Ag breakfast speaker notes sustained growth of organic certification

Growing vegetables and crops organically continues to grow in demand each year.

On Thursday, Eric Pawlowski, a sustainable agriculture educator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association was the featured speaker at the monthly Ag Business Breakfast Forum.

In addition to being an organic farmer himself, in his OEFFA role Pawlowski helps other growers enter into the organic growing circle and receive organic certification.

“We are a nonprofit organization by farmers for farmers,” he said of the organization.

Not all members of OEFFA are organically certified and of those who are, not all of them are 100 percent organic as many have some standard crops as well as their organics.

During his presentation, he often reminded those interested in achieving organic certification to pick up the phone and call with any questions.

“We want to help. It will save you time and money in the long run,” he said.

Pawlowski outlined the five steps necessary to become a certified organic operation. First, complete and submit an application. Second, undergo initial review. Third, have an inspection. Fourth, have the post-inspection review. And finally, get a decision on certification.

He said the certification is essential to assure the highest level of standards are being met. “Certified organic is the gold standard.”

During the program he ventured away from the OEFFA policy and expressed his personal frustration with growers who choose not to certify but claim their operation goes “beyond organic.”

“Personally that offends me,” he said. “How can you go beyond a standard if you are not willing to verify you meet that standard?”

He explained those who claim to be organic and are not diminish the power of the certification and the high standards they set for the organics. He suggested they develop their own name for it. This is necessary he said “to uphold the integrity of the label.”

He said those wishing to be organic not merely get in it for the premium price being paid for organics.

“I found that if you are in it for the price premium, you’re not going to make it. You have to be in it with your heart and that will show in your business,” Pawlowski said.

He offered descriptions of requirements such as buffer zones and the three-year time frame needed to transition a field to organic. He also stressed the importance of keeping detailed records of all action in the field and with the harvested crops.

By doing the right things and documenting what is being done most growers can avoid the dreaded “noncompliance.”

He also offered some of the top reasons people are deemed non-compliant. The reasons include problems with record keeping, use of prohibited substances, incomplete organic systems plan, incomplete or inaccurate organic system dates and statistics.

He stressed the need for proper communication, including being sure to read any correspondence from their office.

For more information, contact Pawlowski at 614-262-2022 or through www.oeffa.org

Do You Know Where the Candidates Stand on Sustainable Agriculture Issues this Election Season?

We can’t help but notice the news the presidential candidates make on a daily basis. What is less well-reported, however, are the 132 state and federal legislative races Ohioans will vote on, and where those candidates stand on important issues that affect you every day.
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A healthy democracy requires direct and open communication, but many incumbents feel they have more to lose than to gain by attending candidate’s nights or answering questions. Thankfully, there are exceptions, like those candidates that answered OEFFA’s Food and Farming Questions for Candidates Guide survey.
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Click here to confirm your state and federal districts, see the candidates that will appear on your ballot and, if they responded to our survey, read about their views on important food and agricultural issues like genetic engineering, fracking, and the Farm Bill.
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If your local candidates didn’t respond, or if you want to dig deeper, there is still time! Click here to find a candidate’s forum close to you, take a copy of the Food and Farming Questions for Candidates Guide with you, and find out for yourself what their views are. Be an informed voter and engage in direct democracy today!

OEFFA’s 38th Annual Conference: Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
Thursday, February 9 – Saturday, February 11, 2017
Dayton Convention Center, Dayton, OH
Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference is moving to Dayton, which means lots of exciting changes, including:
  • Conference Art 2017New, spacious location with on-site hotel and parking, cell phone reception, Wi-Fi, and other amenities!
  • Larger three day trade show
  • Thursday networking and reception and Friday banquet
  • Easy access to downtown Dayton’s attractions, dining, nightlife, and recreation

Plus, the same great features you love, including:

  • Educational, inspiring workshops on sustainable farming, livestock, business, homesteading, and cooking
  • In-depth Thursday pre-conference sessions
  • Engaging nationally-recognized keynote speakers
  • Made-from-scratch, local, organic meals
  • Activities for kids and teens
  • Raffle, book sales, and a setting that encourages networking, learning, and fellowship.
Grow with us! Registration opens this fall.
Learn more and sign up to receive conference updates here.

Visitors to Hirzel Farm view high-tech ag systems

By Bill Ryan

Sentinel Tribune, 8/23/16

Visitors from across Ohio gathered at Hirzel Farm in rural Luckey on Friday for a tour of the farm. After meetings, lunch and the tour there, they traveled to the company’s composting facility in rural Pemberville to see that operation.

The tour was part of the 2016 Farm Tour by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

At the Luckey site, the visitors were shown the grain movement, grading and storage facility which uses state-of-the-art equipment, which maximizes the value of the crops to food buyers.

Hirzel composting

The movement of grain uses no augers, but rather paddle conveyors, which minimize damage to the beans, for example.

It was explained that a split bean loses all its nutrient value and lowers the value of the entire lot of beans. The conveyor moves the crops slower but the speed of traditional augers is what can damage them and lower the commercial value to food buyers.

The organic crops carry a higher price tag, but also require a higher standard of quality to be met.

The visitors also were able to see a new sophisticated optical scanner that can grade the beans, even down to subtle differences in colors. Again, it is all part of the commercial grade needed to sell to the buyers for the optimal price. The equipment also provides for full traceability of each lot.

From the farm, the group visited the composting facility.

Mike Chandler is the site manager of the facility. He explained he is a geologist by trade and works the composting as a scientist.

One of the primary sources for their compost is scrap vegetables, including cabbage and tomatoes from their own farms as well as cucumbers from Hartung in Bowling Green.

Joe Hirzel Sr., though somewhat retired, is still active in the operation and was on hand for the tour.

Though there was initial resistance to the composting as well as switching over the processes to organic, he said the success has “proven how wrong we were.”

His sense of humor showed when he talked about the work involved in maintaining a healthy compost facility. He said, “I love work. I can watch people work all day.”

Chandler explained, “Compost is an art form. It’s a living organism and needs attention.”

He added that the changing weather along with the high moisture content in the food waste used provides challenges.

“For me, it’s a lot of trial and error, but he said by maintaining the proper mixture of carbon and nitrogen in the materials used, they can have the “compost cooking” to 160 degrees within two to three weeks.

Aside from the food waste, they also include bulking agents such as manure, grinding hay and fodder, along with such odds and ends as coffee, and egg waste from Hertzfeld Poultry.

Hirzel said they are proud of their Class 2 certified organic facility.

“It’s very costly to develop and maintain such a facility,” Hirzel said, noting for the permit it is $2,300 a year compared to $100 a year for a canning facility permit.

He noted the stack of paperwork required, not as a complaint, but rather as a warning device.

“These are the laws and we simply must follow them,” Hirzel said.

Clay Hill brings kale and more to farmers market

The Sentinel Tribute, 8/16/16

Today’s Downtown Farmers Market vendor profile comes to us from Kristy Buskirk of Clay Hill.

Clay Hill is located just north of Tiffin and specializes in produce and flowers. This is the third year Clay Hill has appeared at the Clay Hill Farmsmarket.

“We are a certified organic vegetable and cut flower farm. We specialize in greens, bring lots of kale to the market every week,” Buskirk said. “We are certified organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association.

“We are a small family farm in its third year of production. We have gone through the organic certification process to show our commitment to providing the healthiest food for you, your family and the environment. We take care to bring the highest quality products to market every week.”

Buskirk said she loves that the market is in downtown because it “makes it feel like part of the community.”

When asked if she shops from other vendors while at the market, Buskirk said, “Absolutely! I mainly pick up fruit from Haslingers, since fruit is something we don’t grow yet. I also get bread from Bella Cuisine and if there is an item I don’t grow, I generally pick it up from Rheims.”

Buskirk said there are many reasons people should visit the Downtown Farmers Market.

“Attending the farmers market is a weekly celebration of food and community. I believe that supporting local farmers is an important part of citizenship. The food and goods available at the market all stream dollars into local businesses and are the freshest and generally tastiest available. The prices are comparable to what you find in the grocery store and can be more affordable, not to mention superior in quality.”

“There is always music at the end of the market, which is an enjoyable way to spend summer afternoons,” Buskirk said.

The Downtown Farmers Market is open rain or shine every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. through Oct. 12. A variety of vendors bring fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, flowers, home-baked goods, artisan crafts, and more. The market is in the parking lot on the corner of Main and Clough streets. Keep in mind that metered parking is enforced until 5 p.m. Visit the website at bgfarmersmarket.org.

 

USDA awards more than $1 million in grants for beginning farmers, aquaculture boot camp

By JD Malone

Columbus Dispatch, 8/18/16

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded grants to Ohio State University and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

The grants, part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, are meant to help farmers start and sustain businesses. The USDA hopes these programs encourage the growth of younger farmers as the average age of America’s farmers has reached 58 years old.

The OEFFA will use $566,000 over three years to train farmers starting out in organic and sustainable farming. The organization hopes to help people not only make the leap into organic farming, but to also build a profitable business that can last for years.

Ohio State plans to use its $599,000 grant to fund the second part of an aquaculture “boot camp” to help farmers start sustainable aquaculture and aquaponic businesses. The first phase was funded last year through the same grant program.

OEFFA to Help Ohio Invest in Future of Agriculture

For Immediate Release:
August 17, 2016

Contact:
Carol Goland, OEFFA Executive Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Columbus, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) today announced its new Begin Farming Program, which will provide aspiring and new farmers in Ohio the support they need to understand what it takes to get into farming and grow their businesses.

This new program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The USDA has announced $17.8 million in grants to organizations for 37 education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives, included funding for OEFFA’s three year project.

“Farming is a public service. We all depend on farmers for the food we feed our families. As the farming population ages, we must invest in beginning farmers and the future of our food system,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.

Beginning farmers face significant hurdles to success, including attaining knowledge, skills, and experience in production practices; acquiring the fundamental business planning and financial management knowledge and skills required to successfully operate a viable small business; and accessing farmland and capital as part of the substantial investment farming requires.

Agriculture is the largest component of Ohio’s economy, contributing more than $10 billion from crop and livestock sales in 2012. However, about 10 percent of small farmers exit agriculture each year and the current median age for farmers is 58. Increasing successful entry into farming and subsequent persistence in farming has significant impacts on the long-range sustainability of U.S. agriculture.

OEFFA’s new “Growing Good Farmers, Growing Good Food” program will provide skill-building educational opportunities to facilitate beginning farmers’ development as producers and small business owners. The goal is to increase the number of successful beginning farmers who operate economically viable farms and utilize organic and sustainable production practices. The project will include on-farm apprenticeships, field days, workshops, networking opportunities, business skills training, mentoring, fact sheets, a production assistance hotline, and land access services.

“This new program will allow us to comprehensively serve Ohio’s beginning farmers and help build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, and safeguards the environment,” said Goland.

BFRDP was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, receiving $100 million to be awarded over the next five years. The program was originally funded through the 2008 Farm Bill. More than 50,000 beginning farmers and ranchers have participated in projects funded by BFRDP.

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OEFFA is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Growing Better Taste: Huntertown farm first USDA certified organic poultry farm in Indiana

By Ryan Schwab, 7/18/16, KPCNews

Growing better taste
Dorothy “Dotsie” Hoffman works daily at Huntertown-based Hoffman Certified Organics, Indiana’s first and only 100 percent USDA Certified Organic pasture-raised poultry farm. Her sons, Don and Ben, are co-owners.

HUNTERTOWN — Don Hoffman doesn’t eat a chicken at a restaurant.

“I remember how chicken used to taste. Today, it taste like cardboard,” he said.

And the chicken you buy in the stores?

“It is just awful. It’s not what I grew up on and prefer,” he said.

Don and his brother, Ben, are co-owners of Hoffman Certified Organics, which operates on their family farm at 2606 Chapman Road in Huntertown. Their company is the first and only 100 percent USDA certified organic pasture-raised poultry farm in Indiana, specializing in pasture raised chickens.

“Our motto is that we are going to raise our chickens to taste like it used to taste back in the day when they farm-raised chickens,” Don Hoffman said. “Today, we marinate it or we brine it. You shouldn’t have to.”

Added brother Ben, “There is a big movement in knowing your farmer and the ‘farm to fork’ atmosphere. We decided to go organic because we saw a need for it in our area. It is very difficult to find an organic, pasture raised bird. There is a fine line between what is organic and what is pasture-raised organic. The flavor is in the chicken. That is the difference between a confined operation and a place like ours, where the birds can go out when they want, come in when they want and eat what they want.”

The Hoffman family has owned the property since 1976, but it sat idle for 35 years until the brothers decided to take on the new venture. Don had raised chickens on his property for nearly 25 years and together with Ben, began the road to organic pasture-raised birds three years ago. The company was incorporated in 2015.

“It needs to be done,” Don said.

They raise a White Mountain Broiler, which can grow to 4.5 to 6 pounds. The females grow on the lighter end of the scale while the males are heavier. The bird is more popular in Ohio, but has a smaller mortality rate than the cornish crossbird, which is more popular in Indiana. The birds have a 56-day life cycle.

The brothers pick up the chicks just after they are hatched from Eagles Nest Poultry in Oceola, Ohio. They are driven back to their farm and are housed in their brooder, where they are cared for with feed, water and an introduction to clover. Over time, the birds will eat less feed and more clover and grass.

The organic feed comes from a certified distributor in Wolcotville and the brothers are certified to grow their own organic clover.

Once the chicks are about four weeks old, they are moved them from the brooder to the pasture. They are housed in chicken coops — known as “chicken tractors” — to keep them safe from predators. Each tractor is loaded up with water and feed bins and the birds will eat the clover and grass as they are moved up and down the family farm each day.

Ben Hoffman said before they utilized the chicken tractors and allowed the birds to roam free, 142 of 400 birds were killed by area predators. He said they have had no deaths since utilizing the “chicken tractors.”

At full growth, the birds are then transported to a processing center in Colfax, Indiana, located halfway between Lafayette and Indianapolis along Interstate 65. There, between 600 and 800 birds are processed in a 3-day period. The first run of 2016 produced 642 birds.

They will make eight or nine trips to processing center of the course of a year.

“You want to make sure the birds are familiar with people handling them, that way your losses during transport decrease, because they are familiar with people handling them,” Ben Hoffman said. “As much interaction you have with these birds, decreases the shock value when you do handle them and have to transport them over two hours away. It can be five seconds. You can pick one up, set it down, and that can be the end (of its life). We only lost two birds of the 642 on the first run. The processor said they had never seen (a successful transport) like that before.”

Although there are other organic chicken farms in Indiana, Hoffman Certified Organics is the only farm of it’s kind that allows their chickens to be raised outdoors at pasture. It’s location is a fortunate one, with ACRES Land Trust, Issak Walton League and the Girl Scout Camp of Northern Indiana on its borders.

“It can be virtually impossible to guarantee your product will be organic. Out here, we are just so fortunate,” Don Hoffman said. “Being sandwiched between so many amazing preservationists makes over spray concerns nonexistent. It allows our farm property to exceed the USDA Organic regulations and ensure that our USDA Organic seal is trusted.”

Neither described the certification process as difficult, just that it provided a lot of hoops to jump through. The cost of certification through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Agency is $1,300, but the farm was reimbursed $750 through a USDA grant. Water and soils must be tested, a daily feed log must be provided as well as a mortality rate. The farm is inspected on site and the certification must be renewed annually.

Hoffman Certified Organics will have its chicken for sale every Saturday at the Fort Wayne Farmer’s Market from 9 .a.m to 1 p.m. near the corner of Barr St. and Wayne St. It is also available at LaOtto Meats and can also be ordered for on-farm pickup. The brothers hope to start a delivery service in 2017.

“The whole organic idea is to grow local, be local and know who is raising the birds. Keep transportation and fuel costs low and be environmentally-friendly. That is how we wanted to start,” Don Hoffman said.

The company has just three other employees. Don’s wife, Stephanie, runs the office and handles accounting and sales operations. Ben’s fiance, Natalie, handles is the marketing and social media manager. Lastly, the boys’ mother, Dotsie, provides daily help.

Don also works for Asphalt Drum Mixer in Huntertown as a steal fabricator, parts cutter and welder and Ben works as a general contractor. They both still find time each day to spend 4-5 hours on the farm, where they also grow organic sweet corn. That, however, is not yet certified for resale.

“Chickens is enough for our plates right now, since we still have two jobs. Once we get used to it, we can ease into something else,” Don Hoffman said.

And they won’t eat them from anywhere else.

In Memory: Gene Logsdon

By Wendell Berry

Gene Logsdon was the first friend I made away from home who loved farming as much as I did. In 1970 I published a book of poems, Farming: A Hand Book. A copy went to the office of Farm Journal where Gene was then working, where he and my book were about equally misplaced, and where he and my book came together perhaps by mutual attraction. Gene, anyhow, read the book and came to see me.

https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50235/images/Gene-and-his-wife-Carol-signing-books-at-the-2014-OEFFA-Conference.gif
Gene and wife Carol, OEFFA Conference 2014 book signing table

He drove in here on a bright morning in, as I remember, late spring, after my garden was well started. As I would eventually know, he was almost a perfect gardener. He also had been properly brought up and had good manners. He noticed politely that my strawberries were not quite as good as his. But as we stood looking and talking at the row-ends, I deduced easily that he was in general a better gardener then I was. He was in fact a better gardener than I was ever going to be. Like all the incidental differences between us, that hardly mattered.

From the garden, we went down to the rockbar by the river, sat down, and talked a long time. Our conversation revealed further differences, for we had grown up in different places and different cultures. But we had grown up farming, and with close to the same old ways of feeling and thinking about farming, ways that had come to Gene, I believe, mostly from his mother, and to me mostly from my father. And so our talk that day was full f the excitement at discovering how well we understood each other and how much we agreed. That was the start of a conversation that lasted 46 years and was for me a major life-support. It involved much talking face-to-face, much letter-writing, and phone-calling. It dealt with farming, gardening, our families and histories, other subjects of importance, but also unimportant subjects, and it was accompanied always by a lot of laughter. I have needed his writing, and have been especially delighted by his late-coming fiction, but I have needed even more his talk and his company. Gene was a great companion.

I have always enjoyed especially my memory of one of the trips we made together. It was another fine day, and we were driving in northeastern Ohio, looking for a land-restoration project we both were much interested in seeing. But we fell into our ongoing conversation as we might have fallen into a river that just carried us along. We talked intensely on and on about our urgent-as-usual agenda of subjects. When it finally occurred to us to wonder where we were, we found that we were a good many miles inside the state of Pennsylvania. It was a good day.

Gene’s last days were spent at home in the care and company of his family. His participation in this life ended on the morning of May 31. Not long before, when we lasted talked on the telephone, we were still in our conversation, telling our news, remembering things, thinking together, laughing. I’m sure it would be wrong to wish Gene had lived longer, for that would be only to wish him a longer illness. But for me, as I am sure for many others, his absence is large. I won’t cease to miss him. But I’m glad to think that my missing him will always remind me of him.

This article originally appeared in OEFFA’s summer newsletter, with the following editor’s note:

Prolific writer, farmer, and OEFFA member Eugene (Gene) Logsdon, age 84, passed away on May 31 at his home. Gene was born in Tiffin, Ohio and lived the majority of his life in his beloved Wyandot County with Carol, his wife of almost 55 years.

He inspired and entertained many readers and farmers through his collection of written work. He wrote more than 30 books and countless magazine articles on small-scale farming and sustainable living. Beginning in 1974, he wrote a weekly column for the Progressor Times and more recently began a popular blog called The Contrary Farmer.

OEFFA was privileged to have Gene as a supporter, advocate, and member; an annual guest of the conference, and a newsletter contributor. We’re deeply grateful to novelist, poet, activist, and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry for generously sharing memories of his friend Gene.

Flawed Genetic Engineering Labeling Bill Passes in the Senate

Statement by Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator

For Immediate Release: July 8, 2016

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org

The U.S. Senate passed S.764 last evening. The bill included a provision to address the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. The statement below is from OEFFA’s Policy Program Coordinator, Amalie Lipstreu.

We are disappointed that this bill, negotiated behind closed doors with a handful of special interests, was fast tracked on the Senate agenda with not a single hearing, despite the repeated finding that 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers want clear labeling of food containing genetically engineered ingredients. What has been hailed as a great “compromise” is a gift to biotech and food manufacturing companies, who will have three options for disclosure, one of which is a digital code that will require shoppers to stand in grocery store aisles with their smartphones, scan their purchases, and visit a website, before they have the information they need to make purchases. The bill contains no enforcement provisions and many—perhaps most—GE ingredients will be exempt from any labeling requirement. Passage of this bill means that U.S. citizens will be prevented from having the same rights as those in 64 other nations: the right to know if they are consuming food containing GE ingredients.

The USDA and the FDA issued what appear to be conflicting analyses of the bill. Questions remain as to what GE products will be labeled and how the labeling requirements will co-exist with other federally mandated labeling requirements. Despite these outstanding issues, the Senate passed the measure by a 63:30 margin.

Now is the time for President Obama to act on his campaign statements that the public has a right to know if their food is genetically engineered and veto the bill if it comes to his desk.  We have time to develop a national standard in the light of day and with the input of concerned citizens, scientists, and sustainable agriculture and food interests that relies on a clear label that simply states that the food includes GE ingredients.

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