Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association

Member News

Welcome to the TOFGA news blog.  Members may post news and notices here for the general public.

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  • 07/08/2017 10:38 AM | Stephanie McCarter Haag
    Bales -800 to 900lbs ( 5ft by 5 ft) Mix of Texas coastal grasses including bermuda, bahia, vetch, wheat, peas, and rye. No chemical fertilizers or chemicals used. Strictly grown by organic methods. In northeast regions near Emory , TX email : smccartermd@gmail.com 
  • 05/22/2017 3:56 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By David Wall

    Japanese beetles Every year, numerous horticulturalists and gardeners get angry when Japanese beetles start eating their roses and vegetable plants, particularly cucumbers and grapes. So, it’s off to the store for anything that’ll kill or repel the pesky critters. The problem with such a tactic is the spray may very well kill a lot more than the intended victims (as in beneficial insects) and spray remnants can get into the underground water table.

    There is, however, an all natural spray you can make yourselves. All it requires is a small effort and time. You need several pieces of eastern red cedar wood, a five gallon bucket, water, and a brick or something similar. A smaller bucket will work, but the five gallon bucket gives you a lot more spray.

    First, gather 5-10 pieces (you can add more) of red cedar wood a couple inches wide and several inches long. These pieces will be smaller if you’re using a smaller bucket. Place them in the bucket. Now, the literature varies a little here, so choose your option. You can fill the bucket with hot water plus a gallon or so of boiling water, or you can fill the bucket with boiling water. At least some boiling water is needed to start pulling cedar oils out of the wood. Put the brick or other weight on top of the wood pieces to keep them from floating on top of the water.

    Now, except for stirring the mixture 3-4 times a day, you just sit back and wait. After 36 or preferably 48 hours, remove the wood, strain out any loose particles of dirt, and pour some of the “cedar” water into a spray bottle. Spray on your infected plants and watch beetles/bugs flee the country!!! Reapply every few days or after a good rain.


  • 05/22/2017 3:50 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    We know many of you are already familiar with NASS (U.S. Department of Agriculture | National Agricultural Statistics Service) thanks to their wonderful sponsorship of the annual TOFGA Organics Conference. But in case you aren't please take moment to read this email and take part in the survey. Their data is some of the only solid data we have on organic and small farmers in the US. And in case you were wondering, all individual information provided to NASS is confidential and only used for statistical purposes.  

    From Gary Keough,  NASS

    In just a few months, America’s farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on their operations and communities by taking part in the Census of Agriculture. Conducted every five years by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the census captures a complete count of all U.S. Farms and ranches and those who operate them. You can find the results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture at https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/.

    The Census of Agriculture provides a unique picture of U.S. agriculture since it shows the contributions of farms of all sizes at the county, State, and national level. It is also the main source for demographic data (age, sex, race/ethnicity) of U.S. farmers.

    NASS is in the final stage for preparing the 2017 Census of Agriculture mailing list. If you are new to farming or didn’t receive a 2012 Census of Agriculture questionnaire there is still time to be counted by signing up at https://www.agcounts.usda.gov/cgi-bin/counts/. Simply click on the ‘Make Sure You Are Counted’ button below and provide the requested information.

    For those of you that work with immigrant or refugee farmers and ranchers and language may be an obstacle, I encourage you to work with your Regional or State Statistician. You can find contact information at https://www.nass.usda.gov/, locate your State in the drop down box in the U.S. map, then follow the Contact link on the left side of the page. For those of you in the New England State, I plan to be contacting you in the next couple of weeks or you can contact me at the gary_keough@nass.usda.gov.

    All individual information provided to NASS is confidential and only used for statistical purposes. In accordance with the Confidential Information Protection provisions of Title V, Subtitle A, Public Law 107-347 and other applicable Federal laws, your responses will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed in identifiable form to anyone other than employees or agents. By law, every employee and agent has taken an oath and is subject to a jail term, a fine, or both if he or she willfully discloses ANY identifiable information about you or your operation.

    Please contact if you have any questions.

    Sincerely,

    Gary R. Keough, State Statistician
    Field Operations | New England Field Office
    53 Pleasant St. Room 3450
    Concord, NH 03301
    Gary_Keough@nass.usda.gov 

  • 05/22/2017 3:38 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Derek Emadi , Emadi Acres Farm 

    Emadi Acres Farm It's undeniable that land prices are increasing without an end in sight, especially here in Central Texas where my farm resides. Lockhart, Texas to be exact. Land access for new and beginning farmers is inching further from the grasp of those who do not want to go into immense debt to begin their career. As I look back on the entire process my wife and I went through to purchase our land at the tail end of the foreclosure crises in 2011, I understand how blessed we are to own our 10 acre farm, but it was a hell of a process. The first time I met our realtor at the property, I knew this was our future home and the land where I would try to build my business. I obsessed on having 5 or more acres because I was taught the conventional wisdom that you need acres and acres to make money in farming. About 6 years later and with many mistakes under my belt, I can fully admit you do not need that much land to have a profitable farm.

    In the first 2 years of my farming operation I was barely making it and siphoning my savings to continue to try and grow my operation to be larger than I could manage. I don’t remember how I found out about market gardening and SPIN (small plot intensive) farming, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is now something I preach to young and beginning vegetable farmers to consider. When looking to purchase property to start growing vegetables for profit, you don't have to spend your life savings to get a huge tract of land. Instead, consider finding a small piece of land that is more affordable.

    I have completely uprooted my farm's original vision to be a hybridized farm of two relatively new styles of growing for profit called Market Gardening and SPIN farming . Market gardening is similar to SPIN farming in that it focuses on growing more with less land. Usually market gardens are under 2 acres, and SPIN uses less than 1 acre. Both grow crops using bio-intensive methods with frequent crop rotations and minimal inputs but have high enough margins to be profitable and sustainable on the smallest of scales. This was news to me at the time because I thought I had to be like the larger farms in our area where you grow in size to accommodate the demand for organic vegetables.

    Because my farm is currently a one person operation 99% of the season, choosing to shrink down from two expanding acres to two small plots that total ¾ of an acre has been the smartest decision I have made to date. It is the main reason I'm more profitable than ever while working less. Limiting the amount of crops I choose to grow and the plot size I’m growing on while using better growing techniques has led to increased production and harvest, increased profits, and less work for this farmer. I encourage you to reshape your thinking from “bigger is better” to “smaller is smarter.” There is no wrong choice in choosing to go big or small; it will be your personal context that guides your path, but small scale farming needs to be considered as a viable business opportunity.

  • 05/22/2017 3:28 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    The TOFGA Board of Directors is seeking to fill the position of Treasurer. The treasurer serves a two year term and is responsible for reporting on the financial health of the organization, planning and fundraising. TOFGA employs an accounting firm to manage payroll and day-to-day finances. Many of the previous Treasurers duties are now handled by the accountant so the Treasurer can focus on fundraising and long term planning. This a great way to add some Board experience to your resume.

    Duties include:

    • Oversee fundraising efforts as an opportunity to work on a long-term development strategy that results in long-term sustainability.
    • Develop projected budgets necessary to qualify for funding opportunities developing these documents for presentation to the full board and outside entities as necessary.
    • Assist in developing the yearly operating budget.
    • Report on the of the financial condition of TOFGA.
    • If needed, deposit money, drafts, and checks in the name of and to the credit of TOFGA in the banks and depositories designated by the board.
    • If needed, endorse for deposit notes, checks, and drafts received by the corporation as ordered by the board, making proper vouchers for the deposit.
    • If needed, disburse TOFGA funds and issue checks and drafts in the name of TOFGA as ordered by the board.
    • Other duties as requested by the President.
    Send nominations to secretary@tofga.org 


  • 04/19/2017 3:50 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    INTERMEDIATE MARKETS FARMER SURVEY

    This study seeks to examine the opportunities and risks of four main marketing opportunities for many farmers—direct-to-consumer, direct-to-institution, direct-to-retail, and selling to intermediaries (such as distributors or food hubs), who in turn sell the products as local food. A national outreach and technical assistance program, conducted by NCAT’s ATTRA Program (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) will be developed based on the results of this research. Take the survey here.

    Short Online Survey

    Please help out our friends at ATTRA/NCAT by participating in this short online survey. They are seeking feedback on their resources and educational programming, and they'd appreciate feedback from TOFGA members and supporters.

  • 01/27/2017 12:22 PM | Emily Erickson TOFGA President (Administrator)

    Dear TOFGA Members, 

    ATTRA/NCAT provides countless resources for farmers in Texas.  Please participate in their short online survey.  More info below!

    ATTRA is currently conducting an external review of the resources and services that we offer to the sustainable agricultural community, and we need your help. Please tell us what you think about how we provide resources, the types of content and materials that we provide, and any impacts you’ve seen as a result of using our resources by completing this short online survey. All answers are anonymous and will be used to support and improve ATTRA's work going forward.

    The survey will be open through the end of February 2017. Feel free to pass it along to others in your network who might have thoughts to share as well. This is an external review being conducted by Kristal Jones, PhD, and any questions about the survey and its goals can be directed to her at kristal.jones@gmail.com.

    Thank you in advance for your time, and for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for ATTRA's mission!

    The ATTRA Team

  • 11/18/2016 10:13 AM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By Glen Miracle

    The Waller County Farmers and Ranchers Cooperative (WCFRC) is a group of farmers and landowners in Waller and surrounding counties that promotes sustainable farming and ranching. The goal is to open markets for our products and provide access to education, training, and equipment, in support of sustainable farming practices. Our diverse membership includes experienced farmers, beginning farmers, landowners looking for someone to farm their land, value-added producers, and members that just want to help farmers and Waller County.

    We emphasize the three pillars of sustainability: (1) stewardship of natural resources, (2) long term profit for members, (3) quality of life for the farm families and their community. Our long term goals include establishing a food hub in the county where growers can sell and store their products, providing freezer space for meat producers, building a commercial kitchen for members to process product, and establishing a demonstration farm for trials and education. We hope to have a local farmers’ market and provide deliveries to restaurants and retail establishments in the greater Houston area. The co-op, occasionally in conjunction with Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), will provide farmer-managed trials and peer-to-peer education. WCFRC hopes to work out an equipment sharing or leasing agreement with PVAMU. The economic impact of a local farm community can help non-farming residents as well, providing employment and economic opportunity in the county.

    Waller County is a mostly rural county with mostly fertile, sandy loam soil. We are close to Houston, the fourth largest consumer market in America. The county is the home of a land grant university, Prairie View A&M. The encroachment of suburban Houston into the county threatens a loss of more quality farmland. Hopefully, farming can become a profitable use of the land and keep the community rural and economically viable. WCFRC will promote organic farming methods and will help people who want to transition to organics, but there is no organic requirement nor inspection of farms at this time.

    This co-op is young and the founding members are ready to to see membership grow. Like any organization we are eager to find committed, driven individuals to help with administration, grant writing, and brainstorming. Most of what we have done so far has been establishing our organizational structure. With help from Greg Koehler of the Texas Rural Cooperative Center, the co-op has established its’ by-laws and registered with the state of Texas. There are no paid employees at this point—all work is volunteered.

    We are open to members from anywhere, not just Waller County. Membership requires a one time $50.00 fee. We have monthly meetings, currently at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Waller County Road and Bridge building. If planning to attend, please contact us to confirm the meeting and get agenda information or request an item be added to the agenda.

    Contact information: P.O. Box 933, Prairie View, TX 77446
    James Larry, President of the WCFRC: educatedlarry@gmail.com
    Glen Miracle: glen@thelaughingfrogfarm.com



  • 09/30/2016 1:00 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By David Wall.

    BSA Troop 101 in Mt. Pleasant, TX, is now in its 6th year of raising vegetables to support the needy. Five of those years have been organic. Starting with less than 100 vegetable plants, the garden has steadily grown to this year’s 1,000 plant size.

    Scouts and parents begin preparing the grounds for vegetablesScouts have to do service projects for the community, and this is a way for them to provide that service as well as see the results. Led by Dave Wall, local gardening activist, merit badge counselor and garden manager, troop members have planted, grown, and picked over 125,000 vegetables in five years. As of early August this year, the garden has produced over 20,000 vegetables weighing over 2,500 pounds, sticking with several varieties of the basic four of tomatoes, peppers, okra and cucumbers.

    New varieties this year include the tycoon tomato and Armenian cucumber. Tycoons are a semi-determinate that is a heavy producer of large fruit that continues to produces in the summer heat. There are two varieties of Armenian cucumber; white and green. Both grow to 24+ inches and weigh anywhere from 2 to 6+ pounds. Participants were at first reluctant to take these large cucumbers until volunteers cut one into slices and had them taste it. Now, they ask for the large cucumbers!

    The garden itself is a model type garden using black plastic mulch with drip irrigation. Plant support is provided by home built 48” & 60” cages, while store-bought cages support peppers. Cattle panels, string netting and string running from pole to pole are also used to provide plant support.

    Ground cover is provided by straw from two round bales and weeds; yes, weeds. As long as the plants get sufficient water and nutrients, weeds don’t seem to bother them. At the 2016 TOFGA conference, a Texas AgriLife Extension speaker admitted that weeds can be an acceptable ground cover!

    For five years, the Titus County Sheriff’s Department allowed the Troop to use their impound lot to grow vegetables, but this year, Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Even the Sherriff said it was too good of a deal to pass up. Rene McCracken, Director of Agriculture, bent over backwards to help the troop, providing black plastic, drip tape, and all the water the plants need. Additionally, they turned over a third of their greenhouse the Troop needed to start seeds. In return, the Troop grew extra plants for the college to sell, and provided a small quantity of vegetables for the college to sell at a local farmers’ market.

    Last year was the worst year for gardening many in the Mt. Pleasant area had ever seen, but though conditions are much the same this year, the improvements at NTCC have ensured great results. All in all, it has been a great deal for all concerned.

    The college greenhouse, with most of the plants on the right half belonging to Troop 101.

    The college greenhouse, with most of the plants on the right half belonging to Troop 101.

  • 09/06/2016 8:54 AM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide cost share assistance to producers, processors, distributors or other handlers of organic agricultural products.

    Eligibility

    Texas-based organic producers (crops, wild crops, and/or livestock) and/or handlers are eligible to participate in the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP). Operations must possess current USDA organic certification to be eligible to receive reimbursements. This means operations either must have successfully received their initial USDA organic certification from a USDA-accredited certifying agent, or must have incurred expenses related to the renewal of their USDA organic certification from a USDA accredited certifying agent between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016. Operations with suspended or revoked certifications are ineligible for reimbursement. The applicable NOP regulations and resources for certification are available on the NOP website at www.ams.usda.gov/nop.

    The cost share program will be conducted on a first come, first served basis.

    Deadline:

    Applications MUST be received by Close of Business (5:00 pm CT) Monday, October 31, 2016.

    How to submit an application:

    Please visit the Organic Cost-Share website to download submission instructions and application materials. TDA will offer two ways to submit your application. We encourage you to try the new online submission application. All you have to do is fill out the required information, attach your documentation and hit submit. Alternatively, applicants may also complete a hard copy form and email to the address listed in the submission instruction.

    Please contact the grants office at (512) 463-6695 or Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov with any questions you have.

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