For Consumers | For Gardeners | For Educators
For Farmers: General | Sustainable Practices | Certification | Loans, Grants, and Cost Share
Beginning Farmers/Access to Land | Legal Issues | Business Isssues
For Everyone: Education and Advocacy | Electronic Newsletters
- MOFFA Farm Guide
- MOFFA's What Does It Mean? Food Labels for the Smart Shopper covers the meaning (and in some cases, the lack of meaning) of terms such as "natural", "sustainable", "cage free", "no-spray", and the restrictions on the use of the word "organic".
- Labels Unwrapped, a new website launched by the Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems helps consumers understand the meaning of (and the laws and regulations shaping) food labels. Site users can hover over interactive, illustrated labels to learn more about terms like “natural,” “grass-fed,” “organic,” “plant-based,” and dozens more. The site also includes a “Labels 101” section explaining how food labels are regulated, and an expanding selection of issue briefs that break down hot topics and controversial issues in food labeling law: from new requirements that companies label “bioengineered” foods, to marketing claims on plant-based meat and dairy alternatives.
- The Cornucopia Institute has published a one-page "Pocket Do-It-Yourself Certification Guide" and a longer Guide which expands on the questions in the pocket guide and explains why the answers are important. The guides are meant to help consumers identify food grown according to true organic principles, whether the farmer is USDA certified or not.
- USDA Local Food Directories (Farmers Markets, CSAs, Food Hubs, On-Farm Markets)
- Mark Muhich's column for the Jackson Citizen Patriot (8/18/2014) gives a good overview of reasons for buying organic.
- The Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) offers a substantial list of resources for consumers who are concerned about what they eat and how it's grown.
- Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund: Defending the rights and broadening the freedoms of family farms and protecting consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods.
(See also Education and Advocacy and Electronic Newsletters below.)
- Greenhouse Manual: An Introductory Guide for Educators from NCAT, the United States Botanic Garden (USBG) and City Blossoms, the manual helps educators maximize the potential of new and existing school greenhouses.
- My First Garden, a free curriculum developed by Rodale Institute for educators of pre-school- and kindergarten-aged children that is easily adapted for elementary-school learners.
- A Beginner's Guide to Seed Saving from Rodale's Organic Life.
- Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards, from Northeast Organic Farming Association Organic Land Care Program. Fifty-six pages of advice on maintaining an eco-friendly property.
- A list of Resources for School and Community Gardeners compiled by John Edgerton.
- A young man named Jaylen pointed us to The Effects of Gardening with Pesticide from Angie's List. A good introduction for the general public about the many ways in which pesticides are harmful to human health and the health of the planet, with pointers to suggestions for managing garden and household pests without using harmful substances (just skip on past the offers to hook you up with an exterminator).
- Build a Victory Garden with Rodale Institute. Rodale has put together a program with two webinars and supplies to help you start your own organic, garden.
(Please let us know of other resources that would be helpful here.)
- Organic Farming Exchange, part of the Center for Regional Food Systems at MSU. This site offers practical information on producing organic vegetables, grains, hay, and rotational crops. Through this site you will be able to contact Vicki Morrone, the Organic Specialist for MSU Extension.
- ATTRA is a program developed and managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) providing high value information and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, Extension agents, educators, and others involved in sustainable agriculture in the United States.
- SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) offers an enormous body of books, bulletins, videos, curricula, fact sheets and much more. Nearly all are available for download free of charge.
- The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center specializes in identifying resources about sustainable food systems and organic agriculture. Find information about CSA's, organic farming, sustainable farming, and grant opportunities.
- The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF): An extensive database of research on organic farming, policy work at the state and federal level, and education resources for educators and students.
- The Soil & Health Library is an excellent site that keeps many of the classic writings on organic farming—such as Sir Albert Howard's books—accessible to us.
- The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) disseminates generic and specific (brand name) lists of materials allowed and prohibited for use in the production, processing, and handling of organic food and fiber. It also conducts scientific research and education on the use of materials by the organic industry.
- Carbon Sequestration, Naturally. Maynard Kaufman, one of the founding members of MOFFA, has written a thought provoking article on Carbon Sequestration which we are pleased to offer to all. Please share widely!
- Cover Crops: SARE maintains a Cover Crop Topic Room as well as a Cover Crop Innovators Video Series to provide information about using cover crops to to slow erosion, improve soil health, enhance water availability, smother weeds, help control pests and diseases, increase biodiversity and bring a host of other benefits to your farm.
- Farm Health Online, a website of animal health and welfare information. Designed for farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and advisors, Farm Health Online currently covers four main species: cattle, sheep, poultry and pigs. Each species has sections on 'Disease Management' and 'Health and Welfare.' A 'Veterinary Management' section also provides information on key and emerging issues, such as antibiotic resistance, health planning and vaccination.
- Farm to Consumer Foundation. Supporting farmers engaged in sustainable farm stewardship and promoting consumer access to raw milk and local foods. The board of directors includes long-time MOFFA members Joe Scrimger and Ted and Peggy Beals.
- Small grains crops like oats, rye and wheat were once integral parts of crop rotations across the Corn Belt, used by farmers to help break pest and disease cycles, boost soil fertility and feed livestock, among other benefits. Practical Farmers of Iowa has launched a new video series to help farmers learn key production skills. The first six videos are already out, and can be found at youtube.com/pfivideos. A short three-minute trailer introducing the entire series is available at the same link.
- Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management. This 210-page manual from Cornell University is a comprehensive resource for those who want to practice sustainable agriculture. It addresses the specific issues encountered among the various crop families and includes an extensive section of color photos illustrating insect pests and diseases.
- Cornell also publishes the Comprehensive Assessment of Soil Health – The Cornell Framework Manual. This guide discusses the characteristics of healthy soil, soil testing, and how to use the results, along with sustainable practices, to attain and maintain maximally healthy soil.
- The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) recently published a series of educational guides to help organic farmers and ranchers enhance soil health and overall resilience of their operations. Topics include soil health and organic farming, building organic matter, weed management, conservation tillage, cover crops, plant breeding, water management, and nutrient management. The guides come as a set, and are available for free download on the OFRF website.
- A new free ATTRA publication, “Building Healthy Pasture Soils,” introduces properties of soil, discusses evaluation and monitoring of soil quality, and introduces grazing management principles and techniques that promote healthy soil. The publication is a supplement to ATTRA's Managed Grazing Tutorial session on Pasture Fertility.
- From Acres, USA, Eco-Ag U, is an on-line collection of courses where you can tap into the knowledge of eco-agriculture’s top farmers, ranchers, scientists and consultants from your own home. All classes are designed by expert agronomists and professional farmers, and designed by the educational experts at Acres U.S.A., the Voice of Eco-Agriculture.
- The USDA maintains a list of certified organic operations.
- The USDA "One Stop" provides information about organic agriculture and the process of becoming Certified Organic.
- The Cornucopia Institute provides a report and scorecard on certifiers which adhere to the spirit as well as the letter of the NOP requirements.
- USDA "Sound and Sensible" resources for farmers considering transitioning to organic. The resources include videos, brochures, checklists, etc. in both English and Spanish.
- A list of certifiers working in Michigan.
- Profiles of Michigan Farmers Making the Transition to Organic Farming (2008).
- Transitioning to Organic Farming from SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), which is a rich source of information on sustainable farming.
- Common Certification Mistakes. Whether it's your interactions with certifying agencies, use of improper inputs, or problems with following your farm plan, Jim Riddle provides a helpful list of things to watch for in the certification process.
- The Independent Organic Inspectors Association. Learn about who organic inspectors are and what they do.
- The official website of the National Organic Program has links to information about organic regulations, lists of accredited certifying organizations, information on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, how to take action on regulatory violation complaints, cost share programs, etc.
- MOSES has created a workbook with recordkeeping forms that can be used both for crop insurance and organic certification--a valuable way to optimize your recordkeeping time when you are participating in both of these programs. For crop insurance, these forms can help you prove your production activities were sufficient to produce a crop in order to receive a payment due to losses caused by weather or market issues. The forms are applicable for multi-peril commodity crop insurance and whole farm revenue protection. You may also use the forms to verify compliance with the organic rules. The forms are also available online as Excel spreadsheets.
Loans, Grants, and Cost Share
- Information on the Organic Certification Cost Share program administered by the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
- Any farmer with on-farm or mobile storage needs can apply for a USDA Farm Storage Facility Loan as long as they have satisfactory credit, can demonstrate the ability to repay the loan and have proof of crop insurance, NAP coverage, or another risk management option. Loans can be up to $500,000, though there is a streamlined process to apply for a microloan of up to $50,000. A 15% down payment is required for all FSFLs except for microloans, which only require a 5% down payment. Loan terms are for 3, 5, or 7 years (microloans) or 7, 10, or 12 years (all other loans), and the interest rate is fixed by the U.S. Treasury (currently 2.5% as of April 2016).
- The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) provides loan programs to new, beginning and established producers. These programs assist farmers, in accessing the capital needed to own and operate farms. The focus of the Microloan Program is to the finance the needs of small, beginning farmer, niche and non-traditional farm operations.
- SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) offers a wide variety of grants to producers for on-farm research. Grants to Michigan farmers are awarded through the regional office North Central SARE. See the website for more information.
- SARE publishes a guide to 62 USDA programs available to producers, researchers, nonprofits and landowners. The updated guide, Building Sustainable Farms, Ranches and Communities was published January 20, 2021, and is available as a free, downloadable pdf.
- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) maintains a comprehensive list of Federal loan and grant programs in its Grassroots Guide to Federal Farm and Food Programs. In January 2017 they published the 28-pg Growing Opportunity: A Guide to USDA Sustainable Farming Programs.
- Michigan Natural Resources and Conservation Service offers voluntary programs to eligible landowners and agricultural producers to provide financial and technical assistance to help manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. Through these programs the agency approves contracts to provide financial assistance to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns or opportunities to help save energy, improve soil, water, plant, air, animal and related resources on agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest land.
- Information on the Organic Certification Cost Share program administered by the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
- Also see our Grants and Other Opportunities page.
Beginning Farmers / Access to Land
- Agricultural Law Center Online Legal Guide The Drake University Agricultural Law Center has developed an online version of The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing to provide farmers the information they need to deliver produce, dairy, meat, and value-added foods directly to consumers. This update of the original print publication includes an extensive checklist, video interviews, interactive responses to questions, and a state-by-state listing of organizations and agencies that can provide additional services.
- Michigan growers/farmers, can take advantage of mediation for disputes with USDA Agencies and with creditors and lenders through the Michigan Agricultural Mediation Program. Successful dispute resolution rates are high and there is no charge for the service. (It is partially funded by USDA but through a not-for-profit to maintain neutrality.)
- Building a Legally Resistant CSA Program. Farm-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are incredibly valuable for sustainable farmers who want to build strong relationships with their community. This workbook explores ways we can keep that trajectory strong by resolving the varied and unqiue legal issues of CSA. We explore a range of potential issues including making the sale, sharing risk, offering gift certificates, dealing with securities laws, managing drop sites, combining farm product, working with volunteers, hosting events, and managing food safety. Through a workbook-style that encourages farmers to reflect on their own priorities and risks, this resource empowers CSA farmers to move forward in creating a strong, resilient CSA program. Farm Commons published a new and improved CSA Member Agreement Workbook on 8/17/16, and has a video User's Guide to farm law resources available on the site, all of which are free.
In August 2016 Farm Commons
released new, detailed legal materials for farm programs that pay in-kind wages: wages in the form of food, lodging and other non-cash resources. This complex area of law will take time to fully understand and these put a farmer well on her or his way: The Federal Commodity Wage Exception to Payroll Taxes
, Migrant Worker Laws and Providing Housing
, Federal OSHA Impacts When Providing Housing
, and state-specific farm employment law webinars for Minnesota
, and Ohio
discuss each state's particular in-kind wage rules. Building a Legally Sound Intern and Volunteer Program for Farm Work
webinar from this past winter discusses many of the latest changes in intern, apprentice, and volunteer law.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has resulted in a sweeping overhaul of federal food regulation in recent years. Consequently, farmers and food producers are now navigating new regulations and facing inspections of their operations, many for the very first time. The teams at Vermont Law School's Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) and UVM Extension's Northeast Center to Advance Food Safety (NECAFS) are pleased to share a new free legal resource for farmers, food producers, and technical service providers: Food Safety Modernization Act Resources
. The site includes an interactive map illustrating the specifics of each U.S. state’s produce safety program laws, as well as seven fact sheets
- Contracting in Agriculture: Making the Right Decisions. Prepared by the Drake University Agricultural Law Center and NSAC, this guide is designed to help you understand production contracts – and to help identify the questions you should consider as you decide whether contracting is right for you. At the end of this guide you will find a list of other sources of information about contracting, including the USDA website, which may help you decide whether contracting makes sense for you and your business.
- The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service has just published the second edition of Fearless Farm Finances, a 270-page book that covers the financial aspects of farming, including recordkeeping systems, financial statements, assessing investments, working with a lender, and how to use farm numbers to make market and pricing decisions. This edition contains new information and worksheet templates for farmers who use paper-based systems, a new chapter on farm transition, an updated chapter on farm business structures, more farmer profiles, and updated resources.
- "Manage Your Farming Legal Risks with Insurance" from Farm Commons highlights key aspects of four core insurance categories for farms: (1) property insurance, including structures and equipment, (2) crop and livestock insurance, (3) liability for worker injuries, and (4) liability for other injuries, including guests and farm owners. These sections are full of practical tips and action steps. The tutorial can be watched in entirety or by section. Overall, it will guide viewers through the process of evaluating and obtaining the best coverage for farm and ranch operations.
Education and Advocacy
- A Brief Overview of the History and Philosophy of Organic Agriculture from the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
- GM Watch is an organization reporting on the growing concerns surrounding genetically modified organisms.
- An Annotated Bibliography on Structural Racism Present in the U.S. Food System: Fourth Edition. Recently pubished by the Center for Regional Food Systems at MSU, this annotated bibliography provides current research and outreach on structural racism in the U.S. food system for the food system practitioner, researcher, and educator. It is available as a free pdf download.
- Since 1972, IFOAM - Organics International has occupied an unchallenged position as the only international umbrella organization of the organic world, uniting an enormous diversity of stakeholders contributing to the organic vision. A North American office was established in 2013. Their 2016 Membership Directory contains a wealth of information about the divisions and partners of IFOAM and organic organizations worldwide. They recently issued the second revision of Organic 3.0, a vision for the global organic future.
- Michigan Organic Survey A study conducted in 2006 which provides a detailed picture of organic farming in Michigan at that time.
- MOSES, the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service, has a wide variety of resources and programs targeted for both farmers and consumers. They also put on the largest event in the U.S. around organic and sustainable farming, drawing more than 3,500 people annually. See our Educational Opportunities page for more information about the upcoming conference, which is generally held in February.
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) uses both direct and grassroots advocacy along with public education to work toward greater adoption of sustainable growing methods and providing support to those who are currently engaged in sustainable agriculture. MOFFA is a member of NSAC.
- The National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) is a non-profit organization representing African American farmers and their families in the United States. As an association, it serves tens of thousands of members nationwide. NBFA's education and advocacy efforts have been focused on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, education and agricultural training, and rural economic development for black and other small farmers.
- The National Organic Coalition (NOC) is a national alliance of organizations working to provide a "Washington voice" for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, consumers and industry members involved in organic agriculture.
- The Organic Consumers Association is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability.
- The Organic Farming Research Foundation works to foster the improvement and widespread adoption of organic farming systems. OFRF cultivates organic research, education, and federal policies that bring more farmers and acreage into organic production.
- The Organic Seed Alliance advances the ethical development and stewardship of seed. "We believe seed is part of our common cultural heritage – a living, natural resource that demands careful management to meet food needs now and into the future. We accomplish our mission through research, education, and advocacy." They have recently released a publication on the State of Organic Seed 2016.
- The Organic Trade Association is a member based business asssociation for the organic industry in North America.
- The briefing room is maintained by the USDA's Economic Research Service. A good site for current statistics. The USDA also maintains the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), which also has a ton of statistics, though few are specifically organic.
- USDA Survey of Organic Production 2014 (updated April, 2016). This 592-page report provides data on land under organic production, data on individual crops and pricing, production and marketing practices, and a whole lot more, broken down by certified organic, exempt, and transitioning producers.
- Black farm cooperatives hold a unique role within the food sovereignty movement and cooperative organization history. the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) facilitated a virtual panel alongside the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED) to celebrate the accomplishments, history, and challenges of Black farm cooperatives in the United States. The webinar featured experts in cooperative development and history, farmers, and almost 300 participants who engaged in a robust Q&A session during the latter portion of the event. Together, they shared tools, resources, and examples of how to build sustainable economies through cooperative farming.
- Michigan Organic Connections, MOFFA's quarterly newsletter. You can sign up here, and view previous issues here. Each issue focuses on a specific topic; throughout 2016 we will continue to focus on various aspects of the question, "What is Organic?"
- Michigan Organic Listserv from the Center for Regional Food Systems. News about organic happenings around the state as well as national news and opportunities.
- ATTRA, a division of the National Center for Appropriate Technology offers several newsletters ... we recommend "Weekly Harvest" and "Action Alerts".
- The Cornucopia Institute offers bi-weekly eNews and periodic action alerts about organic food, farm and policy issues.
- eOrganic is the organic agriculture community of practice with eXtension; its mission is to foster a research and outreach community, engage farmers and ag professionals through trainings and publications, and support research and outreach projects. One can sign up for their newsletter on the main page of the website.
- National Organic Coalition
- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition offers several newsletters keeping subscribers up to date on policy issues and new legislation (sign up under "Stay Connected").
- Organic Insider, a newsletter from the National Organic Program at the USDA. Important source of information on organic regulations and proposed rulemaking.
- Organic Seed Alliance newsletter.
- Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) newsletter.
- Organic Bytes from the Organic Consumers Association.
- Acres U.S.A. has several e-newsletters to subscribe to. Choose the one that appeals to you most or join them all.