round without fancy equipment.  From my experience, those people are few and far between.  The rest of us are forced either to invest in a greenhouse or other supplies, to grow our own, or just buy them and save ourselves the trouble of it all.  Whatever decision you make, below are some tips to help you be successful.

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EXPERT TIP: Considerations for a Fall Cover Crop

by Mark Dempsey, CFSA Farm Services Coordinator

cover-crops

It’s mid-season in the Carolinas, and for growers this typically means spring crops are finished, summer crops are keeping you busy, and you’re starting fall crops. This is a good time to consider whether to plant cover crops in some fields this fall instead of all cash crops.

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Plan Now for Cold-Hardy Crops

by Stephen Nix, CFSA’s SC Food Systems Coordinator

Cold-hardy collards in a field at Perry-Winkle Farm. Photo by Stephen Nix.

Photo by Stephen Nix.

Believe it or not, colder weather is right around (almost) the corner. Most of us have experienced temperatures in the 90s (if not higher) for at least the last month, but August is here and the official ‘dog days’ of summer are upon us. August marks the time when many farmers begin transitioning to fall crops and while the cooler weather will become a welcome respite from this Summer’s heat, the last thing on our minds right now is the cold(er) winter ahead. However, it is never too early to start planning for cold-hardy crops and overwintering to provide a continuous supply of fresh vegetables throughout winter and to get an early start next spring. Learn More

EXPERT TIP: Growing Good Certified Organic Transplants

by Aaron Newton, CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator

Photo by J.H Photo

Photo by J.H Photo

Providing consistent access to nutrients during the early stages of transplant development is a problem many organic growers face. At Lomax Farm we’ve developed a strategy that addresses nutrient availability in transplant production and uses some key, low-cost equipment to accomplish the task.

This fall we will be testing different seed-starting recipes, and we will share those results with everyone later this year. For this Expert Tiphowever, we will focus on equipment and we’ll be using a standard recipe as an example.

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