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CFSA's Grower's Toolbox
Dear Nahid,

It's finally December of one of the wettest years on record. Let out the long sighs and the shoulda-wouldas of 2018you made it. It may seem reductive to look at things from a survival standpoint, but we can all agree this year was tough. It's less of a question of who thrived and who flourished, but instead a feeling of solidarity.

We're in this together. 

Whether your season went swimmingly or was one of the hardest to date, we feel you. And we're forever thankful for farmers like you keeping food local, organic, and nourishing our communities.

While we're excited to dive into several things this month, we want to make sure you first save the date for our Organic Commodities and Livestock Conference on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019! Final details are being confirmed, so we'll share the brochure in next month's Grower's Toolbox. Registration opens on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2019.

On to the edition at hand!

Nightmares, lack of appetite, anxiety, and sweating are all choruses we hear from farmers when preparing for a GAP audit. There can be a lot on the line when an auditor comes to your farm with a checklist, asking a bunch of questions. Overwhelm, however, isn't the only option. Our Local Produce Safety Initiative team has created an audit preparation timeline tool (below) to spread out audit preparation tasks by date, so you can see what needs doing when. Simply enter your tentative audit date, which will auto-fill audit prep to-dos with dates to eliminate any last-minute scrambling.

We're also highlighting current hurricane recovery timelines, the fruits of our organic research, a reminder on an exciting grant from RAFI, two grower-buyer events with Publix, as well as a calendar of upcoming events.


LAST CALL: CFSA is hiring two positions! 
  • Market Access Coordinator who will expand our wholesale and post-harvest services for growers. Applications due Friday (12/14).
  • Education Coordinator who will plan our biggest events, such as the Organic Commodities & Livestock Conference, Piedmont Farm Tour, and Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Applications due Monday (12/31).

Happy holidays!

Karen McSwain, CFSA's Director of Farm Services and Food Systems

Whether this is your first audit or you’re a GAP old-timer, preparing for audit day can be challenging if everything is left to the last minute. Since farming isn’t a job that typically has downtime, especially right when your audit will be conducted, we want to offer ways (and recommended dates) to chip away at requirements for efficiently maintaining your food safety program.

Audit Preparation Checklist Tool
Follow the instructions below to complete the Audit Preparation Checklist Tool (.xls), which provides a timeline to complete specific activities. Once completed, print your customized Audit Preparation Checklist Tool, providing specific dates of when activities should be conducted. There should be TWO TIMES to update and print the Audit Preparation Checklist Tool, as you may want to print this document to also accompany your timeline providing an explanation of what the activity entails.

Determine Your Tentative Audit Date (TAD)
An audit should be scheduled during the time when you have the most crops in production and are able to demonstrate most harvest techniques—how you harvest and handle crops. For example, pepper, eggplant, and okra have similar harvest techniques...

Continuing reading the rest of Tay's tip here.

(If you're new -- or missed an edition -- please see our Expert Tip index.)

Update: Hurricane Recovery Timelines

Nearly 137,000 people have already registered with FEMA for helping recover from Hurricane Florence back in September. You have two more days to register if you haven't already. Deadline: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018


Agriculture Commissioner Troxler of the NC Department of Agriculture is encouraging farmers to continue to sign-up for disaster relief. Even though signups ended yesterday, it's like that the North Carolina General Assembly will extend the deadline to Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. Don't miss your chance to sign-up!

Last month, we shared the launch of CFSA's low-interest loan program, RESEED Recovery Fund, for farmers in North and South Carolina affected by Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Applications are accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Evaluating the Efficacy of Organic Pesticides

This year, CFSA initiated a study to research the efficacy of organic and natural pesticides. Pesticides are the last line of defense for many organic farmers against weeds, disease and harmful insects and the effectiveness of such pest control can be the determining factor between crop success and failure.

While you could read about some interesting facts about organic and natural pesticides, our guess is that you farmers are more interested in the research? 
Read on to see what our organic research coordinator's study reveals.

Grant Alert: Agriculture Reinvestment Fund Grants

RAFI-USA’s Agricultural Reinvestment Fund Grant Program awards cost-share grants to help farmers and rural communities develop new sources of agricultural income, overcome barriers in scaling-up, or diversify to increase sustainability.

The program supports innovative, replicable on-farm enterprises and awards grants of up to $9,000 to individual farmers or $11,000 for collaborative farmer projects in North Carolina.

RAFI-USA funds 
projects that demonstrate an ability to generate new farm income; establish new markets for local products and services; develop new uses for existing greenhouses, tobacco facilities, and equipment; add value to existing farm products; maintain or create quality employment opportunities; make optimal use of on-farm and natural resources. Priority is given to projects that demonstrate a way to replace lost tobacco income, farmers with the highest need, and whose project proposal would have the greatest projected impact on that farmer’s surrounding community.
Eligible NC Counties
Farmers and organizations in these counties are eligible to apply: Alamance, Bertie, Caswell, Chatham, Chowan, Davidson, Davie, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton, Orange, Person, Randolph, Rowan, Vance, Wake, and Warren.
Farmer Eligibility
Farmers must earn a significant amount of their personal income from their farm operation. Past individual grantees of RAFI-USA or the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission are not eligible to apply for another individual grant.
Collaborative Farmer Project Eligibility
A collaborative farmer project may be proposed by a group of farmers, farm co-ops, farmer associations, churches, local businesses, civic organizations or combinations of these. Proposed projects must include at least three eligible farmers who are active in the leadership of the project. Collaborators must select a project coordinator for the group.

Final application deadline: Jan. 4, 2019

For more information on the grant programvisit the RAFI ARF webpage.

The NC Department of Agriculture is coordinating a two-day opportunity for NC growers and producers.

Publix Super Markets want NEW North Carolina suppliers for three product categories within their produce departments:

  1. Fresh Produce
  2. Packaged Nuts
  3. Refrigerated Ciders/ Juice.
Sign up is limited to new suppliers only and one session per company over the two-day period. Registration deadline is Jan. 3, 2019. Questions? Get in touch with the NCDA.


Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 | Raleigh, NC | Registration opens Jan. 3!

Fundamentals of On-Farm Food Safety Workshop
Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 | Florence, SC

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The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from a farmer who shares your values – and we can’t do it without you. Together we are building a regional food system that is good for consumers, good for growers, and good for the land.
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