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Our office in San Antonio advances NCAT's mission by demonstrating positive alternatives that are appropriate to our region. We take a special interest in the needs of economically vulnerable people. And we are always open to new collaborations. Thanks for taking an interest in our work and visit our web page.

—Mike Morris, Southwest Regional Office Director

Texas Hispanic Farmer and Rancher Conference a Wrap - and a Hit!

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In September NCAT put on the first-ever Texas Hispanic Farmer and Rancher Conference, in McAllen, Texas, bringing together 240 people from all over Texas (and beyond) for 16 "how-to" workshops. Besides the large turnout of farmers and ranchers, we had representatives from nine government agencies, five universities, and 15 non-profit organizations.

Workshop topics included pasture management, cattle breed selection, soil health, pest management, using cover crops, direct marketing to consumers, and adding value to farm products. Farm tours featured PPC Farms, a large organic vegetable farm, Terra Preta Farm, a seven-acre organic farm with a 75-member CSA; and El Pedernal Cattle Company, a grass-fed beef operation. During the conference, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley made an exciting announcement: the creation of a new Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Advancement.

The primary funder was the Texas office of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education program (Southern SARE) also provided major funding support. And we had nine other sponsors. Thanks to all who attended, exhibited, presented, and supported this fantastic event.

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Tune in and Learn

Did you know that NCAT has its very own Voices from the Field podcast series, featuring farmers and ranchers from around the nation? There are currently about 50 podcasts available on NCAT's ATTRA website, including two new interviews from Texas: Kevin Ellis interviewed Joy Casnovsky from the Austin-based Sustainable Food Center and Juan Raygosa of Terra Preta Farm about setting up and operating "Farm to Work" networks and marketing systems. Robert Maggiani did an episode with Larry Butler of Boggy Creek Farm on the current state of value-added local foods in Texas.

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Is Organic Farming Risky?

When Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas in August, insurance coverage meant the difference between survival and failure for many farms. Under the direction of Mike Morris, NCAT's project "Is Organic Farming Risky?" is raising awareness and creating better crop insurance options for small, specialty crop, and organic farms.

The 2014 Farm Bill required the USDA to create some new insurance products for these farms, but so far only a few have taken advantage of these new opportunities. For example, here in Texas only 12 Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policies were sold in 2017.

Between August and November, our office conducted a national survey, exploring possible reasons for the low participation rates in crop insurance by small, diversified, and organic farms. A total of 1,042 producers from all 50 states took the survey, with two thirds saying that they had never bought crop insurance. Results will be used to plan an educational campaign and make policy recommendations.

Feel free to contact our office ( for information about Whole-Farm Revenue Protection insurance. Or try this user-friendly Whole-Farm Insurance Calculator to estimate the premium cost for your farm. Funding for the project "Is Organic Farming Risky?" is provided by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award #2014-51300-2222.


Swatting Whiteflies Botanically

Whiteflies can be a particularly troubling pest for many farmers, but Justin Duncan hopes to help alleviate that with his new publication. Whiteflies-Botanical Control Formulations gives some background information on whitefly identification and life cycle to help producers understand the pest they are dealing with. He then gives several options for their control through botanical- based treatments.

Finally, Justin includes some information on predatory insects that prey on whiteflies. This information is crucial to developing an integrated pest management system for this specific species. Download the publication for free here.

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Come Join Us at TOFGA

As everyone reading this newsletter knows, we love TOFGA, the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Registration is now open for the annual TOFGA conference, which will take place February 1-3 in the new Sheraton Hotel Convention Center facility in Georgetown, Texas. The keynote speaker is Michael Ableman, founder of Soul Food Street Farms and Foxglove Farm in Vancouver, Canada.

There will be 35 different workshops and many new speakers this year. And the famous Ag Trivia night will be back! We'll be there as always: speaking, networking, and handing out free ATTRA publications at our booth. Sponsorship, exhibit, and advertising opportunities are still available. For more information, please visit the conference webpage. Support TOFGA, our outstanding statewide grassroots organization.

Out and About:

  • Mike Morris, Kevin Ellis, and Robert Maggiani will all speak at the upcoming TOFGA conference in Georgetown, Texas, February 1-3. Mike will talk about NCAT's accomplishments during the opening plenary and lead a workshop titled "A Skeptic's Guide to Crop Insurance." Kevin will give a workshop on biosecurity for pastured poultry. Robert (a TOFGA board member) will moderate a workshop or two. Info Here.

  • Robert, Thomas, and Kevin will all speak at Local Food Producers Conference hosted by Grow Local South Texas in Corpus Christi on January 25. Robert's presentation is titled "ATTRA as a Business Planning Tool," Thomas' is "Pasture Monitoring Practices to Build Soil Health," and Kevin's is "Raising Pastured Poultry in Texas." Info Here.

  • Justin will be at the Collard Greens Field Day: From Farm to Table workshop hosted by Prairie View A&M University on Thursday, February 8 from 8:30a.m. to noon.

  • Kevin will offer an NCAT booth at the New Mexico Organic Conference in Albuquerque, NM, on February 16-17. Info Here.

  • Justin will give two presentations at the Georgia Organics Conference in Augusta, GA, on February 16-17: "Herbs for Health" and "Soil Remineralization and Remediation." Info Here.

Have a farming or energy question? Call our ATTRA toll-free English language hotline at 800-346-9140 or the Spanish-language ATTRA hotline at 800-411-3222.


We routinely publish news and events as they are happening on our Regional Page on the NCAT website. Bookmark it to keep up to date!

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Copyright © January 2018
The National Center for Appropriate Technology

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