Last Minute Budget Makes Long-Term Mistakes: Press Statement by Amalie Lipstreu

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

“A new spending bill unveiled by Congress this week removes critical resources for voluntary conservation programs that help farmers with the work of protecting our natural resources. Hundreds of millions of dollars are stripped from programs highly utilized by farmers including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

This move will cut funding which the 2014 Farm Bill made mandatory. It is a backdoor approach to de-fund agricultural programs by those putting together the budget bill.  When environmental regulation is opposed, voluntary approaches to address environmental concerns are held up as the solution. The commitment to improving agriculture and the environment is called into question when those measures are undercut.

The EQIP program is an important tool for farmers implementing measures to address natural resource concerns, like toxic algae affecting Ohio’s waterways such as Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys. Nationally more than1.5 million acres were planted with cover crops between 2009 and 2012 as a result of the EQIP program, helping to reduce nutrient runoff.

The demand for EQIP technical assistance and resources already exceeds the funding allocated to Ohio. Further reductions in funding are a disincentive to conservation.

The new spending bill also includes a detrimental anti-farmer provision that would create an unfair marketplace for meat and poultry producers. It removes protection from retaliation when they use their first amendment rights, denies them the right to a jury trial, and even denies them the right to know how the prices they receive are calculated. This should not be part of any legislation in a free market economy.

As lawmakers hurriedly craft a deal to prevent government shutdown, sustainable agriculture and the rights of family farmers should not be sacrificed.”

Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil: Online Registration Now Open for Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 4, 2014

Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Registration is now open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 36th annual conference, Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil. Pre-conference intensives will be held on Friday, February 13 and the conference will take place Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15, 2015 at the Granville Middle and High schools in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

As the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, more than 1,200 attendees from across Ohio and the U.S will come together to enjoy keynote sessions with Doug Gurian-Sherman and Alan Guebert; nearly 100 educational workshops; three pre-conference intensives; a trade show; locally-sourced and organic from-scratch meals, and more.

“How we care of our soil has everything to do with the well-being of our food and water, how we feed ourselves in the future, and who will be raising our food ,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Soil health is at the core of sustainable agriculture, but by building connections between eaters and farmers we are also renewing the heart of our community-based food systems.”

Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman is Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Senior Scientist at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. He is the founding co-director and former science director for the biotechnology project at the Center for Science and the Public Interest and formerly served as senior scientist in the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). He is a widely cited expert on biotechnology and sustainable agriculture, and author of dozens of articles, papers, and reports, including the landmark UCS report Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops.

Alan Guebert is an award-winning freelance agricultural journalist who was raised on a 720 acre dairy farm in southern Illinois. He began the syndicated agriculture column “The Farm and Food File” in 1993 and it now appears weekly in more than 70 newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada. Guebert has won numerous awards and accolades for his magazine and newspaper work. In 1997, the American Agricultural Editors’ Association named him Writer of the Year and Master Writer.

  .
The conference will offer nearly 100 beginner, intermediate, and advanced workshops across eighteen tracks, covering a range of topics including sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, livestock and poultry production, business management, food and farm policy, research, and more.
  .
“OEFFA’s conference offers something for everybody. Whether you’re an experienced grower, backyard gardener, or local food enthusiast, this conference has workshops for you,” said Hunt.
  .
 .
The conference will also feature three pre-conference intensives from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, February 13 in Granville.
  .
The first, Principles of Regenerative Agriculture, will be led by John Kempf of Advancing Eco-Agriculture. Participants will learn the principles which support regenerative farming systems and how to produce disease- and pest-resistant crops.
  .
The second, Slow Poultry: Sustainable Poultry Production, will be led by Jim Adkins of the Sustainable Poultry Network, and focus on effective and profitable strategies for sustainable poultry production.
  
The third, Udder Health and Mastitis Control in Organic Dairies, will provide organic dairy producers with information about practical management and mastitis control practices to improve milk quality and farm profitability. The intensive will be led by veterinarians Dr. Päivi Rajala-Schultz and Dr. Luciana da Costa from the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Organic Valley Cooperative staff veterinarian Dr. Guy Jodarski.
The conference will also feature:
  • Saturday evening entertainment, including a performance by The Back Porch Swing Band and a film screening of GMO OMG presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill;
  • A trade show featuring dozens of businesses, non-profits, and government agencies offering an array of food, books, farm and garden products, tools, information, and services;
  • A kid’s conference with engaging activities for children ages 6-12;
  • A playroom for young children;
  • A teen conference where teenagers ages 12-15 can create their own personal weekend schedule;
  • A raffle, book table, book signings, and much more.
For more information about the conference, or to register, click here. Past conferences have sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.
 .
###
Our Sponsors
Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, OSU College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Greenacres Foundation, Jorgensen Farms, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Organic Valley, Snowville Creamery, Albert Lea Seed Company, Eban Bakehouse, Edible Cleveland, Edible Ohio Valley, Green BEAN Delivery, Green Field Farms, Lucky Cat Bakery, Metro Cuisine, Raisin Rack Natural Food Market, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Swainway Urban Farm, Whole Foods Market, Andelain Fields, C-TEC of Licking County, Casa Nueva, Columbus Culinary Institute, Curly Tail Organic Farm, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, Kevin Morgan Studio, King Family Farm, Law Office of David G. Cox, Luna Burger, Northridge Organic Farm, Ohio Environmental Council, WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bluebird Farm, Carriage House Farm, Fedco Seeds, Glass Rooster Cannery, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Krazy Kraut, Lucky’s Market, Marshy Meadows Farm, Middlefield Original Cheese, Nourse Farms, Schmidt Family Farms, Stutzman Farms, Wayward Seed Farm
 .
About OEFFA
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a state-wide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Press Passes and Media Inquiries
OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend conference and pre-conference events. We can also help members of the press schedule interviews with keynote speakers and workshop presenters. To arrange an interview, request a press pass, or for other media inquiries, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Free Information Session About New Oil and Gas Pipelines in Ohio

Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: Thursday, November 13, 2014
Contact: Amalie Lipstreu, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, policy@oeffa.org

What: The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) presents a free information session, “Who’s In Charge? 70,000 Miles of Proposed Pipelines in Ohio.”

Why: Due to the growth of fracking, more than 70,000 miles of new oil and gas pipelines are being proposed in the state. Companies are asking landowners to sign easements so they can build pipelines, and more land is also being purchased, or acquired through easements, for compressors and processing facilities.

“While we’re still coping with how to protect our communities from fracking, landowners and farmers are now bracing for the next unwanted fracking activity—miles and miles of new high pressure pipeline to move fracked gas across our state,” said Christine Hughes, owner and operator of the Village Bakery and Della Zona in Athens, and one of the event’s organizers. “What we don’t know about pipelines could hurt us.”

Farmers, landowners, neighbors, and communities need to understand the environmental and financial risks.

Join OEFFA, Ted Auch, Program Coordinator for FracTracker Alliance; Nathan Johnson, Attorney with the Ohio Environmental Council; food business entrepreneur Christine Hughes, and others to learn about:
-New proposed pipelines in Ohio
-How state and federal agencies regulate pipelines
-Impacts to landowners, organic farmers, and farmland
-Eminent domain and your rights as a landowner
-When you need to speak to an attorney

This event is co-sponsored by Ohio University Institute for Applied and Professional Ethics (IAPE). Director Alyssa Bernstein will provide an introduction and facilitate the discussion.

When: Thursday, November 20, 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Ohio University, Porter Hall Room 105, Athens, Ohio

Who: OEFFA is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to http://policy.oeffa.org/fracking.

IAPE works to promote well-informed, critical reflection about climate change and economic, social, and environmental sustainability in relation to human rights and justice at local, national, and global levels. For more information, go to http://ohio.edu/appliedethics.

FDA Responds to Farmer Concerns, Releases Revised Draft Food Safety Rules

.
Columbus, OH—Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued revised proposed food safety regulations for farmers and food businesses under the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). The FDA is inviting a new round of public comments to respond to the revised language.
  .

“The FDA is to be commended for listening to farmers and the public and for realizing that a second draft was necessary,” said Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “This is the first major overhaul of food safety rules in 75 years. It is critical the FDA gets it right by setting regulations that protect consumers, but do not put small farmers and processors out of business.”

The original regulations, issued in fall 2013, contained several requirements that would jeopardize sustainable and organic farmers, discourage growth of local food systems, and negatively impact the conservation of natural resources. In response, OEFFA and other state and national groups mobilized more than 18,000 farmers, consumers, and food businesses to submit comments to the FDA.

“Based on our initial review, there are some encouraging improvements. For example, the FDA has clarified that activities that happen on a farm—like packing and holding produce—should be treated the same whether the produce was grown on that farm or a neighboring farm. This is important for community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, aggregating produce from multiple farms,” said Lipstreu.

“We also are encouraged by the FDA’s reconsideration of the criteria used to determine farm size and eligibility for certain exemptions. Basing farm size on sales of covered produce, rather than total sales, is incredibly important for diversified farming operations.

“However, the FDA’s revised proposals regarding water and manure standards for produce farms will require a closer look. OEFFA and our partners will be undertaking a thorough review of the revised language in the weeks ahead to make sure that sustainable and organic farmer concerns are represented. We will continue work to ensure that the rules are finalized and implemented in a way that supports a flexible, scale- and supply-chain appropriate framework that supports the growth and success of a more sustainable food and agriculture system,” concluded Lipstreu.

The official public comment period will begin Monday, September 29. Farmers, organizations, and the public are encouraged to submit feedback during the 75 day public comment period. The revised draft rules are available at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection under the Food and Drug Administration section.

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Eric Pawlowski, Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 209, eric@oeffa.org

USDA Approves More GE Crops, Chemical Treadmill Continues

Statement by Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator

September 19, 2014
.
Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org
  .
“This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a decision to fully deregulate Dow Chemical’s Enlist corn and soybeans. These seeds are genetically engineered (GE) to withstand the Enlist Duo herbicide, which is a blend of 2,4-D and glyphosate,  not yet been approved by the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA).

In the same way that the overuse of antibiotics has created antibiotic-resistant super germs, the pervasive use of Roundup Ready crops and Roundup has created superweeds resistant to glyphosate, including pigweed, horseweed, and giant ragweed. According to Dow, resistant weeds have more than doubled since 2009 and infest approximately 70 million acres of U.S. farmland.

Now, Dow claims these new crops are the solution to this weed resistance. But they are simply the beginning of a new superweed problem, setting the stage for still more superweeds resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D. We must stop this dangerous chemical treadmill.

This decision flies in the face of the vast majority of consumers who have serious concerns about GE crops. And with good reason. GE crops encourage the use of ever more toxic herbicides on our farmland and threaten our environment, public health, and the future of agriculture.

Although Dow has assured farmers that this version of 2,4-D is less volatile, growers are at risk from the chemical drifting into their fields. If contaminated, organic farmers’ certifications would be jeopardized, and 2,4-D is highly toxic to fruits and vegetables.

Despite promises that GE crops would help feed a hungry world, any yield gains attributable to biotechnology have been modest at best. And while we’re seeing little benefit in the short-term, we’re damaging our soil, water, and air and jeopardizing the future of U.S. food production.

There is an alternative. Organic and sustainable farming safeguards water quality, builds soil organic matter and nutrients, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, eliminates antibiotic use, protects biodiversity, supports small and mid-scale family farms, and reduces exposure to pesticides—all without GE crops and herbicides.

Our future depends squarely on our good stewardship of the natural resources on which we all depend. Rather than treating the symptoms of a broken agricultural system, sustainable farming offers a long-term solution for nourishing our farming communities, feeding our families, and protecting our environment.

The EPA should act to protect the environment and public health by denying registration of the Enlist Duo herbicide.”

Three ways to extend your gardening season

Farm and Dairy
by Katie Woods
8/19/14

Harvest time will arrive sooner than we know. If you’re not ready to part with your plants at the end of summer, consider extending your garden into the fall and winter.

The biggest hindrances to a healthy, full garden are insects, wind, heat and frost. Autumn’s biggest threat is frost, but wind can also dehydrate plants. Several methods, including raised beds, tunnels and greenhouses, allow you to protect your fruits and vegetables and continue to grow them after summer’s end.

Options

Gardening needs vary by region, gardener and plants, so several options are available for those wishing to continue gardening into the cooler months.

Raised beds

According to The Ohio State University Extension, raised bed gardening involves a portion of soil that is higher than the rest of the soil, and is in a place that will not be stepped on.

Raised beds are normally up to four feet wide and are raised six inches to several feet above the ground. The soil is warmed more quickly by this method.

The benefits of raised bed gardening include higher yields, ease of working and water conservation.

Hotbeds and cold frames

Purdue University Extension explains that hotbeds and cold frames, which are build the same, can be used both in the spring and in the fall.

Hotbeds get heat from the sun as well as another source, while cold frames get their heat solely from the sun. In the fall, hotbeds and cold frames can be used without heat but with proper insulation and ventilation.

A hotbed or cold frame should have full sun exposure, protection from the wind, a water source and good drainage. A hotbed or cold frame can be anywhere from a few inches to a few feet deep in the ground and four to six feet wide. The base can be built out of wood, concrete or concrete block.

High Tunnels

Penn State University Extension explains that high tunnels are a fairly new method for extending the growing season. They can protect plants from excess precipitation and cool temperatures.

A high tunnel is made of a metal frame and a plastic covering, much like a greenhouse. Raised beds can be used inside high tunnels, as well as thermal blankets and cold frames.

Typically, there are fewer pests in high tunnels, so less pesticides need to be used. Also, ventilation and temperature can easily be controlled depending on the types of plants grown. Since the plants are always covered, they must be watered by hand or drip irrigation.

Advice for winter gardening

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association offers advice for winter gardening, including notes about raised beds, high tunnels and other methods for extending the growing season, as well as the types of plants that have been known to grow well in the fall and winter.

Overall, trial and error must be used to determine when certain plants should be planted and how they should be protected from the elements once summer ends.

 

 

Peak season vegetable report from Chef Alfonso

PerryDaily.com
by Alfonso Contrisciani
8/18/14
 

With a break in rain and a few cool nights most folks recouped from the tomato blight. Our yields in the raised bed plot suffered with first course harvest with our indeterminate varieties. Last week’s 3.5 inches of rain helped our dry fields but woke up the dreaded fungus. Very important to be preventative with fungicides, and my favorite is Serenade.

It’s an organic compound and works wonders. I gave our tomato plants a shot of Serenade on Wednesday night. Our chemical-free vegetables coming out of the fields at the Cooperrider farm are of the best quality. I am forbidden to use the word “organic” because of the field’s conventional past. Our greenhouses and raised plots are organic but not certified as of yet.

If I see another cucumber or zucchini this year, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown! What a year for those vegetables; the heavy rainfall and heat in the spring and early summer gave us a bountiful supply.

I have plenty of Dutch flathead cabbage for sale along with eggplants, and many varieties of peppers. A good friend gave me 12 fennel plants in May. I must say, they were one of the finest vegetables I picked this year. I ordered 2 cups of fennel from [the] Athens area for my recent farm-to-table dinner “Bounty on The Bricks.” The fennel I purchased could not come close to what we grew in Thornville in our raised beds.

I am keeping a daily log on this growing season and recording dates, feeding and spraying applications and harvest dates. Also critical are harvest amounts with current market pricing. To be successful, I am convinced that specialty crops, such as patty pan squash, Marzoni peppers, fennel, garlic, jumbo candy onions, parsley, lemon thyme, garlic chives and various other specialty items, are essential.

My recent presentation titled “Bridging the Gap between Chef and Farmer” is based on farmers growing what chefs want and need. Also, from a farmer’s perspective, do I want to grow zucchini for 40 cents per pound in return or fennel for $4 per pound? Do the math.

  • Canning and Preserving

I am designing and building a canning and preserving workshop to be taught at Hocking College in the near future. We just purchased $5,000 worth of commercial pressure cookers, home canning supplies along with a dehydrator, pH meters, thermometers etc. I think it’s essential to take a few steps back and rekindle our family heritage and culture in relationship to food. Did you know you could easily feed a family of five year round from a 25’ x 25’ garden? The use of vertical trellises and planting with the inch by inch format. I spent some time in major food processing plants while in California. I developed 12 pasteurized sauces and 2 FZ proteins for a major manufacturing company. At that time I fell in love with food canning and the value added world.

I am looking forward to sharing my research with the folks of Central Ohio. For all you home canners, please feel free to contact me at my Hocking College office with any questions or comments. I will spend more time on this topic in September prior to first frost.

  • Bounty on the Bricks

Bounty on The bricks was a great success this past Saturday in Athens. We served 372 folks a four course meal along with three passed appetizers including 100 homestyle made-from-scratch country pies all made with locally grown and raised products within 30 miles of Athens. OK, I lied: the zucchini came from Deer Valley Farms along with the plum tomatoes and fresh herbs. But everything else was within 30 miles. I am happy to report we raised $75,000 for the Athens foundation which will use the funds for our local food pantries. Thanks to all who supported these venues and the volunteers who worked endless hours.

Thanks to Hocking College and our wonderful staff and administration, The Athens Foundation, Cheryl Sylvester, Susan Urano and Cindy Hayes. And finally, thanks to the city of Athens, Ohio.

  • Future Event

Sept. 7, I will be cooking at Val Jorgensen’s organic farm in Westerville, Ohio. The proceeds from “The Farmers’ Table” event will support OEFFA, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, of which I’m an active member and greatly support. Hope to see you there. If you need tickets, please contact me.

  • The Blue Barn at Deer Valley Farms

My phone rang at 2:50 in the morning last week. It was Dylan Cooperrider; Olivia, a registered Berk from the Shipley farm in Mt. Vernon, was having piglets. I arrived at the farm at 3:10 and the second was just born. In total, she had two males and seven gilts. Dylan knows his pigs; he has a barn full of sows and gilts behind Olivia. Olivia’s first born was the largest boar. We named him Alfonso. I have 50 # full-blooded Topline Yorkshire boar named Oliver at the farm, also.

I am building a pig barn with a farrowing room at Oliver farms this fall. I will raise show pigs and breeding stock for our soon to come Oliver farms all natural non GMO pork line. Olivette, our second registered Berk, is due on Sept 3.

  • Oliver Farms

I am currently gearing up for sauce and condiment production at the end of this month. I am going to share for the first time my eggplant caponata recipe. This sauce is multipurpose for a salad served cold or warm, a pasta sauce or a condiment on a sandwich. Please enjoy. Until next article, cook with your heart and soul! Alfonso.

  • Eggplant Caponata

1 1/2 Each eggplants, peeled and cut in to med. dice
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 Pound Italian sausage, loose, Perry County Blue Ribbon Brand
1 Each red onion, diced very fine.
1 1/2 Tablespoons garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon ginger, peeled and freshly minced
3 Teaspoons capers, chopped fine
1 1/2 Cups tomato, concasse
1 Cup orange juice
3 Teaspoons curry powder
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Teaspoon honey
1 Cup water
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 1/2 Teaspoons fresh rosemary, de-stemmed and chopped
2 Tablespoons scallions, chopped

  1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. In large skillet heat up oil and saute eggplant on all sides until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove eggplant from pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Reheat pan and add sausage and cook over medium heat until golden brown and cook until done. Drain grease from sausage and discard. Chop sausage roughly when cool.
  3. Reheat pan and add olive oil, saute garlic and onions until translucent add reserve sausage, eggplant, raisins, ginger, capers, tomatoes, orange juice, curry powder, pepper flakes, honey and water and the remaining salt and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Pull from heat and stir in all fresh herbs.
  5. Cool and store in refrigerator covered until needed. Or serve hot over pasta, or place in mason jars and put in canner and seal for the winter months. Enjoy!

Grower’s passion for food yields uncommon produce

The Columbus Dispatch
by Jeannie Nuss
8/18/14
 

To make a living, Milan Karcic has tended bar, washed dishes and even made wooden replicas of World War II airplanes.

Photo Credit Brooke Lavalley (Dispatch Photos)

The resident of the North Side was unfulfilled by such jobs, though, and decided last year to cultivate a fresh career: growing food.

Now, his work is bearing fruit (and vegetables).

In a 6,000-square-foot patch of land fenced off in his backyard, Karcic tends predictable produce such as corn, carrots and cabbage.

He also turns out quirkier fare.

Take, for example, the ground cherry, a marble-sized fruit clothed in a baggy paper husk that tastes like pineapple. Or the Wapsipinicon peach tomato — which, with its slightly fuzzy and yellow-orange skin, seems to belong in a pie. Or the cucamelon, an itty-bitty cucumber that looks like a miniature watermelon but tastes slightly sour.

“I always like the underdogs,” said Karcic, 45, “and I guess I’m just an oddball.”

His peculiar produce has proved popular in central Ohio.

His customers, including chef Richard Blondin at the Refectory Restaurant & Bistro, rave about his array of fruits and vegetables, despite any lament about their limited quantities.

“He’s a little, tiny pea in (terms of) what he brings here, but it’s high-quality,” said Blondin, who uses vegetables from Karcic as garnishes for Refectory dishes.

“And usually what he brings me was picked maybe an hour ago.”

Karcic offers the same level of freshness to Columbus-area farmers markets and to clients in his community-supported agriculture program (known among the cage-free-egg-buying crowd as a CSA).

On a recent Wednesday, he collected fruits and vegetables for six orders. He crawled on his belly and slithered under leafy ground-cherry plants to scoop handfuls of their ripened fruits; he plucked peach tomatoes off vines; and he gathered colorful carrots, red cabbage and more.

He then separated the produce into six bags, all the while playing the soundtrack of the farm-centric movie Babe from a nearby boombox.

A few hours later, Karcic met BeJae Fleming at a nearby store to hand off her weekly CSA share.

“What’d I get? What’d I get?” Fleming, 64, eagerly asked as Karcic approached.

Peering into a bag, she said with a smile: “Tomatoes!”

The Grandview Heights resident didn’t know what kind of tomatoes she had, but that’s kind of the point of a CSA, which allows people to buy a share of a farmer’s harvest for a prearranged period.

Since signing up with Karcic last year, Fleming said, she has learned to cook with fruits and vegetables she wouldn’t have bought otherwise.

“It forces you to be creative in preparing food,” she said.

Fleming has grown particularly fond of the ground cherries — as have others.

“People come back and ask for those,” said Ruth Brown, manager of the Blendon Township market, where Karcic sells his produce on Thursday afternoons.

Karcic also peddles his harvest — along with homemade mosquito repellent — at the 400 Farmers Market in Franklinton on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month under the name Peace, Love and Freedom Guild.

He used to call his operation a farm and himself a farmer, but he grew tired of people asking him: How many acres do you have? (His entire lot stretches less than an acre.)

So he refers to himself as a gardener — who happens to work 100 hours a week.

Despite the long hours, Karcic said, he loves his job.

“I don’t have to get up . . . and drive to work. I just get up and go outside.”

The son of eastern European immigrants, he grew up near Mansfield before moving to Columbus to study interpersonal communication at Ohio State University.

In the early 1990s, outside an apartment in the University District, he planted his first garden.

“Probably what happened was I realized I could buy a pack of seeds for $1 and grow a ton of tomatoes,” Karcic said. “I was a college student and didn’t have any money.”

He stuck with the pursuit through the years, eventually launching his CSA in 2009 and, last year, becoming a full-time gardener and making a deal with the Refectory.

The CSA has since grown to encompass about two dozen customers, with each paying $26 a week for a full share or $13 a week for a half-share.

Karcic hopes that his tight finances will ease soon.

He wants to sell directly to homes in what he plans to call the Before You Eat Ice Cream Truck. (Instead of a truck, though, he’ll drive his 1991 Volvo, which has more than 200,000 miles on it.)

“It’s the same principle as an ice-cream truck,” he said, “just with healthy, organically grown produce.”

He feels good about selling vegetables, and so does his wife, artist Meagan Alwood-Karcic.

“He’s doing what he loves to do,” she said, “so it’s kind of a fantasy existence.”

Nearby, a couple of scarecrows dressed in her husband’s old clothes stood guard over the garden.

Farmers and Chefs Partner to Help Ohioans Connect with the Land

Public News Service
by Mary Kuhlman
8/18/14
 

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – With an increasing interest in local foods, some Ohio growers and producers are using agritourism to help people connect with the land and learn how the food they eat is grown. Tours, weddings, and farm-to-table dinners are among the events regularly held across the state, showcasing Ohio’s agricultural tradition and the fresh, seasonal offerings of area farms.

Val Jorgensen, the owner of Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, says opening her gates provides an opportunity for people to learn about the role of local foods in building a sustainable food system.

“A lot of the consumers I meet at farmers markets are committed to buying local food, but sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to really visualize or understand where that food is coming from,” says Jorgensen. “This gets them one step closer.”

Agritourism also allows farming operations to diversify their income. Jorgensen is hosting a benefit dinner Sunday, Sept. 7th called The Farmers Table, where diners can tour her organic farm and enjoy an evening of local food and drinks prepared by top area chefs. Farms throughout the state also offer ‘you-pick’ fruit, fall festivals, and educational activities.

While the majority of Jorgensen’s operation is used for growing and production, she says she enjoys holding events to give consumers a glimpse of what happens on the farm.

“The biggest reward for me is being able to stand back, either just before or during an event, and watch the enjoyment of others,” says Jorgensen. “That gives me a sense of making a difference in people’s lives where they can really connect.”

She adds events like The Farmers Table also allow farmers and producers to share the beauty and bounty of Ohio agriculture.

“It’s going to be something where they can experience the ultimate in seasonal food right here at the farm,” says Jorgensen. “The exciting part is we’re able to pull together not only the growers, but the chefs and the community.”

Meet Us at The Farmers Table

Edible Columbus
8/1/14
 

We couldn’t be more excited for the OEFFA’s gathering on September 7th to celebrate Ohio farms and flavors. The dinner is being held at Jorgensen Farms, one of central Ohio’s most beautiful certified organic farms and, as we all know, our friend Val Jorgensen is a passionate steward of her land and a leader in Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community.

Val’s farm-produced ingredients will be featured in the menu, and guests will be able to tour the farm to see how the food was grown. The OEFFA is working with central Ohio’s finest chefs to create hors d’oeuvres and a four-course dinner that sources ingredients from farms across Ohio. The cocktail hour will feature locally distilled spirits and microbrews. Even the decorations will feature locally grown flower arrangements from the beautiful Sunny Meadows Flower Farm.

Carol Goland, Ph.D., Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said, “[OEFFA’s] mission is to ‘help farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at time,’ and this dinner is a natural extension of that work, designed to showcase the amazing farmers and chefs that make up Ohio’s flourishing local foods system and the fresh, flavorful, seasonal ingredients of Ohio’s farms. It also give us all a chance to celebrate our farmers, our food, and the successful work that we’ve all done to help cultivate an agricultural future that protects the environment and nourishes our bodies and our communities.”

The event promises to be a special night celebrating the local farms and flavors we know and love, so we hope to see you seated at the table! Get your ticket here.

About OEFFA
Investment Fund
OEFFA Policy
News
Growers Resources
Apprentice Program
OEFFA Store