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Farming Is A Public Service

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FoodTank, April 29, 2015:  Farming is a public service, and the federal government should treat this vocation as such under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Currently the program serves teachers, nurses, doctors, public interest attorneys, government employees, and nonprofit professionals. It's time to add farmers to that list. The preceding vocations are all noble and probably worthy of such classification, but good health from proper nutrition transcends most, if not all of these careers—it's fundamental to our existence—and those who've taken on the burdens of providing it deserve providing-for in return.

Ecologically benign (and beneficent!), sustainable farming is essentially the definition of a public service in every sense of the term. Responsible farms provide the healthy foods that we should all eat more of. Responsible farmers maintain or increase the capacities of their soil to grow food, sequestering carbon and mitigating climate change in the process. Responsible farming does all this without adding noxious chemicals to the food chain and the environment.

What's more, it's a labor of love. Most farms don't make much money, and many farmers count on secondary incomes to support their "habit." Which is fine—most of us do it for a plethora of other, more important, reasons than money. But that financial consideration is a tremendous obstacle to overcome when you're starting out, one that is insurmountable for most.

It's one thing to be able to do an apprenticeship to learn the ropes, if you're able to get away with scraping by for a season. That's what I did, with two-thirds of my discretionary income that year devoted to my student loan creditor. It's entirely different to start an operation of your own, with access to land and capital being so challenging. Add student loan debt into the equation and it becomes a pipe dream.

PA Farmers Open Air Market

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Madison, WI (Morning Ag Clips, April 30, 2015):  The Pennsylvania Farmers Open Air Market will return to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center on Tuesday providing area residents and visitors an opportunity to purchase locally-grown products directly from producers.

The market will operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday through November. A variety of PA Preferred™ registered vendors will offer in-season fruits and vegetables, dairy products, bakery items, cut flowers, Pennsylvania wine and bedding plants.

"Farmers markets and farm stands throughout the commonwealth provide direct access for consumers to enjoy the bounty of Pennsylvania's diverse agriculture industry," said acting Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. "Purchasing PA Preferred products supports our farmers and businesses, while investing in local economies. PA Preferred makes a difference."

Whether you are shopping at farmers markets, farm stands or grocery stores, always look for the commonwealth's official PA Preferred logo, recognizable as a gold checkmark in a blue keystone, to ensure they are choosing products made or grown in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit www.papreferred.com.

For a complete list of farmers markets in Pennsylvania, visit www.agriculture.state.pa.us and click on "Online Services" and then "Farmers Markets and Farm Stands." To receive a hard copy of the Pennsylvania Farm Market Guide, call 717-787-6041 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Farm Show's outdoor farmers market is located just off N. Cameron Street, along Industrial Drive, in the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center parking lot.

For more information on the market, contact manager Meg Gleason at 717-364-9226.

Farm Truck Promotes Healthy Eating

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Montgomery, PA (Montgomery Media, April 30,2015):  County employees and curious pedestrians may have seen a truck with a trailer outside of the Montgomery County Court House April 23, but unless they looked around, they may not have noticed the number of vegetables planted inside.

As a part of the wellness fair hosted by the county outside of the courthouse, Greener Partners, a nonprofit organization, brought fresh produce in their farm truck from Longview Farm in Collegeville.

"We bring this mobile farm to schools, community centers, other venues throughout the region to connect people to local food," said Helen Nadel, the education director of Greener Partners. "The whole point is really about healthy eating."

Nadel explained that when she works with school-aged children she focuses on the science of growing.

"They're digging in the dirt and they're pulling a carrot out of the ground," she explained. "They get excited about eating a carrot in a way that's different."

Record number of organic producers in U.S.

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Sacremento, CA (CA.gov, April16, 2015):  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that the organic industry continues to show remarkable growth domestically and globally, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and a total of 27,814 certified organic operations around the world.

According to data released by the Agricultural Marketing Service's (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP), the number of domestic certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent over the last year. Since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent. The certified operations list is available at apps.ams.usda.gov/nop.

USDA is committed to connecting organic farmers and businesses with resources to ensure the continued growth of the organic industry. Along with programs to support conservation, provide access to loans and grants, fund organic research and education, and integrated pest management, USDA administers organic certification cost share programs to offset the costs of organic certification for U.S. producers and handlers nationwide.

Now, USDA is using funding from the 2014 Farm Bill to develop the Organic Integrity Database, a modernized certified organic operations database that will provide accurate information about all certified operations that is updated on a regular basis. The modernized system will allow anyone to confirm organic certification status using the online tool, support market research and supply chain connections, allow international verification of operator status to streamline import and export certificates, and establish technology connections with certifiers to provide more accurate and timely data. The initial launch is planned for September 2015.

Start Up Takes Vertical Farming Mainstream

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Harlan, IA (Co. Exist, April 7, 2015):  A vacant steel factory in Newark is turning into the world's largest-producing vertical farm. After it begins running later this year, the farm's indoor system of modular, stacked trays will grow around 2 million pounds of baby greens annually.

The $30 million building will be the headquarters of AeroFarms, a company that has been developing vertical farm tech for the last decade. But the company sees the project as just the beginning—and hopes to build 25 farms in the next five years. AeroFarms already has eight smaller farms and five in the pipeline.

"This isn't about one farm, this is about changing the way we grow food as a society," says CEO David Rosenberg. "So this is a showcase, where it's not just about demonstrating the technology but how we grow and how we get to economies of scale to make the economics work."

Rosenberg is convinced that vertical farming will become an important part of agriculture. "It's not going to supplant traditional farming," he says. "But it's going to be part of the picture. By 2050, we need to double our food-growing capabilities. Part of that solution is vertical farming."

While the technology doesn't make sense for row crops like corn and wheat, it works well for something like leafy greens, which sell for more in the grocery store—making it feasible to grow them in or near a city. They also often tend to wilt when they travel thousands of miles from a farm in California to a far away place like New York.

Why We Need Honey Bees To Live

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Washington, DC (RawStory, April 7, 2015):  Between their buzzing sounds, sharp stinger, and the fact they're insects, it's easy to find a reason to run away from bees. Then there are some people who kill them if they get the chance.

You might have noticed over the past two or three years that there haven't been as many flying around during the summer. No, it's not because of those people on the streets killing them, but rather because of a number of other factors including pests, pesticides, fungus, and other factors. There's also a mysterious problem affecting hives across the country called Colony Collapse Disorder, which is characterized by a colony containing only the queen and immature bees — all the adult bees are dead and missing.

It might seem like no big deal all the bees have been dying — in 2006, beekeepers were reporting losses of 30 to 90 percent of their hives — but we really need bees to support our own lives. They're a crucial part of the food chain, pollinating over $15 billion in crops each year, or about one in three mouthfuls from our diets. That's a lot of food, and it includes fruits, like apples and oranges; vegetables, berries, and tree nuts. In fact, bees are entirely responsible for almond pollination.

"There is an important link between the health of American agriculture and the health of our honeybees for our country's long-term agricultural productivity," said Kathleen Merrigan, agriculture deputy secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a 2012 report.


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