February 7, 2020
Dr. Ajay Nair, Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University in Ames, IA, along with ISU Project Scientist, Brandon Carpenter, held a two-day orientation visit with Dr. Maurice Pitesky, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis and Sarai Acosta, a PhD student working, Israel Herrera and Nicole Tautges of the LTRAS (Long-term Research on Agricultural Systems) Program near the UC Davis campus and CASI's Jeff Mitchell to go over plans for their new NIFA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative project, Integrating vegetable, poultry, and cover cropping practices to enhance resiliency in organic production systems. The goals of this newly-approved study are to successfully integrate crop-poultry production to build soil quality and fertility while reducing off-farm input and enhancing on-farm diversity in three major food producing regions of the country [Midwest, (IA), southeast (KY) and western US (CA)] and develop crop-animal integrated systems that lead to diverse crop rotation, enhance animal health, productivity, and welfare, and improve overall farm profitability of organic production systems. The work will be implemented at these three sites during the next four years and involves teams of crop and animal scientists at each location. The work in CA will be conducted in a one-acre block at the LTRAS facility and will involve three experimental systems that will be monitored for a whole host of crop, soil, and animal characteristics. Two of the experimental systems will involve the introduction of chickens at key points in the crop and cover crop rotation while the third system will not include chickens. During his visit, Nair went over project-wide protocols and the group ironed out implementation plans so as to assure consistency and uniformity across the three sites.
December 16, 2019
About twenty farmers and University research partners who have been involved with the CIG Project, Securing the future of highly productive organic no-till vegetable production systems in California (CA), that started in 2018, took part in a two-hour televideo conference discussion that looked at initial findings from soil sampling that was done at the end of 2018 at all participating farm sites. The discussion provided an opportunity for project partners to look at and discuss the significance of a whole suite of soil property determinations including pH, EC, carbon, aggregation, color, and phospholipid fatty acids. A summary of the initial data and results of these baseline samplings is available here. The next round of project farm sampling will be conducted at the end of 2020.
January 24, 2020
Recent efforts of the CIG (Conservation Innovation Grant) project that several CASI farmers are conducting were showcased in two workshops that were conducted at this year's ECOFARM Conference held on January 24th in Asilomar, CA to packed audiences that included over of 100 participants. Scott Park of Meridian, CA, Phil Foster of Hollister, CA, Paul Muller of Guinda, CA, and Nate Siemens of Buttonwillow, CA joined Vermont (and formerly of CA) organic farmer, Will Allen, and Jessica Chiartas, PhD student in the Department of Soils and Biogeochemistry at the University of California, Davis led the two sessions on minimizing soil disturbance in organic systems that lasted over three hours. For about the last year-plus, this working group of California farmers, scientists, and industry representatives (along with Will Allen who was invited by the CIG group because of his own pioneering work in recent years on reduced disturbance systems) have been focusing on techniques to reduce tillage and implement cover crops for improving soil health, with the goal of eliminating mechanized-scale tillage in vegetable and row crops. Many different creative ideas have emerged in the past year from the work of these medium- and large-scale farmers and the researchers from UC Davis, Cal State Universities Chico and Fresno who are coordinating the CIG Project. The two workshop sessions provided an overview of the project, including progress, challenges, principles, equipment, obstacles and ways to work around them, and variations on the general theme of reduced tillage and incorporation of cover crops. Each of the farmer presenters shared their own farm goals for improving soil health and also discussed in very good detail the innovative approaches that they've all implemented to overcome the many challenges of producing organic crops with reduced disturbance. These challenges include the need for different, appropriate equipment, cover crop termination, providing nutrients to crops, weed control and soil cooling. The group has seen and experienced what might best be described as daunting and unresolved hurdles to full, successful, and reliable reduced disturbance systems, but there were also a number of shining examples of progress toward success that were shared as well. If you'd like to receive updates and if you'd like to become part of the CIG group's Collaborative Tools information-sharing listserve, please send an email requesting that you be added to our outreach effort to Jeff Mitchell at email@example.com.
January 24, 2020
Scott Park of Meridian, CA and Rosie and Ward Burroughs provided keynote addresses after being recognized as Successful Organic Farmers at the 2020 ECOFARM Conference that was held January 22 – 25 in Asilomar, CA. Many CASI folks know Scott as a long-time organic farmer who's been trailblazing the way toward a whole array of greatly improved performance production systems for the diversity of crops that he and his wife, Ulla and son, Brian, farm at Park Farming. His now quite well-known “9 C's”, or principles of his overall farming philosophy that he has developed and refined over nearly 40 years include cover crops, conservation tillage, crop residue, crop rotation, controlled traffic, compost, critter care, conserve inputs, and crew care. He strives to implement each of these concerns in every field he farms and is ever seeking to improve the way he farms and the fundamental health of his soil. In his keynote address to a packed and rapt audience of over 400 at this year's ECOFARM Conference, he stressed the importance of observation which he considers to be perhaps the most important skill he's developed over the years. He is an ever-ready and very memorable host to literally hundreds of visitors to his farm over the years including many student groups from UC Davis, a vast array of tour groups, and the many food buyers who seem to beat a constant path to him for his consistently high-quality crops. The Burroughs along with their children are “part of a legacy of farming spanning over a century1.” They own and operate farms in the San Joaquin Valley and Southeastern Oregon and produce a wide range of organic products including almonds, beef, cheese, free-range pastured chicken, grass-based dairies, eggs, seasonal meat birds and olives. Over the years, they've also integrated no-till practices into several of their crop systems. In 2016, Rosie and Ward Burroughs co-founded the CSU Chico Regenerative Agriculture Initiative which is now known as the Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Resilient Systems. It was a very fitting and heartily-deserved recognition for Scott and the Burroughs to have been chosen as a Successful Organic Farmers in 2020. They joined Emigdio Ballon of Pueblo of Tesuque in Santa Fe, New Mexico as this year's Successful Organic Farmers keynote speakers at the ECOFARM Conference. Congratulations to all of these 2020 ECOFARM Successful Organic Farmers!
January 19, 2020
The Dig Deep Farms Food Hub celebrated its Grand Opening on Friday, January 17th as part of All In Alameda County's new war on poverty. This truly remarkable and high-impacting “Food as Medicine” initiative has been created by many dedicated partners including Hillary Bass of the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Dr. Steven Chen, the Chief Medical Officer of All In Alameda County, Rob Bennaton of the UCCE Alameda Urban Ag Program, Sasha Shankar and Troy Horton of Dig Deep Farms and Alameda County Supervisor, Wilma Chan. Many CASI folks know Dr. Chen from his work to scale and spread the Food as Medicine model that bundles together multiple interventions to improve health: a “food farmacy” with food prescriptions through a partnership with Dig Deep Farms, a “social needs pharmacy” to connect patients to community resources, and a group medical visit “behavioral pharmacy” that combines movement, nutrition, stress reduction and social support. A video that showcases Dr. Chen's work at the Hayward Wellness Clinic where he served as Medical Director before joining All In Alameda County, can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1pwSAEJ-bI&list=PLLjlfxpbNglYF2m7tvApfiR5NXParpvGP&index=2&t=69s This is a tremendously important and hugely successful effort that is improving the lives of many people in Alameda County.