Start Farming Blog
Working soil that is too wet results in soil compaction. Learn how to test your soil to see whether it is too wet to till or plant.
It is no surprise that the four main barriers to entry for new farmers are access to land, finance, technical information, and markets. In the Northeast, access to land for new farmers can be a huge hurdle. Land prices here are ten times the national average. New farmer Anton Shannon from Good Work Farm puts it plainly, “The big three are: land, capital, and equipment.” In response there is a growing trend toward renting land. Currently, 45% of farmland is rented. Still, many new farmers want to own land motivated by a cultural heritage rooted in the ideal of private property. However, land preservation organizations and other organizations are challenging the idea that property ownership is the best or only option for beginning and established farmers.
Pollinators – bees, moths, flies and other insects – are an essential piece in profitable production puzzle. Penn State Extension entomologist, Karen Bernhard, encouraged 60 farmers at Lehigh County’s pesticide update meeting that in addition to a plan for proper soil fertility or a good crop planting succession, they also needed to solid plan for protecting and supporting pollinators. Here are the key principles and practices of pollinator-friendly farming.
Mike Yezzi from Flying Pigs Farm shared his pastured pig production system at this year’s Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) conference. Pastured pigs fit well into Mike's hilly, wooded 170-acre farm, a challenging environment for many farm enterprises.
More farmers will need a license to sell their goods at farmers markets in 2011. With 87 farmers’ markets just in Southeast PA and 240 statewide, according to Buy Fresh Buy Local, farmers markets are a source of food for more and more Pennsylvanians. The PA Department of Ag (PDA) recognizes farmers’ market vendors as important partners in the process of “bringing food safely from farm to fork.” So, through Act 106, PDA has put more uniform, statewide requirements for licensing in place for 2011. Will you need a license?
Currently 45% of farmland is rented. For new farmers, leasing can be a viable way to get started without sinking all of your capital into land. Short term leases can be simple. They need only four key ingredients to be an official contract. The lease must identify the parties, the lease term, the fee and have signatures. If you do decide to go the direction of a lease, make sure it contains these seven important elements based on a presentation by George Elser of Elser Law in Wayne, PA at the PASA conference in a workshop on the FarmFutures leasing program.
Finally, March has rolled around and old man winter has loosened his death grip on us. The days are getting longer and warmer, the daffodils and crocuses are starting to bloom and newborn lambs are frolicking around the barnyard. These wonderful signs of impending Spring should signal all shepherds that March is also the unofficial start of the sheep shearing season.
Composting and compost provide numerous opportunities for farmers to improve their production systems. Potential income either directly from tipping fees or selling surplus compost, or indirectly from increased production supported by compost-improved soil. Here we share the benefits and drawbacks of 4 compost production methods, as well as 6 straightforward tips for using compost.
Dave Hodge shared his wisdom on pricing for profits with farmers who market directly to consumers at Penn State Extension's Grow Your Market conference in Lancaster last Monday.
Simon Huntley, from Small Farm Central, shared a few tips for successful websites at the “Websites for Farmers” workshop sponsored by the PA Women in Ag Network last week.
Do you market directly to consumers through farmers markets or a market on your own farm? Lela Reichart and Kathy Glahn presented SIMPLE – Sales, Interest, Motivation, Purchases, Location, and Evaluation - ways to capture consumers’ interest and dollars in these common direct marketing settings.
Do you know what drives customer choices? The American Restaurant Association has identified the top 10 food trends driving customer choices in 2011. Uncover these motivating trends as well as the 6 types of perceived risk that may be holding your customers back in this article from Ag Marketing expert and Penn State Extension Educator, John Berry.
Do you want to keep bees? Do you think honey is delicious and want to produce and sell more of your own? Can you tell a worker from a drone? Do you know if queens are born or made? Students in the ABCs of Beekeeping had fun learning the answers to all these questions and more in their first night of class.
If you have not done it yet, now is the time to finish up your crop plan for next year. Soon it will be time to start seedlings and the whirlwind will begin. At a recent CSA day organized by Lehigh County Extension’s Brian Moyer, I shared some tips for crop planning. What follows is a teaser, just the first few steps of the crop planning procedure I put together based on the great crop planning information Josh Volk from Slow Hand Farm recently shared with us.
Penn State’s Small Farm Project launched a new web site entitled “A Guide to Farming in Pennsylvania.” The site contains links to farm management and business information useful to a wide range of people, from those just starting an agribusiness to retiring farmers concerned about passing the farm on to the next generation.
It seems that interest in growing more of your own food continues to gain steam. It’s hard to say what is fueling this phenomenon. Concerns about food quality? Trying to save a buck or two? Fretting over the environment? I don’t know. There must be a survey out there somewhere that sheds light on this.
January is the traditional start to the winter lambing season. Lamb mortality is highest in the first few weeks of life with starvation and hypothermia the leading causes of loss. To see that your lambs get off to a good start, be sure you incorporate “clip, dip & strip” in the lambing jug.
For prospective fruit growers a good question is…. so what? Does anyone else care? Maybe that is a blunt way of introducing the idea of marketing considerations. But, unless you just want to grow fruit as hobby, a marketing plan for the fruit you intend to grow needs to be at the top of your list.
So, you want to keep bees? Well, join the club… beekeeping is a hot topic for many reasons. Maybe it’s the interest in producing more of your own food or eating locally produced food. Maybe it is sympathy for honeybees succumbing to a mysterious malady called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Maybe it’s Nature’s call to pay attention to this fascinating creature, the honeybee. Whatever the motivation, hobby beekeeping is on the rise.
Backyard poultry is a fun enterprise whether it is a project for your children or a project for you. There is so much to think about when it comes to raising live animals, such as a small flock of chickens. Breeds, purchasing birds, and equipment are just a few topics that should run through your mind.