We’re heading to the coast again this winter for Southern SAWG’s Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms conference! This popular event draws over 1,000 farmers and local food advocates from across the nation. With our outstanding “field-tested” presenters and full slate of hot-topic conference sessions, pre-conference courses and field trips, you won’t want to be left out in the cold this January! Click here for details!
Have you been hearing people mention the great stuff they learned at one of Southern SAWG's Growing Farm Profits trainings and the useful tools they got for free, such as the amazing Veggie Compass? Been wishing you had access to this to help you improve your farm profits?
Have you participated in one of our many GFP trainings around the region and wish you could take a refresher course now that you’ve gotten back to the farm and started concentrating on increasing your farm profits?
Well, aren’t you the lucky one?! Our new Growing Farm Profits online course is the next best thing to attending a live training. Many of the GFP training materials are now available to you right here on our website!
(NEW!!) We have created 8 short video tutorials to demonstrate how to use the free Veggie Compass Whole Farm Profit Management tool. Ellen Polishuk, a vegetable grower in Virginia, walks you through Veggie Compass, using her own farm numbers to demonstrate how you can use this tool to determine the profitability of each of your crops in each of your market channels. She shows how Veggie Compass can be used to help you locate your farm’s inefficiencies as well as profit centers and how you can use this information to manage for profitability.
Let us know what you think!
“Focus on the areas where you can do a good job,” advised Kathlyn Terry. And build collaborations with others.
“For partnerships to work, they must be mutually beneficial,” according to Tina Prevatte. “They have to be win-win to be sustainable.”
Collaborations and mutually beneficial partnerships were common themes discussed by all three presenters on the recent Southern SAWG webinar titled: “So You Think a Food Hub is Right for You: How to help food hub organizers and prospective farmers make informed decisions about food hub options.” Designed for the Southern SAWG Food Hub Learning Network, the webinar covered some of the key questions facing community members who are exploring the possibility of starting a food hub or regional food value chain business.
Tina Prevatte of Firsthand Foods, Kathlyn Terry of Appalachian Sustainable Development (ASD), and Eric Bendfelt with Virginia Cooperative Extension provided experienced observations on some of the critical first steps of development by addressing these questions:
- How can you assess your local food system and make an informed decision about an
entity or service that can fill a needed gap?
- How can you figure out how to position yourself in the local food system and what roles
or services to take on?
- Once you have an idea of your position, what are the options for business models that
might suit your role or service well?
- How can you create strong, mutually beneficial relationships with local farmers?
- How can you communicate truthfully about the benefits and expectations of marketing
through this business?
Research is critical before you jump into a business. Eric Bendfelt said, “Research informs the strategy for the services you will provide, and identifies your niche in the market.”
Webinar participants were advised to assess the local landscape to determine what services are most needed to support the local food system. Getting to know your existing infrastructure will prevent you from recreating something that is already there and will shed light on areas where you can collaborate and partner with existing services. As Kathlyn Terry stated, “Owning and operating infrastructure (particularly trucks) is costly, risky, and to be avoided if at all possible!”
Appalachian Harvest, the food hub program under ASD, sells and then transports conventional and organic produce to distribution centers. First Hand Foods partners with existing slaughterhouses and existing trucking companies, and shares warehouse space with another food hub.
“The most important thing in maintaining good relationships with farmers is paying them well and paying them often,” according to Tina Prevatte. In the final section of the webinar, she explained several methods used by Firsthand Foods to strengthen their relationships with producers.
This 70-minute webinar is now available for all to view on the Webinars section of the Resources page of the Southern SAWG website.
For further information about the Southern SAWG Food Hub Learning Network, contact: Keith Richards, Program Director, (479) 587-0888, firstname.lastname@example.org. This project is funded with support from the Southern SARE program.
The Southern SAWG Board of Directors has announced the hiring of Steve Muntz of Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, as the Executive Director of the organization effective April 1, 2014.
Board President Stephan Walker points to Steve's 30 plus years of working with organizations and producers in the Southern Region as strengths he brings to the position. In a recent announcement, Walker invites all of our friends/members and partner organizations to join us in extending a warm-hearted welcome to Steve.
Muntz takes over from Jim Lukens who is retiring to the farm after holding the Executive Director position for six of Southern SAWG's twenty-three years.
Dear Sustainable Agriculture Colleagues:
I have enjoyed serving as Southern SAWG's Executive Director for the past six years, and now I am looking forward to more time on the farm and less time at the computer. I am leaving the Executive Director position, and, weather permitting, on April 1st I will
be fixing fence instead of sitting behind a desk.
I am excited that Steve Muntz is stepping into the Executive Director role, bringing skills and experience that will allow him to successfully guide the Southern SAWG team over the coming years. The economic, social, and political environments for this work continue to change. In recent years the Southern region has experienced tremendous growth in the number and strength of organizations working toward a sustainable farm and food system. I am confident that Steve and Southern SAWG's capable and experienced staff, with guidance and support from the Board of Directors, will continue to shape programs and the annual conference to encourage and strengthen that growth, and to increase the effectiveness of the collective effort in the region.
I have appreciated the opportunity to work within the sustainable farm and food movement as a Southern SAWG employee. I look forward to continuing to work within the movement, although from a position that more frequently involves a tractor seat.
Dear Friends of Southern SAWG,
I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to serve as the new Executive Director of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. Southern SAWG has been an important part of my life for most of the last two decades. As a small farmer, I have been inspired and empowered by the work of Southern SAWG. The annual conference always re-energizes me to try out new approaches on the farm and to encourage other farmers I work with to do the same. It is an amazing opportunity to stretch and sharpen my thinking by interacting with so many great farmers and organizations working to build a better food and farming future. While I am less familiar with Southern SAWG's other programmatic activity, outside of the conference, I am learning quickly about the exceptional efforts that are underway and being planned.
My hat is off to Jim Lukens and his team for the great work they have been doing! As I take my turn in the leadership of the organization I hope to build on the foundation they have laid while listening to our board and partner organizations as we look to the future. Building a sustainable food and farming system is a very expansive mission and I believe that Southern SAWG needs to look closely at our leadership role for this goal in the South. Are we doing what is most needed by our other partners to foster the movement? How can we better coordinate, communicate and cooperate to gain momentum? Resources for our work are very tight these days. How can we find the resources needed to do this work without competing with our closest allies?
I have a great deal to learn as I begin my new work. Communication with our partner organizations and farmers will be a critical part of my learning. I look forward to visiting with many of you over the next several months as we chart the new way ahead for Southern SAWG. Thank you for all the support you have given us in the past. I will do my best to earn your continued support for the future.
Our Conference keynote speaker was Anthony Flaccavento, of SCALE, Inc. (www.ruralscale.com)The title may have bewildered a few folks, but “What’s Love Got to do with it?Channeling Passion for Local Foods into a Movement for Community, Economic and National Renewal” went straight to the heart of who we are as sustainable farmers, foodies and Southern SAWG.
Anthony Flaccavento began by talking about Uncle Benny and a remark about farming, “Dis here organic gardening… If you got bugs, you gotta spray em!” Anthony’s life of research, education, and providing technical assistance has been to refute Uncle Benny and his generational beliefs. This history includes great economic changes and the lack of organic programs with few markets and small towns losing their downtown businesses. He quoted a TVA Economist from the mid 1990’s, who said, “We don’t include agriculture in our statistics because it is not considered part of the economy”.
Flaccavento went on to share some of the deadly health statistics we face related to the amount of corn sweetener consumed in the United States, 1996 – 2002, political issues and government subsidies, along with the stark fact that “by 1990, over half the US population lived within a 3 minute drive of a McDonalds”. Our “land of opportunity”, he believes, “is now the most unequal country of all the developed nations in the world”. He feels that we have been losing ground because of the disconnects between local actions and state and federal policy; between community conversations and “public debate”; and between rhetoric, values and spending”.
Our inspiration and hope comes from the recent USDA ag census in 2012, which was the “first census in generations to show net increase in number of farmers”. With the USDA reporting that in 2011, “Local, regional food sales exceed $5 Billion, and Organic sales approach $30 Billion” we can have hope for the future of sustainable agriculture!
As Anthony called out the list of grassroots initiatives, such as “Local marketing, season extension programs, the emergence of “food hubs”, both rural and urban, CSA-based food hubs, and the fact that farmers markets not just for “foodies” anymore, I could feel the weight of our movement.
Another exciting aspect of today’s good food movement is the use of EBT at farmers markets. This “reached $11,750,000 in 2011, 300% more than 2008.” At SCALE, Inc. Anthony and his team performed a study in 2011 that showed “At 75% of farmers markets in the Southeast and Appalachia, everyday foods are at or below supermarket prices.” These provide many opportunities beyond economic, but social and of revitalization.
To his point, What DOES Love have to do with it? To answer, he quoted Wendell Berry, “Love is not a feeling.Love is a practice”, and then asked the audience, “How do we put love into practice to build a better world”? He noted that the Essential Elements of Love are a lot like learning to farm – practice, empathy, acceptance, humility, patience AND urgency!
Anthony called on each of us to change the negative political situation by “Building a strategy that is grounded in Love, Based on Connections, Focusing on Shared Realities; Local foods, from big cities to tiny towns. Together we can make the “love of local eating become the foundation of a new politics of love, connection and commonality”!
Anthony Flaccavento is an organic farmer near Abingdon, Virginia, in the heart of Appalachian Virginia, who has written and spoken about sustainable development, ecology and economics, food systems, and Appalachian issues extensively. Anthony has received a number of awards and honors for his work, including the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award, the Arthur Smith Environmental Stewardship award, and selection by Blue Ridge magazine in 2009 as one of central Appalachia's most important agents for positive change. He was a Kellogg National Food and Society Policy Fellow during 2007 and 2008 (now known as the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy's Food and Society Fellows). Anthony has a BS degree in Agriculture and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky and a Masters degree in Economic and Social Development from the University of Pittsburgh.
Hello LEXINGTON, KY – Are you ready for our "Growing Farm Profits" workshop? This is a farmer-to-farmer training taught by three well-respected nationally-known speakers being held February 1-3 at E.S. Good Barn in Lexington. It is geared toward horticultural producers to help them understand factors that impact profitability, including financial records, crop budgets, packing shed design, food safety procedures and marketing.
Participants will learn such things as how to track costs in each farm operation, using records to discover their most profitable crops, harvesting and packing techniques to increase shelf-life and profits, and more.
The $25 registration includes continental breakfast and lunch all 3 days, and resource materials (valued at more than $100) including a Post Harvest Handling workbook containing harvesting and packing details for virtually every type of produce, and Veggie Compass, which can be used to discover profit areas, and to predict profit outcomes based on different farm scenarios.
Instructors are Ellen Polishuk, Potomac Vegetable Farms (VA), Jim Munsch, beef producer and business consultant (WI) and Atina Diffley, vegetable farmer and author (MN).
Hotel information is available: email email@example.com
For information email or call Carolyn Gahn at firstname.lastname@example.org or 859-925-3307
Partners in this training include Southern SAWG, USDA Southern Risk Management Education Center, Kentucky State University, Kentucky Horticulture Council and Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development along Community Farm Alliance, Seed Capital Kentucky, and Louisville Farm to Table.