At the Georgia Organics conference last week we had a great time re-connecting with old friends and meeting new ones.
With Georgia on our minds this week, we want to spotlight the Athens Area Farmers Network organized by Kate Munden-Dixon.
The farmers decided what they wanted from a network right off the bat: well-focused educational meetings. Nothing too complicated or touchy-feely, just a time to learn and share ways to make their farms more efficient, sustainable, and profitable. High tunnel construction, harnessing volunteer labor, pest management -- these are just some of the topics they've covered so far.
And for anyone interested in forming their own network, Kate shares some pearls of wisdom about how to make sure it starts off on the right foot.
Get the full scoop on the Athens Area Farmers Network.
Not all networks have to have a formal structure, a primary organizer or even a name to have an big impact. Today we're featuring a loose network in northwestern Wisconsin that has none of these, but is boon to farmers who are a part of it.
These farmers collaborate on an ad hoc basis. One farmer will host a round-table discussion on hiring practices or crop varieties. Another will organize a joint order of potting soil to save on shipping. In the past, farmers have also organized screenings of farm-related documentaries to increase public awareness about local food and that strengthens the market for everyone.
Certainly the economic benefits are important. So is the sense of community these farmers have developed by working together.
Read more about this ad hoc farmers network.
Up north the daytime temperatures are starting to get above freezing while the nights are still below. You know what that means - maple season is upon us!
In honor of one of the sweetest times of the year, we're featuring the aptly named Maple Achers run by Russel and Linda Hepler-Beaty in Maple City, Michigan.
This week's featured network is the Chattanooga Sustainable Farmers in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia.
The key phrase here is:
product liability insurance
It may not sound all that exciting at first, but having it opens up new possibilities for small farms. It's the difference between being able to sell to larger buyers like grocery stores and hospitals, or missing out entirely. Chattanooga Sustainable Farmers figured out how to get its members covered.
And that's not all: CSF also organizes workshops (from crop planning to butchering to beekeeping) and bulk orders to boot. CSF has its sights set on bigger projects down the road, ranging from health insurance to developing local poultry processing capacity.
Read about Chattanooga Sustainable Farmers and our interview with Butch Tolley, the network's organizer.
Lynn Pugh is a leader in sustainable agriculture in Georgia. Dubbed a 'Grower of Growers' by Georgia Organics, Lynn Pugh has been farming at Cane Creek Farm for 10 years and teaching about farming for 5 of those. In that time period she's taught more than 85 new and beginning farmers. We're so proud to count her as a member!Read more
We here at CNG have been working on a project to support local farmers networks – groups of farmers working together to their mutual benefit. As part of that initiative we’re writing up profiles of all types of networks from across the country. We’re hoping these will be a way for folks to share about what worked & what didn’t in their networks, and be an inspiration to others. (They certainly inspire us!)
This week we're delighted to feature the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network. It got started in late 2011, largely through the efforts of Justin Ellis, and has taken on a variety of projects including
- educational farm tours
- bulk ordering supplies
- blog and online calendar of events
- two-day farm tour for the public to raise awareness about local food and farming
The farmers have reaped tremendous benefits – cost savings, learning opportunities, a sense of community – and learned many lessons along the way. Click here to read the profile of the Georgia Mountain Farmers Network from April 2012.
But wait! There’s more:
Justin will be leading a webinar about organizing a public farm tour event. Sign up to learn how you can work with other farmers to stimulate business and raise awareness in your region!
Bob Redmond keeps bees in Seattle, Washington. That's right, 25 hives at 15 locations all within the city proper. Some of these are in private backyards, but his focus is working with community gardens such as Alleycat Acres, GroundUp Organics, and the Beacon Food Forest. Bob's bees keep busy pollinating people's gardens and making honey, and Bob keeps just as busy tending the hives, teaching workshops, delivering the honey by bicycle, and more!Read more
Wildflowers and raptors. Those are just two of the things that make this farm unique. Six years ago, Sara and Joe founded Five Elements Farm, located 35 miles north of Pittsburgh. Before they bought it, the land was a conventional corn field and they have truly transformed it. They operate a productive market garden as well as a pastured poultry flock, and just as important, some of their land is protected habitat for native Pennsylvania flora and fauna.Read more
Peachtree Road Farmers Market in Atlanta is a bountiful, bustling place. In fact it's the largest producer-only market in Atlanta, and for the past 2 years has required its vendors to be Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown. In the midst of all the hubbub is Lauren Carey - the market's Manager, Executive Director and the one making it all come together. Here's what she has to say about her favorite market and why farmers markets are so important, especially today.
~Leave a comment telling us why farmers markets are important to you.~Read more
Herb Culver founded Bean Mtn. Farms as a greenhouse nursery business 12 years ago and has been CNG for nearly 10 of those. At his nursery, located in a remote area within the Ozark National Forest in northwest Arkansas, Herb focuses on open-pollinated and heirloom varieties, growing a mix of vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
Below, Herb talks about everything from callused knees to the miracle of seeds.Read more