Turns out coffee can grow, quite successfully in California. We're happy to share this post and video by Katherine Spiers about Jay Ruskey, a Santa Barbara coffee grower who received the Pedro Ilic award in 2010.
USDA Rural Development has published the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program. The Application deadline is October 15th, 2012. In this program agricultural producers or producer groups may apply for either a feasibility study grant (maximum $100,000) or a working capital grant ($300,000 maximum). Eligible activities must be related to the processing and/or marketing of valued-added agricultural products.
There is a matching funds requirement of at least $1 for every $1 in grant funds provided by the Agency (matching funds plus grant funds must equal proposed total project costs.
Grants will be awarded competitively for either planning or working capital projects directly related to the processing and/or marketing of value-added products. Generating new products, creating and expanding marketing opportunities, and increasing producer income are the end goals. Applications that support aspects of regional strategic planning, cooperative development, sustainable farming, and local and regional food systems are encouraged. Proposals must demonstrate economic viability and sustainability in order to compete for funding.
For additional information and application procedures, visit the USDA website. http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_VAPG.html. The USDA Rural Development’s VAPG liaison for California is Karen Firestein; her office is in Davis and her contact information is: 530 792-5829, Karen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Calling all small-scale farmers and their supporters! Now is the season of awards and conferences in the agricultural world — and that goes for small-scale farmers too. At the moment, we are seeking nominations for the Pedro Ilic Awards, which honor dedication to small-scale farming.
Each year, the awards honor an educator and a farmer who embody characteristics that helped make Ilic a success.
Anyone can write a nomination. Take a look at the nomination form, which is now online. The deadline for nominations is Jan. 31.
The awards will be presented at the California Small Farm Conference, March 4-6 in Valencia.
This conference, which rotates location each year, is the state's premier gathering of small farmers, agricultural students, farmers market managers and others involved in the small-farm industry. The three-day educational conference includes day-long short courses and on-farm tours; 25 focused workshops; keynote addresses (Karen Ross! Farmer Hallie Muller! Chef Michel Nischan!) and many networking opportunities.
Presentations at the conference from University of California experts will address food safety, starting a new farm, agritourism, new technologies, farming with limited water, how to recognize snake-oil-like products, and many other topics. You may want to check out the full list of workshops to get a better sense of the practical approach this conference takes to farming.
Other conferences coming up that small-scale farmers may be interested to attend include:
Know of others that I missed? Please tell us about them in the comments. More events for small-scale farmers are on the Small Farm Program's calendar.
And in the meantime: Do you know an outstanding farmer or agricultural educator? Honor him or her with a nomination for the Pedro Ilic Award!
In case you missed it: A brand-new, revised edition of the Small Farm Handbook is now available from the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The 2011 edition is a collection of expertise from 31 University of California authors, including farm advisors and specialists. This 188-page book has 11 chapters covering both the business side and the farming side of operating a small-scale farm.
"One thing that’s different about this edition is that we really tried to focus on the business aspects of farming," said Laura Tourte, one of the book's two technical editors and director of UC Cooperative Extension Santa Cruz. "In California we know that a wide diversity of crops can be grown, and the business aspects of it — from managing your finances to marketing your products — are absolutely critical if you want to stay viable and sustainable over the long term."
- Requirements for Successful Farming
- The Basics
- Enterprise Selection
- Farm and Financial Management
- Marketing and Product Sales
- Labor Management
- Growing Crops
- Postharvest Handling and Safety of Perishable Crops
- Raising Animals
- The Vitality and Viability of Small Farms
- California’s Small Farms: An Overview
The book also includes six profiles of farmers from throughout the state, who produce everything from apples to coffee, lamb to ong choi.
Included among the authors are the UC Small Farm Program's Shermain Hardesty, Richard Molinar, Michael Yang, Aziz Baameur, Mark Gaskell, Desmond Jolly (retired) and Brenda Dawson. Many of the 31 authors are also members of the Small Farm Workgroup.
The 2011 edition of the Small Farm Handbook can be ordered from the UC ANR Catalog for $25, plus applicable tax, shipping and handling.
Quick quiz: What do you think makes a farmer "small"?
- acres: owning just a few
- ownership: no corporations, just a family or at least someone you know
- profit: can’t make enough to get bigger
- height: no taller than 5'2"
But I digress. None of the options above officially make a small-scale farmer, though the first three are popular ways of thinking about the issue.
The official answer: According to the USDA definition, a small farmer is defined as one that grows and sells between $1,000 and $250,000 per year in agricultural products.
Using USDA's definition and their most recent Census of Agriculture, about 86 percent of California’s commercials farms are small. That’s 54,342 small farms!
But the UC Small Farm Program — and many others — frequently work with a looser definition. Small-scale farmers can certainly include those defined by USDA. But they also include many other farmers who are outside of mainstream agriculture, and those not reached by traditional Cooperative Extension programs.
These farmers could include:
- ethnic minority farmers, especially those who do not speak English (or Spanish)
- farmers with limited resources (another USDA definition)
- hobby farmers, retirement farmers, lifestyle farmers
- those who sell directly to consumers — through farmers markets, CSAs and other marketing channels not part of the traditional, wholesale distribution chain
- those who do not monocrop, including those who grow vegetables or fruits while also raising livestock
When we talk about small-scale farmers, we frequently mean those farmers who cannot compete on low prices alone.
Economies of size and scale can help larger farmers offer their products at lower prices, which is one way to compete in the marketplace. But small-scale farmers must find other ways to distinguish themselves — through flavor, timing, quality, variety, market outlet, personality and other values.
Do you know any small-scale farmers? What sets them apart?