Annual Public Tour and Workshop Series Features Ohio’s Organic and Sustainable Farms: 2015 Guide Now Available

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2015

Contact:
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org
Eric Pawlowski, Sustainable Agriculture Educator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 209, eric@oeffa.org
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Do you want to experience life as a shepherd? Learn how to effectively combat weeds in the garden without chemicals? See draft horses make sorghum cane into sweet syrup? Sample local meats, cheeses, and artisan jams and preserves? Or learn how to butcher your own poultry or install your own solar photovoltaic system?
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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is sponsoring 15 tours, nine workshops, a one-day Women Grow Ohio event, and a farm to table dinner as part of the 2015 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series. The series, which features these and other topics, will allow Ohioans to see, taste, and experience life on the farm while gaining practical new skills.
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“This is a great chance for everyone interested in local foods to turn over a new leaf, learn how sustainably produced food is grown, and to connect with others who share a passion for sustainable agriculture,” said Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA’s Communications Coordinator. “Whether you want to gain a greater understanding of how food gets from the field to the dinner table, or pick up production or marketing pointers for your own farm, this series offers something for everyone.”
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Meet local farmers and experience sustainable farming up close and personal during these OEFFA’s farm tours:
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Develop your farm and do-it-yourself skills, during these workshops which allow participants to delve deeper into specific topics:
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Celebrate Ohio farms and flavors, during this unique farm to table dinner:
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OEFFA has offered annual farm tours for more than 35 years, providing unique opportunities for growers, educators, and conscientious eaters to learn about sustainable agriculture and local foods on the farm from growers and producers with years of practical experience.
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The 2015 farm tour and workshop series is promoted in cooperation with the Ohio State University Sustainable Agriculture Team and the Clintonville Farmers’ Market, who are sponsoring additional tours. In total, the series features 29 farms tours, one university research center tour, 10 educational workshops, a one-day Women Grow Ohio event, and a benefit dinner.
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For additional information and a complete list of all farm tours, including dates, times, farm descriptions, and driving directions, click here.

Tyson meats to end antibiotic use by 2017: What it means

By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer, 4/29/15

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Antibiotic use in farm animals got a big push out of the poultry barn this week. Tyson Foods announced it intends to stop feeding human-grade antibiotics to its broiler chickens by 2017.

While antibiotic use once made chickens cheaper to raise by increasing their growth rate, it has also been suspected of creating antibiotic resistance in humans.

The Washington Post reports that antibiotic-resistant infections cause at least 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year, more deaths than cause by drug overdoses, cars or firearm assaults.” Antibiotic resistant infections are a global health concern,” said a statement from Donnie Smith, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods.

“We’re confident our meat and poultry products are safe, but want to do our part to responsibly reduce human antibiotics on the farm so these medicines can continue working when they’re needed to treat illness.”

Smith said the company’s antibiotic use is down 80 percent from a few years ago, following an industry wide trend. Perdue eliminated antibiotic use a year ago and, last month, McDonald’s has pledged to do the same within two years.

But Tyson is the country’s largest producer of chicken.

“This is huge,” critic Gail Hansen, told National Public Radio. Hansen is a member of Pew Charitable Trust’s Antibiotic Resistance Project, which is developing a certification project with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for antibiotic-free chicken.Tyson also announced plans to study and possibly reduce antibiotic use in its cattle, hog and turkey farms.

Lauren Ketcham, communications chief for the Columbus-based Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, called the Tyson decision encouraging, but not a huge guarantee.

“Given that Tyson is only voluntarily targeting antibiotics used in human medicine — and even then some with exceptions — consumers wanting to avoid eating chicken treated with antibiotics should continue to look for the organic label as the gold standard,” she said in an email.

Medina County meat-animal farmer Jason Bindel said he also worries about the farm use of antibiotics that are not used in human medicine.

“Some animal drugs were not human tested so you have no idea of bad side effects,” he wrote by email. “Animal grade drugs are usually the same formula but sometimes may have additives that are not FDA approved for human use so could be harmful due to allergic reactions.

Ohio homesteaders and sustainability advocates feel good about kefir

By Vivian Goodman, WKSU News, 3/20/15

One of the world’s oldest elixirs is back in vogue. Kefir is a beverage made from fermented milk. Its health benefits remain largely unproven. But fans claim that drinking it makes them feel good.

Besides, it’s a local, sustainable, food source that can be made at home. In today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman delves into the drink.

Kefir is something like liquid yogurt.

It’s thick, white, creamy and bubbly and tastes tart, slightly sour and yeasty, like a cross between yogurt and buttermilk.

It’s one of the world’s oldest cultured milk products. Marco Polo himself sang its praises. And these days kefir’s being rediscovered by do-it-yourselfers and proponents of sustainable food systems.

Making converts to kefir

Warren Taylor of Snowville Creamery led a kefir workshop at last month’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. He calls himself a “dairy evangelist.”

Before the workshop began, Taylor passed around buttons that read “Kefir: feel good.” The name derives from a Turkish word for well-being.

Taylor feels great, and hopes to convert others to what’s been his way of life for almost 40 years.

“I generally get up in the morning, my tummy’s pretty empty, I put about a quart of kefir in me. Goes deep, goes right through your stomach, and boom, right into your small intestines. Centuries ago this is how the herding people would consume their cultured products, big bowls of it. They would guzzle it.”

Centenarians of the Caucusus

Nomadic horsemen of the northern Caucasus mountains who drank the stuff reportedly lived past the century mark.

Some think the probiotic bacteria in kefir might be the reason why, but the only scientific proof of kefir’s medical benefits is a 2003 Ohio State University study that showed it curbed flatulence in those with lactose intolerance.

Reported rare side effects of drinking kefir include bloating, headache and acne.

Still, today it’s the most popular fermented milk in Russia, and in Uzbekistan, horse bladder saddle bags full of it still swing over front doors.

“You hang it in your doorway,” says Taylor, “and everyone who comes through the doorway slaps it, coming and going, to shake it and agitate it, and that makes it grow faster.”

It’s alive

It grows because it’s a living organism that you have to take care of every day.

“Real kefir is something that you keep like a pet.”

But Taylor says like many of the best things in life, real kefir can’t be bought.

“God can’t put kefir in a bottle,” says Taylor. “The stuff that’s in the store that’s called kefir is not kefir.”

Demonstrating how he says anyone can make it at home, Taylor strains foamy liquid through a colander to isolate kefir “grains.” He’ll share some with workshop participants.

“Pass that around. You can get a smell, get an idea. We’re going to put those in little bottles for you.”

The grains are a gelatinous mass of bacteria and yeast, a symbiotic community of microorganisms. The small, irregular, opaque clumps look like cottage cheese or cauliflower.

Once plopped into a quantity of milk, kefir grains ferment the liquid. Then they’re strained out and added to fresh milk for use in successive batches.

A renewable source of nutrition

Kefir is a self-perpetuating food source of somewhat mysterious origin.

It’s believed that all the kefir grains in the world today are babies of a mother culture that came out of the Caucasus mountains thousands of years ago.

Warren Taylor calls it an enigma.

“It only exists because of human beings, but nobody can make it. The most sophisticated dairy lab in the world can’t make you a real kefir culture. You have to get it from somebody.”

A question at the workshop: “Is there a ratio of grains to milk?”

“Good question,” Taylor replied. “It depends on the temperature that it’s going to be growing at, because the warmer it is, the less kefir you need to milk, to have it grow out in the same period of time. How vigorous are the grains, how good is the milk? All of these things. So you just kind of get to know your kefir.”

Sharing the grains and the method

You can drink it plain, but Taylor brought a blender and made the workshop participants a kefir smoothie.

“We’re going to put fresh strawberries, and blueberries. I like bananas.”

Warren Taylor learned about kefir at college in a dairy technology class, but it took two years of searching before he could get grains shipped to him from Holland.

“That was the beginning of my kefir culture, and this is the same culture I’m going to share with you all today. So I’ve been drinking this since 1978.”

How many people has he shared his culture with?

“In the last nearly 40 years, thousands. I think it’s a very fundamental human idea, to share.”

“You’re going to give us some today?”

“Yes.”

“What am I going to do when I go home?”

“Put it in milk.”

“Well, how much?”

“Three parts milk to one part grains.”

“How long do you let it sit?”

“Until it coagulates, until it makes a gel, until it has acidity.”

“Like two hours?”

“Well, 24.”

Much longer than the 4 to 6 hours it takes to ferment yogurt.

“Kefir, buttermilk, sour cream,” says Taylor, “take more like 24 hours, room temperature.”

Slightly alcoholic when ripe

Letting it sit even longer on your kitchen counter is called ripening, and that’s what Rachel Baillieul often does.

“If you allow kefir to go on long enough you might get a little bit of an alcoholic taste,” she says, “or an effervescence.”

Baillieul is an urban homesteader farming on two acres of soil in Columbus.

“I’m a home cook who is unafraid to try anything. That’s what started me down this road of fermentation. “

She’s teaching a workshop on the culinary aspects of kefir.

“So this is kefir that’s actually gone a little bit far. I forgot to put it in the fridge when I came yesterday. So it needed one less day.”

The grains are edible, too

A question comes up about how to handle the grains.

“Do you typically always filter them out prior to consuming the kefir?”

“No. They are consumable. And you have to decide, am I going to eat them? Am I going to press them together to make a sort of cheese? Am I going to feed them to my animals? Am I going to pass them to friends?”

She says they can be stored in a little bit of milk or water in the refrigerator. “I just recently pulled some out that I had just in water for about three months. They were still alive.”

Baillieuil belongs to a growing kefir community.

“I’m one of those crazy people who has cultures. So if you need things let me know.”

Snowville Creamery’s Warren Taylor believes the local foods movement along with a new reverence for lost arts creates the perfect climate for the growth of a shared kefir culture.

“We’re rediscovering community in this country.”

Ones to watch: Young women in agriculture Thursday, April 23, 2015 by Farm and Dairy Staff

By the Farm and Dairy Staff, Farm and Dairy, 4/23/15

When we planned our eight-week series on women in agriculture, “You Go, Girl,” we knew we wanted to give a nod somehow to the millennials, the next generation of women ag leaders. So we asked you to nominate individuals to be recognized as “Ones to Watch” — and we’re in awe of the agricultural passion and work all the nominees exemplified. Thank you for sharing your nominees, and we look forward to watching these young women, and others, as they propel our great industry forward.

Channing Murphy, 23, Miami County, Ohio

Her passion for animals drove her to pursue an ag-related degree and career, and now Channing Murphy, of Miami County, has both of those things and more. Murphy, 23, earned a degree in veterinary technology — but it was at a part-time job working for Honey Hill Farm Mobile Petting Zoo and Pony Rides that she found her dream job. She climbed the ladder to become regional manager for Ohio, and also manages the petting zoo at the Cedar Point amusement park, in Sandusky. She maintains her farm roots by operating her own farm, which includes 10 sheep, 10 beef heifers, “and big plans for the future.” Cattle genetics and artificial insemination are of top interest, as well as animal nutrition and finding ways to improve the production and health of livestock. The best advice she ever received? “The moment when you want to quit is the moment when you need to keep pushing.”

Kelly Lewis, 24, Grandview Heights, Ohio

Growing up near Columbus, Kelly Lewis and her family always had a community garden plot, which she credits as fostering her personal connection with food and the environment. Now she’s working to create more opportunities for people to connect with their food, with a goal of helping to build a local, sustainable, agricultural economy in the Midwest. Armed with a bachelor of science in agriculture from Ohio State University, Kelly works as a program assistant at Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association where she helps farmers and food processors navigate the organic certification process. Her past experience includes an internship at Blue Rock Station Farm and lab assistant at Ohio Seed Improvement Association. She considers her biggest life achievement, and also her greatest adventure, the time she spent in Czech Republic studying rural sociology and agricultural economics. She was able to connect with farmers and students from across the globe.

Sarah Stocks, 31, Medina, Ohio

Although Sarah Stocks officially serves farmers as an independent dairy nutritionist with Barton, Keifer and Associates, she also often serves as adviser, arbitrator, management consultant and friend to those dairy family clients in Ohio and Michigan. The Massachusetts native and current resident of Medina, Ohio, is a graduate of Cornell, the University of Wisconsin, and Michigan State University, where she earned her Ph.D. in animal science/dairy nutrition. “The people in agriculture are passionate about what they do and how they do it,” she says, which is what drives her enthusiasm about serving the farm community. She is quick to engage with friends or relatives about what farmers do, sharing the positives — but also the difficult issues — of farming and dairy production. “We know why we do what we do, but being able to share that with the public has been difficult.” And she’s proud to claim that role, too.

Jess Campbell, Waynesville, Ohio

Jess Campbell, Farm Credit Mid-America agri-consumer loan officer, is not a “farm girl” in a traditional sense. She grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Mason, but was always involved in 4-H and raised small animals. Campbell’s extended family also had a hog operation, which helped form much of her early knowledge of — and passion for — agriculture. A 2009 Ohio State University animal science graduate, Campbell is also president of the Warren County Farm Bureau and operates the 55-acre Carroll Creek Farms in Waynesville with her husband, Adam. Casey Ellington, Campbell’s Women to Watch nominator, called her one of the local farming community’s “biggest ‘agvocates’.” The agriculture industry needs to help young people who are passionate about farming gain access to the resources needed to get started, Campbell said. “My role will be not only to grow and succeed as a young farmer, but to advocate for others and help them access what they need.”

Katie Esselburn, 27, Shreve, Ohio

Katie Esselburn grew up in Wayne County, Ohio, on a farm that produced corn, soybeans and wheat. The family operation also had a commercial feedlot. That early experience made Esselburn’s career choice easy. “There is such a small percentage of people who have ties back to agriculture, (that) agriculture needs to keep telling its story,” the 27-year-old Shreve, Ohio, resident said. Esselburn, who graduated from Denison University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, earned her master’s in animal science from Ohio State University, and currently works for Purina Animal Nutrition as a dairy nutritionist. “I work with dairy farms across central and northeast Ohio,” Esselburn said, adding that the best advice she has ever received is “take ownership and pride in your work.” “I love working with people in the dairy industry,” she said. “It is great working with people who share common interests.”

Emily McDermott, 25, Riverside, California

Emily McDermott didn’t grow up on a farm, she grew up in a touristy beach town in New England. She said she knew almost nothing about farming until she attended Ohio State University. At Ohio State, agriculture was all around her. It was here she became intrigued by invasive crop pests and vector-borne crop pathogens. She graduated from Ohio State in 2012 with a bachelor of science in entomology and a minor in plant pathology. She is pursing her doctorate in veterinary entomology at the University of California, Riverside, California. Currently, she is researching vector-borne livestock diseases, specifically bluetongue virus and the biting midges that transmit it. Protecting livestock from diseases is something that will become increasingly important in the future, and she plans to be a part of the solution. Emily sees herself as becoming a leader in the agricultural sciences community. She said the enthusiasm the agricultural community has is infectious, and it motivates her to do the best work she can.

Laura Ringler, 30, Shelby, Ohio

Growing up the youngest of 14 children on a 200-acre grain farm, Laura Ringler had her fair share of “learning by doing,” both on the farm, in 4-H and in FFA. Today, the 30-year-old agricultural educator is sharing those life lessons in her classroom and as FFA adviser at Plymouth High School in Shelby, Ohio. She guides her students in managing the school’s 30-acre farm field, a 4,500-square foot vegetable garden and 900-square foot memorial garden. “People tend to fear the unknown,” Ringler said. “I hope to remove the fears about agriculture and excite the passion, as we build a strong and educated generation of agricultural advocates.” This year she was named the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators’ Outstanding Young Member. “She’s an amazing person who is passionate about agriculture and student success,” writes her nominator. “She isn’t on the farm full time, but her work in educating the agriculture and civic leaders of tomorrow is invaluable.”

Danielle Burch, 27, Winona, Ohio

At just 27, Danielle Burch has earned two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s in education — and she’s employed as a high school teacher and dairy farmer. But her biggest accomplishment — in her own words — is her family: husband, Andy, and their son, Doyle. Together, Danielle and Andy operate a dairy where she puts her love for agriculture to work. Burch grew up on her family’s farm, where she learned responsibility and work ethics — things like “the animals get fed first” and “hard work and dedication is the key to success.” Burch, who teaches government and psychology/sociology at United Local High School, is a Columbiana County Farm Bureau trustee. She loves farming because farmers “are a friendly group.” They work hard and get dirty, but at the end of the day, “they are a group of people willing to give, help and go beyond their own to help someone else.”

Locals teach organic farming

By Wayne Allen, Portsmouth Daily Times, 3/11/15

Kevin and Barb Bradbury, owners of Hurricane Run Farm, are hosting a group this week from Wake Forest University of Winston Salem, North Carolina.

“They found out about us (Bradbury Farm) through a WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) website. They got in touch with us and decided to come,” Barb Bradbury said.

According to www.wwoof.net, the site is designed to link volunteers with organic farms and growers.

Barb Bradbury said the group came to the farm to learn about organic farming. She said through the experience the group is gaining hands on organic farming experiences at the farm.

Carol Goland, PhD, Executive Director, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) said there are certain advantages to gaining experience with WWOOFing.

“I do know some of our farms have turned to the WWOOF Organization to get labor. I’m familiar with some people who have gotten experience through WWOOFing. This is a time honored way of apprenticing yourself to get that knowledge. So many people are interested in farming these days, are not coming to it from having grown up on a farm, so they need to find that way in. It’s one thing to hear about it in a book or hear about it in a lecture in college, but nothing substitutes hand on experience,” Goland said.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a membership-based, grassroots organization, dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems.

Kevin Bradbury said some of the things the students will experience this week include the process of making maple syrup, the process of how to prune fruit trees and berries also the process of growing Shiitake Mushrooms. He said with the recent weather the area has experienced, the group has been working on various projects around the farm.

“We have several fruit trees and we’ve taught them how to prune fruit trees. They’ve pruned apples and we raise raspberries and blackberries, those have to be pruned this time of year,” Kevin Bradbury said.

He said the students are on an alternative spring break from Wake Forest University. He said while some students choose to spend their spring break on a beach, these students are on an alternative spring break that will allow them to gain experience working on an organic farm.

“They seem like they’ve been enjoying themselves. They wanted to learn about food production and small farm agriculture, because there is such a movement with people wanting to buy local and locally grown food,” Kevin Bradbury said. “They wanted to see how a small farm works and a lot of them have not been exposed to farming or gardening so they wanted to what we do here.”

Kevin Bradbury said he’s hopeful the group will get to experience how to construct a raised bed. As a part of the experience, he said the students are planning to travel to Hocking Hills and spend some time in Athens.

Kevin Bradbury said the students have set up a Facebook page for the farm, where the students have shared a few photos of their experience.

Wayne Allen can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1933 or on Twitter @WayneallenPDT

Below: students from Wake Forest University are in Scioto County this week learning about organic farming and gaining hands on experiences.

Submitted Photo | Daily TimesA group of six students from Wake Forest University are in Scioto County this week learning about organic farming and gaining hands on experiences.

 

Ohio Business Owner: Fracking Stifling Local Food Movement

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service, 4/6/15
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PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

PHOTO: Sustainable farmers rely on the integrity of the land, soil and water, and many say hydraulic fracturing is compromising the growing local food movement in Ohio. Photo credit: David Foster/Flickr.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Sustainably produced foods are becoming more popular among consumers, but some Ohioans say the state’s fracking boom is stifling the growth of the local food movement.

According to the EPA, dozens of chemicals are used in hydraulic fracturing, which some growers say puts air, water and soil at risk for contamination.

The Village Bakery and Café in Athens specializes in locally grown and organic foods, and owner Christine Hughes says some area farmers were unaware of the risks when they agreed to allow oil and gas companies onto their land.

“Landowners were told, ‘Oh no, we don’t use chemicals, it’s all safe,’ so I don’t blame those people for signing up,” says Hughes. “But it has put all these sustainable farms at risk, and the conventional farms as well. The sustainable farmers are more aware of the damage it will do to their reputation.”

According to Hughes, soil and watershed resilience are likely to worsen as drilling continues to expand. A recent study found nearly 11 percent of the more than 19,000 organic farms in the U.S. share a watershed with oil and gas activity, and 30 percent of organic farms will be in the vicinity of a fracking site or injection well in the next decade.

Hughes says many of her restaurant’s suppliers are based in Ohio’s fracking hotbed. The farm that sourced her flour was directly impacted by fracking after an old injection well was re-activated near the land.

“They started bringing in truckloads of radioactive frack waste from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio,” she says. “So they had to shut down their farm and ended up having to sell off their farm and move away and take jobs from their farm.”

Hughes says many other business owners in her community are concerned about the impacts of fracking, and it’s not the answer to the country’s economic, energy and climactic challenges.

“The horse was out of the gate long before the regulations or the science could be shown how dangerous it is,” says Hughes. “At this point a moratorium is really the only responsible thing that we could do.”

Hughes is a member of the Ohio chapter of the American Sustainable Business Council, which is among organizations calling for mandatory, enforceable national standards that will apply to both new and existing gas and oil development.

House bill proposes national standard on GMO food labeling

From AP and staff reports, Farm and Dairy, 3/26/15

WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in the House of Representatives March 25 would make the Food and Drug Administration the only agency permitted to label food and beverage products made with genetically modified ingredients.

The bill, known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, also includes a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to label “non-GMO” foods.

Introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, and G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, the bill calls for the FDA to set standards for GMO labeling.

Foods the department certifies as free of GMOs would have a special government label that companies could use to market their foods. User fees would pay for the program.

Pompeo said a government-certified label would allow companies that want to advertise their foods as GMO-free to do so, but it would not be mandatory for others. He said he hopes to see the bill passed this year.

Overrides state law

The voluntary labeling effort would create an industry standard and override any state laws that require the labeling.

Thus far, bills requiring GMO labeling have been introduced in more than 30 states. Vermont became the first state to require the labeling in 2014 — a law that is set to go into effect in 2016, but is facing a legal challenge from the food industry.

House Committee on Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway said the “growing patchwork” of mandatory state laws has created confusion and is driving up the cost of food.

“These state laws are not based on science and are both inconsistent and misleading,” Conaway said. “We have a federal regulatory process for the approval of biotechnology that is both scientifically sound and works.”

Response from across the food industry was largely supportive of the bill.

“It would improve clarity in foods carrying a GMO-free label by establishing uniform rules and a national certification program for foods that have been produced without bioengineering,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation.

Supporters say the bill could also reduce costs to both manufacturers and consumers.

At a February forum in Albany, New York, Rick Zimmerman, executive director of the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance, pointed to a 2014 Cornell University study that showed a $500 annual increase in food costs for a family of four if mandatory GMO labeling legislation were to be enacted.

“And for small manufacturers, the cost of complying with such a law may be too much for their businesses to sustain,” Zimmerman said.

Opposing view

Advocates for labeling genetically modified products, including Consumers Union, urged Congress to reject the bill, in particular a provision that would allow a “natural” label on genetically engineered food.

“Allowing the ‘natural’ label on genetically engineered food would legalize a deceptive practice,” Consumers Union said in a statement.

Andrew Kimbrell, of the advocacy group Center for Food Safety, called the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act “a faulty and disingenuous attempt to assuage consumer concern.”

“The most effective way to provide consumers with the full universe of information about their food is through mandatory labeling, nothing less,” Kimbrell said.

A February poll by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association found that 87 percent of Ohio voters want genetically enhanced foods labeled and 61 percent disapprove of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

Poll says Ohioans don’t want GMO foods, do want labels: And you?

By Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer, 3/16/15

GMO label

More than half of Ohioans don’t like genetically engineered foods, and, even if they’re not taking a stand, 87 percent of them want those foods labeled as such.

Those are the results of a poll of more than 500 Ohio voters sponsored in February by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, a Columbus-based advocacy group for organic foods. OEFFA also runs one of the state’s organic certification programs.

Genetically engineered or transgenic food crops are created by extracting genes from one organism and placing them in another in order to transfer desired attributes. The technique is used on most of the corn we eat today, among many other edible crops, and is a controversial topic among the public and scientists. There have been numerous calls for more research, especially on the possibility of passing along undeclared allergens.

“There can be no doubt that Ohio voters want the right to know what they eat and feed their families,” said Amalie Lipstreu, policy coordinator for OEFFA. “The results clearly show voters–regardless of political party–support GE labeling and disapprove of GE food.”

Sixty one percent of respondents did not approve of GE foods, a figure that increased to 70 percent among women. Eighty nine percent of Republicans, 88 percent of Democrats, and 85 percent of Independents support labeling, according to the survey.

The announcement from OEFFA did not immediately include the full report, but one was provided on request. Click here to get the full results. OEFFA is offering an online graphic showing some of the key findings, at http://policy.oeffa.org/gepoll .

Great River Organics Looks to Build Name for Organic Produce in Central Ohio

By Susan Post, The Metropreneur, 3/3/15

Collaboration can go a long way when you are a small business owner. It means more – more resources and more ways to reach your customers. As the movement to eat local and organic continue to grow, a group of eight Central Ohio farms are banding together to form Great River Organics.

“Great River [Organics] is a farmer-owned, non-profit corporation comprised of farmers in Central Ohio looking to expand local, certified-organic products,” says Adam Welly, co-founder of Wayward Seed Farm, one of the members.GROlogo

“Our farm individually is never going to feed all of the people here in Columbus,” says fellow Co-Founder Jaime Moore. “We need a real collaborative effort.”

GRO aligns the values of these farmers, all of which are certified organic or are pending certification, with ambitious goals.

“We feel like we’re setting a really good example of what Ohio farming can be,” Welly says. “We think that this idea of creating a local, organic brand is really, really important for both Central Ohio and the wider region.”

In addition to Wayward, Sippel Family Farm, Rock Dove Farm, Sunbeam Family Farm, Harvest Sun Farms, Toad Hill Farms, Clay Hill Farms and Dangling Carrot Farm are a part of the co-op. While some of the farms were already certified organic, making sure each farm met the standards was an important part of the foundation. Welly says it gives them transparency in their processes, and a clear stance on what they stand for as they broach multiple markets.

Currently, the operation is focused mainly on the direct to consumer market, making their produce accessible through their multi-farm CSA known as The Great River Market Bag. The eight-product CSA is a mix of everyday staples and a few unique items.

“We only grew a few items for GRO in 2014, which meant we could focus on doing it really well,” says Kristy Ryan of Clay Hill Farms. “We think the quality of produce going into the CSA is phenomenal because each farm gets the freedom to grow the items that they specialize in growing.”

The CSA is delivered to about 20 community partners, mostly corporations, and includes the likes of Nationwide, Cardinal Health and Limited Brands. GRO’s collaborative effort allows the organization to extend a traditional 20-week CSA into 30 weeks starting in June and ending around Christmas, which means closer to year-round fresh, local produce.

The group is working on some other CSA options like every-other-week pickup or a peak-season selection.

“We’ve taken a lot of feedback from our customers and we’re trying to give people a wider number of options to take part,” Welly says.

GRO2

Although the CSA is the anchor of GRO, wholesale of certified organic produce is in the long-term plans. The organization is just trying to be thoughtful in the way that they grow.

“A lot of people want to buy our product, but we believe it’s smarter for us to work in the framework of what our farmers are capable of right now,” Moore says. It ensures that customers are getting the highest quality of goods. And, it takes time to expand as a farming operation.

In addition to a steady outlet for their produce, member farms are also finding huge marketing advantages as a part of GRO.

“Great River provides the farmer a network of support and marketing ability that opens up an array of opportunities that otherwise would not be available to them as an individual organic producer,” says Ben Dilbone of Sunbeam Family Farm.

Ryan echoes Dilbone’s sentiments. Being a young, growing farm in rural area, “While it is very nice to live a quiet, rural life, the downside is we don’t have access to good markets,” Ryan says. “Joining GRO allowed us to pursue our farm dream and gain market share. We can enjoy the stability and benefits that CSAs offer farms, without the pressure of ‘going it alone,’ especially this early in our career.”

Overall, GRO wants to bring awareness to and help grow the local food system.

“Local agriculture needs as much support as it can get to maintain economic viability and compete with the pressures of cheaply produced “corporate organics” that are imported from other countries that we see flooding the shelves at the grocery store,” Dilbone says. “GRO provides much-needed support to local organic farmers who work diligently to provide an alternative food option that travels far less miles to your dinner plate, and with much more quality and flavor.”

“I want people to crave that information and the value and the quality of products that we offer,” Moore adds. “I want people to crave that as much as we do.”

For more information, visit greatriverfarms.org.

Solar Electric Workshop Scheduled for June: Farmers and Others Can Learn How to Design and Install Photovoltaic Systems

For Immediate Release: May 5, 2015

Contact: Milo Petruziello, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 206, milo@oeffa.org

Press Release

Columbus, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and Jay and Annie Warmke of Blue Rock Station will be offering a five-day solar electric workshop designed for people who want to make their farm, home, or business energy independent, or who are looking to start their own business installing photovoltaic (PV) systems.

The workshop will be held Monday, June 15 through Friday, June 19 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at OEFFA’s offices in the Ohio Lumbermen’s Building at 41 Croswell Rd. in Columbus, OH.

“During previous courses, we’ve helped many people to enter a new career field or gain the skills necessary to design and install their own PV system,” said instructor Jay Warmke.

Jay is the author of numerous textbooks on the subject, teaches renewable energy classes at Central Ohio Technical College, and serves as vice president of Green Energy Ohio. He and his wife Annie put this knowledge into practice at Blue Rock Station, a 38 acre educational center which is home to Ohio’s first Earthship and a 6kW solar array.

During this training course, participants will learn how to design and install photovoltaic systems through lectures and hands-on labs. They will learn with a working PV system, dismantling and reinstalling it, troubleshooting, and testing its proper operation. The class will also learn how to construct a working solar generator to run pumps, freezers, lights, and more when the grid goes down.

As part of the class, registrants can nominate a site to serve as a “real world” model; one site will be selected and together the class will evaluate, size, and design a system for that site.

At the end of the week, participants will have the opportunity to sit for an internationally recognized certification Level 1 examination offered by the Electronic Technicians Association (ETA).

“Many farmers and homesteaders are looking for a way to be energy independent and reduce their reliance on polluting fossil fuels. With prices for PV systems falling and demand on the rise, systems are becoming economical for nearly every home or farm,” said OEFFA Program Assistant Milo Petruziello. “Finding qualified personnel to install and maintain systems remains a challenge, however. We hope this course will give people the tools they need to harness the power of the sun.”

The cost of the workshop is $930 for OEFFA members and $970 for non-members. The cost includes ETA fees, an installation toolkit, and a course workbook. Lunch is provided on each class day.

Pre-registration is required. Space is limited. Register at www.oeffa.org by June 10. To register by mail, send a check made out to OEFFA along with the names of all attendees, addresses, phone numbers, and emails to OEFFA Solar Workshop, 41 Croswell Rd., Columbus, OH 43214.

For more information, or to register by phone, please contact Milo Petruziello at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 206 or milo@oeffa.org. For more information about Blue Rock Station, call (740) 674-4300 or go to www.bluerockstation.com.

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