Increasing Farm Wages: A Labor Crisis and the Effects on Agriculture

Labor Costs

Rising Farm Wages and Labor Costs May Lead to Higher Grocery Bills

Farms across America are struggling to secure sufficient labor and pay increasing minimum wages. This issue is most prevalent in California where the minimum wage will continue to increase to $15 in just three years. Additionally, previous exemptions on overtime for agricultural workers are now null, meaning that any person working more than forty hours a week will have to be paid time and a half. Readers from other states might be thinking “who cares about CA politics, there’s no problem here!” Think again, With 60% of the country’s agriculture in California, a rise in labor costs will inevitably lead to higher grocery bills for consumers as well as more food waste.

The Response can be Challenging and Complicated

As farm wages rise, farmers are faced with few options. To mitigate the cost of labor farmers are forced to increase productivity of their crews, raise their prices, or switch to automated processes. Each of these options has major drawbacks. Increasing productivity is difficult and there is only so much work that can be done in one day. Some farms offer production bonuses to their workers based on how many pounds of produce is harvested in the day. These bonuses can be costly, especially since the workers baseline pay is already so high. Since labor is more expensive, the price of the crop must go up. However, farmers are competing not only with other states with lower minimum wages, but with other countries that have no regulations regarding farm labor. Raising the price of the product will only result in more produce being imported from Mexico. This takes jobs away from entry level positions across the entire farm.

Automation is Costly and Can lead to Increased Market Farm Consolidation

Automation seems like a great solution to this labor crisis; however, the technology has not yet met the complicated needs of agriculture. While new options are on the horizon, we are still very far away from fully automated harvesting or planting. The initial cost of machines is very high, and most small farms lack the capital required to invest in automation. As these technologies develop, we will likely see family businesses bought out by corporate farms. In addition, the agricultural workers will not benefit from the rising minimum wages as they will be without a job completely.

Is Buying Local the Solution?

So, what can consumers do to help both agricultural workers and farm owners? BUY LOCAL. Even when produce is more expensive, buying local supports the farms in the community and reduces the ecological hazards of long distance shipping. It also provides demand for products that will lead to more production at local farms and therefore more work for agricultural laborers. Buying domestic products also guarantees that the people who produced that product were paid a fair wage, had safe working conditions, and the product passes the high safety standards of the United States. It only takes a few extra seconds at the grocery store to check the label on produce and ensure it is a product of the USA. Aside from buying local, another way to help local farms is to fully read and understand measures before voting on them. If you are unsure how a bill might affect agriculture, do research or try to speak with a farmer about their opinion. When the time comes to elect senators and representatives, consider their stance or background on agricultural policy. Human welfare and labor rights are extremely important, but food supply affects every single person in this country. When food costs rise, the poorest people are affected the most.

Author - Riley Graham

About Riley Graham

Riley is a third year Food Science student at UC Davis hoping to one day work in research and development. Her specific areas of interest are in sustainability in agricultural processing; however, she’s exploring other options in food science such as sensory science and even brewing. Being a food science student at one of the world’s premier agricultural research centers gives Riley a unique perspective on the issues we face in food production. Even when I’m outside of the classroom, Riley never stops learning. When not doing homework or working in a lab, Riley plays piano, reads science fiction, and loves to cook.

 

What Are the Requirements for Organic Certification?

By Susan Beal

As people worldwide understand the importance of taking control of their health, they are also taking control of their eating habits, and that is one factor that contributes to the demand for organic certification of food products. The growing demand for organic produce is one of the driving forces behind the surge in the number of organic farms. According to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, there are over 22,000 certified organic farms in the nation, and that count increases every year, if not more often.

The USDA has strict regulations regarding the use of the term “organic,” and how, when, and where the USDA Certified Organic seal could be used on farm-produced products, including food (dairy, vegetable, and animal), animal feed, and fibers that are used to manufacture clothing. Organic certification offers benefits to food producers and handlers in a variety of tangible and intangible ways.

  • It allows food producers (growers, livestock and dairy farmers) to charge more for their commodities.
  • Organic certification encourages support for local economies.
  • Organic certification allows vegetable farming operations to use the USDA certified organic seal in all of their marketing and promotion endeavors.

The Five-Step Organic Certification Process

The USDA Organic Label is a sign to consumers that the food products they are thinking about buying from any market farming operation, comply with the strict USDA Organic Regulations and the requirements of the National Organic Program.

Step One – Development of an Organic System Plan

The Organic System Plan lays the foundation for the entire organic certification process. Every operation – whether it’s a large or small farm, must provide government inspectors with a detailed plan that will show certifying agents how the farm plans to comply with all federal regulations.

  • The plan must address everything from how the farm goes about tilling the land to planting seeds (or transplanting seedlings that were started elsewhere) and harvesting.
  • The plan must also include a list of every substance (chemical or otherwise) that the farm intends to use and a detailed protocol for monitoring the use of those substances.

The plan must also provide details about all proposed recordkeeping systems that will prevent crops that will be certified as organic from mixing with or spreading into fields where non-organic vegetables grow. The Organic System Plan also requires a detailed outline of the manner in which the farm will prevent crops meant for organic certification from having ANY contact with forbidden substances as they are described in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

Step Two – Implementing the Organic System Plan Before Requesting Certifying Agent Review

The small farm must implement the Organic System Plan before the farm asking for an authorized certifying agent to review it. Certifying agents may come from a foreign, state, or private organization or company. All certifying agents have USDA accreditation. The primary role of certifying agents is ensuring that any organic farming operation and the products they grow or produce, meet the required organic standards as set forth by the National Organic Program.

Step Three – The Inspection Process

Certification is ultimately contingent on the results of the comprehensive inspection. This thorough inspection is tailored to the type of farm and the products or commodities that the farm grows and produces.

For a vegetable farming operation, the inspectors will conduct:

  • Field inspection
  • Soil condition inspection
  • Crop health inspection
  • Weed management protocol inspection
  • Insect and pest management protocol inspection
  • Seed starting system inspection
  • Diseased or contaminated plant disposal inspection
  • Water source and irrigation system inspection
  • Plan for preventing cross contact between organic and non-organic plants

Step Four – Certifying Agent’s Review of Inspection Report

The certifying agent goes over the inspection report and compares the findings with the information he or she obtained when they did the preliminary inspection. The certifying agent will also evaluate the risk assessment as it relates to the potential for crops to get contaminated from prohibited sources. The risk assessment will also include a list of every potential hazard that could cause contamination. But the inspection will also provide the certifying agent with information about the manner in which the small farm will deal with, control, or prevent the spread of infection.

Step Five – Farm Receives Decision From Certifying Agent

Once the certifying agent is confident that the vegetable farming operation complies with the required standards, the operation gets a certificate that includes a list of all the farm vegetable crops that can be sold and labeled as organic.

A continuing requirement of the certification process requires the farm to keep records of changes or modifications to its practices and procedures. The fact that a farm goes through the five-step process to get the organic certification is not a guarantee of continued certification. Maintenance of the organic certification is contingent upon the results of the yearly inspection to which every farm must submit.

The certified organic label is a sign to consumers that the fruits or vegetables they are buying were grown in compliance with the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program, and that the farm complies with the rigorous standards that the government poses on any farming operation that seeks organic certification. It may also help consumers understand the justifiable reasons for which organic food products almost always cost more – at farmers markets or in grocery or specialty food stores. See sources below for more details.

About Susan:

Author Susan Klatz Beal

Susan Klatz Beal is a full-time freelance writer and member of GardenComm – Garden Communicators International.  She is a self-proclaimed plant geek who enjoys the thrill of growing everything from succulents and native plants to exotic and tropical plants, every type of houseplant in existence, and fruits and vegetables. Susan eagerly challenges herself to try to grow plants in every possible way, including container gardening, raised beds, traditional soil gardening, and hydroponics. When she’s not writing or playing with plants, you’ll find her obsessively looking for ways to bring more hummingbirds to her garden and patio.

 

Sources

http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?path=/prelim@title7/chapter94&edition=prelim

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=3f34f4c22f9aa8e6d9864cc2683cea02&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title07/7cfr205_main_02.tpl

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=cc52cfc9697475f50089fc0e19484022&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title07/7CIsubchapM.tpl

https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards

https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=cc52cfc9697475f50089fc0e19484022&mc=true&node=pt7.3.205&rgn=div5

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/handbook

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/ActionUpdatePlanEnforcement.pdf

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Pesticide%20Residue%20Testing_Org%20Produce_2010-11PilotStudy.pdf

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOPOFPA.pdf

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/need-be-certified

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/becoming-certified

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-organic-certification

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/handbook/sectionb

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOPOrgChart.pdf

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/handbook/introduction

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NOPOFPA.pdf

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/12/16/organic-101-what-organic-farming-and-processing-doesnt-allow

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/01/25/organic-101-allowed-and-prohibited-substances

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/03/22/organic-101-what-usda-organic-label-means

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/national-list

https://www.ams.usda.gov/resources/organic-certifying-agents

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Pesticide%20Residu

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/need-be-certifiede%20Testing_Org%20Produce_2010-11PilotStudy.pdf

https://www.ams.usda.gov/reports/organic

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/10/10/organic-101-five-steps-organic-certification

https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic/labeling

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/need-be-certified

https://www.ams.usda.gov/reports/tip-sheets-organic-standards

https://www.ams.usda.gov/reports/tipsheets-certification-guidelines

https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/organic-certification/benefits

https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Crop%20-%20Guidelines.pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AgnutSUQMc

 

Selling to Chefs: Overcoming the Logistic Challenges

Farm fresh chef's vegetables

By Adrienne Cohen

Whether you call it farm to table, locally sourced food, or a hyper-local food revolution, today’s hot trend is toward buying ingredients that are produced closer to the point of consumption. We have seen the growth of craft beers and local wineries, the explosion in popularity of local farmers markets and regionally-produced cheeses, pick-your-own orchards and vegetable farms. Numerous pop-up dining venues and eateries with limited menus feature only seasonally-available options, and their numbers increase every day.

It’s not only television chefs and fine-dining establishments that embrace the flavor, nutritional value and seasonal variety of foodstuffs and ingredients produced close to home; it’s also homemakers who frequent weekly farmers markets for organic produce and natural foods. It’s anyone who helps support a sustainable environment by buying from local farmers. And it’s the taste appeal of artisan bread, homemade jams and pickles, and local salad greens.

Reasons are diverse, ranging from distrust directed at big producers, recent food scares, flavor, freshness, GMOs and environmental concerns.

A Creative Collaboration

One-of-a-kind cafe owners, Mom and Pop proprietors, trendy food truck cooks and chefs who know the importance of fresh, tasty, natural ingredients have discovered the value of seasonal menu options. They recognize even more value in developing personal relationships with the people who grow and produce the food.

Rather than simply placing orders for ingredients that must be transported an average of 1,500 miles from farm to table, they get to know their suppliers by name and forge bonds that lead in innovative directions. They even suggest new crops on occasion, to the delight of growers who love to experiment.

Farmers who sell directly to restaurant chefs gain an understanding of the creative process of recipe testing and menu development. Not only is there a financial advantage for both, but the corresponding boost in respect becomes clear and well-defined.

The Logistics of Delivery

Delivering the goods, however, can represent a major stumbling block. Crop scheduling, farm recordkeeping and production management are tedious and time-consuming chores for a small farmer. Add time away from the farm to make deliveries and the business model can become untenable. Chefs, for their part, traditionally require a guaranteed order delivered on a regular timetable, a need that can be torpedoed occasionally by weather or pest infestation. Mutual understanding is key.

Almost 50 chefs throughout Dallas and Collin Counties now constitute a core group of food professionals who have taken the “seed to plate” concept way past the experimental stage. Profound Microfarms, a family-run farm in Lucas, Texas, a suburb approximately 25 miles north of the Dallas core, was the innovative catalyst. Jeff Bednar’s greenhouse hydroponics farm produces a variety of leafy greens, herbs and edible flowers, and during a past several years, since starting his farm, he forged relationships with a number of local chefs and restaurateurs. “We speak chef,” he says, noting that he enjoys learning from the chefs and responding to their requests for unusual produce, including edible flowers.

In April of 2018, Bednar and Nelson Carter of Cartermere Farms in nearby Celina teamed up to form Profound Foods, a farmers distribution company that now delivers products from about a dozen different farmers to chefs across a two-county swath of North Texas. The deliveries, made on Tuesday and Thursday, include a variety of different proteins, including beef, lamb, pork, chicken and eggs, cheeses, greens and other vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.

Goals and Long-Term Plans

“We want to raise awareness for local food,” according to Bednar. Across the country, there is ongoing interest in a variety of unique models for food hubs and farmer-directed coops to expand the availability of locally-grown food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture endorses the effort; Profound Foods is the recipient of a $495,000 USDA grant that will allow the venture to grow during the next three years. The plan is to add new farms, attract new restaurants, expand the delivery territory to nearby Fort Worth, purchase equipment, including computers and refrigerated trucks, and hire a full-time driver. The fledgling company has already brought on board a staff director of farmer relations. The future is bright, says Bednar.

While it may be rare these days for a chef to visit the field to select fresh produce or to personally pick a side of beef, restaurants throughout the country are partnering with small-to-medium size producers to satisfy customer demand for fresh, nutritious food. The details may differ from one region to the next, but a powerful collaboration is being driven by innovative growers and food producers who market and deliver directly to enthusiastic chefs and local restaurateurs.

We all become winners when the collaboration is successful.

It’s possible to taste the difference when the lettuce and tomato on your burger was picked that same morning, and conversation seems to flow more naturally at the local coffee shop when both chef and customer can greet a farmer who deliver eggs and bacon to the back door. If that was once the norm in small-town America, it may again become the standard for market farming in the modern age.

Adrienne Cohen
Adrienne Cohen

Adrienne Cohen is a full-time freelance writer with a passion for travel, good food, urban agriculture, school gardens, and architecture and design. She writes about them all and is happiest when her travel plans allow her to visit with farmers and educators, restaurant owners and chefs in far-flung places. Although her forebears were farmers, she claims to struggle with her own garden, but loves plucking fresh flowers from their stems and harvesting fresh herbs to use in new recipes. She is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, maintains a couple of personal blogs and contributes to travel, agricultural and lifestyle magazines, both online and for print versions.

 

 

Sources

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ten-reasons-restaurants-should-buy-local-foods-2888595

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/local-food-trends-for-restaurants-2888604

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/how-to-start-farm-to-table-at-your-restaurant-2888285

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/ten-reasons-restaurants-should-buy-local-foods-2888595

https://www.thebalancesmb.com/restaurant-trends-boost-sales-2888674

https://www.greenbiz.com/article/can-cooperatives-save-americas-small-farms

https://www.cartermerefarms.com/about-us.html

 

Sales Orders and Farm Production Systems for Vegetable and Flower Growers

Farm Sales Order Entry

The Sales Order Entry (SOE) function, also known as Customer Order Entry, is the Supply Chain gateway for external demand flowing into the farm fulfillment process, and ultimately to the production planning system somewhere in the back office. As technology slowly invades farm delivery processes, SOE has currently been relegated to the accounting function, with a manual hand-off to the back office. This makes sense in some measure because sales orders eventually become billing, and that is when money starts flowing, assuming the product flowed in a manner that made the customer sufficiently happy.

But increasing competition is going to change this picture substantially.

The back-office planning system needs to get the SOE delivery information sooner rather than later. And the back office needs to know in a timely manner if the delivery requirements are going to change or perhaps have already changed. Why you might ask?

If the product quantity and delivery timing is far enough in the future, the farmer may alter planting schedules. However, if the lead time is shorter, then harvesting and shipping schedules are the remaining levers to make it happen. But information and timing are very important.

To react effectively and efficiently to changing demand, the scheduling function must have easy access to the supply side, in the form of harvest schedules, and the demand side in the form of shipment schedules. If these two business schedules reside in different systems, one in an accounting system and the other in a spreadsheet, then the reconciliation process will require an individual to perform a manual comparison. And then both systems need to be updated with the changes.

And that is why farm production systems need to include SOE as part of the planning system.

What is the scope of this new visibility and how should it be presented to the scheduling function?

sales orders sales menu

For starters, we recommend at least 4 things:

Customer data including, as a minimum, the name and delivery address or addresses. We refer to this information as Cards.

Sales Order Doc, which includes the Sales Order Document Number, Customer Name and shipping address and Sales Order Type. Sales Order Type would be a value that distinguishes between Restaurant Delivery Schedules, CSA Delivery Schedules and other things such as Roadside Stand for example.

Sales Order Lines, which includes one line for each discrete product shipment quantity and date, within each sales order.

Shipments to Harvest Reconciliation Screen. This screen is the nexus of delivery schedules, harvest inventories and unharvested product growing in the field or greenhouse.

The reconciliation screen should bring together the following schedule inputs.

For a Specified Product Number: Arugula 

Inventory Input Type Quantity Date
All Unshipped Sales Order Line Detail Ship Quantity Ship Date
All Scheduled Plantings Expected Harvest
Quantity
Harvest Date
Harvest Feedback Actual Harvest Quantities Within Shelf Life Days of the current date.

All of the data displayed by the grid above exists in the control of the farmer. So the question for the Business Minded Farmer is:

Can you leverage the information you already possess, to make better business decisions?

Chris Trow, President ADAK Software

Chris Trow has been immersed in the application of Production & Inventory Management systems and techniques, and the design of computer based manufacturing planning solutions, for more than 20 years.  Worked in traditional manufacturing at General Electric as a systems analyst, software designer and project manager.  Transitioned to independent employment as a consultant for small manufacturers and developed a small manufacturing production and inventory management solution that is still in use today.

Chris discovered the need for a manufacturing solution for vegetable growers when joining the Roxbury Farm CSA in Columbia County New York, shortly after it was founded in the mid 1990’s. The current cloud based solution for vegetable and flower growers was implemented in 2013 based on the application used at Roxbury Farm.  BASc Applied Science & Engineering, University of Toronto Certified Fellow, Production & Inventory Management Master Industrial & Management Engineering, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

How Can Farmers Deal With the CDC’s Romaine Lettuce Safety Alert?

E coli sample in romaine lettuce

It is happening again. For the second time since April or May, the CDC issued a nationwide safety alert regarding Romaine Lettuce. Once again, the problem associated with that particular type of lettuce relates to the E-coli bacteria. This time, the warning is more alarming because disease specialists haven’t located the source of the infection. It’s more widespread than the previous outbreak, and the alert has expanded to Canada and Hawaii. With the previous alert and subsequent recall, the CDC could ultimately locate the growing region that was the source of the infection. In June of this year, NPR reported that the CDC traced the source of the E-Coli contamination to water – a contaminated canal in the Yuma, Arizona area.

The New York Times called the CDC alert a “stern and sweeping advisory,” and encouraged people who purchased Romaine lettuce to wash and sanitize refrigerator drawers where the leafy green was stored. Many grocery stores,  and vegetable and fruit markets acted quickly to remove Romaine lettuce from the shelves.

The latest alert follows the release of the FDA’s published findings from the investigation into the E-coli 0157:H7 infection outbreak earlier in the year that affected multiple states. The Center for Science in the Public Interest explains that the FDA concluded that the most likely source of the contamination was an irrigation canal that provided water to several farms in the Yuma, Arizona area that grow Romaine lettuce. The canal was located close to a “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation,” a large facility that feeds a herd of over 100,000 cows. During the investigation, researchers observed that their most significant hurdle was a lack of detailed recordkeeping.

Why Now?

On November 26, 2018, the FDA Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb, MD, issued a press release regarding the investigation into the most recent outbreak of E. Coli 0257:H7. He explained that as of his announcement, the current outbreak caused 43 people throughout 12 states to get sick. The last date of a reported onset of the illness was October 31, 2018. Also, 22 people in Canada got ill. He said that the FDA, CDC and other government researchers are working with the Canadian government to learn more about the cause of this outbreak and how to prevent lettuce from becoming tainted in the future.

In the press release, he said that over Thanksgiving, investigators could determine that the lettuce that caused the 43 most recent illnesses related to E. Coli 0257:H7 came from a region in  Central California that grows lettuce during the summer. He and his fellow investigators believe that this outbreak is confined to an end-of-the-season harvest of Romaine lettuce from that area of California.

The Problem Goes Beyond an E.Coli Outbreak

With the previous outbreak, it took government investigators over 18 days to find the growing region and the source of the contamination. It’s essential that vegetable farmers realize that a similar scenario could occur with any other farm vegetable crop. The fact that it took almost three weeks to trace the source of the Spring outbreak is proof that the current recordkeeping system that is in use for reporting market farming activities is woefully inadequate.

Back in September 2018, Jon Fingas wrote a story for Engadget about Walmart’s plan to use blockchain technology to not only ease the minds of anxious shoppers: the retail giant wants their leafy greens distributors to use the technology so that the store can track incoming produce shipments from their different providers.

The blockchain will provide a secure ledger that will allow Walmart (and conceivably other retailers as well) to track vegetables (and potentially other fresh foods) from the farm or processor to the store. And this technology would make the information available to any store in the nation. By implementing blockchain technology for this purpose, it would be possible for anyone who uses it to track the source of an outbreak in seconds as opposed to days or longer, which is what happened during the Spring of 2018 with the Yuma, Arizona incident.

What Does This Mean for Farmers?

The nature of this safety alert, and the fear that accompanies not knowing where the source of this contamination is, frighten consumers. When stores that sell Romaine lettuce voluntarily remove it from their shelves so quickly, there is an even greater cause for concern – especially for farmers.

It wouldn’t be practical or cost effective for a small vegetable farm to use a blockchain system, but it makes sense for every market farming enterprise to use their farm management app to the fullest, and to tweak it to include critical information about when and where every vegetable crop is planted, and when each crop is harvested. Farmers, especially lettuce farmers will then be able to share this information with farmer’s market customers or people who participate in CSA programs that many farms have to keep sales up throughout the year.

About:

Susan Klatz Beal is a full-time freelance writer and member of the Association for Garden Communicators. She is also a passionate organic flower and vegetable gardener. She is obsessed with hummingbirds and creating wildlife habitats to attract them to her garden. When she isn’t writing or tending to outdoor plants, she spends time starting seeds for every type of plant you can and cannot imagine.

Author Link:
https://portal.gardenwriters.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?Site=GWA&WebCode=OrgInfo&org_cst_key=9B630745-B9F1-4C35-9C1A-CDDD39FAC0DC

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2018/o157h7-11-18/index.html

https://cspinet.org/news/yuma-lettuce-outbreak-investigation-highlights-urgent-need-fully-implement-food-safety

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm624867.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/20/health/romaine-ecoli-outbreak-cdc.html

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/11/20/669735389/beware-the-thanksgiving-salad-cdc-says-no-romaine-lettuce-is-safe

https://www.npr.org/2018/06/29/624647252/it-was-the-water-fda-says-of-romaine-e-coli-outbreak-that-killed-five

https://www.consumerreports.org/food-safety/what-growers-are-doing-to-keep-romaine-lettuce-safe-to-eat/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/romaine-lettuce-is-not-safe-to-eat-cdc-warns-us-consumers/2018/11/20/726d0ae6-ece9-11e8-96d4-0d23f2aaad09_story.html?utm_term=.ec76b50a3bb0

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/2018/11/22/romaine-lettuce-warning-affecting-hawaii-restaurants-businesses/

https://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2018/11/20/questions-e-coli-outbreak-romaine-lettuce-cdc-answers/2074669002/

https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2018/06/21/could-blockchain-food-chains-answer-romaine-lettuce-e-coli-outbreaks

https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/

https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/24/walmart-blockchain-leafy-green-tracking/

https://www.theverge.com/2018/11/20/18105497/romaine-lettuce-ecoli-outbreak-cdc-contamination-symptoms

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm626716.htm

 

Holiday Farm Sales – An Opportunity Not to be Missed!

Image courtesy of The Misty Manor Mercers

Looking at the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday ads the past few days, the pain that many farmers feel this time of year hits home. The farmers’ markets are mostly closed down for the season, and so is that extra income that comes from them. Even if you’ve had a separate harvest, it’s probably done for the year and you know that money needs to be budgeted carefully to make it work through a long winter. The holiday season is coming and there’s an expectation for presents, family visiting and travel in the air. How are you going to get in a little extra money coming in for the season? Holiday sales! Here’s a quick look at a few options you can consider to bring in some additional money over the course of the holiday season.

  • Celebrate the season – on the farm! Offer one or many opportunities for people to come to your farm for a seasonal event, such as offering hayrides around your property, pick-your-own options and similar possibilities. Agri-tourism has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade or two as people want to get closer to their food source. You have the opportunity to grow a larger, more loyal customer following as more people learn about your operation and family. This is also a great time to bring in more customers to next years’ farmer’s market booth by promoting that as part of your overall process.
  • Add value. You may sell the most amazing tomatoes during the market season, but with a little work, you can offer preserved items through the rest of the year, such as tomato sauces, salsas, sun-dried tomatoes and similar options. This will require a certain amount of research into what’s allowed in your state, county and, should you choose to bring them to market, in the farmer’s market as well. However, organizations that have certified commercial kitchens available, such as churches and community groups, are often happy to rent them out during their downtime provided that the facilities are cleaned up well afterward.
  • Organize a farmer’s market holiday market. Some farmer’s markets will provide their vendors with the opportunity to reach out into the community after the season has closed down for one or two special events to move a little more produce, value-added products, CSAs or similar aspects that help promote both the farmer’s market and the farms themselves. These events are often planned indoors if the weather isn’t just perfect or can’t be anticipated for that time of year. Though this may require a certain amount of advertising and a bit of word-of-mouth to get a good turnout, but can be an excellent source of extra holiday income.
  • Diversify your offerings. Though you may provide plenty of produce during the summer, what about your beautiful end-grain wood cutting boards that you’ve been churning out during your downtime, the amazing quilts or crocheted blankets your daughter turns out so regularly or the wonderful homemade soaps and candles your aunt puts together? Adding a few crafts to fill out your booth, especially when produce is starting to let up, provides you with a great way to bring in more customers who may not be looking for produce while bringing in more income for your farm as a whole.
  • Advertise for free with other forms of media. If your market has officially closed for the year, that doesn’t mean that your opportunities for selling produce or value-added products are over! Facebook’s Marketplace, Craigslist and Etsy all offer options for moving a few more items after the main farmers market season has ended, though they’ll require a little more work to get the ads worded how you want for the best effect. You’ll also want to check with your local, state and county laws about whether you’ll require a business license to sell from your farm, though there are exemptions in many cases and several states have exemptions in place for farms that are selling “at the farm gate”.

By taking a few of these off-season market farming approaches to improving your income and opportunities, your small farm can remain sustainable and growing throughout the entire year, making your holidays merry and bright and the new year more promising than ever. Whether your family farm’s focus is on hydroponics, avoiding genetically modified organisms, organic or natural production, greenhouse opportunities or simply staying sustainable, making your operation more efficient in terms of recordkeeping, crop management, farm planning and production management, you can ensure that your family farm will stay strong to be passed on to the next generation. Have an amazing holiday season and a fabulous new year as 2019 comes rolling in!

Cathleen Vought, Jane of all trades, is a farmer, educator, blogger and more!
Cathleen Vought

Cathleen Vought is a freelance content and copywriter living on a small farm in southwest Missouri with her husband and daughter, two dogs, a few dozen Shetland sheep and chickens, too many cats and a Morgan-Arabian mare with serious attitude. A strong believer in social entrepreneurship, she has over two decades of experience as a volunteer disaster and medical responder, living the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She spends her free time working with wild edible and medicinal plants, fiber arts, playing with hot glass at her torch and renovating the family’s historic farmhouse.

 

6 Market Farming Crops That Tap Into the Healthy Holiday Cooking Trend

When you’re trying to make the most of limited greenhouse resources, trying to plan your crop scheduling around culinary trends may sound futile. However, a willingness to at least try and keep up with long lasting trends in cooking can make the difference between success and failure at market farming. With traditional holiday foods featuring high levels of saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and refined flour, there’s been a decade-long shift towards healthy holiday cooking that you can tap into. Try at least one popular farm vegetable crop listed below that can help boost your sales during the holiday season.

  1. Cauliflower

With the increase of adherence to vegetarian and vegan diets, many home cooks have recently turned to roasting whole heads of cauliflower in place of meat main dishes like turkeys and hams. Mashed, pureed, or even riced cauliflowers has been a trendy replacement for starch heavy potato and rice dishes for nearly a decade now. This is one of the more time and labor intensive cruciform vegetables to grow, but the higher price per pound for a quality head makes it worth the work of adding it to your marketing farming efforts. Smaller side shoots and miniature varieties ripen fast and are easily marketed as quick roasting and easy to slice after cooking whole.

  1. Lentils

Lentils won’t work for greenhouse or hydroponics growing in most cases, but it’s a great rotational crop for small farms with open field acreage and a relatively long cool season with mild temperatures. Locally grown lentils demand a high price per pound as a specialty organic crop, while they’re also replenishing the soil where you grow them since they’re a legume that fixes nitrogen. Make sure you’re willing to invest in small scale winnowing and threshing equipment if you add this crop to your routine. Brown, green, red, and yellow lentils are all commonly used to create tasty vegan and vegetarian meat-free lentil loaves for holiday meals that are packed with flavor, protein, and fiber.

  1. Sweet Potatoes

Growing in a hot and humid climate or a heated greenhouse environment instead? Try sweet potatoes for a double crop that is in high demand for all sorts of holiday dishes. While many market farmer customers are primarily familiar with eating the roots of the sweet potato, they’ll be happy to learn that the greens are mild and nutritious as well. Sell your trimmings from exuberant growth in your greenhouse or hydroponics system to make money on salad mixes in addition to sweet potatoes sold to make Thanksgiving casseroles and Christmas pies.

  1. Root Crops

Root crops often go out of vogue for decades at a time, but they’re enjoying a renaissance for now and deserve attention since many of them grow quickly and produce a harvest within one to three months. From specialty radishes to colorful carrots, tiny tender turnips, creamy parsnips, and even unusual sunchokes, you have plenty of options to find root crops that fit your chosen market farming method and climate. Many root crops like parsnips are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes and other holiday standards, so they’re popular even among market shoppers following paleo and low carb diets.

  1. Winter Squash

While butternuts and acorn squash were once primary in demand only for holiday meals, now these squash are easily sold from long-term storage all year round. Unique and unusual hybrids of spaghetti squash mixed with sweeter kabocha and pumpkin are in high demand for trendy holiday dishes that also happen to fit into many diets and satisfy healthy eating concerns. Be sure to outline the exact features and benefits of specific winter squash at the market since many varieties feature high levels of important vitamins and nutrients with low fat and moderate carb content.

  1. Kale

Kale’s time as a superstar has come and gone, but it remains a staple for healthier eating for many people. It’s one of the easiest greens to mix into stuffing, salads, appetizers, and even vegetarian and vegan main dishes like nut and lentil loaves. While it’s no longer quite trendy enough to plan an entire season around, most markets will support a steady sale of many dark and bitter greens during the holiday season. Commit to a little space for the most popular varieties of kale in your farm vegetable crop planning for a easy to grow holiday crop that remains in-demand from year to year.

Regardless of the crops you choose to grow for holiday markets and CSA delivers, you’ll need the right farm planning software to manage recordkeeping and rotational information. Check your fall and winter growing and sales plan at a glance by using Vegetable Grower Manager to keep everything under control and boost productivity at the same time.

Jessica Kolifrath farmer, educator and blogger

Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.

 

Fitting and Proper: Setting Up a Farmers Market Booth that Sells

Farmer Market display ready to sell vegetables

When you go to a farmers market, there are some booths that are almost overwhelmed with customers and other stands that just don’t do so well. What’s the difference between these booths? When I started my first real business over two decades ago, my display was pretty bad. I barely sold anything. Since that time, I’ve improved how I set up a display, whether it’s selling mulberries and eggs at a farmers market booth or art prints, fiber art and flameworked glass jewelry.

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Legalese: Concerns When Setting Up a Direct-to-Consumer Operation

There are many aspects to running your own market farm - these forms provide a glimpse of the tax and legalese, just one area.

When you start growing for market, you only need to worry about growing good farm products and finding customers to buy them, right? Unfortunately, in today’s legal world, there are a wide range of requirements you’ll need to meet as a market gardener. Some of these issues cover public health; others tie into specific regulations while others cover liability if someone comes to your farm and is injured. Here are some common issues that come up when you’re establishing a market farming business and how to protect yourself and your farm against risk. when getting into business selling direct to the consumer.

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How to Find Restaurants to Partner with for Farm-to-Table Contracts

Dinner at Farm-to-Table Restaurant

There’s not a small farmer or market grower in the country who hasn’t heard of the booming farm-to-table movement, but that doesn’t mean everyone feels equally comfortable diving into the world of selling directly to restaurants. It’s true, contacting restaurants with Michelin stars and month-long waiting lists for reservations is intimidating to someone who only has experience selling directly to farmer’s market customers or through an impersonal wholesale contract. However, taking the plunge with a smart plan of attack could help turn a struggling farm into a thriving one.

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