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A lot is being said lately about soil conservation farming. Soil conservation farming is a movement that supports leaving fields untilled and using soil-enhancing methods to revive degenerated land. Proponents of soil conservation farming claim that this method of farming minimizes erosion and encourages plant growth.

These proponents also claim that farmers that employ soil conservation farming methods will see an increase in profits because crops raised using this method grow and flourish even through periods of drought or flooding. While farmers have been known to be wary of new methods, soil conservation farming is gaining ground. Statistics show that over the last 10 years, roughly 35 percent of crops in the United States were raised using soil conservation methods and no-tillage acres have almost doubled since 2000.

Acres planted with cover crops is also on the rise, although the percentage of these crops is still relatively low. Cover crops – such as legumes – are rotated with cash crops and cover the soil all year, acting as green manure.

Soil conservation farming advocates claim that by leaving fields unplowed and using cover crops, which act as sinks for nitrogen and other nutrients, farmers are able to increase the percentage of organic matter in the soil. And soil with more organic matter can absorb and retain more water.

These methods of farming are growing in popularity among some farmers. These farmers list several reasons why they have employed soil conservation methods. These include the threat of government regulation over agricultural pollution, extreme weather, increasing production costs, and a shortage of labor.

But not everyone believes soil conservation farming will benefit farmers. Critics say the method is not practical for most farmers and is too expensive. They also say farmers who use this method have a difficult time controlling weeds, are limited on how early they can plant their crops, and that it is difficult to deal with the residue that is left behind when fields are not tilled.

One thing is for sure. Farmers who want to reap the benefits of soil conservation farming need to possess one important quality: patience. It can take years for soil to recover. For this reason, many farmers try it for a year or two and then give up. Farmers who have stuck with these methods say they have had to embrace trial and error as there is no exact formula that works for every crop or piece of land.

The average age of farmers in the United States has reached 58.3 years. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture. Farming has always been a dangerous occupation and older farmers are at an increased risk.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that farmers over the age of 74 are twice as likely as younger farmers to die in a farming accident. Despite this fact, there are few safety programs targeting older farmers. In fact, most safety awareness programs have to do with keeping children safe on the farm. And federal grant money is much more available to farming programs that promote child safety awareness.

Tractor rollovers are the most frequent cause of fatal accidents in older farmers. In many cases, older farmers use older equipment that doesn’t have rollover protections or safety features available in newer models. Another contributing factor to tractor accidents is that reaction times in older farmers are slower so it is harder for them to manipulate machinery controls.

Many older farmers are more prone to falls, and there is an increased risk of sprains and strains because of decreased strength and flexibility. Older farmers also are less able to climb in and out of machinery because of reduced mobility.

One risk factor that goes largely unnoticed in older farmers, but is a major concern, is depression. Fifteen percent of all people over the age of 65 suffer from depression but that number can be significantly higher in rural areas where people are more isolated. Farmers – especially older ones – can be reluctant to talk about their feelings of sadness or hopelessness but it is important that they do so.

When farmers are depressed, they can lose focus on the dangerous tasks at hand, leading to accidents. When asked, older farmers list tough economic times, the loss of a spouse, family members being uninterested in taking over the farm, and a lack of retirement savings as stress factors that can lead to depression. If depression is left unchecked, the outcome can be deadly.

In order to keep older farmers safe and productive, it is important that farmers and their families recognize the many risk factors they face. It also is important that older farmers are willing to give up some of the more dangerous farming tasks as well as be realistic when it comes to their limitations.

It’s that time of year, when rural roads begin to fill up with large equipment as the busy harvest season begins. Unfortunately, it is also the time when law enforcement officials report an increase in accidents between farm equipment and other vehicles. In order for farmers and motorists to share the road safely, it is import that they each assume responsibility for taking extra safety precautions.

Some of the worst accidents occur when vehicles are passing farm equipment. In this situation, it is important that motorists make sure that the road is wide enough to safely pass farm equipment. They also should be on the lookout for anything that would cause farm machinery to move to the center of the road. These include things like mailboxes, bridges, or road signs.

Farmers need to make sure that all their warning lights, flashers, and slow moving emblems are in working order, clean, and easily visible. Remember, warning lights and flashers do little good if they are covered in dust. Aside from keeping equipment in good working order, there are other general safety rules that farmers should adhere to in order to reduce the chances of being involved in accident.

  • Always listen for approaching cars.
  • Keep in mind that cars travel three to four time faster than tractors.
  • Do not use a cell phone or two-way radio while traveling on public roads.
  • Always slow down on curves or hills.
  • Look out for pedestrians and animals that may dart onto the road.
  • As much as possible, try to avoid traveling during periods of high traffic.

Motorists also need to do their part when traveling on public roads alongside tractors or other farm equipment by keeping the following in mind:

  • Tractors and other machinery can enter the roadway unexpectedly from a field or driveway so it is important to always keep an eye out for them.
  • Since farm machinery travels slower than other traffic, motorists should take this into account in order to avoid hitting machinery from behind.
  • Machinery operators are not always able to see motorists because equipment or loads can block their vision.
  • Remember, if you can’t see the driver, the driver cannot see you.
  • Just because machinery is traveling partly on the shoulder doesn’t mean that it can’t move quickly off that shoulder and take up more of the road.
  • Extra-wide machinery often takes up more than one lane of traffic.

Sharing the roadways can lead to frustration on the part of both farmers and motorists. However, with a little patience and a lot of caution, everyone can remain safe and arrive at their destination in one piece.

Farmers’ Markets are all the rage these days. The fact that these markets are so popular may lead some people to the conclusion that they are a new phenomenon. However, Farmers’ Markets are one of the oldest forms of direct marketing by smaller farms.

Regardless of the origin of Farmers’ Markets, these markets are a great way for families to get fresh food and, most importantly, meet local farmers. In cities across the country – from San Diego, California, to Omaha, Nebraska, to Macon, Georgia – Farmers’ Markets are a huge hit with both farmers and community members.

There are many reasons why Farmers’ Markets are so appealing. Farmers list their own reasons for wanting to sell their produce at Farmers’ Markets. These reasons include meeting their customers face-to-face and achieving a better return for their produce.

Farmers’ Markets also give smaller family farmers the opportunity to educate consumers about their growing practices and love of the land. Farmers are proud of what they do – as they should be – and Farmer’s Markets give them the opportunity to show off the “fruits” of their labor.

Shoppers are equally as taken with Farmers’ Markets. Aside from the obvious reason – fresh, flavorful food – there are several other things that draw people to Farmers’ Markets.

  1. Shopping at a Farmers’ Market allows people to enjoy a real sense of community. Going to the local market makes people feel like they are part of a community.
  2. There’s nothing like getting outside and shopping in the fresh air. With the rise of electronic communications and long work hours, it’s a good feeling to enjoy nature and soak up the sun.
  3. When you buy vegetables at a Farmers’ Market, you can ask questions to the person who actually grew those vegetables. Try doing that at a grocery store!
  4. The farmers and ranchers at Farmers’ Markets will give you recipe ideas, cooking tips and even meal planning ideas. Fellow shoppers like to swap ideas, as well.
  5. People love farmers. After all, they feed the nation. Shopping at Farmers’ Markets is a wonderful way to show support and say, “Thanks!” to these men and women.
  6. Going to the Farmers’ Market isn’t just a shopping trip, it’s a form of entertainment. Entire families can come and spend hours perusing the many booths and stands. Many Farmers’ Markets even offer entertainment for kids and adults alike!
  7. They help the environment. Food sold at Farmers’ Markets doesn’t need to be shipped long distances. This saves on packing materials and fuel costs.

So next time you visit your local Farmers’ Market, think about the good you are doing – for yourself, the community, the environment and, of course, farmers!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that the farmers market boom over the past decade may be slowing down – just a bit. The USDA also reports that food sales at local farm stands, markets, and other similar venues are also waning.

The USDA reported in January that food sales at farmers markets dropped one percent from 2007 to 2012 after increasing between 32 to 37 percent from 1997 to 2006. And while the number of farmers markets continues to grow, that growth has slowed down considerably in the past two years, increasing by only two percent.

Despite this trend, the number of farmers selling directly to consumers continues to rise. What’s more, this slight downturn in the popularity of farmers markets may actually be a good thing for farmers. Consumers and farmers list the following upsides to the slowing of the skyrocketing popularity of farmers markets:

  1. Farmers markets aren’t particularly cost-effective. Farmers markets offer slim profit margins, especially when you consider the work it takes to prepare for them. Plus, most farmers would rather be farming, not necessarily marketing their food.
  2. Farmers can make more money when they sell their food directly to schools, grocery stores, or co-ops. This is a win-win situation because it means people still want locally-grown food but are willing to look for it in places other than just farmers markets
  3. Buying local at bigger stores is now an option for consumers. While everyone would love to buy fresh local food straight from the farm, times are tight. That means many consumers simply can’t afford to pay the premium prices that some farmers markets charge. Whether or not it is true, people perceive that grocery store food is cheaper. Now they are able to get local food at grocery store prices.

As is the case with everything to do with farming, ingenuity is key. Therefore, while farmers markets continue to be popular, most farmers realize that they need to sell their goods in a variety of ways. That means selling delicious, healthy foods to co-ops, big grocery store chains, schools, and, of course, to community members at the local farmers market.

Pork is one of the most widely eaten foods throughout the world. It is no surprise then that raising pigs is one of the most profitable business ventures.

While pig farming is not particularly difficult, it is time consuming and takes a lot of energy. If you are considering adding pigs to your farming operation, or are contemplating raising pigs exclusively, it is important that you know exactly what is involved in raising pigs.

There are two ways to raise pigs: pasturing pigs or raising them in a barn. Pasturing pigs is a viable option as long as you have enough land and that land is soil and grass rich. It also will be necessary to fence in your pigs to prevent them from wandering too far afield. Young pigs need to be fenced in even smaller areas because they need to remain close to food and water.

While pigs rarely set out to destroy fencing, adult pigs are very strong and can do damage without trying very hard. When building a fence for your pigs, make sure that you use strong wood or other fencing material and that you dig the poles deep into the ground since pigs like to dig. As a general rule, every pig should have about one-tenth of an acre of pasture.

Raising pigs in a barn has its advantages. Cleaning up after pigs raised in a barn is relatively simple; you can better control what the pigs consume; and a barn provides much-needed shade for pigs.

Your pig barn should be divided into two areas. As a general rule the feeding area should be about 10 feet by 10 feet for every two pigs and the resting area should be about half that size, or five feet by five feet. The best pig barns are concrete and have a sloped floor so that when you use a hose to clean the barn the water will drain away easily.

If you are committed to raising pigs, experienced pig farmers list the following helpful hints to help make sure that your endeavor is both profitable and enjoyable:

  • Bigger and meatier pigs bring in the most money. Make sure your pigs get the correct amount of nutrients but try to avoid supplements. If you are grazing your pigs, make sure there is plenty of pasture grass available.
  • Never feed your pigs potatoes or raw meat – both can be toxic to these animals. While pigs will eat almost anything, that doesn’t mean that they should.
  • Control the amount of food your pigs consume. If your pigs are trough-fed, it is important that there is no food left in the trough after 30 minutes. If there is, you are overfeeding. This is not only bad for your pigs, you will waste money in food costs.
  • Plenty of fresh water is essential to healthy pigs. Keep in mind that pigs like to clean themselves in water so make sure you clean their water troughs regularly.