In the “three-legged stool” of sustainable agriculture, the environmental leg often receives the most popular and academic attention. But in order for farmers to operate in ways that are ecologically sustainable, they must also consider the economic and social implications of their farm management practices. The employment and management of hired farm workers raise critical questions for small-scale farm operators with regards to the economic viability of their farms as well as the social sustainability of their practices.
Penn State Extension is partnering with several organizations to launch Pennsylvania MarketMaker, an online tool to connect buyer and sellers within the food industry. The tool provides access to free, in-depth marketing information to help farm and food business owners find markets for their products throughout Pennsylvania and other participating states.
As someone with an abiding interest in sustainability standards and certification, I was excited to see that the Food Alliance had a session planned at this year’s PASA conference. The Food Alliance began in 1994 in the Northwest region, where it is well-recognized and has a very strong presence. It more recently moved into the Midwest, and is only just beginning operations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.
At the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference this past February, there were no doubt a lot of people in attendance who were inspired by the growing enthusiasm for local and sustainable food systems to pursue farming as a business and livelihood. But would-be growers often encounter two seriously intimidating entry barriers to making a go in farming: access to the land and capital that starting a farm venture requires. Fortunately, opportunities in urban and peri-urban environments may offer a way around these barriers and a path towards viable, small-scale agricultural enterprises.
Organic cucurbit growers face two main challenges, managing insect pests and using organic nutrient sources. Researchers at Penn State are investigating innovative strategies to manage cucurbit problems more sustainably through a multidisciplinary approach that integrates key components of pest management and soil fertility. The goal is to optimize promising strategies which apply to organic cucurbit production throughout the eastern United States.
Misha Moschera, a graduate student in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, shares her path to sustainable agriculture and the work she is doing to build sustainable local food systems in low-income communities.
What is in a seed? Some may answer germ or starch; but others, such as Tim Mountz, president of Happy Cat Farm, would answer culture.
Increasingly, Pennsylvania farmers are using cover crops to limit erosion from fields, control weed growth, fix nitrogen in the soil, feed livestock and produce biomass for energy.
The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program of the USDA recently announced its funded projects for 2010. Twelve projects were funded in Pennsylvania for a total of $536,000.
On Friday, February 12th, there was standing room only as Jim Crawford, owner of New Morning Farm and president of Tuscarora Organic Growers, presented the spring semester Sustainable Agriculture Seminar organized by the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and co-hosted by the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology.
An interdisciplinary team of 12 Penn State and USDA-ARS researchers and educators were awarded the 2009 USDA NESARE Agroecosystems grant to evaluate cropping system strategies that can produce the forage, feed and fuel for an average-sized dairy farm in Pennsylvania.
Two Penn State groups recently received funding for programs to support new farmers through the USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. In southeastern Pennsylvania, a team of Extension Educators is launching a program called "Start Farming" which will bring courses, workshops, and expert assistance to new farmers. The Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network is using a peer learning approach to offer programs on business planning and marketing, sustainable production and value-added processing, and stewardship of air, land and water resources.
A new publication on maple syrup production is available in Penn State's Agricultural Alternatives series and SARE has released several new books including the 3rd edition of Building Soils for Better Crops, Crop Rotation on Organic Farms, and Youth Renewing the Countryside.