Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Federal Financial Assistance Available for Building High Tunnels & Becoming Certified Organic


Here are two opportunities that I wanted to be sure you all knew about.  Especially with Amy's Kitchen (big organic food processing company; see previous blog post) moving into Greenville, SC and looking to purchase lots of locally grown, certified organic produce, these two federal initatives might be of interest to you:
                                                                                                     
USDA SEEKING APPLICATIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA FOR SEASONAL HIGH TUNNEL INITIATIVE

Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 21,2011) – Longer growing seasons, conserving natural resources and providing a greater supply  of locally grown food are all advantages for the farmers who participle in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative.  The initiative is offered under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and funding availability is to be available soon for eligible applicants.

Farmers can submit applications for the initiative at anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin the application ranking process for the EQIP Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative on February 3, 2012 for possible funding. Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit.  For an application to be considered for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met.

The initiative will provide opportunities for farmers to establish seasonal high tunnel systems for crops and for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources. Applicants who apply for the national EQIP initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the state administered Farm Bill conservation programs.

The 2008 Farm Bill provides additional incentives for farmers, who are beginning, have limited resources, or who are socially disadvantaged. Such farmers can receive up to 90 percent of the costs associated with planning and implementing certain conservation practices and up to 30 percent of expected costs may be provided in advance.

Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at www.nc.nrcs.usda.gov.  The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.





Contact: Stuart Ashby Lee, Phone: 919.873.2107

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USDA SEEKING APPLICATIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA FOR ORGANIC INITIATIVE
Raleigh, NC. (Nov. 22, 2011) USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is seeking applications for a national initiative being offered in North Carolina. Administered under the 2008 Farm Bill’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the EQIP Organic Initiative helps certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic production meet their conservation goals. Technical and financial assistance will help producers plan and implement conservation practices to allow their organic operations to be environmentally sustainable.
Funding for the EQIP Organic Initiative will be available soon. Now is the time for certified organic producers and those transitioning to organic productions to work with their local USDA Service Center to establish eligibility and apply so that their applications can be considered when funds become available.
EQIP is primarily used to provide financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices to address soil, water, air, plant, animal, and energy resources.  An organic provision targets organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production:
  • Assistance is for conservation practices related to organic production
  • Assistance is limited to $20,000 per year and $80,000 during a six year period
  • Producers are required to develop and carry out an Organic System Plan (OSP) or carry out practices consistent with an OSP
  • Producers must be pursing an organic certification or in compliance with their organic certification The initiative is available for farmers who are certified organic, transitioning to certified organic, or organic exempt according to USDA’s National Organic Program regulations. Farmers can submit applications for the initiative anytime throughout the year. However, NRCS will begin ranking eligible EQIP Organic Initiative applications on February 3, 2012 for possible funding.  Applications are ranked based on greatest environmental benefit.  For an application to be considered complete for ranking all land and producer eligibility requirements must have been met.  Applications that are not complete by the first ranking date will be deferred to the next ranking period, which is anticipated to occur on March 30 and June 1, 2012.
Under the EQIP Organic Initiative applicants can apply for numerous conservation practices that benefit natural resources including: experimenting with cover crops and crop rotations, installing intensive grazing infrastructure (grazing plans, internal fencing and water lines), establishing wildlife and pollinator friendly habitat, and installing seasonal high tunnels.  Applicants who apply for the national initiative can also apply for conservation practices under the general EQIP program.
Farmers should visit their local USDA Service Center today to apply for available funding for Farm Bill programs and initiatives; locations are listed on-line at http://offices.usda.gov or in the phone book under Federal Government, U.S. Department of Agriculture. General program information is available on the NRCS North Carolina website at www.nc.nrcs.usda.gov.  The USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.  Contact: Stuart Ashby Lee.  Phone:  919.873.2107.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amy's Kitchen: Large Processor Wants to Buy from Local Producers

Amy's Kitchen Informational Meeting
Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center 
455 Research Drive
Mills River, NC 28759

Please join us Monday Nov. 28th from 9:00am - 11:00 am to meet with John Aselage, the Organic Purchasing Manager for Amy's Kitchen. Amy's Kitchen in the nation’s largest organic prepared food manufacturer and will be opening a facility in Greenville, SC. in the summer of 2012. They are very interested in sourcing local organic products to be used in the Greenville plant. John Aselage will discuss Amy's Kitchen's standards for production and processing and procedures for getting into their supply chain.  Here is a link to their website: http://www.amys.com/.

This event is for growers (organic, transitioning, or growers interested in organic), processors, researchers, crop consultants and those interested in organic food production in the region. Parking is available on site.

Please contact Karen McSwain if you have any questions.
828-423-2463

DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 26, take Exit #40 (the Asheville Regional Airport exit). At the top of the exit ramp turn toward the airport onto NC Hwy 280. Just past the end of the airport runway, the highway curves to the right. Turn right at the first road after the runway onto Old Fanning Bridge Road. After ~1 mile, cross the French Broad river, and ~1/2 mile later the MHCR&EC office building is on the right at the top of the hill.  A map and further location details are available at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/directions2.html.

 Meeting is hosted by:
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
and
North Carolina Cooperative Extension

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is Availability of Organic Seed Important? Let Us Know What You Think


The Organic Seed Alliance (seedalliance.org) along with several local partners is assessing the organic seed system in the Southeast and identifying collaborative opportunities to expand and improve this system.  Obtaining feedback from stakeholders is vital to this assessment process.  Please take ten minutes to complete the questionnaire. Your responses are voluntary and will be held confidential.

 You can access the survey here:


 Thank you for your time and your commitment to building organic seed systems in the Southeast

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Please help spread the word about this unique conference that is coming up really soon in Asheville, NC.  It is the 21st annual SAMAB Conference, i.e., the Southern Appalachian Man and the Biosphere Conference.  I have never attended this conference before because it always seemed to be geared toward the Forest Service, timber issues, the effect of climate on the forest, etc.

Interesting, but not really the areas I'm working in.  This year the organizers asked me to be on the program committee and help them design a conference with an emphasis on special forest products, wild-harvesting issues, forest medicinals, etc.  Right up my alley!  So.

We have a great conference planned!  On Tuesday, Nov. 15th there will be a full afternoon panel and audience discussion on sustainable wild-harvesting.

Panel members include two well-known herb buyers, a botanist, an ethnobotanist, and yours truly.  On Wednesday and Thursday I will moderate sessions on Special Forest Products.  Issues covered will include cultivating medicinal herbs in the forest, mushroom growing and marketing, ramps, sustainable black cohosh harvesting, maple syrup production in the South, making money from kudzu, genetic variations in native goldenseal populations, what augmenting natural medicinal plant populations does, and more.

I'm excited about the conference, but we don't have a whole bunch of people signed up.  In some ways that it good, because those there will get a real intimate experience.  But I hate to think of all the folks who are going to contact me afterwards and say, hey, why didn't you tell me about this conference?

So, here's the link.  Look it over.  Note, the program has changed a little; most notably the conference will end at 4:00 on Thursday.  Spread the word, sign up yourself, and I hope to see you there.  Here's the link:   SAMAB Conference