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A new program for beginning and experienced farmers: The Farmer’s Edge. This is a year-long course designed to give farmers the skills and tools needed to cultivate financially sustainable businesses. Whether you struggle to understand the economics of your business or just want to increase your farm’s profitability, this course is for you!
Group sessions begin in January (second Wednesday of the month) and meet on-line for 2 hours each month. The first hour is devoted to a specific business topic, such as QuickBooks or Cash Flow Budgeting. The second hour is an open discussion for participants to ask specific questions about their businesses. This “consulting collective” combines the benefits of a business workshop and one-on-one technical assistance, with the added value of peer-learning.
At the end of the year participants will have:
In other words, they will have a plan to increase profits! Read more →
Monitoring of Water Resources to Continue, Water Conservation by Public Necessary
While portions of Massachusetts have experienced measurable amounts of rainfall in the past month, large portions of the state continue to experience rainfall amounts remaining below average. As a result, Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton yesterday declared the following drought levels throughout the Commonwealth: a Drought Warning for the Connecticut River Valley, Western, Central, Northeast, and Southeast Massachusetts, unchanged for the Connecticut River Valley, Central, Northeast and Southeast Regions, and up from a Drought Watch for the Western Region in October; and a Drought Advisory for the Cape and Islands, down from a Drought Watch in October. The declaration was the result of a recommendation issued from a recent meeting of the Drought Management Task Force, comprised of state, federal and local officials, and will remain in effect until water levels return to normal in the affected regions.
“While many communities throughout the Commonwealth have received rain during the month of October, it is important to remember that over 80% of the state continues to experience historic drought conditions, and several months of significant precipitation are needed for water sources to truly rebound,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “The Baker-Polito Administration asks that residents and communities continue to remain diligent in their efforts to conserve water in order to ensure our reservoirs, groundwater, and stream flow systems return to a more sustainable water level.”
“While we are grateful that four of the state’s six regions received above-average precipitation in October, and that the public has taken conservation requests and restrictions seriously and has significantly reduced water consumption, drought conditions continue throughout the state and the need to conserve water remains a priority,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Director Kurt Schwartz.
A Drought Warning, as outlined in the Massachusetts Drought Management Plan, indicates consecutive months of groundwater, stream flow, and reservoir levels being below normal, and initiates a much more concerted set of government responses including instating water restrictions, and more intensified monitoring and coordination between the agencies. Areas within the Drought Warning are currently experiencing precipitation levels below normal for six out of seven consecutive months. The declaration of a Drought Advisory indicates a level of dry conditions that warrants closer tracking by government agencies. Read more →
Save the dates for this course designed to provide growers with regulatory certainty in a time of many regulatory changes. Leave winter school ready for a Commonwealth Quality Program (CQP) audit and the peace of mind that you are prepared to handle the requirements of: the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), EPA Worker Protection Standards (WPS), Nutrient Management Regulations, and changes in Employment Law. Get up to date on research and IPM practices important to vegetable growers and gain a competitive advantage in a heavily regulated market. Each farm will get detailed support in developing food safety and nutrient management plans, training employees in WPS, developing standard operating procedures compliant with regulations, and preparing an employee handbook and a whole farm IPM plan. This course is designed for farm owners, managers and employees.
Jan 10th – Soil and Nutrient Management. Instructors: Katie Campbell-Nelson (UMass Extension Vegetable Program) and Hotze Wijnja (MDAR Chemist, Crop and Pest Services)
Jan 17th – Food Safety Produce Rule Part 1. Instructors: Lisa McKeag (UMass Extension Vegetable Program) and Michael Botelho (MDAR Commonwealth Quality Program)
Jan 24th – Food Safety Produce Rule Part 2. Instructors: Lisa McKeag (UMass Extension Vegetable Program), Michael Botelho (MDAR Commonwealth Quality Program) and Amanda Kinchla (UMass Extension Food Science Extension Faculty)
Jan 31st – EPA Worker Protection Standards. Instructors: Natalia Clifton (UMass Extension Pesticide Education) and TBD
Feb 7th – Advanced Topics in Integrated Pest Management. Instructors: Angie Madeiras (UMass Extension Plant Diagnostician), Sue Scheufele (UMass Extension Vegetable Program)
Feb 14th – Employee Management and Labor Laws. Instructors: TBD
Feb 21st – Incentive Programs (NRCS, MDAR, SARE) and Risk Management. Instructors: Tom Smiarowski and Paul Russell (UMass Extension Risk Management Specialists)
Feb 28th – Snow Date.
While the USDA has taken several steps within their existing authority to help dairy producers who are struggling to stay in business – like last week’s announcement that they will again purchase $20 million in cheese – the most meaningful relief will come from Congress providing additional authority.