Organic Broadcaster | July 2022 | Volume 30, Issue 4

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content in this issue FEATURE 04 Animal Welfare in the Face of Climate Change

ARTICLES WHO WE ARE Marbleseed, formerly known as MOSES, is a nonprofit committed to supporting the Midwest’s organic and sustainable farmers through farmer-led events and educational resources that help your farm grow.

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Finalized NOP Ruling Coming Soon for Paper Pot Transplanters Beyond Flowers: On-Farm Habitat to Support Pollinator Nesting & Overwintering Climate-Smart Agriculture is Organic Agriculture New Farmer U Provides Business Management Training and Connection New report Provides Action Plan for Growing the Organic Seed Supply Inside Organics: Committed to Organic: Doing More than Growing Vegetables Get Your Hands Dirty with Marbleseed Grower Groups Ask a Specialist: How can I use organic methods to manage weeds?


Jenica Caudill

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Letter from the Executive Director News Briefs Community Calendar Classifieds


Hannah Westfall

Advertising Coordinator: Thomas Manley

Digital Content Producer: Stephanie Coffman

The Organic Broadcaster is a bimonthly magazine published by Marbleseed. Opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. Inclusion of an advertisement does not imply endorsement of a product. Content may be reprinted with permission. Content Submissions:

Display & Classified Advertising:


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COVER PHOTO: Enchanted Meadows La Crescent, Minn.

OUR TEAM Lori Stern, Executive Director Alexandria Baker, Communications & Development Manager Sarah Broadfoot, Operations Director Jenica Caudill, Director of Development & Marketing Sophia Cleveland, Administrative Coordinator Stephanie Coffman, Presentation Coordinator Tom Manley, Program Director Hannah Westfall, Graphic Designer Sarah Woutat, Farmer Advancement Program Coordinator On-Farm Organic Specialist Team

OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS Katie Bishop, PrairiErth Farm, Ill. Dela Ends, Scotch Hill Farm, Wis. Regi Haslett-Marroquin, Salvatierra Farm, Minn. Clare Hintz, Elsewhere Farm, Wis. Charlie Johnson, Johnson Farms, S.D. David Perkins, Vermont Valley Farm, Wis. Sara Tedeschi, Dog Hollow Farm, Wis. Darin Von Ruden, Von Ruden Family Farm, Wis.


MARBLESEED Summer is here! The corn is over knee-high. Hopefully you are finding the time to sit in the shade with a cold beverage of choice while taking a glance at a new Organic Broadcaster format published by Marbleseed. As an organization very much in tune with farming seasons, the manifestations of pre-season planning are with us now, in the height of summer. It has been a busy spring, wrapping up the conference and implementing a re-brand. And we launched the Ag Solidarity Network ( with many partners, as an extension of the community we all crave that brings us back to La Crosse every year. We did our best to communicate these changes, while assuring everyone that what is most important about our work will remain the same. In this issue, I sit down with Liz Graznak, the NOSB’s newest Environmental Seat member and USDA certified organic farmer. Liz represents most of us in a passion for continuous improvement and commitment to organic systems. Liz was also the 2021 Farmer of the Year! We had a great conversation about leadership, legacy, and moving from growing organic vegetables for customers locally to engaging and giving back nationally through service on the NOSB on behalf of small-scale farmers. As we head into August, we will be contacting you about conference content. Great conferences begin with the question to the learners of “what do you need/want to know?”. In what we hope will be the ‘return to normal’ year, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on conferences past to bring the best elements forward. In 2022, we limited the social aspects of the conference, eliminated childcare, and created a schedule that put fewer folks in the hallways between workshop sessions. Hopefully this year will see favorite opportunities to connect with friends back on the schedule.


Crop Rotations on a Large-Scale Organic Farm July 21 | Johnson Farms Madison, S.D.

Hughes Farms Field Day July 27 | Hughes Farms Janesville, Wis.

Cover Crops & Vegetable Production on an Incubator Farm July 31 | Kilimo MN Lino Lakes, Minn.

Gitigaaning Farm & Manoomin Tour August 20 | Gitigaaning Farm Cloquet, Minn.

Our new tagline is “farmer-led, rooted in organic”. The role of farmers as teachers is a theme across several of our programs (Mentorship, Peer Support Mental Health, Organic Specialists, and In Her Boots, to name a few). Adults learn best from their peers, those who share their lived experience. We know that farm business education is crucial, but it is better implemented when the tools and practical tips come from a farmer who has experienced the challenges and lived to farm another season. This year, we plan to make space/time at the conference for peer learning and conversation on topics that bubble up “organically” from production-focused Grower Groups. Hop on the Ag Solidarity Network and check out some of these groups that are forming there.

Urban Growers Collective Farm Tours

To an amazing growing season with the right amount of down time to sip, relax, celebrate, and connect.

September 17 | South Chicago Farm | Chicago, Ill.

First Generation Farm Start-Up August 27 | Naima’s Farm Alexandria, Minn.

Learn more and register at! Lori Stern, Executive Director





hether you believe in climate change or not, it is hard to ignore a livestock emergency such as the recent loss of over 2,000 feeder cattle in conventional feedlots in southwest Kansas over the weekend of June 11-12. The event was brought on by a sudden increase in heat and humidity after an unusually cool spring along with a drop of the perennial Kansas winds which typically mitigate the summer heat. Because of the summer winds, shade is not typically provided. So when the wind stopped, the pen-riders, ranchers, and veterinarians were left scrambling to provide heat abatement to thousands of cattle who could not get away from the sun. As a livestock owner, these sorts of tragedies are sickening and we cannot help but feel for our fellow animal managers. But if we can learn from their losses and avoid such calamities in the future, then we can at least take something meaningful from the disaster.

As organic farmers, the weather is even more important because our animals spend more time outside. While I suspect that most of this audience will appreciate why it is important to allow organic livestock outside, we will detour for a moment to address why these rules are a part of organic production. In the USDA Organic Rule, animals must have access to the outdoors and ruminants must be able to graze during the grazing season. While the Organic Rule can be quite dry reading, the philosophy behind that rule is rather beautiful. Organic farming is built upon a holistic approach to nature, an understanding that the plants, the animals, and the farmer are a part of an interconnected natural system governed by natural laws. And for this system to be healthy, each part of the system must be healthy. For this reason, we believe that allowing the animals to be out on the land is essential for both the land and the animals.


When we talk about animal welfare, this focus on the animal’s role in nature is also recognized. In one of the first frameworks built to define what good animal welfare is, known as the Five Freedoms, the authors recognized the role of allowing an animal to be part of its natural environment and to perform natural behaviors which are important to that species.


Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigor.


Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment.


Freedom from pain, injury, and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.


Freedom to express natural behavior, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind.


Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering.

While the conventional industry struggles to come to terms with the freedom to express natural behaviors, the organic industry has embraced it as we recognize the importance of animals as part of a larger natural system. In conventional farming, the focus is on providing animals optimum housing, nutrition, and health in order to maximize production. In organics, we recognize that animals are not machines to be maximized, rather they are living creatures with their own behaviors and mental needs. We recognize that letting animals outside may expose them to uncontrolled environments, but it will allow them the freedom to express their own natural behaviors. What behaviors make a chicken, a chicken, or a cow, a cow, or a pig, a pig? By recognizing the behavior that are more essential for each species we can provide them a more enriching and hopefully meaningful life while still raising them as farm animals. But if we are going to let our animals outside to be part of a natural environment, how do we protect them from environmental catastrophes such as the one in Kansas? The answer is that we understand and provide our livestock the shelter and resources they need to enjoy their freedom and still be comfortable, even in extreme conditions. To use a Benjamin Franklin quote: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So how do we prepare for an unpredictable environment and environmental emergencies? Let’s start with the worst-case scenario: the emergency. While it is impossible to think of everything, it is possible to be prepared so when disaster strikes, you and your farm crew have a place to start. By thinking through what potential weather emergencies you could face on your farm, you can develop a plan for each to ensure you have resources available, that everyone knows their role, and that you have a plan. By going through these steps in the calm before the storm, you can make it easier for everyone when emergency strikes and ideally you can prevent suffering and death.

Now let’s take a step back and talk more generally about alleviating heat stress in hot weather. There are three basic elements which are essential in heat mitigation: shade, water (to drink or soak), and air-movement (natural wind or fans). When we are talking organic animals outdoors, our sources of shade can be natural or manufactured. With progressively hotter summers, silvo-pastures with dispersed shade trees are becoming more attractive. Mobile shelters are another option, with the added benefit of not creating excessive soil damage and mud beneath the shade. And finally, strategic use of barns and housing during the hottest periods of the day and grazing or providing outdoor access during the night (this doesn’t work so well for poultry). Water access is very important and providing water on pasture that is no more than 800 yards from cattle ensures that they drink individually when they need it rather than traveling and drinking as a herd. For non-lactating cattle, providing water for wading, or for pigs, providing water or mud for wallowing can provide significant relief on the hottest days. In both cases, take care not to contaminate running water such as rivers or streams. Finally making use of wind or natural ventilation will work well for mild heat stress. However, in the face of more serious stress, using sprinklers and fans can provide additional cooling using evaporation. For farms in hotter climates, you can select animals which have better heat tolerance or select the more resilient animals in your herd or flock. Examples of this are moving away from black cattle or breeding in heat and parasite tolerant breeds. Now let’s switch seasons and talk about protecting animals from the cold. The key elements for cold stress prevention are providing enough high-quality feed, dry shelter, and additional

Some examples of this are setting up a plan for the loss of facilities in the event of a tornado, barn fire, flood, or roof-collapse due to heavy snow. If you have neighbors who can help or local facilities that are empty, then talk to them beforehand and set a plan to help one another. Another example is facing a late winter blizzard when you out-wintering animals. Know your prevailing weather where you can find shelter quickly using the farm buildings, hay-stacks, or natural wind-breaks. Can you get the animals close enough to feed and water to ensure you can provide these easily or do you have access to heavy equipment if you must move feed and water farther? Coming back to the example in the beginning of the Kansas case – if this was your operation, how could you prepare for this emergency if it happened again? The best option is building shade so you are not so reliant on the wind. Additional options would be preparing to scale up water supplies and access quickly – even working with the local fire company or water tankers to bring in water fast. While there are more methods for heat mitigation in cattle, they would be more challenging to implement in a feedlot setting.


protection for vulnerable groups. High quality feed is even more important in the winter when animals need additional energy to keep warm and healthy immune systems to stay resilient. For animals who are outwintered, wet is a bigger enemy than cold. Providing shelter and dry resting areas where animals can get out of wet conditions is essential. Additional tools are providing plenty of bedding so animals can nestle down and conserve body-heat, providing coats for new calves, and supplemental heat for more vulnerable species such as chicks or piglets. We can also use natural resilience by giving animals time to acclimate to cold so they can grow thick coats. On the flip side of this, we need to be particularly aware of weather ups and downs which may stress animals. On warm winter days, good ventilations, fresh air, and even cooling are important for animals with thick coats. On a side note, winter can be a particularly challenging season for organic farmers. Because we only rely upon facilities part of the year, supporting the resources needed to keep animals healthy and comfortable in barns can be a stretch on both time and money. But by following a few basic rules, you can ensure good animal comfort through the winter. The first is facility design and stocking density; unfortunately, too many farms use poorly designed or old facilities which make the farmers’ and the animals’ lives harder. Taking time to think about facility design can save manual work, money, and discomfort in the future. In addition, over-stocking can stress even the best system. While there is financial incentive to maximize the use of building space, this will put more stress


on animals and require additional bedding to keep animals clean and healthy. So focus on optimizing, not maximizing. As for resources, plenty of bedding and feed are essential. Deep cleaning bedding on a regular basis can keep animals clean and comfortable and keep air quality at the animal level healthy. Doing a good feed inventory at the beginning of the winter can help you make decisions about resources and animal numbers, and plan before resources get thin or expensive. Finally, be sure to provide good ventilation even though this may seem counter-intuitive in the winter, as poor air quality is more likely to cause pneumonia than cold. While we cannot predict what weather challenges or emergencies our farms may face in the next months or in a few years, we can still be prepared by taking a thoughtful approach which encompasses our knowledge of our typical weather, farm, animals, and resources so that when the weather gets wild, we will be prepared. In organics, we believe strongly in allowing our animals outside, but that doesn’t mean we cannot let them have their freedom and comfort too. Dr. Meggan Hain is an animal care specialist for Organic Valley / CROPP Cooperative. Born to a farming family in South Africa, Meggan received her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science and a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Ohio State University. Meggan is passionate about working with farms to improve management practices, prevent disease, and improve farm productivity.


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out of place on American vegetable farms – which they assumed were all extremely large and only using largescale equipment. They did not know about the burgeoning market-farm and local food trends. Sixteen years later, the paper chain pot transplanter is now widely used on market farms across the nation.






nyone managing a diversified vegetable or flower farm knows that tools and equipment play an important role in making operations efficient and profitable. In recent years, there have been many developments to make various tasks quicker and easier on the body for vegetable and flower farmers such as: greens harvesters; innovative attachments for wheel hoes; steerable, tractor-drawn finger weeders; an expanding fleet of two-wheel tractor attachments; various innovations in hoophouse design and production, and new versions of the classic rear-engine cultivating tractor. One of the most revolutionary developments in appropriate technology for small and medium scale farms is the paper chain pot transplanter. (Full disclosure: the author of this article sells the paper pot transplanting system after discovering it in Japan and becoming the first farmer to use paper chain pots in North America in 2006.)


The paper chain pot transplanting system is a unique, ingenious, and highly efficient means to transplant vegetables, flowers, and herbs. It is unlike any other transplanter used in the U.S. or Europe. It has no motor and is pulled by hand. It allows a single person to transplant hundreds of plants in less than a minute. This is accomplished while standing upright and eliminates countless hours spent kneeling, crawling, or stooping. The system relies on planting into paper pots that are connected in a chain. Because the pots are in a chain, they feed themselves through the transplanter and into a furrow created by the transplanter and then the transplanter closes the furrow.

Elegant small farm ingenuity from Japan Nitten (pronounced “knee-Ten”), the Japanese company that invented the system about 40 years ago, was skeptical about whether their Chainpots would take hold in the U.S., having the impression that their little “Pull-Boy” (the original Japanese name for the transplanter) would be

The Chainpot system excels at transplanting closely-spaced crops such onions, leeks, scallions, shallots, salad greens, lettuce, Salanova, spinach, kohlrabi, peas, beans, cilantro, dill, as well as a host of different cut flowers. It can also be used to transplant root crops such as beets, turnips, radishes, and even carrots (although the latter is a bit tricky). The paper chains are currently available in two-inch, fourinch, and six-inch in-row spacing to accommodate the needs of different crops. By seeding into every other cell (or via thinning), farmers can also plant crops that require more space such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale. A new Chainpot is being introduced later in 2022 that has 12-inch spacing – making the skipping of cells unnecessary. Less common uses of the system include crops such as corn and garlic. The paper pots are a consumable input as they go into the ground at planting and eventually decompose. The small size of paper chain pot cells (1.25 by 1.25 inches) and the short in-row spacings make the system unsuitable for crops such as tomatoes, peppers, squash, or any other large transplant that needs wider spacing in the field. Nitten does also make non-chain paper pots that are an excellent option instead of using 1020 style trays. These pull apart and can be transplanted by hand or via a tractor-drawn transplanter. Like their chain pot cousins, these can go right into the field to decompose and utilize the same type of nursery tray. The non-chain paper pots are quite similar

in size and function to growing in soil blocks, but without the time and fuss of making soil blocks.

A game changer Paper chain pots can have huge impacts on a small farm. It can turn chores such as transplanting onions from a multiday, grueling event into a quick morning task. On the author’s farm, onions, leeks, and scallions (crops that are often on the low end of the profitability spectrum) would have been abandoned because the labor to transplant them was just too demanding in terms of time and on knees and backs. Paper pot transplanting drastically reduced labor costs and turned alliums into a profitable endeavor. Equally important to reducing labor time and costs, the paper chain pot system can ensure better and more consistent stands of crops that are traditionally direct seeded such as peas, beets, spinach, and cilantro. For example, spinach, which germinates poorly in warm weather, can be reliably transplanted at any time of year using paper pots. Consistent stands result in enhanced efficiency in all ensuing crop management activities from cultivation to irrigation to controlling pests because you are not wasting labor, time, and materials dealing with areas without a crop. Ultimately, solid stands of a crop result in higher yields per row foot and improved profitability.

Transplanting vegetables, flowers, and herbs is a significant part of most organic market farms’ weed management strategy. Getting a jump on the weeds helps keep crops from being overwhelmed and makes cultivation easier and more efficient. Transplanting crops such as beets and spinach that might otherwise be direct seeded is another benefit that farmers using the paper chain pot system appreciate. Over and over, growers report that paper chain pots are a “game changer” in terms of reducing labor time and costs, reducing or eliminating stoop labor, making weed management easier, and making their farms more profitable. One way the latter is achieved is by making it possible to plant and harvest one or two more high-value crops per season in hoop houses because that valuable growing space can be turned over more rapidly.

Adapting growing systems to paper chain pots There are several changes that adopting the paper chain pot systems requires. One is that the system is designed around the standard tray in Japan, which is approximately 12 by 24 inches. Paper pots do not fit in 1020 trays. Fortunately, the Japanese-style nursery trays are extremely durable and can last the lifetime of a farm. The author was all too grateful to forego the use of flimsy 1020 trays and


inserts which flop and tear and all too soon have to be discarded. A more significant adjustment is transplanting time schedules. Because paper chain pots are small, crops generally need to be transplanted sooner lest root growth underneath the paper pots cause problems at transplanting time. Roots can become tangled with one another and reduce transplanter performance and the paper chain can break. This can cause some growers to worry about shortened windows of time for transplanting. The reality is that transplanting windows are not reduced, just shifted earlier, because the plants do not require an established root ball as they are not being yanked from a plug tray – they are just riding into the ground. In fact, for some crops, such as peas, beans, and sunflowers, transplanting just as seeds are germinating is the optimal method. So, transplanting windows are essentially equivalent in length, just earlier. This can trigger another alteration in farm’s growing system: shifting seeding dates forward given the shortened days until transplanting. Another quirk of the system is that the length of the paper chains is based on the size of the nursery tray and the in-row spacing of the chains being used. The two-inch-spaced chains are 46 feet long in the field, the four-inch-spaced chains are 89 feet, and the six-inch-spaced chains are 131 feet. On the author’s farm, bed length was altered from 100 feet to 90 to accommodate two of the two-inch spaced chains or one of the four-inch spaced chains per row. To achieve the best results using the transplanter, field conditions are important. Loose, fine, level soil that flows well results in the best performance – a reality of any tool pulled or pushed through soil. If there are nu-


merous clods, stones, or plant debris from a previous crop, plants may not be transplanted cleanly and require some follow-up attention. Extremely heavy clay soils and fields with lots of stones can be challenging, but there are many users of the system with such fields and they still enjoy labor savings from the paper pot system.

The road to official approval from the National Organic Program Are paper pots allowed on certified organic farms? The author brought the first paper chain pot transplanter to be used on American soil back from Japan in 2006. As a certified organic farmer, he knew that he needed approval from his certifier – Midwest Organic Services Agency (MOSA). Staff at MOSA spent quite a bit of time making a determination. Paper is classified as a synthetic material given how it is produced and the myriad of components it may contain or include beyond simple wood (or other plantbased) pulp. In 2006, and continuing to today, the NOP rules do not say anything about the use of paper pots. The only two places in the NOP rules that reference using paper are that it can be used as mulch in the field and as a feedstock (carbon source) in compost. In both cases, paper (as it eventually decomposes) is being incorporated into the soil. MOSA ended up granting permission to use the paper chain pots on the author’s farm based on their interpretation of the rule given that they and other certifiers had been allowing farmers to use paper or cardboard as a mulch and various types of homemade paper pots. As use of the paper chain pot system spread over time, other certifiers interpreted the rules differently and eventually there became an untenable situation with some farmers being allowed to use them while others were not.

To resolve the situation, Small Farms Works petitioned the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to clarify and modify the organic rules regarding paper. Paper, being classified as a synthetic, is a complex, complicated issue. Consequently, it took three years for the NOSB committee to sort through all the issues, gather input from the organic community, draft and re-draft proposed rule language, and eventually vote on a rule regarding the use of paper-based planting aides. Small Farm Works worked throughout the process to promote a rule that met criteria acceptable to the organic community and allow smallscale farmer access to this revolutionary technology. Such rule language was passed unanimously by the NOSB with requirements that paper pots (and any other paper-based planting aides) contain a specific percentage of bio-based (natural) ingredients and an upper limit on the percentage of synthetic material. The National Organic Program (NOP) is now working to finalize and codify that language. As soon as the rule regarding paper-based planting aides is in place, Nitten will be applying for an OMRI label for their paper pots. In the meantime, paper chain pots are permitted on certified organic farms, as they have been for the past three years while the petition and rulemaking was in process.

Continued innovation Paper chain pots need to be durable enough to meet the needs of smallscale commercial farms. As a result, the paper pots can be a bit stubborn to decompose (the actual time varies based on many factors, including soil type, climate, moisture, organic matter, tillage practices, etc). Nitten has recently developed a paper pot with hemp fibers to address this issue and new developments are in the R&D pipeline.

At Small Farm Works, the hand-pulled transplanter, paper pot seeding tools, and other components of the system that used to be imported from Japan are now being made by partnering businesses in Wisconsin. Small Farm Works is proud to be helping create jobs in the local community as it works to help small and mid-sized farms become more profitable and enjoyable using innovative and appropriate technologies. John Hendrickson is an organic farmer, educator, and small farm enthusiast. He owns and operates Small Farm Works, a small, certified organic vegetable farm in Wisconsin.

The paper chain pot system was originally developed in Japan for planting onions. Credit: John Hendrickson


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rapidly become choked with invasive plants that unfortunately aren’t serving wildlife the way we might imagine. Nesting habitat isn’t rocket science – the basic needs of pollinators can be met fairly easily – but sometimes we need a bit of a mentality shift and thoughtful attention to what’s happening both above and below ground, in both crop and non-crop areas.





hen considering habitat for pollinators, there’s a (very understandable) tendency to focus on flowers. Flowers provide essential pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and also add vibrant color and beauty to our farms, yards, and community spaces. However, flowers alone aren’t enough to meet the basic needs of pollinators. In order to help insects to build and sustain successful populations in our agricultural landscapes over the long-term, we also need to provide shelter for these animals, specifically by increasing the availability and quality of their nesting and overwintering habitat. So, where do insects make their homes? Given the astounding diversity in insects (even within “pollinators” and other more-narrow groupings), the answer isn’t simple. Together, the US & Canada are home to nearly 3,600 species of bees and roughly 12,400 species of parasitic and predatory wasps, each with their own unique morphology, habitat requirements, and highly sophisticated life history. That said, there are a few running themes that are useful for farmers and other land stewards to know about. Most bees and solitary wasps in our region create small nests


Here at Xerces, we have recently developed a short guide – “Nesting and Overwintering Guidelines for Pollinators and Other Beneficial Insects” – focused on a variety of natural nesting habitat features that can be readily incorporated into most landscapes. For farms, I’ve distilled our recommendations as follows (but feel free to check out the full guidelines online for additional details): •

Ensure your farmscape includes a diversity of species that are known to provide resources for nesting (see Tables 1, 2, & 3 in this article for ideas). For example, an abundance of native bunch grasses can help ensure ground-nesting bees have access to undisturbed soil. Wild roses (Rosa), maples (Acer), basswood (Tilia), and juneberry (Amelanchier) provide leaf-tissue for leaf-cutter bees to use to line the cells of their nests. Pithy shrubs like elderberry (Sambucus), highbush cranberry (Vibernum), and raspberries (Rubus) make fantastic homes for stem-nesting bees, as do some of our wildflower stems like bee balm (Monarda) and hyssop (Agastache). A few plants that are often thought of as weedy or worthless, such as box-elder (Acer neguda) and sumac (Rhus), are actually quite valuable for bee nesting. While you might not go out of your way to plant these more common species, you may wish to prune them occasionally to increase nesting, and make sure that they aren’t exposed to pesticides or other broadscale disturbances.

Establish native insectary strips in crop fields or edges to benefit ground-nesting bees, ground

at varied depths beneath the soil. Others nest within dead plant stems or branches, often having preferences for those that are hollow or pithy enough for the insect to chew into. Some bees and many other insects find or build cozy cavities within tree snags or logs, with different insects settling in and moving out as the wood transforms through various stages of decay. Still other insects such as butterflies, fireflies, lady beetles, and ground beetles seek shelter in places that offer protection from predators and the elements, such as leaf litter and piles of rock or brush. Similarly, bumble bee nests are often found under brambles, tall grasses, brush, or rock piles, often associated with an abandoned mouse nest. Unfortunately, manicured farms and yards rarely leave enough of these “messy” habitat features to support robust populations of pollinators and other wildlife. Farmers who do have these features often feel bad (rather than good) about it – the way you might feel about a mess you haven’t gotten around to cleaning up yet. Conversely, farmers might feel a little too good about the amount of noncrop “wildlife” areas on their farms, failing to notice that without attention and management, these areas have

beetles, and other soil-dwelling insects. On organic farms utilizing tillage for weed control, these untilled areas are critical refugia from soil disturbance. Placement of the strips in close proximity to crops helps you meet the nesting and foraging needs of beneficial insects and build their populations in the very places you need them most. •

Manage wildflower areas and hedgerows with stem-nesting in mind. Choose plants that support stem-nesters (see Tables 1 & 2). For wildflower habitat: leave dead flowers with seed heads intact over the winter, and prune back the stems to 8 to 24 inches or so in spring to provide “stem stubble” with cut ends that bees can access (see Diagram for more details). For larger areas, you may wish to prune only select high-value stems (rather than everything), or opt for a high mow in very early spring, rather than hand-pruning. For hedgerows and shrubs: prune branches or canes back in spring to create cut ends that nesting bees can access. Remember, cutting dead stems or pithy branches on our part is simply a way to provide stem-nesting bees with an entrance to the stem where they might wish to make a nest. Deer and rabbit browse of plant stems or branches is another way bees gain access to these nest sites in the wild.

Retain brush, snags, logs, and rock-piles as nesting habitat and shelter for all sorts of wildlife.

Watch for and protect areas with dense aggregations of ground-nesting bees. Typically these nests are only active for a very small window of time in spring, and may occur on field roads, lawn areas, slopes with eroded soils, or even within the fields of some crops such as blueberries or squash.

In fall: leave the leaves. Most farmers I know don’t have time for raking the yard, but here’s your excuse if you need it. In cold climates, the vast majority of butterflies and moths use leaf litter for winter protection of eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, or adults. Similarly, bumble bee queens often rely on leaf litter for protection. At the end of summer, the mated queens burrow an inch or two into the earth to hibernate; an extra thick layer of leaves is welcome additional protection from the elements.

Pesticides – even organic approved – can be problematic to pollinators. Develop an IPM plan that considers pollinators, use prevention and other non-chemical approaches whenever possible, choose least toxic pest protection options, and protect both flowers and nesting habitat from pesticide exposure. See Xerces guidance document “Organic Pesticides: Minimizing Risks to Pollinators and Beneficial Insects”

Install a habitat sign to increase the educational value of your efforts and spread awareness about the importance of pollinator conservation in your community.

TABLE 1: Native wildflowers for bee nesting in the Midwest SCIENTIFIC NAME



Agastache foeniculum

anise hyssop

Stem for nesting

Artemisia campestris & ludoviciana

field sagewort, prairie sage

Plant hairs for lining nest

Chamaenerion angustifolium


Leaves for cell partitioning

Cirsium spp.

native thistles

Stem for nesting

Desmodium canadense

showy ticktrefoil

Leaves for cell partitioning

Eutrochium spp.

Joe Pye weed

Stem for nesting

Fragaria virginiana

wild strawberry

Leaves for cell partitioning

Helianthus grosseserratus

sawtooth sunflower

Stem for nesting

Helianthus maximiliani

Maximilian sunflower

Stem for nesting

Liatris spp.

blazing star

Stem for nesting

Monarda fistulosa

wild bergamot, bee balm

Stem for nesting

Oenothera biennis

evening primrose

Petals for cell partitioning

Oligoneuron rigidum

stiff goldenrod

Stem for nesting

Silphium perfoliatum

cup plant

Stem for nesting

Symphyotrichum spp.


Stem for nesting

Vernonia fasciculata


Stem for nesting

What about bee hotels? Although artificial nesting options such as bee blocks and bee hotels can be fun and educational, we focus on natural nesting habitat because these features often better mimic the natural nest site density of insects and break down naturally with time, limiting disease issues. Moreover, natural nesting features often provide multiple conservation (and human) benefits. A pruned raspberry hedge, for example, can provide excellent nesting habitat for a variety of insects, along with abundant edible fruit for humans, and blossoms in springtime when pollen and nectar resources can be limited. Similarly, an appropriately managed wildflower planting can provide


TABLE 2: Native trees & shrubs for bee nesting in the Midwest SCIENTIFIC NAME



Acer negundo, rubrum, saccharum & other spp.

box elder, red ma- Branches for nestple, sugar maple, ing, leaves for cell & other maples partitioning

Amelanchier spp.


Leaves for cell partitioning

Cornus spp.


Leaves for cell partitioning

Fraxinus nigra, pennsylvanica

black ash, green ash

Leaves for cell partitioning

Lonicera canadensis

fly honeysuckle

Leaves for cell partitioning

Rosa arkansana, blanda, woodsii, and other spp.

prairie, smooth, woods, and other wild rose

Stem for nesting; leaves & petals for cell partitioning

Rubus pubescens and other spp.

Dwarf raspberry and other raspberry/blackberry

Stem for nesting; leaves for cell partitioning

Rhus glabra and typhina

smooth & staghorn sumac

Stem for nesting; leaves for cell partitioning

Sambucus nigra

black elderberry

Stem for nesting

Sambucus racemosa

red elderberry

Stem for nesting

Tilia americana


Leaves for cell partitioning

Toxicodendron vernix

poison sumac

Stem for nesting

Viburnum trilobum

high bush cranberry

Stem for nesting

TABLE 3: Native grasses for bee nesting in the Midwest SCIENTIFIC NAME



Andropogon gerardii

big bluestem

Stem for nesting, Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Bouteloua curtipendula

side-oats grama

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Bouteloua gracilis, hirsuta

blue grama, hairy grama

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Bromus kalmii

prairie brome

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Calamagrostis canadensis


Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Elymus canadensis

Canada wild rye

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Eragrostis spectabilis

purple lovegrass

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Eragrostis trichodes

sand lovegrass

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Hesperostipa spartea

Porcupine grass

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Koeleria macrantha

prairie junegrass

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Panicum virgatum


Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Schizachyrium scoparium

little bluestem

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Sorghastrum nutans

Indian grass

Stem for nesting, Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Sporobolus cryptandrus

sand dropseed

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Sporobolus heterolepis

prairie dropseed

Soil/cavity at base of plant for nesting

Credit: Jennifer Hopwood

A nest entrance in raspberry cane. The small carpenter bee, Ceratina, is an important pollinator of raspberries and nests in pruned raspberry canes.


nesting sites, pollen, and nectar for bees; host plants and overwintering habitat for butterflies; and abundant food for songbirds. Remember, all parts of a plant can be valuable to insects, even after they have withered and browned and become less aesthetically pleasing to us. Since the availability of nesting and overwintering habitat is one of the most important factors influencing populations of native bees and other beneficial insects, our small efforts can really go a long way in helping insects find what they need on our farms. If you are interested in creating or enhancing pollinator habitat on your farm, we are here to help! Xerces Society has staff across the country offering technical support to producers. Additionally, the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service offers two programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), that could help fund your habitat projects. Contact Xerces or your local NRCS field office to ask about opportunities.

In closing, it is important to note that our knowledge of bee nesting requirements is still somewhat limited, and we’re always learning more about what plants are preferred by different types of bees across the country. What are you seeing on your farm? If you have a sighting to report (ideally of a specific plant used by a specific bee), please email Your contributions will help us to build our database of plants used by nesting bees! Based out of Northeast Minnesota, Sarah Foltz Jordan leads Xerces’ upper Midwest native bee and monarch habitat restoration efforts, focused primarily in agricultural landscapes. Working closely with farmers across the region, Sarah tests and promotes a variety of organic habitat restoration methods on fruit, vegetable, and grain farms.

learn more from THE xerces society Join Sarah Foltz Jordan and Leif Richardson of Xerces Society at a webinar about providing nesting habitat for bees!

September 29, 2022 12 P.m. CT Register at

Further Reading... Download a copy of the publication mentioned in the article, “Nesting & Overwintering Habitat For Pollinators & Other Beneficial Insects” at

Please reach out to Xerces staff for pollinator-related support. We are thrilled to introduce two new staff in the Upper Midwest, Micah Kloppenburg (far left), our Wisconsin Pollinator Habitat Conservation Specialist based in Madison, and Stefanie Steele (far right), our Urban Farm Pollinator Specialist based in Detroit. In the center from left to right are Mace Vaugh who co-directs our Pollinator Program; Sarah Foltz Jordan (bio above), and Karin Jokela, our Farm Bill Biologist based in Farmington, MN. Photo: Steve Bertjens, Wisconsin NRCS.


by Nathanael Gonzales Siemens, Nic Podoll, and Léa Vereecke


s the USDA rolls out funding opportunities for climate-smart agriculture this year, and with organic agriculture being specifically recognized and targeted for significant funding, it is important to understand and evaluate the various critiques of organic agriculture. To achieve a realistic perspective, we need to talk about what organic agriculture is, what it is not, and why climate-smart agriculture IS organic agriculture.

and builds its inherent fertility. Over the past few decades, agronomic research has proven that these methods work to build healthy soils, produce more resilient crops in times of stress, result in comparable yields over time, use less water, significantly lower energy and fertility inputs, and make farms more profitable (Liu et al, 2022; Schärer et al, 2022; Easwaran et al, 2021; Rodale Institute, 2011).

Tillage as a tool

A more complicated aspect of organic agriculture is calculating the yields and the correlated land area required to produce enough food to feed the world. While this is a real and pragmatic concern, it is important to remember the reality is that we currently produce far more food than is consumed. What we have is a broken food system and food distribution problem which the current production model continues to perpetuate. This cannot be the solution. Food deserts in developed countries continue to be a problem and are especially concentrated in communites that have been historically underserved and discriminated against. At the same time, we are wasting 1.3 billion tons of edible food annually. Producing this massive amount of wasted food requires 28% of the world’s agricultural area (FAO, 2013) - a land footprint that would constitute the second largest country on earth. With this issue addressed properly, organic agriculture can feed the world and can do so rather easily. No form of agriculture can be climate-smart without a competently designed food system and well-informed consumers to support it.

Is organic agriculture “a step back in time to Dust Bowl era agriculture,” relying on heavy tillage, and would widespread adoption of organic practices cause a repeat of that environmental disaster? Outside of the prohibited use of chemical substances, modern organic agriculture has little in common with the large-scale agricultural practices that caused the Dust Bowl, which would not have qualified as organic today. In fact, as farms began transitioning to modern conventional agriculture during that time, it was the departure from many of the hallmarks of sound agricultural practice that caused this disaster. Synthetic mineral fertilizers, prohibited in organic agriculture, were already in heavy use by that time. Diverse crop rotations and cover cropping, cornerstones of organic production, were being practiced less and less. Continuous wheat or corn production, with heavy fall tillage that left soil bare over the winter (typically period of greatest erosion potential across the Midwest) were not only common but encouraged. While tillage is a tool in the organic farmer’s toolbox, it is meant to be used sparingly, and with an objective beyond preparing seed beds and killing weeds. It is done with the purpose of incorporating organic matter such as animal manure or green manure from cover crops that feeds the soil biology


The complicated calculation of yield

So, how much land is needed to farm organically? This question is a hot topic in the corridors of government, university lecture halls, and around farm kitchen tables. Several compounding factors make this a complex answer. For example,

some organic farms have higher yields than their neighbors, others do not. There is a productivity risk during the initial years of transitioning to organic. There is decreased risk to productivity in organic production when climate disasters like flood and drought occur. Scientists and farmers alike are still trying to learn how resilience affects productivity. Whether more or less land is needed for organic production is still being debated, but we know this is true: organic agriculture focuses on resource conservation at every turn. The only resource that widespread adoption of organic agriculture will increase is the number of farmers. If farming were a factory, one could measure efficiency by how many people we can feed per farmer. We believe that this is the wrong approach and that the more minds put to the task of feeding the people and stewarding the land, the better.

Ground covers for crop diversity and soil health According to the most recent survey conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF, 2022), 90% of organic farms practice cover cropping compared to 10% of conventional farms. Cover crops on their own, through surface albedo changes among other factors, have a higher warming mitigation potential than no-till agriculture. By increasing ground cover and living roots, cover crops reduce soil vulnerability to wind and water erosion, and “increase the retention of nitrogen mineralized due to warming” (Kaye and Quemada,

2017). In addition, reliance on diverse crop rotations further increases organic systems’ diversity. It is this diversity that drives organic agriculture’s resilience by increasing “resistance to pest/disease incidence and weed infestation” and displaying “faster recovery after removal of the abiotic or biotic stress.” By increasing crop diversity, one will achieve higher yields, water, and nutrient efficiency at the system level (Liu et al, 2022). These resiliencies are what we will need for agriculture to continue thriving in a changing climate that brings unpredictable precipitation, earlier and later frost dates, flooding, wildfires, and droughts.

Greater energy efficiency with fewer inputs No system can be qualified as climate smart if it isn’t energy efficient. A crop rotation that includes legumes reduces the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers thus lowering N2O and CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Crop diversity on its own has the potential to reduce agricultural system’s mean energy consumption and greenhouse gas emission (Liu et al, 2022; Alletto et al, 2022). In Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), these fertilizer inputs represented 41% of the total energy usage in conventional systems. Production efficiency was 28% higher in the organic systems than in the conventional systems with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy use. Overall, organic systems consumed 45% less energy than conventional systems, which is a conservative figure given that other studies have estimat-


ed 60% less on average (Pelletier et al, 2008). The FST also found that conventional systems emitted nearly 40% more greenhouse gases (GHG) per pound of crop produced than the organic systems, and a study from Squalli, J. and G. Adamkiewicz, published in 2018, found that for every percentage increase in organic acreage there is a correlated decrease in GHG emissions. Organic farming is a global opportunity to transition away from antiquated systems that require large amounts of fossil fuel-based, synthetic nutrients.

HELP GROW widespread adoption of organic farming systems •

Support Organic Practices: Farmers utilizing organic methods have by and large done an incredible job of modeling successful methods. Through their diligence, and through the work of supporting organizations, there is a clear set of principles and practices to follow that can be utilized in a wide variety of cropping systems that we know function to build healthy soils, produce healthy food, and foster a healthier population while also being the most energy efficient and climate-smart way to grow.

Support Organic Research and Education: The above are all key factors that make developing and adopting diversified organic cropping systems a top priority for climate-smart agricultural policy-setting. It is important to recognize that we still do not fully understand the contribution of each agricultural system to climate change and their respective abilities to mitigate it. However, we cannot ignore the growing body of evidence which suggests that diversified cropping systems are more climate-resilient than the currently dominant monocultures. With its reliance on such diversity, organic agriculture can feed people efficiently and equitably. We also acknowledge that not all organic agriculture is climate-smart and that details in management are incredibly important. But given its clear potential, we stress the importance for our institutions to invest in organic agriculture research and education to continue to improve those practices.

Support Organic Farmers: With all of the aforementioned benefits, one might ask why a majority of farmers haven’t jumped on board already – but unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Running an organic operation is hard work; it requires a large investment, financially, but also physically and mentally, and a great shift in one’s way of thinking. It calls for a much greater degree of attention, diligence, determination, and persistence. Problems require dynamic solutions with a systems approach that can sometimes take a few seasons to implement. It’s easy to fall back into farming from a chemical recipe and often financially risky in the short term to get off the pesticide treadmill. However, we need more farmers to take on that challenge, for the future of their farms, our environment, and food system. For such a change to happen at scale, we will need encouragement and support from our government and institutions.

Diverse, organic cropping systems hold more carbon There is a sizeable body of evidence showing that “the quantity of additional organic carbon in soil under conventional no-till is relatively small” and that apparent increases result in large part simply from an altered depth distribution only concentrated near the surface. Furthermore, no matter how long no-till practices have been in place, any time that soil does need to be tilled, even lightly, for any number of agronomic reasons, any soil carbon benefit inherent in the no-till system is immediately and almost entirely lost. Conventional no-till is still somewhat “beneficial for soil quality and adaptation of agriculture to climate change, but its role in mitigation is widely overstated” (Powlson et al 2014). On the other hand, diverse organic cropping systems use little to no mineral inputs and maintain higher soil organic carbon levels (Marriott and Wander, 2006).

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Nathanael Gonzales Siemens, Nic Podoll, and Léa Vereecke make up the Regional Management team of Rodale Institute’s Consulting Department. They represent the Great Plains, Midwest, and Pacific regions, respectively. Their focus is to bring relevant research, funding, and technical support to farmers in their regions so that organic agriculture can continue to be a viable option for growers across the country.

References Pelletier, N., Arsenault, N. and P. Tyedmers. 2008. Scenario-modeling potential eco-efficiency gains from a transition to organic agriculture: Life cycle perspectives on Canadian canola, corn, soy and wheat production. Environmental Management, 42. Chang Liu, Daniel Plaza-Bonilla, Jeffrey A. Coulter, H. Randy Kutcher, Hugh J. Beckie, Li Wang, Jean-Baptiste Floc’h, Chantal Hamel, Kadambot H.M. Siddique, Lingling Li, Yantai Gan. 2022. Chapter Six - Diversifying crop rotations enhances agroecosystem services and resilience. Advances in Agronomy, 173. Marie-Louise Schärer, Lars Dietrich, Dominika Kundel, Paul Mäder, Ansgar Kahmen. 2022. Reduced plant water use can explain higher soil moisture in organic compared to conventional farming systems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 332.

Rasu Eeswaran, A. Pouyan Nejadhashemi, Steven R. Miller. 2021. Evaluating the climate resilience in terms of profitability and risk for a long-term corn-soybean-wheat rotation under different treatment systems. Climate Risk Management, 32. Squalli, J. and G. Adamkiewicz. 2018. Organic farming and greenhouse gas emissions: A longitudinal U.S. state-level study. Journal of Cleaner Production, 192. Powlson, D., Stirling, C., Jat, M. et al. 2014. Limited potential of no-till agriculture for climate change mitigation. Nature Climate Change, 4. FAO. 2013. Food wastage footprint, Impacts on natural resources, Summary report. OFRF. 2022. 2022 National Organic Research Agenda Rodale Institute. 2011. The Farming Systems Trial, Celebrating 30 years. Marriott E.E., Wander M. 2006. Qualitative and quantitative differences in particulate organic matter fractions in organic and conventional farming systems. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 38 (7).

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t’s November, and you’ve just finished your second season farming on your own. You’ve learned a lot about your soil, where the low spots are in your fields, you feel like you have a plan for weed management, you’ve tightened up your system for moving livestock or poultry, and you’re working on your seed order and crop plan for next season. You attended two farmers markets for the past two years and they went pretty well. You’ve read lots of books, listened to tons of podcasts, and joined a couple farming Facebook groups, but something is missing. Like many new farmers, you’ve focused so much on production that financial management and business planning got pushed out of the way.

things we cannot. Many beginning farmers bring passion and hard work to the table, but forget about financial planning, which is one on a short list of things we can control in farming. Burnout is real, but having a plan and a good organizational system can help manage that.

Like any small business owner/operator, farmers need to run a successful business. Without adequate markets, you can’t make a living. Without a business plan, you make choices willy-nilly. Without solid financial planning and recordkeeping, it’s hard to assess the success of your business. So often, folks get into farming for passionate reasons. But the reality is that unless we operate our farms as businesses, they will not be economically sustainable.

Last year’s New Farmer U in Minnesota drew 50 intermediate beginning farmers for two days of connecting with other farmers, learning about and discussing different aspects of farm business management – from online marketing and farm employment law to relevant recordkeeping and developing wholesale markets.

All farmers experience challenges in production, weed and water management, weather, and the list goes on. There are things we can control, and


Enter New Farmer U! Plan for farm financial management and connect with other farmers at this two-day retreat for intermediate beginning farmers – threesix years of farming experience – or anyone who is ready to plan for future success. In partnership with state-based organizations, each year NFU is in a different state to enable folks from across the region an opportunity to attend.

John, a 2021 New Farmer U attendee, shared “Attendance at events like New Farmer U is critical to my development as a farmer.” Late this October, in partnership with The Land Connection, New Farmer U

will be in Illinois. In April of 2023, NFU will be in Wisconsin in partnership with Wisconsin Farmers Union. You can look forward to your choice of two full-day workshops on Friday (details below). Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for more details on workshops and presenters for day two of New Farmer U.

Choice 1: Full-day Fearless Farm Finances course This course is taught by Paul Dietmann from Compeer and co-author of “Fearless Farm Finances”, and Andy Larson from the Food Finance Institute. Instructions, tips, and tools for setting up and managing a farm’s financial system, including sample data to show how forms and records should look.

Learn: • • • • • • •

Why detailed numbers are crucial to farming success Techniques for data collection How to set up and use a bookkeeping system Computer bookkeeping program tips Step-by-step development of the three primary financial statements How to use numbers to make product mix, market, and pricing decisions Plus much more to help you improve farm profits

Choice 2: Accessing New Markets Through Distribution The demand for local foods isn’t going away – it’s growing, and shoppers want to be able to access local products wherever they do their shopping. Luck-

ily, selling your product into the wholesale market doesn’t just make things more convenient for the consumer, but can also increase your efficiencies and flexibility on the farm. The Land Connection, with support from USDA/NIFA and North Central Extension Risk Management Education (ERME), has teamed up with local farmers and distributors to break down how specialty crop (fruit and vegetable) growers can work with food distributors to reach more end markets. An allday intensive workshop where we’ll work through why, when, and how to work with distributors. We’ll learn from distribution partners Jim Carbine, former CEO of Local Foods, and Alex Frantz, Director of Local & Sustainability at Midwest Foods, as they explain why distributors do what they do and how you can use them to achieve your goals. Jim and Alex will be joined by local farmers who will share what they’ve learned from years of working with distributors. We look forward to connecting with you at New Farmer U in October! Updates can be found at event/new-farmer-u/ or New Farmer U is supported by NIFA, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (2020-49400-32787). Sarah Woutat is a Farmer Advancement Coordinator at Marbleseed. She operated her own certified organic vegetable farm in Minnesota for nine years.

what was your

most important takeaway from new farmer u? “Always be talking about your farm business goals and what you want through your business with others. This can help you find land, learn about best practices, and make connections that can support you (and vice versa) through the farming journey.” — Liz L, NFU 2021 Attendee

Stay connected with us as we share more details about New Farmer U! October 28 - 29, 2022 Illinois | Location TBD Stay up-to-date by visiting... Or reach out to us directly via email...



Grain Millers is a privately held, family-owned company. We depend on direct farmer relationships and offer farm gate pricing and contracted grower production. We also offer a Sustainable Grower Program – our Crop Science Team is here to help you with any agronomy questions you may have so you can get the best return on your production. When you sell to Grain Millers, your grain is going directly into some of the most technologically advanced mills in the world!

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NEW REPORT PROVIDES ACTION PLAN FOR GROWING THE ORGANIC SEED SUPPLY State of Organic Seed (SOS) is an ongoing project to monitor organic seed systems in the U.S. Every five years, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) releases this progress report and action plan for increasing the organic seed supply while fostering seed grower networks and policies that aim to decentralize power and ownership in seed systems. More than ever, organic seed is viewed as the foundation of organic integrity and an essential component to furthering the principles underpinning the organic movement. OSA views organic agriculture as more than a package of production practices, but as a necessary social movement that can create a sustainable and equitable path for our seed, food, and farming systems.

Why Organic Seed? The organic seed supply has grown tremendously since the National Organic Program (NOP) was established in 2002, which formalized the US organic standards. Certified organic growers are required to source organic seed when commercially available. Beyond helping growers meet a regulatory requirement, OSA views organic seed as an important catalyst for change in areas of ecological crisis, human and environmental health, and unbalanced power structures.

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The benefits of expanding organic seed in the field and marketplace include: •

Seeds are alive and adapt to changing climates through seed saving, selection, and other classical plant-breeding techniques. This adaptation is key for a crop’s survival—mitigating risks for growers and the communities they feed. Organic plant breeding and organic seed are therefore key elements of adaptable and resilient farming systems. When these seeds are grown organically, the climate benefits are even greater. Organic seed provides other environmental and human health benefits as well. Organic seeds are grown without synthetic chemicals and are not treated with synthetic chemical seed coatings, so growers who plant organic seed are choosing to keep pollution caused by synthetic pesticides out of our soils, water, air, and food. We also believe that a healthy seed system is decentralized, with many decision makers at the table: seed growers/savers, plant breeders, farmers, consumers, chefs, food and seed businesses, Indigenous seed keepers and tribal nations, and others. In important ways, the expansion of organic seed systems has embraced decentralized approaches to plant breeding, seed production, and distribution. And as a social movement, we believe that organic seed can take a distinct path from the dominant conventional seed industry, where consolidation and privatization are key strategies.

Reviewing the Data This 2022 report is our third update, allowing us to compare new data with our 2011 and 2016 findings. The data comparisons included in this report provide a snapshot of progress (or lack thereof) and ongoing challenges and needs for expanding organic seed systems and the seed supply they support. Unfortunately, our newest findings show no meaningful improvement in organic seed usage since our first report. We arrived at this and other conclusions through numerous data collection methods. SOS is drawn from seven data sets: four different surveys of organic growers, certifiers, researchers, and seed producers/companies; seed producer interviews; a database of organic research project funding; and grower focus groups organized by Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF).

Key Findings As mentioned, the organic standards require sourcing of organic seed when commercially available, but most organic producers are still using non-organic seed for at least part (if not all) of their operations. Some key findings include:

Organic producers and their organic seed use Vegetable producers who grow fewer than 50 acres of crops report using more organic seed. Much like we saw in our last report, the biggest vegetable producers still use relatively little organic seed, and this has a big impact on overall acres planted to organic seed. Organic seed sourcing in field crops, forage crops, and cover crops remains stagnant. Approximately one-third of these growers report increasing the percentage of the organic seed they’re planting, and roughly 40 percent of producers report using about the same amount of organic seed compared to three years ago. Producers report variety unavailability as their top reason for not sourcing organic seed. Furthermore, certifiers have a hard time identifying what might be substituted as an equivalent variety per the organic seed regulation. We saw an increase in organic producers reporting a processor/buyer requirement as a factor in not sourcing organic seed. This finding was especially true among larger vegetable producers, and some certifiers also report these processor/buyer requirements as barriers to organic seed sourcing.

Most organic producers source their seed directly from seed companies through websites, catalogs, and sales representatives. A much smaller percentage of organic producers source seed from their own production, stores, processors, buyers, or other farmers. Organic producers still believe organic seed is important to the integrity of organic food and that varieties bred for organic production are important to the success of organic agriculture. These findings match our last report and demonstrate that growers understand that breeding crops in organic systems is important to their success and to that of the broader organic industry. Fewer producers report saving seed for either on-farm use or to sell commercially compared to our last report. Despite a significant decrease in producers reporting saving and/or producing commercial seed, most farmers responding to our organic producer survey are interested in learning how to produce seed commercially. The lack of training, economic opportunity, and seed processing facilities were the top factors keeping farmers from growing organic seed commercially. Fewer producers report that their certifiers are requesting they take extra measures to source more organic seed. This is an important finding, since our data also suggests that when certifiers encourage producers to improve their organic seed sourcing, these organic producers indeed source more organic seed.

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Organic breeding research and investments Public investments in organic plant breeding and other organic seed research have increased by $39 million in the last five years alone. Still, public investments in organic seed systems fall short despite growing demand for organic products. The bulk of public research investments come from USDA OREI and are dedicated to breeding and variety trials. Multi-regional projects receive the most funding, as researchers across the country collaborate to support organic research. More public plant breeders are having success releasing new organic varieties. Public plant-breeding programs help fill market gaps unmet by the private sector, including in organic seed, but more public investments are needed to ensure these programs remain viable and responsive to the needs of growers in their regions. Challenges include staffing and capacity for researchers to carry out their projects. Our data indicates that organic seed priorities pursued by researchers generally align with the demands of organic producers. In particular, organic producers identified a number of vegetable and field crops as needing plant-breeding attention, and these are the most popular crop categories being researched – with disease resistance and yield traits taking priority.

Perspectives from organic seed producers/companies Seed producers face many production and non-production challenges. The production challenges reported include


estimating and achieving yields; controlling weed, pest, and disease pressure; and managing the effects of climate changes. Outside of production, managing business activities and finding markets, developing infrastructure, and finding and retaining skilled labor all rank high on the list of challenges. Climate change is severely impacting organic seed growers. Numerous seed growers reported extreme weather events and unpredictable changes in their climate as a serious challenge. Policy actions and research investments are needed to mitigate the impacts and increase the climate robustness of our crops and seed systems. GMO contamination remains a concern of organic producers and seed companies. Maintaining high genetic integrity of organic/non-GMO seed used in organic farming is important to organic producers and seed producers/companies, but organic policy solutions are difficult to identify. Seed producers/companies and organic researchers view utility patents on seed as the most harmful form of intellectual property right (IPR) associated with seed. They also viewed the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) pledge as most helpful. A major gap in data and resources is a reliable, national database of all commercially available organic varieties. A more robust organic seed database would support organic seed sourcing and enforcement of the organic seed requirement and could serve as a market assessment of commercial availability.

Seed producers identified common elements when asked to envision a resilient seed system. Seed producers would like to see decentralized regional communities of seed growers that can work together to share knowledge, access markets, and maintain diverse, productive, and adapted seed. The current structure of seed networks across the US mostly reflects a resilient seed system. However, regions other than the West are still small and developing, and resources along the supply chain could stand to be diversified. All seed networks rely on the National Plant Germplasm System. Seed producers/companies access these public seed collections for purposes of adaptation, breeding, and seed production, underscoring the importance of ensuring adequate funding, access, and accountability within this system.

Top Recommendations A lengthier list of recommendations is included in our full report. We hope these recommendations will serve as an action plan for increasing the organic seed supply while fostering seed-grower networks and policies that aim to decentralize power and ownership in seed systems. The recommendations that stand out as most timely include: •

The organic seed regulation should be strengthened and consistently enforced, regardless of farm size, and buyers/processors who contract with organic producers to use specific varieties should be held accountable to the organic seed regulation.

Public research investments in organic plant breeding and seed initiatives should continue to increase. Research agendas should also be diversified to prioritize seed- producer challenges.

Train more organic seed producers and support existing producers to ensure that organic seed production capacity continues to grow in the US.

Organic seed stakeholders should advocate for policy initiatives that aim to decentralize power in agriculture and advance equity and justice within food and farm policies, programs, and leadership.

Conclusions Organic seed is integral to transforming our food and agricultural systems. Organic production encourages climate-friendly practices that build soil health and biodiversity while excluding fossil fuel-based synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, chemically treated seed, and GMOs. Because the benefits of planting and sourcing organic seed go beyond meeting a regulatory requirement, prioritizing progress toward 100 percent organic seed usage in certified organic production is needed. Our hope is that the SOS report may serve as a roadmap for seed communities and the broader organic movement to advance organic seed for the common good. Florentina Rodriguez is a PhD candidate at Antioch University and the founder of Yellow Springs Community Seed Library. She currently interns for the Organic Seed Alliance.

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he National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a critical component in implementation of the Organic Food Production Act passed as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. The act was created to establish uniform and consistent standards for agricultural foods labeled as “organic”. It authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) for this purpose. In addition, the NOP oversees mandatory certification of organic production. A critical piece of ensuring that organic standards respond and evolve with new agricultural technology, growing markets, and environmental changes, was the establishment of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This board, made up of 15 volunteer board members, advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the National Organic Program standards. Only producers who meet standards set by the NOP, verified by an independent and certified inspector, may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

were top of mind for farmer advocates ahead of that 1990 Farm Bill.

The organic community is lucky to have several farmers still actively farming, teaching, speaking, and working on agricultural organization boards that remember the battle for more consistency nationwide. They were there as this process was designed and molded to fit within federal policies around advisory boards and rulemaking. Similar to today, the necessity for representation and transparency in a process that advises on agricultural rules and principles

The NOSB membership is also established by law. Of the 15 volunteer members, four must be organic farmers/growers, three environmental/resource conservationists, three consumer/ public interest representatives, two organic handlers/ processors, one retailer, one scientist (toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry), and one USDA-accredited certifying agent. Each NOSB member is appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for a five-year term.


The USDA Organic seal has come to represent production methods, that in the mind of the consumer, benefit animal, human, and planet health. And as concerns about climate and the food system grow louder, the commitment to maintain organic program integrity and purpose also grows. Similar to other hard-fought political battles of over thirty years ago, farmers and eaters today do not know what it was like to make conscientious food purchasing choices without the benefit of a USDA certified organic label. Now we all have the benefit of a process for achieving certification that is clear – spelling out allowed production practices, whether you farm in California, Vermont, or somewhere in between.

Given the complexity of organic certification, ever-changing agricultural technology and inputs, along with changes in the scale of operations as organic becomes a larger share of the marketplace, the volunteer board members put in countless hours in research and meetings, traveling to multi-day in-person meetings twice a year. This is very much a working board. We caught up with the NOSB’s newest Environmental Seat member and also USDA certified organic farmer Liz Graznak who also happens to be the MOSES, now Marbleseed, 2021 Farmer of the Year! Liz attended her first public NOSB meeting virtually in April. Concurrently with her NOSB service, Liz farms Happy Hollow Farm in rural Moniteau County, Missouri. She launched her farm business in 2010 with 18 members in a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. , Today she and her crew deliver 85 share boxes, provide six tents of produce as a cornerstone vendor at the Columbia Farmers Market, and supply produce to local restaurants and natural foods grocers. One thing that sets Happy Hollow apart from other vegetable farms in the area, is its year-round production cycle. While many farms have produce 32 weeks a year, Happy Hollow provides produce 52 weeks a year. Here is a bit from my conversation with Liz. Lori: First, I want to thank you for your service on behalf of the organic farming community. We know that it is an incredible amount of work and time! What made you want to serve on the NOSB? Liz: As a small-scale organic farmer I never commented to the NOSB – I was not engaged before. I did not feel like I had the time. I was more motivated to be involved at the local level and in my community. Two years ago, I was approached by both the National Organic Coalition and the Organic Farmers Association to see if I would be interested in serving. I was definitely too busy then and did not really think more about it. But then they asked me again and I knew they were serious. And I started to be drawn to the idea of shifting my level of involvement in something I care so deeply about (organic farming), to give more time that is service- oriented versus just growing the farm. As a beginning farmer, the challenges of growing food and starting a business from scratch took all of my time. I also have a family. And still I started my NOSB service with a brand-new crew that needs training, and there is a lot happening on the farm right now. But I also know that being committed to organic means I needed to be more involved and do more than just grow organic vegetables. Lori: Being engaged in our local community is critical. And that step into a larger, more public context can be daunting. What surprised you most about serving on the NOSB and your first meetings? Liz: I knew it would be a lot of time. But I was not prepared for the amount of work and time it took almost right away. Luckily the USDA website search feature is there for us. And the NOP staff that support the NOSB are amazing. They ensure that all of the public comments are catego-

rized and uploaded so that I could search through those. I serve on two subcommittees (Livestock and Crops). Only the crops committee is vegetable focused. Which means I have a lot of research and educating myself that I need to do. Any single recommendation can take an entire day of research and reading public comments. I have spent more hours in front of the computer in the last few months since I have been on the NOSB than I have in the last 10 years of farming. The work does really happen behind the scenes in subcommittees. That is where we review the substances, discuss with fellow board members, prep for the meetings and review all of the materials that will be considered. I thought that I would be able to put my earbuds in and do my green house work while participating in the subcommittee meetings but it takes so much concentration and focus. I had to give up the green house and other potential farming time. The three months I have been on the board have mostly been doing materials reviews. And meetings are every other week. At the end of the public comment meeting, we did discuss NOP-funded research. But otherwise, the subcommittee conversations are very specific. The first few calls I was on were very overwhelming and it was hard to keep up with what was happening. But it is getting easier. My fellow board members have been incredibly helpful in bringing me up to speed. Lori: Lots of advocates for the NOP are thinking about ways to make NOSB service more accessible and reasonable for farmers. What do you think would be most supportive of this goal?

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Liz: The volunteer aspect of NOSB membership is incredible. It is amazing that there are enough people willing to be on the board. For farmers, we are losing money every hour that we do NOSB work. If we are not doing the work on our farms, we are paying someone to do it. I know lots of people are calling for more diversity on the board. But until we figure out how to get people the time, resources, and money that is required to volunteer at this level, those conversations almost seem ludicrous. I know I am incredibly privileged in that I have the resources it takes to be on the board. I think it would be a good idea to figure out how to pay people some sort of stipend for the work that is needed to participate fully in all of the meetings and doing the behind-the-scenes pre-work and research that is required. Lori: Some folks are also talking about research help. Liz: I am lucky in that way as well. I have a broad social network of smart, connected people. Many of whom are researchers at universities and organizations who have been studying the minutiae that create the lists of substances and practices that are allowed in the NOP. And these small things have a very big impact on the rules of organic – they steer the ship. And research informs us about why we are allowed to do things and not. So for me, it is less about needing help in doing the research. I have people I can ask; and I still need to read the research and form my own opinion. I really want to understand the science behind biodegradable mulch, for example. And this is a specific topic that affects my farm. There are so many other topics

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that we are discussing and making decisions on and it is important that we have some understanding of all of them. Lori: As someone who participates in coalitions at the national level, conversations I have tend more toward the bigger picture. It is nice to hear the importance of the ‘minutiae’ as you said – that it ultimately steers the ship. Liz: I know there are rules that the board has made recommendations on that are still not being implemented. I guess another surprise was how slowly things move at the governmental level. But I know that the staff and Dr. Tucker are very committed to organic. And after 12 years of farming, I am really looking at how to give back to the organic community long term. Lori: There are definitely opportunities in the face of climate change, to promote soil-building organic practices and systems as a way to address greenhouse gas emissions and increase the presence of beneficial insects and species diversity. I am so thankful for the leadership and spirit of service that you are offering the organic community. We look forward to your five years on the board. Feel free to update us any time! Lori Stern is the Executive Director of Marbleseed. She lives with her wife, LeAnn, on a small farm near Monticello, Wisconsin, where they grow vegetables and raise chickens and goats.



magine you have joined thousands of organic and sustainable farmers, self-organized around production interests and cross-cutting issue areas. Every quarter, your group meets— sometimes in person, sometimes virtually—to connect, discuss concerns, share solutions, and define the needs of your community. One of the farmers in attendance has recently participated in a meeting facilitation training with Marbleseed and helps keep the conversations on track. At the end of each meeting, your group relays its top priorities to Marbleseed. Here, our team of dedicated staff turn your ideas into action: resources to support the needs of your community, from farm viability and farm-life balance to innovative organic farm practices. This is the Marbleseed Grower Group model and it’s already underway, but we need your support to bring this vision to life.

A history of Grower Groups at Marbleseed In 2020, Marbleseed was awarded funding from NCR-SARE (North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) to build out our original Grower Group model. Initially, these farmer-led Grower Groups planned to be organized around geographic location and production practices, utilizing support from Marbleseed to promote their groups and provide content for their gatherings as needed. Additionally, feedback from these groups would provide direction for new resources and programming from Marbleseed. When the pandemic hit in 2020, the shape and format of these groups changed. Instead of meeting in person, groups met on Facebook. As our lives collectively strained under the weight of social isolation and ideological polarization, participating farmers chose to organize groups around themes like Growing Wellness, a mental health wellness group for farmers, and Farmers Against Racism, advancing anti-racism in agriculture. Later, in 2021, Marbleseed worked with small groups of farmers organized around production focus to discuss the realities being faced on their farms and how 2022 conference programming could help support them.

measuring impacts of Grower Groups The results of Grower Groups so far have been encouraging— and this is just the beginning. In 2022, 43 of 54 workshops at the Marbleseed Organic Farming Conference were a direct result of Grower Group feedback and the Farmers Against Racism group inspired a popular 2022 Organic University of the same name. This year, we also launched the Ag Solidarity Network, enhancing the ability for groups to meet online and congregate in a space outside of the Meta Monster. As concerns around data and privacy, fake news, and ideological

polarization find breeding grounds on social media, we are grateful to share and build this collectively-owned and community-focused platform. In 2021, funding from the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) enabled Marbleseed to begin building out a Mental Health Peer Support Program inspired by the Growing Wellness group. So far, the program has provided training for 14 farmers to become certified peer support specialists. Right now, we are continuing to build out the program with a webpage and mental health resources coming soon on our new website and plans to expand the support network to reach farmers statewide. The long-term goal of this project was then—and continues to be today—to build resilient organic communities throughout the region. With your support, Marbleseed can continue to invest in the growth of the Grower Group Model, but we need your support. Jenica Caudill is Director of Development and Marketing at Marbleseed.


ENSURE THE FUTURE OF GROWER GROUPS! This summer, we’re raising $20,000 to expand the Grower Group model and our friends at Lakewinds Food Co-op are helping us reach that goal by matching the first $5,000 in donations. Here are two steps you can take right now to help ensure the future of this program: DONATE EARLY TO DOUBLE YOUR GIFT! Donate online at: Donate by check and mail to: PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767 Fill out our Content Survey! Fill out our survey to join a Grower Group and tell us what your farm needs to thrive in 2023:



by carmen fernholz

HOW CAN I use organic methods to manage weeds? Since it is now too late for early weed management, it is very important to prevent any of your remaining weeds from going to seed. The level of your weed management effectiveness is highly dependent on reducing and minimizing the ever-present weed seed bank in your fields. So, regardless of how timely and effective your early weed management practices have been, any weeds that were missed or came up later can almost totally negate these earlier operations because of the abundant weed seeds that many of these plants can generate. A single giant water hemp plant can produce up to 500,000 seeds. And more importantly, these weed seeds can persist in the soil for years to come. There are several ways to approach late weed challenges. The most obvious practice is walking the fields. We all know how tedious and time consuming this can be, but it is a very necessary practice if we hope to stay on top of our weed management protocol.

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A new piece of equipment that is gaining in popularity is a weed zapper. For those unfamiliar, it is a machine that literally electrocutes the weeds. The cost is quite steep: beginning at $40,000 and going up depending on the size. For many of us, this price tag is beyond our budget; but before you dismiss the idea, there are some other considerations. Because the window of opportunity and timeliness for using this machine is wider and more forgiving, ask around with some of your neighbors (including non-organic farmers) about buying one together. More and more nonorganic farmers are experiencing chemical resistance in their sugar beets and soybeans and are looking for alternatives. If this is not an option, ask around to find out if there is anyone doing custom work. Last season, I was able to hire a neighbor to zap some of the thistle patches in my grain field. The broad leaf weeds that stand above the soybean canopy are quite visible and easy to access with this machine. The neighbor I hired was set up to be quite mobile and so was able to travel longer distances but was heavily booked because of this mobility. So, if you are thinking that the weed zapper might be a possibility, start asking around now. Having said all of this, always keep in mind the rationale I have used over the years to justify my expenditures when it comes to weed management in an organic field crop operation. It is never low-input farming: it is alternative-input farming. Consider tine weeders, rotary hoes, cultivators, weed zappers, and hired labor to walk your fields as your herbicides. Weeds are an issue and a challenge regardless of what type of farming you do. The only variable will be how you spend the money you do spend on managing them and keeping them from minimally impacting your crops. With most crops at current higher prices, the other serious question all field crop organic farmers should be asking right now is: Based on my budget and the current out-

look for the season regarding potential yields and market revenues I need to achieve to protect my budget, how much forward contracting should I be considering? A rule of thumb I have used over the years is never forward contract more than 30% of your acres or projected yield. But do some forward contracting. It is always my hope that my contracted grain would be my lowest-priced grain. But at the same time, I want to at least take advantage of some of the current price levels. Most crop insurance companies will insure grains at the specific contract prices so be certain to check with your agent. And one other recommendation I always encourage organic field crops farmers to strongly consider is using an agent to not only source buyers for your grain but to represent your grain in the market. An agent is not a broker; an agent is hired by you. And a good agent’s success is solely dependent on how well he or she markets your grain. They are your best source for reliable and robust market price discovery because that is a major part of their job description: to get you the best price possible. These agents can help secure transportation and assure that the contracts are not only legitimate but also that the buyer is held responsible for taking delivery as well as timely payment. There are any number of well-experienced marketing agents out there. Give me a call if you have any questions: 888-906-6737 x715. Have a great growing season and stay safe.


Marbleseed Organic Specialists answer your questions about organic production and certification.


Organic Answer Line: 888-906-6737


Access all of our Ask a Specialist resources on our new website, launching Summer 2022. Submit your own questions or browse the online searchable archive, and find fact sheets, videos, audio, and more in the brand new, online Resource Directory!

Carmen Fernholz is a Marbleseed Organic Specialist and has grown organic grain and forage crops at A-Frame Farm in Madison, Minnesota, since 1975.


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NEWS BRIEFS USDA inspected, organic certified processing facility has capacity The Stacyville Poultry Processing facility, a division of the Regenerative Agriculture Alliance located in Stacyville, Iowa, has capacity to process your chickens or turkeys. The facility is USDA inspected, organic certified, and currently scheduling processing. Find more information and schedule poultry processing on their website at You can also learn more information by calling (507) 7033643 or emailing

APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR LAND STEWARDSHIP PROJECT’S FARM BEGINNINGS CLASS Land Stewardship Project (LSP) has opened applications for the 2022-2023 Farm Beginnings Class, a year-long training program for new and prospective farmers. The class focuses on the goal setting, marketing, and financial skills needed to establish a successful farm business. Classes are offered online and in-person between November 2022 and March 2023 in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Applications are due Sept. 1. Find out more and apply at farm-beginnings-class

NEW FARMER U COMING TO ILLINOIS OCTOBER 2022! Marbleseed and The Land Connection will offer a training for “intermediate” beginning farmers – those in their third to sixth year of farming – focused on augmenting their business skills to support their farming success. New Farmer U will take place Oct. 28 and 29 in Illinois (location is pending). The training starts with an optional half-day Fearless Farm Finances workshop. To make the most of the short workshops, participants will complete worksheets with their farm financial data prior to the class. The full-day session includes multiple workshops on a variety of farm business management topics. Scholarships will be available. Registration will open in July. While this training is geared for beginning farmers in years 3-6, it will provide valuable business management tools for beginning and aspiring farmers at any stage, and all are welcome. Learn more at

MIDWESTERN HEMP DATABASE ACCEPTING PRODUCER PARTICIPANTS University of Illinois Extension commercial agriculture educators are working with hemp producers to source field data and provide cutting-edge research through the Midwestern Hemp Database. Producers have until July 24, 2022 to apply to participate in the program for the 2022 growing season. Participating hemp producers submit information about their crop and university staff analyze and share that data with the public. In exchange for their involvement, growers receive discounted cannabinoid testing through private laboratories, ranging from $35 to $40 per sample. Learn more and apply online at


HELP FARMER-LED GROWER GROUPS TAKE ROOT Your gift to Marbleseed is MATCHED thanks to our friends at Lakewinds Food Co-op. Now through the end of July, we’re fundraising to scale up Grower Groups and Lakewinds is matching the first $5,000 in donations. The vision for Grower Groups is production-focused, farmer-led circles where farmers meet to define challenges, share knowledge, and identify solutions to the most pressing needs of their communities. The project began in 2020 and now we’re ready to scale it up, but we need your support. Find out more and donate at grower-groups.

USDA OFFERS CLEAR30 OPTION FOR PRODUCERS TO ENROLL LAND WITH EXPIRING CONSERVATION CONTRACTS The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the signup period for its Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers initiatives (CLEAR30) — a nationwide opportunity for landowners and agricultural producers currently implementing water quality practices through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to enroll in 30-year contracts, extending the lifespan and strengthening the benefits of important water quality practices on their land. CLEAR30 was established in the 2018 Farm Bill to better address water quality concerns. Producers may apply for CLEAR30, a voluntary, incentive-based conservation program, through Aug. 5, 2022. Cropland and certain pastureland currently enrolled in Continuous CRP or the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and dedicated to an eligible water quality practice such as riparian buffers, contour strips, grass waterways or wetland restoration may be eligible if their contracts are expiring by September 30, 2022. CLEAR30 contracts will be effective beginning Oct. 1, 2022. To sign up for CLEAR30, landowners and producers should contact their local USDA Service Center by Aug. 5, 2022. Contact information can be found at

FARM SERVICE AGENCY NOW ACCEPTING NOMINATIONS FOR FARMERS AND RANCHERS TO SERVE ON LOCAL COUNTY COMMITTEES The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) is now accepting nominations for county committee members. Elections will occur in certain Local Administrative Areas (LAA) for members. LAAs are elective areas for FSA committees in a single county or multi-county jurisdiction. This may include LAAs that are focused on an urban or suburban area. County committee members make important decisions about how Federal farm programs are administered locally, including how FSA carries out disaster programs, as well as conservation, commodity and price support programs, county office employment, and other agricultural issues. Individuals may nominate themselves or others and qualifying organizations may also nominate candidates. USDA encourages producers of color, women, and beginning farmers or ranchers to nominate, vote, and hold office. All nomination forms for the 2022 election must be postmarked or received in the local FSA office by Aug. 1, 2022. Producers should contact their local FSA office today to register and find out how to get involved in their county’s election, including if their LAA is up for election this year. Learn more at



The Center for Rural Affairs has created resources to support farmers trying to access Natural Resource and Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Recently added resources include fact sheets in English and Spanish on six different topics related to working with USDA service centers and applying for CSP and EQIP. The Center has also published detailed informational videos on the same topics also available in both English and Spanish.

A new, free, online tool is available to help agricultural producers assess the effects of different management practices on soil health. The Soil Health Matrix Decision Tool was developed by the Soil Health Nexus. Producers who are considering implementing a new soil health practice on their operation can use this comparative tool to learn which practices benefit soil health and are the best fit for their operation. The tool includes four practices: tillage, manure, cover crops, and crop rotation, as well as two complementary practices: controlled traffic and managed grazing, evaluated by means of eight soil health indicators. Users can select their current practices and then select any practices that they are considering implementing on their operation to compare the soil health scores. The tool also includes a future considerations table that breaks down the equipment, time and labor, skill level, and cost for implementing new practices.

Resources can be viewed and downloaded from the Center for Rural Affairs website:

NOSB INVITES COMMENTS FOR FALL MEETING The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) announced that it will meet in Sacramento, California, October 25-27, 2022. The in-person meeting will be webcast live. Public comment webinars are scheduled for October 18 and 20, 2022. The NOSB invites public comment, both written and oral, on its agenda topics. Written comments must be received by September 29, 2022. Oral comment registration will open in late August when the agenda and proposals are posted. Keep an eye out for more information in the September | October Organic Broadcaster.

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COMMUNITY CALENDAR CROP ROTATIONS ON A LARGE-SCALE ORGANIC FARM July 21 | 8:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. | Madison, S.D. Join 2013 MOSES Farmer of the Year Charlie Johnson and his family for their annual field day and bus tour in South Dakota! Learn how the importance of good crop rotations in an organic system and grazing contribute to resilient, healthy soil. Oat trials in their fourth year, conducted by SDSU on the Johnson Farm, will also be one of the bus tour stops. Lunch will also be provided. Learn more and register at or call 715-778-5775.

Rodale Institute Annual Organic Field Day July 22 | 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. | Kutztown, Penn. Learn the latest results of farming trials and visit nearly 20 demonstration stations. Participants will have the opportunity to interact one-on-one with Rodale Institute experts and learn about a wide variety of research and demonstration projects, all focused on organic agriculture. Learn more and register at

Conservation Practices in an Organic Farming System July 23 | Free | Wesley, Iowa Join Sara and Bob Pearson as they discuss corn and small grains and equipment used in their organic system while implementing conservation programs. Hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa. Call 515-232-5661 or email to learn more.

Great River Graziers and Kickapoo Grazing Initiative Pasture Walk July 26 | 10:30 a.m. - 12 p.m. | Viroqua, Wis. This pasture walk visits Tom Coleman in Viroqua, Wisconsin. Topics will include rotational grazing of dairy heifers, clipping mature vegetation, and corral design. Learn more at www.

OGRAIN Field Day: Hughes Farms July 27 | 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. | Janesville, Wis. This field day will highlight the diversity and innovations at the Hughes Farms in Janesville, Wisconsin. Farming over 5000 acres in a parallel operation consisting of both conventional and organic practices, the Hughes have succeeded in developing diverse rotations and markets. This field day, in partnership with Marbleseed, will discuss and showcase the various innovations on the farm related to the diversity of crops included in the crop rotation. Register:

WOMEN’S CONSERVATION SUMMER CAMP – MANAGING WOODLANDS July 28 | 12 – 1 p.m. | Online This summer, the last Thursday of the month, Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WIWIC) is hosting Zoom meetings for women landowners, farmers, and operators to discuss different conservation practices that can be implemented on your land. Go to for more info.


Cover Crops & Vegetable Production on an Incubator Farm July 31 | 2 - 5 p.m. | Lino Lakes, Minn. Visit Kilimo Minnesota, a three-to-five-year training program that is uniquely situated to give emerging farmers an opportunity to learn vegetable growing techniques and business skills in a new climate, country, and culture. Field day attendees will learn and connect with emerging farmers, walk through their many ¼- acre to 1-acre plots of vegetables, and learn about different cultural crops grown alongside the Minnesota crops. This field day is supported by funds from NCR SARE. Learn more and register at or call 715-778-5775.

Weed Control Strategies in Organic Corn and Soybeans August 2 | Free | Harlan, Iowa Join Ron and Maria Rosmann and family, and Eric Madsen as they discuss organic weed control strategies using the Buffalo Ridge-Tillage brand of cultivators and planters. Hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa. Call 515-232-5661 or email info@ to learn more.

OGRAIN Field Day: Wilson Family Dairy Farm August 3 | 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. | Cuba City, Wis. A field day hosted by the Wilson Family Farm, who milk 400 cows on 2,900 organic acres. Farming organically since 1996, the Wilson’s emphasize soil health, and the connection between soil health, plant health, and healthy people and animals. This field day will discuss and demonstrate the integration of rolled-crimped rye into their soybean crop (which the Wilson’s have done for over a decade), soil health gains on the farm, and the integration cereal grains into a dairy rotation as both quality feed for the herd and off-farm sales. Co-hosted with Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative. Register: yrTMouCcFZ3hYMFc8

Gitigaaning Farm & Manoomin Tour August 20 | 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. | Cloquet, Minn. Join us for a tour of two incredible agricultural sites of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa! Visit Perch Lake to learn about manoomin (wild rice) and the importance of treaties in tribal food sovereignty, including the management, production, and marketing aspects of manoomin. Gitigaaning, which means “the place of the gardens’’ in the Ojibwe language, is a 36-acre farm with a growing dome, orchard, berry patch, pollinator plantings, and four acres open to the growers of the Bimaaji’idiwin Producer Training Program. This field day is supported by NIFA, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.and NCR SARE. Learn more and register at or call 715-778-5775.

Cover Crops and Grazing in an Organic System August 20 | Free | McGregor, Iowa Join Scott and Shannon Koether as they discuss establishing and grazing legume covers and small grains in an organic system. Hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa. Call 515-232-5661 or email to learn more.

Small Farm Summer Open House – Bee Haven Farm August 20 | 3 - 7 p.m. | Solon, Iowa Organized by SILT. See how bees live, enjoy recipes and talk around food from the farm, purchase products, get a farm tour. Call 319-800-8108 to learn more.

Variety Showcase at Garver Feed Mill August 21 | 5 - 8 p.m. | Madison, Wis. This consumer-facing event will bring together a network of breeders, farmers, chefs, bakers, and beverage manufacturers, to discuss and demonstrate the benefits of participatory breeding, where researchers, growers, and end-users all play an essential role in guiding the development of new crop varieties. Co-hosted by the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative, Culinary Breeding Network, and the Artisan Grain Collaborative, this year’s iteration of Farm to Flavor will have a special emphasis on culinary grains including wheat, rye, oats, barley, and corn. Come learn, taste, and engage! This is a ticketed event – registration details to come at https://ograin.cals.wisc. edu/ograin-events/2022-ograin-field-days/.

OGRAIN Field Day: Otter Creek Organic Farm August 24 | 9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. | Spring Green, Wis. This field day will be hosted by the Zimmer Family at Otter Creek Organic Farm, located in southwestern Wisconsin. The farm is adopting an innovative rotations of hybrid rye, cover crops, and corn. This field day will highlight several tours, including compost/fertilizer delivery systems, approaches to soil and plant testing, and the plan and economics behind Otter Creek’s cropping system approach. The day will also highlight the work of Rye Revival, promoting the benefits of cereal rye as a cash and cover crop. Register:

Women’s Conservation Summer Camp – Tools to Manage Your Land Legacy August 25 | 12 – 1 p.m. | Online This summer, the last Thursday of the month, Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WIWIC) is hosting Zoom meetings for women landowners, farmers, and operators to discuss different conservation practices that can be implemented on your land. Go to for more info.

First Generation Farm Start-Up August 27 | 12 - 3 p.m. | Alexandria, Minn. This field day will highlight the journey of Naima’s Farm from the beginning to current transition. Naima and her husband will share the challenges they both experienced regarding land access for an immigrant farmer and share more about their expanding farm business. This field day is supported by NIFA, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Learn more and register at or call 715-778-5775.

Bus Tour of the Regenerative Tree-Range Poultry System August 27 | Free | Northfield, Minn. Join Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquín and Wil Crombie for a tour of this unique poultry system, and discussion encouraging beginning farmers and diversity, equity and inclusion. Hosted by Practical Farmers of Iowa. Call 515-232-5661 or email info@ to learn more.

Organic Agriculture Research Field DaY August 30 | 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. | Arlington, Wis. This field day at the UW Arlington Agricultural Research Station will highlight organic research conducted at the University of Wisconsin, including optimizing equipment and production practices for organic no-till production, interseeding cover crops into corn and soybeans the impact of organic management on soil health, and weed management for organic hemp production. Register:

Wisconsin Women in Conservation Field Day – NorthWest Region

September 10 | 1 – 4 p.m. | Amery, Wis. Join us at Blackbrook Farm with one of WIWIC’s conservation coaches Ayla Dodge, as she walks us through conservation programs she has implemented on her farm. Registration limited. Hosted by Marbleseed. More details at

Midwest Mechanical Weed Control Field Day September 14 | $ | Benton Harbor, Mich. Helped organized by the Land Connection. Save the date for this important field day featuring the latest in weed control equipment and techniques for your organic farm. Call 217840-2128 to learn more.

Agroforestry Field Day - Carney Family Farms September 14 | 2 - 4 p.m. | Maxwell, Iowa Organized by SILT. Meet Bruce Carney and hear more about how he built his agroforestry system one piece at a time. Learn too about a new calculator to help determine profitability factoring in permanent conservation tax incentives. Call 319-800-8108 to learn more.

Urban Growers Collective Farm Tours September 17 | 1 - 4 p.m. | Chicago, Ill. Join the MOSES 2022 Changemaker Award recipients as we tour two of their farms. Urban Growers Collective is a Blackand women-led non-profit farm in Chicago, Illinois working to build a more just and equitable local food system. Come see their well-established South Chicago Farm, and a newer farm project close by called Green Era Urban Farm and Renewable Energy Campus that will support local compost development. This field day is supported by NIFA, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Learn more and register at or call 715-778-5775.

Small Farm Summer Open House - Red Fern Farm September 20 | 1 - 6 p.m. | Wapello, Iowa Organized by SILT. What are chestnuts good for? Learn about cooking them, paw paws and more at this open house featuring a cooking demo, farm tour, music and a Landowners Roundtable to learn what it means to permanently protect your land for table food farming. Call 319-800-8108 to learn more.

How to Earn $30,000 Profit Per Acre With a Regenerative Farm September 21 | 5 p.m. | Online Learn the three secrets to having a successful regenerative farm. Guest presenter is Jeff Siewicki of Vital Mission Farm in South Carolina. Hosted by FACT. Register atfoodanimalconcernstrust. org/webinar-archive/how-to-earn-30000-profit-per-acrewith-a-regenerative-farm


CLASSIFIEDS EQUIPMENT For Sale: 605M Vermeer Round Baler. Good condition. 608574-2160. For Sale: Used potato washer/sort. EWS brand. $1000 OBO. 715-772-4243. Wilson, WI.

GRAINS For Sale: Certified Organic Turkey Red Wheat. It has 14.3% protein with 60 lbs/bushel test weight. Call Kevin 651.437.9135 For Sale: OCIA-certified organic corn. Toledo, IA. 641-7518382 Certified Organic yellow corn for sale. Cleaned of all fines and packaged in 2000 pound bulk bags for easy handling. $399.00

For Sale: Used 2-seated, 2-row planter. Model 1000. Mechanical transplanter. $500 OBO. 715-772-4243. Wilson, WI. For Sale: 15’ Swather, Hesston 6450, Batt Reel. Always sheded. Runs on propane. $2400 OBO. 507-380-5745 or 507-330-4512. Southern MN. For Sale: John Deere 55 combine with 2-row cornhead. Very good original condition. Always inside. Toledo, IA. 641-7518382

FARMS/LAND Organic Maple Syrup Farm: 158 acres southeast Ashland County. Maple tubing system w/7000 taps, potential for 3000 additional. Includes syrup house with bunk room, RO system, holding tanks, 10,000kw generator, vacuum system with two pumps, garage w/electricity, 3-stall garage. Close to Turtle Flambeau Flowage. MLS#:6126834 Make an offer. Email: Looking to rent: Wanting to rent organic farm ground in Northwest Iowa and/or extreme Southeast South Dakota. Would also consider transitioning conventional ground into organic. Been farming organically for over 20 years. 712-2290161

FORAGES For Sale: Dry organic hay. Big bales. Barley, corn, and barley straw. Can deliver. 608-574-2160 Certified Organic Hay For Sale. Multiple types and qualities. Small squares in bundles of 9, 18, or 21. Rounds and big squares also available. Sold individually or by semi-load. Certified Organic Hay For Sale, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Crop. Delivery may be available. Sno Pac Farms, Caledonia, MN 507725-5281


LIVESTOCK For Sale: 35 Holstein springing heifers. Bred to a Holstein bull. Due to start calving 9/20/22. Excellent quality. Call 507-2516163. FOR SALE: Newborn to 10-month organic dairy heifers. Mondovi, WI. Call Gary at 715-875-4438.

MISCELLANEOUS Books For Sale: Born to Be a Farmer by Stan Szymanski. My life of farming and family. Also my travels around the world. Call 715-443-2662 and leave a message. For Sale: 30x96 Greenhouse $15,600 for sale in Sandwich, IL. You pick up and disassemble. Misc veggie equipment also for sale including Mechanical Transplanter. www.montalbanofarms. com for more info. Text Christina 815-786-5700. For all your large animal processing needs, including vacuum-sealing and smoking, contact Integrity Meats. Federally-inspected. N3825 County Road P, Elroy, WI 53929. Call Sandy 608-572-4303. Biology plays a role in the health of your plants. Determine the abundance of beneficial biology in your soil thorough microscope analysis and reporting. Contact Erik at or 701-330-9788. Certified Soil Food Web Laboratory Technician.

Alfafa seed for sale! Good prices on high-producing certified organic and non-GMO varieties with excellent disease resistance and winter hardiness. Will deliver or help pay shipping costs to your farm. Call Ben at 563-880-6232. Pleasant Valley Supply. Organic Fish Fertilizer 15-1-1, 100% dry water soluble, 5-7 times more nutritious than liquid fish. Will not clog drip irrigation. One lb., 5 lb. or 55 lb. packaging. Humates OMRI-certified, liquid and dry. Can be shipped anywhere via UPS. Frommelt Ag Service, Greeley, IA, 563-920-3674. OMRI certified organic fertilizers. Available in liquid, dry flowable or pelleted formulations. Sold by the ton, tote and tanker. Call Dan Beck at 308-940-2020. Nature Safe Organic Fertilizers. For Sale: Tempered, insulated, double-pane glass. Large panes for sunrooms, solar homes, ag buildings, greenhouses or ??? One hundred fifty thousand sold since 1979; 32” x 74” x 1” double-pane only $69.00. If you need glass, now would be a good time! Arctic Glass,, 612-860-8083.

Natural Tanning Services: Driftless Tannery offers natural tanning services for sheep and goat hides. Affordable and quick turnaround. All information on our website at

CLASSIFIED AD PLACEMENT Reach 15,000+ organic-minded readers! Includes a free listing in the Online Organic Classifieds at Submit ads online or write out your ad and send it in with this mail-in form and payment to: Marbleseed, PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767 Ads must be submitted by the 25th of the month prior to Organic Broadcaster publication date. Name: Address: City: State: Zip: Phone: Email: $20 UP TO 30 WORDS. $5 FOR EACH ADDITIONAL 10 WORDS. PLACE MY AD IN: (price is per insertion)

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