Conservation Stewardship Program Rewards Organic Farming and Transition: Registration Extended to March 13th!

CSP rewards producers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce on their working agricultural lands; all private agricultural land, including cropland, pasture, and rangeland, is eligible to enroll in CSP.  Additionally, the variety of conservation practices and program rules have been expanded this year to better represent a more diverse type of applicant in accordance with the new 2014 Farm Bill. Farmers from all size operations and raising crops of any variety are encouraged to apply.  CSP contract-holding farmers can receive payments for actively managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities like cover crops, rotational grazing, ecologically-based pest management, buffer strips, and the transition to organic farming. Of the 71 enhancements from which producers can select, 35 have a high likelihood of adoption by organic producers or those who are interested in transitioning to organic.  See the  Organic Conservation Stewardship Program for a list of activities and enhancements that qualify.

The process for applying for CSP is simple. Checkout the steps and timeline below and get started today!

The Process and Timeline for Enrolling in CSP 
Step 1: Complete a short and simple application form at your local NRCS. This is due by March 13th. 
Step 2: Fill out Conservation Measument Tool (CMT) form at your local NRCS office. 
Step 3: Farm Site Visit and Contract Preparation. Within a month or two of the CMT completion, NRCS will complete an on-farm verification visit to each farm that ranks high enough to be enrolled in the program this year. After the farm site visit, you will work with NRCS staff to develop a CSP plan and contract, which includes a schedule for new enhancement implementation and a payment schedule. The first annual payment for a five-year contract awarded in this round will be made on or after October 1, 2016, and then every October 1 thereafter for the five years of the CSP contract.

IL Specialty Growers, Agritourism, and Organic Conference Information

Important Information Regarding the ILLINOIS SPECIALTY GROWERS, AGRITOURISM, AND ORGANIC CONFERENCE on January 7 – 9, 2015 in Springfield, IL:

There are two Organic tracks on the 8th and 9th, which include a myriad of topics including Grain production, Sundry issues, Vegetable production, Fruit production, Soil and Fertility, and Livestock and Forage systems.  If you have been looking for a great place to learn more about organic agriculture and to network with other farmers, you should come and join us at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield at this ever-growing conference!

There will also be a Farmer-to-Farmer Idea Exchange on Thursday, Jan 8th hosted by Illinois Organic Growers Association (IOGA)!  Facilitators will be Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, University of Illinois, and Marnie Record, Illinois Organic Growers Association.  We would like to know what are the issues most important to your farming operation so that we can focus on what matters most during the Idea Exchange.  Please submit topic ideas to Marnie Record at so that IOGA can plan for an inspired learning session.  Please encourage your fellow farmers and friends who are planning on coming to the conference to register and submit topics for the idea exchange. 

Here is more information you will need to know:

  • IOGA will be holding the Annual Business Meeting at 4:00 PM on Jan 8th at the Conference.  This will be a chance to collectively reflect on 2014 and plan for 2015.  Members will have the opportunity to share ideas for moving forward and to elect the 2015 Governing Board.  If you are a member, considering becoming a member or just interested in what will happen in 2015, please plan on attending.
  • Are you planning on becoming a member of IOGA or renewing your membership for 2015?  If you register before or at our business meeting on January 8th at the conference, you will be entered into a drawing for a rebate of your conference registration.  That’s a good deal!  For more information on becoming a member of IOGA, please visit
  • Registrations after December 26, 2014 will require on-site registration at an additional cost of $15/person so make sure you register online today!
  • For the full conference program and registration information, please visit:

Season Extension Resources

It’s the time of the year when organic farmers are tucking in beds into cover crop as they’re harvested and planting seedlings for winter and early spring sales.  With innovation and planning, Illinois farmers are able to extend their season and even grow year-round inside hoop structures.  Whether you call them “high tunnels”, “hoophouses”, “greenhouses” or some other variation, they all allow for season extension.  Season extension doesn’t only include vegetables growers either.  Have you considered moving your animals inside for the winter, increasing soil fertility and decreasing weeds and bugs?

Frontwards-High Tunnel Chickens

Whether you’re new to farming or want to expand your operation, here are some resources to help you continue your education.

MOSES Organic Farming Topic: Season Extension
*Resources include Fact Sheets, E-books, Books, Research publications, Funding Opportunities, and more.

SARE Learning Center Topic Room: High Tunnels and Other Season Extension Techniques
*Resources include Reports, Books, Information materials, and more.

Illinois NRCS Initiatives: Seasonal High Tunnel
*Resources include description of Initiative.  Please visit your county office for more information about EQIP programs through NRCS.

New Fact Sheet Available about Organic Labeling at Farmers Markets

The Organic Labeling at Farmer’s Markets fact sheet brought to you by  the US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program can help farmers market vendors and community supported agriculture (CSA) operations properly market organic fruits, vegetables, or livestock products to consumers who are looking for fresh, locally sourced foods. It helps market participants understand the organic requirements, and know when organic certification is required. Finally, the fact sheet points to the Organic Literacy Initiative for additional information on organic regulations and certification.
You can find the 2 page Adobe file at this web address:


Also included in the fact sheet is information about the USDA’s Organic Literacy Initiative.  You can access their website at the web address AND find more details below:

Call-in to the IOGA Annual Meeting on January 9

IOGA’s annual meeting will be held on Thursday, January 9, from 4:00 to 5:00 PM at the Illinois Specialty Crops, Agritourism, and Organic Conference. If you are at the conference, please join us! Everyone is welcome to attend–learn more about IOGA and provide your input on priorities for 2014. Only members can vote for the 2014 Governing Board.

We would love to have you attend in person, but if you cannot, you may call in to the meeting, courtesy of UI Extension’s teleconference service via phone or computer:

  • To join the conference call as a participant via telephone call 888-983-3631 and when prompted to do so, enter the conference ID 9250261, followed by the pound sign (#). Please call in 5 minutes before the meeting starts.
  • You can also join via computer. You can join a Microsoft Lync 2010 meeting or conference call from a computer that does not have Lync 2010 or Microsoft Lync 2010 Attendee communications software installed. When you open the email meeting request on a computer that does not have Lync installed, click the Join online meeting link You will see two choices: Join the meeting and Are you a guest to this meeting? Click on Sign in here instead and type in your name (first and last and county). You must check the Install Lync Web App plug-in.
  • You will also encounter some security prompts, so please acknowledge and allow them. Also, if you are joining by computer, please plan to join at least 15 minutes ahead to make sure that you can get through the entire process before the meeting is scheduled to start.

We hope to see or hear you!

On-Farm Composting Workshop on September 10

University of Illinois Extension in conjunction with Illinois State University, the Department of Agriculture, and funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service, is offering an On-Farm Composting Workshop and Field Day on Tuesday, Sept. 10, in Sycamore, Ill.

The field day will go from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., starting at DeKalb Farm Bureau at 1350 W. Prairie Drive in Sycamore and followed by a field tour at Art Bingham’s farm in Clare.

“Livestock producers and horse stable operators looking for alternative manure management ideas should attend,” said Ellen Phillips, a U of I Extension local food systems educator. “Organic and local food growers will be able to increase their composting knowledge as well.”

  • the benefits of composting
  • the basics of making compost
  • Illinois EPA regulations related to composting
  • permitting and local siting requirements
  • compost facility site development
  • uses for compost and quality control
  • marketing of compost

During the afternoon, field day participants will tour an actual composting operation and will hear practical information from experienced compost operators, including information on composting techniques.

Advance registration is $15 per person by Sept. 3. The cost to register in person at each workshop is $20. Phillips said walk-ins are welcome but that lunch will not be guaranteed. The registration form is available at

For more information regarding the program, contact Phillips at 815-732-2191 or Bethany Macarus at 815-758-8194.

New Cover Crop Survey Shows Improved Corn and Soybean Yields Following Cover Crops During the 2012 Drought

From Sustainable Agriculture Research and Educations (SARE):

A report has just been released with detailed results from a farmer survey on cover crops. The survey was carried out by the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with funding from the USDA North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. More than 750 farmers were surveyed during the winter of 2012-13, primarily from the Upper Mississippi River watershed. Questions on cover crop adoption, benefits, challenges, and yield impacts were included in the survey. Key findings included the following:

  • During the fall of 2012, corn planted after cover crops had a 9.6% increase in yield compared to side-by-side fields with no cover crops. Likewise, soybean yields were improved 11.6% following cover crops.
  • In the hardest hit drought areas of the Corn Belt, yield differences were even larger, with an 11.0% yield increase for corn and a 14.3% increase for soybeans.
  • Surveyed farmers are rapidly increasing acreage of cover crops used, with an average of 303 acres of cover crops per farm planted in 2012 and farmers intending to plant an average of 421 acres of cover crops in 2013. Total acreage of cover crops among farmers surveyed increased 350% from 2008 to 2012.
  • Farmers identified improved soil health as a key overall benefit from cover crops. Reduction in soil compaction, improved nutrient management, and reduced soil erosion were other key benefits cited for cover crops. As one of the surveyed farmers commented, “Cover crops are just part of a systems approach that builds a healthy soil, higher yields, and cleaner water.”
  • Farmers are willing to pay an average (median) amount of $25 per acre for cover crop seed and an additional $15 per acre for establishment costs (either for their own cost of planting or to hire a contractor to do the seeding of the cover crop).

“It is especially noteworthy how significant the yield benefits for cover crops were in an extremely dry year,” Dr. Rob Myers, a University of Missouri agronomist and regional director of extension programs for North Central Region SARE, stated. “The yield improvements provided from cover crops in 2012 were likely a combination of factors, such as better rooting of the cash crop along with the residue blanket provided by the cover crop reducing soil moisture loss. Also, where cover crops have been used for several years, we know that organic matter typically increases, which improves rainfall infiltration and soil water holding capacity.”

Full results of the survey are available online at:

For additional information on cover crops go to the SARE Cover Crop Topic room.

New Vision & Crop-Insurance Pricing

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently discussed his vision for U.S. organic agriculture and USDA efforts to ensure its continued success during remarks to the Organic Trade Association.  Among other items, he announced that new crop-insurance pricing options will be available to organic producers who grow crops under guaranteed contracts beginning with the 2014 crop year. Organic producers who receive a contract price for their crop will have the ability, where available and at their choice, to use their personal contract price as their price election or to choose existing crop insurance price elections.  USDA has also streamlined trade to allow U.S. organic products to be sold as organic in Canada, the European Union, Taiwan, and Japan without maintaining certification to multiple standards. Vilsack also noted that the number of certified organic farms and businesses in the United States has increased 240 percent since USDA first began collecting this data. Organic foods continue to gain market share in the food industry, climbing to 4.2 percent of U.S. retail food sales in 2011.  For more information, see

News from IL Organic Growers Association: Upcoming Summer/Fall Field Days

We are excited to share with you the 2013 Summer/Fall Field Days that are now available for registration.  Providing an array of learning opportunities, these field days will cover a wide variety of beneficial topics. See here for more detailed descriptions.

Saturday, June 15, 8:00-10:00 am
SIU Center for Sustainable Farming, Carbondale, IL

Organized and operated only by volunteers, the Local Organic Gardening Initiative of Carbondale (LOGIC) has raised beds, a hoop house, and permaculture site. Visit the center for a tour of their work, followed by a visit to one of Carbondale’s two Farmers’ Markets! Cost is free. Pre-registration is requested here, but walk-ins are welcome.

Saturday, July 13, 3:00-7:00 pm
Living Waters Farm, Strawn, IL & South Pork Ranch, Chatsworth, IL (Livingston County)

Beginning the afternoon at Living Waters Farm in Strawn, IL, see a variety of vegetable farming methods. After your visit at Living Waters Farm, you will travel to South Pork Ranch in Chatsworth, IL to see animal production. Learn how these two farms have thrived by working together with other local producers, and then branching out to become independent, successful businesses.

You can register here.  Cost is free to CISFN members, $5 for non-members.

Sunday, July 21, 1:00-5:30 pm
Tomahnous Farm, Mahomet, IL & Blue Moon Farm, Urbana, IL

Have the opportunity to to tour the farms of two 15-year veterans, Lisa Haynes of Tomahnous Farm and Jon Cherniss of Blue Moon Farm, providing you an overview of their planning, management and marketing approaches. Cost is free. Pre-registration is requested but walk-ins are welcome.

Thursday, August 27, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Sandy Ridge Farm, Tampico, IL (Whiteside County)

MOSES, in collaboration with IOGA and the University of Illinois, joins the Shrock family on a tour of more than 1,200 acres of row crops and two livestock operations. They will share how they manage their crops and improve soil quality to achieve high yields and a quality product.

You can register here.  Cost is $30 if you pre-register, $40 for onsite registration, and includes lunch served by the Shrock family. The deadline for pre-registration is August 23.

Saturday, September 7, 1:00-4:30 pm
Two Roads Farm, Assumption, IL (Christian County)

Just starting with our with organic corn and soybean production, considering making the transition to organic, or just wanting to know more about what is involved? Gary McDonald, Director of Organic Resource Advisor, will provide a practical “how to” on moving from conventional to organic production of corn and soybeans. Hear from a farmer panel that will give their first-hand experiences of moving to organic production and be available for questions from the audience. Cost is free. Pre-registration is requested but walk-ins are welcome.

Monday, September 16, 12:30 – 4:30 pm
PrairiErth Farm, Atlanta, IL (Logan County)

Get all of the information you need to take your farm to the next step. PrairiErth Farm produces vegetables, poultry, beef, pigs, and variety of value-added products. See how farming can be a viable career opportunity, while learning to build synergy between diverse production systems, enticing customers with a wide range of products.

You can register here.  Cost is free.

Saturday, September 21, 1:45-4:30 pm
PrairiErth Farm, Atlanta, IL (Logan County)

Want to know what it takes to scale up production on your farm with equipment? Hans Bishop of PrairiErth Farm will showcase specialty crops equipment that he uses to reduce hand work, improve efficiency, and employee job satisfaction.

You can register here. Cost is free to CISFN members, $5 for non-members.

Spring 2013 Field Days

IOGA has the following field days scheduled for spring 2013:

Getting Started with Treatment-Free Beekeeping
May 18 at Acbees Apiaries near Waverly, IL
12:30 – 4:00 PM

The Illinois Organic Growers Association and University of Illinois Extension are co-sponsoring a hands-on field day, Getting Started with Treatment-Free Beekeeping, on May 18, 2013, near Waverly, IL, southwest of Springfield. The host and presenter will be Arvin Pierce, Acbees Apiaries, who has been a treatment-free beekeeper for 10 years.

During the first half of the afternoon, Arvin will present a general introduction and overview of life in and around the hive: basic facts and photos about the queen, workers, and drones, and their responsibilities and place in the function of the hive. He will also provide information about what it takes to begin beekeeping, including different types of hives, urban beekeeping, swarms and hive removal, hive products, apitherapy, and disappearing bees. For the second half of the afternoon, the group will move to the bee yard, where participants can see what goes on in a hive firsthand. Those willing will be given the hands-on opportunity to get into the hives.

Program details:

  • 12:30 – 1:00 Registration
  • 1:00 – 2:30 Discussion on Introduction to Beekeeping
  • 2:30 – 4:00 Hands-on demonstration at the hive
  • 4:00 – 5:00 Opportunity, for those interested, to help with or watch the removal of bees from a log.

Important: Wear closed shoes and long pants, and bring a long sleeve shirt. A few veils will be available for those who want to get into the hives.

Registration and the presentation will take place at the Lowder township building, near Waverly, 16969 Ayers Street, Waverly, Illinois 62692. The hives are around the corner on the northern edge of the village of Lowder, 16813 Lowder Road, Waverly, Illinois 62692.

There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. To register click here or contact Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant at, 217-782-4617.

On-Farm Composting Workshops / Field Days
May 21 at Western IL University, School of Agriculture Livestock Center & Compost Facility
May 28 at Tempel Farms Organics, Lake County
Both days, 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM

The Illinois State University, Department of Agriculture in conjunction with University of Illinois Extension and IOGA, and funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant from the Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service is offering two Composting Workshops/Field Days this spring.

Workshop participants will tour an actual composting operation and hear practical information from experienced compost operators. Participants will receive information and materials on:

  • the benefits of composting
  • the basics of making compost
  • Illinois EPA regulations related to composting permitting and local siting requirements
  • compost facility site development
  • uses for compost and quality control
  • marketing of compost

The cost is $15, including lunch, if pre-registered by May 20. Walk-ins are welcome, at a cost of $20, but lunch is not guaranteed. You can print and mail a registration form. For phone inquiries, call Paul Walker at (309) 438-3881, Duane Friend at (217) 243-7424 or Ellen Phillips at (630) 445-9989.