Bootstrap @ Wild Ridge Farm – A Perspective on Seeds

Our farming livelihood rests on the success of seeds. But how strange to hold something so small in the palm of my hand and realize I’m investing a lion’s share of days, dollars, and ideas in a speck of organic matter that appears so lifeless. And yet, time and time again, the seemingly powerless soon pushes through soil, and the seemingly lifeless yields fruit in its season. If we wish to finish well, we must begin well. If we desire good fruit, we must plant good seeds.

Wild Ridge Farm - corn seedOur farming season begins with seeds. Ordered when the soil lies locked in ice and snow, we wrap ourselves in layers of wool sweaters and dream of August evenings when thousands of seeds planted in February, March, April and May will grace our dinner table with crisp greens in clay bowls, sliced tomatoes on maple cutting boards, purple eggplants, roasted cauliflower, mashed sweet potatoes, and all manner of bounty. In large measure, we choose the seeds and the varieties we, ourselves, will enjoy eating and preparing, because when we are excited about our vegetables, how much easier is it to excite eager market-goers when lines queue up Saturday mornings in Fox Point or Whitefish Bay or Tuesday mornings in Thiensville?

Flavor, however, cannot be our only consideration. With over 75 CSA members already invested in Wild Ridge Farm before even our first head of lettuce matures, we need to know the seeds we plant will deliver the beautiful produce everybody expects. Thus, many of the varieties which have become our mainstays, were first the mainstays of the farmers who taught us. The seeds which we rely on year after year, were first the seeds our mentors relied on year after year. With so many aspects of farming dictated by forces out of human control—rainfall, field conditions, temperatures, disease pressures—we strive to eliminate as many variables as possible; thus, if we know Carmen peppers are consistently beautiful and delicious, Carmen peppers are the peppers we plant.

Wild Ridge Farm - lettuce seedWe source almost all our seeds from either High Mowing Organic Seeds or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. These two companies have been reliable and timely and carry the varieties we like to grow. Since we are not a certified organic farm, we are not strictly limited to organic seeds, but both High Mowing and Johnny’s carry organic seeds and this is our preference. Close to 90% of the varieties we grow are hybrids. We choose to grow hybrids for their reliable germination rates, consistent maturation rates, and dependable yields—in order to serve our CSA customers, our market customers, and our restaurant customers our timing must be impeccable, ensuring weekly quality and quantity of harvests remains sufficient from week to week.

Produce farmers are constantly balancing the scales of quantity and quality, hoping always to have an abundance of both. With this goal in mind, Wild Ridge has the privilege this season of collaborating with several local farmers, chefs, and plant breeders under the direction of Julie Dawson of UW Madison’s Horticulture Department in a project to develop vegetable breeds which optimize both flavor and productivity—seeds which thrive in the growing conditions unique to our Wisconsin landscape. At Julie’s invitation, we’ve selected several varieties of lettuce, carrots, and winter squash seeds to grow specifically for taste trials conducted by a panel of Madison chefs led by Tory Miller of L’Etoile and Graze.

We believe the collaboration of regional farmers, chefs, and plant breeders has great potential to elevate local food cultures and local economies, eliminating over-reliance on long-distance shipping, reducing fuel and energy spent in transport and refrigeration, and enhancing the vitality of our existence on each singular corner of the earth where we’ve planted these tiny seeds and daily work for their growth.

Joseph Dittman
Wild Ridge Farm – Waubeka, Wisconsin

5 Farm Bill Changes You Should Know About

The 2014 Farm Bill changed several USDA programs to benefit beginning farmers and ranchers. These changes have already taken affect – all you need to do is ask about them at your local FSA or NRCS office!

EQIP Advance Payment Option

Obama signs farm bill 2

President Obama signing the farm bill. Image courtesy of

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides funding to help farmers pay for on-farm conservation improvements. These activities can range from creating conservation plans to installing fences to keep cattle out of a waterway. Within EQIP, there are specific initiatives focused on helping farmer convert to or meet organic practices and building season-extending high tunnels. Potential funding opportunities vary state-to-state, so its important to consult with your local office.

The EQIP program is a cost-share with a farmer. It provides part of the funding for a conservation improvement and requires the farmer to pay the balance. In addition, this program general only pays the farmer once the project is complete. This ensures for that the farmer uses the funding correctly. However, it can also be a burden on a farmer, since the farmer needs to have the cash on hand to pay for the entire project before reimbursement.

Recognizing this challenge, the Farm Bill includes an Advance Payment Option for EQIP projects. Beginning farmers – along with socially disadvantaged, limited resource, veteran, and Native American farmer – can receive up to half of their EQIP funding at the beginning of the project. This eases some of the burden on new farmers to initially finance the entire project themselves.

Find your local NRCS office 

Conservation Loans

Conservation Loans are offered by FSA to help farmers implement an NRCS-approved conservation plan. Practices included in the plan can include, for example, improving pasture, adding forest cover, or transitioning to organic agriculture. As with the EQIP program, conservation practices are determined state-by-state.

These are a “guaranteed” loan from FSA – the loan is held by a bank and FSA agrees to pay the balance of the loan in case of a default. Lenders are much more willing to offer farmers loans if they are backed by FSA. For most farmers, FSA guarantees 80% of the loan. This is a increase from the previous Farm Bill, where the limit was 75%. In addition, FSA will guarantee up to 90% of the loan for a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer. This makes it even more likely that lenders will offer a loan to a beginning farmer.

Find your local FSA Office

Down Payment Loans

Traditional FSA direct farm ownership loans cover a maximum of $300,000. These loans are made by FSA and no down payment is required. However, many farms cost significantly more than the $300,000 maximum. In order to finance a more expensive loan, beginning farmers can use a Down Payment Loan from FSA. These loans can be used to finance a property up to $667,000 with a 5% down payment. This is an increase from the past Farm Bill, which capped the total at $500,000

These loans are a hybrid of a direct and a guaranteed loan. FSA will loan 45% of the purchase price of the farm. The farmer then needs to use a private lender to loan 50% of purchase price. For this private loan, FSA will guarantee 95% of the value of that loan. Then the farmer provides the final 5% in cash. For the its portion of the loan, FSA charges 1.5% interest – the lowest of any of its loans. FSA also waives the fee normally charged to guarantee a loan.

Find your local FSA Office 

Joint Financing Loans

Joint financing loans, also called participation loans, are a partnership between FSA and a private lender. FSA provides a direct loan for up to 50% of the total cost to purchase a farm. A private lender then finances the balance. As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the interest rate on the FSA portion of these loans was lowered to 2.5%. A traditional FSA direct farm ownership loan is currently offered at 4% interest.

Each year FSA only has a set amount of money to lend. Congress determines this total in the Farm Bill. Joint financing allows FSA to provide less of the total value of a loan, which preserves more funding for other farmers. These loans are designed to stretch FSA’s funding even farther.

Find your local FSA Office 

National Organic Certification Cost Share Program

The National Organic Certification Cost Share Program assists farmers with the expenses involved in organic certification. The Program covers up to 75% of the cost, up to $750 per certification category per year for a farm. This program is a reimbursement – the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service only makes a payment once a farm has successfully been certified. In the 2014 Farm Bill, this program was given a significant increase in funding. Whereas the program had $5 million per year available before, it now has $11.5 million per year. This should significantly increase the number of farmer the program can reach.

Find your state contact person

For more information on organic certification, check out the NYFC Vegetable Farmer’s Guide to Organic Certification

Ready to get certified? Find an agent

NYFC June Newsletter: USDA Seeks Input, Fight for Affordable Farmland, New Staff, Events

It’s officially summer and you’re probably in over your heads. But if you can come up for air, we want to collect your USDA successes/frustrations, introduce our new staffers and this season’s Bootstrap Bloggers, and update you on our fight for affordable farmland.

USDA is Asking for Your Advice

The USDA is making a real effort to serve new farmers and just rolled out a new website this week to introduce them to the agency. Check out to learn more about low-interest loans, crop insurance, conservation programs and more!

And while USDA makes explicit they are here to serve all new farmers (from row-crop farms to CSAs), many of the agency’s services still aren’t reaching the young farmers who need them most. That’s why NYFC led advocacy to create the new FSA microloan program and to change the Farm Storage Facilities loan to include wash and pack stations.

USDA is looking to our coalition for advice on how to better serve new farmers. Right now, we’re asking members to share their experiences with USDA (the good, bad and ugly)–which programs work, which do not, and what services USDA could provide that are better tailored to new farmer needs. Based on this information, NYFC will advocate for change within the agency.

If you have had a particularly good or bad experience with USDA, let us know. If you have advice for USDA, we want to know that too! Email our policy analyst, Eric, at

Fight for Affordable Land


Finding affordable farmland is one of the toughest challenges for any farmer. In 2013, NYFC released Conservation 2.0: How Land Trusts Can Protect America’s Working Farms, a report detailing how land trusts can help transition land between generations of farmers.

Following up on the report, NYFC and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition together fought and won a small Farm Bill change with big potential. We added farm viability” to the purpose of the federal program that funds farmland conservation. To us, farm viability means farmland owned and operated by farmers – and more public dollars to conservation projects that keep farmers on the land.

The USDA is now in ‘rulemaking’ – a process to determine how to implement the new language. That’s why we traveled to DC this month to meet with Chief Weller of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to share our vision of farm viability. We asked NRCS to fulfill the program’s new purpose by funding projects that keep farmland at its agricultural value  –  the highest value a farmer is able to pay for it. With the support of federal funding, more land trusts across the country will be able to protect farmland from development and keep it in production and affordable to future generations.

Read More: Keep Farmland for Farmers (NY Times)

Holly and Eric Are Here to Help

We have two new editions to the NYFC team. At the end of May, Holly Rippon Butler joined the coalition as our Land Access Campaign Manager and Eric Hansen as our DC-based Policy Analyst. Read more about who they are and how they can help you!

Are you Following Hannah, Nate, Anna and Seth … the 2014 Bootstrap Bloggers?

Nate and Liz apprenticed at Maple Wind Farm in Huntington, Vermont before starting Nightfall Farm in Indiana.

In this fourth season of the Bootstrap Blog project, we’re following new farmers from North Dakota, Indiana, Wisconsin and California. Each month, they’re sharing stories about success and failure in the field. Read up:




Exeter, RI – June 18 Young Farmer Nights Little River Farm, Exeter, RI, 101 William Reynolds Road, starts at 6pm. New this year! Diverse vegetable operation run by Bob & Camille. A real stunner of a hoophouse. For more info:

Plainfield, VT – June 29 Vermont Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Olympics at Onion River Farmstead  61 Onion River Rd. Plainfield, VT. 11-3pm Potluck and BBQ to follow.  Prepare yourself for remay relay, obstacle cources, electric deer fence limbo, blind folded speed seeding, zucchini bank off and best farmer “costume” for more info:, 802.426.3233,,

Wrentham, MA – July 2 Young Farmer Nights White Barn Farm 458 South Street, Wrentham, MA, starts at 6pm. White Barn Farm is a small, family-run farm in Wrentham, MA. New addition to the YFN roster!

Matunuck, RI – July 14 Young Farmer Nights Matunuck Oyster Bar Vegetable Farm Potters Pond, Matunuck, RI, starts at 6pm. Vegetable Farm supplying the Matunuck Oyster Bar in South County. We’ll learn about the farm-to-table model this farm/restaurant partnership uses.

Jamestown, RI – July 30 Young Farmer Nights Windmist Farm 71 Weeden Lane, Jamestown, RI, starts at 6pm. Windmist Farm is a beautiful diversified livestock farm in Jamestown!

Rehoboth, MA – August 11  Young Farmer Nights Rosasharn 57 County Street, Rehoboth, MA, starts at 6pm.  A perennial YFN favorite! Goats. Vegetables. Tree house.

Cranston, RI – August 27 Young Farmer Nights Scratch Farm 35 Pippin Orchard Road, Cranston, RI, starts at 6pm.  Scratch Farm, located at Urban Edge in Cranston, is a 2 acre diversified vegetable operation. We’ll walk the field and hear about Scratch’s seed saving practices from the proprietor of Small State Seeds herself.


Austin, TX – June 18: Texas Young Farmers Coalition Hang Out @ Black Star Coop! 7020 Easy Wind Dr, Suite 100, Austin, Texas, starts at 7pm.  Join TXYFC at the Black Star Coop Pub and Brewery every 3rd Wednesday of the month for some of the delicious brews and eats. Very casual.

Manor, TX – June 22 Texas Young Farmers Coalition Crop Mob @ Tecolote Farm Tecolote Farm, 16301 Decker Lake Rd, Manor, TX.  8am – 11pm.  The spring rain brought goodness but it also brought weeds! Come out and help Tecolote Farm regain control of their River Property. We’ll weed out at the new River property and then join in for their Annual CSA Potluck! Farmer David will also be around to give a tour and spread his knowledge about farming in Texas. Pizza will be provided afterwards. If you would like to partake in the potluck, please feel free to bring a dish and join in. Cooler will be provided. Contact lorigh @ to RSVP and for more information.

Austin, TX – July 16 Texas Young Farmers Coalition Hang Out @ Black Star Coop! 7020 Easy Wind Dr, Suite 100, Austin, Texas, starts at 7pm.  Join TXYFC at the Black Star Coop Pub and Brewery every 3rd Wednesday of the month for some of the delicious brews and eats. Very casual.


Prospect, KY – June 22 Beginning farmers Meet Up Louisville La Minga 13125 Hwy 42 Prospect, KY, starts at 5pm.  Community Farm Alliance Ag Legacy Initiative invites you to join other area farmers to share a meal and talk shop. Discussions with Caroline Heine from Seed Capital Kentucky, David Talifero from KIVA Zip loans, and Steve Paradis from Fresh Start Growers Supply. Bring a dish to share, a plate and a fork. RSVP to

London, KY – June 28 Beginning Farmers Meet Up Eastern Kentucky Sustainable Harvest Farm 108 Pistol Creek Rd. London, KY, starts at 7pm.  Join other area farmers for an informal gathering to share a meal and talk shop.  Bring a dish to share, a plate, fork and lawn chair.

Blairsville, GA – July 5 Southeastern Young and Beginning Farmers Alliance Three Little Pigs Benefit – Camp out and Pig Roast Sun Dog Farm,18 Dockery Road Blairsville, GA 30512.  3.30pm.  For more info & tickets:


Santa Cruz, CA – June 24 Central Coast Farmers Guild Live Oak Grange Hall, 1900 17th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, starts at 6pm. A Farmers Guild is a monthly gathering of farmers, ranchers and agriculture advocates who come together to socialize, share resources, build lasting relationships, and celebrate our local food communities.

Sonoma, CA – June 29 Sonoma Valley Farmers Guild Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, 18627 California 12, Sonoma, CA, starts at 6pm.

Albuquerque, NM – June 30 Rio Grande Farmers Coalition & The Ag Collaborative host Quick & Dirty “Farm to Restaurant” Prep MRCOG offices at 809 Copper Ave. NW, Albuquerque, NM.  3:30-5:30pm.  Speakers TBA. Contact the Ag Collaborative @ 505-724-3619, or for more information.

Sonoma, CA – July 1 North Coast Farmers Guild PARTY! Sonoma Valley Grange Hall 18627 California 12, Sonoma, CA, starts at 6pm.

Davis, CA – July 7 Yolo Farmers Guild Cook-out! Collins Farm new location, 9055 Olmo Lane, Davis, CA, starts at 6.30pm

Nevada City, CA – July 31  Nevada County Farmers Guild First Rain Farm, 19832 Rector Rd. Nevada City, CA, starts at 6pm


Middletown, WI – July 8 Wisconsin Young Farmers Summer Gathering Capital Brewery Bier Garten in Middleton, WI.  5:30-9pm.  BYO Food! No Name String Band will be playing bluegrass.

Jamestown, MO – August 3 Missouri Young Farmers Coalition Crop Mob and Potluck Happy Hollow Farm, 17199 Happy Hollow Rd, Jamestown, MO, starts at 4pm.  More info: Liz Graznak –

In Solidarity,
Lindsey, Sophie, Holly, Kate, Eric, Sarah, Debbie, Wes and Daniel

Copyright ©  2014 National Young Farmers Coalition. All rights reserved. 



“Growing Cities” Features Young Farmers Tackling Society’s Problems Head On

Many of you have probably heard the often-cited statistic that the average age of a farmer is more than 58 years old. The exact number varies by state – for example, in Nebraska, where I’m from, it’s closer to 56 – but overall, the numbers point to a disturbing trend: farmers are old and have only been getting older for the last 30 years. That said, in the process of filming our new documentary, Growing Cities, we’ve met so many incredible young and beginning farmers that it’s hard not to be optimistic for the future.

The film follows my childhood friend, Andrew Monbouquette, and I as we visit urbanites who are challenging the way this country grows its food one vacant lot and backyard chicken coop at a time. We’ve found city farming has remarkable power on many levels—it strengthens communities, creates jobs, revitalizes blighted areas, and much more. But, perhaps the most exciting thing to me is the pervasiveness of young people who are so dedicated to fixing our food system.

At nearly every farm we visited we found young people fulfilling roles from educators to head farmers. Some were just out of college and farming for the first-time, whereas others had completed apprenticeships or other courses of study which prepared them for their work.Growing Cities PBS - Eugene Cook

In many ways it seems that urban agriculture is our generation’s back to the land movement, but with some crucial differences. Today’s young farmers are not running away from society’s problems but tackling them head on. They are helping solve issues of hunger, childhood obesity, and giving hope to many communities where there was little previously. And many of these young people are taking the lessons they learn in the city, in both farming and community-building, and going on to apply these to their work in peri-urban and rural areas.

And sure, while many young people are flocking to urban centers like New York or San Francisco (as they always have), there are many who are putting down roots in their less assuming hometowns, like Youngstown, OH or Des Moines, IA. It’s these farmers who are on the leading edge of this movement, taking it to places it’s never been before.

Growing Cities PBS - groupFor instance, in my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska a collective of young people came together to form Big Muddy Urban Farm, which has a 25 family CSA and grows on vacant lots throughout the city (full disclosure: I live with two of them.) In the heart of industrial corn and soybean country, these farmers are a shining beacon of hope and a wonderful example for neighbors, many of whom don’t know a CSA from a GMO – which, let’s be honest, is probably true for a majority of the US population.

To me this is our blueprint for changing the food system – we can’t continue to go back and forth with those who are already in the movement — we must branch out and work in the places that need it most, often in our own backyards. As Eugene Cook, a farmer in Atlanta says in the film, ‘Grow Something, Grow Where you Are.’

Please help Growing Cities spread these inspiring farmers’ stories to millions on PBS! Pledge $75 to the campaign and you can get an NYFC prize pack including a Farmers Unite tee, NYFC membership, button and more! 

Learn more and donate on their Kickstarter page:

Holly and Eric are Here to Help

NYFC has two new editions to our team. At the end of May, Holly Rippon Butler joined the team as our Land Access Campaign Manager and Eric Hansen as our Policy Analyst, based in DC.

Holly and cowMeet Holly!

Holly is a third generation dairy farmer and will split her time in the field with her family outside of Saratoga, New York and developing strategies to increase land access for young farmers with policy makers and land trusts. Prior to joining NYFC, Holly worked with American Farmland Trust and the Agricultural Stewardship Association.

Having grown up on a farm, she took access to land for granted. She says her own desire to farm, and a growing awareness about the challenges faced by young farmers without a family farm, especially in regards to access to land, inspire her work. She is so grateful for the farming opportunities she has, and wants to create that opportunity for others.

Holly and Eric - smallHer primary mission with NYFC is two-fold: to build awareness about the challenges young farmers face in accessing land, and to develop tangible solutions to land access barriers.

She started her work by traveling to DC to give recommendations to NRCS as they make rules for the Agricultural Land Easement Program (See Land Access Rulemaking). Now, she gears up for a workshop she will facilitate in the fall for land trusts to help them provide better access to land for young farmers. She will also be developing a guidebook on working with land trusts to access affordable land.

If you have a land access story you would like to share, or if you have questions about Holly’s work, she’d love to hear from you.

Eric in DC squareMeet Eric!

Eric will be our first DC-based staff person and will bring his experience from his time with the Meridian Institute and the Senate Agriculture Committee to his policy work with NYFC. Eric recently completed a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management at Duke University, but can’t wait to get his hands dirty working for young farmers.

His passion for farms springs from his love of cooking and eating local food. His work is motivated by a desire to help reconnect community to their food sources. His professional passions are federal agricultural policy and community-based stakeholder engagement. As a member of the NYFC staff, he looks forward to engaging his professional and academic experience to begin to strengthen our food systems at their source: farms.

In the coming months, Eric will track USDA rulemaking activity for the new farm bill, with particular attention to how rules will impact young farmers. Further, he will work to build relationships with key players in the USDA to make sure rules are not only proposed, but implemented that prioritize young farmer needs.

In addition, Eric will connect with young farmers to help NYFC better understand the state of young farmers today. He will conduct an online survey (you can participate!) and a number of one-on-one interviews with farmers specifically about their experience trying to participate in USDA programs. If you have a story about applying for a USDA grant or loan, or trying to access some other form of USDA support, Eric would love to hear from you – email him directly at

During National Pollinator Week, Remember Your Littlest Helpers

Monarch Butterfly.  Photo courtesy of the Center for Food Safety.

Monarch Butterfly. Photo courtesy of the Center for Food Safety.

It’s National Pollinator Week, meaning it’s time to take a moment to recognize some of the smallest and most important contributors to agriculture. Over 70 percent of crops, from almonds to clover to squash are dependent on insect pollination. While we are all familiar with honey bees as pollinators, thousands of other insects are involved, including butterflies, beetles, and native bees. In the U.S. alone there are over 4,000 species of native bees that contribute heavily to agricultural production. Annually, insect pollination contributes $20-40 billion to U.S. agriculture, and a recently published study indicates that an abundant variety of bee species can lead to greater yields in crops like blueberries. Unfortunately, in the past decade honey bees and many other native pollinator species have been in decline, due in part to pesticide overuse and loss of habitat.

Given the key role of all pollinators in successful crop production, all farmers need to be aware of how their agricultural practices effect pollinators. For young and beginning farmers, helping pollinators thrive on the farm may not be topping to-do lists, but there are several easy ways for small farmers to encourage pollinators. For many of you already practicing sustainable farming techniques, you may already be implementing important steps like growing a diverse range of crops and reducing your use of pesticides, especially a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are highly toxic to bees and other insects.

Supplying habitat is perhaps the easiest contribution young and beginning farmers can make to supporting pollinator health and productivity. Each region of the country has its own unique flora that is attractive to both domesticated bees and native pollinators. Learn about the flowers, grasses, and weeds native to your area that attract pollinators and consider growing them around your barns and in buffer strips around your fields. For example, milkweed grows throughout most of the country and is an invaluable food source for the Monarch butterfly, and in the Northeast, goldenrod is loved by honey bees and native bees alike.

Mason bee house - smallIt can also be very helpful to pollinators to supply them with housing. Most species of native bees throughout the country are solitary, meaning that they do not mimic the hive structure of domesticated honey bees. While they may live with other members of their species in, for example, a hollowed-out log or abandoned rodent dens, they each have their own individual pocket within the structure which they do not share. But native bees will also use man made habitats easily made with plastic tubing or purchased relatively inexpensively and attached to trees or barn siding. Most of these bee houses can be reused year after year.

You may also consider allowing a small commercial beekeeper to use your land to temporarily house their bees. On my family’s property in upstate New York, a local bee keeper drops off his hives from late summer to mid-fall; using our land in exchange for a crate of honey. The bees gorge on clover, hay, goldenrod, crab apples, and wildflowers before being loaded up and taken to Florida for the winter.

These are only a few examples of how even the smallest farmers can encourage pollinators to thrive…and be present to pollinate their crops. During this National Pollinator Week, look around as you go about your daily chores. Those bees, butterflies, and beetles you see are working right alongside you, participating in the success of your farm.

New Farmer Legal Resources from Farm Commons

Rachel Armstrong pic

Graphic courtesy of

A quick message from farming attorney extraordinaire Rachel Armstrong about new resources available from Farm Commons.

Hello Farmers and Food Advocates,

We all know how vital good food safety practices are to our community of farmers and eaters. But, bad things can still happen to the best of farmers. Farm Commons has just released a new, detailed guide to the legal aspects of a farm-related food safety incident. The detailed legal explanations explore the background behind the law while action points help farmers move forward with reducing their legal risk exposure. Download the food safety legal guide at our website. Or, if video works better, watch our recorded webinar on the subject.

The beginning of summer also brings the beginning of farm events! From tours to festivals to dinners, farmers are developing new ways to show off their awesome operations. But, these events come with increased legal risk. Fortunately, many of these risks can be managed effectively. Farm Commons’ newly updated guide to “Hosting Safer, More Legally Secure On-Farm Events,” is now available. While learning about how things can go wrong, farmers and advocates will also find action points to help reduce legal risk exposure while having a great time. Download the on-farm events legal guide at our website. We have a webinar on the subject, too. Watch it anytime at

Farm Commons logo

Graphic courtesy of

Farm Commons strives to provide accurate and relevant legal information to farmers- to meet that goal we ask folks accessing our resources to provide their name, email address and location. This allows us to efficiently issue updates or corrections and to get feedback so we can constantly improve. We appreciate your help.

Thanks so much and a happy growing season to everyone!

Farm Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides the legal resources sustainable farmers need to become the stable, resilient foundation of a community-based food system. 

Introducing Eliza Greenman, Owner/Operator of Legacy Fruit Trees in Virginia

Eliza Greenman

Eliza Greenman

Up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia, I am the owner of a small fruit tree company, Legacy Fruit Trees- where I specialize in custom grafting and growing hard cider apple varieties (for now). This year, my first year, I’ve pre-sold 4000 trees which I’ll graft, grow, dig and ship in the coming months. Two days a week, I manage Foggy Ridge Cider’s 18-year-old, 8 acre hard cider orchard which contains 40 varieties of apples noted by people like Thomas Jefferson for making the highest quality cider.

Every day of working in the orchards is a learning experience because each variety wants to grow differently. When I’m not grafting and growing trees for other people, I’m grafting and growing trees for my future fruit and nut orchards (4 acres this year, many acres to follow). I currently have a collection of 650 apple varieties and have plans to design and plant a commercial-scale fruit and nut forest using a diversity of apple genetics and native Appalachian species.

Last year I moved back to Virginia (my home state) to start my businesses and orchards after many years spent in Maine, where I developed my passion and purpose for growing fruit and nut trees. My interest started on a small apple-tree-covered island in Maine and expanded to include MOFGA’s Apprentice and Journeyperson programs, where I steeped myself in the culture of apples.

Eliza Greenman bio- Foggy Ridge Orchards

Foggy Ridge Orchards

After 6 years of immersion, incubation, management and experiments, I received an opportunity to move back to Virginia where I could pursue my life goals of unlocking the potential of old varieties and bringing heirloom fruits back to the general public.

Many of the fruits I associate myself with have genetic resistances and tolerances to diseases facing the East Coast (even the South) and they are also purposeful- contributing to the best fresh eating and value added products one could consume. Hard cider is a product I specialize in, but I can also recommend handfuls of varieties which will make the best apple pies, apple molasses, mince meat, apple sauce, dried apples, and many other products.

The future orchard site

The future orchard site

In the next few years, my trees will start to produce and I look forward to having people try these exceptional varieties. Perhaps they will like them so much that they will want a tree of that variety growing in their yard. And perhaps I can tell them how best that tree wants to be grown. Retelling history, preserving ancient genetics, producing high quality ingredients, and creating lasting relationships with our surroundings can all be brought about with an apple tree. And that’s why I love what I do.

Water Resiliency

This article was originally published in Edible Santa Fe Issue 32, Early Summer.  You can find the original article at  You can also read the article here.

Water Resiliency eSF article main picOn a crystal clear March day, Brendon Rockey palms a handful of soil from his family potato farm near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. The sandy loam still holds moisture from the last snow, though the spring sun has melted all but the highest snowpack on the surrounding Sangre de Cristo and San Juan mountains. Center pivots stand dormant, dotting Colorado’s San Luis Valley as they wait for the irrigation season to begin. (more…)

Bootstrap @ Forager Farm – Why I Became a Farmer

Forager Farm - dirty handsWhen I was young I wanted to be many things: an architect, magazine editor, zoologist, but a farmer was not one of them. The closest idea of a farmer I had was my grandpa. I knew he had cattle, and a barn, and a lot of farming equipment, but eactly what he did I was unsure. (more…)