Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann, Confluence Farm, CO

CO.Confluence.Paul_Mary-smiles.jpgMary Vozar and Paul Bohmann's Confluence Farm is a unique operation in more ways than one. They have a stunning location just down the road from Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. They also have a unusual model - their main business is supplying two 'shoulder' CSAs one in early spring and then again in late fall into winter. And of interest for all you achey-back farmers out there, Mary and Paul have a new weeding contraption designed to save your spine.

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Jonah Vitale-Wolff and Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm, NY

NY.SoulFireFarm.LeahPenniman_JonahVitale-Wolf_Close-up.jpgHealth, justice, community, education, creativity, farming. 

Leah Penniman and Jonah Vitale-Wolff integrate all of these in their work at Soul Fire Farm, located in eastern upstate New York. Below, Jonah and Leah share more about their philosophy, and what motivates and inspires them to do what they do. 

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The Center for Honeybee Research, North Carolina


North Carolina has one of the highest concentrations of beekeepers in the country, so it’s no surprise that a grassroots network of beekeepers dedicated to natural practices would spring up there.

Currently, the Center for Honeybee Research (CHBR) is largely local, but it's leaders are carefully laying the groundwork for their vision of national research collaborative.

Click through to read about how they're doing it

Randy & Libby Buchler, Shady Grove Farm U.P., Michigan

MI.ShadyGrove.Libby_Veggies-ed.jpgThere is never a dull moment at Shady Grove Farm, located on the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Their two kids plus veggies, honeybees, laying hens, and sheep keep Randy and Libby Buchler pretty well occupied; throw in a court case brought by the local municipality over zoning and the right to farm and you can see why describing them as 'busy' would be a bit of an understatement. 

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Athens Area Farmers Network

NativeSunFarm-CropMob-hightunnel-ed.jpgAt 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

Ad Hoc Network in Wisconsin

WI.BurningRiver.PeaTendrils-ed.jpgNot 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

Russ and Linda Hepler-Beaty, Maple Achers, Michigan

MI.MapleAchers.LindaAshleafMaple12.JPGUp 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. 

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Chattanooga Sustainable Farmers, TN

DSC_0111-small.JPGThis 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, Cane Creek Farm, GA

CaneCreekCNGLynn 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!

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Georgia Mountains Farmers Network

GMFN-ChuckTaylor-InspectSoil-blog.jpgWe 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!