|Photo: Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt and a group of Midwest farmers came together to discuss opportunities available through USDA’s Transition to Organic Partnership Program.
USDA Under Secretary Moffitt Holds Roundtable with Wisconsin Farmers Interested in TOPP
USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Under Secretary Jenny Lester Moffitt, Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) core partner Marbleseed and TOPP Regional Lead Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) recently held a roundtable on USDA funding, diversified farming operations and land access. Sandy Syburg, owner of White Oak Farm in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin hosted the event with John Wepking of Meadowlark Organics, Linda Halley of Gwenyn Hill Farm, Jared Siverling of Siverling Farm and Brian Hall of True Grace. Eager to embrace the successes of the organic farming movement and tackle challenges associated with organic production, a small group of Midwest organic farmers interested in learning firsthand about available funding attended and participated in the discussion.
The conversation focused on how TOPP supports farmers transitioning to organic production. Roundtable participants discussed how TOPP successfully connects farmers transitioning to organic with local, experienced organic farmers who serve as mentors and provide training, and technical assistance on agronomy, organic certification, conservation planning, organic regulations, certification cost share, business development, and marketing. The discussion also covered how TOPP strengthens the organic community by helping producers build organic networks and promoting workforce training and development.
The group closed the event by enjoying some delicious organic bites at Stone Bank Farm Market, a neighboring local market that provides organic produce, eggs, dairy and pastured meats to the surrounding community.
Marbleseed, in collaboration with MOSA and the Midwest TOPP partners, will begin providing TOPP mentorship in 2024.
Photo: TOPP Partner Farmshare Austin provides aspiring farmers with skills and hands-on training for careers in organic agriculture.
Farmer Starter and Cultivator Program Provides Organic Foundation in Texas
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the Southwest regional lead for the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) has teamed up with TOPP Partner Farmshare Austin to train 15 beginner farmers as part of their Farmer Starter and Cultivator Program, an immersive 20-week training program held on a certified organic vegetable farm. The program is designed to provide aspiring farmers with essential skills and training for careers in organic agriculture.
The Farmer Starter and Cultivator Program curriculum covers organic production methods, recordkeeping requirements, business planning and marketing of organic products. The program provides hands-on in-field experience, classroom lessons on growing techniques, farm planning and business skills, and weekly community workshops with other farms and agricultural enterprises.
Farmshare Austin also recently enlisted resources to test web-based templates to keep field records using a smartphone. Using this technology to capture real-time data will help new farmers simplify and better understand organic recordkeeping requirements and establish good recordkeeping practices.
Photo: Producers across New Hampshire take advantage of on-farm workshops through TOPP.
New Hampshire Producers Eager to Learn
at Field Day Events
Funding and support provided through the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) have enabled and empowered New Hampshire-based organizations to have a hand in growing the state’s organic industry. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Hampshire (NOFA-NH), in collaboration with 12 states and regional TOPP partners, has hosted programs to provide information on community building, technical assistance opportunities, and on-farm practices for organic farmers and producers interested in transitioning to organic.
TOPP partners Granite State Graziers, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance, and NOFA-NH held an intensive rotational grazing and grassland management workshop at Callie’s Creamery in Peterborough, New Hampshire. During the workshop, partners walked attendees through the host farm’s fields to show how its fencing system allows dairy animals free access to pasture while maintaining grazing and organic hay production. Attendees learned about fencing, water, movement and mowing, which are basics of rotational grazing, and had the opportunity to ask questions after the presentations.
At Mink Meadow Farm in Etna, New Hampshire, TOPP partner Vital Communities co-hosted the presentation ‘Strategies for Growing Potatoes,’ where participants learned methods small and medium sized farms can use for field rotation, trap crops, pest management, equipment restoration, and how to make organic potatoes a staple crop of their yearly production.
Another TOPP partner, Cheshire County Conservation District, presented on ‘Manure Management with Bedded Packs’ at a different on-farm workshop. Presenters introduced attendees to structures and materials best suited for cows on dairy farms and producing manure that can be spread to improve soil for grassland management or sold as a value-added product.
In addition to providing these educational on-farm events, representatives from NOFA-NH have attended several community events throughout the state to share information about TOPP and meet farmers who have applied to TOPP and inquired about the program.
About the Transition to Organic Partnership Program
The USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) is investing up to $100 million over five years in cooperative agreements with non-profit organizations who are partnering with others to provide technical assistance and wrap-around support for transitioning and existing organic farmers. USDA is building partnership networks in six regions across the United States with trusted organizations serving direct farmer training, education, and outreach activities.
For more information on upcoming TOPP events, mentorship opportunities, and farmer resources in your region, visit OrganicTransition.org. Visit USDA’s TOPP Success Stories page to read about the exciting work being done in communities throughout the United States.