New Cover Crops and Water Quality Fact Sheets, Infographics and Slide Set Now Available

Barges carrying agricultural products aren’t the only traffic on the Mississippi River. Nutrients and sediment from across the Mississippi River Basin travel down the river until reaching the Gulf, where they linger and create low oxygen “dead zones” in which many fish cannot survive.
Monitoring of the Gulf hypoxic zone has shed some light on the important connections between agricultural practices and water quality. Although some practices contribute to the problem, other practices – like cover crops – provide a much needed solution.
In a review of 98 publications, SARE and the University of Missouri staff identified how cover cropping influences soil and nutrient losses from agricultural fields, water infiltration and soil organic matter. SARE’s new Cover Crops and Water Quality resource series includes free materials to help educators, farmers and others learn and share how cover croping can improve water quality.
Cover Crops and Water Quality resources include five fact sheets, three infographics and a PowerPoint presentation template that can be downloaded and used for outreach and educational purposes.

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Sue Beckwith represented the Texas Center for Local Food at the Grow Local South Texas Producers’ Conference on Feb. 2.  The day long conference organized by past TOFGA Board member, Aislynn Campbell and the Grow South Texas team, was packed with excellent speakers and panel dicussions.

The focus was on wholesale buying and panels included HEB, Natural Grocer, and the Corpus Christi school district.  The idea for the wholesale focus was to begin educating south Texas growers about the opportunities and challenges of the wholesale market channel.   Check out the annotated agenda and links to South Texas resources here.  Sue made lots of good connections and will follow up with folks interested in the work we’re doing with USDA Food LINC and value-added processing,

You’ve probably heard of South by Southwest and I’ll bet you think of music.  Yep, lots of music for sure.  But did you know that before the music fest begins, there is the SXSW Interactive (and Film too)?  Interactive is packed with innovative perspectives on the use of tech in our world and I’ve been told that it’s actually the largest of the 3 SXSW Festivals.  For me, Interactive is a chance to dive into the out of the box world and get my head into new ways to solve the problems we face as farmers, rural communities, and food system changers.  What does tech have to do with it?  It’s not just tech – it’s ways of thinking – taking our questions and problems and looking to other industries for ideas, answers and solutions.

In these next few posts, I’ll write my impressions and share what I’ve learned.  As with any conference and certainly any investment of time and money, it’s a good idea to know what you want to get out of it.

Our queries going to into SXSW-I 2017:

  1. Know Your Farmer.  Are there ways we can employ tech to make it easier for thousands of people to know their farmer?  We know that when folks spend time on a farm they have a stronger connection to their food.  We know that connection to our food is a critical step in owning our own health and leads to improving our food system.   Recent advances in virtual reality technology (VR) may make it possible to conduct remote farms tours.  Could people experience a farm remotely using VR?  What about online interactive video (Skype, Nom)?   What are the possibilities and costs here?
  2. What new tech is available to make cooking easier, faster for middle class families?
  3. Storytelling is key to engaging people with their food and farmers and ranchers.  How can we better storytellers?  How can we facilitate farmers/ranchers being good storytellers?  How do we know if our stories are heard and are effective?
  4. For the Elgin Local Food Center (ELF Center), what tech is available for equipment and business education for food businesses?
  5.  Are there specific revenue streams for the ELF Center that we haven’t already considered?

Tomorrow, I’ll start looking for answers.. and I’ll surely find new questions too.