January 24, 2002

Rutledge Farmers Receive State Grant

Is it feasible to grow freshwater shrimp in Missouri? Can using hens as surrogate mothers for incubator chicks reduce the need for antibiotics and vaccinations? These are just a few of the questions 23 Missouri producers hope to answer by conducting trial projects on their farms, Gov. Bob Holden announced January 14.

Two Rutledge farmers will be among those producers receiving grants. Stanley J. Hildebrand and Chadwick G. Knepp will use their funding of up to $3,000 on a project to improve soil health using conservation tillage systems.

"We are very excited to have the opportunity to experiment with and develop these new organic farming techniques and would probably be doing so even without the funding," Knepp said. "The goal of our experiment is to figure out a way to plant traditional row crops such as soybeans and corn into a cover crop such as clover, while disturbing the cover crop as little as possible and [hopefully] maintain a continuous cover for

at least two years at a time."

Knepp stated the primary benefits they expect to gain from this technique are increased soil health including an increase in organic matter and nutrients, reduced erosion, increased moisture retention, and reduced compaction.

"We hope to establish a system of small scale conservation tillage methods that we can demonstrate to local farmers," Knepp said. "This will include what combinations of primary and cover crops work well together, what crop rotations facilitate long term continuous cover, and adaptations and techniques of machine use for conservation tillage methods," Knepp said.

The two local men are among the group of farmers who are recipients of grants awarded last week under the Sustainable Ag Demonstration Award Program. The Missouri Department of Agriculture administers the program, with support from the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program of the University of Missouri and Lincoln University.

Under the program, farmers throughout the state can receive up to $3,000 to initiate sustainable farm practices. Sustainable farming means using techniques that are, not only environmentally friendly, but benefit farm families and rural communities.

The Missouri legislature established the program in 1995 to encourage producers to try new and innovative projects with the goal of protecting and conserving natural resources and reducing dependence on non-renewable resources, such as petroleum, which is used to make pesticides, fertilizers and fuel. Since then, more than $590,000 has been awarded to 191 producers.

"These grants have a three-fold benefit," Holden said. "They enable Missouri farmers to try projects that could add profitability to their operations. At the same time, they help support farm families and rural communities, while allowing producers to initiate practices that conserve, restore and protect our air, soil and water."

The Rutledge project results will be made available to the public in a variety of methods.

"We plan on submitting a paper for publication in suitable journals such as Small Farm Today as well as making it publicly accessible on the Internet," Knepp stated. "We also plan on presenting our findings at

appropriate conferences such as MOA/SPAN and the Small Farm

Conference. Additionally we plan on holding field days during the

growing seasons of the second and third years to share our findings with interested farmers."

A committee made up of farmers, Department of Agriculture and University of Missouri representatives decide which projects receive funding. To be considered, a project or demonstration must be sustainable, meaning ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible. Most projects aim to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use, but the selection committee is open to alternative agriculture ideas of all kinds.

The program has funded a variety of demonstrations, including projects on managed intensive grazing for sheep and goats, operating an organic dairy, finding alternative mite controls for bees, starting a pasture poultry operation, raising mums with compost for fertilizer, and developing an agroforestry system to grow ginseng with black walnuts.

Other demonstration award grants for 2002 were awarded to:

Daniel Kelly, Canton, to develop cold storage for fresh apples using native lumber and straw bales;

Jordan and Anne Bentley, Bucklin, to modify a mobile meat processing unit;

Jessica Powell, Laclede, to create a backyard food production system;

Kelly Valentine, Powersville, for a dairy goat enterprise;

Larry Harper, Columbia, to design and build a portable hulling and processing unit for black walnuts;

Linda F. Hezel, Kearney, to create a sustainable family farm orchard;

Kevin and Darlene Buckstead, Holden, to study the use of cracked corn kernels to improve birdseed formulas;

Susan O. Jones, Osceola, to build hoop houses to extend the cut flower season and to promote the use of local fresh flowers;

Elizabeth and Kurt Wallace, Columbia, to try using Mottled Houdin hens as adoptive mothers for incubated chicks to promote strong immune systems;

Walker Claridge, Fulton, to extend market access for mid-Missouri produce growers;

Julie Jones Price, Kingdom City, to create a buyers' network for chile pepper producers;

Robert D. Kussman, Dalton, to introduce Kura clover into a pecan plantation;

Anita and David Reid, Troy, to create an on-line newsletter and web site to promote family farm production in the River Hills region;

Jeffrey Pope, Ferguson, to expand and add educational components to a community gardening project;

Larry Willis, Washburn, to provide greenhouse produce year-round using hydronic heat;

Rebecca Garton, Marshfield, to write a guide book to Webster County farm products;

Brian Tomazi, Cuba, to use compost made of sawdust and manure as a fertilizer supplement in a rotational grazing system;

Darla Noble, Rolla, to develop educational marketing techniques to increase small farms' profit;

Kenneth Whitehead, Neely-ville, to conduct a flood irrigation corn and gamma grass grazing project;

Martha Harmon, Puxico, to experiment with sustainable fuels for greenhouse heating;

Cibele Hasenbeck, Patterson, to market mohair and wool via the Internet; and

Lee Hemmerlein, Williams-ville, to raise fresh-water shrimp in waterways.

The projects must be completed in three years. The program also requires producers to share their findings through on-farm demonstrations, published reports, field days, poster sessions and other means.

More information on the sustainable agriculture program can be found on the Internet at http://agebb.missouri.edu/sustain/ or by contacting the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture Program, P.O. Box 630, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0630, 573-522-8616.

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