Consumer Demand Pushes Cage-Free Egg Production In Ohio

By Sam Hendren • WOSU • 5/31/16

Ohio is the second largest egg-producing state in the U.S., and that means big industry changes as consumer demand pushes more retailers to move to cage free hens.

Several months ago, McDonald’s joined other retailers that want their eggs produced by cage-free hens. The fast food chain has considerable clout – they buy 2 billion eggs every year. Why the shift? Lauren Ketcham of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association says they’re responding to consumer demand.

“The more the public knows about how their food is produced, the more that environmental and animal welfare concerns are brought into the spotlight and industry is forced to change,” Ketcham says.

Hens that live in cage-free operations are fortunate. They live in larger enclosures, feasting on insects and and plantlife they can find.

Most hens used in ‘industrial’ egg production never go outside. Millions live out their lives in cages with about 60 square inches of space. Their warehousing is directly linked, say experts, to consumer expectations for low food prices.

“We have the richest country in the world but yet we pay the least amount of our per capita income for food. And so a lot of our management practices per se have really been driven by what consumers expect or are willing to pay for food,” says Michael Lilburn an Ohio State University animal science professor..

But now it seems consumers are willing to pay more if their eggs are produced under different conditions. In response, egg producers want the Ohio Department of Agriculture to allow them to make changes in their operations. The department’s Kevin Elder.

“There are several facilities that are asking to change their permit to allow them to go construct or remodel to newer styles for the cage free,” Elder says.

Elder says that converting to cage-free egg production will be expensive. Fewer hens can be housed in cage-free buildings so additional housing has to be constructed.

“It will cost a lot of money. The cost is tremendous. Many of these buildings, just to remodel, are millions of dollars for 100,000 birds. So as you get more and more numbers and more buildings and new facilities the investment is pretty amazing,” Elder says.

Those cage-free hens need more heat and eat more feed than their caged counterparts, says OSU’s Lilburn, who says the price-tag for all of this is a mystery.

“I don’t know that we really know what the cost of the cage-free systems are going to be over time,” Lilburn says.

On its website, Versailles, Ohio-based egg producer Weaver Brothers ‘crows’ about building new organic, cage-free farms that will house several million birds. Repeated phone calls requesting an interview went unanswered. I asked the Ohio Poultry Association’s Jim Chakeres about that. He told me, “Mr. Weaver will not be talking.” I asked Chakeres if producers are reluctant to speak.

“Maybe reluctant’s not the right word. They’re just not sure how all of this is coming together and so there’s just not a lot to discuss at this time,” Chakeres says.

It’s unclear what the cage-free conversion means for Ohio’s economy. Ohio produces approximately 9 billion eggs a year.

Cage-free is also not a panacea says the agriculture department’s Kevin Elder.

“The cost per bird is a lot higher with the cage-free. The loss of eggs is higher because there’s more of a chance for damage. There’s potentially more exposure to Salmonella and other diseases because of those changes,” Elder says.

Experts say the cost of cage-free produced eggs will be more expensive, but still affordable.

Canal Market could be game changer for county farmers

By Anna Jeffries, 5/24/16, The Newark Advocate

NEWARK – The last few weeks have been busy on Janell Baran’s farm.

She’s working to get hundreds of logs ready for mushroom season while also harvesting new crops of shiitakes. As she prepares to plant her next crop of herbs, she’s also working on drying plants and organizing her inventory.

She loves what she does. But there’s nothing cute or whimsical about it. It’s hard work, and it’s how she makes her living.

A regular vendor at the Granville and Worthington farmers markets, she’ll start selling her herbs, teas and mushrooms at the Canal Market District in a few weeks.

She’s hoping new clients will increase her bottom line. If the market is a success, it can make a big difference for her business, Blue Owl Garden Emporium, and many other small businesses in the area.

“Licking County is one of the largest agriculture counties in the state, and we have a lot of small farmers, especially in the eastern part of the county,” she said. “I see small farmers (at the market) having the opportunity to get their foot in the door.”

An opportunity for smaller farms

Licking County has strong roots in agriculture, which is a major driver in the local economy. But in a more urban area such as downtown Newark, that isn’t always clear, said Jeremy King, sustainability coordinator for Denison University and a board member for the Canal Market District and Enterprise Hub.

“It’s a huge industry here, and I don’t think people always fully comprehend that,” he said.

But the current economic system focuses on large farms growing commodity crops, such as corn and soybeans.

Smaller farms have to diversify their crops to stay afloat. And the Canal Market gives those businesses a chance to get their products directly to consumers, said Carol Goland, executive director of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association and a member of the Canal Market board.

“Farmers markets are a great outlet for small scale farmers who have relatively small volumes of produce, compared to an enormous distributor,” she said.  “I think it potentially helps people stay in farming. But the economic benefit goes beyond the farms and farmers themselves.”

There’s a perception out there that farmers markets are quaint experiences or tourist attractions. But Bryn Bird, director of the Canal Market, said the vendors at the market have a different perspective.

“(Farming) is our lives, and with this market, Newark is putting local food as a leader of economic development,” she said. “We want people to see us as small businesses.  A lot of citizens act like farm markets are ‘cute.’ We are saying this is going to revitalize Newark.”

Benefits beyond the market

The success of the Canal Market will do much more than just increase the availability of fresh food, Bird said.

Permanent markets have many “spinoff benefits” for their communities, including job creation and increased revenue.

A 2011 U.S. Department of Agriculture study on local food marketing channels found that farms that sell some of their produce locally offer more full time jobs than farms with no local sales.

Another study by Arizona found that farmers markets and other forms of “agricultural tourism” generate $1 million a year, which lead to additional economic activity of $900,000 in each county studied.

And those positives don’t include the benefits to other downtown businesses near the Canal Market.

Goland cited a 2003 study from the Project for Public Spaces, which surveyed 800 farmers market shoppers across the country

About 60 percent of the people surveyed said they visited nearby stores the same day they visited the farmers market. Those shoppers said they visited those stores only on the days they went to the market.

Harder to measure, but equally as important, is the ability for small farmers and businesses to come together at the market, Goland said.

“A farmers market is low risk, almost like an incubator for an entrepreneur or farmer to grow their business and test out new products,” she said. “They learn from their customers and they get feedback.”

When Baran was just starting out, going to farmers markets helped her realize she wanted to continue to grow her business.

“It’s a tough economic decision to decide to expand,” she said. “(A market is) a great place to figure out if they want to do that. They can make connections and figure out what’s involved and see if they want to do this for a living.”

Focus on the future

Another reason Baran was drawn to the Canal Market was its board’s commitment to thinking about the future.

“They are thinking the right way of making it a local food economy, not just a tourism economy. The tourism economy is going to come if they do it right,” she said. “They are making it about people.”

The first priority is to get the Canal Market up and running. But the district also is focused on long-term planning through its enterprise hub, Bird said.

She’s hoping to add a bulk market for people looking for large quantities of produce. She also is working toward starting a wholesale market so local restaurants can do their shopping downtown.

The board is working on a feasibility study to try to open a food processing facility in Newark that would include cold storage and equipment to package and process produce, King said.

That would be a game changer for local farmers in many ways, he said.

Large buyers, such as schools or hospitals, need lots of produce every day to meet their needs. Most small farmers don’t grow enough on their own to fulfill those requests.

But if 10 farmers each sell 100 pounds of potatoes to the processing hub, they could be combined there and made in to hash browns to sell to a larger business.

That’s just one example of how the hub could be a win for the farmers and local businesses, King said.

“You can set up relationships with other farmers or a large entity,” he said. “You can set up a business relationship between farms.”

Access to a processing facility would help Baran expand her inventory. She could start making new dehydrated items, mustards, oils, vinegars and other items that her customers would be excited to buy.

“Right now I can either build my own (facility) or go to one in Columbus, and for me that’s too far,” she said. “It’s not really cost effective, and I can’t make forward progress.”

But first, she’s looking forward to setting up her booth at this year’s market and seeing how things progress through the season.

“They are focused on evolution, on innovation and change,” she said. “That’s what our markets nowadays need to be doing.”

Ohio Organic Farm in Path of Pipelines Joins National Day of Action on Fracking

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2016
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Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Mick Luber, Bluebird Farm, (740) 945-0217, bluebirdorganicfarm@gmail.com
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Cadiz, OH—One of Ohio’s first certified organic farms, under threat by fracking and pipeline development, will be hosting a farm tour as part of a National Day of Action on Fracking Tuesday, June 7.

For decades, Mick Luber of Bluebird Farm in Cadiz, Ohio has grown organic vegetables and other crops on his 65 acre farm, which serves markets in Wheeling and Pittsburgh.

Luber’s farm is located within a half mile of three wells and a compressor station, and two pipelines are being built and planned just south of the farm. Now, if a legal agreement is not reached, a third pipeline—Kinder-Morgan’s Utopia pipeline—would cross his farm’s most productive field, carrying ethylene and propane to plastics manufacturing plants in Canada.

“Organic farms across Ohio are in the path of fracking, pipelines, and injection wells. We’re inviting the public to stand with Mick and other farmers who are stewarding the land, to see firsthand what’s at stake if we lose these farms, and to learn how they can join us in saving organic farmland,” event organizer Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) said.

Luber says, if built, the Utopia pipeline would permanently damage his land and his business.

“You can’t work on soil for 30 plus years, adding compost to make the soil enliven with bacteria, earthworms, and mycelium and watch it be destroyed by bulldozers and track hoes,” Luber said, noting his farm could not be restored to its present state of soil life and structure no matter how good the company’s reclamation efforts.

The event will begin at 2 p.m. at Bluebird Farm, 86663 Fife Rd., Cadiz, OH and is part of a National Day of Action on Fracking organized by the Frackfree America National Coalition based in Youngstown designed to bring attention to the impacts of fracking, including property damage, water pollution, earthquakes, fires, and explosions.

According to a 2015 report by FracTracker analyzing 703 organic farms in Ohio, 220 were near current drilling activity, 105 were near waste disposal injection wells, and 510 were within a U.S. shale basin. Water or soil contamination from fracking activities or accidents could jeopardize a farm’s organic certification.
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“In addition to production and injection wells, the energy industry is now weaving a web of pipelines and compressor stations across Ohio, impacting waterways, farmland, forests, cultural resources, and residential communities,” Lipstreu said. “Besides the potential risks of explosions and contamination, these pipelines threaten the future of some of Ohio’s most sustainable farms.”
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This event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is encouraged. To register, contact Eric Pawlowski at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 209 or eric@oeffa.org by June 3. Visitors are invited to bring a dish to share and drinks for a potluck and social following the tour. Representatives from the nonprofit environmental law firm, Fair Shake Legal Services, will be available to discuss landowner rights and answer pipeline questions.
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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Cost-Share Program Helps Make Organic Certification Affordable for Farmers and Processors

For Immediate Release:
May 23, 2016

Contact:
Carol Goland, OEFFA, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org
Lori Panda, Ohio Department of Agriculture, (614) 466-8798, lori.panda@agri.ohio.gov
Peter Wood, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, (202) 720-6179, peter.wood@ams.usda.gov

Columbus, OH—This May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that $369,100 is available through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to make organic certification more affordable for organic producers and handlers in Ohio. A total of approximately $11.6 million is available to organic operations across the country.

This funding covers as much as 75 percent of an individual applicant’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification scope. Four scopes of certification are eligible for reimbursement: crops, wild crops, livestock, and handler.

“The organic market is booming, with more and more producers taking advantage of the economic opportunities it presents,” AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer said.  “The cost-share program makes it easier for organic businesses throughout the supply chain to get certified, helping them meet growing consumer demand.”

Retail sales of organic products grew to more than $39 billion in the United States in 2014 and more than $75 billion worldwide, according to the USDA.

Since 2011, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has partnered with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) to administer Ohio’s cost-share program.

“The cost-share program is utilized by about 45 percent of Ohio’s nearly 800 organic farmers,” OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland said. “We encourage more organic farmers to take advantage of this opportunity, which can help make becoming—or staying—certified more affordable.”

Reimbursable costs include application fees, certification fees, travel costs for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments, and postage. The program is currently reimbursing for expenses paid between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016.  Applications for reimbursement must be postmarked by November 15, 2016, although requests are processed monthly.

Organic farmers and processors in Ohio can access the reimbursement application from OEFFA’s website at http://certification.oeffa.org/costshare or by calling (614) 262-2022.

Certified organic producers and handlers outside of Ohio can find the contact information for their administrating agencies at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

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

A First-Hand View of Sustainable Agriculture in Ohio

By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service
May 16, 2016
A summer farm tour in Ohio features operations that use sustainable and organic practices. (OEFFA)
Photo: Mile Creek Farm

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Dozens of farmers and growers around the state will kick off summer by opening their gates and sharing their agricultural know-how with Ohioans.

Thirty-two farm tours and 10 workshops will be featured between June and November during the 2016 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is sponsoring 21 of the events, and communications coordinator Lauren Ketcham says it’s a chance to see, taste and experience life on a farm and learn about where food comes from.

“Consumers gain a greater understanding of how food gets from the field to the dinner table,” says Ketcham. “Seeing can be a more powerful experience than reading something in a book or on a website.”

The tours include opportunities to see sustainable beekeeping, as well as operations that produce grass-fed beef, poultry, vegetables and herbs. And Ketcham notes they are free and family-friendly.

Ketcham says consumer interest in sustainable, local foods continues to grow, and those who attend the tours will get an inside look at organic practices at some of the farms.

“Operations that are using chemical-free production methods, who are raising heritage-breed livestock and pasturing those animals rather than raising them in confinement,” says Ketcham. “Implementing sustainable production practices like cover crops and crop rotation.”

The tour series has been offered by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association for more than 40 years, and Ketcham notes the farmers and growers have developed a support network.

“They’ve made life-long connections,” she says. “So it’s a great chance for farmers and gardeners to share that production and marketing know-how; to share the wisdom that they’ve developed through their hands-on experiences.”

A tour guide is available online at oeffa.org.

See, Taste, and Experience Life on the Farm During Annual Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series: 2016 Guide Now Available

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2016

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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Columbus, OH—Do you want to learn about sustainable beekeeping, biochar, profitable poultry production, raising high quality grass-fed beef, or improving your forages? Would you like to enjoy a leisurely stroll through organic fields and pastures and visit with farm animals? Or take a farm stand with an organic farmer threatened by pipeline development?

You’ll have opportunities to do all this and more during the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 21 summer farm tours and workshops, which are part of the 2016 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series.

“This is a great chance for everyone interested in local foods to grow their farm knowledge and to build bridges with others who share a passion for sustainable agriculture,” said Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA’s Communications Coordinator. “These tours and workshops allow farmers and gardeners to share production and market know-how with each other and help consumers gain a greater understanding of how food gets from the field to the dinner table.”

Meet knowledgeable local farmers ready to share their wisdom, and experience sustainable agriculture up close during these farm tours:
  • Tuesday, June 7: Take an Organic Farm Stand Tour—Bluebird Farm, Harrison Co.
  • Saturday, June 25: Pasture-Raised, Rotationally Grazed Livestock Farm Tour—Pastured Providence Farmstead, Ross Co.
  • Saturday, July 9: Historic Farm Tour and Biochar Workshop—Gorman Heritage Farm, Hamilton Co.
  • Saturday, July 9: Sustainable Beekeeping Farm Tour and Workshop—Stratford Ecological Center, Delaware Co.
  • Friday, July 15: Quality Forage for Dairy Operations Farm Tour—Heckman Family Dairy, Darke Co.
  • Saturday, August 13: Quality Hay and Grass-Fed Beef Farm Tour—Wood Farm, IN
  • Friday, August 19: Organic Compost Farm Tour—Hirzel Canning Company and Farms, Wood Co.
  • Friday, September 16: On-Farm Research Farm Tour—Crumrine Farms, Ashland Co.
  • Saturday, October 11: Pasture-Raised Multi-Species Livestock Farm Tour—Sweet Grass Dairy, Knox Co.

Develop your production skills and gain important food safety knowledge during these practical on-farm workshops:

  • Saturday, June 11: Loin Eye Carcass Ultrasound Scanning—The Spicy Lamb Farm, Summit Co.
  • Monday, June 20: Find Your Path to Clean Water: Food Safety Water Quality Standards and Testing Protocols for Produce Growers—MTSO’s Seminary Hill Farm, Delaware Co.
  • Friday, June 24: Raising the Steaks: Finishing the Finest Beef on Grass—White Clover Farm, Highland Co.
  • Friday, August 5: Profitable Poultry in Motion: Maximizing Performance From Your Pastured Flock—Breakneck Acres, Portage Co.
  • Thursday, September 22 and November 10: Season Creation: Pay for Your High Tunnel in Six Months Harvesting Food Through the Winter—Mustard Seed Market at Highland Square, Summit Co., Gorman Heritage Farm, Franklin Co.

Visit with OEFFA member farms during these annual open houses:

  • Saturday, June 11: Snowville Creamery and Find A Way Farm, Meigs Co.
  • Sunday, June 26: Sunny Meadows Flower Farm, Franklin Co.
  • Sunday, September 18: Carriage House Farm, Hamilton Co.

This series is promoted in cooperation with The Ohio State University Extension Sustainable Agriculture Team, Advancing Eco Agriculture, Ashtabula Local Food Council, Columbus Agrarian Society, and Our Harvest Research and Education Institute, who are sponsoring additional tours and workshops.

All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise indicated in the series brochure.

For more information and complete details for all workshops and farm tours, click here.

Ohio Group: Food Labeling Shouldn’t be Controversial

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio News Service, 3/7/16

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While the issue of genetic engineering is controversial, some Ohio groups say giving people honest information about the foods they consume should not be.

Last week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved its version of what opponents call the DARK Act, which stands for Deny Americans the Right to Know.

It essentially would block any mandatory labeling of food that contains genetically modified ingredients.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, argues the bill denies consumers information about the food they eat and feed their families.

“Any legislation that codifies voluntary labeling fails to respond to the will of the American people, who reiterated in numerous surveys that they want this information,” she states.

Those in favor of the measure say mandatory food labeling would be expensive for both businesses and consumers.

The legislation introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) also would call for the Department of Agriculture to promote the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.

Lipstreu contends that would create an uneven playing field that would hinder organic farming practices.

Lipstreu explains that consumers are concerned about the use of pesticides, and want to know more about the nutritional value of the food they purchase. She says these opinions are reflected by changes in the marketplace.

“As they become more educated, they can see some of the negative effects of the corporate industrial food system and have been increasing their purchase of food that is organic, local, and sustainably grown,” she points out.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is among food and farm policy groups pledging to fight the DARK Act. And Lipstreu is hopeful Ohio’s congressional leaders do not succumb to pressure.

“We hope as this bill advances to the full Senate, Sens. (Sherrod) Brown and (Rob) Portman do not support that bill,” she says. “There are options to find common ground and to advance some legislation that truly reflects the will of the American people. ”

Brown is on the Senate Agriculture Committee and did not support the bill in committee.

The endangered young farmer: Farm advocate sees rough road ahead, but also opportunities, for young farmers

By Gary Brock, Rural Life Today, 3/4/16

Gary Brock photo Highland County resident Analena Bruce talks with Troyce Barnett, State Grazing Specialist with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service at the trade show area during the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s convention in Granville Feb. 13.
 

Gary Brock photo Lindsey Lusher Shute, one of the keynote speakers at the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s convention in Granville Feb. 13, talks about the risks and challenges facing young farmers in America today, and in the future.

Gary Brock photo Ohio State University students Bailey Delacrez, left, and Mizuho Tsukui enjoy samples of the jams and jellies on display at the booth of Ann’s Raspberry Farm in Knox County at the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s convention in Granville Feb. 13.
 

GRANVILLE – Lindsey Lusher Shute remembers fondly her time spent as a child on her grandparents’ farm near Gallipolis on the Ohio River.

It was a farm of more than 150 acres passed down for generations.

“I have so many happy memories. It is where I grew my love for agriculture,” she told an audience of more than a thousand at the Feb. 13 Ohio Environmental Food and Farm Association annual conference in Granville. She was the organization’s keynote speaker.

“This farm is what brought our family together,” she said.

But that farm isn’t the same today, and is now less than 10 acres.

Co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition, an advocacy group with 30 chapters in 29 states, she told the audience that the most endangered group of workers in America today is the young farmer.

Why endangered? She said young farmers face huge obstacles of personal debt, high cost of farmland and lack of resources to grow their farms. But she hopes spreading the word through her organization can reverse the decline in young people going into farming.

“Our mission is to create a viable career path for young people in agriculture. This means people getting into farming as their first career. It is important for young people in their 20s and younger to know that there is a career path for them,” she said.

“If your call is to farm at an early age, you shouldn’t have to have another career in order to farm. That is not sustainable.”

Shute said beginning farmers are the future of Ohio agriculture, but they face many hurdles. “Beginning farmers are a rare bread,” she pointed out.

She said farmers make up 1 to 2 percent of the American population. “But only one tenth of one percent of the American population is made up of farmers making a living on the farm earning, say, more than $50,000 income on the farm.”

Shute added that if you are looking for a young farmer, say in the under 35 age category, you are down to 36,000 Americans. “We are 319 million Americans looking at 36,000 young American farmers to steward the future of the food system of the United States. Let me tell you — that’s a problem.”

In 2010, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack challenged America to bring 100,000 new farmers to the land. “We’re going to fall short of that goal,” she said. “Even the smartest, most experienced young farmers are running into obstacles too big to carry on.” In the last two census of agriculture, 2007 and 2012, the farming population fell by about 90,000 farm operators, she pointed out.

She said the need for American farmers has never been greater. “We as farmers steward about 1 billion acres of land – about half the land area of America. and about 63 percent of that land is farmed by farmers age 55 and older. So you can say that at least that much land in the next 30 years is going to need to be transitioned to another farmer,” she said.

“What we will see in the future is more consolidation of farms, more development of farmland, fallow land and farm insecurity,” Shute warned.

Getting new farmers to join in this career is no small task. Some are hanging on, she said, but many are going into other careers, especially those who are getting into the age when they would like to have kids, or save for retirement.

“The average small scale farmer is barely surviving. If we as a farm community want to succeed and bring new farmers into our fold, we have to find ways to deal with these issues,” she cautioned.

One of the biggest obstacles involves student loan debt. What does she believe can be done to solve this problem?

Her group’s proposal is to add farmers to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This is an existing program designed to help those wanting in careers such as teaching and nursing by having their debt forgiven. “We would like to have farmers added to that list of public servants that quality for this list of loan forgiveness,” she said, to a round of load and enthusiastic applause from those in attendance.

She said her group has a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives to add the “farming” category to the list of public service jobs. “It is a bipartisan supported bill,” she said. She urged people to call Sen. Rob Portman and members of Congress to support this proposal.

“My philosophy of farming is that farming is a public service. That is why all of you are here today. You are here because you believe that what you are doing on your farm is contributing positively to the community, you are feeding people, you are helping the soil, protecting the air and clean water,” she said.

Shute said in a recent survey, 78 percent of young farmers said they struggle getting capital. Student indebtedness is a major part of this. Students who graduated in 2008 from college and went into agriculture had an average of $11,000 in college debt four years later. “It is difficult to farm and pay back this debt at the same time. Student loans are holding back all young Americans across the board, not just young farmers. It becomes even more difficult for young farmers because we are trying to leverage capital to buy land. If we let student debt stand in the way of young people getting into farming careers, we will have very few farmers. We cannot ignore this problem.”

Another obstacle for young farmers, she said, is land access. “The reason our group was founded was over the issue of land access. The National Young Farmers Coalition came out of this need for young farmers to advocate for ourselves on such core issues as access to land.

Farm prices have been rising since the 1980s. The amount of farm land has been decreasing. Growing up here I have seen this development. This has put a tremendous amount of pressure on farmers to sell their land. Expanding conservation land trusts – working farm easements – for farms, would help make them more affordable, she said. The amount for that was cut in half in the last farm bill. “I want to remind you that it comes up for renewal in 2018.

“We need to say that in the next Farm Bill, this land conservation funding is important to us. The land needs to be affordable to farmers. We will have quite a lot of work to do.”

Shute said one of her favorite sayings is: We don’t need mass production; we need production by the masses. “To me, that is exactly right. The nation desperately needs more young farmers. New farmers to step into the shoes of our family farmers, we need family farmers who will love the land, bring fresh food to the market, build local food securities and strengthen the local economy. It is up to all of us to pass on this desire for farming.”

Shute said that she is very hopeful for the future of farming in what “I see in the young farmers in this audience and those in Ohio. There is great potential in this room.”

Shute and her partner now operate an upstate New York organic vegetable farm. They provide food to a 900-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

The second speaker at the conference was John Ikerd, one of the nation’s leading agriculture economists. He grew up on a Missouri dairy farm.

In his speech before the OEFFA audience, Ikerd discussed how the growing demand by consumers and concerns about the nation’s food system are creating opportunities for organic farmers to create “lasting and fundamental change.”He discussed the growing “good food revolution” in America and emphasized how this will impact young American farmers in the future.

More than 70 workshops

Over the weekend of the 37th annual conference, themed “Growing Right by Nature,” there were more than 70 workshops and training sessions held at the Granville High School complex. They included session on pesticide drift concerns, aquaponding in Ohio, agritourism, vegetable gardening, creating income from an urban homestead, advocacy and sustainable farming and cover crops.

Rural Life Today will focus on some of these training session in our next edition.

In addition to the training sessions, there was a trade show for guests with more than 100 vendors and organizations in the exhibit hall.

OEFFA works for sustainable farming and also is licensed to certify organic farms. OEFFA has more than 3,800 members across all 88 Ohio counties.

Leading Experts to Unlock Secrets of Soil Health During Upcoming Workshop

For Immediate Release: March 2, 2016
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Contact:
Milo Petruziello, OEFFA Program Associate, (614) 421-2022, milo@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org
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Tiffin, OH—An in-depth, on-farm workshop featuring leading soil and cover crop experts will provide farmers looking to successfully manage their soil health with practical information they can implement on their farms this season.
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Nationally recognized soils expert Ray “the Soils Guy” Archuleta and cover crop guru David Brandt of Brandt Family Farm in Carroll, Ohio will explore ecological farming strategies that can help grain farmers reduce the use of inputs, tillage, and labor during this April 9 event organized by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
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Attendees will see workshop host Moyer Brothers Farm’s cover crops and a soil pit demonstration.The 184 acre, which grows organic corn, soybeans, wheat, and other crops, has been certified organic since 1989.
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Archuleta is a conservation agronomist with 30 years of experience with the Natural Resources Conservation Service working in New Mexico, Missouri, Oregon, and North Carolina. He is also a Certified Professional Soil Scientist with the Soil Science Society of America. Archuleta teaches soil health and the principles of agroecology throughout the country.
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Click here to view a video of him speaking at the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health.
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The workshop will take place from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Moyer Brothers Farm at 1841 N. Township Rd. 165 in Tiffin, Ohio.
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The workshop cost includes lunch and is $45 for OEFFA members or $60 for non-members.
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Preregistration is required and space is limited. To register, go to www.oeffa.org/q/soilhealth.

New Bill Promotes Biotechnology, Disregards Public Interest

Statement by Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator
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For Immediate Release: March 1, 2016

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

Columbus, OH—In response to legislation introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), which would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to promote biotechnology and prevent the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu released the following statement:

“The legislation introduced by Senator Roberts and passed by the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee today ignores the growing demand from the majority of U.S. citizens to have clear and honest food labeling. Everyone deserves the very basic right of knowing what ingredients are in their food and how that food was produced; that information should not be withheld from the public. Food derived from genetic engineering should be required to be labeled. Enshrining voluntary labeling in this legislation is reiteration of decades of failed policy.

This legislation would call for the USDA to promote the benefits of agricultural biotechnology. It is not the role of the USDA to advance one form of agriculture above another. Organic agriculture offers benefits to the environment, public health, and local food economies and yet it cannot be advanced above other forms of agriculture by USDA. This bill would create an uneven playing field during a time when public demand for organic and sustainably grown food is at an all-time high. Senators have an opportunity to listen to their constituents and provide them with the food information and choices they want. We hope they soundly reject the Roberts bill and join with the 64 other countries of the world that require mandatory labeling of GE food.”

  
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The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has been working to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, creates economic opportunities for our rural communities, and safeguards the environment since 1979. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.
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