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SSAWG Accomplishments

Southern SAWG has been inspiring and empowering farmers, individuals and communities to create more sustainable food and farming systems for nearly 25 years. Since 1991 we have assisted over 10,000 farmers in the South, yet our work goes far beyond the farm gate. Did you know that Southern SAWG also trains farm service providers, strengthens regional food systems, and builds and supports collaborative networks? We also give Southerners a voice in policy decisions that shape public food and agriculture programs.  Here are a few of our accomplishments from the past year.

Farmers

Farmers are the heart and soul of Southern SAWG’s work. In the past year, over 650 farmers directly benefited from Southern SAWG programming; learning about production practices that increased their capacity, marketing strategies that improved their income, and management techniques that made them better stewards of their resources.  One example of our programming is our Growing Farm Profits course, an intensive workshop that gives farmers the tools and knowledge to track key information and analyze their farm businesses. This eye-opening course for diversified vegetable producers has been very effective in getting farmers to be smart business decision makers.  As one farmer from Kentucky wrote, “I was hesitant to leap into starting a CSA without a better understanding of my farm financials, but I feel confident after taking the Growing Farm Profits course that I have the right tools at my disposal to make smart decisions that will allow me to make it profitable.” Surveys indicate farmers are sharing information and resources gained through Southern SAWG programming with at least 4 other farmers. Thus, at least another 2,600 farmers benefited indirectly from Southern SAWG programing this past year. It’s this kind of multiplier effect that speaks to the strength of our educational programs (and allows our training dollars to go further).  Keep on sharing!

Farm Service Providers

Southern SAWG recognizes and appreciates the broad network of farm service providers who are working across the country to provide technical, financial, and other assistance to farmers.  In the past year, Southern SAWG assisted 221 farm service providers to better meet the needs of organic and sustainable farmers. We provided education on a range of subjects from high tunnel production systems to regional food hub development. After a workshop on organic and high tunnel vegetable production, one extension agent wrote that the Southern SAWG training was worth a long distance trip: “The practical information was outstanding. I can speak much more fluently in high tunnel production now.” 

We all win when these service providers are better equipped to help farmers who are working to become more sustainable. Based on follow-up with professionals who had participated in our recent organic and high tunnel vegetable production courses, we expect them to assist over 1200 farmers in the South over the next three years with information and tools from the training.

Collaborative Networks

Southern SAWG is keen on convening and facilitating collaborative networks that accelerate the exchange of information and hasten the adoption of effective practices across our region. In the past year we were directly responsible for facilitating eight critical networks across the south. For example, Southern SAWG serves as the South Region Lead Agency for the National Farm to School Network, providing resources and assistance to strengthen farm to school networks in five southern states. We bring people together who have similar interests, passions and goals to create fruitful partnerships. As one participant said:  “All the ingredients are there – we just need to cook with them!”

Community Food Systems

From Farm-to-Institution to Food Hubs, Southern SAWG is working with our partners across the south to better understand and empower efforts to strengthen community food systems.  In the past year, we provided forums for over 270 people to increase their understanding of the systems and infrastructure needed to move healthy food from sustainable farmers to local markets. For example, participants in our food hub learning network shared valuable lessons on how to develop regional food value chains and discussed issues that were holding them back from further success.  

In addition Southern SAWG developed and delivered practical educational materials to support the priority needs of 214 community food activists and organizers. One food hub learning group participant wrote, “Thank you for leading such an important effort! I so appreciated being a part of this network, and have been using all the resources and info that I learned as we work on our own food hub project here in North Central Florida!” To get a sense of some of the materials we are putting together, click this link to see our Food Hub Starter Kit.

Food and Farm Policy

Public policies can boost efforts to build sustainable food and agriculture systems, or suppress them. That’s why Southern SAWG has always provided education for citizens in the South on key policy issues and strategies for getting grassroots input into decisions at federal, state and local levels. In the past year we re-established a Southern SAWG Policy Working Group as our primary avenue for this work, and facilitated policy workshops and discussions with a core group of people. Through these efforts 70 people developed a better understanding of policy issues and strategies for effective policy change. While this work has been woefully underfunded in recent years, we continue to leverage our resources by multiplying the impacts of others. For instance, we partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to engage southerners in a national campaign to build support for National Farm to School legislation in 2014. 

Southern SAWG Seeks Conference Session Co-Coordinator

This is a part-time, seasonal contract. Contractor will work from her/his own fully equipped office. This first year, the contract time period will be June-February, hours varying per month for 350 total hours at $15.00-$20.00/hour, depending on experience. Because of the timing of the conference, significant work will need to be done during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season.

Primary responsibilities will include helping develop sustainable agriculture conference program and helping manage conference logistics. Applicants must be seeking a multi-year involvement with Southern SAWG. There is potential to expand work hours and responsibilities in future years. 

Experience, Knowledge and Skills Necessary:

  • Good working knowledge of sustainable agriculture and community food systems.
  • Good working relationship with broad network of individuals across the South involved in sustainable agriculture and community foods systems.
  • Good understanding of adult education, participatory processes and how those working in sustainable agriculture and community food systems best learn from others.
  • Experience planning large educational programs or other large events.
  • Experience working with diverse team.
  • Must be high-achieving, detail-oriented, task-oriented and highly organized.
  • Ability to independently manage multiple priorities and meet strict deadlines.
  • Must possess excellent verbal and written communication skills, electronic and in-person, and enjoy interacting with a broad diversity of people.
  • Must be available to travel to the conference, and be onsite from January 26-31, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky (travel expenses reimbursed by Southern SAWG).

To Apply:

Applying candidates should succinctly describe how they fit each of the nine necessary criteria listed above. In addition, provide an abbreviated resume with contact information, education, job experience and three work references. Email applications to info@ssawg.org by May 6, 2015.     

Southern SAWG is committed to the principle of equal opportunity and equal treatment for every current and prospective employee. Substantial efforts are made to seek out potential candidates among women, minority groups, and individuals with disabilities.

The Farm to School Act of 2015

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Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization

Congress revisits child nutrition program legislation approximately every five years in a single omnibus bill known as the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, or Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization for short (CNR). The last CNR is set to expire in September 2015, setting the stage for Congress to write a new bill in early 2015.

The CNR authorizes federal school meal and child nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, among others. The last CNR in 2010 was groundbreaking: For the first time, the legislation supported farm to school directly by providing $5 million in annual mandatory funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm to School Grant Program. A major victory for farm to school champions across the country, this program funds competitive grants and technical assistance for farm to school activities that increase the use of and improve access to local foods in schools. 

The demand for the Farm to School Grant Program is more than five times higher than available funding, so we are excited to announce that the Farm to School Act of 2015 has been introduced in Congress. In order to build on the USDA Farm to School Grant Program’s success, the next Child Nutrition Reauthorization must include increased funding for the program. Demand for the USDA Farm to School Grants outweighs the current available funding by more than five times.

The Farm to School Act of 2015 will continue and expand upon the successes of the USDA Farm to School Grant Program by:

  • Fully including preschools, summer food service program sites and after school programs on the list of eligible entities;
  • Increasing annual mandatory funding from $5 million to $15 million to better meet the high demand and need for this funding;
  • Increasing access among tribal schools to farm-fresh and traditional foods, especially from tribal producers; and
  • Improve program participation from beginning, veteran and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. 

Show Your Support

Organizations
Do you represent a school, nonprofit organization, business or advocacy group interested in supporting the Farm to School Act of 2015? If so, please add your organization’s name to the National Farm to School Network’s organizational sign-on letter to Congress. SIGN UP HERE!

Individuals
Are you a parent, teacher, farmer or concerned eater? Sign this letter of support for the Farm to School Act of 2015 to tell Congress that farm to school is a powerful tool for supporting our kids, our farmers and our communities! SIGN UP HERE!

Learn More

The National Farm to School Network (NFSN) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) are partnering to advance farm to school priorities in the 2015 reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act (CNR 2015), with the shared goal of supporting stronger communities, healthier children and resilient farms. Visit their respective websites to learn more.

Enroll Now in the Conservation Stewardship Program

Enrollment Deadline Extended to March 13

If you’re a farmer, or you work with farmers, you know that conserving and enhancing natural resources on farms is critical to a sustainable production system. But land stewardship takes time, energy, and resources. That’s why the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) exists.

What is CSP? How do I enroll? 

CSP is an innovative program for working farms, built on the belief that we must enhance natural resource and environmental protection as we simultaneously produce profitable food, fiber, and energy. By providing comprehensive conservation assistance to whole farms, CSP offers farmers the opportunity to earn 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 — while they work their lands for production.

For more information on the program and the process for signing up, check out this updated CSP Information Alert by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). Farmers, this resource is for you!

NSAC has recently published an updated version of the Farmers’ Guide to the Conservation Stewardship Program. Download the comprehensive guide from this website.

Are you interested?  NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!

Farmers and ranchers interested in enrolling in the program for 2015 now have until March 13 to go to their local Natural Resources Conservation Service office and sign up. The initial sign-up process is easy! Download the updated CSP Information Alert for step-by-step instructions, the updated Farmers’ Guide for comprehensive program details, and help spread the word!

Did you enroll in CSP in 2011?

If so, then this is the last year of your five-year CSP contract and thus you now have the opportunity to sign-up to renew your participation in the program for 2016-2020. You must apply to renew by March 31. Refer to the Information Alert for further information.

Another Successful Southern SAWG Conference!

We had so much fun and learned a lot at the 24th annual Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference.

Thank you to all who participated in this event, led sessions, hosted field trips, facilitated sessions, provided scholarship funds, contributed food, donated milk, displayed posters and exhibited. Thank you, also, to those who coordinated these activities!

Audio Recordings

We are really thrilled to provide this year, for the first time, audio recordings of the general conference sessions! We partnered with Rhino Technologies to capture the audio. Click here to purchase mp3 downloads. If you prefer to order a CD, click here for an order form or contact Rhino Technologies: 222 Temple Hill Dr., Almo, KY 42020, 270-753-0717. Email is services@rhino-technologies.com.

Evaluation Forms

Don't forget to fill out your evaluation form for a chance to win a fee waiver to the 25th anniversary conference!

We've posted a few slideshows from our presenters and have compiled a collection of posts, tweets and photos of the weekend event from social media on the 2015 conference's home page. Catch a glimpse of some of the conference in our Facebook photo album or on our newly created Instagram account

Next year, join us in Lexington Kentucky for our 25th annual conference, January 27-30, 2016!

This is our chance to celebrate all the work that we’ve done together and prepare the ground for the next 25 years!  

Please help us sow the seeds for our biggest gathering ever: Invite everyone you know who is involved in growing sustainable local food systems in the South. We’ve all got some celebrating to do!