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Irish DNA Research Reveals Historic Agriculture

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Dublin, Ireland (Siliconrepublic, August 12, 2014):  New research undertaken by researchers from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the University of York shows extracted ancient DNA from parchments can determine the development of centuries-old agriculture.

The state-of-the-art process now opens up millions of ancient documents written on various animal skins to research as they have successfully conducted genetic sequencing techniques enabling them to establish the type of animals from which the parchment was made.

By comparing their genomes with their modern equivalents, the results provide key information as to how agricultural expansion shaped the genetic diversity of these animals, and more specifically animal husbandry, over the last few centuries.

To conduct their research, geneticists at TCD extracted DNA from two tiny samples of parchment, measuring 2cm x 2cm, provided by the University of York's Borthwick Institute for Archives.

Meanwhile, researchers in the Centre for Excellence in Mass Spectrometry at York extracted collagen (protein) from the same parchment samples.

In the first sample obtained by the researchers, its DNA showed a strong affinity with northern Britain, specifically the region in which black-faced sheep breeds such as swaledale, rough fell and Scottish blackface are common, whereas a second sample showed a closer affinity with the British midlands and southern Britain, where the livestock improvements of the later 18th century were most active.

Speaking of its potential, professor of population genetics at TCD Daniel Bradley, said: "This pilot project suggests that parchments are an amazing resource for genetic studies that consider agricultural development over the centuries. There must be millions stored away in libraries, archives, solicitors' offices and even in our own attics. After all, parchment was the writing material of choice for thousands of years, going back to the Dead Sea Scrolls."

Next Generation Key To Farms' Survival

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Hot Springs, VA (The Washington Times, December 7, 2014):  For farms to survive and thrive, they need a vibrant community around it, according to an expert.

"The rural community is more important to the family farm operation than the family farm operation is to the rural community," said Robert Young, chief economist and deputy executive director for public policy for the American Farm Bureau.

He was speaking during a workshop at the annual convention of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, which focused much of its attention on the decline in farming. The convention's focus is on promoting agriculture by boosting farm education in schools with the theme, "Farming for the Next Generation."

Nearly 1,000 Virginia farming representatives attended last Tuesday as the three-day meeting kicked off at the Omni Homestead Resort.

Young said being dependent primarily on farming isn't a sustainable way to live now.

Benefits of Forest Buffer

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Seven Valleys, PA (Bay Journal, November 17, 2014):  Standing amid tall trees next to White Clay Creek, listening to the forest birds sing and the water splash along rocks, roots and fallen branches, one could imagine the creek had always looked like this.

But, walking through the site one summer afternoon, Bern Sweeney pointed to a tell-tale sign that the site wasn't as pristine as it appeared. "If you look over there," he said, "the trees are all in rows."

Just a bit more than three decades ago a cornfield grew right to the edge of the stream. Another section was a pasture, again to the edge of the stream.

Sweeney and other scientists from the Stroud Water Research Center planted trees on a portion of the field and the pasture, and have been watching — and studying — changes ever since.

Just a few hundred yards downstream, the creek winds through a meadow and is so narrow a person could jump across. Here, among the tall trees, it requires a bridge — even though this upstream site was carrying less water.

Farmer Writes: The Science Of Agriculture

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Dublin, Ireland (Irish Farmers Journal, December 8, 2014):  Have you ever noticed how people have an aversion to the idea that science is involved in food production?

Picture the conversation:

"Have you heard about this "Diazotroph?"

"Sounds like a disease."

"Actually it's a bacteria."

"Worse again. I bet that needs some equally dangerous chemical to kill 99.9% of it."

"No. It is used to get grain plants to produce around 70% more yield."

"There should be a label on that bread. No way would I buy it. It has to be dangerous."

"No. It is perfectly safe, in fact good for the environment."

"Who told you that? Probably some big multinational corporation."

"Not at all, it was three teenage girls from Kinsale. They won the Young Scientist competition."


Why Don't Europeans Refrigerate Eggs?

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New York, NY (Business Insider, December 1, 2014):  British supermarkets don't refrigerate eggs. It's not unusual to find stacks of egg cartons sitting alongside canned beans, boxes of dry cake mix, or other traditionally nonperishable foods.

This is unlike the US, where eggs are found in the refrigerated dairy aisle with the butter, cheeses, and milk.

The difference is linked to the way that eggs are farmed and processed in the US compared with in the UK and other European nations.

In the US, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that eggs destined for supermarket shelves — called graded eggs — are washed and sprayed with a chemical sanitiser before they are sold to the public to reduce the risk of salmonella infection.

In the UK, Grade A hen eggs may not be washed because the process is thought to "aid the transfer of harmful bacteria like salmonella from the outside to the inside of the egg," according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Forbes contributor Nadia Arumugam has previously noted that USDA graded eggs could not be legally sold in the UK (and the other way around) because of these different preparation methods.

5 Myths About Farming

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Washington, DC (U.S. News, December 1, 2014):  The holiday season is a time to say thanks for the plethora of food we're lucky to have available. These feasts would not be possible without the hard work of family farmers throughout the country. Although many folks like the idea of farm-to-table, people rarely have a chance to talk to a farmer. I had that opportunity – and learned the truth about these five common misconceptions about farming:

1. There is a Hass avocado shortage in the United States.

"There is currently no shortage of Hass avocados. Approximately 1.8 billion pounds of avocados are expected to be shipped in the U.S. at the end of 2014. This is up from 1.69 billion pounds in 2013.

"Hass avocados are known as the 'year-round avocado' because of their all-season availability. Hass avocados sold in the United States are grown in California, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic. The Hass avocados in your grocer's produce section are worldwide. That assures you of a ready supply of fresh fruit 365 days a year." – Jamie Johnson, global producer of Hass avocados and co-founder of Rancho Simpatica.

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