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. In addition to his seminar, “Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative: Twenty years of helping small growers compete in a big market,” Crawford visited with students, faculty and staff to discuss his 38 years of experience as an organic farmer.
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. The team is testing the hypothesis that a well-planned cropping system can minimize off-farm inputs and environmental impacts, and be productive, profitable and sustainable.
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.
Funds are available from NRCS for Organic transition and practices, a new grant program at the Wallace Healthy Urban Food Enterprise Development Center is announced, and the USDA and EPA offer grants for integrated pest management projects.
The winter season of conferences and meetings is well underway. Check the calendar to learn about the upcoming sustainable agriculture events held by Penn State Extension and other organizations around the state. Many classes have been scheduled for the spring as well.