New Row Farm Nurseries Sat, 25 Sep 2021 04:24:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New Row Farm Nurseries 32 32 Walz asks for $ 10 million in drought aid Sat, 25 Sep 2021 01:32:00 +0000 Governor calls on legislature to approve drought aid subsidies and replenish revolving farm loan funds, especially for farmers without a federal safety net

ST PAUL, Minn. – Governor Tim Walz calls on state lawmakers to invest $ 10 million to help farmers still reeling from the historic drought conditions that have hit the state this summer, especially growers who cannot count on federal safety net programs.

He presented the plan to reporters who gathered at the Gene and Louise Smallidge Farm south of Cottage Grove on Friday, surrounded by Minnesota Farmers Union chief, Minnesota Farm Bureau and Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen.

“In July and August, we lost 20 dairy farms every month, so we lost 40 dairy farms and the state is going to plunge to less than 2,000 dairy farms,” ​​said Commissioner Petersen.

“Right now, 27 percent of Minnesota’s pastures are in very poor condition, 20 percent in poor condition. We have seen a record number of cattle sold in the upstate. Time is running out.”

He said cattle ranchers and specialty crop producers are particularly vulnerable because they don’t have the same options for insurance and other federal help to cover their losses.

Farmers’ Union president Gary Wertish said the issue could not wait until the next regular legislative session, so he hopes the legislature will address the issue in a special session in early October. Herders had to buy hay when they could find it after grazing became impossible.

“I have been on farms in the summer, where there was no more grass in the pastures,” Wertish told reporters. “They were already feeding – it was June – they were already feeding on their winter supply just to survive.”

The proposal includes $ 5 million for “quick response grants” for cattle ranchers and growers of specialty crops, who typically won’t receive as much help from federal safety net programs. Some examples of eligible costs provided by the governor’s office included water tanks, pipelines, water wagons, water transport, wells, and irrigation equipment.

“Our grants would go up to $ 5,000 to producers they apply for. We would spend the first million dollars on special crops and livestock and then we would see how the requests come in, ”said Commissioner Petersen.

The remaining $ 5 million would be used to replenish the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan Program, which can provide zero-interest loans to farmers for lost income that is not covered by insurance. harvest or other USDA programs.

Janssen Hang, director and co-founder of the Hmong American Farmers Association, said the aid will be vital for vegetable growers who have been rocked by lack of rainfall at key times in the growing season.

Hmong farmers wore rain gear on Friday as they worked the fields at the HAFA farm in Coates, Minnesota, preparing for the Saturday farmers markets. But Hang pointed out that the greenery you see now has arrived very late in the season.

The governor stressed that Minnesota farmers play a vital role in feeding the rest of the nation and the world, and keeping families on farms is important to avoid further consolidation in the industry.

“The reason it makes a difference for you personally as Minnesotan is that we have to keep people down to earth. We have to make sure these producers stay here and continue,” Walz said.

“None of these programs will make these people whole, but it will help them stay on earth.”

Gene Smallidge, who has farmed for 60 years, showed Walz and Petersen the stark difference between corn and soybeans that had been irrigated versus those in corners of fields that relied solely on rainfall.

The watered corn was 10 feet tall and had full cobs, while the other corn plants were stunted and had produced tiny partial cobs of corn. The irrigated beans had turned golden brown and looked ready for harvest, while the other beans were stunted and full of leaves that had sprouted from the recent rains.

He said these leaves made it impossible to harvest them at this point, but there is a chance some could be salvaged after drying later in the fall.

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Officials work to protect valley farmers amid poor air quality Sat, 25 Sep 2021 00:45:20 +0000 FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) – The Central Valley is spending another day under smoky skies as fire crews continue to tackle 10 major wildfires burning across the state.

As smoke from the Windy and KNP complex fires settles in the Central Valley, Fresno County Agricultural Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen is doing everything in his power to protect the valley’s farm workers.

Jacobsen says: “On a day like today you are at a higher temperature, you feel like the humidity is higher than normal. You have the layer of smoke above us that sometimes reaches the bottom of the valley. Every hour it seems There are times when it seems the air quality seems to be improving and the weather is fine and the sky is blue, and then in a very short time the wind turns and turns. pass the IQA through the roof.

Cal OSHA protections are in place, requiring outdoor employers to provide N95 respirators to their employees when the AQI is above 151

With over 7,600 forest fires burning this year alone, it’s not a question of “if” but “when” air quality reaches these levels.

“Here in the Valley, we are seeing numbers above 300 in the AQI, so this is a very critical time to make sure that we take the health and safety of our employees very seriously,” said Jacobsen.

Just as they did in response to the pandemic, the Fresno County Farm Bureau continues to distribute N95 respirators as they are a vital part of the food chain. Something state lawmakers hope to formalize.

MP Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) said: “What our bill seeks to do is just build on this ‘first national standard’ that exists in California, that is to say to include agricultural workers in the list of essential workers. There are supply problems for the future, which they can draw from the state’s stock of N95 masks. “

AB 73 is also calling on state agencies to provide training materials educating farm workers on wildfire smoke safety.

Rivas went on to say, “Farmers today, they work harder and die younger than any other class of people here in the United States than any other worker and so as we continue to live with this pandemic. global, as they continue to do the essential work to feed us. “

Governor Newsom has until October 10 to sign the bill.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All rights reserved.

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Santa Rosa Planning Commission approves cannabis project despite outcry Fri, 24 Sep 2021 23:07:56 +0000

After hours of controversial testimony, the Santa Rosa Planning Commission has approved a proposed cannabis business for a former school in Roseland that has divided community members.

The committee voted 6-0 in favor of Old School Cannabis, a large farm-to-fork company nominated by two businesswomen who say they want to invest in Roseland.

Opponents of the project could appeal and bring the company’s final approval to the Santa Rosa city council for a vote. Barring a reversal, the business, where plants will be grown, oils extracted and products made under one roof, appear to be heading to the old schoolhouse at 100 Sebastopol Road in the middle of an ever-changing Roseland. .

“We want to grow with the community and provide community spaces, promote the art of Roseland and protect young people,” Nayeli Rivera, one of the owners and operators of the business, said at the meeting. Rivera, a child of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Petaluma, said she looks forward to opening a business that could create up to 50 jobs in the area.

But a number of community members, including current and former students of Roseland University Prep, the school that was once on the site but has since moved, said they found the idea a business. heartbreaking but typical of a region. invest in.

“It was a place to teach Latinx and members of the minority community,” said Veronica Jaramillo. “No one asked for a dispensary – they asked for more help with schools, daycares, resources.”

Janice Siebert, president of the Roseland Public Schools District, also spoke against the proposal. “The Roseland School Board is standing up for our children and opposing this 23,000 square foot industrial cannabis project,” she said.

“Our strong voice against Old School Cannabis LLC is a statement to our children and to our stakeholders,” Siebert said.

In the end, the planning committee disagreed. “It is a unique property and I think this applicant is putting it to good use,” said Commissioner Patti Cisco. Dispensaries are opening in neighborhoods of the city as community retail businesses, she said.

“This is not a Roseland landfill project,” Cisco said.

Despite objections, the project was supported.

“It will create economic wealth within the Roseland community which is extremely important,” said one caller, who has only been identified as Jolee. The industrial potential of large estate could attract a business less dedicated to the community than Old School Cannabis, she said.

“We need local people to run these businesses, hire people from the community and give back to the community,” she said.

In the empty classrooms of the charter school, Rivera and her business partner, Cede Hunter, hope to set up a 17,120 square foot cannabis grow operation, as well as a 500 square foot manufacturing unit for extracting oil from plants, a retail dispensary and salon where cannabis can be consumed (although city officials say it cannot be smoked) on-site.

The callers suggested a food bank, library, community center, cultural center, daycare, and other uses for the property that they believe are best suited to a historically underserved community.

The cannabis trade, opponents of the trade said, is a way for foreigners to make money in Roseland.

“It’s like we’re being targeted again by people looking to take advantage of our employees,” said Maria Valverde, member of MEChA.

As residents opposed the business, frustration also spilled over to elected officials and local governments who failed to deliver promised community investments, such as a long-standing public library, in Roseland for decades. .

“We have no problem with cannabis,” said Silvia Langan, brushing aside suggestions that the opposition stemmed from poor education about the still newly legalized cannabis industry. “We are educated about it,” Langan said. “The problem is, we have other needs. We need space for education or for a community center.

You can contact editor Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or On Twitter @ AndrewGraham88

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Swedish plant-based seafood start-up secures major investment Fri, 24 Sep 2021 23:04:33 +0000

The new funds will be used to accelerate product innovation, such as the launch of the plant-based salmon the startup is currently developing, which Hooked says will be the first vegan shredded salmon on the market.

Founded in 2019, Hooked Foods is on a mission to tackle overfishing and the associated sustainability issues created in the conventional fishing industry.

As co-founder Tom Johansson said in a press release: “Overfishing is one of the most pressing environmental challenges we face today. Large nets from fishing boats also trap plants and animals, such as turtles and dolphins, resulting in an increasing number of animals being killed and a negative impact on marine life.

“We are very pleased that Brightly Ventures, Oyster Bay Venture Capital and artist Danny Saucedo wish to join our journey towards a more sustainable marine ecosystem. The funds will mainly be used to further expand our presence in Sweden, strengthen the team and accelerate product development, ”he added.

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Governor Walz announces $ 10million farm relief plan, but aid could be stuck at political deadlock Fri, 24 Sep 2021 21:13:51 +0000

Minnesota farmers suffering financial losses from one of the driest seasons in decades could get grants or loans thanks to a $ 10 million farm aid proposal that Governor Tim Walz presented on Friday.

But the timing of the relief dollars is tied to an unrelated political showdown at the State Capitol.

“We have to keep the people on the land. We have to make sure these producers stay here,” Walz said, noting that he heard from families who sold their herds of cattle during the summer drought. “We think it’s a piece to help fill the void.”

The DFL governor said he hoped lawmakers could pass the plan, along with helping frontline workers in the event of a pandemic, in a special legislative session in early October. But Walz – the only person who can call a special session – has remained firm that he will not bring lawmakers to Capitol Hill to pass these proposals unless Senate Republicans pledge not to impeach the government. Commissioner of the Department of Health, Jan Malcolm.

GOP lawmakers, some of whom disagreed with Walz and Malcolm’s approach to COVID-19 vaccines and masks, said they would not make such a deal.

Walz examined the dry corn and soybean stalks at Gene Smallidge’s farm in Hastings on Friday before presenting details of the back-up plan. He said the state was in a good financial position to spend an additional $ 10 million in aid to farmers.

The impacts of the drought have been uneven, with producers in parts of the state appearing to suffer significant losses or even shutting down their businesses while other areas have been spared.

Many farmers purchased crop insurance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture or received other federal assistance to help them get through the difficult season, but state officials noted that federal programs were not enough.

Livestock producers and people with specialty crops are among those who have been excluded from federal assistance, Walz said.

“There are no safety nets for people like me,” said Kathy Zeman, director of the Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association, which has a certified organic livestock operation. “Little ag in this state is a billion dollar industry that nobody knows we have to grow. That’s what it does. That said, okay, it won’t cure you, but it will help you. But it recognizes your worth. “

The Walz administration’s plan would involve $ 5 million in grants, giving ranchers of livestock and specialty crops the first chance to apply. The dollars could be used to cover needs such as water reservoirs, irrigation equipment and wells. An additional $ 5 million would be distributed as zero-interest loans through the Rural Finance Authority’s Disaster Recovery Loan program to help offset lost income due to lack of rain or expenses that insurance did not cover.

The state plans to provide between 500 and 1,500 grants depending on how much people request, and the grants could reach up to $ 5,000, Agriculture Department Commissioner Thom Petersen said.

“The good thing is that it’s scalable,” said Petersen. “If lawmakers want to help more farmers we can go higher, if they want to help a little less we can go less.

While the way forward for a special session is uncertain, Republicans and Democrats on Friday expressed a desire to help farmers.

The success of the farm economy is critical for the rest of Minnesota, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said in a statement after Walz’s announcement.

“House DFLers will continue to work with Governor Walz and Senate Republicans to put together a package that will help members of our farming community who have been negatively affected by this historic drought,” said Hortman.

Petersen has contacted the Legislature to put the back-up plan in place, GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller of Winona noted. And Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, said he was working on farm relief that could include quick-response grants and property tax refunds. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Westrom said ranchers are in a particularly difficult situation with their lack of crop insurance and a shortage of fodder to feed their animals.

“Until then, their property tax bills will still become due this fall, along with other fixed expenses,” Westrom said in a statement. “So any one-time aid program would help demonstrate our appreciation for the important role the farming community plays in our state.”

Jessie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044

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Ohio’s Best Conservation Farmers Honored; White Clover Farms among those recognized Fri, 24 Sep 2021 19:17:52 +0000 The Ohio Department of Agriculture recognized five families as the winners of the 2021 Conservation Farm Family Awards at the Farm Science Review in London.

The five honored families were: the Rodabaugh family of Hardin County; Sluss family of County Stark; Jeannie and the late Cliff Miller of Carroll County; Harrod family of Darke County; and White Clover Farms in Highland County.

Since 1984, the Conservation Farm Family Awards program has recognized Ohio farming families for their exemplary efforts in conserving soil, water, woods, wildlife, and other natural resources on land that they cultivate. Conservation Farm Families also run a variety of educational programs, opening their farms to schools, Boy Scout groups, farm organizations and more.

Families each receive $ 400 from the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and are featured in the September issue of Ohio Farmer magazine.

Ohio Farmer magazine has sponsored the Ohio Conservation Farm Family Awards since the program’s inception. Applications are invited annually between January and May, and Ohio farming families are encouraged to apply. For more information or to apply, individuals can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

• Zone 1 Winner – Rodabaugh Family: Chris and Gail Rodabaugh operate a farm with two sons, Clint and Cody, owners of Rodabaugh Meats, a retail and contract slaughterhouse. Chris and Gail also have another son, Chet, who lives in West Virginia.

The Rodabaughs cultivate 1,200 acres of no-till corn and soybeans in Hardin and Hancock counties. They have been no-till for over 30 years and have had cover crops on every acre. About 130 acres are enrolled in various conservation programs such as waterways, wetlands, tree plantations and quail pads. They have been raising pigs for many years, but now have a small herd of partnered beef goats.

The Rodabaughs were named Hardin Conservation Cooperator of the Year 2020. The family have organized field conservation days and have worked with Hardin SWCD on many projects.

• Zone 2 Winner – Sluss Family: Sam and Lauren Sluss are both fourth generation farmers in County Stark. They have two children. In addition to farming, Sam and Lauren have non-farm jobs.

The Sluss family farm 275 acres in Stark and Carroll counties, growing no-till corn, wheat, hay and soybeans. They also plant around 200 acres to cover crops each fall. The Slussians worked with the Stark Soil and Water Conservation District to provide a stopover on cover crop day for farmers to promote the benefits of cover crops for improving the health of farmers. soils.

The Sluss family has been chosen as the 2020 Cooperator of the Year by the Stark SWCD.

• Zone 3 winner – Jeannie and the late Cliff Miller. Cliff and Jean Miller worked as a team in marriage for 57 years and in agriculture for 40 years. They have two daughters.

Miller Ridge Farm is made up of 167 acres. They used intensive managed grazing by dividing their pasture into 32 pens. They used the EQIP and CSP grants to improve water quality, preserve topsoil, and manage wooded areas on the farm.

Cliff was a member of the Carroll County Soil and Water Conservation Board for 12 years, and he was chair of the board for four years. He was a founding member of the Eastern Ohio Grazing Council, which was formed to improve and advance conservation practices.

Miller Ridge Farm also organized pasture walks and a forest management program for the Carroll County Soil and Water Conservation District.

• Zone 4 Winner – Harrod Family: Tom and Jayne Harrod operate a farm alongside their son, Korey, and his wife, Brittany. Their son-in-law, Sean Gerber, helps part time.

The Harrods buy weaned pigs from a neighboring farrowing unit and finish about 20,000 pigs per year. They have two turkey starter barns under contract. They farm 1,200 acres in Darke County, growing no-till soybeans and corn, all of which are used as pig feed. They are currently planting 300 acres of cover crops.

The family received the 2018 Darke County Chamber Achievement Award. Tom was the 2003 Darke County SWCD Cooperator of the Year, and Tom’s father, Harold, won the same award in 1973. Tom has been a member of the Darke SWCD Board of Directors for 15 years.

• Zone 5 Winner – White Clover Farms: Jim and Sheryl Linne own White Clover Farms in Hillsboro. They have two daughters.

White Clover Farm is 300 acres of pasture, lumber and hay. They converted conventional farmland to a 100% grass-fed cattle operation. The farm uses holistic management to ensure soil improvement and uses prescribed grazing to maximize grazing potential.

Jim partners with the Highland SWCD for grazing schools and farm tours, where his land is used as an example of good conservation. Jim was named Highland County SWCD Cooperator of the Year in 2016.

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The Smart Protein project: developing the next generation of plant-based fish – vegconomist Fri, 24 Sep 2021 15:13:13 +0000

Since the Smart Protein project aims to develop sustainable food for the future, it makes sense that we explore plant-based fish, especially given the highly unsustainable nature of the global fishing industry. In preparing this article, we consulted with several Smart Protein partners, including the Good Food Institute, ProVeg International, Applied Research Organization Fraunhofer, and seafood companies Soguima and Thai Union.

As the herbal market continues to grow at an accelerated rate, it may seem that alternatives to fish and seafood have been left behind. While this is true to some extent, it also means that the alternative fish sub-sector represents a key opportunity in the alternative food sector, as there is plenty of space for new products to enter the market and considerable room for growth. And, given the general enthusiasm for the plant space on the part of investors and consumers, it seems likely that plant-based fish is set to catch up with its meat and dairy counterparts in the next few years. .

Schouten fish-free burger
© Schouten Europe

Looking at the alternative seafood sector on a global scale, it is clear that the industry is starting to grow at an accelerated rate, especially in terms of investment, with global investment in the sector increasing from a quarter of million US dollars in 2015 to 100 million dollars. in 2021.[1] In Germany, where the plant-based sector is particularly developed, data from Nielsen for the two-year period ending October 2020 shows that plant-based fish have the highest growth rate of any category. ‘plant-based foods, with a growth of 623% over the two years. While this rapid growth is in part due to the low initial value of the sector, the rapid expansion of sales from € 261k in 2018 to € 1.9m in 2020 is not to be despised and gives an idea of ​​the growth potential. future.

However, the selection of existing products is still very limited, consisting mainly of fish fingers and crumbled fish burgers. The development and launch of herbal analogues of fish fillets and other popular fishery products is needed to meet unmet market demand. According to Kai-Brit Bechtold, Principal Scientist at ProVeg, “Consumer research suggests that there is a strong need to improve the ingredients and prices of these products.

© Vegan Zeastar

All of this suggests that plant-based fish present a potentially lucrative business opportunity for those who can rise to the challenge of developing compelling fish analogues.

What do consumers want from plant-based fishery products?

The Consumer Advice Center in Hesse, Germany recently conducted a survey exploring the consumption habits of 80 vegan and vegetarian consumers compared to 20 plant-based seafood. The results revealed the following facts about the consumer’s experience of plant-based fish:

  • A recognizable fishy flavor is crucial, as is a chewing experience similar to conventional fish products.
  • Currently, most products do not meet the needs of consumers – they are either overprocessed or contain too many additives, while also missing key components commonly found in fish, such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamin B12. Although the products contain protein, the ratio is usually not as high as with conventional fish.
  • In addition, the price of fish of plant origin is too high, especially for products that consumers do not find sufficiently satisfactory. For example, breaded fish substitute sticks cost 60% more than conventional fish sticks.

Of the 20 products tested, about two-thirds used soybeans and / or highly processed grains (such as rehydrated wheat protein) as protein sources. Half of the products used seaweed and / or seaweed to impart a fishy flavor, while some products were enriched with additional flavors. Almost all of the products tested lacked nutrients typical of fish, such as omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and vitamin B12.

© Umiami

There is clearly a lot of room for improvement in this category, especially in terms of ingredients and price. At the same time, there is a lot of development in the sector. The Smart Protein project, along with its partners, is working hard to address these challenges.

Develop better plant-based fishery products

Emanuel Guimarães is COO of Portuguese seafood company Soguima and an active partner in the Smart Protein project. He had some useful ideas on what is needed to put plant-based fish on par with conventional products.

Guimarães points out that it is likely that one of the reasons seafood analogues have fallen behind in terms of market offerings is that fish and seafood have unique sensory characteristics. Generally speaking, these characteristics are the result of a combination of factors, ranging from volatile chemicals to the unique muscle structure of the fish. But, says Guimarães, “While the development and launch of more precise seafood alternatives presents a challenge in terms of food technology, it also presents an attractive opportunity – one that will be very profitable for companies that fall for it. the alt fish. “

One of the main challenges is to mask the flavors and colors of the basic herbal ingredients, while still getting the right sensory characteristics. Yet at the same time, consumers are increasingly demanding cleaner labels and less processed foods. The challenge is to disguise the flavors and colors without using unpopular additives.

Growth foods
© Growthwell Foods

Color is the key to consumer buy-in when it comes to alternative fish. Products that differ significantly in color from the product they are trying to replace will never convince consumers. Since synthetic coloring already faces opposition from consumers and regulators, one strategy is to try to mimic seafood which naturally has recognizable colors and is easy to achieve. Examples of fish with easily reproducible color palettes include tuna, salmon, fish roe, and cephalopods such as squid or octopus.

In terms of masking or minimizing unpleasant flavors, there are a host of proven techniques that are used in both conventional fish and other foods. These include processing methods such as marinating, salting, fermenting and smoking, all of which can be used to enhance and complement the flavor and texture of seafood analogues. It should be mentioned that if these traditional methods are sometimes modified or supplemented by additives or modern synthetic processes, in terms of consumer appeal simpler is always better – especially in the European market, where levels of consumer awareness and food regulation are particularly high.

Schouten fish-free sticks
© Schouten

The role of extrusion in the development of vegetable fish

As with beef and poultry analogues, most plant-based fish products are likely to be produced using an extrusion process, in which plant proteins are mixed with water, then mixed and heated, before being extruded in their final form. The extrusion process involves many variables that can affect the texture, mouth feel, and appearance of the finished product. These include temperature profile, screw design and speed, mass flow, die shape, and moisture content, all of which can be adjusted separately to determine a particular product texture.

Creating compelling products requires a deep understanding and experience of the multiple interactions between raw materials and the extrusion process. With adjustments to the process, a wide variety of shapes and textures can be generated, from soft and juicy to dense and rich in gum.

Triton Algae Innovations
© Triton Algae Innovations

While there is a great deal of expertise around traditional extrusion inputs such as soybeans, knowledge about the material behavior of newer ingredients must be generated from scratch, especially when new ingredients are blended with a other in a mixture of several components.

While there are challenges, extrusion allows the processing of any plant-based raw material into a variety of fish and seafood substitutes, from soft fish steaks to dense tuna shreds into passing through the shrimp. Adjusting the variables in the extrusion process allows for the creation of herbal versions of a wide range of conventional seafood.

Finally, from a nutritional standpoint, the gold standard for plant-based fish products should be a complete replacement for all of the essential amino acids and vitamins that are naturally found in fish products. Since not all plant protein contains all essential amino acids, a suitable approach to design an optimal amino acid profile for humans may be to combine different sources of plant protein and process them as mixtures instead. only unique ingredients.

Loryma vegan fried fish
© Loryma

A promising future for the sector

Despite the challenges facing the sector and its slow initial growth relative to other protein analogues, plant-based seafood is expected to skyrocket in the coming years, especially as concerns about sustainability issues for conventional seafood continue to grow. The Smart Protein project, in collaboration with its partners, is committed to accelerating this growth by providing research and support where possible. If you have any questions or would like to invest or develop plant-based seafood, please contact Paloma Nosten.

[1] Good Food Institute 2021: State of the Industry Report. Alternative seafood. January 2020 – June 2021. Available at: [Accessed: 10.09.2021]

(Invested capital includes accelerator and incubator funding, angel funding, seed funding, equity and product crowdfunding, early stage venture capital, late stage venture capital , private equity growth / expansion, capitalization, business, joint venture, convertible debt, and general debt transactions completed. Note: Data has not been reviewed by analysts at PitchBook.)

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Bring home the bacon (and more) on a DIY Berkshires Farm Tour Fri, 24 Sep 2021 14:01:25 +0000

In fact, Palumbo enjoys giving people a tour of his approximately 100-acre farm and introducing them to his chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, sheep and geese. And he loves to talk and teach the principles of sustainable agriculture, offering farm tours, workshops, internships and educational programs.

Palumbo is one of the luckiest farmers in Berkshires, whose businesses have survived the pandemic.

“It’s a time of flux,” he says. “It’s really hard to see where small-scale organic farming is going. “

During the pandemic, Palumbo tried to meet the immediate needs of the community by bringing everything online and offering a drive-thru pickup service at the farm. “It was incredibly stressful because we had limited resources and people were desperate for healthy food.”

Business has slowed, almost to a halt, with the reopening of traditional stores, but he hopes that the desire for locally produced organically produced foods will increase and local farms can become stable and expand again. “It’s like throwing a deck of cards in the air. Who knows? ”He said of the future.

But we were here to do our best to support him and other local farmers in an area long known for its strong farm-to-fork philosophy. We were also eager to explore places off the beaten track, along scenic backcountry roads. We had stuck a cooler full of ice in the trunk of the car and headed west on our own DIY Berkshires farm tour.

A tractor uses a hog brush to clean between rows in the vegetable gardens at Taft Farms in Great Barrington. Ben Garver / Associated press

After our stop at Moon In The Pond farm, we strolled through Great Barrington, stopping at the famous Bizalion Cafe and Market, known for its locally sourced provisions and gourmet specialties. We ordered fresh salads and an eggplant, tomato, melted mozzarella and pesto sandwich served on a freshly baked baguette from Berkshire Mountain Bakery. Owner Jean-François Bizalion was on hand to speak with customers and help with orders. We chatted with him for a while and he suggested a few must-see farms in the area including Highland Farm and Taft Farms. “I think the owner of Taft just wrote a book,” he said. Yes, we researched it: “Green: A Reflection on Love and Loss Through a Lifetime Relationship with the Land”, by Dan Tawczynski. (We’ve since put it on our reading list.) Tawczynski and his brother Stanley founded Taft Farms 55 years ago, pioneering sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture in the rich and fertile Housatonic River Valley. It’s our next stop, a market plentiful with baskets and boxes filled with freshly picked produce and coolers filled with local specialty items. There is a farmhouse grocery store and cafe with soups, salads and sandwiches; welcoming picnic tables overlooked the rolling farmlands. We loaded our bags with heirloom tomatoes – gnarled Great Whites, fun green sausages, and red and yellow Virginia candies.

Corn is harvested and chopped for silage at High Lawn Farm in Lee.
Corn is harvested and chopped for silage at High Lawn Farm in Lee.Ben Garver / Associated press

That evening we settled into the Wyndhurst Manor and Club in Lenox, a large rambling mansion that once housed the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club and later the Cranwell Resort & Spa. Today the property comprises an imposing Tudor-style brick mansion, expansive lawns and gardens, tennis courts, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and an 18-hole golf course with views of the the Berkshire Hills. The recently opened Miraval Berkshires wellness complex is also on the property. Rooms at the historic mansion are lovely, with traditional furnishings befitting the property, but have been updated with modern baths, light and neutral tones, and plush, lush linens. The lobby is grand and the dining room on the ground floor, with an outdoor terrace overlooking the mountains, is elegant, with its large stone fireplace, marble floor and white linen tables. That evening we dined on bowls of fresh cucumber gazpacho, local greens from Lenox Farms, and rainbow fish from the Hudson Valley, served with pancetta and beans.

The next morning we chatted with the resort’s chef, Andrea Pang, while tasting slices of fresh sourdough bread and local High Lawn Farm honey ricotta cheese. The cheese was amazing. “Yeah, it’s almost like raising an animal,” she said of the cheese. “Crops are alive, and the way they are managed, how they are raised matters.

Jersey heifers graze at High Lawn Farm in Lee.
Jersey heifers graze at High Lawn Farm in Lee.Ben Garver / Associated press

High Lawn was on our list of places to visit, but we checked out North Plain Farm in Great Barrington first. What a sweet place! The family farm is surrounded by rolling hills and pastures, a quiet and lush oasis to give up our daily jobs and become farmers in the Berkshires. One store contained the farm’s bounty, including grass-fed beef, pork, milk, eggs, chicken, vegetables and other local produce.

The historic High Lawn Farm in Lee was our last stop. The renowned family farm has been raising Jersey cows since 1923 and producing some of New England’s richest and tastiest dairy products. We visited the calves in the barn and enjoyed a platter of artisan cheeses and cold cuts from the on-site Farmstead dairy, followed by ‘in your dreams’ ice cream cones.

If you are going to: Moon in the pond, 413-229-3092,; Wyndhurst Mansion and Club, 877-781-7125,; Taft Farms, 413-528-1515,; Northern Plain Farm, 413-429-6598,; High lawn farm, 413-243-0672, For more information on the Berkshires, visit

Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be contacted at

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Gardening: find your answers by searching in the right places Fri, 24 Sep 2021 10:30:00 +0000

Finding the best plants in a nursery can require reliable help from the employees who work there.

Finding the best plants in a nursery can require reliable help from the employees who work there.

Special at the Star-Telegram

I was at the back of a large independent nursery many years ago.

I saw a sales rep from one of the biggest wholesale producers in the country – a man I have always had the greatest respect for. He had arrived early for his meeting with the nursery owner and his main buyer that day, and he was killing time.

He hadn’t seen me. Before I could approach to greet him, a customer walked up and hired him. Assuming he was a nursery worker, the customer started asking about the plants that were nearby.

My friend has never missed a step. He answered these questions honestly, pointing out the good and bad about each of the plants, including those that came from his own wholesale nursery. With my own ears, I heard this client say that a competitor’s strain was actually the best choice. But he never hinted that he was anything other than a worker at this retail nursery.

I stepped out of sight, but wanted to find him before he entered his sales meeting. I wanted to compliment him on what I had witnessed.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the advice we are given could have this objective?

When I started doing commercial gardening radio in 1978, I promised myself that I would always keep the advertising and editorial separate. My goal then, and now, has always been that you can’t tell who my advertisers are by what I say and write in my answers to questions and my newspaper editorial. Sometimes something new will happen that is a one of a kind product. I can mention it, but I will definitely let you know.

It is the same with the introduction of new plants. I’m slow to jump on the bandwagon of new brand releases.

There was a time when the most common new plants were All America Selections, both annual flowers and vegetables and roses. These were plants that had been tested repeatedly in many gardens across America. They had been subjected to rigorous judging tests before winning these prestigious designations.

Likewise, plants introduced by the United States National Arboretum, such as their crepe myrtles and althaeas, have undergone years of screening. The same goes for Earth-Kind designations from Texas A&M.

But, in recent years, in the rush to have something “new and shiny” for gardeners to buy, many exclusive brands have appeared on the market. Some are better than others. Some are little more than variety collections that a wholesaler can put together under a generic name. It could be 8 or 10 named varieties of azaleas or crepe myrtles, but a few years later, several of these might have been discontinued due to lower performance or sales. Personally, my fear is that they haven’t really been subjected to the same level of intense and lengthy testing.

I also see some of this happening in national chain stores where their buyers place orders for dozens of stores simultaneously. Unfortunately, plants aren’t like plumbing and paint supplies – they’re not universally suited. What works well in one part of America may not work well in another.

Wear it further. What works well in East Texas may not work well, even here in North Central Texas. Just because a plant is classified as suitable for the same USDA hardiness zone, it is assumed that it will grow just as well in Fort Worth as it does in Atlanta. It’s not always the case.

Where can you get reliable advice? Where else can you put your questions and know you’ll get the same kind of unbiased help my buddy was handing out in that nursery that day?

Land Grant University websites contain reliable information. It is the term used to describe the official agricultural teaching and research university of each state. Therefore, when I search the web for information on plants or topics that I am not sure about, I first enter the keyword “university” in my search.

Let me give you a concrete example: if I want to know what could happen to a Blue Point juniper to cause it to die off its top, I will google “Blue Point Juniper University Plant Pathology”. Such a search will reveal a bunch of good matches from Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, LSU, Clemson, and Auburn, among other universities.

They are all reputable horticultural research centers, and I will look for answers that appear on most or all of their sites. And, just to see if any bugs might be involved, I’ll also run this research: “Blue Point Juniper University Entomology”.

If I want someone to examine an actual sample of a plant, whether to name it or to identify a problem, I will seek out a certified Texas nursery professional. Better yet, if I find a Texas Master Certified Nursery Professional, I will ask him. These men and women will be in nursery members of the great Texas Nursery and Landscape Association, and their advice will be timely and reliable.

Of course, you can always call up my weekend radio programs. I would be flattered to try to help too.

You can hear Neil Sperry on KLIF 570AM on Saturday afternoons from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on WBAP 820 p.m. on Sunday mornings from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Join him at and follow him on Facebook.

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