Organic Farmer June 2019

jcsmarketinginc10

June/July 2019

Organic Farmers—Experienced or Brand

New—Are All Welcome at NRCS

Organic Dairy: Economic Opportunities

and Challenges with a Focus on California

Multispecies Grazing: Integrating Ecological

Processes and Biodiversity to Promote

Regenerative Agriculture

Organic Spider Mite Control in

Deciduous Trees and Vines

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Organic Farmer June/July 2019

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Organic

FARMER

4

10

16

22

28

30

34

38

IN THIS ISSUE

Organic Farmers—

Experienced or Brand

New—Are All Welcome

at NRCS

Organic Dairy: Economic

Opportunities and

Challenges with a Focus

on California

Multispecies Grazing:

Integrating Ecological

Processes and Biodiversity

to Promote Regenerative

Agriculture

Organic Spider Mite

Control in Deciduous

Trees and Vines

A New Tool Makes it Easy

for Organic Farmers to

Follow the NOP Guidance

on Natural Resources and

Biodiversity Conservation

Organic Carrot Breeding

Delivers Novel Varieties,

Cutting-edge Research for

Vegetable Production

Why Research Matters

Celebrating Organic

Farming in Arizona

16

22

30

PUBLISHER: Jason Scott

Email: jason@jcsmarketinginc.com

EDITOR: Kathy Coatney

ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Cecilia Parsons

Email: article@jcsmarketinginc.com

PRODUCTION: design@jcsmarketinginc.com

Phone: 559.352.4456

Fax: 559.472.3113

Web: www.organicfarmingmag.com

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

& INDUSTRY SUPPORT

Anita Brown

Director of Public

Affairs and

Outreach, USDA

Natural Resources

Conservation

California Service

David Haviland

UC Cooperative

Extension, Kern

County

Kiki Hubbard

Organic Seed

Alliance

Vicki Lowell

Communications

Manager, OFRF

Julie Murphree

Arizona Farm Bureau

Outreach Director

UC COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

ADVISORY BOARD

Kevin Day

County Director and

UCCE Pomology Farm

Advisor, Tulare/Kings

County

Steven Koike

Director, TriCal

Diagnostics

Lee Rinehart

NCAT Agriculture

Specialist

Jessica Shade

The Organic Center

Daniel A. Sumner

the Buck Distinguished

Professor of

Agricultural

Economics,UC

Davis, and Director

of the University of

California Agricultural

Issues Center Dustin

Messner, Student

Research Assistant,

Pablo Valdes-

Donoso Post-

Doctoral Research

Fellow

Emily J. Symmes

UCCE IPM Advisor,

Sacramento Valley

Kris Tollerup

UCCE Integrated Pest

Management Advisor,

Parlier, CA

The articles, research, industry updates,

company profiles, and advertisements in this

publication are the professional opinions of

writers and advertisers. Organic Farmer does

not assume any responsibility for the opinions

given in the publication.

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

3


Organic Farmers—

Experienced or

Brand New—Are

All Welcome

at NRCS

By ANITA BROWN | Director of Public Affairs

and Outreach, USDA Natural Resources

Conservation Service

Organic farmer John Teixeira (center) poses with a few of the

NRCS conservationists working on his farm. From left to right

is Soil Scientist Luis Alvarez, Resource Conservationist Rob Roy,

John, Resource Inventory Coordinator Sheryl Feit and Biologist

Taylor Fridrich.

ORGANIC FARMER JOHN

Teixeira from Lone Willow

Ranch near Firebaugh, California,

first started working with

conservationists from United States

Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)

Natural Resources Conservation Service

(NRCS) when he was already an experienced

farmer with more than a decade

of experience under his belt and a head

full of ideas he wanted to try.

The experienced—and ever

experimental—Teixeira is on his

seventh contract with NRCS—and

is always looking for new, push-theenvelope

ideas for farming ecologically.

He also appreciates that NRCS can

help him plan and pay for the new

conservation approaches. One of the

five activities Teixeira is currently

pursuing with NRCS is to completely

(or nearly completely) source all his

needed nitrogen on-farm—primarily

by using manure and legumes in cover

crop mixes.

One hundred and fifty miles away on

the Pacific coast near Half Moon Bay,

California, organic farmer John Vars of

Fifth Crow Farm visited with his local

NRCS conservationist, Jim Howard,

even before he planted his first crop.

Vars sought out NRCS expertise

for upfront, planning basics like

pipeline placement, drainage and soils

information, and where best to place a

hedgerow before he began applying for

financial assistance.

There is no wrong time to visit NRCS

for the first time.

The path to the office door may be

highly personal for each farmer, but

NRCS conservationists are happy

to meet farmers where they are—

beginning or experienced—organic,

conventional or transitioning. All are

welcome to access the technical services

that NRCS has provided for over 80

years and the financial services available

through Farm Bill programs.

Here is a brief primer on the available

options:

Conservation Planning

Few of us would build a house without

a blueprint. Building a successful

conservation approach to farming

merits the same comprehensive

forethought. NRCS has a well-respected

9-step planning process that has been

used successfully by tens of thousands

of farmers in the last 80 years. It begins

with a resource inventory and is then

based on the goals of the farmer.

Options are provided and the farmer is

the sole decision maker. The final step is

evaluating the results, tweaking where

needed and repeating the process.

Vars offers this comment regarding the

value of this planning process:

Agronomist Valerie Bullard of the Plant Materials Center (PMC) in Lockeford, California, presents

at one of the many workshops held at the PMC to host demonstrations and dialogue over current

vegetative solutions to conservation challenges in the state. Currently the PMC is working on a

number of trials to find ways to improve soil health and pollinator habitat in the Golden State.

“When you first start farming, you

have ideas of what you want to do to be

sustainable and successful, but you can’t

afford it. When you can afford it, you

may find it hard to go backwards—like

where you want a road you may have

already placed your hedgerow.”

4

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


Teixeira, too, has done significant

conservation planning since beginning

work with NRCS in 2009—first working

with conservation planner Rob Roy,

and later, with Sheryl Feit. Feit says,

“Through the years John’s goals have

changed. The NRCS planning process

gives us the flexibility to continue to

adapt our approach and work with him

on his evolving goals.”

Once goals are established, conservation

practices are selected to answer the

farmer’s particular needs and priorities.

The NRCS has a time-tested catalogue

of well over 100 conservation practices

to call into play, though a given land

use (row crops, orchards, grazing, dairy,

forestry etc.) in a given geographic

location will usually lend itself to a

particular subset of these conservation

options.

In California some of the most popular

conservation practices used by organic

farmers in recent years have included

the following: nutrient management,

cover crops, mulching, irrigation water

management, hedgerow plantings,

conservation cover, crop rotation and

high tunnels.

The conservation practices seek to

address resource concerns targeted

to improve the farm’s soil, water, air,

plants, animal and energy needs.

Both Teixeira and Vars have used

well over a dozen separate practices

including many of those listed above.

Don’t Forget the Critters

Beyond the significant needs of running

a farm, organic regulations also require

that producers maintain or improve

natural resources and wildlife. Both

Teixeira and Vars have worked with

NRCS to do so.

The NRCS

Planning

Process

Make

Decisions

Formulate

Alternatives

Evaluate

Alternatives

Identify

Problems

Inventory

Resources

Determine

Objectives

Implement

the Plan

Evaluate

the Plan

Analyze

Resource

Data

The NRCS Planning Process: NRCS has long relied on a systematic approach to conservation planning

that positions the farmer or rancher as the critical decision maker. The process begins with an inventory

of the natural resources found on the farm/ranch as well as a discussion of the problems to be fixed and

the objectives of the farmer. Conservation practices and priorities are proposed and discussed and the

farmer decides on an approach. The plan is implemented and results are evaluated.

FREE online tutorials

on soil health, produce safety, and more

Recognizing the unique habitat

opportunities on his ranch—which

lies between the San Joaquin River and

the Lone Willow Slough—Teixeira has

planned and used NRCS practices to

make room for fish and wildlife on

his ranch. Does that create a problem?

“Well, they may occasionally get a

chicken that has strayed too far, but

that’s not really a problem,” Teixeira says

philosophically.

Continued on Page 6

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June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

5


This poster depicts the unique irrigation system that allows Fifth Crow Farm to thrive side-by-side with anadromous fish. The poster is one of 19

created recently by NRCS and collaborator Lexicon of Sustainability to explain many of the ways that NRCS can assist organic farmers. The NRCS

campaign also features eight videos, fact sheets and other web resources. Find it all here: https://go.usa.gov/xmkNQ

Continued from Page 5

Fifth Crow Farm has the unique

challenge of drawing water from Butano

Creek which is also used by steelhead

salmon. To provide for the farm’s

irrigation needs while minimizing

impact on the fish, Vars and NRCS have

collaborated on engineering a system of

pipes, pumps, variable frequency drives,

risers and a storage tank. “This stream

is the lifeblood of our farm,” says Vars.

The unique irrigation system helps

balance the needs of the fish and of the

farmer that both rely on that stream.

Professional Expertise

NRCS employs a diverse cadre of

natural resource professionals who

provide the expertise needed to work

with farmers and ranchers to plan and

apply conservation practices. These

conservationists include agronomists,

rangeland specialists, soil scientists,

foresters, engineers, biologists and

more. Not all of these will be found in

a given field office (there are 54 field

offices in California—typically one per

county) but experts can be drawn upon

as needed to explore a given conservation

dilemma in more depth.

Additionally, NRCS partners with

many resource specialists who can

complement and deepen the expertise

on staff. Resource Conservation

Districts, university extension specialists

and dozens of others collaborate to

create a sort of “localized conservation

internet,” looping in related specialists

in entomology, ornithology, air quality,

conservation easements, environmental

regulations, energy and more.

Financial Assistance

In the real world, the difference between

having lofty ecological goals and applying

them across the landscape often comes

down to money. Farm Bill programs

provide a number of tools to help make

goals reality.

Environmental Quality Incentives

Program (EQIP) and the National

Organic Initiative (NOI)

EQIP is a popular program that shares

with the farmer the cost of applying

selected conservation practices to

the landscape to realize the farmer’s

conservation goals. In recent years

California NRCS has invested

almost $100 million annually using

this program. Typically, EQIP

provides roughly half of the cost

of most practices and is paid as a

reimbursement once the practice has

been implemented and verified. EQIP

is a competitive program (one out

of every two to three applications is

funded on the average) and projects

are ranked for environmental benefits.

Producers interested in organic systems

should realize significant environmental

benefits and thus are often well

positioned to be funded.

In addition to the “general” EQIP

pool, organic and transitioning

farmers have an additional option

available only to them: the organic

subportion of EQIP called the National

Organic Initiative (NOI). Most of the

practices mentioned in this article

can be funded through either general

or organic EQIP. However, since the

organic funds are available only to

organic and transitioning producers,

the competition is often less when

competing in this pool.

In the new 2018 Farm Bill, which rolls

6

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


out in fiscal year 2020, the amount

that farmers can get through NOI has

increased to $140,000 over the life of

the five-year Farm Bill. Furthermore,

the annual cap has been removed so for

large projects, that entire amount could

be used in one year.

Farmers and ranchers can get up to

a maximum of $450,000, through

the life of the 2018 Farm Bill using a

combination of NOI and/or general

EQIP financial assistance.

To summarize, there is more money

available in the larger pool of general

EQIP funds, but there will also be

more competition. Organic farmers are

welcome to apply for either. Nationally,

more than 1500 organic farmers have

received EQIP contracts in the past

three years, representing an Agency

investment of more than $42.6 million.

Transitioning to Organic

An Organic System Plan (OSP) is

completed by those who wish to be

certified organic. NRCS Technical

Service Providers (TSPs) can help

producers develop a Conservation

Activity Plan for Organic Transition

(CAP 138). CAP 138 consists of three

sections: Resource Inventory, Erosion

Control Inventory, and Summary

Record of Planned NRCS Conservation

Practices. The Resource Inventory

section may serve as a portion of the

farmer’s OSP.

Farmers and ranchers should begin

by working with NRCS to develop a

conservation plan for their operation.

Then, a TSP can develop a CAP

138 for transition and producers

can apply for financial assistance to

implement conservation practices

or enhancements. Nearly 1000

transitioning farmers across the nation

have received CAP 138 contracts in the

last three years totaling more than $15.4

million.

Conservation Stewardship

Program (CSP)

John Teixeira–by himself and in

combination with his brothers—has

had four EQIP contracts—both general

and organic. At this point John has a

comprehensive conservation approach

applied on most of his operation. John

is now on his second Conservation

Stewardship Program (CSP) contract.

Farmers like John who already have

applied significant conservation work

on their operations may be ready for

CSP—which plans and pays farmers

to maintain and further enhance

conservation practices on their

operation.

Using John as an example, he

has established a comprehensive

conservation system on his ranch

but wants to continue to find

additional ways to reach a higher

level of stewardship. Using CSP he is

undertaking new approaches—such

as intercropping, sourcing 90 percent

of his nitrogen on-farm, and using a

deep-rooted cover crop to improve

infiltration.

John says that the ideas and insights he

gains through his CSP enhancements

have also given him good ideas for

trying on his conventional acreage that

he farms with his brothers. Currently,

Continued on Page 8

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Continued from Page 7

he says, he is working on ways to

bring his intercropping approach to

conventional row crops.

Applying for Financial

Assistance

When applying for EQIP, especially

when applying for the first time,

producers should be mindful that

they will need to fill out forms

providing USDA with information

that confirms that they are eligible

to participate in these public-funded

programs. USDA employees can help

with the legal and financial forms

that will make it possible to receive

funding. Most of these forms are not

required for farmers requesting only

conservation planning and technical

assistance.

Special Situations

Most EQIP contracts pay producers

approximately half of the cost of

structures or management. Benefits

for organic producers may be higher

due to the typically greater costs

involved in farming organically.

Additionally, payment rates are

typically higher for those who have

farmed less than 10 years (considered

beginning farmers and ranchers)

and for those with limited financial

resources (defined on a county by

county basis). Beginning farmers

and ranchers who served in the

U.S. Armed Services will receive an

application preference in certain

EQIP and CSP funding pools. Please

inquire with your local NRCS service

center for more information if you

are a military veteran.

Plant Materials Center

NRCS is assisted by special

facilities called Plant Materials

Centers (PMC) that are dedicated

to finding innovative ways to use

plant materials to address resource

concerns such as erosion, pollinator

habitat or better soil health. In

California the PMC in Lockeford

has a robust program that provides

demonstration gardens that are often

the site of workshops and discussion

groups. The PMC is a respected

resource and site for continuing to

find better conservation approaches.

John Teixeira is currently trying to

find a better cover crop approach for

the hot, arid summer conditions in

California’s Central Valley. As is turns

out, that is a key focus for the PMC as

well.

Other USDA Assistance for

Organic Growers

In addition to the many conservation

services organic farmers can find at

NRCS, there are other USDA agencies

and programs that can also offer

important assistance. Two examples

are farm loans and microloans through

the Farm Services Agency and the

cost share assistance that helps pay

for organic certification. In California

the help with the certification fees

are administered by California’s

Department of Food and

Agriculture (CDFA).

Getting Started

While the internet and other

farmers are always a rich source of

information, the best way to delve

into the conservation opportunities

discussed in this article is to get to

know the conservationists at your

local office. NRCS has 54 offices in

California—typically an office in each

county.

Working with farmers is what NRCS

conservationists love most—and the

relationship is mutually enriching.

“We always love it when John comes

into the office,” says Feit, “he always

challenges us with his new ways of

thinking through a situation.” Jim

Howard who works with John Vars in

Half Moon Bay, couldn’t agree more.

Farmers in my area are idea machines

and we just love engaging with them to

find solutions for the land,” he says.

The NRCS field office director is called

a District Conservationist and they are

assisted by soil conservationists and/or

a range of specialists. It’s always a good

idea to call ahead to make sure they

have put aside time to discuss your

farm and your concerns. You can find

your local office at https://www.nrcs.

usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/ca/

contact/local/.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us

at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

8

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


Bio With Bite.

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

9


OPPORTUNITIES FOR

organic dairy producers include

higher market prices and growing

market shares. But, to the familiar

challenges of costs and management

constraints, is added a difficult market

outlook for beverage milk products that

have been the mainstay of organic milk

utilization. This article explores these

issues.

About 18 percent of U.S. milk comes

from California. California also

represents about 12 percent of dairy

consumers, including many who buy

organic milk. Organic milk production

and marketing in California exemplifies

the complexity of the outlook for

this segment of the dairy industry

nationally.

On the supply side, the requirement

that organic dairies make substantial

pasture available to their herd is a

limiting factor for expansion of organic

production in the dry San Joaquin

Valley where most California milk

production is located. In that region,

tree, vine, and vegetable crops compete

for land and irrigation water and typical

milking herds have thousands cows.

Organic Dairy:

Economic Opportunities

and Challenges with a

Focus on California

All photos courtesy of Kathy Coatney.

By DANIEL A. SUMNER | the Buck Distinguished Professor of

Agricultural Economics at UC Davis and Director of the University

of California Agricultural Issues Center, DUSTIN R. MESSNER |

Student Research Assistant, PABLO VALDES-DONOSO | Post-

Doctoral Research Fellow

The organic segment has therefore

concentrated in the coastal hills and

valleys north of San Francisco that

are less suited to intensive irrigated

farming. There, high-priced wine grapes

claim much of the suitable cropland,

and the remaining dairy industry has

shifted to organic practices. Let us

examine some of the economic facts

that drive the situation and outlook for

the organic dairy industry.

Comparing Farm Costs and

Returns

We use data from the California

Department of Food and Agriculture

on dairy farm costs and returns for

more than 100 representative dairy

farms across the state. The reports

identified farms by breed of cow, region

and whether they were organic. Table

1 (see page 12) summarizes costs and

returns for a sample of 13 organic farms

in 2017 (the last full year of available

data) compared to a sample of 96

conventional farms. The organic farms

are mostly in the North Coast region

and the conventional farms are mostly

in the San Joaquin Valley. A typical

conventional dairy has thousands of

Continued on Page 12

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Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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Continued from Page 10

cows and that produce about 24,000

pounds of milk per year each. A typical

organic dairy has a few hundred cows

that produce about 16,000 pounds

per year.

Three facts

stand out in

the cost and

returns data:

• First, although even

the organic dairies in

California are large by

national standards, milk

from conventional dairies

comes from farms that

produce about nine

times as much milk as the

organic dairies.

• Second, costs are

much higher on the

organic farms, with the

difference dominated

by feed and labor costs

that are about double per

hundredweight of milk.

If it were feasible to scale up the organic

industry and continue to return an

extra $3/hundredweight, then the dairy

industry would be rapidly converting

to organic. Some of that is happening,

but it is not easy. Three problems

are: (1) organic dairies require much

more management and land per

hundredweight of milk, and thus scale

diseconomies keep organic operations

small; (2) neither the opportunity cost

of operator time and management or

the scarcity of the required pasture

is included in the costs displayed in

Table 1; and (3) the amount of organic

milk that can be sold at prices that

are almost double conventional milk

prices places a limit on the expansion

of organic dairies, even if the land and

management could be found.

We turn to the size of the market next.

Markets for Organic Dairy

Products

Organic milk is mostly sold in beverage

form nationally and in California.

Figure 1 (see page 14) shows that

the organic share of beverage milk

quantity in California has doubled

in the ten years since 2009 from just

over 4 percent of beverage milk sales

(known as Class I products under

federal regulation) to about 8.5 percent.

But this expansion in share masks a

concern. All beverage milk sales have

fallen, so organic milk has gained a

rising share of a shrinking market.

This overall decline in beverage milk

quantities is severe enough that quantity

of organic beverage milk sold fell from

about 54 million gallons in 2013 and

2014 to about 47 million gallons in

2016 and has remained low through

2018 (using data through October

to extrapolate to the 2018 annual

quantity).

The higher farm price, and

considerations in where and how

organic milk is sold, means that retail

price of organic milk is more than

double the retail price of conventional

milk in California. Organic milk is more

than 20 percent of the total expenditure

on beverage milk in California. Within

the beverage milk category, the organic

milk share tends to be about one

percentage point higher for whole milk

(or 2 percent-fat milk) than for low fat

or skim milk—perhaps reflecting the

tendency for school milk to be low fat

and non-organic.

United States Department of

Agriculture (USDA) data show

somewhat lower national shares of

organic beverage milk than shares in

California. The national share has was

about 5.5 percent or a little less for 2017,

2018 and the first three months of 2019.

Like California the share of organic

in whole milk is higher—about 6.5

percent.

Future Considerations

The higher prices and rising shares

of organic milk are positives for the

industry. Concerns include the limits of

an economic model that requires high

market prices to offset lower milk per

cow, higher costs of feed, higher labor

costs and diseconomies of size

and scale.

Continued on Page 14

• Third, milk revenue

per hundredweight is so

much higher that the net

return per hundredweight

of milk is more than three

times higher (for the lowprice

year of 2017) on the

organic dairies.

Table 1.

Milk production

(hundredweight)

Costs

Feed

Labor

Herd Replacement

Other costs

Revenue

Revenue- costs

Conventional Milk Organic Milk

($/hundredweight)

600,000

66,000

$15.90 $27.74

$8.61

$16.92

$1.85

$3.80

$1.83

$2.14

$3.60

$4.87

$16.71

$30.84

$0.81

$3.10

12

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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Your Edge – And Ours – Is Knowledge.

© 2019, Trécé Inc., Adair, OK USA • TRECE, PHEROCON and CIDETRAK are registered trademarks of Trécé, Inc., Adair, OK USA • TRE-1383, 5/19


8.50%

6.50%

4.50%

2.50%

Figure 1. Organic Share and Quantity of Beverage Milk in

California (millions of gallons)

Organic as Share of Total

Organic quantity

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018

60

50

40

30

20

Continued from Page 12

The higher farm price of organic milk must be supported by

higher consumer willingness to pay and that has been evident for

beverage milk products. One of the challenges for beverage milk

demand has been the expansion in the sales of beverages made

from plant sources, such as soybeans, almonds and many others.

An open question is the degree to which these products tend to

compete for some of the same customers that would otherwise be

drawn to organic milk.

A challenge for growth in the organic dairy industry is how to

raise the willingness of buyers to pay organic prices for such major

dairy products as bulk cheese, whey or dry milk powders that tend

to be used as food ingredients. Overall U.S. dairy production has

grown as beverage milk quantity has declined. It therefore seems

important to expand the demand for organic milk used for other

dairy products, including dairy products used as food ingredients.

Comments about this article? We want to hear from you. Feel free to

email us at article@jcsmarketinginc.com

14

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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15


Multispecies Grazing:

Integrating Ecological Processes

and Biodiversity to Promote

Regenerative Agriculture

By LEE RINEHART | NCAT Agriculture Specialist

Cattle and sheep are natural complementary grazers.

Photo courtesy of Linda Coffey, NCAT.

ORGANIC FARMS ARE

based on diversity, from wide

variation in plant species

composition above ground to the

billions of microbes that make up the

soil microbiome. Ensuring diversity

in the pastures we manage fosters

resilience and productivity, and is a

natural application of our fundamental

organic, agrarian values. Producers who

combine perennial pasture, cover crops

in rotation on annual fields, and good

grazing management with high species

diversity will see benefits to soil health

and increased revenue due to reduced

inputs and higher productivity. This

is particularly important for organic

farmers, who apply nature’s design

to make animals and pastures more

resilient and productive.

“The presence of multiple species of

large herbivores is the typical condition

of grassland and savanna ecosystems,”

says John Walker, a range ecologist

who wrote on the subject more than

two decades ago (Multispecies grazing:

The ecological advantage, by John

Walker, 1994). Early in my career I

was taught to plant one or two species

of pasture forages and graze them

continuously with a single livestock

species. This practice is still evident if

you drive around the countryside and

look critically at pastures. Most often

you see a closely grazed landscape

peppered with the mature stalks from

less-palatable plants. Cattle and sheep

that graze continuously easily select

the newest growth and cause selection

pressure that results in the eventual

demise of the best forages. This picture,

however, can change.

There has long been an interest in

grazing multiple species together,

either sequentially or at the same time.

More producers are adding diversity to

their farms, not only by adding diverse

pasture mixes and cover crops, but with

multiple species of livestock. There are

some very good reasons for doing this.

A well-managed farm with abundant

diversity is generally healthier, has

greater carrying capacity, fewer weed

problems, and higher net income.

Multispecies grazing takes full

advantage of biological diversity.

Those farmers who work hard to

increase pasture-plant diversity will

also see an even greater advantage

by adding diversity of livestock to

the mix. In fact, these ideas go hand

in hand. Multispecies grazing works

best, and excels, when a multitude of

forage species make up the pasture

composition. As vegetation of pastures

becomes more diverse, multispecies

grazing tends to improve composition

and utilization.

Multispecies Grazing Increases

Carrying Capacity

This management practice “may

be one of the most biologically and

economically viable systems available

to producers, especially on landscapes

that support heterogeneous plant

communities” (Managing livestock

using animal behavior: Mixed-species

stocking and flerds, by Dean Anderson,

E. L. Fredrickson, and Rick Estell.

Animal, 2012). Studies have shown

that when you add sheep to a cattle

herd, you get 20 to 25 percent greater

productivity and carrying capacity over

cattle alone, and 8 to 9 percent greater

productivity and carrying capacity over

sheep alone (Walker, 1994).

Ecological Resiliency and

Better Pasture Health

Grazing, when controlled and matched

to the pasture resource, is known to

increase pasture health. Diversity

is key here, and just as diversity of

plant species leads to greater soil

health, having diverse animal species

on the landscape adds a multiplier

effect. Proper grazing increases soil

aggregation, enhancing soil structure

and allowing for better water-holding

capacity and nutrient exchange. Grazing

also contributes soil organic matter

and rumen microbes to the soil that

help to increase biodiversity, buffer soil

temperature, escalate nutrient cycling,

and minimize soil compaction and

disturbance.

Because different animal species have

different grazing habits and select

various forages and combinations of

forages, pastures that are grazed with

multiple species have more uniform

defoliation. Defecation patterns affect

nutrient cycling, and whereas cattle

prefer not to graze around their dung,

sheep generally do not have any bias

about foraging near cow patties. Better

forage utilization and uniformity of

grazing contributes greatly to forage

quality and resiliency by keeping forage

growth constant; resetting the plants

to the same stage of growth with each

grazing event and preventing weedy or

unpalatable plants from taking over.

16

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


Vegetation Management

Pastures that have infestations of weeds

or brush can be grazed with species

appropriate to the plants present. This

reduces the ability of any one species

to dominate the landscape. Grazing

managers must understand the growth

habits of weeds and desirable plant

species and know what animals graze

them, in order to target-graze the weeds,

and allow palatable plants enough rest

to recover. This is especially important

where invasive plants are involved. One

species may eat what another will reject

and, by using the correct livestock,

managers can suppress and reduce a

weed problem in a cost-effective and

ecologically responsible way. With

knowledge of plant response to grazing

and timing of grazing events, grazing

managers can alter the landscape to a

healthy, diverse, quality pasture.

Goats can be used to control weeds and brush in diverse pastures. Photo courtesy of Lee

Rinehart, NCAT.

Parasite Control

One of the biggest benefits of

multispecies grazing is its effect on

parasite management. Cattle will

consume parasite larvae such as the

Barber Pole Worm (a sheep and goat

parasite) and because this worm is

incompatible with cattle, the worms will

die. The same thing happens when small

ruminants consume parasites that are

indigenous to cattle. Because of parasite

larval incompatibility between species,

cattle can be grazed after or with small

ruminants to reduce the incidence of

larval infection.

Continued on Page 18

Annual cover crops provide excellent forage while

adding diversity, building soil organic matter,

and feeding soil microbes. Photo courtesy of Lee

Rinehart, NCAT.

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

17


A small, portable mineral feeder can be used

with electric netting to isolate sheep and feed

them the appropriate mineral. Photo courtesy of

Dave Scott, NCAT.

Continued from Page 17

Managing forage height is key in

controlling internal parasites. As long

as you keep grazing the top leaves of

the sward, and move the animals before

they graze too low, you can significantly

reduce infection. Also, give the

paddocks a nice long recovery period.

This is not only good for pasture health

and resiliency, it also allows parasites to

die off in the pasture before they can be

consumed by a grazing animal.

Animals can deal with a certain amount

of parasitism, and you’ll never be able to

completely eradicate internal parasites

from your herd or flock. However, an

integrated management system with

combined livestock species can certainly

make a dent in parasite populations.

The key here is maintaining a healthy

herd or flock and fostering natural

immunity through good nutrition,

clean, fresh water, and pasture access.

One of the best methods for controlling

parasitism, in addition to observation

and targeted treatment, is culling and

selection for resistance when breeding

and acquiring new animals.

Diversity of Enterprises/Income

Grazing two or more species together

has been shown to increase animal

production (Walker, 1994). As was

mentioned above, the carrying capacity

is increased when two or more livestock

species are grazed on the same pasture.

This results in higher productivity and

increased cash flow from the greater

production of added enterprises.

Predator Control

Due to their size, small livestock like

Guardian dogs may be an essential part of your

farm if you have small ruminants. Photo courtesy

of NCAT.

sheep and goats are targets for predators

such as coyotes, mountain lions,

wolves, bears, and even neighborhood

dogs. The first line of defense should

be strong, adequate fencing. But,

depending on your location and

predator pressure, fencing may not be

enough to protect your livestock. Sheep

and goats can be better protected by

a combination of adequate fencing,

bonding to larger livestock species (such

as cattle, donkeys, or llamas), and using

guardian dogs.

When small ruminants are bonded to

cattle to form one herd/flock (or, ‘flerd’),

they tend to remain together in a group

that provides safety from predators and

takes less time to manage. Bonding

species together imparts many more

benefits as well. For instance, cattle

fencing can work very well for sheep

when they are bonded to cattle. Grazing

distribution is enhanced as sheep and

goats tend to spread out more evenly as

they graze with cattle, compared with

flocks that are not bonded.

Key Considerations for

Implementing Multispecies

Grazing

Fencing and Working Facilities

Fencing is probably the most critical

and challenging component of

multispecies grazing from a practical

standpoint, and is a crucial question

given the size and behavioral differences

between livestock species. Your fencing

should serve multiple purposes.

Certainly, you’re going to want to keep

your animals off the highway or out of

the neighbor’s garden. But you’ll also be

Two strands of electrified poly-wire can work

well to contain grazing sheep in a paddock.

Photo courtesy of NCAT.

using your fencing as a tool to control

grazing in specific areas for specific

animals.

Your perimeter fencing should be

strong and permanent. Be sure to pay

attention to gates and areas where

terrain changes, or where fallen trees

or stumps are near the fenceline. Goats

have an uncanny ability to squeeze

between gates and posts that otherwise

work well for cattle or sheep.

Next, you’ll be thinking about how

to deal with pasture and paddock

subdivisions. This is the working part

of your fence system that will place the

animals just where you want them and

will help you manage grazing for the

benefit of the livestock and the pasture.

There are so many options out there,

and the first thing to think about is what

you have on hand. Is it appropriate for

multiple species? Polywire or polytape

can work for cattle, sheep, or goats,

especially if you use three strands.

If you want to use polywire or polytape,

train animals to the wire by placing

them in a pen with a hot polywire and

just expose them to it for about a week,

so they can get used to the new idea.

These materials are portable and allow

you to adjust paddock size as resources

and herd size demand. For small

paddocks, electrified netting works

great and is easy to move.

For larger paddocks, some producers

have suggested that woven wire with

two electric wires, offset and at the top,

works best for sheep and goats. A really

Continued on Page 20

18

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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19


Continued from Page 18

hot wire fence is sometimes the only

way to deter some predators. A 30- to

50-joule charger is not unwarranted,

because you want to instill fear of the

fence in any predator that encounters

it. Dave Scott, a NCAT agriculture

specialist and sheep rancher in

Montana, recommends that producers

with high predator pressure buy a

charger that is twice the joule rating of

what they initially think they need.

Working Facilities and Shelter

A well-designed handling system

considers the welfare and behavioral

tendencies of the animals, ease of

movement, efficient and safe operation

by handlers, and the overall image of

the livestock industry as seen by the

consumer.

A livestock handling facility should

be constructed to accommodate a

particular class of livestock. Because

of the size differences between cattle

and small ruminants, they cannot both

use the same chutes and restraining

systems. However, if you have a

combined herd of cattle and sheep or

goats, a system could be built to take

care of both species if you have a single

trap or holding pen that would provide

access to two separate chute and

restraint systems; one for the cattle, and

one for the small ruminants.

Livestock require very little in the way

of shelter, but do need to be protected

from wind chill, especially when it’s

cold and raining. Animals use energy to

maintain their body heat, and extremes

in temperature can cause stress,

notably for young animals. For cattle,

windbreaks or a grove of trees or woods

can often provide what they need to get

out of the weather. And, although sheep

and goats don’t require much shelter,

either, it’s important to note that goats

typically don’t like rain. Lambing and

kidding can and should, in most cases,

occur on pasture, where the animals

have access to fresh air and flock

behavior, but young lambs and kids are

very sensitive to wet and cold. For the

safety of young animals, especially in

winter and foul weather, animals can be

brought into a barn prior to parturition

and kept there for several days after

lambing or kidding, until the young

ones gain their footing and are ready for

pasture.

Mineral Supplementation

Grazing different species together can

cause some logistical problems that go

beyond fencing and working facilities

and require producers to think about

new ways of accommodating the needs

of different animals. One of these issues

is mineral supplementation. Cattle

mineral should not be fed to sheep due

to sheep’s lower tolerance of copper.

Stocking-Rate Decisions

The goal in determining a stocking

rate is to find a combination of two or

more livestock species that will produce

more total gain, while maintaining the

integrity of the pasture ecology and

improving the pasture composition.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for

determining a stocking rate, but as

with single-species systems, it should

be based on empirical observation

of forage production and plant

composition.

Your stocking rate will likely vary from

year to year, and even from season to

season, and will change depending

on temperature, rainfall, pasture

composition, animal growth rates, and

many other factors. Also, remember

that sheep and goat herds grow more

quickly than cattle herds. Within a

few months you can easily go from 50

sheep to 150 sheep, and this will place

added pressure on your pastures. Be

sure to take this increased herd size into

account when you are planning your

grazing.

Stocking rate is dependent on the

available forage resources of the

landscape and the kind of management

employed to ensure pastures are well

rested. If you have adequate, diverse

forages, maintain a short grazing

period, move animals regularly, and

provide adequate pasture rest, you can

increase your stocking rate. Remember:

implement, observe, adapt.

If you are just starting out with

multispecies grazing, it might be best

to stock a little conservatively. This

will allow you to observe and adapt.

Greg Brann, a multispecies grazier

in Tennessee and a retired Natural

Resources Conservation Service

(NRCS) professional, suggests matching

the livestock stocking ratio to the

vegetation that livestock prefer. He’s

found that a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio of sheep to

cattle works well as a starting point.

Pigs can be an excellent addition to a

multispecies grazing operation. They

work well following cattle and sheep,

and can help renovate old, worn-out

pastures. Maintaining adequate ground

cover is a challenge for pastured swine

producers, and, if not managed, pigs

will strip a pasture bare, which has

negative impacts on soil and water

quality. To ensure pasture productivity,

provide a varied pasture mix of diverse

legumes, forbs, and grasses. Stock the

pigs appropriately with around 15 to

20 growing pigs or four to seven sows

per acre and rotate! Make sure there is

adequate time for pasture regrowth.

Multispecies grazing is all about

matching animals to the appropriate

landscape. It’s about having the right

fencing and working facilities for

the species you’re working with.

It’s about managing parasites and

predation and ensuring proper mineral

supplementation. Finally, it’s about

determining an accurate stocking rate

to use the pasture resource efficiently

Photo courtesy of NCAT.

20

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


and sustainably. With these principles

in mind, combining multiple species

on pasture can be successful, profitable,

and fun.

Resources

ATTRA has developed some in-depth

resources and training programs to help

you plan, implement, and monitor your

managed grazing system:

ATTRA's Managed Grazing

Tutorial

https://tutorials.ncat.org/

This course was designed to help

producers manage toward productivity

and resilience. Topics include inventory,

infrastructure, managing the mature

stand, intensifying grazing, stockpiling,

fertility and soil health, and monitoring.

Grazier's One-Stop Resource

Packet

https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/

summaries/summary.php?pub=587

Includes useful planning tools for

managed grazing, including a Clip

and Weigh Forage Yield Calculator,

Grazier's Calculator for matching

forage to animal demand, a Monitoring

Checklist, and a Grazier's Math tipsheet

with useful formulas.

This article has been adapted from

the ATTRA publication Multispecies

Grazing: A Primer on Diversity

(2018), by Lee Rinehart. Download the

publication at https://attra.ncat.org/

attra-pub-summaries/?pub=244

Lee Rinehart has been writing and

educating on sustainable agriculture for

over 20 years. A graduate of Texas A&M

University and an Agriculture Specialist

for NCAT’s ATTRA Sustainable

Agriculture program, his work focuses

on agronomy, livestock, and grazing.

Lee can be reached at 479-587-3474 or

lee@ncat.org.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

"

Stocking rate is dependent on

the available forage resoures of

the landscape and the kind of

management employed to

ensure pastures are well rested.

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June/July 2019

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21


Organic Spider

Mite Control in

Deciduous Trees

and Vines

By DAVID HAVILAND |

UC Cooperative

Extension, Kern County

Figure 1. Spider mites are known for the construction of webbing. All photos courtesy of D. Haviland.

MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

for spider mites in tree and

vine crops are a classic opportunity

to implement integrated pest

management (IPM) practices. It requires

proper identification of the mites,

monitoring programs that include both

pests and natural enemies, treatment

thresholds that consider biological

control, and in some cases miticides.

When IPM practices are in alignment,

biological control is often sufficient to

provide season-long mite control. When

chemical controls are needed, choice

of a selective miticide that has minimal

impact on natural enemies helps maintain

the integrity of an organic production

system.

Proper Identification

For deciduous trees and vines, the most

significant spider mite problems are

caused by Pacific and two-spotted spider

mites. These two species have a nearly

identical appearance in the field. During

the winter they are orange in color while

adult females hide in protected areas,

such as in leaf litter or under loose bark.

During the spring, typically in March

or April, they move up the tree or vine

and take on an amber color after feeding

on green leaf tissues. Spider mites are

generally slow moving and are often

found in association with webbing

(Figure 1). They lay spherical eggs

within this same webbing. Both species

have two spots on their abdomen, for

which the two-spotted spider mite gets

its name.

Spider mites need to be distinguished

from predatory mites, also called

phytoseiids, which are an important

natural enemy of spider mites.

Phytoseiids are typically amber to clearcolored,

have a tear-drop shape, and are

shiny due to a lack of hairs. They do not

produce webbing. Phytoseiids do not

have spots on their abdomen, produce

conical eggs that are often found within

spider mite webbing, and are often seen

moving quickly on the leaf surface.

Monitoring and Treatment

Thresholds

Monitoring programs for most tree

and vine crops can be found at the

University of California Statewide IPM

Program web site (http://ucipm.ucanr.

edu) by clicking on ‘Agricultural Pests’,

then selecting a crop, and then clicking

‘webspinning spider mites’. In most

commodities, monitoring efforts begin

by evaluating individual leaves or leaflets

for the presence or absence of spider

mites and natural enemies. This should

be done in multiple locations within an

orchard or vineyard, and can typically

be done rather quickly, especially

considering that counting individual

mites or natural enemies is not required.

These data are used to calculate a

percentage of leaves with the presence

of spider mites and natural enemies

that can be compared to published

guidelines regarding the need to treat

for each commodity (Table 1, see page

24). Pest Control Advisors (PCAs) are

encouraged to keep written records

of their monitoring efforts, such as on

the forms linked in Table 1, to justify

their treatments. These records are also

beneficial when looking at multi-week

trends in mite populations. For example,

should an almond PCA be concerned

if 20 percent of almond leaves are

infested? The answer depends on the

context. If multi-week sampling shows

Continued on Page 24

22

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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June/July 2019

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23


Table 1. University of California Statewide IPM Program

monitoring forms and treatment thresholds.

Almond

Treat if 25 percent of leaves have mites and there are no natural

enemies, or if one third of the leaves have mites and natural enemies

are present. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C003/almonds-mites.pdf

Walnut

Treatment decisions are made by sampling leaflets in the top and

bottoms of the trees. Avoid treatments if predators are present on at

least half of the leaves. If predators are present on fewer than 10

percent of infested leaves, spray when 10 percent of the leaves have

spider mites. If predators are present on more than 10 percent of

infested leaves, spray when 20 percent of leaves have spider mites.

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C881/walnut-mitemon.pdf

Grape

Treatment decisions are determined by comparing mite injury levels

(light, moderate, heavy, or very heavy) to predator-prey ratios (predators

are rare, occasional, frequent, or numerous).

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C302/grape-leafhoprmite.pdf

Use presence-absence sampling to determine a mite rating (low,

low/moderate, moderate, moderate/high, high) that is compared to a

predator rating (low, moderate or high). A treatment should be made if

there is a low/moderate mite rating with a low/moderate predator

rating, or a moderate/high mite rating with moderate/high predator

rating. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C602/peach-mitesampling.pdf

Continued from Page 22

Peaches, Nectarines and Plums

Cherries

Treat if 25 percent or leaves have mites and there are no natural

enemies, or if one third of the leaves have mites and natural enemies

are present. http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/C003/almonds-mites.pdf

that it was only 5 percent last week,

intervention is likely required. If it was

50 percent last week, then 20 percent

infested leaves this week indicates that

natural enemies will likely be adequate

to provide control.

Biological Control

Natural enemies play a key role in

regulating spider mite populations in

all commodities, especially in ones

grown organically. It is for that reason

that monitoring for natural enemies

is critical when making the treatment

decisions that were previously described.

The diversity of natural enemies changes

according to commodity, geography,

regional diversity of cropped and noncropped

areas, and history of pesticide

use.

Phytoseiids—There are approximately

70 different species of predatory

mites in California. In a statewide

survey led by Dr. Grafton-Cardwell,

a team of extension farm advisors

and specialists from the University of

California documented that the species

differ among crops, different climatic

regions of the state, and at differ times

of the year. Some phytoseiids, such as

Galendromus occidentalis, are excellent

predators of spider mites, while other

species, such as many in the genus

Euseius, prefer to feed on pollen.

Regardless of the exact species and

feeding preferences, all predatory mites

are known to benefit biological control

programs. Growers should monitor

for them and protect them if present.

Several species that are important in

trees and vines, such as Galendromus

occidentalis and Neoseiulus californicus,

can be purchased from commercial

insectaries and released to augment

natural populations, particularly in

the spring.

Six-spotted thrips—Over the past decade

sixspotted thrips has become the most

important mite predator in California

almonds, and has been known as an

excellent mite predator in stone fruit for

several decades. Sixspotted thrips get

their name from spots on the wings of

the adults (Figure 2, see page 25). They

are voracious feeders and exclusively eat

mites and mite eggs, with the exception

that they will also eat each other when

their preferred food is scarce. They

thrive in hot, dry conditions and are

very good at navigating within spider

mite webbing.

Over the past few years, yellow sticky

cards have been shown to be the

preferred way to monitor for sixspotted

thrips. The most effective is the small

yellow strip trap (3 inch x 5 inch)

that can be purchased through Great

Lakes IPM (Figure 3, see page 25).

Cards can be hung from a tree branch

using a binder clip and large paper clip

near the locations of other traps, such

as pheromone or egg traps for navel

orangeworm, peach twig borer, codling

moth or oriental fruit moth. Traps can

be checked weekly to determine the

number of sixspotted thrips present

(Figure 4, see page 25). Data from

almonds show that if one thrips is found

per card per week, there is no need to

use miticides in April or May. In June

24

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


and July, if there are three thrips per

card per week there is a 50 percent

chance that mites will be the same or

lower within 14 days. If six thrips are

found per week there is a 72.7 percent

chance mites will decrease within

seven days, and 96.6 percent chance

they will crash within two weeks.

Mite destroyer beetles—Small black

ladybugs, called mite destroyer

beetles, are commonly found in

orchards with spider mites (Figure

5). This beetle feeds exclusively on

mites. Advantages of this species

are that they eat many mites, and

live a long time. Disadvantages are

that they develop slowly and do not

often appear until very late in the

season, long after they were needed.

For this reason, it is important to

observe and protect this species, but

probably not wise to overly rely on it

for mite control, especially during the

spring and early summer when mite

management is

most critical.

Figure 2. Sixspotted thrips get their name from the spots on wings of the adult.

Other predators—There are several

other species of insects that feed

on spider mites. Some of the most

common are minute pirate bugs and

green and brown lacewings (Figure

5). These species are generalists

and also feed on scales, mealybugs,

aphids, and other pests in trees and

vines. These generalists have an

advantage that they can survive on

many different foods while mites are

absent and be ready to eat the mites

when they appear. Conserving these

beneficials is of great importance in

an organic system.

Cultural Controls

Spider mites respond directly to plant

stress by increasing their populations.

This can be stress due to water, such

as insufficient irrigation, that is either

accidental or done intentionally (such

as deficit irrigation practices used

to improve wine grape quality or to

synchronize hull split in almonds). It

can also be caused by poor nutrition

programs, excessive heat, root

systems damaged by nematodes or

disease, or even a heavy crop load.

Dust also promotes spider mites. It

Figure 3. Yellow sticky trap for sixspotted thrips.

Figure 4. Sixspotted thrips on a sticky trap.

Continued on Page 26

Figure 5. Larval stage of a green lacewing (top) and adult spider mite destroyer beetle (bottom).

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

25


Mites per leaf

3.5

3

2.5

2

1.5

1

0.5

Figure 6. Evaluation of three oil-based miticides against Pacific

spider mite in almonds, Kern County, 2018.

4

0

4DAT 7DAT 14DAT

21 DAT 27DAT 33DAT

Biomite Cinnerate TetraCURB 415 Oil Water Untreated

Miticide,

Insecticide,

Fungicide

• Fast, high efficacy results

• Powdery mildew, botrytis, rust

– knockdown & curative

• Mites, controls all life stages

and eggs

• Scale, mealy bug, aphid

and more

• Safe on beneficial predators

• Multi-site activity – no known

resistance

• Tank mix compatible with sulfur

• Excellent crop safety

Continued from Page 25

is for that reason that many growers

are adamant about adherence to speed

limit signs on the farm. Growers that

limit dust in their trees and vines, have

excellent irrigation and fertilization

practices, and are good at managing

nematodes and diseases, typically have

less problems with spider mites.

Miticides

There are occasions where biological

and cultural controls are insufficient to

provide adequate spider mite control.

In this case, when thresholds dictate the

necessity, miticides can be used. Most

of the miticides available to organic

farmers are oil-based, with many

containing plant-based oil extracts

such as clove oil, rosemary oil, garlic

oil, or extracts from plants such as

chenopodium. Oil-based pesticides

kill mites by causing them to suffocate,

with some products also having other

toxic effects. During 2018 we evaluated

three examples of oil-based miticides,

including Biomite, TetraCurb and

Cinnerate (Figure 6). While not as

effective as traditional miticides used

in commercially-grown fields, all

three products did cause significant

reductions in the number of spider

mites to levels that were comparable to a

1 percent 415 oil conventional standard.

These results are consistent with the

performance of several OMRI (Organic

Materials Review Institute)-approved,

oil-based plant extract or botanical oil

miticides that we have tested over the

past several years.

For More Information

Growers and PCAs in search of methods

to control spider mites or other pests

should consult the UC Integrated

Pest Management web site at http://

ucipm.ucanr.edu. Guidelines for the

management of each pest contain

information specific to the biological

and other control methods available to

organic farmers.

0-Hour REI

0-Day PHI

No MRL

www.sym-agro.com

541-607-5097 Info@Sym-Agro.com

Disclaimer: Discussion of research

findings necessitates using trade names.

This does not constitute product

endorsement, nor does it suggest

products not listed would not be suitable

for use.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

26

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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27


A NEW TOOL MAKES IT EASY FOR

ORGANIC FARMERS TO FOLLOW THE

NOP GUIDANCE ON NATURAL

RESOURCES AND BIODIVERSITY

CONSERVATION

By JESSICA SHADE | The Organic Center

All photos courtesy of John Quinn.

THE CONCEPT OF HEALTHY

farms brings to mind fertile soils,

clean water, and abundant wildlife.

These amenities or ecosystem services

were at one time taken for granted, but

are now increasingly in the news and

scientific literature, as we recognize that

many are being degraded.

Biologically Diverse

Agricultural Ecosystems

Organic farmers rely on biologically

diverse agricultural ecosystems to

maintain resilient farms in the absence

of synthetic chemicals. Services

provided by healthy agricultural systems

include the production of food, fiber,

and fuel, biological control, pollination,

biodiversity conservation, aesthetic

landscapes, carbon sequestration,

climate control, purification of air and

water, production of high quality soil,

flood control, and breakdown of waste

into nutrients. Though ecosystem

services are provided free of charge,

their estimated global value exceeds

$33 trillion dollars per year. Beneficial

species such as insects and birds, for

example, provide an estimated $4.5

billion in biological pest control and

$3.1 billion in pollination services

annually. These ecosystem services also

reduce the need for external inputs

and increase yields—improving profits

and sustainability. Furthermore, such

practices aid local conservation efforts.

In 2016 the National Organic Program

(NOP) published its Guidance on

Natural Resources and Biodiversity

Conservation, a direct response to the

need for supporting on-farm ecosystem

services through organic agriculture.

Unfortunately, the guidances provided

are vague, placing the burden of

designing and implementing technical

plans on the farmer. This task is

complicated by the fact that variation

in farm size, type, and geographic

location all influence the feasibility and

effectiveness of biodiversity-friendly

farming techniques making a “one-size

fits all” conservation recommendation

impossible.

Research continues to identify

techniques and specific on-farm

best practices that will result in a

biodiversity increase on farm systems,

but translation of this information

for farmers remains limited, as does

on-farm implementation. These

shortcomings continue despite the

benefits that can be gained by

organic farmers.

Compliance Tool

To address this, The Organic Center and

Dr. John Quinn of Furman University

have collaborated to develop a NOP

28

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


Four management goals:

• PLANNING

• MANAGEMENT

• RESTORATION

• PRESERVATION

Strip Cropping.

Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation

Guidance Compliance Tool, which provides a farmerfriendly

means of examining biodiversity with an

interactive front-end interface that includes the mandates

released by the National Organic Program in order to

aid farmers in technical decisions to increase on-farm

biodiversity and comply with the new guidance.

The tool can be accessed here, and details ways that

farmers can find and measure biodiversity on their fields.

For example, diversity can be measured as the number

of livestock breeds on a farm, the number of crop species

planted in a field, the presence of unique wildlife in a

pasture, or habitat patches across the farm. As a complete

biodiversity inventory is not practical for a farm, suitable

indicators are needed. The tool suggests indicators for

general, crop, and livestock Organic System Plans for each

of the following four management goals:

• Planning

• Management

• Restoration

• Preservation

In addition, to guide standardized reporting as part of

annual United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

NOP certification, the tool can be used to generate a

formal report.

Lastly, the tool is designed to encourage farmers to set

annual biodiversity conservation targets and follow a

more formal land use planning process. Thus for each

category, farmers are asked to choose the best indicator

for their farm, the current values that they observe on the

farm, and where they would like to see their farm change

to address each biodiversity indicator in the next two to

three years.

Recognizing the importance of ecosystem services to

human well-being is an essential first step to sustaining

healthy ecosystems now and for the future, and it is

essential to ensure that the broad array of services is

part of the decision-making process. The NOP Natural

Resources and Biodiversity Conservation Guidance

Compliance Tool seeks to improve how decisions

are made by providing a cohesive way for farmers

and certifiers to track on-farm biodiversity in a way

that makes it easy to follow the Guidance on Natural

Resources and Biodiversity Conservation.

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29


Organic Carrot Breeding

Delivers Novel Varieties,

Cutting-edge Research for

Vegetable Production

By KIKI HUBBARD | Organic Seed Alliance

All photos courtesy of Organic Seed Alliance.

THE U.S. ORGANIC INDUSTRY

continues to grow, with sales of

organic food reaching $47.9 billion

in 2018 and the number of organic

farms estimated at over 14,200. Organic

carrots increasingly make up a larger

share of overall carrot production—14

percent of the estimated 100,000 acres

of carrots grown in the U.S. are certified

organic (compared to three percent of

total vegetables grown organically).

Growing carrots organically isn’t easy,

however, given the extensiveness of

major diseases and pests, and the cost

of managing weeds. More than 80

percent of U.S. carrot acreage is infested

with one or more of the most common

pests or diseases: root-knot nematodes,

Alternaria leaf blight, and other foliar

and storage diseases, such as cavity spot.

The future of organic carrots therefore

relies on the development of effective,

non-chemical methods for addressing

these challenges, including managing

weeds in this slow-to-establish crop.

Breeding a Key Factor

Organic farming takes a whole-systems

approach to addressing plant nutrition

and challenging weeds, diseases, and

pests,” says Micaela Colley, program

director for Organic Seed Alliance. “In

important ways, organic growers rely

on the genetic characteristics of the

seed they plant even more than other

growers, since most pesticides and

fertilizers are not allowed under organic

regulations.”

“That’s where plant breeding comes in,”

Colley adds.

Seed provides growers the genetic tools

to confront day-to-day challenges in

the field, and breeding plants in the

environment of their intended use—in

this case, under organic conditions—

can yield many benefits. Enter the

Carrot Improvement for Organic

Agriculture (CIOA) project, a multiregional

plant breeding collaboration

between the United States Department

of Agriculture’s (USDA)/Agriculture

Research Service (ARS), University of

Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University,

University of California-Riverside,

Organic Seed Alliance, and Washington

State University. It is the first publicly

funded organic carrot breeding project

in the U.S., and the USDA’s Organic

Research and Extension Initiative

(OREI) grant program recently awarded

the project a second round of fouryear

funding—and for good reason.

The project’s successes thus far are

noteworthy.

Dr. Philipp Simon is the coordinator of

CIOA and has been breeding carrots

for 40 years. He holds a joint position

with USDA ARS and the University

of Wisconsin-Madison’s Horticulture

Department. Simon has learned a lot

in the last decade about the needs

of organic carrot growers and how

CIOA can turn their production

challenges into breeding opportunities.

To that end, CIOA’s main goal is to

develop orange and novel colored

carrots with improved disease and

nematode resistance, improved weed

competitiveness, and better nutrition

and flavor. That’s quite the genetic

package, but progress toward releasing

new varieties has been efficient—and

relatively quick—thanks to the project’s

variety trial network that expands

across the U.S.

Variety Trials

In 2018, CIOA variety trial sites were

located in California, Hawaii, Indiana,

Maine, Washington, Wisconsin,

Vermont, and Virginia. Each site

tested a different mix of 34 promising

advanced breeding populations (these

are varieties that are nearly uniform

enough to release commercially).

Simon is especially excited to see more

evidence that the most important

traits are “fixed.” This means that from

general appearance to disease resistance

to flavor, CIOA partners are finding

that the varieties in development are

performing relatively similar across trial

locations.

“From a breeding standpoint, the

process of putting together the right

combination of traits and then having

them reliably expressed across regions is

so important,” Simon explains. “CIOA’s

extensive trialing network is providing

us more confidence that certain traits

will express in varying environments,

allowing us to accurately report just

how well the overall varieties perform

in different regions across the U.S.”

Simon says that two traits in particular

are worth noting: top size and

nematode resistance. Research shows

that carrots with bigger tops help

suppress weeds, a costly production

challenge for all carrot growers, not

just organic. CIOA breeders have had

success in incorporating this trait into

breeding lines to support better weed

competition.

CIOA is also having success in breeding

orange and novel colored carrots that

demonstrate resistance to the two major

30

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


species of root knot nematodes, tiny

roundworms not visible to the naked

eye. Nematodes live in soil and feed on

plants, leading to malformed, stubby,

and hairy roots, and tougher skin and

lower yield. Furthermore, growers

who aren’t organic are losing access to

chemical fumigant and spray controls,

making breeding for resistance that

much more important to the entire

industry.

Emerging Science

CIOA’s research is contributing to

emerging science regarding beneficial

microbe associations with crops as well.

Plants (including carrots) associate with

a diverse assemblage of microbes living

on the surface and within plant tissues,

which is now commonly called the plant

microbiome. Some of these microbes

have the potential to help plants acquire

nutrients and withstand biotic and

abiotic stress, so identifying factors that

affect their recruitment and survival is

important to optimizing plant growth.

CIOA partner Dr. Lori Hoagland and

her research team at Purdue University

have determined that a carrot’s genotype

plays a small, though significant, role

in shaping these beneficial endophyte

communities, indicating it may be

possible to select varieties that are more

apt to recruit them from soil. Other

studies are underway to determine if

researchers can identify differences in

carrot genotypes in how they interact

with soil microbes to facilitate organic

matter decomposition, which could

be important for managing organic

nutrients.

Collaboration

The CIOA project team takes a

participatory approach to plant

breeding, where farmers, formal plant

breeders, and members of the seed and

food industry collaborate on setting

project priorities and evaluating the

results. Evaluations have also closely

involved consumers of organic carrots

to ensure that breeding projects not

only meet the needs of growers with

traits like disease-resistance, but

also meet the expectations of the

market. Not surprisingly, flavor and

nutritional content are of top priority

to consumers of organic carrots. CIOA

hosted seven variety tastings in 2017

and 2018 to gather feedback on their

projects from consumers, focusing on

flavor, texture, color,

and appearance. This

feedback is evaluated and

then informs breeding

decisions moving

forward.

Novel Colored

Carrots

Novel colored carrots—

yellow, red, and purple—

are increasingly popular

among consumers and

chefs, yet they’re in

need of serious breeding

attention. Much of the colored carrot

germplasm collection hasn’t been

improved for, or even tested in, organic

systems. One exciting finding is that

within this collection is the expression

of important traits, including large tops,

bolt resistance, and vigorous seedling

growth. CIOA breeders are improving

this material to also include disease and

pest resistance characteristics as well as

good flavor and nutritional value. For

example, breeders are testing CIOA

carrots for their level of carotenoids

and anthocyanins (both are naturally

occurring pigments that offer health

benefits), among other nutritional

elements.

Continued on Page 32

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

31


Micaela Colley is program director for Organic

Seed Alliance, a partner in CIOA. In this photo

Colley is reviewing carrot variety trials in El

Centro, California.

The Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture

(CIOA) project is coordinated by, Dr. Philipp

Simon with USDA-ARS and UW-Madison. Here

is Dr. Simon harvesting carrot trials in El Centro,

California.

The Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture

(CIOA) project will soon release new colored

carrot varieties that were bred under organic

farming conditions. Pictured here are carrots in a

variety trial conducted in El Centro, California.

Continued from Page 31

The CIOA project takes a classical

approach to carrot breeding, starting

with intercrosses to combine traits

from two breeding stocks in one

offspring population. So, for example,

intercrossing breeding stock with good

flavor and an unrelated nematode

resistant carrot, to develop a new

breeding line with both good flavor and

nematode resistance. As CIOA breeders

develop DNA markers to track genes

controlling these traits in carrots, the 5

to 10 year process of combining traits

will be be reduced. That is good news

because carrot growers and consumers

are interested in improvements for

many traits.

Challenges

Simon says one challenge the project

has encountered is finding suitable

carrots for the Southeast region, where

the subtropical climate proves difficult

for production. But trials in Virginia,

and in the tropical climate of Hawaii,

have provided promising leads on

which material is worth pursuing as

part of CIOA’s breeding work. They

hope to identify even more material in

2019 to help meet this need.

New Releases

For now, CIOA is poised to release

several varieties adapted across

geographical regions in the U.S. Project

partners plan to release at least half

a dozen varieties within the next two

years, including a purple-orange carrot

and some red varieties. Reds are of

special interest to organic growers, who

report having limited options that have

good flavor.

CIOA has already released some

breeding lines with exceptional

nematode resistance to other

breeders, including a carrot breeding

collaborative in British Columbia, as

well as to the organic seed industry.

These lines support the breeding

work of others, resulting in even

more improved varieties entering the

marketplace. CIOA’s intent is for the

products of their work to remain in

the public domain: free of intellectual

property rights that restrict the ability of

farmers and breeders to freely operate.

CIOA believes it’s important that

everyone have continued access to use

and further develop these new varieties

and breeding lines that were supported

through public funding.

CIOA partners also hope new varieties

coming out of their project will be

produced organically and successfully

commercialized to help organic

operations meet the requirement to use

certified organic seed when available.

Although gaps remain in the organic

seed supply, availability in organic seed

has expanded tremendously over the

last 15 years. Organic plant breeding has

played an important role in this growth

to ensure that more diverse organic

seed options are available—and it will

continue to play a meaningful role.

2018 Farm Bill

Congress recently passed the 2018

Farm Bill, which more than doubles the

amount of research funding available

to the USDA’s OREI program, CIOA’s

funding source. By 2023, $50 million

will be available each year to support

research that benefits existing organic

growers as well as transitioning growers

who face a steep learning curve when

adopting organic practices. Because

organic research often focuses on soil

health and alternative pest and disease

management, the results benefit all

farmers—not just organic.

“One of the long-term impacts of

CIOA—and of publicly funded organic

research in general—is that graduate

students working on this project

are developing expertise in organic

systems,” says Colley. “They represent

the next generation of plant breeders

and agricultural researchers. And the

demand for and interest in organic

farming is only growing.”

This article first appeared in Carrot

Country.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

32

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

33


WHY RESEARCH MATTERS

By VICKI LOWELL | Communications Manager, OFRF

prosperity of organic farming. While

modest in size, OFRF grants have played

a crucial role in advancing the careers

of young scientists, many of whom have

subsequently advanced to influential

research, teaching, and public-service

careers in organic agriculture.

ORGANIC FARMING IS A

more knowledge- and sciencebased

way of doing things. For

example, you need to understand the

life cycles and biological interactions of

pests and you need to know how soil

works. It’s a completely different system

than non-organic farming—that’s

why research focused on organic is so

critical.

The goal of the Organic Farming

Research Foundation (OFRF), a nonprofit

organization founded in 1990, is

to advance organic agriculture through

scientific research. As a champion of

organic farmers across the U.S., we

work to foster the improvement and

widespread adoption of organic farming

systems by cultivating organic research,

education, and federal policies that bring

more farmers and acreage into organic

production. Through these efforts, we

are working to create a more resilient

and sustainable agricultural system that

values healthy environments and healthy

people.

So much has changed since we began

nearly thirty years ago. Back then,

OFRF's Soil Health and Organic Farming series includes

eight guidebooks and webinars on best organic practices for

organic farming research

was not a well-studied field,

and the United States Department of

Agriculture (USDA) was more than a

decade away from certifying organically

grown products. Here we are today

with a Farm Bill that makes significant

investments in organic agriculture—

including $395 million for organic

research and education over the next ten

years. This increase in federal funding for

organic research makes OFRF’s support

of innovative work at the early stages

more critical than ever. Our seed grants

enable researchers to collect the data

they need to leverage much larger federal

funding to continue to work at a larger

scale.

About Our Research Program

OFRF regularly surveys organic farmers

about their experiences, challenges, and

information needs, using that feedback

to determine research funding priorities.

The proposals we fund are evaluated for

both their scientific merit and ability

to address these farmer priorities. We

require all research be conducted on

certified organic farmland.

Close collaboration with

farmers as research directors

and participants is a hallmark

of our program as this tends

to ground the work in the

real-world challenges facing

producers. Farmer involvement

also helps ensure results

that can be quickly adopted;

field days and other types of

outreach are also important

factors when we evaluate

proposals.

To date, OFRF has invested

over $3 million in 344 research

grants. Overall, OFRF grant

funding has advanced scientific

knowledge and improved

the practices, ecological

sustainability, and economic

In April, we announced the first of five

grants OFRF will award this year, funded

in part by a match from the Foundation

for Food and Agriculture Research

(FFAR), and aimed at funding research

related to improving soil health and

reducing the negative environmental

impacts commonly associated with

agriculture.

The grant provides funding to a team of

researchers at Montana State University

led by Dr. Jed Eberly to evaluate the

effects of seeding rates on lentil yields

and competition. This project is

important to farmers in the Northern

Great Plains, where lentils are used

for diversifying wheat-based cropping

systems, and are one of several pulse

crops (legumes such as dried beans,

chickpeas, lentils, and peas harvested

solely for dry seed) used to promote

biodiversity, improve soil health, and

generate income.

Details on all of our 2019 grants will

be announced soon. Sign up for our

newsletter to hear about the innovative

work we’ll be funding this year.

Outreach and Education

Our research grant program is one part

of OFRF’s three-pronged approach to

supporting the success of organic farmers

and ranchers. Providing educational

resources is also an important part of

our mission. Our recent Soil Health and

Organic Farming series of guidebooks

and webinars provides an analysis of

decades of research related to building

soil health and organizes it by topic for

greater accessibility and ease-of-use.

The overwhelming response to the series

surprised even us, revealing an explicit

need for more science-backed education

on best organic and sustainable practices

for building soil health. The guidebooks

have been downloaded over 16,000 times

and the webinars have been viewed more

than 6,000 times. Topics range from

cover cropping to conservation tillage,

and all of the guides are available for free

at ofrf.org.

building soil health. Continued on Page 36

34

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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June/July 2019

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Continued from Page 34

Another important vehicle for sharing

research is OFRF’s Organic Agriculture

Research Forum, an annual event that

takes place in conjunction with major

farming conferences across the U.S. Most

recently, we were in Portland, Oregon at

Organicology with a full day of research

presentations from across all disciplines

related to organic farming and food

systems. A poster session immediately

following the presentations added to the

breadth of topics presented throughout

the day. Jim Myers, a Professor of

Vegetable Breeding and Genetics at

Oregon State University, summed it up

best. “I really like the multi-disciplinary

approach and format. It allowed me to

catch up on a lot of areas.”

On the “Hill”

Our third core area is in policy, where

we advocate for federal programs and

policies that support the unique needs

of organic agriculture, working to

ensure the voices of organic farmers and

ranchers are heard in Washington, DC.

In 2002, OFRF was instrumental in

securing the first dedicated USDA

funding for organic agriculture of $3

million annually. In the 2008 Farm Bill,

OFRF worked to secure $78 million for

organic research, a historic five-fold

increase from the $15 million allocated in

the expiring 2002 legislation. Now in the

2018 Farm Bill, we can proudly say that

USDA’s funding for organic agriculture

research became permanent, steadily

increasing to $50 million annually by

2023. The bill continues to support the

National Organic Certification Cost

Share Program, provides increased

funding and enforcement authority for

the National Organic Program, and

supports the vital Organic Market and

Production Data Initiative.

The bill also makes important changes

to conservation programs that support

organic agriculture. The Environmental

Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

organic initiative had a restrictive

funding cap that has been raised, and

the Conservation Stewardship Program

(CSP) will provide program funds

to states for the support of organic

production and transition to organic

agriculture. This bill also encourages

cover cropping, resource-conserving

crop rotation, and advanced grazing

systems, which are important tools

for organic farmers and ranchers.

Additionally, the bill makes important

policy improvements to support organic

crop insurance education, promotion of

organic products, and allows for states to

mediate farm disputes impacting organic

production.

While it is exciting to see this increased

level of support for organic farming

and organic research in the Farm Bill,

its passage is just the first step. OFRF

will be working to inform this increased

investment by working to ensure future

research and programs are relevant and

responsive to the top challenges facing

organic producers and that education

and resources are broadly disseminated.

Because we all know that farmers and

ranchers have a major stake in curbing

further climate change—we need to

address the barriers to transition and

scaling up.

OFRF puts farmers first—we do not

charge an annual membership fee and

all of our resources are available for free.

Sign up for our newsletter at ofrf.org to

get the latest news.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

Graduate student,

Tim Jacobs, explains

OFRF-funded research

on biosolarization at

California Polytechnic

State University, San Luis

Obispo, California. This

is a technique organic

farmers can implement to

control weeds, pathogens,

and nematodes. Photo

shows bare soil where

biosolarization was

used and weeds where

biosolarization was not

used. Photo courtesy of

Vicki Lowell.

36

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

37


Aerial show of McClendon’s Select farm.

Celebrating Organic

Farming in Arizona

By JULIE MURPHREE | Arizona Farm Bureau Outreach Director

HIGHLIGHTING THE MOST

available figures from the United

States Department of Agriculture’s

National Agricultural Statistics

Service (USDA/NASS), in 2016, the

United States has 14,217 certified organic

farms that produced $7.6 billion

in certified organic products. Of those

14,000 certified U.S. organic farms,

Arizona had 38 of them.

Sound like small numbers for this

desert state? Maybe. But when you

consider that one of the largest certified

USDA Organic farms is in Arizona

(Duncan Family Farms) and that we’re

planting and harvesting 365 days out of

the year, this southwest state does pretty

darn well with the organic farming

effort. And, it’s not over yet. Wait

until USDA/NASS releases their latest

certified organic numbers.

Of those 38 certified organic farms in

Arizona, $117.8 million in certified

organic products was recorded by

NASS. Of the 33,183 acres of certified

land in Arizona, 27,063 acres were

cropland and 6,120 acres were

38

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


pastureland or rangeland. The top two

certified commodities sold in Arizona,

according to NASS, were spinach with

sales valued at $24.7 million and lettuce

with sales valued at $18.8 million.

Another caveat to these numbers,

USDA/NASS isn’t counting those

farms adhering to most of the organic

practices but simply are not certified.

So, our numbers could be much larger.

These numbers mean something, but

the real story to dig in on is down on

the farm.

Organic Farming Came

Naturally to Arizona

Recently interviewing Mark Schnepf,

owner of Schnepf Farms in Queen

Creek, Arizona, he said, “We have a

mini-Sonoma Valley feel going on

here.” He was referring to the cluster of

U-pick, agritainment farms clustered all

over Arizona.

Their main crop is their organic peach

orchard that provides a u-pick setting

during harvest season. “We grow eight

different varieties at the farm,” Schnepf

explains. “What I consider to be the two

best include Early Grand and Florida

Prince. Peach trees can get up to 15 feet

tall if you let them. But we never let

a tree get that tall to ensure a fruitful

u-pick experience. We trim from the

time our trees are little and we shape

our trees so that ladders are not needed

by the public. Ultimately trimming the

peach trees so they’re low to the ground

and you can reach all the peaches by

just standing on the ground and picking

the fruit.”

Peaches from Schnepf Farms have been

named and featured in Wine Spectator

Magazine as the best in the country and

for over 50 years, the Schnepfs have

continued to extend their season by

planting more orchards with different

varieties. Besides their two other

peaches, peaches like Earligrande,

Springcrest, and Florida King are all

popular varieties that grow extremely

well in the Desert climate.

Schnepf ’s Peach Season begins before

any other location in the United States.

It’s an incredible season that typically

lasts six to seven weeks! The different

varieties ripen at different times

which means customers must plan

accordingly.

The Schnepf Farm peaches are their

number one crop. So, they are very

particular about the way they care for

their trees and even open the farm

up to the public. They used to have

a “Peach Festival.” In the first year,

they picked the orchard clean in three

hours. It got so big, and the peaches

become ripe at various times thanks to

mother nature, they decided to spread

it out and not feature a festival.

The interesting story behind the

generational Schnepf family farm is

that it started out years ago as a very

traditional farm: cotton, wheat and

alfalfa. Mark Schnepf and wife, Carrie,

saw an opportunity in the market

and went for it. Today, their farm is

nationally recognized.

And, their story isn’t unusual.

Another Success Story Comes From

Robert (Bob) and Marsha McClendon.

Local and organic sells better than

either one alone. Just ask Bob and

Marsha McClendon, members of

Arizona Farm Bureau and owners of

McClendon’s Select; a retail/directmarket

farm. They’re so niched and

specialized, they shake their own

heads at how strong the demand is for

their product.

Bob and Marsha, along with their

son Sean, his wife, Kate, and their

grandson Aidan grow exclusively

USDA certified organic, all local, on a

limited amount of acres and mainly to

chef-owned, chef-directed restaurants,

never to chain restaurants. They sell

directly to the public at two Saturday

Farmers’ Markets, Uptown and the

Old Town Farmers’ Market during

their growing season. They started

selling at the Town and Country

Market more than a 17 years ago, and

forged relationships with customers

and chefs that have lasted and grown

ever since.

“We only wanted to work with

restaurants that are passionate about

using organic, local produce,” says

Marsha. They have developed such a

following of such chefs that the farm

now has a waiting list of restaurants

wanting to do business with them.

From top to Bottom, Sean McClendon,

Kate McClendon, Marsha McClendon,

Bob McClendon, Aidan McClendon in

tractor wheel.

Beginning with 25 acres, Bob says, “We

continue our quest for excellence even

as we expand

our acreage.”

They sell citrus, vegetables, dates and

honey, along with many specialty items

that are in high demand from chefs

and market customers, like heirloom

tomatoes and baby greens. During

the season, they grow more than 200

kinds of fruits and vegetables. It is their

relationship in working with chefs to

find their needs that have led them to

try new crops, such as Yuzu, Gilfeather

Rutabaga, Spigariello, and Sun Gold

Tomatoes.

Arizona has only a handful of growers

catering exclusively to chefs and the

resort market, but the niche is lucrative.

Others in the business describe the

same kind of customer waiting lists

and a clientele that may call up one

season begging and pleading to have a

new type of vegetable to feature for a

restaurant’s seasonal menu.

If there is anyone that knows about

farming in the direct-market segment,

it’s McClendon.

“Direct-market sales directly to

consumers of any kind of food item

that’s locally grown continues to be

popular,” says Bob.“People more and

more want to know where their food

comes from. Customers are even

focused on how the food is packaged.

For example, I sell honey. Many of my

customers would prefer to purchase

honey in glass bottles. So, I sell my

honey in glass and plastic containers.”

And, while Arizona has plenty of

organically-managed farms, McClendon

is a serious advocate to the USDA

Certified Organic label. Here’s why.

Continued on Page 40

June/July 2019

www.organicfarmermag.com

39


Continued from Page 39

“First, the term organic can’t be used

unless it’s USDA certified,” explains Bob.

“There’s another group called Certified

Naturally Grown. Right now, you can go

online and get your backyard certified

Naturally Grown. They use the good

ole boy approach where Sam Jones

wants to be certified and he calls Phil

Roberts who lives a mile down the road

to come by and say, “Oh, yes, you’re

certified.” They claim they are the same

standards as the nationally certified

organic standards, but the big difference

is there is no independent third-party

inspection and review. It’s a way to get

around the USDA Organic certification

without the expense, the trouble and the

compliance.”

He adds: “The value in the USDA

Certified Organic program is that the

public has a great deal of trust in it. It’s

the only standard that they can hang

their hat on. They know with a high

degree of trust in this program they are

getting a true (organic) product. Plus,

the penalties for non-compliance can

be really stiff. From the time we became

USDA Organic certified our business

has grown exponentially.”

Bob McClendon even has marketing

advice for the organic farmer, especially

McClendon’s select.

those just starting out and struggling

with managing the business. “Live the

business,” he says. “Get to know your

customers. Define the market and cater

to that market and meet that market’s

needs. If they go into a farmers’ market

and see an opportunity they first need

to assess the status quo and figure out

how to do it better. (The aspiring directmarket

farmer) must ask how they can

offer something different, something

better; high quality. Sometimes, it’s the

simplest shifts in how they are doing

something, for example, if they’d just

keep something cold by packing the

produce in ice. If not, within two hours

you will have a wilted product but don’t

expect to sell it.

“Customers want to see and know

who grew their stuff. As a result,

either Sean, my son, or I are at the

market. Don’t send the hired help to

put out a bunch of stuff to sell. Directmarket

farmers also need to have an

educational mindset. If they put out

a variety of produce they should be

prepared to tell people how to cook

it because they’ll ask you. They’ll also

ask how to cut the produce. We have

people that work market hours to talk

to our customers about cooking and

recipes. It’s the educational part of what

we do. If our customers know how to

cook something, they want to know a

different way to cook it.”

Today, McClendon’s Select has grown.

Their 93 acre operation included

growing crops on 68 acres adjacent

to the Cancer Treatment Centers of

American in Goodyear, Arizona.

Helping Arizona Families

Connect to Local and Organic

Farming

We’ve all heard the statistic: by 2050,

almost 75 percent of the world’s

population will be urban. And most

of us, including Arizona families are

generationally removed from the farm

even though America began very

agrarian. So, if American families have

no contact with the source of our food

other than eating it, we have a real

challenge with making a reconnection.

Arizona Farm Bureau realized the

importance of this and set out to make

a difference. The opportunity to meet

a modern-day farmer growing food

for the local market is not a difficult

connection to make if you think

creatively. We did it through Fill Your

Plate.

Fill Your Plate is an online, searchable

database of Arizona farmers and

ranchers that can sell food products and

certainly local Arizona food directly

to Arizona families. We stay Arizona

focused. Two other searchable databases

include recipes and our statewide listing

of farmers markets. And, the majority of

farmers featured on Fill Your Plate are

organic growers, certified and

non-certified.

Launched in 2007, Arizona Farm

Bureau’s Fill Your Plate serves to help

form a unique relationship—a common

bond—between Arizona farmers and

ranchers and Arizonans. In fact, it’s

one virtual way to build community!

Fill Your Plate provides chefs and our

Arizona families with an opportunity

to find and purchase locally grown food

and along the way make friends with

the farmers and ranchers who grow our

food.

One of our regular Fill Your Plate users,

Arizonan Janel Rogers and mom of

Continued on Page 42

40

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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Aerial shot of the Peoria farm.

Continued from Page 40

three, said, “The wealth of information I

can find at this website, including their

weekly blog is so useful and why I use it

regularly.”

On the site, viewers have all sorts of

entertaining opportunities to engage

beyond just the searchable producebased

database. They can search for

recipes, read what local celebrities are

saying about food and view a number

of the videos we’ve produced for the

site. We even provide information

about how food prices are trending and

nutritious tidbits that highlight Arizona

fruits and vegetables and meat products.

It’s a cornucopia of insights that once

you’ve begun to use Fill Your Plate

your mouth will water in anticipation

of biting into an Arizona apple or

barbequing some of Arizona’s famous

and tasty beef.

Our Commitment to the

Organic Farmer

Arizona Farm Bureau has more than

25,000 members. Of that number, about

2,700 are agriculture members. And,

we represent all agriculture. Our farm

and ranch members are small, medium

and large, organic and conventional and

they grow and raise just about anything

you can imagine. Our organization is

a big tent and works for organic and

small producers, especially because of

the challenge’s beginner farmers face.

Farm Bureau provides financial services

and asset protection for all sizes of

operations and any type of production.

This, because the agriculture in Arizona

is so diverse.

In fact, Shane Burgess, dean of the

College of Agriculture and Life

Sciences, the University of Arizona calls

Arizona the “Nutrition State.” His main

point in calling Arizona a nutrition state

is because we can grow almost anything

with our 300-plus days of sunshine,

letting us plant and harvest every month

of the year.

But, why does Dean Burgess call

Arizona the nutrition state? “When

you take a look at what contemporary

science considers our optimal diet for

physical function and our ability to

think and learn (often described as a

Mediterranean or Okinawan diet) it

looks a lot like what is produced by

Arizona agriculture,” he says. “Imagine

we were to stop food imports to Arizona

and so we could only eat what we

produce here; how would we feel about

that and how healthy would we be? We

come out pretty well (arguably better off

than many of us are today).”

Burgess goes on to talk about the

market segments in agriculture in

this state. “Not only is this about what

products Arizona produces but what

market segments it delivers into. For

example (and with apologies to those

I miss), if you are like me and care

about sustainable optimal production

with lower water use and minimized

pesticide application you can get

transgenic (GMO) crops; if you want

to have certified organic food you can

get that; if you want “local” you can get

that; you can chose grass-fed or grainfed;

if you want “heart-healthy,” that’s

no problem. If dairy is your thing—no

problem. If you want salad at Christmas

dinner—sure, have at it at bargain

prices with negligible “carbon miles.” If

you want some great wine or beer, you

can get that. We even have exceptional

aquaculture production. Of course, this

will require some actual cooking and

families eating together.

“Obviously, I am not actually

suggesting or advocating we carry out

this experiment; it’s simply one way

to visualize the amazing diversity of

primary production Arizona possesses.

We are not the biggest farm and ranch

state by any means, but there are few

that can boast what we can deliver to a

table and to lower health care costs.”

And that is what makes Arizona

farming and ranching so special,

especially our local, organic farms that

are growing such an array of agriculture

that the list of products goes on and on.

Comments about this article? We want

to hear from you. Feel free to email us at

article@jcsmarketinginc.com

42

Organic Farmer June/July 2019


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