Category Archives: NCAT Southwest Regional Office

Vegetable Farming Cover Crop Field Day

Vegetable Farming Cover Crop Field Day

NCAT will be hosting a FREE field day in Mission, Texas on Thursday, July 11th as part of its Subtropical Soil Health Initiative. This field day, focused on cover cropping in vegetable production, is being held in conjunction with the University of Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and PPC Farms.

The goal of the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative is to encourage the adoption of innovative conservation methods by growers in South Texas. We are demonstrating the use of cover crops and other soil building methods: identifying cover crops that will grow well in the subtropical Rio Grande Valley and demonstrating planting, management, and termination techniques. Besides growing a wide variety of cover crops, we are measuring changes in biomass, soil carbon, soil respiration, water holding capacity, and other soil health metrics. We are also looking closely at the cost and practicality of cover crops, including their short and long-term effects on soil moisture.

This field day will be held at PPC Farms, a diversified organic vegetable farm. Dr. Alex Racelis of UTRGV will discuss how to overcome barriers to using cover crops in hot and humid climates. Stephanie Kasper will demonstrate a process for verifying that legume cover crops are nodulating: converting atmospheric nitrogen to bioavailable nitrogen in the soil. NCAT’s own Justin Duncan will present his research on innovative cover crops for the Rio Grande Valley, including pigeon pea and scarlet runner bean. There will be a Q&A with NCAT staff, UTRGV researchers, farmers, and NRCS officials at the end of the program.

Light snacks and water will be provided and registration begins at 8 a.m. Questions? Contact research technician Lindsey Richards at This project is supported by Conservation Innovation Grants Program of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service under grant #69-3A75-17-281.

Cover Crop Field Day for Dryland Farmers

Cover Crop Field Day for Dryland Farmers

As part of our Subtropical Soil Health Initiative, NCAT hosted a FREE field day for dryland farmers at Hilltop Gardens–near Lyford, Texas, on Thursday, June 6, 2019. With grant funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Subtropical Soil Health Initiative is testing and demonstrating the use of cover crops and other management… Continue Reading

Land Management Monitoring Strategies and Workshop Announcement

Land Management Monitoring Strategies and Workshop Announcement

by Kara Kroeger As an effective land steward/manager we often contend with a number of factors that affect our plans and goals for our terrain. We are constantly faced with fluctuations in weather conditions that swing between droughts to floods. Due to these constant changes it can sometimes be hard to determine whether our management… Continue Reading

Join Our Wholesale Readiness Trainings in Texas

Join Our Wholesale Readiness Trainings in Texas

NCAT and The Common Market Texas are seeking produce growers looking to prepare for and succeed in selling to wholesale markets. The Common Market, originally started in Philadelphia, is a “nonprofit regional food distributor with a mission to connect communities with good food from sustainable family farms.” Common Market has recently expanded to Houston. NCAT… Continue Reading

New Food Processing Guidebook for Farmers Available!

New Food Processing Guidebook for Farmers Available!

With help from a team of farmers, economists, and food experts, Mike Morris (National Center for Appropriate Technology) and Sue Beckwith (Texas Center for Local Food) have created an entertaining and useful new workbook, Beyond Fresh: a Food Processing Guide for Texas Farmers. Available from NCAT’s ATTRA website here for just $19.95, the book walks… Continue Reading

Texas Soil Health Short Course: Health Found in Diversity

by Colin Mitchell A Texas Soil Health Short Course took place on February 26th and 27th in Palestine, TX, sponsored by USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil & Water Conservation Districts, and Texas Wildlife Association. NCAT Sustainable Ag Specialist Kara Kroger and I attended… Continue Reading

Resilient as Texas: TOFGA Conference 2019

by Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Colin Mitchell Last month was the annual Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) Conference. It was the 25th TOFGA Conference, but my first. The conference didn’t have an official theme, but it was apparent from the plenary, the location, the banquet, and the keynote speech that the theme of the… Continue Reading

NCAT survey seeks grower feedback on crop insurance

NCAT survey seeks grower feedback on crop insurance

Calling all growers: Help create a more level crop insurance playing field by taking a 20-minute survey at Background: Crop insurance not only helps farms and ranches survive weather-related losses, but is required for many loans. The 2014 Farm Bill required the USDA to create new insurance products tailored to the needs of organic,… Continue Reading

NCAT Specialist Featured in Small Producer Initiative Webinar March 30

NCAT Specialist Featured in Small Producer Initiative Webinar March 30

As a part of Texas State University’s Small Producer Initiative, NCAT Poultry Specialist Kevin Ellis will be presenting a webinar on the topic of pastured poultry. The presentation serves as an introduction to raising poultry on pasture including egg-laying hens, meat-type broilers, and turkeys. Kevin will cover everything you need to get started including shelter… Continue Reading

Catching Rainwater with Cows, Soil Microbes, and Electric Fencing

Catching Rainwater with Cows, Soil Microbes, and Electric Fencing

Excerpt taken from The Dirt Southwest Newsletter Now in its second year, NCAT’s Soil for Water initiative has already taught over 150 people, mostly landowners, how to build healthy soils that catch and hold more rainwater. In the late spring and summer our research team, led by students and faculty from Texas State University, set… Continue Reading

New NCAT Report: Who Are the Organic Farmers of Texas?

New NCAT Report: Who Are the Organic Farmers of Texas?

NCAT has released a new report, Who Are the Organic Farmers of Texas? The report reviews all USDA data, including newly available reports and tools, to arrive at an accurate picture of the number, location, and types of organic farms in Texas. Although Texas is a national leader in organic cotton, rice, and peanut production,… Continue Reading

Feasibility Study for a Texas Organic Food Hub is out!

After a year of research, NCAT staff members Robert Maggiani and Mike Morris have completed their long-awaited Feasibility Study for a Texas Organic Food Hub, as well as an accompanying Food Hub Planning Workbook that can be used by food hub planners and organizers to forecast the financial performance of an existing or hypothetical food… Continue Reading

Texas Veterans Attend Armed to Farm Training

From April 13-17, NCAT hosted 25 Texas veterans for an Armed to Farm training in Castroville, Texas, 30 miles west of San Antonio. The training included classroom presentations, farm tours, and hands-on activities. A grant from the veterans’ organization Swords to Plowshares  helped cover the training costs, as did funds from the USDA Rural Development… Continue Reading

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Conference in San Antonio

The Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA)–the one and only grassroots organization supporting Texas organic farmers and gardeners–is holding its annual conference in San Antonio for the first time, January 30-31. Picture yourself in farm and foodie heaven: organic farmers from all over the state, workshops for home gardeners, a trade show, and a… Continue Reading

January 29 Drought Summit in San Antonio

All Texans who care about the survival of the state’s small farms and ranches are urged to attend the January 29 Texas Drought Summit at the Hilton San Antonio Airport Hotel in San Antonio. The summit will take stock of damage done to date by the Texas drought, provide a forum for sharing lessons learned,… Continue Reading

Texas Drought Summit Scholarships Available

Scholarships are available for Texas farmers and ranchers who would like to attend a January summit to learn how to make their operations more resilient. The “Texas Drought Summit” is being sponsored on January 29 by Farm Aid in conjunction with the annual Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) Conference in San Antonio. Farm… Continue Reading

Terra Preta Farm

Juan Raygoza earned his M.S. degree in Soil Science from Texas A&M-Kingsville. In addition to farming in Edinburg, he works for the University of Texas-Pan American. In 2013 he was awarded a Young Farmer Grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture. He also spoke at the annual meeting of USDA’s Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development… Continue Reading

Organic Consultant Leslie McKinnon

Leslie McKinnon Leslie McKinnon obtained her education and research experience in soil microbiology, entomology, and biological control from Texas A & M University. Her experience led to a career with the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) as Coordinator of the Organic Certification Program. After leaving that position, Leslie has been self-employed as a consultant, helping… Continue Reading

Tecolote Farm

Tecolote Farm Farm-at-a-Glance Located near Webberville, 13 miles east of the capital Grow over 150 vegetables Created their certified organic vegetable CSA in 1994 Organic Veggie Delivery Service Contact info: Katie Kraemer Pitre and David Pitre are the founders of Tecolote Farm, the longest-running Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the state. David earned his… Continue Reading

King’s Crossing Farm

Farm-at-a-Glance 800 tree organic pecan orchard in San Saba, 110 acres Certified organic for 12 years Sell a wide range of vegetables and herbs Contact info: or (372) 372-7615 John and Jimma Byrd own and manage a 110-acre organic pecan orchard in San Saba called King’s Crossing Farm. They’ve been certified organic for 12… Continue Reading

Pedro and Dayana Schambon

Farm-at-a-Glance 52 acre farm in Seguin, TX with 25 greenhouses. Grows over 44 varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs year round. Certified organic since 2008. Sells to Urban Acres, Greenling, farmer’s market, and a new Farm to Work program. Pedro & Dayana Schambon founded My Father’s Farm (MFF) in November 2006. The farm is located… Continue Reading

South Tex Organics: Thirty Years of Organic Citrus

Farm-at-a-Glance Located in Mission, TX and harvests from more than 700 certified acres. Harvesting certified organic citrus fruits and vegetables for 30 years. Leading organic wholesale and mail order shipper. Product line consists of the Texas Rio Star grapefruit, several varieties of oranges, Meyer lemons, red and yellow onions, and watermelons. Has shipped citrus fruit… Continue Reading

Green Gate Farms: a Certified Organic CSA

Green Gate Farms at a Glance Certified organic Urban Farm in East Austin (5 acres) and River Farm (10 acres) 20 miles to the east Over 30 types of vegetables CSA and Farm to Work programs Incubator Farm initiative for aspiring farmers Educational events for thousands of children each year 18 on-farm enterprises Skip Connett… Continue Reading

Gabriel Valley Farms Pioneer Organic Nursery

The folks at Gabriel Valley Farms in Central Texas are pioneers in organic certified wholesale nursery production.  Cathy and Sam Slaughter have been serving Central Texas retail garden centers, landscape companies, and farmers with certified organic plants since 1989. In 2007, they began the process of becoming a certified organic nursery. They received their certification… Continue Reading