Tag Archives: Soil health

USDA Programs in Support of Farm-to-Table Initiatives

If you are looking for grant and loan programs to incubate your local food and farm initiative or enterprise, this graphic from USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food site may be of interest. The color coding refers to the specific USDA agency that manages the grant or loan program (i.e., USDA – Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA – Farm Service Agency, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, etc.).

If you have specific questions and would like to talk with someone about the different programs, please visit your closest USDA Service Center or Virginia Cooperative Extension office for further guidance.

USDA Grant and Loan Programs in support of Local Food System Development.

USDA Grant and Loan Programs in support of Local Food System Development.

Common Ground: Growing Money and Soil at Potomac Vegetable Farms

Can Virginia farmers find common ground around the issue of soil health and the management of core principles for better soil function and performance?

Understanding and building your farm’s soil resource is critical for productivity, profitability and sustainability. Of course, soils have inherent and dynamic properties that affect the function and performance of soils. Like a personal bank account, good farmers and producers seek to manage the dynamic processes by making soil health-building deposits and minimizing withdrawals that are soil health-depleting.

At the 2015 Virginia Farm to Table Conference, Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms shared how she and her colleagues work to grow money and soil with commercial vegetable production. The Common Ground Soil Health profile video below highlights the core principles she uses to build soil health and maintain a positive bank account.

Six (6) additional technical clips were developed in collaboration with Ellen Polishuk of Potomac Vegetable Farms, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Association for Biological Farming, and AE Media. The play list can be accessed at the following link: https://youtu.be/YnWJBegM4ZQ?list=PLuZ_HCbDlptObEcuqWaCkhYhiTS3CP0ua

The video and technical clips were produced as part of a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) project entitled, Finding Common Ground: Healthy Farms from the Soil Up.

Save the Date! 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference

Please save the date and spread the word about the upcoming 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference and In-Depth Soil Biology Training with Dr. Elaine Ingham scheduled for Tuesday, December 2 and Wednesday, December 3, 2014, at Blue Ridge Community College’s Plecker Workforce Center in Weyers Cave, Virginia, and Thursday, December 4, 2014 at Virginia State University’s Douglas Wilder Building in Petersburg, Virginia.  The conference theme is ‘Nutrition, Health and Sustainability from the Ground Up’ and will be featuring an in-depth soil biology training for two days in two locations.

A fresh heirloom tomato.

A fresh heirloom tomato.

The in-depth soil biology training will be led by Dr. Elaine Ingham of the Soil Food Web and coordinated by Chris Lawrence of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The conference will be of interest to producers, buyers, school and university officials, community and agricultural development officers, legislators, administrators, and other key food system stakeholders. The conference will encourage collaboration, conservation and community in strengthening community, local and regional food systems.

On Tuesday afternoon and evening, there will be a Buy Fresh Buy Local Producer/Buyer Meet-n-Greet as a networking time. The Meet-n-Greet will be from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. and encourage business conversation and networking among Virginia producers and buyers, and will celebrate locally-grown Virginia foods.

Mr. David Kline will speak after the networking time on the topic of ‘Farming, Community, Nature, Place and Care for the Earth.’

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr. Elaine Ingham – Soil Food Web and the The Rodale Institute
  • Ms. Ann Karlen – Executive Director of Fair Food Farmstand
  • Dr. Amy Tucker – Preventative Cardiologist, University of Virginia Health System
  • David Kline – Author, naturalist and organic dairy farmer
  • Dr. Elizabeth Dyck – Founder, Organic Grower’s Research and Information Sharing Network
  • Mr. Jack Bricker – State Conservationist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Dr. Brian Calhoun – Associate Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Dr. Allen Straw – Area Specialist, Horticulture, Small Fruit, & Specialty Crops, Virginia Tech
  • Mr. Clif Slade – Virginia State University’s 43,560 Project and VSU Small Farm Outreach Program
  • Mr. Chris Lawrence – Cropland Agronomist, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Mr. Chris Mullins – Extension Specialist, Greenhouse and Specialty Crops, VSU
  • Mr. Danny Boyer – Owner, Four Winds Farm
  • Mr. Eric Walter – Owner, Black Bear Composting
  • Ms. Andrea Early – School Nutrition Director, Harrisonburg City Public Schools
  • Mr. Rick Felker – Owner, Mattawoman Creek Farms
  • Ms. Amy Hicks – Owner, Amy’s Garden
  • And others.

For more information about the 2014 Virginia Farm-to-Table Conference and Buy Fresh Buy Local Meet-n-Greet, you can contact Eric Bendfeldt or Lauren Arbogast of Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Northern District Office at 540.432.6029 Ext. 106/117 or Kathy Holm of USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service at 540.434.1404.

More conference and registration information is available at 2014 Virginia Farm to Table Conference.

Let’s Not Keep the Importance of Soil Health a Secret!

Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, and Virginia Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education are partnering with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and other organizations and agencies (e.g., Chesapeake Bay Foundation, American Farmland Trust, Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Society, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and others) as part of a Virginia Soil Health Coalition to promote and educate farmers, growers, landowners and the general public on the foundational principles of soil management in an overarching effort to unlock the secrets in the soil.

Virginia’s USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has boiled down the core principles of soil health management to four easy to remember phrases!

Keep the soil covered

Minimize soil disturbance

Maximize living roots

Energize with diversity

Soil was definitely meant to be covered.

Soil was definitely meant to be covered.

For more information about soil health and the Virginia Soil Health Coalition, contact your nearest USDA Service Center or local Virginia Cooperative Extension office.

Soil is a foundational resource to farming, conservation and health in the 21st century so let’s not keep the importance of soil health a secret!