- Author: Julia Van Soelen Kim
The workshop opened with a warm welcome from Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt (District 2) and Supervisor Shirlee Zane (District 3) and thoughtful facilitation from Joseph McIntyre with Ag Innovations Network. These leaders “built a foundation of trust, care, and urgency for the work, resulting in a productive and energizing day for the audience and presenters alike,” explained Pamela Swan with Sonoma County's Department of Health Services.
“Many farmers weren't aware of the range of options for value-added production that can help them use the abundance of their harvest, diversify their operations, and generate new income for their ag businesses,” stated UC Cooperative Extension Agricultural Ombudsman, Karen Giovannini. “These emerging opportunities support farmers and food entrepreneurs, as well as regional economic development and help to build a more robust local food system,” added UC Cooperative Extension Food Systems Advisor, Julia Van Soelen Kim.
The workshop was offered as part of the “Opportunities in Ag Business” series presented by UC Cooperative Extension and Sonoma County Department of Health Services and was generously sponsored by American Ag Credit. The workshop complemented the work of the Sonoma County Food System Alliance and helped move forward the goals of the Food Action Plan, the countywide vision for a vibrant local food system.
- Author: Penny Leff
The conference will be March 7 - 10, 2015 at the Marriott Mission Valley in San Diego County.
Attracting approximately 500 participants yearly, the California Small Farm Conference is the state's premier gathering of small-scale farmers, farmers' market managers, university researchers, federal and state agriculture agencies, agriculture students, food policy advocates, consumers and others.
The important work of the Local Planning Committee volunteers ensures the success of the California Small Farm Conference. We are looking for dedicated individuals with a passion for agriculture, who work or live in the San Diego area, to join our 2015 Local Planning Committee!
There are still openings for several volunteers to participate in planning by taking leadership roles on conference committees. These "super volunteers" will receive complementary registration and meals at the conference.
We need your input on local contacts for speakers, workshop topics, field tours and the tasting event! The second meeting of the Local Planning Committee will be held on Monday, September 15 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.
Click here to RSVP to the September 15 Local Planning Meeting.
Questions? Contact Jennifer Roth, Conference Coordinator, 916-508-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org/span>
- Author: Penny Leff
A guide for specialty crop promotion and education at California district and county fairs
Almost everyone in California enjoys our county and district fairs, but most people attending California fairs don't know much about local farmers or the crops that are grown in their own region. Many fairs and members of California agricultural communities are trying new ways to connect local farmers with fair attendees.
Specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers, honey, and the products created from them – are a big deal in California. California farmers feed their local communities, provide about half of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States, and export their crops and products around the world. Fairs attract thousands of visitors from urban, suburban and even rural communities who have never met a farmer or visited a farm and often do not know what is growing in fields and orchards surrounding their communities. California fairs offer opportunities for the agricultural community to connect with these visitors.
In 2013 and 2014, the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions collaborated with the University of California Small Farm Program to organize 20' by 40' interactive, fun and educational exhibits at four different California District Fairs to teach about local farms, crops and farmers' markets and promote fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers and honey to fair-goers.
Project staff created a guide to specialty crop education and promotion at county fairs, based on the experience of the many farmers, educators, fair officials and community groups participating in that project. The guide is funded by a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, as part of the "Mobile Agriculture Education Exhibit" Project.
The 22 page guide is available here as a downloadable pdf file:
- Author: Jeannette Warnert
Innovation allows livestock producers and rice farmers to solve each other's problems
The California drought has ranchers desperate for inexpensive livestock feed. Air quality protection regulations that limit rice straw burning leave the rice industry with an abundance of typically low-quality straw to unload. Though it has rarely been done, Nader believes special treatment of rice straw will make it a nutritious cattle food. Two problems solved.
Nader will introduce producers to this new way to get through the drought at a meeting from 9 a.m. to 12 noon July 29 at the Veterans Memorial Hall, 525 W. Sycamore St., Willows, Calif.
When rice straw dries, its value as a forage declines dramatically. For 15 years, UC researchers have been trying to figure out why, but the reason for the significant change is not understood at this time.
"At one time, we thought the problem was silica in the straw," Nader said. "We grew silica-free rice. That didn't work. We thought it was the crystallinity of molecules in the straw. We parsed apart the plant, and we still don't know."
Ultimately, it was a rancher who suggested the scientists to put aside their desire to know why quality declines when rice straw dries and look for practical ways to get around it. Nader postponed his retirement to comply.
Normally, rice growers bale the straw two to four days after harvest. Nader and his colleagues instead baled the straw immediately after it exited the grain harvester. They stacked the green straw bales and covered them with a tarp to retain moisture and prevent spontaneous combustion. The result is a product they named "strawlage." One worry is mold. The researchers found that treating the straw with propionic acid prevents fungus growth.
"We haven't figured everything out, but with the drought conditions as serious as they are, we feel the time is right to share our research with growers," Nader said. "We invite producers to come to the meeting to see if this will work for their operations. Several producers who have already fed strawlage to their cattle will speak at the meeting about their experiences."
Nader believes the UC research into using rice straw for livestock feed will be helpful throughout the world.
Asian farmers produce rice straw in great abundance and their livestock would benefit significantly if the farmers worked to maintain the plant's moisture until it reaches cattle feeding troughs.
The July 29 meeting will cover:
- Nutritional advantages of strawlage over rice straw
- The challenges of baling the straw at 50 to 60 percent moisture
- Additives to prevent mold
- How to stake and tarp strawlage
- The costs associated with the practice
- How cows that ate strawlage last year fared
"Our goal is to give producers information that will allow them to make rice strawlage during this fall's harvest," Nader said. "Both cattle and rice producers are encouraged to attend."/span>
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Rachel Surls, a UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Los Angeles County, and a team including UCCE farm advisors, policy and advocacy experts, urban planners, agricultural economists and others created the new urban agriculture website in response to the results of a UC survey of urban farmers in California.
“Our team interviewed urban farmers around the state about their challenges and successes, and what information they really needed as they got started,” said Surls, who specializes in sustainable food systems. “Based on their needs, we looked for science-based educational materials that would be helpful and packaged them into this website.
Many urban farmers are beginning farmers, according to Surls. “They need basic information on planting, pests and irrigation, as well as information that's more specific to farming in the city,” she said. “For example, they must navigate local laws and regulations that impact farming which include zoning and health codes.”
The UC ANR Urban Agriculture website also advises urban farmers about environmental issues that they may encounter.
“Urban soils can sometimes be contaminated and may need testing and remediation,” Surls said. “Farming close to neighbors in the city can also bring special challenges.”
She encourages people to check back for updates as the Urban Ag website continues to grow.
“We'll also share stories about urban farms around California and news around the state about urban agriculture policies and initiatives,” Surls said.
Visit the UC ANR Urban Agriculture website at http://ucanr.edu/urbanag.