Category Archives: Resources

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:

Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts

The Farmers’ Legal Action Group (FLAG) has just recently released their highly-anticipated guide to written organic agriculture contracts, Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts, and it’s now available, for free, right at your fingertips (scroll down, its under “Publications and Articles”).

According to FLAG, “One major goal of the Farmers’ Guide to Organic Contracts is to encourage an organic marketing system in which organic producers and organic buyers can thrive together.” (from their press release) The publication will give organic farmers independent, credible information on how to manage, negotiate and evaluate written contracts. The guide includes:

  •  An overview of contract laws important to farmers
  • A Quick Organic Contract Checklist and practical toolkit farmers can use to review and negotiate contract offers
  • Highlighted sections illustrating how federal organic regulations interact with organic contracts
  • Examples and discussion of over 100 types of organic contract provisions
  • Detailed information about solving the types of contract disputes that commonly arise in the organic market

The Guide was, first and for most, designed to be a handy reference tool for contracts serving farms under the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), but can be used to answer farmers’ questions on all sorts of written contracts. However, special sections are included for problems specific to organic farmers.

You can also download it here, if you’re not into the whole visit the website thing.

Application Deadlines Coming Up Fast

This is a quick reminder that the deadline for the EQIP Organic Initiative, a program under the umbrella of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the USDA, is coming up very quick. November 16, to be exact, as Illinois has one of the earliest deadlines in the country.

EQIP, which stands for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, is a voluntary program catering to both existing organic farmers and growers transitioning to organic production systems who want assistance in developing a conservation plan, a transition to a organic production plan or many of the other similar requirements in the USDA’s Organic System Plan. What’s been described is in no way the extent of a typical OSP, which can be found here (some of the jargon can get a little complicated, but the point to take away is that you can get funding for a lot of different uses).

The Organic Initiative grant has a total fund of $50 million, and has a smaller pool of applicants and lower payments than the more general EQIP grant, which will have both higher payments and competition. However, organic farmers are still eligible and encourage to apply for both the EQIP and the EQIP Organic Initiative.

A full list of those that qualify for an EQIP Organic Initiative grant;

  • In the process of transitioning to organic
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in transitioning more acreage to organic.
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in adopting conservation measures on their farm.
  • Already certified organic (or exempt) and interested in transitioning more acreage to organic AND adopting conservation measures on their farm.

For full elgibility requirement information, and for more information in general on the EQIP Organic Inititative fund, please visit this page, which explains everything very nicely. Remember again, the Illinois dealing for the EQIP Organic Initiative is November 16. Write it down and get it done.

Remember to Apply!

Just a reminder to all those out there, the USDA tweeted a few days ago, reminding that they can “help offset organic cert costs.” They certainly can, through a program called the “*Insert State Here* Organic Certification Cost-Share Program.” For us, that would be the Illinois Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. In order to get the financial aid from the program, producers and handles should apply before the November 1, 2012 deadline. You have time, folks, but not much. Don’t put if off! For more info, check out the Illinois Department of Agriculture page here.



New Cover Crop Research Published

A movement is picking up steam to introduce radishes as a viable cover crop, and
for good reason, says a recent eOrganic publication co-authored by IOGA’s very own Joel Gruver, of Western Illinois University. At the heart of the publication are the many potential benefits that radishes bestow upon a field in which they are planted. For starters, they provide almost complete weed growth control “both during and for some time after active radish growth”. Furthermore, this weed suppression is documented in the piece as lasting until the summer months. Radishes also have been proven to penetrate deeper into cover soil than cereal rye, a staple cover crop. Such penetration, the article suggests, along with other factors such as nitrate leaching leads to “significant increases in corn and soybean yields following radishes as compared to fallow or other cover crops”.

In short, this article covers the benefits, management and possible dangers of using radishes as a cover crop. The co-authors of this publication are Dr. Joel Gruver of WIU, Dr. Ray R. Weil of the University of Maryland, Charles White of Penn State University and Dr. Yvonne Lawley of the University of Manitoba. The full text is linked below.

Radishes – A New Cover Crop for Organic Farming Systems

The National Organic Standards Board

Earlier this week, we published an article on the gelling agent pectin and the restrictions against it, which are to be greatly relaxed come this November. Those restrictions can be found on the ‘National List’; a list of ‘allowed and prohibited substances’ used in organic food production, run by the USDA. The List is a sacred book of right and wrong in organic agriculture. But who is responsible for what goes in and out of this hugely important list?

That would be the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a 15-member volunteer organization that advises the National Organic Program, which in turn is part of the Agricultural Marketing Service. They review and give a recommendation on all substances up for review for the ‘National List’. And who are these 15 members? They are a cross-section of all levels of organic agriculture, designed ‘to represent the diverse interests and composition of the organic industry’. The NOSB consists of:

  • 4 farmers/growers
  • 3 environmentalists/resource conservationists
  • 3 consumer/public interest advocates
  • 2 handlers/processors
  • 1 retailer
  • 1 scientist (toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry)
  • 1 USDA accredited certifying agent

Each member serves for a period of five years, the same amount of time that a restriction of a substance last on the ‘List’ before it comes up for a review, called a ‘sunset review’. This was the case for pectin, and the board, in its case, decided that pectin no longer deserved its ban. The board meets twice a year, once in the fall, then again in the spring. Members can be self-nominated or recommended by an outside source, with the entire board designed to represent ‘the diversity of the organic community’.

An organization that has so much power over the things that go or don’t go in our food needs to have more exposure, needs to be known to the public. The more we know about our food system the better, especially since, on the average, we know so little about it. If you’d like to know more about the nominating process for the NOSB, you can visit this site

all information on the NOSB found here

Organic Production and Avoiding Pesticide Drift

A new article, put out by Purdue University, reminds organic farmers of the dangers of pesticide drift and offers tips and tools to help avoid unwanted pesticides on organic crops. The article warns that a threshold of 5% of acceptable pesticide levels are all it takes to make a crop unviable to be sold as ‘organic’. To avoid this, the Purdue researchers suggest some simple solutions, such as communicating with local pesticide applicators, as long as keeping watch of current weather reports. Also suggested is registration at, a free website that opens up lines of communication between organic growers and pesticide applicators by notifying both of each others presence, an important step in the process of cooperation. Hope it’s useful for you!

The Full Article

Webinar on June 14: ‘Risks and Returns of Renewable Energy’

On June 14 the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will be hosting an online webinar presented by NCAT Energy Engineer Dave Ryan entitled ‘Risks and Returns of Renewable Energy’. The purpose of the webinar will be to show the possible advantages and pitfalls of renewable energy sources in a world of rising energy costs. Additionally, the program will “give participants the tools they need to better evaluate whether renewable-energy systems are good investments for their operations.” To do this, the webinar will help teach farmers to make good equipment selections and obtain sources of funding in the form of grants, loan guarantees and tax credits. The webinar will be presented June 14, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time/ 12 p.m. Central. If you’re interested, just follow the link below.

To register for the webinar

Funding Available for Conservation Organic Farming Practices

The $50 million EQIP program, (a huge victory of the Organic Farming and Research Foundation’s policy efforts), is providing financial and technical assistance to growers who implement innovative conservation practices through the 2012 EQIP Organic Initiative. Eligible applicants include persons or entities who are certified organic, transitioning to organic production, or those producers selling less than $5000 organic products annually, and have related natural resource concern on the agricultural operation. The applicant must demonstrate control of eligible land in agricultural production. Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, and other farm or ranch lands.

The first application period ends on February 3, 2012. There are additional application periods ending March 30, 2012 and June 1, 2012, but the earlier you submit your application, the better are your chances of receiving funds.

To apply, visit your USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) local service center.

If you want to apply, consult the National Center for Appropriate Technology’s comprehensive info site for EQIP applicants, which has excellent instructions and includes links to all of the necessary documents for the program. See also