Why would my small farm need a produce safety training?

In 2011, a law called the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the responsibility to regulate how food safety is managed on farms and in facilities that process food. At NYFC, we’re part of an alliance managed by the National Farmers Union called the Local Food Safety Collaborate that aims to give smaller producers who market locally a source for education and training on FSMA. NYFC is planning workshops across the South on the Produce Safety Rule and is writing a guidebook on these food safety regulations. Along the way, we’re talking with farmers to assess what tools, trainings, materials, or guidance will be most helpful for small, young, diversified growers to learn and comply with these new regulations.

We understand that many young farmers, ranchers, and food producers will be “qualified exempt” from this rule, meaning that they won’t have to follow ALL of the parts of the law due to size and marketing strategy.  Here’s a flowchart to help farms understand exemptions from the Produce Safety Rule. Here’s a link to understand Preventive Controls rule exemptions for facilities that manufacture, process, store, or pack food. We also want to be sure that even exempt growers understand the rules, what parts of the rules will still be important, and, ultimately, how to make their produce or food as safe as possible.

You might wonder, “I’m not a big farm, why would I take that workshop?” At NYFC, we think these food safety trainings are worthwhile for ALL farmers. Here are some reasons we think you might want to attend:

  • Your farm might expand. Perhaps you’re exempt now, but might not be as your business grows and evolves. Knowing these food safety rules will allow you to made infrastructure improvements that will comply with the rule as your business grows.
  • Learn how to make your food safer. All farms can be safer and cleaner. Some of these rules are onerous, but some of them seem practical. With a few tweaks, you could implement changes that make your produce safer. These changes could potentially increase the storage life of your crops, as taking steps to decrease bacteria can make it last longer and look better.
  • Exempt from the law, but not the marketplace. You might be qualified exempt from the rule as per the FDA. Yet, your buyers might begin to require compliance. When GAPs were introduced, even some farmers markets began to encourage associated farmers to become GAPs certified. We may see wholesale buyers, restaurants, or insurance companies begin to push otherwise exempt farmers toward compliance of the Produce Safety Rule.
  • Learn in an environment of your peers. Large produce growers are learning this same curriculum, but we hope that the conversation occurring between small, diversified growers will be helpful to beginning farmers. Also, the NYFC workshops are taught by farmers.
  • It’s affordable. We’re heavily subsidizing this workshop so that growers like you can ease into compliance and learn how to make their food safer and businesses stronger. The rules of FDA say that you only have to complete this course once a lifetime, so you could save money by taking it now. 
  • Learn more about the rule. Maybe you’ll be “qualified exempt.” You’ll still need to keep some records to prove the exemption. Additionally, you might be curious about how the rule works and why growers are so worked up. Come and learn the ins-and-outs of the rule so that you can be informed about these regulations that could greatly impact the agricultural community.
  • Give your feedback. We need to understand how and where this rule impacts farms most. NYFC can also advocate to changes in the rule or the curriculum if we know what challenges you find. We can only get that feedback from farmers who have attended the training and understand the rule.

Currently, we’re planning our workshops in the South and Southeast with our chapters in Missouri, Middle Georgia, and the West Virginia/Virginia Tri-State area. We’re hoping to plan many more. Our partners in the Local Food Safety Collaborate have other workshops planned around the country. Contact us if you want to host a food safety workshop or have feedback on this project!

NYFC’s 2nd National Leadership Convergence

photo-4-group-5x7More than 60 young farmer leaders from 26 states gathered in Encinitas, CA in November for our 2nd annual National Leadership Convergence. From rural mid-Missouri to urban New Orleans, our chapters provide a platform for young farmers and ranchers to tackle the challenges they face building careers in agriculture. The Convergence is an annual celebration of the young farmer leaders who go above and beyond in their communities, fighting isolation and barriers to success through grassroots network building and policy change. 

For three days this November, our leaders learned critical organizing and advocacy principles, shared best practices from their home chapters, and built relationships with like-minded farmers. Chapter leaders left the Convergence feeling more connected to the national coalition, equipped with new skills, and energized to grow their chapters’ capacity to make change.
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“My motivation to organize has never been greater,” said Matt Coffay, co-leader of the Western North Carolina Young Farmers Coalition and farmer at Second Spring Market Garden. “I plan to redouble my efforts with the WNC chapter and start looking at state level policy alongside the Farm Bill as we move forward over the next year.” (more…)

Q&A with Mary Stuart Masterson and Jeremy Davidson

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On April 10, a group of farmers will take the stage at BAM in Brooklyn. Or rather, well-known actors will portray real farmers from the Hudson Valley, a circumstance even more improbable in the life of most farmers, who don’t usually experience fame beyond their own farmers market tables.

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The production, called GOOD DIRT, was created by Mary Stuart Masterson (At Close Range,Fried Green Tomatoes) and Jeremy Davidson (Tickling Leo, The Americans). They’re also the founders of Storyhorse Documentary Theater, which they started so they would have a platform to tell the stories of their neighbors in the Hudson Valley and elevate ideas and voices that are often marginalized.

For GOOD DIRT they interviewed farmers from Soul Fire Farm, Green Goats Farm, Northwind Farm, Tello’s Green Farm, Denison Family Farm and Hudson Valley Seed Library. The April 10 premiere is a benefit for the National Young Farmers Coalition, and all tickets include admission to an afterparty at BAM where guests can meet some of the farmers and their actor counterparts.

Edible Brooklyn chatted with Mary Stuart and Jeremy about their theater project, community storytelling and why farmers deserve more fans. Read the interview here.

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National Convergence: 29 chapter leaders

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Top: All of the chapter leaders and NYFC staff. Middle: NYFC executive director Lindsey Lusher Shute addresses the chapter leaders. Bottom: Tess Brown-Lavoie of the Young Farmer Network of Southeastern New England addresses the group. Tess is also an NYFC board member.

Top: All of the chapter leaders and NYFC staff. Middle: NYFC executive director Lindsey Lusher Shute addresses the chapter leaders. Bottom: Tess Brown-Lavoie of the Young Farmer Network of Southeastern New England addresses the group. Tess is also an NYFC board member.

Last week was a momentous one for the National Young Farmers Coalition: we hosted our first National Chapter Leader Convergence, an event that brought the leaders of 25 chapters from 25 states together for three days of education, sharing, and momentum-building. NYFC was founded in 2010 to give young farmers a united voice as advocates for their own interests and to facilitate community building on the local and national level. Chapters serve both of these purposes.

A farmer who is 25 or 35 will often find that she is the youngest farmer in her community by a margin of two decades or more. Farming can be a fundamentally solitary profession, and this age gap (the average American farmer is 58.3 years old) can further isolate young farmers, preventing them from building a community of peers who are facing similar struggles. Chapter organizing offers farmers a way to find each other, build community, work together on difficult farm projects, and advocate for local and national policy change. (more…)

Young farmers visit Capitol Hill and USDA

Farmers and NYFC staff in front of USDA. Back row: David Rodriguez, Calvin Andersen, Peter Stocks, Erick Hansen (NYFC Staff). Front row: Emily Eckhardt, Brittany Arrington, Sophie Ackoff (NYFC staff), and Lizz Wysocki.

Farmers and NYFC staff in front of USDA. Back row: David Rodriguez, Calvin Andersen, Peter Stocks, Erick Hansen (NYFC Staff). Front row: Emily Eckhardt, Brittany Arrington, Sophie Ackoff (NYFC staff), and Lizz Wysocki.

Last Wednesday farmers from six states converged on Washington, D.C. for a whirl-wind round of meetings on Capitol Hill and at USDA. The event, known as a “fly-in,” was organized by the National Young Farmers Coalition to give young farmers a chance to advocate in person for the #FarmingIsPublicService campaign, which asks Congress to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The fly-in was made possible with support from Applegate, a natural and organic meat company dedicated to supporting farmers.

Farmers who participated in the fly-in include:

  • Emily Eckhardt, livestock manager at Swallowtail Farm in Alachua, Florida.
  • Lizz Wysocki, farm manager at Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan, Michigan.
  • Dustin Stein, owner of Stubborn Farm in Mancos, Colorado.
  • Calvin Andersen, co-owner of Grow Local farm in Neenah, Wisconsin.
  • Peter Stocks, who farms with his family on their eighth-generation farm in Dalton City, Illinois.
  • Brittany Arrington and David Rodriguez, who operate Zajac Farm in Columbus, Pennsylvania, which has been in David’s family for more than 100 years.

Each of the farmers who participated have student loan debt that is impacting their ability to build successful farming careers. And they aren’t alone. A survey conducted by NYFC points to student loan debt as one of the key barriers contributing to a shortage of young farmers. Among NYFC survey respondents, 30% said their student loans were preventing or delaying them from making farming their career and 28% said student loan pressure has prevented them from growing their farm business.

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Land trusts: apply now to attend national land access training

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The National Young Farmers Coalition and Equity Trust are convening our second-annual Land Access Innovation Training, aimed at helping land trusts utilize tools to protect farmland affordability. The training will take place on Sunday, October 11, 2015 in Sacramento, California from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This one-day, in-person training is aimed at staff from land trusts with a high degree of commitment to protecting working farms and sufficient capacity to move forward in the implementation of farm protection projects that incorporate affordability innovations. You can read more about last year’s training here and see a list of this year’s presenters here

Land trust participants will receive coaching on funding strategies; monitoring and enforcement; legal considerations; and easement enhancements and ground leases that preserve affordability and active farming. This year’s presenters include Equity Trust, The Vermont Land Trust, South of the Sound Community Farmland Trust, and others!

The training is free for attendees thanks to the generous support of the Cedar Tree Foundation, UNFI, and the Lydia B. Stokes Foundation. There are a limited number of slots, so those interested in attending must fill out an application. Applications are due Friday, August 21st, 2015.

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NYFC will also host a workshop for farmers October 7 in Sacramento, California titled “Partnering with a Land Trust to Access Affordable Farmland.” This workshop will help teach farmers some of the innovative ways they can partner with a land trust to access land. The event will be presented by NYFC in collaboration with Equity Trust, CA FarmLink, and Farmers Guild. Details coming soon.

New case studies highlight successful partnerships between farmers and land trusts

Finding affordable land continues to be one of the biggest barriers facing beginning farmers and ranchers. Land trusts, which have long preserved farmland from development, are in a unique position to help new farmers access land. As NYFC found in our 2013 report, Farmland Conservation 2.0, land trusts across the country are seeing the need to increase their efforts to keep farmland affordable and accessible to the next generation of farmers.

CA_Farmlink_Case-StudyOver the past year, NYFC has been working with land trust partners across the country to scale up innovative conservation models that permanently protect America’s working farmland and keep the land in the hands of farmers. NYFC is pleased to have partnered with California FarmLink on their recent publication, Conservation and Affordability of Working Lands: Nine Case Studies of Land Trusts Working with Next-Generation Farmers.

The case studies highlight the innovative tools and strategies land trusts are using to partner with young farmers and secure the working land base. Most of the case studies are from California, with two examples from Massachusetts and Washington State. Some of the featured land trusts own land that they lease back to farmers, in some cases incorporating the innovative “ground lease” model through which the organization owns the land and the farmer has a lifetime lease along with ownership of the infrastructure. Other case studies demonstrate the use of easement tools such as affirmative language (which requires the land to be in agricultural production) and the option to purchase at agricultural value (which helps ensure the land stays in the hands of a farmer when it is sold.)

NYFC is excited to host our second annual Land Access Innovations Training in Sacramento, California this fall to educate land trusts on these tools. For more information, contact our land access campaign manager, Holly Rippon-Butler. Check out the Equity Trust website for sample easements and leases.

New Farmer Summit April 4-5!

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Attention Midwestern Farmers! MOSES and Renewing the Countryside are hosting a New Farmer Summit April 4-5th outside Madison, WI!

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Draft Animal Power on the Farmers Forum

Chris Olliges Drives Lady and ConnieInterested in incorporating draft animal power on your farm? We’re happy to announce that Donn Hewes, President of the Draft Animal Power Network (DAPNet) will serve as expert on the Farmers Forum February 24th-28th.

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PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 18th, 2013

PRESS ADVISORY: National Day of Action to Save Local Farms will bring together farmers, consumers to change proposed FDA food safety rules that threaten farm viability

HUDSON, NY – On Sunday, October 20th farmers and consumers from across the country will take action to change the FDA’s draft food safety rules. Activists will gather at farms, schools and grange halls to educate each other on the impact of the proposed rules and write comments to the agency. Dozens of events are happening in 28 states between now and early November. The Day of Action is sponsored by the National Young Farmers Coalition and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. 

Select Events and Organizer Quotes:

Action in Eyota, Minnesota at private home (10/21/13)

“We’re always looking to make sure our food is healthy and safe, and we believe that small farms are part of the solution to healthy, safe food–not part of the problem!” – Hannah Breckbill, Organizer and Farmer at Humble Hands Harvest

Action in Paonia, Colorado at Downtown Public Library (10/20/13)

“Because food safety issues are uniquely different for small farms, FSMA’s current one size fits all approach poses a threat to small-scale agriculture,” says Kacey Kropp, Farmer at First Fruits Organic Farms and Organizer. “The goal of writing these letters to the FDA is to illuminate the worth of sustainable, already safe and locally sourced foods from small farms.”

Action in Albuquerque, NM at the Rio Grande Community Farm (10/24/13)

“As an economically challenged state, with a number of exceptional challenges to farmers like erratic and limited water supplies, writing to the FDA to comment on FSMA is particularly important to the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition. What may seem like a financial drop in the bucket for large, industrial farm and food operations can sink a small family farm, an artisan food producer, or a food hub.” – Sarah Wentzel-Fisher, Organizer

Action in Lansing, Michigan at private home (10/25/13)

“I’m utilizing my birthday to entice friends with food and drink to have them write comment letters to the FDA on how it will affect their farming operations or farms that they patron regularly,” says Alex Bryan, Farmer at Food Field and Organizer.

“FSMA has the potential, as written, to derail most everything I’ve spent the last 5 years of my life working for…Not only will this impact my livelihood and way of life, but it threatens the very nature of regional food sovereignty. I care about my community’s future and cannot sit idly by while these rules are put in place. I just hope that the FDA will continue listening, adapting and changing to the needs of smaller, younger, beginning farmers.”

Action in East Berlin, Pennsylvania at Everblossom Farm (10/26/13)

“These proposed rules stand to change how we farm and run our businesses, so it is imperative that we make time to tell our stories to the FDA. I hope this Day of Action will rally together farmers and consumers to make change with our collective voices!” –Emily Best, Farmer at New Morning Farm and Organizer

Action in Sonoma, California at the Sonoma Valley Grange Hall (10/27/13)

“The issues facing young farmers today are too daunting to grapple with alone, so we’re uniting our communities to inform and empower them to take a stance with us on these rules that could gravely effect their future success doing what most needs done: feeding us.” –Evan Wiig, Farmer at True Grass Farms and Organizer

Action in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Wells School (11/9/13) 

“By submitting comments to the FDA we take a proactive stance toward shaping the landscape that we will have to work within down the road,” says Ray Connor of Evandale Farm and Organizer. “If we miss this opportunity to take action now, we will spend the rest of our careers reacting to whatever rules are imposed on us.”

Background

In 2011, President Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — mandating the first overhaul to U.S. food safety laws since 1938. The USDA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released 3,500 page of rules in the spring, covering all aspects of a produce farm operation – everything from water testing to soil amendments and worker training. In the words of former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, the new rules have the potential to “destroy some operations.” In fact, for many diversified farms, the average annual cost to comply with the proposed rules is about half or more of what many farmers might, in a good year, expect in profits.

For more information, map with actions nationwide and details: youngfarmers.org/fsma  

PRESS CONTACT:

Lindsey Lusher Shute, lindsey[at]youngfarmers[dot]org

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