Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association

Member News

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

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  • 10/20/2017 1:03 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)


    Get $20 for 20 minutes of your time!  

    Growers asked to provide feedback on crop insurance

    NCAT wants to hear why you buy crop insurance —or why you have decided you can live without it. The 2014 Farm Bill increased access to crop insurance for organic, diversified, and specialty-crop growers. Most notably, the USDA was required to offer a new insurance product—Whole-Farm Revenue Protection—that allows farms to insure virtually any combination of commodities (including livestock) under a single policy. So far, though, very few of those who are eligible have taken advantage of the new opportunities. Confidential and anonymous, the survey takes just 20 minutes-- on any computer, smart phone, or other mobile device-- and is open to anyone who is farming or ranching commercially in the U.S. Results will be used to plan educational efforts and make recommendations to the USDA. A $20 honorarium is offered to early responders. (Honorarium funds are limited.). Growers may take the survey at www.ncat.org/cropinsurance, and are encouraged to share the link widely. For more information, e-mail cropinsurance@ncat.org. Funding for the survey is provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award #2014-51300- 2222.

    Organic Cost-Share Reimbursement applications due by October 31, 2017!

    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.  Payments are limited to 75 percent of an individual producer's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certificate or scope of certification (crops, livestock, handling, wild crops).  Eligible applicants are encouraged to use the online submission link. All you have to do is fill out the required information, attach your documentation and hit submit.  You may also complete a hard copy application as well.  Additional details can be found on the Texas Organic Cost-Share website.

    Food Safety Training for Producers

    November 13, 2017 in Jasper, Texas 
    Join TOFGA member Joe Masabni for this November workshop!  The event will include an introduction to produce safety, followed by these modules:
    • Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training
    • Soil Amendments
    • Wildlife, Domesticated Animals, and Land Use 
    • Agricultural Water: Production Water Part & Postharvest Water 
    • Postharvest Handling and Sanitation
    • How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan

    The $40 fee includes lunch and snacks. Register online at  https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/ProduceSafety or by phone: 979-845-2604 For questions or additional information, contact Dr. Joe Masabni at jmasabni@ag.tamu.edu or 903.834.6191 

    South Central Soil Summit at the University of Houston
    Dec. 12 –13, 2017

    This engaging program includes presentations and discussion about the benefits and challenges of raw manure use relative to the safety of fresh fruit and vegetable production. Key goals for the summit include identifying barriers to using/producing compost while identifying management strategies, resources, and additional support necessary to support growers in minimizing food safety risks on the farm, especially when using raw manure. Additionally, produce growers, educators, and researchers will gain a better understanding of current FDA research and risk assessment efforts and the final FSMA Produce Safety Rule standards. Registration is limited to the first 100 registrants and includes training materials, lunch on day one, and refreshments. Come prepared to share your knowledge, thoughts, and innovative ideas! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/south-central-soil-summit-registration-35611421721


  • 10/20/2017 12:59 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    Some Interesting Honeybee Facts

    By David Wall

    Most recognize that honeybees are critical to our food supply, but there's a great deal about them that are not widely known.  An example is that these insects, while not flying around during winter, are quite busy maintaining the hive and supporting the queen. During cold weather, they buzz their wings to generate heat to keep the hive temperature above 40°.

    Honeybees can actually recognize humans.  The literature suggests that in a bee keeper family,  they can tell the difference between a bee keeper that provides them with sugar water and one who doesn't.

    While store-bought honey can have long term storage issues, hive honey never goes bad due to its very low moisture content and overall chemical makeup.  Scientist have found jars of honey  over 5,500 years old.  The honey inside was still edible, but the report doesn't say whether any of those scientists actually ate some of that honey!!!

    At full bore, a honeybee can reach a speed of 20 MPH, but their average speed is 15 MPH. They need such speed in order to forage out as far as seven miles foraging for nectar.  For all their work, each honeybee will only produce about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her short lifetime.  Some 55,000 miles will be flown just to produce a single pound of honey.  The entire female worker force (20,000+) has to work all day long 24/7 to produce enough honey (60-100 lbs.) for the beekeeper to take some and still leave the hive with enough honey to last through the winter to next spring.

    While bee stings are painful, the venom contains properties that can provide temporary relief from symptoms of arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments.  The venom apparently blocks inflammation.  Many regularly look forward to the sting and inflammation relief.

  • 09/01/2017 4:36 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    Dear Friends of TOFGA,

    By now we’ve all seen images of the devastation caused by Harvey in East Texas. Outside of Houston and along the Gulf Coast, hundreds of organic and sustainable farmers and ranchers need your help. You can help by contributing to TOFGA’s Disaster Relief Fund. The Texas Organic Farmers & Gardener’s Association (TOFGA) is a statewide volunteer-run 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping organic and sustainable producers.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Texas farmers have needed help. The Disaster Relief Fund was established during the 2011 record drought which devastated livestock producers and growers across the state. For many East Texas farmers this is the third major flood they’ve experienced in 18 months! However, Texas farmers are an independent lot and don’t give up easily. We’ve seen farmers come back from severe drought damage one year to debilitating flooding the next. They keep a hopeful outlook, always believing that the next season can be better.

    One of our board members, Leslie Marchand, has a family farm, Whitehurst Heritage Farm, that was flooded and had significant wind damage. Many of their neighbors suffered much more damage. Leslie’s husband Michael says it best in a video he posted shortly after Harvey:

    “One of the things I’ll admit is… that we do have hard times, whether it be heat or storms, things happen… And because we’re proud and we’re can-do people and we don’t really want to talk about it… we sit out here silent… I think a lot of farmers - we’re all in the same boat. Yes, we do need help… It’s hard for us to admit we need help from time to time, but we do… We appreciate the support and the encouragement.”

    Ways You Can Help Texas Farmers

    • TOFGA has kick-started the Disaster Relief Fund with $1,000, and we encourage you to give what you can or find another way to donate or volunteer during the recovery efforts...
    • If you know a local farmer impacted by the storm, you can donate directly to the farmer. You’ll know exactly who you are helping and how.
    • Many organizations are raising funds to support farmers during their recovery efforts:

    Thank you for staying in touch during this time. If you have questions, please email us at president@tofga.org. And check out the full video of Michael Marchand of Whitehurst Heritage Farm

    From the TOFGA Board

    Emily Erickson, President
    Patrick Lillard, Vice President
    James Buratti, Secretary
    Robert Maggiani, Regional Director At-Large
    Evan Driscoll, New Farmer Statewide Director
    James Fairchild, Region 1 Director
    Leah Gibson, Region 2 Director
    Marie Tedei, Region 4 Director
    Leslie Marchand, Region 5 Director
    Dan Wickware, Region 6 Director

  • 08/30/2017 10:31 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    Dear TOFGA Members and Supporters,

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the farmers, ranchers, and citizens of Texas who have suffered from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  We have been tracking the storm closely, following the coverage, and hearing from our membership about the damage and distress they’re experiencing. 

    Everyday, TOFGA sees how our sustainable farms and ranches enrich lives across Texas - y'all are central to robust communities across our great state and beyond.  From the high-quality foods you produce, to the markets you support, to the customers who truly value your product - none of it happens without YOU.

    We're sending this message to say: We hear you.  And, we are here for you.  We know you have sustained damage to your businesses, livelihoods, and homes, and we’ve only heard a fraction of what’s actually happened.   

    TOFGA Board and Leadership are currently in talks with other family farm aligned organizations across the state to coordinate an effort to support those affected by Hurricane Harvey.  Stay tuned for more information in the coming days on how to seek help, who to turn to, and what resources may be available to you.

    In the meantime, here are some tips to best position yourself to qualify for aid:

    Document Everything: Take pictures and record the damage you have sustained.  Write down everything, including what you do, who you talk to, and what those people say (if you talk on the phone, ask for a follow up email with notes about what was discussed and decided upon).  If you go to an office for an in-person meeting, go with more than one person and have one ask questions while the other takes notes.  And, again, take pictures of the damage!  It is especially important to take pictures and document before clean up and restoration. 

    Recovery is a long-term process.  Remember, we are here for you - Texas farmers, ranchers, and TOFGA members.  We know there will be obstacles and frustrations to overcome in the short and long term.  We are ready to assist you over the long haul however we are able.

    We are regularly updating our Disaster Relief Resources webpage.  

    Please feel free to email us at president@tofga.org, and again, we’ll be sending out more specific information on resources in the coming days.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

    Sincerely,

    Emily Erickson

    TOFGA President

  • 07/08/2017 10:38 AM | Stephanie McCarter Haag
    Bales -800 to 900lbs ( 5ft by 5 ft) Mix of Texas coastal grasses including bermuda, bahia, vetch, wheat, peas, and rye. No chemical fertilizers or chemicals used. Strictly grown by organic methods. In northeast regions near Emory , TX email : smccartermd@gmail.com 
  • 05/22/2017 3:56 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By David Wall

    Japanese beetles Every year, numerous horticulturalists and gardeners get angry when Japanese beetles start eating their roses and vegetable plants, particularly cucumbers and grapes. So, it’s off to the store for anything that’ll kill or repel the pesky critters. The problem with such a tactic is the spray may very well kill a lot more than the intended victims (as in beneficial insects) and spray remnants can get into the underground water table.

    There is, however, an all natural spray you can make yourselves. All it requires is a small effort and time. You need several pieces of eastern red cedar wood, a five gallon bucket, water, and a brick or something similar. A smaller bucket will work, but the five gallon bucket gives you a lot more spray.

    First, gather 5-10 pieces (you can add more) of red cedar wood a couple inches wide and several inches long. These pieces will be smaller if you’re using a smaller bucket. Place them in the bucket. Now, the literature varies a little here, so choose your option. You can fill the bucket with hot water plus a gallon or so of boiling water, or you can fill the bucket with boiling water. At least some boiling water is needed to start pulling cedar oils out of the wood. Put the brick or other weight on top of the wood pieces to keep them from floating on top of the water.

    Now, except for stirring the mixture 3-4 times a day, you just sit back and wait. After 36 or preferably 48 hours, remove the wood, strain out any loose particles of dirt, and pour some of the “cedar” water into a spray bottle. Spray on your infected plants and watch beetles/bugs flee the country!!! Reapply every few days or after a good rain.


  • 05/22/2017 3:50 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    We know many of you are already familiar with NASS (U.S. Department of Agriculture | National Agricultural Statistics Service) thanks to their wonderful sponsorship of the annual TOFGA Organics Conference. But in case you aren't please take moment to read this email and take part in the survey. Their data is some of the only solid data we have on organic and small farmers in the US. And in case you were wondering, all individual information provided to NASS is confidential and only used for statistical purposes.  

    From Gary Keough,  NASS

    In just a few months, America’s farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their operations and communities by taking part in the Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census captures a complete count of all U.S. Farms and ranches and those who operate them. You can find the results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture at https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/.

    The Census of Agriculture provides a unique picture of U.S. agriculture since it shows the contributions of farms of all sizes at the county, State, and national level. It is also the main source for demographic data (age, sex, race/ethnicity) of U.S. farmers.

    NASS is in the final stage for preparing the 2017 Census of Agriculture mailing list. If you are new to farming or didn’t receive a 2012 Census of Agriculture questionnaire there is still time to be counted by signing up at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/. Simply click on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button below and provide the requested information.

    For those of you that work with immigrant or refugee farmers and ranchers and language may be an obstacle, I encourage you to work with your Regional or State Statistician. You can find contact information at https://www.nass.usda.gov/, locate your State in the drop down box in the U.S. map, then follow the Contact link on the left side of the page. For those of you in the New England State, I plan to be contacting you in the next couple of weeks or you can contact me at the gary_keough@nass.usda.gov.

    All individual information provided to NASS is confidential and only used for statistical purposes. In accordance with the Confidential Information Protection provisions of Title V, Subtitle A, Public Law 107-347 and other applicable Federal laws, your responses will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed in identifiable form to anyone other than employees or agents. By law, every employee and agent has taken an oath and is subject to a jail term, a fine, or both if he or she willfully discloses ANY identifiable information about you or your operation.

    Please contact if you have any questions.

    Sincerely,

    Gary R. Keough, State Statistician
    Field Operations | New England Field Office
    53 Pleasant St. Room 3450
    Concord, NH 03301
    Gary_Keough@nass.usda.gov 

  • 05/22/2017 3:38 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Derek Emadi , Emadi Acres Farm 

    Emadi Acres Farm It's undeniable that land prices are increasing without an end in sight, especially here in Central Texas where my farm resides. Lockhart, Texas to be exact. Land access for new and beginning farmers is inching further from the grasp of those who do not want to go into immense debt to begin their career. As I look back on the entire process my wife and I went through to purchase our land at the tail end of the foreclosure crises in 2011, I understand how blessed we are to own our 10 acre farm, but it was a hell of a process. The first time I met our realtor at the property, I knew this was our future home and the land where I would try to build my business. I obsessed on having 5 or more acres because I was taught the conventional wisdom that you need acres and acres to make money in farming. About 6 years later and with many mistakes under my belt, I can fully admit you do not need that much land to have a profitable farm.

    In the first 2 years of my farming operation I was barely making it and siphoning my savings to continue to try and grow my operation to be larger than I could manage. I don’t remember how I found out about market gardening and SPIN (small plot intensive) farming, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is now something I preach to young and beginning vegetable farmers to consider. When looking to purchase property to start growing vegetables for profit, you don't have to spend your life savings to get a huge tract of land. Instead, consider finding a small piece of land that is more affordable.

    I have completely uprooted my farm's original vision to be a hybridized farm of two relatively new styles of growing for profit called Market Gardening and SPIN farming . Market gardening is similar to SPIN farming in that it focuses on growing more with less land. Usually market gardens are under 2 acres, and SPIN uses less than 1 acre. Both grow crops using bio-intensive methods with frequent crop rotations and minimal inputs but have high enough margins to be profitable and sustainable on the smallest of scales. This was news to me at the time because I thought I had to be like the larger farms in our area where you grow in size to accommodate the demand for organic vegetables.

    Because my farm is currently a one person operation 99% of the season, choosing to shrink down from two expanding acres to two small plots that total ¾ of an acre has been the smartest decision I have made to date. It is the main reason I'm more profitable than ever while working less. Limiting the amount of crops I choose to grow and the plot size I’m growing on while using better growing techniques has led to increased production and harvest, increased profits, and less work for this farmer. I encourage you to reshape your thinking from “bigger is better” to “smaller is smarter.” There is no wrong choice in choosing to go big or small; it will be your personal context that guides your path, but small scale farming needs to be considered as a viable business opportunity.

  • 05/22/2017 3:28 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    The TOFGA Board of Directors is seeking to fill the position of Treasurer. The treasurer serves a two year term and is responsible for reporting on the financial health of the organization, planning and fundraising. TOFGA employs an accounting firm to manage payroll and day-to-day finances. Many of the previous Treasurers duties are now handled by the accountant so the Treasurer can focus on fundraising and long term planning. This a great way to add some Board experience to your resume.

    Duties include:

    • Oversee fundraising efforts as an opportunity to work on a long-term development strategy that results in long-term sustainability.
    • Develop projected budgets necessary to qualify for funding opportunities developing these documents for presentation to the full board and outside entities as necessary.
    • Assist in developing the yearly operating budget.
    • Report on the of the financial condition of TOFGA.
    • If needed, deposit money, drafts, and checks in the name of and to the credit of TOFGA in the banks and depositories designated by the board.
    • If needed, endorse for deposit notes, checks, and drafts received by the corporation as ordered by the board, making proper vouchers for the deposit.
    • If needed, disburse TOFGA funds and issue checks and drafts in the name of TOFGA as ordered by the board.
    • Other duties as requested by the President.
    Send nominations to secretary@tofga.org 


  • 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.

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