Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group          |          January 2018
There are two seasonal diversions that can ease the bite of any  winter . One is the January thaw. The other is the seed catalogues.  --Hal Borland
New Drone Invention to Help Farmers Increase Their Yield, Reduce Fungicide Use  
By Samantha Zarek, WCYB News

A Bristol, Tennessee native and recent University of Tennessee graduate has invented a special kind of drone to help farmers. It's pivoted him to become a finalist in the American Farm Bureau's annual national competition, with tens of thousands of dollars at stake for his start-up business.
"GeoAir goes out and pinpoints mold in agricultural fields, and we're able to do this before the mold starts to damage the crops, and this allows farmers to increase their yield, and reduce their use of fungicides," says CEO and inventor of GeoAir, Alex Adams.

Editor's note: If you are interested in using drones on your farm, come to the SAWG conference and sign up for our Thursday afternoon mini course, Drones: They're for Farming Too.
©Fish River Trees. All Rights Reserved.
Local Christmas Tree Farms Continue to Court Customers

By Dale Liesch

Steven Mannhard was stretched pretty thin. Between teaching English and working as a captain in the Army Reserve, he decided to open a Christmas tree farm in Baldwin County. With no machinery and 7,000 seedlings, Mannhard got to work on land he rented in Summerdale for $50. It became the Fish River Christmas Tree Farm.
"We had no earthly idea the work that was involved in those 7,000 seedlings and the next 7,000," he said. "We just thought we'd grow these trees. We had no idea what we were doing."
The amount of work caught up with the Foley High School English teacher when a colonel in the reserve caught him grading papers at the facility. "So, eventually, because of the amount of work involved in it, something had to go," he said. "Then when you're working two and a half jobs you're not doing a good enough job at any of them... I always miss the teaching." 

Photo courtesy of BLKHLTH.
How Black Millennials Are Taking Direct Action to Achieve Food Justice; and You Can, Too

In the years since Black Lives Matter became a popular rallying cry amongst activists, politicians, students, and many others, another important realization has started to receive more attention-- Black Health Matters. The Black population in the United States experiences long-standing health disparities , and even with modern medical technology and more knowledge regarding health best practices, many of these disparities persist. Often times, the culprit of and the solution to many Black health issues are one in the same--food. Access to healthy food remains elusive to many poor, marginalized communities. But community organizations led by young Black people are taking direct action to achieve food justice .
One of these groups is BLKHLTH , a platform created by four millennials to create a space where health information is centralized and accessible through content and community events. 

Editor's note: Advocates for food justice should come to Chattanooga before SAWG's general conference and sign up for this 1-1/2 day, pre-conference short course, Dismantling Racism: A Constructive Approach to Solution Building, Community and Agency.
Ag Mulch Film Certified to Naturally Biodegrade

Minnesota-based Organix Solutions has received a certification of its product line of black soil biodegradable agricultural mulch film.
The OK biodegradable SOIL Certification from Vinçotte International verifies that the product, called Organix A.G. Film, will completely biodegrade in the soil without adversely affecting the environment according to international standards, stated by a release from Organix.

Soil biodegradability is desirable in agricultural mulch films as they can be tilled into the soil after harvest. Microbes in the soil will break down the film into CO2, biomass and water. The US Composting Council society advocates for healthy soil through practices like the application of high-quality compost and sustainable practices that benefit growers, according to a release from the company.

Weather Stations in the Field Help Farmers Make Split-Second, Smart Irrigation Decisions

Florida Growers have been installing their own weather stations in increasing numbers. With help from the UF/IFAS Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN), they have been able to more accurately determine when to irrigate to protect their crops from freezes. "The onsite data is exponentially more useful," explains Rick Lusher, FAWN director. But this fiscal year, the state of Florida no longer has a line item specifically earmarked to help growers buy weather stations. "We all experienced a lot of budget cuts. This coming year we're hopeful it's going to be better," says Susie Bishop, who formerly coordinated the program by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Tribe Will Move from Shrinking Island to Farm in Louisiana

By Faimon A. Roberts, The Advocate

Dozens of Isle de Jean Charles residents are to be relocated about 40 miles (64 kilometers) to the northwest, in Terrebonne Parish. 

Louisiana officials have chosen a sugar cane farm as the next home for residents of a tiny, shrinking island--a move funded with a 2016 federal grant awarded to help relocate communities fleeing the effects of climate change.

The state is negotiating to purchase the 515-acre (208-hectare) tract, which is closer to stores, schools and health care--and which is less flood-prone than the island, which has been battered by hurricanes and tropical storms.

January is the quietest month in the garden.... But just because it looks quiet doesn't mean that nothing is happening. The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants. The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.  --Rosalie Muller Wright
Don't miss this opportunity: Join us in Chattanooga. 

Conference registration desk opens Tuesday, January 16 from 5pm-7pm. Download and fill out our  registration form to save time. 
Our Mission

Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's mission is to empower and inspire farmers, individuals, and communities in the South to create an agricultural system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and humane. Because sustainable solutions depend on the involvement of the entire community, Southern SAWG is committed to including all persons in the South without bias.
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