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Southern SAWG Newsletter  Volume 5, #10
  October 2009


The frost is almost on the pumpkin, and Thanksgiving, the winter holidays, and the Southern SAWG annual conference will all be here before we know it! We're thrilled to be rolling out the details of Southern SAWG's nineteenth annual conference. Our amazing team is putting together a stellar event that you won't want to miss.

We continue to see progressive changes in the relationship of sustainable agriculture and the USDA, with priorities and relationships shifting, and money and resources being allocated. The more attention paid to organic and sustainable farming, healthy nutrition, and clean, fair local food systems, the better; in the past few weeks we've seen the launch of the USDA's "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" website and outreach campaign, plus significant gains in funding for important programs for organic and sustainable farming and rural development.

Something the USDA is not addressing is the impact on farmers of the recent epic flooding in Georgia. The U.S. Geological Survey has called it a 500-year flood, because the likelihood of its occurrence is so rare. Not as rare are the extreme challenges faced by farmers by the weather. Read on for information about campaigns for assistance, as well as updates on educational activities, conferences, and some good new about the Immokalee farmworkers ongoing push for economic and social justice.

Be sure to keep us posted about news and events in your area!

--Your friends at Southern SAWG

Southern SAWG 2010 Conference Program is Now Online
Southern SAWG Professional Training Program
Sustainable Ag Community Gains Federal Funding Victories
Organic Certification Cost Share in Florida--Deadline to Apply is October 15
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food--USDA Rolls Out New Initiative
Flood Relief for Georgia Farmers
Landmark Win for Florida Farmworkers
Walking with Many Worlds: American Indian Intertribal Conference November 5-7
Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference December 4-6
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute Offers Public Policy Internships for 2010
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The 2010 Conference Program is Now Online

"Practical information." "Great people." "Simply inspiring." Year after year, attendees at Southern SAWG's Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conference come for the practical information and go home with so much more. While over 90 percent of past attendees reported they learned something they would use immediately, even higher numbers say meeting so many folks doing so many great things around the South was a highlight. With the high-rated practical sessions and pre-conference offerings, and the great networking opportunities, this event attracts over 1,000 farmers and advocates every year. 

This conference is an absolute must-attend event for those serious about sustainable and organic farming and creating more vibrant community food systems. Here's what else attendees have to say.

"Good practical info with real examples delivered by people with real experience."

"I learned a ton about many different aspects in profiting off a farm operation."

"Most useful thing was the affirmation and validation from others like myself. Renewed confidence in my initial decision to farm."

The nineteenth annual conference will be held January 20-23, 2010 at the Chattanooga Convention Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The popular pre-conference events begin on Wednesday and include one-and-a-half day intensive short courses as well as several half-day field trips and mini courses. Pre-conference offerings include farmers' market management, start-up organic vegetables, hoophouses, community supported agriculture (CSAs) and management intensive grazing of beef.

The general conference, held on Friday and Saturday, offers eight tracks of highly essential conference sessions covering: organic and sustainable production of vegetables, flowers, seeds, honey, poultry, hogs and beef; direct marketing strategies such as farmer's markets and CSAs; successful farm stories; community food systems; and new farm programs for sustainable farmers- a broad range of offerings for start-ups and seasoned producers alike.

In addition to the sessions and networking opportunities, the conference offers field trips, a trade show, silent auction, video show, Taste of Tennessee dinner and more.

The conference schedule is available on our website or call 678.494.0696 to request a brochure.

A cross-fertilization of ideas awaits you in 2010. See you in Chattanooga!

Southern SAWG Professional Training Program:
SARE PDP Organic Vegetable Training in Virginia

Southern SAWG held the first of five training events for agricultural professionals on September 14-15, 2009 as part of a project funded by the SARE Professional Development Program, Developing Successful Organic Horticulture Farms: Practical Training for Agricultural Professionals. The training took place in the Tidewater region in eastern Virginia, and attracted more than twenty Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Services Agency (FSA) personnel.

The workshop began with a full day of classroom instruction by Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm and Southern SAWG Board member Mark Schonbeck. The second day took place at Dayspring Farm in King and Queen County for a farm tour and field day led by CSA farmer and Southern SAWG Board Member Charlie Maloney.

Project coordinator Jesse Strassburg and Extension Specialist Andy Hankins of Virginia State University worked together to organize and produce the workshop. The project team will review evaluations and meet by teleconference to fine tune training content and approach in preparation for additional trainings at the 2010 Southern SAWG Conference, two more trainings in Virginia next year, and one that will take place at another southern region conference.

Sustainable Ag Community Gains Federal Funding Victories

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) reports that once again the huge response of the sustainable agriculture community to respond to action alerts and contact the key appropriators has yielded very positive outcomes in important funding. On September 30, the House and Senate completed negotiating their differences in the Fiscal Year 2010 agricultural appropriations bill. During what NSAC calls "a tremendously difficult budget year, when programs were cut left and right," here is what was achieved:

  • The Organic Transitions Research Program was increased from $1.8 million last year to $5 million.
  • The Value Added Producer Grants program was increased from $18.9 million last year to $20.4 million.
  • The Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program had $5 million added to its $4 million mandatory base, so that $9 million will be available to help support rural microbusiness development in this program's first year.
  • The Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA) program was increased from $2.6 last year to $2.8 million.
  • The Organic Marketing and Data Collection Initiative was increased from $500,000 to $750,000.

The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program received only a small increase, but NSAC says there is reason to expect that next year's (Fiscal Year 2011) Obama Budget will propose a significant increase, making it easier to persuade Congress to increase it. 

For more information...

Organic Certification Cost Share in Florida: Deadline to Apply is October 15!

The Organic Certification Cost Share program, reauthorized by Congress 2008 Farm Bill, is designed to assist organic processors, handlers, growers, and livestock producers certified by a USDA NOP accredited certifier. Qualified organic operations are eligible for reimbursement of 75 percent of the costs of organic certification, up to a maximum of $750.00. Reimbursement funds will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted. The period covered is for certification costs paid between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009: The deadline for submitting applications is October 15, 2009.

For more information and to receive an application click here or contact Sharon Larsen: 352.377.6345;

For those in other states: if you have a question about your state's implementation of this program, find your state contact on the National Organic Program Participant Contact List.

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in September the implementation of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, an initiative that features new online tools designed to help consumers make healthier food choices, help connect people more closely with farmers, and increase the production, marketing and consumption of fresh, healthy food that is grown locally and sustainably grown.
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"There is a disconnect between the farmer and the food that consumers buy and we want to re-connect these long standing ties between the people who produce the food and those who purchase and prepare it," said Vilsack.

The initiative includes topics such as supporting local farmers and community food groups; strengthening rural communities; enhancing direct marketing and farmers' promotion programs; promoting healthy eating; protecting natural resources; and helping schools connect with locally grown foods.

Kathleen Merrigan, Agriculture Deputy Secretary, said, "We want this website to serve as a hub of ideas, success stories, and USDA resources for linking local producers wi
th consumers, because by rebuilding our local and regional food systems, we can spur economic opportunity in rural communities and strengthen American agriculture. Americans are more interested in food and agriculture than they have been at any other time since most families left the farm and we are marshalling resources from across all of USDA to help create and strengthen the link between local production and local consumption."
The new website will feature social networking tools such as information on the USDA blog, Facebook discussions, Twitter, and YouTube videos. You will be able to send stories, ideas, or videos to the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food team at
The initiative builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides increased support for USDA programs that promote local foods. Consumer demand for locally grown food in the United States is expected to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.

Flood Relief for Georgia Farmers

The recent floods in Georgia have caused a lot of heartbreak and damage to local family farms. The situation is being assessed as to the number of farmers that will need assistance and the extent of the losses. Some farms suffered extensive damage. Many have lost most or lost all of their crops, sustained devastating livestock losses, and seen the disappearance of their topsoil. Unfortunately, FEMA does not provide relief funds to farmers affected by the floods; they will only offer loans. In order to assist Georgia farmers the Georgia Flooded Farms Relief Fund has been created by Slow Food Atlanta.

Checks can be made to Flooded Farms Relief Fund and mailed to Georgia Flooded Farms Relief Fund, P.O. Box 2641, Smyrna, GA 30081.

You can also donate via credit card, debit card, or Paypal at, where more information is also available. Contributions are tax deductible.

Cane Creek Farm in Cumming, Georgia. Photo Courtesy of Lynn Pugh

Landmark Win for Florida Farmworkers

Compass Group North America and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) have forged a partnership that will bring big changes to the working and living conditions of agricultural workers who harvest fresh tomatoes grown in Florida. The Immokalee region is the heart of the Florida tomato industry, providing 95 percent of all U.S. grown tomatoes eaten by Americans from October to June.

Compass Group, which buys 10 million pounds of tomatoes annually, will pay an additional 1.5 cents per pound for all the tomatoes they purchase, with one cent per pound being passed from the supplier directly to the harvesters. That might not sound like a lot, but it will increase workers' wages from 50 cents for a 32-pound bucket to 82 cents per bucket, a 64 percent raise.

An agreed upon Code of Conduct will improve working conditions and give harvesters the opportunity to advance beyond the field. Workers also will have the ability to voice their concerns over safety and working conditions, and report Code violations, without fear of retribution

Compass Group manages over 10,000 accounts in the United States--including schools, corporate offices, hospitals, and cultural centers. Compass' agreement and the supplier code of conduct will apply to all its operating companies, including Restaurant Associates, Canteen Vending Services, Chartwells, Morrison Management Specialists, and Wolfgang Puck Catering. Compass Group is the parent company of Bon Appétit Management Company, which also signed an agreement with the CIW in April 2009. Compass Group will only purchase tomatoes from those growers and suppliers willing to meet the standards set out in the Code of Conduct and pass the raise on to their workers.

"There's no question that this is the greatest victory for farmworkers since Cesar Chavez in the 1970s," said Eric Schlosser, author of best-selling Fast Food Nation, who testified at last year's Senate hearings on Florida's tomato industry.

For more information visit

Walking with Many Worlds: American Indian Intertribal Conference
November 5-7, 2009
Pembroke, North Carolina

The purpose of this intertribal conference is to build bridges by empowering Native Americans with quality health information, education, professional agri-business development, and spiritual awakening.
Events on the first day, November 5, will be centered on growing an agricultural business, with sessions on agribusiness, sustainable agriculture, organic farming, forest management, and estate planning. Day two will focus on health and wellness issues that affect Natives. On the final day leaders will participate in a talking circle round table discussion of American Indian Issues.
Registration is open to all who are interested in participating
For more information contact Beverly Collins-Hall, American Indian Mothers, Inc.: 910.843.9911;

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Conference
Safe, Local, Organic: Building a Healthy Food Economy

December 4-6, 2009
Black Mountain, North Carolina

Set in the beautiful southern Appalachians, Black Mountain is a small mountain town that provides a great setting for participants to come together to rebuild our food economy.
Conference highlights include half and full day farm tours; a panel discussion with local and organic farm experts Jim Riddle, Mark Winne, Bu Nygrens and Nancy Creamer; and John O'Sullivan's presentation, "Farming Around the World." Workshop topics include biochar, medicinal herbs, organic strawberries, pastured poultry, hogs and farrowing, mushrooms, vegetable diseases, crop mobs, regional food systems, Soils101, food preservation, organic weed control, renewable energy on the farm, and organic grains. Two Saturday panels offer one for food activists and one on the latest farm-related research.
Keynote speaker Dr. Timothy J. LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute is a holistic thinker and visionary whose address is sure to be inspiring.
For more information and to register, click here.

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute Public Policy Internships for 2010

In January of 2010, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI) begins their seventh year of public policy internships. MFAI is a non-profit agricultural institute in Wisconsin that works to revitalize farming and help both urban and rural populations meet common concerns.
Policy interns will have many exciting opportunities with this program, including: assist in coordinating the Fiscal Year 2010 grassroots agricultural appropriations campaign; work on Farm-to-School provisions in the 2009 Child Nutrition Reauthorization; and work as National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition interns for two weeks in Washington, D.C.
To apply, submit a letter expressing reasons for interest in this position, relevant background, a writing sample, names/contact information for three references, and confirmation of housing and other arrangements by Friday, October 30, 2009. Please send applications to Margaret Krome, MFAI Policy Program Director, 2524 Chamberlain Avenue, Madison, WI  53705. For more information, write or call 608.238.1440.
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute actively encourages students of all races, colors and national and ethnic origins to apply.
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Fall activities at J & J Century Farm Southside, Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Beverly Wall

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Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, Inc. (Southern SAWG) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1991 to promote sustainable agriculture in the Southern United States.