Our second session with the 2018-19 National Farmers Union’s (NFU) Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) took us into the country’s heart of organic produce, the salad bowl of America, the sunny Salinas Valley, California. Again, we were the last to arrive late at night, and a bit jet-lagged. For the first day of training, we participated in a hands-on learning session, hosted in partnership with the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), an organization dedicated to creating economic opportunity for limited-resource and aspiring organic farmers through land-based education. ALBA creates farming opportunities while providing education and demonstration of organic farming, conservation, and habitat restoration. About 35 farmers operate their small organic farm at ALBA on an annual basis.
Attention beginning farmers, farm employees and those contemplating a future in sustainable farming! The application period for the 2019 Organic Farmer Training Program (OFTP) at Michigan State University is now open.
It’s a Wednesday morning at the Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace and the room is fragrant with fresh, cut flowers overflowing in buckets. There’s dahlias from Luella Acres, zinnias from Fresh Cut Detroit, and eucalyptus from Seeley Farms. Now in its second year, the Michigan Flower Growers’ Cooperative is creating a new model for local flower growers to sell to florists and other wholesale buyers.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) was founded over 110 years ago and advocates for grassroots policy change that supports the welfare of family farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and consumers. NFU writes, “We promote sustainable production of food, feed, fiber, and fuel and work with our 200,000 member families nationwide to support smart farm policies, educate the public and develop the next generation of farm leaders.” To achieve this mission, the nationwide organization coordinates legislative fly-ins in the spring and fall every year as critical issues come before Congress for a vote.
Located near the intersection of three major highways and just over the rise from a sprawling shopping mall, there is a 160-acre oasis of rolling hills, green pastures and unbroken swaths of woodland: the Michigan State University Tollgate Education Center and Farm. “It is the last piece of farm history in the city of Novi,” says Farm Manager Roy Prentice.
Lavender Lane is a specialty lavender farm located 15 minutes south of Ann Arbor in Milan. As educators, my wife and I founded our farm in 2014 and have since expanded it to include over 5,000 plants; we grow over 16 varieties of lavender in colors of purple, pink, white and blue! Aside from its scent-sational aroma and breathtaking views, lavender keeps its appealing scent for years, can be used in cooking, promotes sound sleep, uplifts one’s mood and calms the mind and body!
Hemp is a plant we’re hearing more about these days. However, there is a lot of confusion around this delicious and versatile plant. Many people wonder if hemp and marijuana are the same plant or are concerned they may fail a drug test or get high from eating hemp. An internet search can lead to even more confusion! This article sheds light on hemp history and clarifies a few of the common misconceptions regarding this important plant.
America’s highly productive food system is one of its beloved accomplishments. But the environment has paid a high price for this abundance, especially our rivers, streams, and lakes. In fact, according to the EPA’s National Water Quality Inventory Report, agriculture is considered to be “the most widespread source of impairment in the nation’s assessed lake acres.” Industrial agriculture is among the leading causes of water pollution in the United States today. Data indicates this method of food production often wastes large quantities of water, even when nearby communities are experiencing water shortages (check out California’s nut production dilemma).
When I first sat down with Dave Skornia of Lakeside Farm, he was incredibly moved and excited to share his story with us for the 2018 Guide to Local Food. He cares deeply about his farm and homestead and I knew right away we wouldn’t be able to do it complete justice in the yearly publication. This is Dave’s personal story about the history of his homestead, his love for farming, and what he raises and sells on his farm today. His inspiring story expresses his deep passion and dedication to the land, and motivation to help beginning farmers. So I thought, who else to tell the story better than Dave himself?
The Farm Bill is a large piece of legislation that is renewed every 5 or so years. It includes funding for a wide range of programs (SNAP, crop insurance, conservation, local food promotion, farmer training, and more) that impact everyone in the United States. This year, The Farm Bill is up for renewal and its current draft would fail family farmers and ranchers, hungry Americans, and the environment. It is important that we all take the time to reach out to our Congress people and ask them to support a stronger Farm Bill for farmers, ranchers and consumers.