Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association

Member News

Welcome to the TOFGA news blog.  Members may post news and notices here for the general public.

 Join TOFGA!  we are always ready to expand our roots.

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  • 04/19/2017 3:50 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    INTERMEDIATE MARKETS FARMER SURVEY

    This study seeks to examine the opportunities and risks of four main marketing opportunities for many farmers—direct-to-consumer, direct-to-institution, direct-to-retail, and selling to intermediaries (such as distributors or food hubs), who in turn sell the products as local food. A national outreach and technical assistance program, conducted by NCAT’s ATTRA Program (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) will be developed based on the results of this research. Take the survey here.

    Short Online Survey

    Please help out our friends at ATTRA/NCAT by participating in this short online survey. They are seeking feedback on their resources and educational programming, and they'd appreciate feedback from TOFGA members and supporters.

  • 01/27/2017 12:22 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    Dear TOFGA Members, 

    ATTRA/NCAT provides countless resources for farmers in Texas.  Please participate in their short online survey.  More info below!

    ATTRA is currently conducting an external review of the resources and services that we offer to the sustainable agricultural community, and we need your help. Please tell us what you think about how we provide resources, the types of content and materials that we provide, and any impacts you’ve seen as a result of using our resources by completing this short online survey. All answers are anonymous and will be used to support and improve ATTRA's work going forward.

    The survey will be open through the end of February 2017. Feel free to pass it along to others in your network who might have thoughts to share as well. This is an external review being conducted by Kristal Jones, PhD, and any questions about the survey and its goals can be directed to her at kristal.jones@gmail.com.

    Thank you in advance for your time, and for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for ATTRA's mission!

    The ATTRA Team

  • 11/18/2016 10:13 AM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Glen Miracle

    The Waller County Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative (WCFRC) is a group of farmers and landowners in Waller and surrounding counties that promotes sustainable farming and ranching. The goal is to open markets for our products and provide access to education, training, and equipment, in support of sustainable farming practices. Our diverse membership includes experienced farmers, beginning farmers, landowners looking for someone to farm their land, value-added producers, and members that just want to help farmers and Waller County.

    We emphasize the three pillars of sustainability: (1) stewardship of natural resources, (2) long term profit for members, (3) quality of life for the farm families and their community. Our long term goals include establishing a food hub in the county where growers can sell and store their products, providing freezer space for meat producers, building a commercial kitchen for members to process product, and establishing a demonstration farm for trials and education. We hope to have a local farmers’ market and provide deliveries to restaurants and retail establishments in the greater Houston area. The co-op, occasionally in conjunction with Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), will provide farmer-managed trials and peer-to-peer education. WCFRC hopes to work out an equipment sharing or leasing agreement with PVAMU. The economic impact of a local farm community can help non-farming residents as well, providing employment and economic opportunity in the county.

    Waller County is a mostly rural county with mostly fertile, sandy loam soil. We are close to Houston, the fourth largest consumer market in America. The county is the home of a land grant university, Prairie View A&M. The encroachment of suburban Houston into the county threatens a loss of more quality farmland. Hopefully, farming can become a profitable use of the land and keep the community rural and economically viable. WCFRC will promote organic farming methods and will help people who want to transition to organics, but there is no organic requirement nor inspection of farms at this time.

    This co-op is young and the founding members are ready to to see membership grow. Like any organization we are eager to find committed, driven individuals to help with administration, grant writing, and brainstorming. Most of what we have done so far has been establishing our organizational structure. With help from Greg Koehler of the Texas Rural Cooperative Center, the co-op has established its’ by-laws and registered with the state of Texas. There are no paid employees at this point—all work is volunteered.

    We are open to members from anywhere, not just Waller County. Membership requires a one time $50.00 fee. We have monthly meetings, currently at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Waller County Road and Bridge building. If planning to attend, please contact us to confirm the meeting and get agenda information or request an item be added to the agenda.

    Contact information: P.O. Box 933, Prairie View, TX 77446
    James Larry, President of the WCFRC: educatedlarry@gmail.com
    Glen Miracle: glen@thelaughingfrogfarm.com



  • 09/30/2016 1:00 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By David Wall.

    BSA Troop 101 in Mt. Pleasant, TX, is now in its 6th year of raising vegetables to support the needy. Five of those years have been organic. Starting with less than 100 vegetable plants, the garden has steadily grown to this year’s 1,000 plant size.

    Scouts and parents begin preparing the grounds for vegetablesScouts have to do service projects for the community, and this is a way for them to provide that service as well as see the results. Led by Dave Wall, local gardening activist, merit badge counselor and garden manager, troop members have planted, grown, and picked over 125,000 vegetables in five years. As of early August this year, the garden has produced over 20,000 vegetables weighing over 2,500 pounds, sticking with several varieties of the basic four of tomatoes, peppers, okra and cucumbers.

    New varieties this year include the tycoon tomato and Armenian cucumber. Tycoons are a semi-determinate that is a heavy producer of large fruit that continues to produces in the summer heat. There are two varieties of Armenian cucumber; white and green. Both grow to 24+ inches and weigh anywhere from 2 to 6+ pounds. Participants were at first reluctant to take these large cucumbers until volunteers cut one into slices and had them taste it. Now, they ask for the large cucumbers!

    The garden itself is a model type garden using black plastic mulch with drip irrigation. Plant support is provided by home built 48” & 60” cages, while store-bought cages support peppers. Cattle panels, string netting and string running from pole to pole are also used to provide plant support.

    Ground cover is provided by straw from two round bales and weeds; yes, weeds. As long as the plants get sufficient water and nutrients, weeds don’t seem to bother them. At the 2016 TOFGA conference, a Texas AgriLife Extension speaker admitted that weeds can be an acceptable ground cover!

    For five years, the Titus County Sheriff’s Department allowed the Troop to use their impound lot to grow vegetables, but this year, Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Even the Sherriff said it was too good of a deal to pass up. Rene McCracken, Director of Agriculture, bent over backwards to help the troop, providing black plastic, drip tape, and all the water the plants need. Additionally, they turned over a third of their greenhouse the Troop needed to start seeds. In return, the Troop grew extra plants for the college to sell, and provided a small quantity of vegetables for the college to sell at a local farmers’ market.

    Last year was the worst year for gardening many in the Mt. Pleasant area had ever seen, but though conditions are much the same this year, the improvements at NTCC have ensured great results. All in all, it has been a great deal for all concerned.

    The college greenhouse, with most of the plants on the right half belonging to Troop 101.

    The college greenhouse, with most of the plants on the right half belonging to Troop 101.

  • 09/06/2016 8:54 AM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide cost share assistance to producers, processors, distributors or other handlers of organic agricultural products.

    Eligibility

    Texas-based organic producers (crops, wild crops, and/or livestock) and/or handlers are eligible to participate in the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP). Operations must possess current USDA organic certification to be eligible to receive reimbursements. This means operations either must have successfully received their initial USDA organic certification from a USDA-accredited certifying agent, or must have incurred expenses related to the renewal of their USDA organic certification from a USDA accredited certifying agent between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016. Operations with suspended or revoked certifications are ineligible for reimbursement. The applicable NOP regulations and resources for certification are available on the NOP website at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

    The cost share program will be conducted on a first come, first served basis.

    Deadline:

    Applications MUST be received by Close of Business (5:00 pm CT) Monday, October 31, 2016.

    How to submit an application:

    Please visit the Organic Cost-Share website to download submission instructions and application materials. TDA will offer two ways to submit your application. We encourage you to try the new online submission application. All you have to do is fill out the required information, attach your documentation and hit submit. Alternatively, applicants may also complete a hard copy form and email to the address listed in the submission instruction.

    Please contact the grants office at (512) 463-6695 or Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov with any questions you have.

  • 07/25/2016 2:33 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Leslie Marchand of Whitehurst Heritage Farms and TOFGA Region 5 Director

    Muddy BootsHistoric floods have affected a large portion of our state this spring (as was the case in 2015 as well). As a farmer, rancher or gardener, you know the devastating impact a natural disaster can have – not only for you, your family and your home but also for your livestock, your crops and your livelihood.

    You prepare for the possibility of a major weather event, you watch the forecast and you respond with quick thinking and action in the moment. You make decisions for the survival & safety of all involved and you weather the storm. News crews, loved ones and concerned citizens come out of the woodwork during and shortly after the storm to help.

    But what happens after the storm? Time goes by, people go on with their day-to-day lives and the media moves on to the next breaking news story. The same thing happens after the loss of a loved one or any tragic event in life. So how do you keep moving forward? As my daughter Marisa says, “Texas farmers persevere through flood, sweat and tears.” That’s the truth. I would love to give a medal of honor to all farmers who use their strength, determination and courage to clean up, put the pieces back together and start over.

    We were personally hit hard at Whitehurst Heritage Farms by the floods at our Cypress location in April and our Frydek location in May. We are eternally grateful to all of the people who stepped up to help us. We have several high school and college students who work at our farm. During the April flood in Cypress the local schools were closed for a week so our workers were available to help out more. They helped us rescue over a thousand chickens and wrangle pigs through flood waters to move them all to safety on high ground. During the Memorial Day weekend flood along the Brazos River people offered a ride in their boat to take feed to the animals until the water receded. We received numerous calls from friends and supporters offering to help with clean up and repairs. We received financial gifts from a few family members and collaborators. Customers have purchased additional products to help defray the cost of our losses.

    Long after the storm has passed, the recovery efforts continue. As a small business, you know the amount of time and energy it takes to run your operation when times are good. After a flood or natural disaster, the labor and costs are multiplied several times over. There are resources available for flood relief through several sources. These are great offerings but they can be limited in their scope, have short deadlines and add to the already long to-do list. Links with details, deadlines and documentation requirements for several of those programs are listed at the end of this article.

    Being a food producer takes a high level of passion, commitment and perseverance every day. Challenges can bring about more work, but they can also strengthen your resolve to keep moving forward after the storm. As we head into the heat of the summer, the Texas weather changes and we are already facing drought-like conditions in some areas. To all of you out there working hard day after day, thank you for continuing to provide food for your family and your community.

    Follow Whitehurst Farms on Twitter to see lots of videos of the flood and what they had to do to care for their animals

    USDA FSA ELAP – Emergency Livestock Assistance Program

    USDA FSA LIP – Livestock Indemnity Program

    TX Dept. of Ag. STAR fund


  • 07/13/2016 3:33 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Reed Shelger, TOFGA Treasurer and Founder of LocalLocal

    In April, the Tampa Bay Times published a story about restaurants in its region that were faking “farm to table,” and it rocked consumers’ trust in restaurants claiming to use locally sourced ingredients. The story went viral and has spawned countless response stories in publications around the country.

    For many of us, it came as no surprise that some restaurants were being dishonest. At LocalLocal, we have been working to address the issue of “local-washing” (the falsification or exaggeration of claims related to local sourcing) long before the Tampa Bay story broke.

    Local-washing is a real problem. And it hurts everyone involved in local food systems: farmers, retailers and consumers.

    But rather than addressing local-washing in a constructive way, I am afraid the Tampa Bay Times piece may be doing more harm than good. The story felt like an assault on local food by making it look like a sham and all purveyors to be fraudulent opportunists. In an interview with NPR, Laura Reiley, the Times food critic who wrote the piece, stated her opinion that ‘local’ is “like the term foodie itself. It starts to take on a kind of bankrupt, yucky demeanor after so many people have misused it.”

    A healthy amount of skepticism is always good, but is it fair to cast all farm-to-table restaurants under a cloud of suspicion? What about restaurants that do indeed make the effort to use local ingredients? Is “local” just another trendy marketing term, or are there real reasons we should care about local food, and how can we be sure we’re not being duped?

    Reiley describes the demand for locally sourced food, “People want “local,” and they’re willing to pay. Local promises food that is fresher and tastes better; it means better food safety; it yields a smaller carbon footprint.” A very compelling summary of the benefits of local food.

    There are also economic benefits tied to supporting farmers in your community. While bashing the term “foodie” might be a victimless crime, an assault on ‘local’ is an assault on family farmers and the people and businesses that support them.

    The challenge of connecting urbanites with rural farms remains one of the biggest hindrances to the local food movement. Restaurants and chefs that use local ingredients have been instrumental in helping restore local food systems. I have had the pleasure of working with several restaurateurs whose experience is completely different from those highlighted in the Tampa Bay story.

    Now more than ever, businesses that are sincere in their efforts to source ingredients locally must be willing to back up their claims to restore consumer confidence. Fortunately, information technology can now be used to provide transparency, and prove that “local” is neither a gimmick nor a hoax. LocalLocal offers a simple and elegant solution, allowing farmers to verify that sourcing claims are legit, and making this information conveniently available to consumers.

    LocalLocal is an online directory of farms, artisans, retailers, and restaurants that helps verify that food is local. Originally conceived as an online directory to help address the growing demand for local fare, LocalLocal quickly turned its focus towards addressing “local washing”. We kept encountering questions like “how do you determine which restaurants are really local and which are faking?” or “how can you verify that what the restaurant is telling you or putting on their menu is true?” So, we focused on developing the verification process.

    Now when a restaurant or retailer lists a supplier in our site, the farmer/producer is asked to verify the relationship. Much like a friend request on other social media sites, the invitation can be accepted or rejected. LocalLocal does the leg work of filtering out businesses where local sourcing cannot be confirmed. Verified businesses remain in the LocalLocal directory, and are also invited to display our “Verified Local” stickers.

    Visitors to LocalLocal.com will see a list of verified local businesses in their area (so far our listings are predominantly in Texas). Listing are segmented by categories: farms, artisans, restaurants, and retailers. For each restaurant/retailer the list of local suppliers is displayed, while conversely for farm/artisan listings the list of restaurants/retailers carrying their products is displayed.

    The integrity of the system relies on the participation of local producers. We exist to provide visibility into and authentication of local food systems, which always start with local farmers.

    LocalLocal.com is an online directory of restaurants, farms, and other food retailers that sell locally sourced food. By displaying the connections between retailers/restaurants and the farms where food comes from, LocalLocal verifies that food is authentically local.

  • 07/08/2015 2:07 PM | Anonymous

    Greetings from Deep South Texas,

    IDEA Public Schools grows vegetables for our school cafeteria using small scale production methods on our school grounds.

    We are getting ready to have our 3-day summer professional development and wanted to let TOFGA members know in our area about coming out and learning along with us.  

    Topics include: Soil Block Making, Plant Nomenclature, Soil Health, etc.

    If you'd like to learn more about this training, on-campus school food production, or other trainings(we do them quarterly), just send me an email at justin.tuley@ideapublicschools.org

    Have a great day,

    Justin


  • 05/12/2015 11:12 AM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    We have launched our new online bookstore through Amazon. These are just some of the books we feature in our bookstore. We are working to set up more affiliate options so you can access the books that we offer at our conference bookstore.

    Enjoy,

    TOFGA board

  • 03/10/2015 9:33 PM | Anonymous

    Coyote Creek Organic Feed Mill is the only USDA Certified Organic AND Non-GMO Project Verified feed produced in the State of Texas.

    Non-GMO claims alone fall short.

    Read More Here: The Shocking Difference Between Organic & Non-GMO Labels

    Non-GMO Project Verified means one thing: your feed contains less than 1% GMOs.

    USDA Certified Organic means:

    No Toxic Persistent Pesticides
    No GMOs
    No Antibiotics
    No Growth Hormones
    No Sewage Sludge
    No Herbicides
    No Irradiation
    No Chemically Synthesized Ingredients
    Legally Binding

    For the only safe alternative, choose certified organic!

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