Category Archives: Other

Local young farmers point out trials of starting out

Newark Advocate

Drew Bracken

April 12, 2012

It’s not easy to start a farm, especially if you’re young and money is tight.

On Monday night, Granville High School Environmental classes, in conjunction with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Heart of Ohio Chapter, presented a meal, a movie called “GROW!” and a panel discussion of half a dozen local young farmers to showcase the challenges young farmers face in getting started in the business.

Shopping at local farmers markets, joining community-supported agriculture food subscription suppliers and urging local and national legislators to support policies and programs supporting beginning farmers were suggested as ways to help them.

“Also, if people have land they aren’t using, there are farm programs they can lease or property out to young farmers,” said Bryn Bird, of Bird’s Haven Farm near Granville.

The movie “GROW!” showed the rewards and the challenges of farming. It was a look at the new generation of sustainable farming though the eyes of 20 “passionate, idealistic and fiercely independent young growers.”

In the movie, young farmers from various parts of the country made comments like, “I feel like it’s doing something real” and “Real jobs are hard to come by these days, and I feel like this is the realest job of all.”

Another concluded: “I can only imagine a world where farmers are upheld like doctors and where every fourth person is a farmer again.”

Jim Reding, the environmental science teacher at GHS and the person in charge of the school’s organic garden, echoed that thought afterward.

“One of the things we discuss in class is if we’re going to feed the world, we need to get more people involved,” he said. “Whether that means you’re a farmer or you’re gardening in your backyard, both of those are going to be necessary.”

“We need to go back to where most of the population grows food,” Reding said. “Whether it’s something they consume themselves or put out there on the market, it doesn’t really matter.”

The panel members all were local young farmers. When asked about the biggest challenge to young farmers, Anton Sarossy-Christon, owner of Terravita Farm, said, “A lack of mentors. We read a lot of books, we read a lot of blogs, and we make a lot of mistakes.”

Ches Stewart, an apprentice at Bird’s Haven Farm, said, “I’m broke. I think that’s the best way to describe a young farmer.”

Bird described how she dealt with a corporate food supplier who was reluctant to start a local food line, calling it a “trend.” Bird, recalling that her mother remembered a day when grocery stores were not the dominant food source in society, said, “This isn’t a trend. The trend is the grocery store.”

The Birds, she said, just were accepted into the National Farmer’s Union Beginning Farmer’s Institute, one of 10 chosen nationally to travel around country to learn from other farmers.

Monday night’s event was attended by about 100 people in the high school cafeteria area.

“We wanted to interest young people to farm,” said Chuck Dilbone, the business manager for Granville schools and, most recently, a farmer. He and his family started Sunbeam Family Farm in Alexandria.

“I think also one of my main reasons is to get the community to support young farmers, maybe open up somebody’s land where people can farm, or to mentor young people. I think that’s my number one goal,” Dilbone said.

To view the trailer of the movie “GROW!”, visit www.videoproject.com/ grow.html.

What is Local Food? Part II

Written by  Colleen Leonardi
Edible Columbus

When we asked the question—What is Local Food?—a few weeks ago to our friends and colleagues in our community, we received thoughtful, compelling responses. The question emerged in celebration of Local Foods Week. But as we said—every week is local foods week.

So in honor of the additional responses we received but were not able to share at the time of our post, we wanted to share them with you now. Lauren Ketcham from Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association, Victoria Taylor from Snowville Creamery and Matt Ewer from Green B.E.A.N. Delivery, all share their thoughts on local food.

We hope you enjoying their ideas as much as we do. What is Local Food to you?

…………

“There’s no standard definition of a “local” food system; instead, it’s a nuanced continuum, which can be measured less in miles than by the results it achieves.

The biggest advantage to buying locally is that it helps create a sense of community and establishes regional food systems which keep money in the community, protect farmland, create local jobs, and support alternative, innovative farming systems. Supporting local farmers also helps consumers get to know who raises their food, enabling them to better understand food production. This relationship also helps keep farmers tuned into the needs of their customers.

Freshness and variety is another aspect of local. When you buy food grown locally that is fresh, flavors will be at their peak. But, for fruits and vegetables, buying locally grown food may also help preserve crop biodiversity. The produce we get through conventional channels are chosen because they ship well and have a relatively long shelf life. In contrast, farmers who sell their products locally have the freedom to choose varieties because they taste good. That’s one reason why, when you go to the farmers market, you can see a mind-blowing variety of tomatoes and other produce!Local doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, however. Method of production is critical. You could purchase sweet corn grown within 5 miles of your house, but if it was grown using GE seed and Roundup, while you may be strengthening your local economy, you’re do so at the expense of the environment and the health of the soil.

Surprisingly, transporting food accounts for comparatively little of the energy used in our food system. Production practices, specifically the use of chemical inputs, dwarfs the impacts of transportation distance. So, for consumers concerned about the environmental impacts of their food choices, it is important to consider not just shipping distance, but the method of production as well.”

~~Lauren Ketcham, Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association

“My own very personal opinion regarding the definition of “local” when it comes to a food product depends on the product itself. Some products travel better than others. In general, we try to support Ohio grown, produced and manufactured products. After that, made in the USA is preferred to imported products.

I understand the need to define the term, and I frankly resent companies that are not even regional calling themselves local. I have heard someone (Joel Salatin, maybe?) describe “local” as any place that can be reached with a round trip in one day. This is how we justify having our milk in the DC area. If we used the 100-mile radius criteria, we would barely make it to Columbus; Cincinnati and Cleveland would be out of bounds.

There are many products that we use which can not be produced locally or even regionally: coffee, cocoa, tea, quinoa, and oranges, to name but a few. Having said that, I do try to get products that were produced closest to home or produced under the most ethical conditions.

Here in the Athens area we are blessed with a wonderful year round Farmers’ Market. Most of our food bill is spent there on fresh local fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese and eggs. The quality and variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits compete with the selection at any grocery store. Our Farmers’ Market even has a coffee roaster from the next county who sources her coffee beans only from ethical producers, Lorraine Walker of Silver Bridge Coffee Co. We also have the Tea Lady, Maureen Burns-Hooker from Herbal Sage Tea Co. who makes a variety of exceptional tea blends. There are now growers of staple crops, Shagbark Seed and Mill Co., who are growing corn, spelt and beans. Both Laurel Valley Creamery and Integration Acres make wonderful cheeses, and thanks to Shade Winery we only have to pop over a few hills to get a really decent bottle of wine. Needless to say, we get our milk even closer to home.

I have been a “health nut” all of my adult life but had never found such high quality raw ingredients until we moved here. Who could have known that living in Appalachia would allow us to eat like kings?

So, I guess I would have to say that a round trip in one day is local; one way in one day is regional.

How fast do you drive?”

~~Victoria Taylor, Snowville Creamery

“Local food is a study in community and all the elements involved in community. It’s a study in local economy, land stewardship, education, nutrition, health, and fun. It’s not a new phenomenon although it did fall off of the landscape for quite some time in our urban communities. Local agriculture is back at the forefront of American culture. It doesn’t need to be complex or cute. It needs to effective and serve its purpose of feeding our community highly nutritious and healthy food. It’s an American tradition and should simply be supported and celebrated. . The idea is to help our urban communities live healthier lifestyles while adding to the vitality of our rural farmers and urban artisans.”

~~Matt Ewer Owner, Green B.E.A.N. Delivery

Farmers markets strengthen economy and community

Carol Goland & Laura Zimmerman
August 3, 2011
This Week Clintonville

A good dinner can satisfy more than just your appetite.

Farmers markets are a critical part of creating sustainable food systems which nourish our bodies, our communities, our local economy and our environment.

On any given Saturday, if you visit the Clintonville Farmers Market in Columbus, you’ll see streams of families with wagons, baskets and reusable bags brimming with meats and cheese, local produce and fresh baked goods; farmers under shade tents, chatting with customers; bouquets of flowers in every color of the rainbow; and chef demonstrations and workshops showcasing how to enjoy and preserve the tastes of the season.

National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 7-13, gives us an opportunity to celebrate this important and rapidly growing segment of the agricultural economy in Ohio.

Since the nonprofit Clintonville Farmers Market opened in 2003, the number of producers, customers and space has quadrupled. An estimated 40,000 or more customers visit the market each year, generating close to $750,000 for the local economy. A record 67 producers are part of the market’s 2011 season, bringing fruit, vegetables, cheese, honey, grains, grass-fed, pasture-raised and free-range meat of all kinds, eggs, maple syrup, mushrooms, sprouts, artisan breads and baked goods, jams, flowers, plants and more to area residents.

According to the USDA, the Clintonville Farmers Market is just one of at least 288 farmers markets in Ohio, up from 213 just one year ago. Since 1994, the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has grown from 1,755 to 7,902 in 2010 – a 350-percent increase. Nationally, these markets generate more than $1 billion in sales.

The boom in farmers markets parallels a larger trend in consumer demand and growth in the organic foods and products. The organic industry has grown from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $29 billion in 2010. While the rest of the economy is in a slow-down, the organic industry continues to grow, supporting 14,540 organic farms and ranches in the U.S., many of which continue to expand and add employees to keep pace with growing demand.

Although Ohio has lost more than 6.9 million acres of farmland to development over the past five decades, or about 15 acres an hour for the last 50 years, Ohio’s farmers markets are helping to preserve Ohio’s farmland and rural heritage by providing low-cost entry points for small, mid-size and beginning farmers to incubate their businesses. With the help of farmers markets, more farmers are choosing to stay in agriculture, and by selling direct to consumers, these farmers keep more of their profits and are able to make a better living from farming.

At the Clintonville Farmers Market, one-quarter of the farmers are under 40 years old and approximately 90 percent of the market’s producers are start-up and small farming operations.

Farmers markets are about connection. At farmers markets, customers can meet and talk with the farmers who grow their food. Customers tell the farmers what they want, what they enjoy eating, and how they prepare food; farmers tell the customer what grows in Ohio, how it was grown and when it was harvested. The community of farmers, customers, neighboring shops and residents, cooks, and musicians join together in the timeless celebration of the harvest that comes from our surrounding land.

Farmers markets also deliver some of the freshest, most delicious ingredients available for food lovers of all stripes. Locally grown organic fruits and vegetables found at farmers markets are usually harvested within 24 hours of being purchased by the consumer. Produce from California can’t be that fresh and it doesn’t taste as good, either.

At the height of the season, now is a great time to experience one of Ohio’s farmers markets, which are helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system one meal at a time.

To find a farmers market in your area, go to the USDA  Farmers Market Directory or  Ohio Proud.

Go to This Week Clintonville to see the original text of this article.

Athens, Ohio goes the distance in the local food movement

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Wendy Pramik
May 21, 2011

It was spitting rain on an overcast, windy Saturday in mid-April when we reached the State Street exit to Athens, off Ohio 33.

We had heard that the Athens Farmers Market was one of the best open-air food bazaars in the Midwest, and despite our muted expectations for fresh produce this early in the season, my family and I decided to make the hour-and-a-half trek from Columbus.

We found the market in a strip-center parking lot along an uninspiring drag strewn with big-box retailers and fast-food joints that looked like Anytown, USA. There was an Arby’s across the road and a Walmart down the street, but nary a farm in sight. Yet we came to realize, while spending a couple of days in this Appalachian enclave, that one of Ohio’s poorest counties is a blossoming destination for food lovers and a glimmer of hope for sustainable living.

Thanks partly to an endeavor dubbed the “30 Mile Meal,” Athens County has fast become a shining example of local-food sourcing, making a visit a feel-good exercise in conservation.

Rena Loebker of Crumbs Bakery, a regular at the Athens Farmers Market, serves pizza topped with vegetables purchased from the market.
Rena Loebker of Crumbs Bakery, a regular at the Athens Farmers Market, serves pizza topped with vegetables purchased from the market.

It’s about a meal at Casa Nueva, a trendy restaurant in downtown Athens that sources most of its ingredients from nearby purveyors. It’s a drive through Southeast Ohio’s Appalachian foothills to a microwinery for a sip of organic elderberry wine. It’s a tour of Snowville Creamery, a local farm that produces nonhomogenized, fresh milk and cream.

But mostly it’s about the market, a colorful exchange featuring the bounty of nearby farmers and other merchants hawking fresh eggs, produce, honey, baked goods, meats and cheeses.

We pulled up on the paved lot near a Goody’s department store and strolled over to see two rows of vendors offering bunches of carrots and French breakfast radishes just plucked from the garden, pretty jars of golden, maple syrup and barbecue sauce made with local honey and peppers.

The 30 mile meal

Audubon Magazine named the market one of the nation’s best. It’s open every Saturday year-round and on Wednesdays during the summer.

“I like supporting the local farmers, and I love coming to the market,” said Elizabeth Atwell of Athens, who was carrying a box of spinach and kale plants for her garden. “It’s a great atmosphere, and it’s delicious.”

Our first market stop was a coffee kiosk and drive-through that exceeded our expectations for a hot cup of java. Brew du Soleil Espresso Cafe, run by Ken and Maria Jackson, had a chalkboard chock-full of espresso-based drinks, smoothies and teas. My husband opted for a Muddy Monkey, a double espresso laced with the cafe’s own banana syrup and topped off with chocolate sauce drizzled over a thick heap of crema made from milk supplied by Snowville Creamery in nearby Pomeroy. I had a Snowville Mud Puddle, a similarly rich concoction. We quickly downed the perked-up potions and joined the diverse crowd perusing the market stands.

We encountered a farmer selling free-range eggs from the back of a van, a barefoot patron walking on the rain-soaked pavement with a bouquet of broccoli in her hand, and a fellow playing harmonica while collecting donations in a flower pot. “Be a hero for $2,” he said, adding that the money is used to help provide healthy food to local school cafeterias, homeless shelters and food banks.

We packed a picnic at the market, which included a yummy vegetarian pizza from Crumbs Bakery. The business is located in the ACEnet Community Kitchen, where entrepreneurs share space, techniques and ambitions. Crumbs owner Jeremy Bowman told me he used ingredients he purchased from other vendors at the farmers market to make our lunch, like cornmeal from Shagbark Mill in Athens and feta cheese from Integration Acres in Albany.

It’s a prime example of the 30-mile meal concept, which highlights the advantages of local-food harvesting. Developed by the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet), and based loosely on the growing “100 Mile Meal” movement, it features foods from more than 130 local producers.

A visit to 30milemeal.com reveals an interactive map to locate food purveyors of many types.

“As citizen eaters, we make choices of what we put on our forks each day,” said Leslie Schaller of ACEnet and a Casa Nueva co-founder. “It’s really essential for our economy, our planet and our social cohesion in our communities to be more conscious of where that food comes from.”

We then headed to Shade Winery, Athens County’s only winery, where owners Neal and Oui Dix produce wines from vidal blanc, chardonnay, cabernet franc and syrah grapes. Neal Dix is especially proud of his elderberry wine, which, as he describes, is “a serious, dry wine — not Kool-Aid.”

Dix, originally from Westlake, opened a tasting room last fall in a newly built, comfortable lodge. He offers cheese and crackers made by Integration Acres and welcomes visitors to bring along their own meals to his “simple and original” winery.

After our lunch, we checked into our room for the night at a local B&B. It took some patience and expert navigation by my husband, Mike, to find Sand Ridge Bed and Breakfast in Millfield, but it was worth the effort.

Owner Connie Davidson showed us around her restored 19th-century farmhouse set on a seven-acre plot landscaped with native plants and a butterfly garden. She offers two bedrooms with full baths and a library, and she serves a breakfast boasting local ingredients.

We headed back into town for dinner at Casa Nueva, amid the hopping strip of nightlife that Athens, home of Ohio University, is known for. A crowded bar on one side of a dividing wall melds seamlessly with a narrow, lively restaurant on the other. Schaller calls the Mexican-inspired cuisine “slow food,” built around ingredients from about 50 local producers.

Casa Nueva opened in 1985 as a cooperative owned by its workers, who serve a seasonal menu. In the height of the growing season, they flash-freeze local produce to preserve its taste, color and nutrients. All the entrees and baked goods are made from scratch, and the bar features several brews from Jackie O’s, a microbrewery a couple of streets over.

Laid-back people, unhurried food

The establishment’s unhurried pace reflects the careful preparation of the food as well as the laid-back attitude of the people who live in the area. Athens, after all, is a college town in rural Appalachia, and there’s evidence of the ’60s back-to-the-land vibe.

“Now you can’t really tell the hippies from the fourth-generation farmers,” Schaller says.

Our meals had locally grown black beans and cornmeal. Most of the ingredients in my refreshing rice salad, with vegan soy sesame dressing, also were grown locally. Berries used in some of the salsas were frozen at ACEnet’s facilities.

Schaller says many of her suppliers belong to the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, a statewide group of organic farmers. The quality is evident, and it’s easy to see why Casa Nueva has such a dedicated local following.

After dinner we drove back to Sand Ridge, where a chorus of peeping frogs on the property’s pond interrupted the country quietude. Their shrill filled the nighttime sky as we entered the house.

We climbed under quilted covers, and before long awoke to the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. Davidson, dressed in a colorful, apron-topped outfit punctuated by spunky cowboy boots, greeted us cordially and offered us cups of Silver Bridge Coffee, produced by a mom-and-pop company based in Gallipolis.

Davidson cracked brown eggs — “from the farmer down the road” — into a frying pan and began to scramble them. She topped them off with her own homegrown herbs and goat cheese from Integration Acres. The cheese is made of milk produced by a herd of grazing goats on a farm known for its pawpaw trees, which are native to the area.

Integration Acres lays claim to producing more pawpaws than anywhere else in the world. It ships pawpaw products around the United States and sells them at the local farmers market. Athens celebrates the papaya-like fruit each September during the Ohio Pawpaw Festival.

I spread some spicy pawpaw jelly on a piece of bread that Davidson purchased the day before at the farmers market. Delightful.

Before heading back to Columbus, we visited the Village Bakery and Cafe in downtown Athens to take a bite of Appalachia home with us.

Inside is the Undercover Market, bulging with local farmstead cheeses, grass-fed meats and Snowville Creamery milk — tastes that are well worth the drive. Just don’t forget to bring along a cooler.

For more information, click here.

Sustainable Agriculture – Organic, Diverse, and Local

Outlook Columbus
May 2011
by Michael Daniels
Originally appeared at http://outlookcolumbus.com/2011/05/open-kimono-may-2011/

Want to know nearly everything there is to know about local, sustainable, organic agriculture? Look no further than right here in Columbus, at the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA). I had a chance to chat with its Executive Director, Dr. Carol Goland, about the organization and its goals.

Michael Daniels: What is OEFFA in a nutshell?
Carol Goland: Formed in 1979, the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a grassroots coalition of nearly 3,000 farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities. OEFFA developed and began operating an organic certification program in 1981, and is currently one of the largest USDA-accredited certifying agents, last year certifying over 600 organic farms and processors. OEFFA provides education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at a time.

MD: What are the advantages to sourcing food locally for both grocery consumers and restaurateurs?
CG: The number one advantage of buying food grown locally is that it is fresh – flavors will be at their peak, so the bottom line is: they taste better. But there are some other important advantages, ones that may be less obvious. For fruits and vegetables, buying locally grown food may help preserve crop biodiversity – that vast array of varieties of each and every crop that was planted a hundred years ago but not so much anymore. The reason is that the varieties of produce we get through conventional channels are chosen because they ship well and have a relatively long shelf life. In contrast, farmers who sell their products locally have the freedom to choose varieties because they taste good. That’s one reason why, when you go to the farmers market, you can see a mind-blowing variety of tomatoes and other produce! Buying locally grown food also allows you to support your neighbor, keep money in your community, and help protect farmland by making farming more profitable.

MD: What’s so special about certified organic food? Is it really better for you than non-organic certified? Is it worth the cost differential?
CG: I don’t think I’m in a position to tell anyone whether or not it’s “worth” the cost differential. That seems to me to be a personal decision for each individual. For myself, I’d rather spend my money on organic food for my family than for cable television or the latest fashions, but that’s about my values, and I’m not going to impose them on anyone else.

I feel more comfortable answering your question about what’s special about certified organic and what it’s benefits are. I think most people, think of organic food simply as “food grown without chemicals.” That’s a good start, but it’s incomplete. In general, the national organic regulations allow the use of natural materials and prohibit the use of synthetics in food production. There are a few exceptions, however. Strychnine is natural, but it’s not allowed in organic production. Some synthetic materials are allowed but only after they’ve been carefully reviewed with respect to their effect on human health and on the farm ecosystem, their level of toxicity, availability of alternatives, probability of environmental contamination during manufacturing, use and disposal, and so on. So aspirin, though synthetic, is allowed to reduce inflammation in organic livestock, and newspaper, likewise not ‘natural,” can be used for mulch in production.

Many people also know that organic production prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms. But less apparent, I think, to many consumers is that it’s not just about what you can or can’t use. Organic farmers are required to maintain or improve the condition of the soil, minimize soil erosion, promote biodiversity, and protect other natural resources such as air and water. The definition of organic agriculture used by the National Organic Standards Board makes this clear: “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”

Organic farmers yearly must develop an organic system plan that shows how they are going to achieve this. That plan is reviewed by a USDA-accredited certifier (there are about 50 in the country) who determines whether or not the plan is in compliance with the rules of organic production. If so, then the certifier sends out a third party, independent inspector to verify that the information on the plan is accurate. The inspector may spend 4 to 6 hours on the farm. The inspector then writes a report to the certifier, who makes a final determination and issues an organic certificate. Or not. And the farmer has to do this every year.

So what’s so special? First, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the label “organic” is the most highly verified eco-label out there. That reflects the grassroots origins of organics, which persists today, and how strongly the people involved with organics care about the integrity of the label. Organics is also, hands down, the gold standard of environmental stewardship for agricultural production. Looking at our own health, the average American is exposed to 10 to 13 pesticide residues each day from food, beverages, and drinking water. And while the levels are quite low in most cases, this isn’t always the case, and is of special concern during particularly vulnerable phases, such as during pregnancy and in the first years of life. Consuming organics is a special opportunity to protect our babies and children. Finally, there is mounting evidence that organic foods may be more nutritionally dense, which makes sense given the attention to building healthy soil.

MD: Is the local and organic model viable in large metropolitan areas? Can available farmland, using organic and alternative methods of raising food (both vegetable and livestock) meet the demand, or is some factory/large-scale farming necessary?
CG: Viable? Absolutely. In fact, I think Ohio is perfectly positioned for this development. We have more metropolitan areas than any other state in the country. Each one of those is surrounded by productive farmland. This is the perfect geography for developing a locally-based food system. And as far as organics goes, there’s no reason why it can’t be a viable way of feeding our urban populations. In fact, I would argue it’s the only way, given that the alternative, with all the environmental degradation, reliance on fossil fuels, and human health impacts, simply is not sustainable. Organic yields are often – though not always – equivalent to those of conventional production systems. And if our research institutions and federal agencies would devote more research attention to organic production (right now funding of organic research is less than 1% of all agricultural research), there’s no telling what organics could achieve. I don’t think that scale necessarily has to be the defining characteristic here – “large scale” is not, inherently, a good or bad thing. Rather, we need to be making choices based on what kind of system is capable of producing food that is best for the environment, for farm animals, for our communities, and for the people who consume its products.

MD: What legislation is pending (in Ohio and/or nationally) that OEFFA is following closely and what would be the impact? What legislation, if any, do you plan to propose in the near future?
CG: Right now, we’re gearing up for the Farm Bill: every 5 years Congress write a new Farm Bill, which really ought to be called the “Food Bill,” because what gets written there ends up determining, to a surprising extent, what our food choices are. I can’t overstate what its impact is. There aren’t that many farmers in our country and there are even fewer that are producing for local markets using ecological and organic methods. So everyone needs to get involved with that process to ensure that we get policies that promote rather than hinder sustainable family farms and consumer choice.

MD: How can our readers learn more about OEFFA? What resources, programs, and memberships do you offer?
CG: I encourage all your readers to check out our website (www.oeffa.org) and follow us on Facebook (www.oeffa.org/facebook) and Twitter (twitter.com/oeffa). We have individual and family membership, as well as discounted student memberships. The benefits of membership include a subscription to the information-packed newsletter (published quarterly), voting privileges in the organization, networking opportunities, access to our apprenticeship program, our local food guide: the Good Earth Guide to Ecological Farms and Gardens, invitations to OEFFA’s educational workshops, summer farm tours, and discounted admission to our annual conference and other educational events. OEFFA has chapters around the state that get together to support each other and collaborate on various projects. Our Capital Chapter, based in Franklin County, is very active and comprised of some really great folks.

Off Her Cork: OEFFA Winter Warmer Review

OEFFA Winter Warmer Fundraiser

Andrea, Off Her Cork
1/25/11
Columbus, Ohio
This article originally appeared at Off Her Cork at http://offhercork.com/2011/01/oeffa-winter-warmer-fundraiser/.

Last Saturday night Scott and I had the wonderful chance to attend our first OEFFA event! As you know, I’m a big supporter of the Eat Local movement.  About becoming more involved in being aware of where exactly your food comes from, who’s providing, and how they are getting it to you.  I’m still extremely new and am constantly trying to learn more about Ohio and what all we have available to us.

It turns out that we have a lot! Being a Midwest state and having a varying climate along with a decent landscape means that not only is Ohio able to support multiple kinds of livestock, it can support agriculture as well.  This means that we have access to some of the very best meat and produce in the country.

Not to mention, wine, fruits, and maple syrup.

Ohio has it all and I’m determined to learn as much as I can and pass along that information to you.  This way we can all make better informed choices about what we eat and where we get it.

Because I want to learn, I decided that attending an OEFFA event would be a great step in finding out information.

OEFFA stands for, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. From the website, this blurb describes them perfectly:

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) was formed in 1979 and is a membership-based, grassroots organization, dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems.

The best way to learn more about the local food scene is to talk to those that provide it, right?

Saturday Night’s Event, called Winter Warmer, provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.

The event was held at Wild Goose Creative, which is a lovely space that can be rented out and used for events such as this, or whatever strikes your fancy.  Their website has a list of events that you can check out!  If you have never been to an event at Wild Goose, I suggest you attend one that strikes your fancy.  I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Scott wrote out our nametags while I walked around snapping some pictures.

Along with mingling and making new contacts, this event also featured a silent auction filled with lots of fun local services and a small buffet of appetizer items.  This wasn’t just any old buffet though, all the food featured were from local resources.  Everything from the cheese to mushrooms.

Being served up was:

  • Ricotta on toast with honey.  The Ricotta was made from Snowville Creamery Milk.
  • Beef Cheeks in Ancho Chili Sauce.
  • Oxtail alla Pancetta
  • Black bean and Chipotle Hummus on Potato Foccacia Rounds
  • Lamb Meatballs

My favorite?

Goat empanadas!

That’s right, goat! What is really interesting is that just the day before I realized I had never tried goat before and was wondering what that would taste like. I thought it might be like lamb which I do not like.  Lamb is a very strong meat and it’s not something I can handle.  I tried the goat with an open mind and was very surprised by it’s taste, texture, and appearance.  It’s a darker meat and it honestly looks like roast beef.  It tastes like beef as well.  It’s a very mild flavor with a soft texture.  Had I not known this was goat, I would have sworn it was some sort of beef or possibly bison.

We sipped on wine samples and also mead samples from a local producer, Brothers Drake Mead.

We chatted with Pete from Flying J Farms and also with some lovely ladies who I now realize I did not get their names.  Please say hello ladies!

Scott and I had a great time learning more about OEFFA, speaking with local farmers, and trying some new to us dishes all made with Ohio grown ingredients.

Please check out OEFFA’s website to learn more about the association along with how to become a member.  Be sure to check out their upcoming events as well and maybe we’ll see you at the next one!

Ohio’s “Eat Local Challenge Week” – The Challenge is Trying It All

By Chris Thomas, Public News Service – OH
October 1, 2010

WOOSTER, Ohio – Get out those skillets and saucepans! Saturday kicks off “Eat Local Challenge Week,” a celebration of products made and grown in Ohio. With the enormous variety available, the biggest challenge may be deciding which to try.

One way to pare down the choices is to look for the organic foods, offered by producers who pass up pesticides and growth hormones and use farming methods that are easy on the environment. That tip comes from Lauren Ketcham with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

“Just because a food is being made or produced locally does not mean that it’s being raised in a way that safeguards the environment and protects public health. The best thing you can do as a consumer is look for food that’s produced both organically and here in Ohio, locally.”

The Ohio Agriculture Department says the idea of the challenge is to fix one meal a day using local foods. Ketcham suggests just a few of the mouth-watering menu possibilities, all easy to prepare.

“Fall salads are a good choice right now, with sliced apples or feta cheese. Bell peppers are in season and are great stuffed with grass-fed beef, garden herbs and local cheese. Another simple option is a frittata: farm-fresh eggs, baby spinach, broccoli and local bacon.”

She lists several good reasons to buy locally, including knowing exactly where your food comes from, supporting Ohio’s family-farm businesses, and helping the environment.

“Buying local keeps food from traveling far distances to your plate, allows it to be picked and sold ripe and full of flavor and nutrition, and helps reduce some of the environmental impacts of long-distance shipping.”

It will take more than a week to sample everything Ohio food producers are selling, Ketcham says, adding that there are locally-made wines and beers to wash it down. Farmers markets and farmstands are good places to start looking. The Association also has a directory of organic producers online at www.oeffa.org.

More information about Eat Local Challenge Week is available at www.agri.ohio.gov.

Story first appeared: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/16254-1

Farmers markets take root across U.S.

If you own garden fails, you can still get fresh

By Lisa Abraham
Beacon Journal food writer

Published on Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010

I bought some zucchini and yellow squash the other day.

This may not seem like a big deal, but this is the first summer I have actually purchased those items in about nine years.

I proudly grow my own squash each year, and no matter how many come, there never seems to be enough to satisfy the eating habits of my family and friends and the baking habits of my sister, who relies on me as her zucchini supplier.

I wish people would leave them on my doorstep.

Things started out well enough with a late May planting. Everything was progressing nicely. Then, just as all of the blossoms were arriving and tiny squash starting to form, we went away for the July 4 weekend and the garden didn’t get watered for several days of scorching heat. I figured it would rain and didn’t arrange for anyone to water for us.

It didn’t.

We arrived home to some crispy leaves, but I was confident in a comeback. They did, sort of. But after that, something seemed to happen to the zucchini, yellow squash, and even a few of the cucumber plants. I suspect some type of blight took hold when the plants were stressed from no water. It didn’t help that the heat made me less inclined to weed regularly.

After producing two zucchini and one yellow squash, the plants literally withered. My husband made the official pronouncement of death and yanked what was left of them from the ground.

”Who can’t grow zucchini?” I wailed one evening, lamenting their fate.

My feelings were assuaged a bit by the fact that other parts of the garden were doing all right, even better than all right. The green beans have gone wild. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were taking steroids.

The patch of basil is larger than it’s ever been and the tomatoes are doing fine. The peppers, which had a strong showing early on and then faded, are experiencing a resurgence, and I think we’ll be eating peppers into October.

But no zucchini. No yellow
squash. And only a smattering of cucumbers where basketsful typically grew.

The upside of my failed squash crop is that I actually have a reason to go to farmers markets. Much as I love farmers markets, I usually leave with corn and bread, secretly priding myself that much of what’s on sale I can find in my own backyard.

Things are different this year. I have more to shop for. The good news is, I have more places to shop for my zucchini and yellow squash, too.

As someone who types the long list of local farmers markets for the paper each May, I don’t have to be told that more and more of them are opening up. But now, I have a government report to back me up.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 National Farmers Market Directory lists more than 6,100 farmers markets operating in the United States this year. That’s an increase of 16 percent over 2009, when there were just under 5,300.

What’s more, Ohio is helping to lead the way.

Ohio ranks seventh in the nation with 213 operating farmers markets. And Ohio’s ninth in the nation in percentage increase in number of markets over 2009.

Nationally, 886 farmers markets are open in the off season, between November and March, and since the Countryside Conservancy operates its Cuyahoga Valley markets in the winter at the Happy Days Lodge, we can be pleased to be part of that trend as well.

But when the markets come to an end, there’s a whole group of local farmers out there who will continue to sell products directly to consumers. You can find a list of them at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Web site, http://www.oeffa.org. Click on the link for the Good Earth Guide and you can search by product or by location. Many of the farms in the association are certified organic or follow organic practices.

Our vibrant farms and farmers markets are a great reason to be proud Ohioans. Which is good, because this summer, I’m certainly not a proud gardener.

Until next week, have fun in the kitchen, cooking some zucchini, no matter where it came from.


Lisa A. Abraham can be reached at 330-996-3737 or labraham@thebeaconjournal.com.

This article appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal:  http://www.ohio.com/lifestyle/food/101461734.html

Philanthropy Friday: OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and economic development for rural communities.

Founded in 1979, OEFFA’s founders were visionaries and ahead of their time promoting today’s popular terms “organic” and “local”. For over 30 years, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at a time.

Mike Laughlin of Northridge Organic Farm in Licking County has been involved with OEFFA for over 25 years. He initially invested himself in OEFFA because of the support they provide small family farms by teaching them about sustainable farming and helping them get their products into the hands of local consumers. Back them he was gardening on a 10’ x 16’ plot in his backyard for his own consumption with the aspirations of being a farmer. Since then, he has built his business growing vegetables on 10 acres, selling at two farmers markets, five Columbus stores and numerous restaurants. He attributes all this to the help of OEFFA.

Today, OEFFA has expanded to more than 2100 members. They help to establish the original organic standards in Ohio and OEFFA Certification has become one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the country. Their education programs now reach hundreds of people each year. For more information on becoming an OEFFA member visit oeffa.org/membership.

Services Offered by OEFFA

OEFFA works with its members to create and maintain a food system that is good for people, good for the earth, and good for the future.

In order to support this mission the following services are offered:

  • OEFFA’s Annual Conference—Each year, OEFFA organizes Ohio’s largest ecological agriculture conference featuring nationally-recognized speakers, a trade show, entertainment, locally-sourced meals, and more than 60 workshops taught by experienced OEFFA members, farmers, and researchers on sustainable farming, gardening, and living.
  • OEFFA’s Annual Farm Tour Series—In 2009, OEFFA organized 15 farm tours, drawing approximately 650 attendees, allowing consumers the opportunity to shake the hands that feed them and giving gardeners and farmers a chance to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. The 2010 series features 11 of Ohio’s finest organic and sustainable farms and is taking place now through October.
  • Good Earth Guide—OEFFA connects producers with buyers through a yearly Good Earth Guide, which includes information on farms and businesses that sell directly to the public. It includes sources for locally grown vegetables; fruits; honey; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; flour and grains; cut flowers; seed and feed, and more. The farm list has grown from only a dozen farms in 1990 to more than 260 today, and now includes an easy-to-use online searchable database.
  • Organic Certification—OEFFA Organic Certification has been in operation since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. As a result, OEFFA operates one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the nation, ensuring that organic crop and livestock producers meet the high standards established for organically grown food. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information on organic certification visit oeffa.org/certification.
  • Workshops—In 2009, OEFFA provided hands-on experience to more than 200 people who attended the skills-based workshops on such topics as cover crops, composting, beekeeping, fermentation, and permaculture. This year, they’ve organized nine workshops and lectures as part of the “Gardening Like the Forest” workshop series with Dave Jacke.
  • OEFFA Apprenticeship Program—OEFFA helps to nurture the next generation of Ohio’s ecological farmers by providing an apprenticeship program that gives young people hands-on training. For an on-line apprenticeship application visit oeffa.org/apprentice.
  • Direct Assistance—OEFFA staff provide one-on-one consultation to farmers, ranchers, and producers to help answer questions and solve problems;
  • Policy Advocacy—The livelihood and viability of sustainable and organic farmers and family farms are constantly under threat from policies which tilt the playing field in favor of the large-scale, corporate controlled, unsustainable agriculture. OEFFA helps counter these trends, giving voice to the needs of small- and mid-sized producers, and advocates for policies that work in the interest of the family farmers who enhance our rural communities and safeguard the environment.

2010 Farm Tour and Summer Workshop Series

OEFFA’s 2010 Farm Tour Series—OEFFA’s summer farm tour series of some of Ohio’s finest sustainable and organic farms is currently underway. For the past 28 years, OEFFA has offered this series so that Ohioans can learn more about how farmers are meeting the growing demand for sustainably produced food. Eleven tours will be held between June and October, featuring livestock producers; a poultry processing facility; certified organic farmers; farms that incorporate renewable energy and green building techniques; and farmers using a wide range of direct-to-consumer marketing strategies, including farmers’ markets, restaurants, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The remaining tours are:

  • July 17–Mapleside Farm, Hiram, Ohio (Portage County)
  • July 18–Sandy Rock Acres, Rockbridge, Ohio (Hocking County)
  • August 7–Mockingbird Meadows, Marysville, Ohio (Union County)
  • August 14–Crown Point Ecology Center, Bath, Ohio (Summit County)
  • September 18–Bluebird Farm, Cadiz, Ohio (Harrison County)
  • September 25–Central Ohio Poultry Processing, Bellville, Ohio (Richland County)
  • October 2–Clearview Farm, Pataskala, Ohio (Licking County)
  • October 16–Carriage House Farms, LLC, N. Bend, Ohio (Hamilton County)

For more information, click here (PDF).

Summer Workshop Series

OEFFA’s “Gardening Like the Forest” Summer Workshop Series—This summer, OEFFA is pleased to be offering a series of permaculture workshops with instructor Dave Jacke, the author of the award winning two-volume book, Edible Forest Gardens. Jacke has studied ecology and design since the 1970s, and has run his own design firm, Dynamics Ecological Design, since 1984. He has designed, built, and planted landscapes, homes, farms, and communities throughout the United States.

The series consists of nine workshops and lectures:

  • Public Evening Talks: “Home-Scale Ecological Production”—Friday, July 23 in Cleveland, Ohio; Friday, July 30 in Columbus, Ohio; Friday, August 6 in Cincinnati, Ohio; Monday, August 9 in Yellow Springs, Ohio;
  • Public Evening Talk: “Soil Ecology and Self-Renewing Fertility”—Wednesday, August 11 in Yellow Springs, Ohio;
  • Two Day Workshops: “Fundamentals of Ecological Gardening”—Saturday, July 24-Sunday, July 25 in Cleveland, Ohio; Saturday, July 31-Sunday, August 1 in Delaware, Ohio;
  • One Day Workshop: “Urban Ecological Food Production”—Saturday, August 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio; and
  • Weeklong Design Immersion: “Forest Garden Design Intensive”—Monday, August 9-Sunday, August 15 in Springfield, Ohio.

For more information about this workshop series, go to oeffa.org/forest or contact Laura Wies at (614) 421-2022 or laura@oeffa.org.

Giving Back to OEFFA

The majority of OEFFA’s funding comes from individuals who choose to support them with donations or by becoming members. They have an on-going need for donations that can help them continue and expand their programmatic work. There are many ways people can donate to OEFFA:

  1. Checks or money orders can be mailed to OEFFA, 41 Croswell Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43214.
  2. Credit card donations are accepted by phone at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203.
  3. Credit card donations can be made online.
  4. OEFFA participates in workplace giving through Community Shares of Mid-Ohio (CoSMO). If your workplace does not already offer you the opportunity to donate to OEFFA through paycheck deductions, you can go to www.communityshares.net or call Melissa Magers at (614) 262-1176 to start a workplace giving campaign at your place of employment.
  5. The success of their annual conference, held each year in February, is largely dependent on sponsors and in-kind donations of food, equipment, and supplies. To find out more about supporting OEFFA’s annual conference, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205.

If you would like to give of your time and talents OEFFA has many volunteer opportunities. OEFFA’s strength is its grassroots support and volunteer energy. Volunteer opportunities include: serving on the board, advocacy/lobbying, helping to plan their annual conference, mentoring beginning farmers, chapter leadership and organizing, fundraising, contacting elected officials, data entry, bulk mailings, office work, hosting a farm tour, acting as a press contact, leading a conference workshop, or writing for the newsletter. For more information about volunteer opportunities, call (614) 421-2022 or email oeffa@oeffa.org.

For more information on the OEFFA visit their website, oeffa.org. Become a Facebook fan at oeffa.org/facebook, follow them on Twitter at @oeffa or view photos on their Flickr page at flickr.com/photos/oeffa/.

Philanthropy Friday is a feature article by Michele Savoldi that will highlight a Columbus area non-profit organization every other week. For more nonprofit information follow Michele on Twitter at @cbusimpressions and @inkindconnect.

This article originally appeared on the Columbus Underground on July 9: http://www.columbusunderground.com/philanthropy-friday-oeffa.

A Deeper Look at Corn

By Marianne Stanley

Photo Credit: Dayton City Paper

Dayton City Paper

May 27, 2010

It’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting – the whole family sitting down to Sunday dinner with chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and … .corn. It’s as American as apple pie. On the cob, it’s a sought-out treat at county fairs and summer festivals. Corn is the United States’ largest crop both in volume and value. What people don’t know about corn, though, can and does hurt them. As a government subsidized staple of the American food system, it holds some dark secrets.

History

It is believed that the first corn originating in the Andes, later spread to Central America and up into Mexico where it was hybridized and domesticated sometime between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. Corn didn’t reach the United States until around 600 A.D. By the time Columbus reached America, Indians grew it extensively. He ferried some back to Spain and, by 1700, it had become a major European crop. Today, corn is one 
of the most widely grown vegetables on Earth, with the U.S. and China leading the world in production.

Corn, Ohio’s second most valuable agricultural crop (soybeans are first), puts Ohio 6th in the U.S., right behind Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana. Yet, just a fraction of the 3-plus million acres of Ohio corn is Sweet Corn, fit for human consumption. The majority of Ohio’s and all U.S. corn is Yellow Dent Corn, which is used primarily as livestock feed and in the manufacturing of industrial products. Flint Corn, is the last corn category. It is also known as Indian or ornamental corn. And popcorn? It’s just a subcategory of Flint corn.

Derivatives

More than half of Ohio’s corn crop becomes animal feed, 8 percent is used for sweeteners, 5 percent for fuel (ethanol) and almost 23 percent is exported to other countries. Corn starches, corn oil, corn syrup, industrial alcohol, toothpaste, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glue,  shoe polish and a variety of plastics, used in everything from carpeting to clothing, are derived from corn. As an overabundant government-subsidized crop, companies are finding a multitude of ways to utilize corn and its byproducts. Kevin Mote Fireplaces & Stoves in Laura, Ohio, carries stoves that efficiently burn dry corn kernels without polluting the air. These multi-fuel stoves can burn corn, cherry pits or wood pellets. One advantage cited by owner Kevin is the fact that these cleaner-burning stoves can safely sit just 3 inches away from an interior wall with only a short pipe needed to vent them outside. His showroom carries multiple wood, corn and multi-fuel styles, some computerized. He or his main technician Dan Norton can be reached at (937) 947-1883 or 1-800-526-1978.

New products made from corn continue to come onto the market. Second Street Market’s “A Greener You” booth offers environmentally friendly products, including mini-composters that use small plastic biodegradable bags made from corn starch -a wonderful alternative to the plastic bags clogging our landfills. Corn starch also makes frozen pizzas possible, preventing a soggy crust. Corn syrup keeps bread and other bakery products fresher longer. Citric acid, made from corn sweeteners, prevents the browning of fruits and vegetables. Corn syrup was long ago added to lollipops and other hard candies to keep them from dripping. It also stops the formation of ice crystals in ice cream and keeps marshmallows soft. Corn Ethanol, although it burns cleaner than gasoline, is not a panacea for today’s energy problems since it actually requires more energy in its production than it provides. The Ohio Corn Growers Association is currently pushing Congress to extend the Ethanol Excise Tax Credit for five more years to stimulate Ohio’s economy with more jobs, while making fuel cheaper for consumers since the tax credit pays gasoline refiners $.45 per gallon to blend ethanol into the gasoline supply.

But it’s time to peel back the husk and look more deeply at the darker, more dangerous side of corn. Corporate greed has attached itself to government subsidies and created a hidden monster for the unaware American consumer.

HFCS … a wolf in sheep’s clothing

The most troubling and controversial derivative of corn by far is HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), unknown until the 1970s. Today, more than 4,000 common grocery store items contain it as a preservative and a sweetener. We see it as delicious and desirable; in truth, it is an addiction – and a poison. By the late 1980s, HFCS took over half of the U.S. sugar market because corn and thus high fructose corn syrup, is much cheaper than cane sugar. It’s a dominant ingredient in soft drinks, frozen dinners, cereals, breads and a host of our favorite everyday household staples. But in our bodies, it interferes with our metabolism and our detoxification processes. Putting profits ahead of ethics, companies poured millions into commercials and colorful packaging to convince Americans to buy these ‘foods’. The consequences are shockingly visible. In just 30 years, while the consumption of this sweetener jumped by 30 percent, the rates of obesity and diabetes exploded. How can this be?

High fructose corn syrup causes inflammation in our bodies, which is associated with the increasing litany of America’s common health complaints: arthritis, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, senility, obesity, depression, fatty liver, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Type II diabetes was formerly found only in adults but now affects our children in epidemic proportions. Adverse metabolic effects are also well documented. Anyone who has ever dieted can attest to the difficulty of losing weight in this age of refined and hidden sugars.

To make HFCS, all nutritional value is stripped from the corn, leaving only a cheap sugar substitute created by soaking corn in sulfuric acid. Yes, sulfuric acid. HFCS puts such a load on the pancreas and liver that they cannot metabolize and eliminate it. Instead, the sugar overload is stored as fat that cannot be lost because the organs that would ordinarily convert the sugar to energy are in crisis mode, leading to the surge in diabetes as the pancreas fails to release enough insulin to neutralize the excess sugars in today’s average diet.

Sadly, our own government is subsidizing this situation based on erroneous policy, leaving Americans battling corn’s dark side on two fronts: HFCS in our food and the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our meat. More than 80 percent of corn is now GMO corn, much of it Bt corn, a Monsanto creation that has its own built-in pesticide. Anyone who eats it can become a living pesticide factory since Bt corn contains pesticides in its DNA that can then transfer into human DNA.

GMOs in Corn, messing with our DNA

This GMO corn has not been sufficiently tested, making Americans its unwitting guinea pigs. GM corn is engineered to produce a built-in pesticide called Bt-toxin. Monsanto’s own research found that rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions. Bt corn is implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany and chickens and horses in the Philippines. Cows never eat corn in nature. Most of Europe, by law, requires clear labeling of GM products, but no such protections exist for American consumers since our powerful agribusiness industry has a vested interest in keeping government policy favorable to them while keeping us ignorant. Fortunately, for those curious enough to seek answers, a number of books, documentaries, articles and studies are available on the impact these unnatural ‘foods’ and crop byproducts are having on us and on our children’s health. (See listing at the end of this article.)

The agribusiness marketing campaign has been so effective that the average consumer actually believes that “corn-fed beef” is a positive attribute of meat when the opposite is true.

Factory farming has removed cows from their natural environment, from the grasses that they naturally eat. Cows, by the tens of thousands, are crowded into grassless feedlots where they spend the last months of their lives standing knee-deep in dirt and manure, eating a dried corn diet that sickens them and would kill them within six months if they were not slaughtered first. These sick and mistreated cows become our food, our “corn-fed beef” and nothing about it is healthy.

It is no accident that e-coli and other food-borne illnesses are on the rise across this country. The documentary movie, “Food, Inc.” exposes agribusiness’s harmful effects on animals, on the safety of our food 
supply and on the rise in e-coli in everything from 
hamburger to lettuce as a result of toxic factory farm run-off. While there were thousands of slaughterhouses in the 1970s, there are now only 17 in the entire U.S. America has lost 5 million family farms since the rise of factory farms 30 years ago. The result is unnatural, unsafe food. The hamburger we now eat is likely to be made from thousands of animals rather than just one under this perverse system, exponentially raising the risk of mad cow disease, e-coli, salmonella or other illnesses.

According to the New York Times, the “majority of hamburger” now sold in the U.S. contains the fatty slaughterhouse trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil, including material from the outer surface of the carcass that contains “larger microbiological populations.” This meat filler or “pink slime” as one FDA microbiologist called it, is commonly used in the federal school lunch program, in our favorite fast food restaurant hamburgers and in grocery-store ground beef. This nasty stuff is ineffectively cleaned with ammonia to cut its toxicity. This saves Beef Products, Inc., the industry that produces it, 3 cents a pound in production costs while earning it an additional $440 million a year.

As corporations get richer and we get sicker and fatter, we keep running to doctors and drug stores looking for relief when their income depends on us not finding any. Corporations push the double goal of efficiency and profit at the cost of our very lives. Our only defense is to educate ourselves.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have now infiltrated almost every nook and cranny of the food system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of problems including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging and negative changes in our major organs and gastrointestinal systems. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (ASEM) concluded, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation … ” 
Renowned biologist Pushpa Ghargaza believes GMOs are a major contributor to the deteriorating health 
in America.

Scientists at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warned that GM foods might create new allergies, poisons, new diseases and nutritional problems. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” With GM foods everywhere now, one way to be pro-active, health-wise, is to opt out of GM foods by printing off the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com.

Summary

The story of corn is long, convoluted and fascinating. With the healthy food movement gaining ground in the United States, more and more people are growing their own organic vegetables and demanding meat that is free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and GMO products and that is grass-fed, rather than corn-fed.

Ohio is fortunate to have the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA), a membership-based, grassroots organization founded in 1979 and dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological and healthful food systems. It provides a consumer guide for its members of organic and ecological farms and gardens, a membership directory and a newsletter, plus regional and national news of particular interest including farm profiles, practical tips on such things as community gardens and composting, book reviews, resources, events and opportunities.

Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, said, “Organics have been the one growth area of the food system in the U.S.” This year, for the first time, OEFFA had to close its registration for their annual February conference because demand is so high now for information on sustainability and healthy choices. They can be reached at (614) 421-2022 in Columbus or online at oeffa.org.

Hunt summed it up by saying, “Farmers, backyard gardeners, researchers, students, consumers are all wanting to connect with a healthier food system. There’s a sense that there’s a movement going on.”

It’s about time.

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