If it’s Safe for the Table, Put it on the Label?

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service, 3/17/15

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While the scientific “jury” is still out on the safety of genetically engineered (GE) foods, a new poll indicates most Ohioans want to know when they are eating GE foods.

The survey from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association found 61 percent of those polled disapprove of GE foods. The majority of those polled, at 87 percent, also support GE labeling.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, says GE foods are also a non-partisan issue, with 89 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Independents in favor in GE labeling.

“The public is skeptical,” she says. “The public has earned the right to be cautious. If it’s safe for the table, put it on the label. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

Supporters of GE technology say it increases production, saves costs, and reduces the use of chemicals. But Lipstreu says genetic engineering has done little to improve crop yields, and the evidence is insufficient on health and environmental impacts. Its estimated more than 70 percent of foods sold in the U.S. contain GE ingredients.

According to Lipstreu, genetic engineering is also the concern of many farmers, who worry that pollen drift from GE crops can contaminate adjacent fields.

“There’s also concerns about patenting of seeds and ownership of nature,” she says. “A recent concern is about a lot of weeds that have evolved to be resistant to the herbicides that are used along with genetically engineered crops.”

Lipstreu says consumers have a basic right to know. She notes consumers have previously been mislead to believe things were safe that actually were not.

“Things like DDT, the use of asbestos, “she says. “Later on, we found out many of these things are very damaging to health and to the environment.”

Lipstreu says the poll findings support the need for GE labeling policies at the state and federal level. Over 60 countries require disclosure of GE ingredients on food labels.

Poll Shows Bi-Partisan Support for GE Labeling in Ohio

For Immediate Release: March 12, 2015

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

Columbus, Ohio- A poll of Ohio voters conducted this February illustrates overwhelming support for labeling food that contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

“There can be no doubt that Ohio voters want the right to know what they eat and feed their families,” said Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). “The results clearly show voters—regardless of political party—support GE labeling and disapprove of GE food.

OEFFA contracted with Public Policy Polling for an independent poll of 520 registered Ohio voters on February 4-5, 2015. Key findings include:

  • 87% of Ohio voters want GE foods labeled and 61% disapprove of GE food;
  • 70% of women—the primary food purchaser in most households—disapprove of GE food and 92% of the women polled want those products labeled;
  • Support for GE labeling is a non-partisan issue: 89% of Republicans, 88% of Democrats, and 85% of Independents support GE labeling.
According to OEFFA member and clinical nurse Lynne Genter, “This poll clearly illustrates that Ohioans are knowledgeable about genetically engineered foods and want to know when foods contain GE ingredients. Ohioans have raised their concerns in a unified voice and our legislators should pass a GE labeling bill.”

Despite widespread use, consumers and non-GE farmers have expressed serious concerns about the technology, including drift of GE pollen contaminating other plants, the patenting of seed and ownership of nature, the increased use of synthetic chemicals that has led to herbicide resistant “superweeds,” and other potential environmental and human health impacts.

These concerns are often the subject of much debate, particularly given the lack of independent scientific review and oversight. “It’s clear from this survey that Ohioans want the right to choose,” said Lipstreu. “Just as consumers can choose whether to buy juice from concentrate, labeling foods produced with GE ingredients can provide them with information they are asking for in a clear and cost effective way.”

A two page issue brief and infographic summarizing the poll results can be found at http://policy.oeffa.org/gepoll.

Farm trend watcher has high hopes for Ohio farmers in the new food movement

By Vivian Goodman, WKSU, 2/20/15

One of the nation’s leading agricultural journalists is sounding a hopeful note for Ohio’s small family farmers.

Alan Guebert’s syndicated column, The Farm and Food File appears in 70 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

For more than two decades he’s covered the rise of factory farms, the growth of the organic sector, and the push and pull between industrial and sustainable agriculture.

The first foodies
Guebert grew up on an Illinois dairy farm in the 1960’s.

“While we did not know it then, we were the original foodies. These younger people you know how they want to eat? They want to eat today like we used to, because we ate from our farm to our table. We just did it right there on the farm. And we were locavores before anybody invented the word. And my point is: for generations, for centuries we’ve eaten this way. We got away from it just this past generation. All I really do is watch things. I got a good set of eyes and I just watch those trends like that. And we’re just going back to where I was 50 years ago. And I can’t wait.”

Guebert delivered an upbeat keynote address at this past weekend’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. His audience was mostly small farmers committed to sustainable agriculture. They use organic methods and sell directly to consumers from their farms or at farmer’s markets.

Sales growth
Sales of organic produce increased more than 11 percent nationwide to $35.1 billion in 2013, the fastest growth in five years. The organic sector is still just 4% of the overall food market, but Guebert sees it continuing to grow.

“I think it’s the sky’s the limit.”

Why? Because, he says, we’re living in revolutionary times.  Fast food empires are fading, and more Americans are asking for good, safe, healthy food.

“There’s going to be more and more effort on the part of people who seek out good food who will pay more for good food. We do it now. Look at the growth of farmers’ markets. And if you’ve ever shopped at a farmers’ market, you can buy food cheaper elsewhere. If you’ve ever gone to a farm to fork table restaurant. You can buy stuff a lot cheaper than that. But you can’t buy it any better. You can’t buy it any healthier. You can’t buy it and have more satisfaction. And I think that’s what the new food movement is about.”

Last year about 80 percent of U.S. consumers bought organic at least sometimes.  And there’s been explosive growth in the number of farmers’ markets.

But Guebert says conventional farmers try to downplay it.

“I read just this past week how organic farmers markets must be worried because they only grew 8 % last year where in the past they’ve averaged 12, and 16 years ago there was 16% growth. Wouldn’t the corn and soy bean farmers love the fact that their markets grew 8% last year? Of course they would. So that’s big Ag’s message to counteract the great story that we see in farmers’ markets and in the growth of organic sales.”

“We’re just going back to goodness. Good, easy, straight-forward, uncomplicated delicious food. “

Where Big Ag comes in
But is anybody holding us back from going back? What about Big Ag, what about Big Food.

“Well, they would like to have a real impact on current food trends. And in fact they’re really trying. Big Ag would like to see those choices limited. And by that I mean they don’t want labeling. They don’t really want GMO labeling for sure because they say it will work against them. Well prove it! Prove it. Until then I think giving consumers the right to know what they’re eating is important.”

Guebert’s been watching the trends for a long time. He’s been writing his column for about 22 years now. When did he see the light bulb go off in people’s heads? When did this happen, this food revolution?

“I think we’ve worked very hard, my generation, your generation, to be sure that our children are very well educated. And we raised them to be independent. Well, what we raised were smart kids. We raised them in a manner that they were curious and questioning, and that they sought out what they thought was good options and made informed choices. That’s all they’re making. They’re making informed choices. They’re looking at food and they’re going, ‘Well I think I’ll have green beans tonight and I’ll go to the farmers’ market.”

He’s seen it in his own family. His daughter lived in D.C. and shopped at the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.

“It was on her way home so she could always stop and pick up something for supper that was fresh. And in fact that’s how they still do it in all of Europe. You go to Europe the refrigerators are about the size of your suitcase. And why? Because they don’t store food like we do. They go to the store for food. They don’t store it.”

Changes in the way Americans shop for and think about food, and the growth of sustainable agriculture fuel Guebert’s optimism about the future of the food system, but he still worries about the power of Big Ag to influence government policy.

“If you’re going to have a subsidized system, yeah the small farmer, the sustainable farmer out here is going to have one hell of a bad time. But if they can just get people to eat their food, they’ll have a customer, they’ll have a friend, and they’ll probably have a salesman for the rest of their lives. So I think that’s what sustainable people rightly focus on, where food and people meet, where they interface, where they can taste tomorrow.”

And the way farm writer Alan Guebert sees it, tomorrow is yesterday.

OEFFA workshops help promote farmer skills

By Chris Kick, Farm and Dairy, 2/17/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — If you wanted to learn something new about farming or food production, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference had you covered.

More than 100 educational sessions were presented Feb. 14-15 at the conference in Granville, Ohio, which covered such things as field crops, livestock, specialty crops, business and marketing decisions, and farm policy.

Sessions were led by everyone from small-scale, part-time producers, to full-time farmers and university researchers.

Beginning producers

Ben Jackle, of Mile Creek Farm in New Lebanon, talked about what it takes to get started growing vegetables for profit. He and his wife, Emily, have grown vegetables and flowers in the Dayton area since 2007.

Many decisions must be made when starting a produce farm, but Jackle said, “it all comes back to the soil.”

Good soil means considering the chemical, biological and physical properties, Jackle said.

Biologically, producers need to build soil organisms and organic matter. Chemically, they must balance and supply the necessary mineral nutrients; and for good physical properties, they need to install the right drainage to reduce erosion.

Beyond soil, producers need to learn some of the “farmer skills” that it takes to grow a crop. Jackle and his wife did not grow up on a farm, so they’ve been learning things like painting, welding, drilling and cutting, record keeping, and maintenance.

“Even if these things aren’t things that are necessarily interesting or something you yourself want to learn — you’re going to have to be hiring someone to do these things,” Jackle said, because they need done.

Producers also need to consider whether they want to scale up their production, or stay at the same size and become more efficient.

Raising livestock

Choosing the right scale was one of the key points in a presentation about how to raise and manage livestock.

Jesse Rickard and Chelsea Gandy, assistant managers at Fox Hollow Farm, in Knox County, discussed “practical and innovative methods” for raising livestock.

For Fox Hollow, some animals, like the farm’s 300 sheep and 100 beef cattle, are raised on a “production” level, while other things, like the farm’s two dairy cows raised for milk, are kept on a “homestead” level.

Rickard said farms can have a combination of production and homestead ventures, and even a few experimental ventures, if they so choose.

Fox Hollow Farm is nearly 300 acres and includes 180 acres of managed pasture. The farm also produces chickens and pigs.

Livestock on a grazing operation require less infrastructure and to a great extent, the animals manage on their own, and that includes nutrient recycling.

“Animals are basically employees, if you manage them correctly,” Gandy said. “If you use them right, you can really get them to build your soil fertility, build your organic matter and they just do a fantastic job.”

In addition to deciding what animals to raise, livestock producers need to think about equipment needs, water availability, nutrition, marketing, labor and safety of farm workers.

“These are all things that will make or break your operation,” Gandy said.

Good record keeping is also a must, and so is being profitable.

“Sustainable farming is only sustainable if we can continue doing it,” Gandy said.

Awards

OEFFA presented its stewardship award to Bill Dix and Stacy Hall of the Brick Dairy Farm, of Athens County. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.

In 1992, Dix and Hall started Big Rumen Farm, a 300-acre pasture-based dairy farm in Athens County with a small herd of Jersey heifers and a milking parlor.

In the years that followed, they joined a regional network of dairy farmers known as “Prograsstinators,” which, in conjunction with Cornell University, helps producers compare financial information to improve the management and profitability of grass-based dairy operations.

John Sowder, of Franklin County, received the Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service to OEFFA.

Sowder served on OEFFA’s board of trustees from 1992 until 2015, including multiple terms as treasurer.

He lends catering skills to OEFFA by helping to organize farm-to-table events and OEFFA’s conference meals, which are locally sourced and made from scratch.

 

Breakthrough in varieties make organic apples easier to grow in Ohio

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/16/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — Having trouble finding an organic apple grown in Northeast Ohio? You’re not alone. Most are from the state of Washington, clear across the country.

Yet apples grown in our soils and shaped by our weather happen to taste better. If we could buy organic versions more easily, we could also support our local farm economy.

Apple scab is the main reason for the lack, a fungal infection that thrives in more humid climates and leaves apples disfigured. Most scab is controlled by chemicals that do not meet standards for organic certification.

But there’s new hope to increase organic apple production in our region, and two of its proponents are orchardists Don Kretschmann and Tim Gebhart from Rochester, PA, about 40 miles southeast of Youngstown. The farming duo appeared at the recent 2015 OEFFA sustainable food conference and said there are a lot of reasons to start growing organic apples, at home and on a commercial farm.

Here are five of them:

More scab-resistant varieties are on the market. Gebhart listed a few of his favorites: Pristine (yellow, tastier than most early apples); Liberty (MacIntosh style flavor); Crimson Crisp (a good keeper, Gebhart’s favorite) and Gold Rush (flavorful, keeps in refrigeration for many months). Each is resistant to scab and many other diseases, and there are more hybrids like them coming out each year. Some of their favorite sources Cummins Nursery near Ithaca, N.Y. and Adams County Nursery near Gettysburg, PA. The duo recommends dwarf rootstocks for easier access, and spreading the roots fully when planting, not curling them into place.

More information on growing organically is available. Cornell University recently released its Organic Apple Production Guide, available online. The two farmers also recommend the web site and books by New Hampshire organic orchardist, Michael Phillips, which can also be found online.

More supplies are readily available. Organic apple growing still requires lots of specific soil conditions, serious pruning, good drainage and foliar spraying to fight off pests and diseases that like fruit as much as we do. A list of certified organic suppliers can be found online. Surround, a mudlike organic pesticide sprayed on trees to fight plum curculio that causes fruit drop, is available at Ohio Earth Foods in Hartville (330-877-9356.)

More is known about the harm caused by conventional pesticides and herbicides. Beyond effects on human health, they can kill the very beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that provide a biologically healthy soil web. Find more information in the sources previously listed. Also, commercial growers might consider the duo’s technique for warding off deer: Setting up a 6,000-volt wire around the orchard, attaching an occasional metal mesh covered in peanut butter. Once the deer get shocked, said Kretschmann, they rarely come back.

More people want organic apples. Krestchmann admits that also means more education. Organic apples can look as pristine as grocery store apples, but that is not always the case. Still, they sometimes get three times the price for whole apples by the bushel compared to the same amount they once used only in cider. The education is worth it, he says. “I can produce quality fruit to an educated customer,” he said. “I always say that using a paring knife (to trim unwanted parts of the fruit) are always better than using chemicals. Chemicals, you can’t pare off.”

Guebert tells OEFFA members ‘big ag’ is unsustainable

By Chris Kick, Farm and Dairy, 2/16/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — Bemoaning the ways of “big agriculture” and many of the trade groups that represent it, Illinois writer and columnist Alan Guebert encouraged a return to affordable, sustainable agriculture during his keynote address Feb. 14 at a state meeting of organic and sustainable farmers.

“Twenty-fifteen is going to be a big year both for sustainable and a big year for unsustainable agriculture,” he told a crowd of about 1,100 people, at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association annual conference, held at Granville schools.

On the “unsustainable” side, he expects farmers will continue to face steep financial burdens.

“How sustaining is it to plant a $350 bag of seed corn on $10,000-an-acre ground, with a $250,000 tractor,” he asked.

Government support

The only way such farmers will sustain their operations, he said, is with tax breaks and subsidies, including government-subsidized crop insurance.

“The way they farm won’t succeed and, in fact, on its own, it’s never going to succeed,” he said. ”Throughout American history, American agriculture, left to its own devices, has produced itself smack dab into poverty.”

Aside from the financial challenges, Guebert said modern farming practices are destroying fertile soil, which results in $400 billion in lost food production every year.

“American farmers and ranchers are going to have to change,” he said, noting that all generations of farmers have had to change in order to survive.

But some things don’t change, like the demand for good-tasting food that is fresh, safe and high quality, he said.

He recalled growing up on his family’s crop and dairy farm in southern Illinois, when most of their food came from within 10 miles of their home farm. The term “junk food” was unheard of, people were thinner and healthier, and there were more neighbors and neighborhood businesses.

Original foodies

Guebert said he and his rural neighbors were “foodies” long before the movement began.

“With almost perfect ignorance, we ate from farm-to-table,” he said, adding, “Our farm, to our table.”

He said some of the things “big ag” is promoting, like its claim of feeding the world and producing the safest food supply in the world, are myths.

He pointed to recent salmonella cases and foodborne illnesses, as proof.

Guebert said corporate agriculture tries to tell people what to think, when it should be informing them about the facts.

Challenging ag

If left unchallenged, big ag’s message, would be to “sit down, eat and shut up,” according to Guebert.

Guebert has definitely been a challenger throughout his career, which has mostly centered around ag journalism and a syndicated column, called the Farm & Food File, which is carried by Farm and Dairy.

Many of his columns are critical of large farm organizations and government leaders, and commodity checkoffs, especially the National Cattlemen’s Beef Checkoff, which he faults for not doing a proper job of auditing its spending.

His brother, Richard Guebert, has taken a different approach to farming. Richard is president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and now serves on the national Farm Bureau board — organizations that Alan Guebert criticizes for promoting myths and misinformation.

Guebert said the kind of agriculture he expects to survive is that which is “sustainable,” betting against things like genetically modified organisms and certain soil amendments.

“If I was to bet on the food production scheme most likely to succeed in the next 50 years, I’d bet on the scheme that has succeeded for the last 50 centuries,” he said. “I’d bet on sustainable food production.”

Organic checkoff

In a morning session, he moderated a panel discussion about a proposed organic checkoff program. The checkoff has been in the works for the past couple years, and the 2014 farm bill contains language that could move it forward.

In favor of the checkoff was organic dairy farmer Gene DeBruin, of Fayette County, Ohio. And opposing the checkoff was Carmen Fernholz, an organic crop farmer from Minnesota.

DeBruin said he supports creating a checkoff because it would help promote and distinguish the organic brand.

“If we’re going to protect our premium market, we’re going to have to put some effort into it,” DeBruin said.

Fernholz, who also holds a position with the University of Minnesota as organic research coordinator, said he’d rather see the work of a checkoff be done through a land grant college, with public tax money.

Fernholz said he’s “never seen what I would call a good story from checkoffs.”

As an organic farmer, he finds himself paying to checkoffs that already exist, but that don’t do research into organic practices.

“If I’m not getting organic research on those dollars, who’s getting it,” he asked.

One of the challenges to creating an organic checkoff, Fernholz said, is that organic producers can’t really claim it’s any better than conventional food.

“What are we going to promote?” he asked. “What promotion can you really say, other than ‘look for the organic label.’”

Organic exemption

Fernholz said he’s in favor of “complete organic exemption” from all checkoffs, and more emphasis on public research.

But new funding, even for food research, can be a tough sell for taxpayers.

“I’m just afraid that ain’t going to happen,” DeBruin said.

Guebert concluded the checkoff discussion by talking about the challenges of operating a checkoff and the responsibilities of its members.

“They’re (checkoffs) not hard to start, but they’re really hard to monitor,” he said.

A federally supported checkoff would have U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight, and certain budgeting and auditing requirements.

Guebert said organic producers still need more information, to “ensure that if this is what you want, it’s done in the manner that you want.”

Middlefield plant growth guru says strong plants make strong soil

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/14/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — We try pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, compost, integrated pest management and crop rotation – even in our littlest yards.

But do we really know what plants want?

John Kempf, a Middlefield consultant on plant health who has clients across the country, said we are not going to get the best out of agriculture and the environment if we don’t start paying attention to the distinct needs of plants.

“They have immune systems, just like we do,” Kempf told an audience of mostly organic farmers Friday at a pre-conference session of the annual meeting of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

And, like ours, those immune systems need to be fortified over a life cycle. Kempf revealed his own food pyramid for plant nutrients, and a diagram of the stages of growth when it’s necessary to administer the right minerals in the right balance.

Herbicides and pesticides are a relic of our “warfare mentality” he said. Pests have sharpened sensors that will always draw them to a weakened plant.

“You can spray insecticide, kill the pests, and you’ll still have a weak plant,” he said.

A strong plant will not only fend off pests and disease, he said, it will also help build up the soil, assuring a stronger future for both.

Kempf says he’s not offering new information, just a synthesis of findings lost in a rush to chemical solutions and the fragmentation of plant study.

“Farmers used to be generalists,” he said. “Now there are so many specialists, and they don’t always talk to each other.

“An incredible amount of information never gets applied to the field.”

A member of the Amish community who set down his straw hat before his presentation, Kempf said much of what he’s saying can be obtained by Internet searches. He recommended a Google search for the words “nutrient requirements of” before adding the Latin name of the plant to be grown. Also helpful, he said, is the online bookstore operated by www.acresusa.com .

He recommended that home gardeners start with seeds from good sources (such as Baker Creek, Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Fedco), well-composted soil and then follow a proper schedule of nutrient application.

Over-application of certain elements can inhibit plants from accessing nutrients, with potassium and calcium frequently at odds. He advocates the analysis of sap from living plants rather than the more common practice of testing dried plant matter for nutritional content. When the crop is still alive in the ground, he said, there may still be time to improve it. He relies on the Bellville company, Crop Health Labs (1-800-495-7938).

Kempf said he got interested in plant health when he noticed a patch of cantaloupe on his family farm planted on two kinds of soil, one with a long history of chemical use, and one without. The latter had fewer pests and disease, which sent him into a self-education and eventually a consulting business. He operates Advancing Eco Agriculture at 4551 Parks West Road, Middlefield, 44062, where he sells nutrients for both commercial and home use.

At OEFFA, Kempf recounted numerous cases of strong plant health trumping bad growing conditions and pests. This spring, he will establish his own demonstration farm on 160 acres in Orwell, Ashtabula County, where he’ll grow food that will develop into a community supported agriculture program by 2016.

“It will have the healthiest plants possible, with the highest immune systems possible, and absolutely no pesticides,” he said.

Paid interns are being sought for this growing season, with information available by emailing Kempf through his web site.

The sold-out OEFFA conference continues through Sunday with more than 100 workshops on sustainable growing.

Granville, C-TEC students team up on food posters

By Charles A. Peterson, Newark Advocate, 2/14/15

Granville High School environmental studies students and a C-TEC Licking County visual communications class are working together on a graphic arts project they hope will end up on Capitol Hill.

Saturday at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference in Granville, the student teams manned a Pop-Up Gallery Show to exhibit the fruits of their labor on seven posters depicting local sustainable foods and farming efforts.

The “fruits” of the students’ efforts had a lot to do with the chief theme for the conference, “Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil.”

The students of Granville environmental studies teacher Jim Reding conducted the research, and the C-TEC class taught by Jennifer Evans Kinsley turned that information into marketing posters.

The project is being conducted through Project Localize, a nationwide food literacy initiative through the California-based Lexicon of Sustainability. Lexicon is an organization that shows teachers and students how to identify, promote and involve themselves in sustainable economic, cultural and social progress in their communities.

The student teams generated seven colorful 48-inch by 32-inch posters displayed at the conference.

Kinsley called the experience an “authentic experience on how to work for a client and a creative team.”

“It’s providing real-life experiences working with a client and working in a design team,” she said, noting that 80 percent of the art careers her students could end up in are in marketing and advertising. “I could not replicate this in the classroom.”

Reding said his students were nominated by Farm to School program to be involved in Project Sustainability. They started the process last year by studying local sustainable food systems and carried the project over to this year.

Students had lists of farmers, food processors and other key stakeholders to visit in central Ohio to begin their research.

“We did a schoolwide field trip to all of these locations,” he said of those represented on the posters. “They interviewed the individuals after doing research and coming up with their questions.”

After taking photos and writing the text, Reding said, “We turned it over to Mrs. Kinsley’s students, who put the posters in place.”

The visual arts students used a template provided by Lexicon to produce the posters. A key challenge was taking numerous photos — as many as 80 — and knitting them together on the poster to make them look like one single photo.

“There’s close to 30 or 40 hours of work on the final posters,” Reding said, all approved by Lexicon.

C-TEC student Grant Harris, of Lakewood High School, helped assemble numerous photos to create a poster depicting the Greener Grocer at the North Market in Columbus.

“I’ve always liked the atmosphere of the North Market,” he said. “Everybody gets together to show their foods and their culture.”

Granville students Bailey Blanchard and Emily Pitcher provided the text and photos.

“What we wanted to drive home here was that (the Greener Grocer) follows a value-driven system,” Blanchard said. Those values, listed on the poster, are “nutrient dense,” “organic” and “affordable.”

Closer to home, Granville students Conner Wallace and Maddy Richardson chose Snapshots Lounge in Granville, where owner Lucas Atwood uses locally grown food and will plant his own garden behind the lounge this spring to grow produce for his menu.

“All food served is sourced within a 3-mile radius of Licking County as part of the ’30-mile meal movement,’ ” states the poster featuring Atwood and his chef, Drew Spurlock.

“They’re trying very hard to locally source their food,” Reding said of Snapshots. “They really tie into that whole idea of community supported agriculture.”

Another poster, headed “Student led and student fed,” featured the Granville High School garden and greenhouse behind the school, maintained by Reding’s classes.

“We walk outside and work in the garden, then come back in to class,” environmental studies student Tyler Thomas told an onlooker.

Kinsley said food and farm association officials offered to host the students’ first Pop-Up Gallery as part of their 36th annual conference, which featured 100 educational workshops, a trade show and locally sourced and organic from-scratch meals. Between 1,100 and 1,200 were registered to attend, an association spokesperson said.

The student teams will learn May 1 whether their posters make it to the nation’s capital, Reding said.

“Events like this weigh in to that,” he said.

‘Safe, cheap food’ is a big myth says OEFFA keynote speaker Alan Guebert

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/15/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio – When Alan Guebert was a farm boy in southern Illinois, Cokes came in six-ounce bottles, there wasn’t much “junk” food, and most of what his family ate came fresh from the farm or from other farms 10 miles away.

“We were skinnier and healthier,” he told his Saturday audience at the 2015 OEFFA conference on Ohio organic food and sustainable agriculture.

“No wonder there’s a foodie culture today,” he added. “These foodies just want to eat like we used to.”

A lot of life has changed, the award-winning agricultural columnist told his audience of several hundred Ohio farmers and local food enthusiasts.

“But something that hasn’t changed is good, healthy food.”

While he sees the appetite for that food increasing, he also sees a greater backlash from industrial agriculture. He cited the millions recently spent in western states on defeating campaigns on labeling genetically modified food.

“Are they trying to educate me, or are they telling me what to think,” he asked.

“A lot of people in agriculture don’t want you to succeed,” he told the group. “Somehow they see your success as their failure.

“Corporate agriculture would love to say, ‘Sit down and eat, and shut up.'”

Guebert rebutted the message that industrial agriculture provides our country with the safest, cheapest food on the planet.

“Maybe ‘cheap’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he said, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics that 24 percent of cut up chicken parts carry salmonella bacteria. He also mentioned a Consumer Reports study that showed one third of bacteria on chicken was resistant to antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the pathogen causes 1.5 million illnesses each year, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.

“When did eating become such a gamble,” he said, “and not even a good gamble.”

With all the subsidies from tax monies, Guebert said “big ag is not interested in giving up its dominant role.” But he believes the tide is turning in Washington, D.C., and that the next farm bill might just be a “food bill.”

“Are you ready for that,” he asked. “Are you ready for a member of Congress to ask you how important sustainable agriculture is to the health of America, and can you answer it in five minutes? What would you say? Do you have a vision? If not, you’d better get one.

“Good luck, Godspeed, and I mean it.”

OEFFA Announces 2015 Stewardship and Service Awards

Bill Dix and Stacy Hall of Athens County and John Sowder of Franklin County Recognized

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COLUMBUS, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has named the 2015 recipients for the Stewardship Award and Service Award.Bill Dix and Stacy Hall of The Brick Dairy Farm received the Stewardship Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community, and John Sowder received the Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service to OEFFA.

The announcements were made on Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15 as part of OEFFA’s 36th annual conference, Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil.

2015 Stewardship Award Winners—Bill Dix and Stacy Hall, Athens County

In 1992, Bill Dix and Stacy Hall started Big Rumen Farm, a 300 acre pasture-based dairy farm in Athens County with a small herd of Jersey heifers and a milking parlor. In the years that followed, they joined a regional network of dairy farmers known as “Prograsstinators,” which in conjunction with Cornell University, helps producers compare financial information to improve the management and profitability of grass-based dairy operations.

Bill and Stacy also purchased a second farm outside of Albany, called The Brick Dairy Farm, named for its red, clay soil which had been degraded after years of conventional production. By focusing on grazing rather than confinement, the couple has been able to build top soil and make the land productive.

Smart business people committed to creating change in their local community and in the dairy industry, they worked with Warren and Victoria Taylor to create Snowville Creamery in 2007, a small-scale dairy processing plant located on The Brick Dairy Farm. Fresh, grass-fed milk from Bill and Stacy’s 250 cross-bred dairy cows is minimally processed and packaged on-site. Today, Snowville’s milk, yogurt, and other products are available in more than 125 retail locations.

Early supporters of OEFFA, Bill and Stacy have been members for more than 25 years.

“The partnership between Bill and Stacy and Snowville Creamery is a great story that shows what’s possible when farmers, food processors, and the community team up to support sustainable agriculture and local producers. Bill and Stacy took a gamble, and made their vision a reality,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.

2015 Service Award Winner—John Sowder, Franklin County

Long-time OEFFA member John Sowder of Columbus served on OEFFA’s Board of Trustees from 1992 until 2015, including multiple terms as board treasurer. John helped to grow OEFFA, develop new administrative systems, and provided dependability and financial guidance during lean years in the organization’s history.

He regularly lends his catering and event management skills to OEFFA, helping to organize farm-to-table events and OEFFA’s conference meals, which are locally sourced and made from scratch. He can be found each year in the kitchen at the OEFFA conference, where he helps to serve more than 2,000 meals to attendees. He has also helped encourage his peers within Ohio’s catering and food industry to serve more local food from Ohio producers.

“John’s commitment to OEFFA and central Ohio’s local food movement is unquestionable. Always quick to smile and laugh, John has played a leading role in OEFFA’s growth and success, though, in John’s modest way, it’s often behind the scenes and out of sight to most people” said Goland.

For a full list of past award winners, click here.

“All of our award winners—Bill, Stacy, and John—have shown an unwavering commitment to sustainable agriculture over the course of decades.  These awards are a small way that we, as a community, can recognize their contributions and express our gratitude for their work, from which we all have benefited,” said Goland.

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