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Southern SAWG Newsletter  Volume 7, #8
 
August 2010

Dear Friends,
 
While spring, summer, and fall are traditionally the busiest times for farmers, a lot of folks have a short lull for part of August, with spring and early summer crops harvested, new crops planted, and late summer and fall harvests on the way. In addition to catching up on paperwork, getting out of the heat, and maybe even resting a bit, it's a good time to start thinking about the educational and networking opportunities that are coming up in the fall and winter.

Remember to put the Southern SAWG Conference at the top of your list! We will once again be at the Chattanooga Convention Center, from January 19 to 22, 2011, and we are already planning exciting field trips and an amazing array of educational sessions and courses. As one participant summarized: "Good practical info with real examples delivered by people with real experience." Stay tuned--updates are on the way!
 
Wishing you cool breezes, hearty crops, and good markets,
 
--Your friends at Southern SAWG

IN THIS ISSUE
Know Your Farmers Market, Vote for Your Favorite, and Find Valuable New Resources
Urban Farm Brings Empowerment to Atlanta Food Desert through Food Security Skills
More Feedback on the USDA NRCS Organic Initiative and High Tunnel Pilot Project
Online Resources Available from eOrganic
North Florida/South Georgia Farm Tour--October 23-24, 2010
Alabama Food and Farm Forum--December 3-4, 2010; Selma, Alabama
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Know Your Farmers Market, Vote for Your Favorite, and Find Valuable New Resources
 
As the eleventh annual National Farmers Market Week, August 1 to August 7, draws to a close, we have some news about the phenomenal growth of farmers' markets. According to the recently released results of the USDA farmers' market survey, there are now 6,100 markets operating in the U.S., representing 16 percent growth from just last year! 

FarmersMarketGrowth2010
 
 
While announcing National Farmers Market Week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack acknowledged the important role that markets play in stimulating local economies, strengthening communities, and supporting farmers. The USDA Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative underscores the idea that farmers' markets are bringing folks together in cities, towns, suburbs and rural areas, offering the freshest produce, meats, cheese, flowers, breads, and artisanal products from their surrounding farms and ranches. The USDA also sponsors a National Farmers Market Directory.
 
To celebrate and support the burgeoning farmers' market movement, the American Farmland Trust is sponsoring a contest, "America's Favorite Farmers Market." The contest is open until midnight on August 31, 2010. People can vote for as many participating farmers' markets as they choose, but can only vote for each market once. At the end of the contest, markets in four categories will win the title of "America's Favorite Farmers Market" for 2010. The reward for the winning market in each category will be a shipment of AFT's signature No Farms No Food tote bags, along with other prizes, which include free printing and graphic design services.
 
The Farmers Market Coalition and the Wallace Center at Winrock International also celebrated Farmers Market Week by sharing their newly released series of Market Management FAQs. Throughout August they will highlight some of the most important issues facing market managers and organizers in four themes: Market Fundamentals; Market Operations; Market Growth, Outreach, and Evaluation; and Increasing Access at the Market. 
The first installment, Market Fundamentals, provides answers to basic questions such as "What makes a good market location?" and "What kind of governance structure do we need?" Market Policies guides managers and developers to establishing policies that are in line with their mission and helps answer questions like "How many vendors should we allow at the market, and how should we select them?" The site also features a variety of useful tools from the Farmers Market Coalition's resource library, including training manuals and videos.
Urban Farm Brings Empowerment to an Atlanta Food Desert through Food Security Skills 
  
Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, Inc., in collaboration with the Historic Westside Gardens Inc., has launched a training program teaching urban farming and business skills to residents of a northwest Atlanta neighborhood known as Vine City/English Avenue. 
 
The collaborators received a $40,000 grant from the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority that funds the training of ten residents, ranging in age from 19 to 61, from the distressed community, which is a prototypical food desert.
 
K. Rashid Nuri, Chief Farming Officer of Truly Living Well
money in lettuce
The twelve-week program began on July 19, and has so far surpassed all of the expectations of Kamal Nuri, executive director of Truly Living Well, who developed the project, and Rashid Nuri, who is TLW's founder and C.F.O.-Chief Farming Officer. Rashid is also the organization's lead educator, and a frequent Southern SAWG conference participant who presented the session "Intensive Fruit and Vegetable Production on a Small Scale" at the 2010 conference. 

 
"This is phenomenal," says Rashid. "They are motivated--there is so much genuine interest." 
 
The group meets Monday to Friday each week, putting in long days under the hot Georgia sun. In addition to working at Truly Living Well's urban Atlanta farm, they take a weekly tour of other farms and community gardens. The curriculum is designed for the participants to gain experience in every aspect of running an urban farming project. Rashid says, "This is about as urban as you're going to get-and it's full immersion. Not only do they want to learn all about growing, but they want to start their own urban farming businesses, including gardening and marketing."
 
After learning and training onsite, Truly Living Well will guide them in the development of garden space and the start up of a farmers' market in their neighborhood.
 
For more information on Truly Living Well's programs, click here.  
More Feedback on the USDA NRCS Organic Initiative and High Tunnel Pilot Project 
 
As we said in last month's newsletter, it is clear that the success of the USDA Organic Initiative, administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), requires communication and cooperation on the part of NRCS personnel, participating farmers, and other agriculture professionals, educators, and advocates.
 
Some of the comments we received from farmers reflect the frustration and dilemmas posed by working with what can be a confusing bureaucracy. We heard from one farmer who decided not to continue with his application, but several of those who responded have navigated the system successfully and are happy to have the financial support to transition to organic, add a hoop house, or receive assistance to enhance their organic operation. 
 
One organic farmer in transition in Louisiana who was approved for the NRCS high tunnel cost share reports that the main difficulty he has run into is finding a local kit manufacturer. He found kits online, but wanted to avoid the high cost of shipping. His NRCS people are working with him to find the best way to do it, but they are new to this, so it is a learning experience for all of them.
 
Stephanie Hall, who is currently attending the Apprenticeship in Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in Santa Cruz, California, is excited that her new farm in Granville County, North Carolina was funded under the USDA Organic Initiative. When she returns to the farm in October they will begin construction on their first hoop house for their first year of production. She hopes to have the help of Steve Moore, a hoop house expert who works with CEFS (Center for Environmental Farming Systems) in North Carolina. The plan is to build the hoop house on tracks to incorporate it into the farm's crop rotation plans.  (Note: Steve Moore is presenting a free webinar on August 25 on high tunnel enhancements. Click here for more information.)
 
We also heard from Bob Carroll, of Haygrove Tunnels, a leading high tunnel manufacturer. Bob sees this program helping the future of high value crops in the United States. "Around the world this technology is being used with great success, to the amount of almost 2 million acres covered," he writes. "The U.S. has 4,400 acres of tunnel production as of last year, 3,000 of which are in California." He looks forward to hearing about the success of the growers who make use of this program.
 
If you would like to share your insights and experiences regarding these programs, click here.
Valuable Online Resources Available from eOrganic 
 
Regular live and recorded webinars (seminars presented on the internet) on organic production are offered for free from eOrganic. Click here to register for new workshop topics or access archived webinars. Archived topics include: Using NRCS Conservation Practices to Transition to Organic, Planning for Flexibility in Crop Rotations, and Planning Your Organic Farm for Profit.
Third Annual North Florida/South Georgia Farm Tour
October 23 - 24, 2010
 
 
New Leaf Market and Friends will host this tour of farms throughout South Georgia and North Florida. Last year's tour included 33 farms, with over 200 visitors.
 
For more information and updates, e-mail Jean Crozier or click here.
Save the Date!
 
The Alabama Food and Farm Forum
December 3-4, 2010
Selma, Alabama
 
This conference will bring together leaders from across the state to envision a new food system for Alabama. Stay tuned for details.

Purifirm Pear Tomato Courtesy of Becky Koetje Douville, Able 2 Farm, GA
Purifirm Pear Tomato--Able2Farm
 

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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.