Finding Farm Information Resources

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The internet is a wonderful place to locate information, find ideas and get answers to our questions. But, sometimes we just want to talk with a human being, connect with a living breathing person; that’s when having a list of available local resources comes in handy.

America was founded on agriculture. Over the centuries our national government promoted the improvement and expansion of farming through government sponsored programs and institutions. Agriculture is still a very important part of our society and many of the institutions or organizations formed to service future farmers still exist today.

Most of these resources are in every state, and sometimes in every county of the country. If your state is less populated or you live in a fairly urban area you may have to look to neighboring counties for the information you’re looking for. But, it is out there.

So — where are these resources and how can you find them?

4-H —

4-H is a youth organization started by the USDA, over 100 years ago. Its primary purpose was to teach farm children new techniques and ways of farming, to educate the next generation of farmers and to help girls improve their home economics skills through experiential learning projects. Today, 4-H still has deep roots in agriculture, but has also adopted modern programs in science, technology, conservation and preservation.

But, you don’t necessarily need to be a 4-H member to benefit from the decades of information this organization has compiled. Project manuals and information put out by the state and national organizations are clear, concise, well organized and very useful for even non-4-H members.

To find out about 4-H in your area contact your county Cooperative Extension Office and ask for the 4-H Advisor.

Cooperative Extension —

The Cooperative Extension Service is a nationwide educational network that is a collaboration of federal, state and local governments and state land-grant universities. It is a non-formal educational program designed to provide people with research-based educational materials on topics as varied as nutrition, child rearing, agriculture, horticulture, husbandry, small business and personal finance.

Every U.S. state and territory has a central state Extension office at its land-grant university. Each state Extension serves its residents through a network of local or regional offices staffed by professionals in their field. No matter what you’re looking for, Cooperative Extension will surely have a pamphlet, brochure or booklet that will have the information you’re looking for.

To find an office in your county check out Cooperative Extensions interactive national map. Click on your state then click on OFFICES.

A few notes, folks — not all states have a Cooperative Extension office because not all states have a land-grant university. Readers from smaller states like VT, NH, RI, CT, DE, MD, NJ and MA, will need to look to neighboring states for the nearest office.

Another note — many of the offices will carry information pertinent to their state. Crop and animal husbandry information will concentrate on what is most commonly grown or raised commercially in the state, but they do have a nice selection of backyard growing information as well, and ordering information from other state offices may be possible.

American Farm Bureau —

Considered “The Voice of Agriculture”, Farm Bureau is a grass-roots, independent, non-partisan, non-governmental organization administered by farmers for farmers. Their primary goal is to analyze farm related problems and formulate actions to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement, thereby improving their well-being and that of their county, state and nation as well.

Although Farm Bureau is a membership organization primarily consisting of commercial farmers, it is also a great resource for Ag related information and a good place to find farm mentors that can answer questions or give advice.

Their Young Farmers and Ranchers program, for people 18 – 35 is a way to meet younger people interested in farming and willing to help others succeed.

All 50 states have active Farm Bureau offices.

The National Grange —

Grange is a fraternal, family, community organization with strong roots in agriculture. Since its inception, 145 years ago, Grange has been at the center of rural community life. Grange has been instrumental in bringing about avenues for rural access from rural mail delivery to electricity; supporting social reform including women’s suffrage; and assisting groups such as the deaf and hard-of hearing through financial contributions and awareness campaigns.

Grange Halls offer local farm families a place and the opportunity to gather together to foster education, family values, good business practices and a closer relationship between farmer and consumer.

Farm & Home Advisor’s Office —

The Farm & Home Advisor’s Office is under the direction of Cooperative Extension, and usually housed at CE offices, the Farm Advisor provides useful, technical and research-based information to their local county. Farm Advisors may also have areas of expertise relating to popular crops in their county, but their main focus is improving production practices, resource management, pest management, food safety, worker safety, postharvest handling, alternative crops, enterprise and market analysis, and agricultural education to the public.

To contact your local Farm & Home Advisor’s office check the listing for your county Cooperative Extension office or Google “Farm and Home Advisor” with your state or county name.

Agricultural Commissioner’s office —

Ag Commissioner is usually a county position under the umbrella of county government. They are responsible for enforcing local, state and federal laws and regulations associated with the agricultural industry and the use of certain restricted materials. They may also be the office that issues permits for Farmer’s Markets, Organic Certification, burning, and land use. The office may also present programs regarding special needs, threats, policy or education specific to their county and main areas of production.

There is no national list of Ag Commissioner Offices, so Googling your county government offices or agricultural commissioner with your county name is your best bet.

Other useful resources for suburban homesteaders and small farmers include:

Master Gardener Programs – an educational and “pay back” program of the National Horticultural Society, the Master Gardener program is presented through county Extension offices. The first part of the program provides avid gardeners with intense home gardening training, and in return participants “pay back” local university extension agents through volunteerism. Master Gardeners assist with garden lectures, exhibits, demonstrations, school and community gardening, research, and many other projects.

FFA (Future Farmers of America) — FFA is a high school based program similar to 4-H; teaching young people to explore agriculture through projects, build leadership skills, and discover their passion; leading them to a successful and fulfilling future.

Since FFA is an Ag based program it is also a great resource for information, training and networking. Many FFA members have active livestock and/or farming projects; providing breeding stock, vegetable starts, crops or carcasses. You may also be able to find competent mechanics, builders, farm hands or farm sitters through a local FFA Chapter.

Ag Colleges, Universities, Trade Schools — schools with Ag degree programs are also great resources for furthering your education, gathering information, finding knowledgeable help, finding a teacher or mentor, or just networking. Some offer extended education, weekend programs, seminars and workshops on a variety of farm and resource management related topics.

Agriculture Programs in the USA provides an interactive map for the entire country.

No matter what your question or area of interest there are competent people in your local area, willing to help find the answer. All you need to do is ask them.

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