Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Kicks Off 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers

OFRF’s 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers will begin landing in e-mail boxes across the U.S. on July 9th, asking all certified organic farmers in the U.S. to share their experiences, and let the science community know what areas of research are most needed to advance organic farming.

Organic farmers rely on cutting-edge science to outsmart pests, improve fertility and produce bountiful harvests, without the use of toxic chemicals. Organic researchers across the U.S. are hard at work seeking solutions to organic farming challenges – but they need feedback from farmers in the field.

Survey results will be used to update OFRF’s National Organic Research Agenda, an influential roadmap for the USDA and other research institutions, identifying the issues most critical to the success of organic farmers.

The 2015 National Survey of Organic Farmers will be emailed to every certified organic farmer with a listed email address on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) certification database, which lists a total of 13,352 certified organic farmers. Farmers without a listed email address will receive a mailed postcard asking them to access the survey via OFRF’s website at Organic certification organizations nationwide have also agreed to help distribute the survey to their members.

OFRF SurveyThe confidential survey asks for data on farm size, production and location, as well as collecting detailed information about organic farming challenges and farmers’ most pressing information needs, such as pest control, soil health, water conservation strategies, pesticide drift and GMO contamination of organic crops.

Organic Farming Research Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan, pro-farmer, all-organic research foundation, and a leadingchampion of American organic family farmers. Our mission is to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. Since 1990, OFRF has funded 315 organic research projects, and our National Organic Research Agenda report has greatly influenced the USDA’s growing investment in organic farming research.

For more information on OFRF and our 2015 National Survey, please call our office at (831) 426-6606 or visit our website at In addition to the link on our website, the survey can also be accessed at

Organic Spring Wheat Field Day – July 15th

spring wheatFields Best Seeds, serving farmers and markets with high value local seed and grain products, invites you to attend its inaugural organic grains field day in Caledonia, Boone County IL on July 15th, from 9:00 am until noon. This field day on the Beaver Creek West Farm of David Walker showcases 44 acres of Orleans, Red Fife and Wilken spring wheat. Fields Best Seeds is regionally adapting these varieties to better serve Midwest farmers and their markets. Also on the farm this spring are 1.5 acres of red clover seed and 3 acres of diversified vegetable production.

Fields Best Seeds serves farmers the highest value and quality seed selections, matching production directly with what the market wants to buy. “We actively develop working relationships with grain product suppliers and new customers in local and regional markets. In addition, through the ‘rotation effect’”, continues Ron, “farmers earn a $50 per acre nitrogen credit toward their next corn crop.”

Fields Best Seeds partner Ron Doetch is nationally recognized as the founder and managing partner of Solutions in the Land (2010), a company designing whole-farm systems that provide societal benefits, restores the land, and makes money. Ron was raised on a working dairy farm in Northern Illinois and has worked in food systems his entire career with a bias toward organic, sustainable and restorative agriculture. His skill set includes whole systems integrated agriculture, crop production, and crop/food product marketing.

Fields Best Seeds partner John Steven Bianucci is Director of Impact at Iroquois Valley Farms, LLC, (2007) where he constantly researches and networks to maximize the social and environmental returns Iroquois Valley Farms generates. B Certified, this triple-bottom-line food and farmland company is committed to providing land access opportunities to family farmers, preserving farmland, facilitating organic land management practices, supporting local food markets, and creating values-based agriculture investment opportunities.

Fields Best Seeds inaugural field day will be held on Beaver Creek West, an organic farm for over 20 years, owned by David Walker. Please visit! Beaver Creek West is located at 365 Wyman School Rd. Caledonia, IL 61011 Directions to Beaver Creek West: If without access to Google Maps, please contact Ron or John Steven. Ron Doetch – 815-742-3450 John Steven Bianucci – 847-401-6050


Webinar to Explore Benefits of Diversity in Whole-Farm Revenue Crop Insurance

A free webinar on “The Benefits of Diversity: Another Look at Whole-Farm Revenue Protection in Iowa and Midwest” will be held Thursday, May 21, from 12 to 1 p.m.(CST), offered by the National Center for Appropriate Technology.

The webinar’s focus will be on how WFRP may improve coverage and lower insurance cost for field crop farms that have, or are contemplating, adding greater diversity to their cropping systems or even considering new livestock production.

To register for the free NCAT WFRP webinar:

NCAT is a national nonprofit that champions small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.

According to the webinar’s presenter, NCAT Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director Jeff Schahczenski, Iowa and Midwest producers have had their first chance to sign up for the new Whole-Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) crop insurance program in early 2015. A relatively small number of producers opted to participate in Iowa and the Midwest. Numbers were much greater in other states and regions, where similar products have been available prior to the new WFRP crop insurance program, created under the 2014 Farm Bill.

“We want to make sure that Midwestern farmers have the best information to consider this new program that expands insurance options for specialty crops, organic, and diversified crop and livestock producers,” Schahczenski said.

WFRP offers a whole-farm premium subsidy to farms with two or more commodities that is the same as those provided for single crop policies, as long as minimum diversification requirements are met. The WFRP policy offers a higher premium subsidy for diversified and specialty crops than previous crop insurance products.  Coverage levels can range anywhere from 50 to 85 percent, depending on the level producers feel is appropriate for their businesses.

The webinar will be recorded for future viewing online. The parties involved are equal opportunity providers.

WFRP Field Days in Iowa This Summer

This new insurance program will also be the focus of two field days this summer in Bremer County in eastern Iowa on June 28 and in Polk County in central Iowa on August 1, co-sponsored by NCAT, the Iowa Organic Association, and the Iowa Farmers Union. More details about the field days will be coming soon at

Other Resources

NCAT has a 4-page “Primer on Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Crop Insurance: New for Iowa Producers in 2015” that can be downloaded for free.

NCAT’s Midwest Regional Office in Iowa was awarded a Risk Management Education Partnership cooperative agreement through the RMA. More information about the WFRP pilot program is available on the USDA Risk Management Agency website at

All federal crop insurance is sold solely through Approved Insurance Providers (AIPs), who are required to offer the WFRP pilot program to all eligible persons in the pilot area. The signup deadline has already passed for the 2015 crop year, but producers should contact their agents if they want to consider this new option for the future. A list of approved crop insurance agents by state can be found at: .


Jeff Schahczenski, NCAT Agriculture Policy and Funding Research Director,, 406-494-8636

Ann Y. Robinson, NCAT Midwest Regional Office Director,, 479-587-3474

Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities and protect natural resources. In partnership with businesses, organizations, individuals and agricultural producers, NCAT is working to advance solutions that will ensure the next generation inherits a world that has clean air and water, energy production that is efficient and renewable, and healthy foods grown with sustainable practices. More information about its programs and services is available at or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.

Crop Cycle







BELOW IS THE 2015 CROP CYCLE INFORMATION– Stay tuned for 2016 information!

The Illinois Organic Growers Association will be hosting a bike-to-farm tour event this fall in Champaign County. Take a ride through 7 organic farms and experience the beautiful views of the countryside, enjoy fresh food and meet the farmers behind it all. Increasing your knowledge about organic and sustainable agricultural practices is just another added benefit. There are 3 different tours to suite riders of all ages and abilities: a 6 mile ride, a 30 mile ride, and a 60 mile ride. A farm meal, water breaks and farm snacks, farm activities, and an even t-shirt are all included in the ride. Register today and bring the whole family. The rides will each begin at 8:00 am at Stone Court Farm at 2702 N 1500 East Rd., Mahomet.

To receive a t-shirt you must register by September 1st. 

Registration is Now Closed

On the Tour: 

Stone Court Farm

Immersed in native plants and natural beauty, Stone Court Farm offers a broad range of natural products, from pasture-raised lamb, pork, chicken and eggs, to asparagus, rhubarb and berries, to gourmet preserves and chutneys. Cyclists will start and finish at this farm. Enjoy a delicious meal, explore a permaculture garden, and learn to identify a few breeds of heritage chickens.

Bicycle mechanics from Neutral Cycle will be on hand to help ensure your bike ready to start the ride, and available to assist you with mechanical difficulties along the route.

Prairie Fruits Farm

Goats and gelato will greet you at Prairie Fruits Farm, a Grade A goat dairy and farmstead creamery that has been working for over a decade to restore native prairie soils using fruit trees, berries, and goats. This farm is widely enjoyed by the community as a location for outdoor food and wine events, weekend breakfasts, and more. Visit with some very sociable goats, then sample some delicious goat-milk gelato.

Heirloominous Farm

Heirloominous Farm provides Central Illinois with heirloom produce rich in history and in flavor, using only organic methods. Weeds are hoed, transplants are hand planted, and everything is harvested by hand. Sample unique in-season snacks while learning how one young entrepreneur without any previous farming experience has created a burgeoning source of heirloom produce and eggs for local markets.

Blue Moon Farm

Over the past six years, without planting any additional acres, Blue Moon Farm has increased production on its 20 acres through continuous improvements in farming practices. Learn about season extension, crop selection and care, mechanization and marketing as you peruse long rows of salad greens and 40 other vegetables, herbs, and flowers.

Autumn Berry Inspired

Autumn Berry Inspired turns an invasive species into a useful commodity. By making delicious food from the fruit of the invasive autumn olive, ABI champions an approach that can reduce management cost, labor and herbicide use while promoting biodiversity. From harvest to packaging, see how innovation is combined with an understanding of natural systems to turn a damaging ecological trend into a valued part of the local agro-ecology.

Sola Gratia Farm

Sola Gratia Farm combines sustainable practices, community building, outreach and education to achieve its commitment to donating at least 10% of its produce to support regional hunger programs. As you enjoy a lunch produced mostly on and near this four-acre community farm, you’ll have the opportunity to try out some very unique farming tools made from bicycle parts.

Bicycle mechanics from The Bike Project will be on site at Sola Gratia, ready to help ensure your bike is in top shape for the return trip.

University of Illinois Sustainable Student Farm

Acting as a living laboratory, the University of Illinois Sustainable Student Farm connects students, community members, and the state at large with regional, small-scale food systems. Tour some of their 10,000 square feet of year-round-production high tunnels, and view an additional 6 acres of fall vegetables that will soon be enjoyed at the University’s residence halls.

Prosperity Gardens, Inc.

Prosperity Gardens, Inc. addresses the growing problems of youth obesity and limited nutrition knowledge, provides hands-on education and employment in agricultural sciences and food production – and by doing so, offers affordable, locally grown produce for Champaign-Urbana’s low-income residents! Enjoy a snack, explore the “Veggie Van”, and meet some of the youth who are changing our community through urban agriculture.

Tomahnous Farm

Tomahnous Farm is a family-run operation that began in 1998. Eighteen varieties of garlic are among the wide assortment of vegetables, flowers, herbs, berries and tree fruit this farm offers. Visit hens raised on certified organic flaxseed, livestock that are rotationally grazed on organically managed pasture, and taste organic honey from bees that share the bounty of the beautiful fruit trees and flowers featured on this farm.




Don’t Miss Out on the 2015 Value-Added Producer Grant!

The USDA Value-Added Producer Grant Program expects to announce a call for applications this April!  This is a great opportunity to plan a value-added business or to help fund early stage working capital expenses.   Grants of up to $75,000 for business planning and up to $200,000 for working capital were made last year.


“Value-added” is defined quite generously by the USDA.   Not only does it mean changing the physical state of your raw product, but it can mean the fact that you are marketing and branding your fresh product as local, or by your means of production, such as organically grown, or by physical segregation of your raw product, such as non-GMO corn.   Projects producing renewable energy from one’s  raw products might also be considered value-added.

This year is one of the best years to apply.   More projects will be funded this year than usual due an exceptionally large pool of funding – $41M nationally.  And a new consideration for military veterans is expected in the announcement.  Beginning farmers, minority farmers, or women-owned farming businesses might be eligible for extra points in the scoring of applications.

The application is long and detailed, requiring much thought and planning.

There is a 50% matching funds requirement.  So please, investigate this program now at  to find out if it can help you achieve your business goals.  Start on your application even before the federal announcement, if it is not already out.  Use last year’s application toolkit. Once the program is announced this year, applications will be due in only 60 days.

The growing season is upon us.  But don’t miss at least considering this opportunity.

Use free Grants Advising made available through the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.   Contact Deirdre Birmingham at  or 608-219-4279.  Deirdre is also an organic apple grower and has used this program herself. You are welcome to be on her email list of funding program announcements so that you know what’s out there!

Grow some Grain, Save some Seeds, Be a part of the Movement.

growing grainYou can be a part of an effort to increase the diversity, resilience and flavor of our local food system!

The Normal Seed Library and Grand Prairie Grain Guild are looking for a few good gardeners and farmers to help grow out rare seeds.   This growing season is their first opportunity to start variety trials and grow out a diverse mix of open pollinated plants to increase their supply of seeds.

University Extension Educator Bill Davison is heading up this project and has purchased 25 different types of wheat, 6 dry beans and 12 different types of colorful dry corn.  The corn consists of old varieties of flour, flint, and dent corn that is meant to be ground and used as flour and eaten as cornbread, grits or polenta.  Many of these seeds have come from USDA seed banks and they are extremely rare and in very limited supply.  He has some packets with 20 wheat seeds in them!  The goal of this project is to multiply those seeds.  You do not have to have any experience growing grain to be a part of this project.  There are many advantages to starting with gardens and small plots on farms and ongoing support will be provided to teach you how to grow and manage these plantings.  These are seeds that need to be planted in April and May and depending on the variety and type of plant they will be harvested between July and October.  Each person will only get a small amount of seed that can be planted in a very small space.  For example 20 wheat seeds will plant 10 row feet. Dry beans can also be planted in very small spaces.  Corn needs a little more space and we will be looking for people with more room to grow out the corn.  Anyone with a plot 10 feet by 10 feet or larger can grow enough corn to ensure good pollination.

The goal of this project is to evaluate different varieties and find the ones that perform best in our area.  Once they learn which ones perform best, they will focus on increasing the supply of those seeds and sharing them through the seed library and grain guild networks.  There will be a couple of organized seed cleaning days in the fall to clean the seed and prepare for the next season.  To register for this project please take this short survey

To learn more, contact Bill Davison,

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.