Producers looking to start CSAs for their farm have options

In today’s agriculture scene, more and more small farmers are making an impact on their communities and coming up with creative ventures to make an income on their farms. From CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs to value added product to agritourism, there are a number of ways that small farmers are living their dreams. Most dreams can benefit from a little help, and that is where many of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) programs come in.

There are an enormous variety of programs that small farmers can apply for. Visiting a local USDA Service Center to get the farm registered and to discuss goals and problems with the staff is the best place to start.

“We always encourage people to stop in and visit,” said Curt McDaniels, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist-Programs. “We want to give people the best experience we can, and it starts with a conversation.” Once the relationship has been established, NRCS professionals can aid small farmers in picking the best programs to fit their needs. 

For farmers who grow vegetables for a CSA, farmers market sales or local restaurants, the High Tunnel Initiative through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) offers a way to extend the growing season, and help increase winter and early spring income. This program also offers environmental benefits through improved soil and plant quality in areas where the high tunnels have been constructed.

For farmers who wish to enter the niche market of organic products, the Organic Initiative, also through EQIP, offers assistance to producers to install conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production such as certified organic producers, producers who are transitioning to organic production and certification exempt producers, according to the USDA-National Organic Program.

If farmers have livestock are raised for meat or for sale, the NRCS can help improve pasture and forestland for both domestic and wild animals. Through the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which McDaniels said is one of the flagship programs of the NRCS.

Improving crop rotations to reduce water erosion, planting cover crops to reduce weed pressure and break pest cycles, and creating silvopasture for both livestock and wildlife are just a few of the projects that can be funded and achieved with the help of the NRCS through the CSP.

Anyone interested in participating in NRCS programs can visit the website at any time, McDaniels noted that producers can easily access state specific NRCS site by typing the state’s abbreviation into a search engine, followed by NRCS.

“It will be the first result, every time,” he said.

Another website tool is the Field Office Locator – this search feature helps locate local USDA Field Offices by county. Producers already working with the NRCS on a program can utilize an online portal called the Conservation Client Gateway. This tool allows users to request technical assistance, apply for financial assistance, view, sign and submit applications and other documents, and track payments.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here