Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association

Member News

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

 Join TOFGA!  we are always ready to expand our roots.

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  • 04/16/2018 3:07 PM | Michelle Akindiya

    Now Accepting Applications for Fall 2018 Farmer Starter

    Farmer Starter is an immersive farmer  training program designed to provide aspiring farmers with the essential the skills and experience needed to manage a sustainable farming business. We are located on a 10 acre working, certified organic, diversified vegetable farm outside of Austin.

    Through a blend of in-field training and formal classroom education, the 18 week program trains students in:

    • Organic and sustainable growing methods

    • Soil and fertility management

    • Organic pest and disease control methods

    • Greenhouse management and propagation

    • Holistic farm planning & crop planning

    • CSA distribution and management

    • Equipment use & maintenance

    • Business planning

    • Marketing

    Find out more and apply at 



  • 04/05/2018 4:23 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    By David Wall

    Many gardeners prefer synthetic fertilizers because they work so quickly, by directly feeding plant roots. Unfortunately, they don't improve the soil, are subject high leaching, and over time actually degrade soil by destroying beneficial organisms, thus hindering vegetable growth and fruiting. Organic fertilizers work slowly, because they have to be converted to a form the soil can use. BUT, they feed the soil and allow the soil mycorrhiza to feed your plants. They provide nutrients at a rate soil mycorrhiza can use, so very little of the fertilizer is lost to leaching. Virtually 100% of organic fertilizers are good for the soil. Synthetic fertilizers only have a small percentage of useful nutrients. A 15-5-10 fertilizer, for example, means than only 30% of the contents are useful to soil.

    To keep nitrogen in a useable form, partially decomposed organic matter (humus) is required. Without something to hold it in place, nitrogen can revert back to a gas and be lost or be washed into underground waterways by watering or rains. In a low organic soil content, more nitrogen fertilizer will be lost than used by your vegetables. Later after your vegetables die, nitrogen will be lost unless there is sufficient organic matter to hold it.

    While nitrogen is important for above ground growth, below ground roots and above ground flowerings need phosphorous. There is a problem, however, because while phosphorus doesn't readily leach, it is tightly held, even if large quantities are available. Only a tiny portion is available for your vegetables. Any remaining overabundance, however, prevents plant uptakes of both iron and zinc.

    Potassium is needed by your vegetables for overall plant growth, good water use, fighting diseases, resisting pests, and increased drought resistance. Potassium shortages relate to slower growth and yellow leaves. Basically, potassium assists with all plant functions.

  • 03/06/2018 10:46 AM | Michelle Akindiya

    Sunday, March 25th, 1 - 4 pm: Intro to Soil Science and Fertility Management

    What exactly is soil? How does it supply nutrients to plants, and support life? How can we as farmers best care for the soil? This class will explore the incredible ecosystem that is soil. You will learn how to evaluate soil texture and what that can tell you and techniques for nurturing the soil biome and building fertility.

    SUnday, April 6th, 1-4 pm: Soil Chemistry and Interpreting Soil Tests

    Confused by all those abbreviations? Cations got you down? This class will take a look at what is happening on a molecular level in the soil and what that means for you. Learn how to take a proper soil test and how to make sense of the results. If you have soil test results—bring them!

    Register at https://www.farmshareaustin.org/calendar-events

    Each class is $25, but if that doesn't fit your budget, e-mail education@farmshareaustin.org for financial support.
  • 02/15/2018 10:57 AM | Michelle Akindiya

    Come and learn the proper techniques to harvest, clean and store your crops in order to get them to market in peak condition. We will also cover key aspects of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule.

    Sunday February 25th from 10am to 3pm

    Learn more and register at: https://www.farmshareaustin.org/calendar-events

  • 02/05/2018 8:51 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    Are you currently creating or expanding an agricultural business in Texas? Consider applying for the 2018 Young Farmer Grant (YFG) program. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) is now accepting applications for these grants, and we hope to hear from you!

    YFG is administered by TDA under the direction of the Texas Agricultural Finance Authority (TAFA). The purpose of this program is to provide financial assistance in the form of dollar-for-dollar matching grant funds to individuals between the age of 18 and 46 years of age who are engaged or will be engaged in creating or expanding an agricultural business in Texas.

    Additional details, instructions and the 2018 Round 2 application materials can be found here. Applications are due by the close of business (5 p.m. CT) on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Contact the Grants Office at (512) 463-2537 or by email at Grants@TexasAgriculture.gov with questions.

  • 01/11/2018 3:12 PM | Michelle Akindiya

    Is there an area of sustainable growing or farm management that you feel you need more help in and would love to take a class on? Farmshare Austin is planning a series of classes and workshops this spring and summer. We'd love your help in planning this programming.

    Please take our short survey here:


    Your feedback is incredibly valuable. We hope to help connect you to the resources you need to grow your sustainable farming business and nurture the craft of growing food in Central Texas.

    Many thanks,

    Michelle Akindiya

    Farmshare Austin Education Manager


  • 01/08/2018 3:03 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    by David Wall

    Out of 300+ articles written and published, this will probably be the one ignored the most!!!  Nevertheless, it contains information that needs to be said!  Under the heading of take care of me now or TAKE CARE of me next spring, tools need maintenance.

    First and foremost, get them clean.  Dirt will probably absorb moisture during the winter leading to tool rust, so it needs to be removed.  This can be a simple wiping with a cloth to spraying with a hose, to soaking metal parts in soapy water and scrubbing with an abrasive rag.

    Once each tool is clean, check to make sure screws, nuts, and bolts are tight.  Moving parts should move freely.  Lubricating with oil or WD40 may be needed.  Clean the underside of your mower before sharpening the blade.  You can always tell a dull mower blade by looking at the grass after mowing.  A sharp blade will leave a clean cut, whereas a dull blade will leave a jagged tip and perhaps a dead leaf blade about an 1/8th of an inch.

    Since you sharpened you lawn mower blade, what about any hoes you may have?  It is amazing how much better they chop with a sharp blade.  Once the tools are sharp, clean, and tightened, put some oil on a rag and wipe down the metal parts.

    Now that the metal parts have been taken care of, look at the wooden parts.  Unless you paid a little extra to avoid having a wooden handle, use some sort of wood protector to keep the handles from drying out, cracking, and eventually breaking after giving you several splinters!

    Where engines are involved, inspect the filter, grease wheel hubs, and change the oil & spark plugs.  Either provide this maintenance, or replace your tools fairly often!

  • 01/08/2018 3:01 PM | James Buratti TOFGA Secretary (Administrator)

    Elections are around the corner and will take place at the 2018 Conference on Feb. 2, 2018 in Georgetown, Texas!  

    TOFGA Regional Director positions are open for Regions 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 (click link for map of TOFGA regions) and for these officer positions: President, Secretary, and Treasurer.

    We are currently accepting nominations for these positions.  Any member can nominate another current TOFGA member.  Nominations must be made 30 days prior to the date of the election, which means nominations must be submitted by Wednesday, January 3rd.  

    To nominate someone, please submit the following information to president@tofga.org by Wednesday, January 3rd.

    Nominee Information:

    First and Last Names

    Email Address

    Phone Number

    Brief Bio (3-5 sentences)

    Is nominee a current member of TOFGA?  (Current membership as of January 2, 2018 is required)

    Nominee information will be collected and compiled for membership review leading up to the TOFGA Annual Conference, Feb. 1-3, 2018 in Georgetown, Texas.  Elections will take place on Friday, February 2: Regional Director elections at the Regional Meetings at lunch and officer elections at the member meeting that afternoon.

  • 11/17/2017 2:14 PM | Michelle Akindiya

    Farmer Starter is an immersive farmer training program on a working, certified organic vegetable farm outside Austin. The 18 week course is designed to provide aspiring farmers with the essential the skills and experience needed to manage a sustainable farming business.

    Through a blend of hands on in-field training and formal classroom education students learn:

    • Organic and sustainable growing methods

    • Soil and fertility management

    • Organic pest and disease control methods

    • Greenhouse management and propagation

    • Holistic farm planning & crop planning

    • CSA distribution and management

    • Equipment use & maintenance

    • Business planning

    • Marketing

    Now accepting applications for Spring 2018!​

    January 23rd - May 24th

    Find Course Details and Application 

    at www.farmshareaustin.org

    Limited scholarship and work/study opportunities available

    Deadline to Apply : December 15th

    E-mail education@farmshareaustin.org for more info

  • 10/20/2017 1:03 PM | Emily Erickson Andrew Smiley (Administrator)

    Get $20 for 20 minutes of your time!  

    Growers asked to provide feedback on crop insurance

    NCAT wants to hear why you buy crop insurance —or why you have decided you can live without it. The 2014 Farm Bill increased access to crop insurance for organic, diversified, and specialty-crop growers. Most notably, the USDA was required to offer a new insurance product—Whole-Farm Revenue Protection—that allows farms to insure virtually any combination of commodities (including livestock) under a single policy. So far, though, very few of those who are eligible have taken advantage of the new opportunities. Confidential and anonymous, the survey takes just 20 minutes-- on any computer, smart phone, or other mobile device-- and is open to anyone who is farming or ranching commercially in the U.S. Results will be used to plan educational efforts and make recommendations to the USDA. A $20 honorarium is offered to early responders. (Honorarium funds are limited.). Growers may take the survey at www.ncat.org/cropinsurance, and are encouraged to share the link widely. For more information, e-mail cropinsurance@ncat.org. Funding for the survey is provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award #2014-51300- 2222.

    Organic Cost-Share Reimbursement applications due by October 31, 2017!

    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.  Payments are limited to 75 percent of an individual producer's certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 per certificate or scope of certification (crops, livestock, handling, wild crops).  Eligible applicants are encouraged to use the online submission link. All you have to do is fill out the required information, attach your documentation and hit submit.  You may also complete a hard copy application as well.  Additional details can be found on the Texas Organic Cost-Share website.

    Food Safety Training for Producers

    November 13, 2017 in Jasper, Texas 
    Join TOFGA member Joe Masabni for this November workshop!  The event will include an introduction to produce safety, followed by these modules:
    • Worker Health, Hygiene, and Training
    • Soil Amendments
    • Wildlife, Domesticated Animals, and Land Use 
    • Agricultural Water: Production Water Part & Postharvest Water 
    • Postharvest Handling and Sanitation
    • How to Develop a Farm Food Safety Plan

    The $40 fee includes lunch and snacks. Register online at  https://agriliferegister.tamu.edu/ProduceSafety or by phone: 979-845-2604 For questions or additional information, contact Dr. Joe Masabni at jmasabni@ag.tamu.edu or 903.834.6191 

    South Central Soil Summit at the University of Houston
    Dec. 12 –13, 2017

    This engaging program includes presentations and discussion about the benefits and challenges of raw manure use relative to the safety of fresh fruit and vegetable production. Key goals for the summit include identifying barriers to using/producing compost while identifying management strategies, resources, and additional support necessary to support growers in minimizing food safety risks on the farm, especially when using raw manure. Additionally, produce growers, educators, and researchers will gain a better understanding of current FDA research and risk assessment efforts and the final FSMA Produce Safety Rule standards. Registration is limited to the first 100 registrants and includes training materials, lunch on day one, and refreshments. Come prepared to share your knowledge, thoughts, and innovative ideas! https://www.eventbrite.com/e/south-central-soil-summit-registration-35611421721

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