WesMar Farms is one of two licensed goat dairies in Louisiana. Marketing their fresh goat milk, cheese and seasonal produce can be an obstacle for this sustainable family farm, Marguerite Constantine said.
“I am not a large company. I don’t have a big advertising budget. I can’t afford an ad agency or a PR person,” she explained. “My resources are limited not only by time, but money.”
When MarketMaker, a free online tool designed to link agricultural supply chain players, came to Louisiana in 2010, Constantine was quick to create an account. She said that it was “tailor-made” for her small farm’s market research and advertising needs.
If it were up to The Land Institute, instead of miles upon miles of amber waves of grain the American heartland would look a lot more diverse. The Salina, Kansas research institution promotes agricultural systems that are more in line with the state’s prairies—where different varieties of plants thrive side by side—than with its celebrated monochromatic wheat fields.
The Land Institute was founded in 1976 when Wes Jackson quit his job as chair of California State University-Sacramento’s environmental studies program to return to his native Kansas in order to do practical research on his ideas about alternative, sustainable agricultural methods. Jackson, who has a B.A. in biology, an M.A. in botany and a Ph.D. in genetics is widely considered a visionary in sustainable agriculture circles. He argues that because of the way we have been farming for centuries there is now a “problem of agriculture” meaning that the very way we farm is in question.
Farmers in Iowa who are considering adding new crops to their offerings now have an online tool at their disposal to help them estimate market demand. Using an array of government statistics, the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Market Planner estimates the demand for 80 crops in state and in bordering states. The Market Planner, which became available for use last fall, is the result of a collaboration between the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University and the Institute for Transportation at ISU.
Most agricultural experiments last anywhere from a few months to a few years, but at Russell Ranch near Davis, CA, researchers are in the midst of a 100-year study measuring the sustainability of various farming systems.
The study, known as Long-Term Research on Agricultural Systems (LTRAS), is designed to measure the long-term impact of different cropping systems, irrigation practices, tillage methods and carbon and nitrogen inputs on agricultural sustainability. It was started with a grant from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program in 1990.
What began a little over four years ago as a dialogue initiated by Colorado-based, The Keystone Center, between a small number of conservation organizations, growers, food retailers, and agribusiness companies to encourage sustainable agriculture production and measures has since evolved into Field to Market: The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture.