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Michigan Organic 


January 11, 2010



USDA Provides Update on Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot


WASHINGTON, January 7, 2011 – Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that more than 2,400 seasonal high tunnels are being constructed by farmers in 43 states through a pilot project initiated by USDA in fiscal year (FY) 2010.


“By capturing solar energy, seasonal high tunnels create favorable conditions enabling farmers to grow vegetables, berries and other specialty crops in climates and at times of the year in which it would otherwise be impossible,” Merrigan said. “Farmers who sell their high tunnel produce locally benefit from the extra income, and the community benefits from the availability of fresh, locally grown food.” 


Seasonal high tunnels are structures made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with plastic or other sheeting. Easy to build, maintain and move, they provide an energy-efficient way to extend the growing season. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops. 


USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing financial assistance for seasonal high tunnels as part of a three-year trial to determine their effectiveness in conserving water, reducing pesticide use, maintaining vital soil nutrients, and increasing crop yields. 


The pilot is offered under the Know your Farmer, Know your Food initiative, a USDA effort to connect farmers and consumers, strengthen local and regional food production, increase the use of sustainable agricultural practices, and promote consumption of fresh, local food. In FY 2010, NRCS provided $13 million to landowners through its conservation programs to install high tunnels, and additional funding is available in FY 2011. 


At the end of the pilot, NRCS will assess the conservation impact of seasonal high tunnels. In the meantime, they are generating high levels of interest around the country. The following examples illustrate how producers and consumers are benefiting from the installation of high tunnels. 

  • The Local Food Hub, a Virginia community-supported nonprofit that provides distribution, education and marketing services to small farmers, installed a high tunnel at its educational farm in September. The farm is already growing high-demand crops such as baby lettuces (arugula, mizuna, romaine and green, red and speckled oak leaf) that could not otherwise be grown during the fall season. The farm managers are also using the newly constructed high tunnel as a teaching tool to engage producers in conservation and organic production. 

  • A family beef operation in Utah installed a high tunnel in the summer of 2010 and added tomatoes, peppers, herbs, watermelons, and sweet corn to its farm production. When the family set up a roadside stand, neighbors began purchasing the local produce. Surrounding farmers plan to add their own seasonal high tunnels, and interest is growing in Utah’s buy local campaigns.
  • A farmer in Alabama, who is committed to conservation and grows a broad assortment of crops using micro irrigation installed with USDA assistance, recently added a seasonal high tunnel to his operation. The high tunnel is enabling him to grow tomatoes well past the traditional growing season, and he expects it will also help reduce his energy use and improve both soil and water quality as a result of reduced pesticide and nutrient inputs. 

  • A new farmer in Montana installed a high tunnel in early June, and was able to grow tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn, bean, peas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, cabbage, flowers, onions and radishes. The crops all germinated in less than a week and grew rapidly. Neighbors, impressed with the high tunnel, visited weekly to monitor the crops’ progress.


For a breakdown of FY 2010 high tunnel funding by state, go to


Additional states are expected to participate in the seasonal high tunnel pilot in FY 2011. In most cases, NRCS provides financial assistance equivalent to approximately half the cost of the high tunnel, but historically underserved producers may receive 75 to 90 percent financial assistance. For information on availability in a particular state and how to apply, visit your local USDA Service Center, found at 


Source: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Newsroom,



Links to the YouTube sites, USDA High Tunnel/Hoop Houses w/NRCS Chf. White, Dep. Sec. Merrigan & Sam Kass:

•   Short version distributed to ag media: 

•   Longer version:



Seasonal High Tunnels Funded in Fiscal Year 2010


After receiving nearly 3,000 applications for seasonal high tunnels, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) obligated $13 million in fiscal year (FY) 2010 for 2,422 seasonal high tunnels in 43 states.


Seasonal high tunnels are structures made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with plastic or other sheeting. Easy to build, maintain, and move, they provide an energy-efficient way to extend the growing season. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create favorable conditions for growing vegetable and other specialty crops.


NRCS offered the seasonal high tunnels (officially called “seasonal high tunnel system for crops”) as a conservation practice for the first time in FY 2010 as part of a three-year trial to determine their effectiveness in conserving water, keeping nutrients in the soil, increasing yields, and reducing transport of agricultural pesticides. The table below shows the states that obligated funding for the high tunnels FY 2010.


Source: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS),






Tillage and Cover Cropping Strategies for Soil and Energy Conservation in Sweet Corn, by Daniel Brainard and Benjamin Henshaw, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University



Summary.  Reduced-tillage, cover crop intensive production systems have several important potential benefits for sweet corn growers including: fuel and labor savings; reduced equipment wear and tear; more timely planting under wet conditions; and improvements in soil physical, chemical and biological properties.  Since sweet corn is an important rotational crop for many high value vegetables, improvements in soil properties during sweet corn production may also have long-term payoffs for growers.  Anticipated increases in the cost of energy and the incidence of extreme weather events suggest that reduced tillage will become increasingly important in vegetable cropping systems of the future. However, concerns about reduced stand establishment, delays in crop maturity, and pest problems (especially weeds) under reduced tillage need to be addressed before growers are likely to invest the time and money required to transition to this practice.  Research underway in Michigan is aimed at developing cover crop and strip-tillage systems to address grower concerns in order to improve profits while enhancing environmental stewardship.


Full article can be viewed at,, under the soil building and cover crop tab. 




Free Help for Local Growers by Marc Schollett, Upper Mchigans


TRAVERSE CITY—As northern Michigan growers work to build a sustainable, local food economy, they need funding and technical support. Fortunately, many government agencies, non-profits, businesses, and private lenders can help.


So the Michigan Land Use Institute’s Get Farming! program will present three free workshops across the region that point local growers toward the resources they need. Each covers getting started, expanding current operations, building year-round growing capacity, and establishing new business models.


MLUI holds its first “Finding Local Food Resources Open Houses” on Jan. 19 at the Michigan Works conference room, 1209 Garfield Rd., in Traverse City, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The second is on Feb. 23, at the Cadillac Public Library, 411 South Lake Street from 4 to 6 p.m. The last event, on March 23, is at Grow Benzie, 5885 M-115 (Frankfort Hwy), Benzonia, from 3 to 5 p.m.


Representatives from the USDA, the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center, Cherry Capital Foods, and other organizations will answer questions about loans, grants, business planning, and resources that can help new and existing farms and other agriculture-related businesses.


“Getting all of these people in the same room with farmers and entrepreneurs offers a rare opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of services,” said Jim Sluyter, the Get Farming! project manager. “This is a great networking opportunity.”


Mr. Sluyter adds, “You can come any time during the open house, but make sure to come early enough to meet with everyone you want to talk to.”


Source: Up North,






CSP Sign Up Deadline Extended to January 21, 2011

Farmers wishing to enroll in the 2011 sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program have until January 21, 2011 to file a brief application with their local NRCS office.  The previous deadline was January 7.  NSAC has published a detailed Fact Sheet on the 2011 program available here.    

Process and Timeline

The application form, available at the local NRCS office, is a fairly short and simple one.  All producers who have submitted the form by January 21 will then have until March 9, 2011 to sit down with their NRCS staff person and fill out the CSP Conservation Measurement Tool (CMT) which will be used to determine program eligibility, environmental benefits ranking, and CSP payment amounts.

NRCS currently expects to complete the ranking process by mid-March, complete on-farm verification visits by late April, and complete conservation plan and contract development by mid- May.  The first CSP payments for contracts awarded in this round will be made in October 2011.

For more information visit the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition web page under Farm Bill Programs and Grants,

Source: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition,



Stonyfield Announces Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program

Vick Morrone, MSU Organic Outreach Specialist, is happy to help you discuss possible projects that Stonyfield MAY find interesting for funding. She can help you identify how to ask the question and a system to try to answer it, which is what science is all about.  Of course since they are an organic dairy they are most interested in ag aspects that deal with, for example, milk production including pasture management, building soil health in pastures, approaches to maximizing pasture quality while getting good nutrition to your cows, ways to milk cows more efficiently. If you are interested in seeking assistance or would like contacts of other organic dairy farmers in Michigan whom you may collaborate with please contact Vicki at [log in to unmask] or 517-282-3557.



LONDONDERRY, N.H., Jan. 6, 2011, Organic yogurt leader Stonyfield Farm has launched  the Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program to help fund innovative organic farming projects that can make a strong environmental impact or improve the long-term viability of organic farming.


"Stonyfield's 2011 goal is to build unprecedented levels of support for organic farming through an intensive yearlong 'organic stories' initiative that starts where organic begins, on the farm," said Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield President & CE-Yo. "The Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program will help some of America's most innovative organic farmers bring to life projects they need help funding."


Judges from Stonyfield and Organic Valley, the organic farming cooperative that produces milk for all Stonyfield products, selected six finalists from a pool of 72 farmer submissions representing 17 states from California to Maine. Farmers' submissions were judged on their projects' environmental impact, ability to sustain organic farming practices, and innovation. Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley have enjoyed a partnership based on shared mission and values for more than 15 years.  


Beginning this month, consumers can learn about the six finalists on Stonyfield's Facebook page where project details and videos created by the six farmers themselves will be featured. Consumers can then vote online for the grant amounts to be awarded to each farmer.  Stonyfield Farm will award a total of $31,000 in grants: one $10,000, two $7,500, and three $2,000 grants will be announced this March.


"Our farmer-owners are leaders in organic sustainable agriculture and represent the future of farming," said George Siemon, founding farmer and C-I-E-I-O of Organic Valley. "We're pleased they are participating in the Stonyfield Organic Farmer Grant-a-Wish program, and that their stories will be heard." 


Finalists in the Stonyfield Organic Farmer Grant-a-Wish Program include the following farmer-owners of Organic Valley:


Jon and Juli Bansen milk 200 Jersey cows on their family farm in Oregon. They pasture the herd using an intensive, rotational grazing system. The Bansens would use grant funds to install a walk-through flytrap that vacuums flies off their cows.  Flies cause stress in cows, reduce their production and lower their milk quality. Cows not under fly stress are on pasture longer each day, have higher quality milk, spread nutrients on the land more evenly, and produce more milk. They would purchase a special fly vacuum developed by a North Carolina State University entomologist. The machine would provide relief to their own cows and help build demand for the device.  In turn this could lower its cost and increase its availability to farmers. The Bansens have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since June 2000.


Brent and Regina Beidler and their daughter Erin milk 35 cows and farm 150 acres in central Vermont. They practice grazing-based organic dairy farming and participate in local grassroots efforts, such as farm tours and organic-foods events. They're one of the few farmers growing commercial quantities of grain in Vermont. They grow it to increase their self-sufficiency as a farm. By providing straw for bedding the barn and grains for feeding the cows, it helps minimize the amount of inputs they need to purchase, provides additional diversification and income, helps them provide food directly to their neighbors and increase the food types available locally. Since their current equipment is antiquated, they would use grant funds to purchase better seed cleaning equipment and this would help improve the quality of their seeds and flour. The Beidlers have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since March 2000.


Peter and Kelly Mahaffy graze 120 Jerseys on 200 acres of pasture in Oregon. Local seafood processors are their primary source of fertilizer, but storing and processing the waste can cause significant odor problems. Their wish is to use the grant to build a covered compost shed that would eliminate odor issues and allow them to keep using rich seafood waste as fertilizer. They would put in a nutrient recycling system that would create biological stability and reduce nutrient loss to the atmosphere, eliminate potential leaching during the rainy season, reduce runoff into nearby waterways, and reduce odor.  It would also produce nutrient dense organic compost ready to be used on their fields and shared with family, friends and neighbors. The Mahaffys have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2003.


Dana and Carol Shirk and their five children run a dairy farm in Michigan.  Going organic in 2007 increased their financial stability and gave the family a new philosophy and lifestyle. They would use grant funds to create an aquifer-fed farm pond to support pasture irrigation and provide drinking water for their livestock. The pond would increase the number of days cows could graze on pasture, decrease energy usage via a wind-powered pump that would move water from the pond to the drinking water storage tank, provide more grass per acre for the cows, and increase soil fertility. The pond would also support wildlife by increasing nesting habitats and food sources, and could be used to inform other farmers about the benefits of sustainable practices and pasture irrigation. The Shirks have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2007.


Jerry and Dotty Snyder steward their 400 acre grass-based 50-cow dairy in western New York in an environmentally, economically, and culturally sustainable way. Along with their eight children, they also cultivate an organic apple orchard and maintain sugar maple trees. Their wish is to use the grant to build a one-acre pond.  The water supply would be used by a hydro-electric generator that would power their dairy, two-story farm house, farm shop and freezers for their on-farm store. In addition it would create a gravity fed water supply for six pastures and help to promote drainage, increasing the amount of time cows can be on pasture each year. It would also supply water for the dairy herd and improve wildlife habitat.  The Snyders have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since 2002.


George and Cherry Teague and their son Taylor, operate an 800-acre organic dairy in North Carolina. Right now they are the only source of organic feed in their entire state. Their wish is to use the grant to build a new, energy efficient feed mill that could process organic grains for other organic dairy farmers in the southeast, as well as livestock growers, and small farmers looking for local, organic feed. Their current mill is slow and inefficient and runs partly by hand.  A new electric mill would increase energy efficiency by 93.9%, help keep the next generation of Teagues on the farm, increase opportunities for organic feed grain production in North Carolina, offer mixes in quantities suitable to many farm sizes, and support the sale of additional organic livestock.  The Teagues have been Organic Valley farmer-owners since June 2007.  


"The Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program was a true partnership between Organic Valley and Stonyfield," said Nancy Hirshberg, Vice President of Natural Resources for Stonyfield Farm.  "All of us share an unwavering commitment to the survival and growth of organic farming.  This grant program will help foster new approaches to organic farming that will benefit not just the individual farmers but the industry as a whole."


Find out more about the Stonyfield Organic Farmers Grant-a-Wish Program by visiting Stonyfield on the web at  For more information about Stonyfield Farm visit  For information about Organic Valley and its farmer owners visit


SOURCE: PR Newswire,



Small Organic Farm (not certified) is Available for Use in Alpena, Michigan in 2011


Description: The farm is on 8.5 acres off King Settlement Rd in Alpena County, approximately 10 miles west of Alpena

   2.5 acres fenced and a half acre of raised beds which have been used for vegetable production.

   30’ x 96’ Rimol hoop house, small propagation green house, and irrigation is available.

   A small New Holland tractor with bucket and 42" tiller, walk behind Honda rototiller, Craftsman garden tractor, and numerous hand tools are also available.

   24’ x 42’ barn with full loft and small walk-in cooler (with coolbot).

   Finished bedroom and partially finished great room in the loft and an office and bathroom on the lower level.

To view pictures of the farm visit, under the Farmer Opportunities tab. 


In Addition: The farm has operated as a small CSA with 20 members over the past four years (Centurion Farms CSA), with additional farm market sales. There’s an opportunity to continue the CSA operation with a small committed core and numerous volunteers, but no obligation. There is also growing interest in farm to restaurant and retail operations in Alpena.


They are willing to offer use of the farm in exchange for continuing operation and maintenance of the farm property.


For more information, please contact Brian Botkin at (231) 709-3099 or email [log in to unmask]. This is an awesome opportunity for a motivated, energetic person or couple who don’t currently have a farm of their own.


You can check out the farm at Local Harvest:







Pasture Dairy Center, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Outreach Internship



Position Description: The Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) Dairy us a pasture-based dairy with robotic milking. The dairy facility supports research, education, and outreach activities in the areas of animal health and welfare, dairy production, ecology, pasture management and food systems.


The dairy intern will work under the supervision of Mat Haan (Pasture Dairy Center Project Coordinator) and Dr. Diana Stuart (Assistant Professor MSU Department of Sociology) to help develop programs and materials to achieve the education and outreach goals of the KBS Pasture Dairy Center.


 Position Duration: Approximately 40 hours per week for 12 weeks during Summer 2011. Start and end dates are flexible.


 Stipend: $250 per week, paid biweekly. Plus room and board provided, if needed, and Work-related transportation provided.



   Assist with development of outreach materials.

   Assist researchers with data collection and analysis.

   Assist with dairy tours and other public outreach events.

   Other activities based on student interest and project needs.


   Familiarity with Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint.

   Strong writing skills preferred.

   Ability to work as part of a group and individually with limited supervision.

   Good communications and people skills.

   Basic knowledge of farm / livestock management is helpful but not required.

   Students interested in sustainable agriculture are encouraged to apply!


How to Apply: To apply, send resume and cover letter to Mat Haan, [log in to unmask]




Stranger’s Hill Organics, IA seeks Farm Manager


Position Description: Stranger’s Hill Organics seeks a dedicated, energetic and skilled Farm Manager for our historic 81-acre organic farm just 6.5 miles west of Bloomington, IN.


Qualifications:  A successful candidate will combine demonstrated farm skills, dedication to organic food production, a winning personality and a commitment to the success of Stranger’s Hill Organics as a business enterprise.


Download full job description and application form at,


How to Apply:  Deadline January 14, 2011

    A Resume, completed Application Form and Cover Letter are required.

    Cover Letter should contain a narrative overview of your farm experience and why you are particularly suited to this position.

   Email your Resume, Application Form and Cover Letter to [log in to unmask] OR snail-Mail your Resume, Application Form and Cover Letter to:

Stranger’s Hill Organics

817 W 11th St

Bloomington, IN 47404




Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown Ohio is Putting a 2011 Work Crew Together


Description: Two openings available at Northbridge Organic Farm, OH beginning late April early May and ending in October. They are hourly positions, 40 hours a week (Monday Through Friday) with pay based on experience.


Interested? Please call (740-501-8227) or email Mike Laughlin, [log in to unmask] with any questions or to arrange a farm visit and interview.






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