Category Archives: OEFFA in the News

Reimbursement for Certification Makes Organic an Even Better Deal for Farmers and Processors

For Immediate Release:

June 20, 2018

Contact:

Carol Goland, OEFFA, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org

ODA Communications, (614) 752-9817, agrcommunications@agri.ohio.gov

Columbus, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) announced that $285,000 is available through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to make organic certification more affordable for organic producers and handlers in Ohio.

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.

Retail sales of organic products grew to nearly $50 billion in the United States in 2017, an increase of 6.4 percent from the previous year, and six times faster than the overall food market, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Since 2011, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has partnered with OEFFA to administer Ohio’s cost-share program.

“Ohio is a national leader in the number of organic farms and top 10 in terms of the value of organic milk, eggs, and spelt produced in the state,” said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA.

Not all of the nearly 1,000 Ohio organic operations fully utilize the cost-share program. “We encourage more organic businesses to take advantage of this opportunity, which can help make becoming—or staying—certified more affordable,” said Goland.

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, 2017 and September 30, 2018. Applications for reimbursement must be postmarked by November 15, 2018, although requests are processed monthly. County Farm Service Agency offices also accept and process requests for cost-share reimbursements.

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.

Senator Sherrod Brown Honored for Promoting Investments in Local Agriculture

For Immediate Release:  February 17, 2018

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 947-1607, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 947-1643, lauren@oeffa.org

Dayton, OH—At a gathering of more than 1,100 farmers and local food advocates, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) received the Food and Farm Champion Award from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). The announcement was made in Dayton on Friday, February 16 as part of OEFFA’s 39th annual conference, A Taste for Change.

The award recognizes Senator Brown’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and his leadership in making positive investments in local food systems, community economic development, and public health.
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“Senator Brown has consistently supported investments in local and regional food systems that contribute to farmer viability, create jobs, and improve public health,” said OEFFA’s Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu, who presented the award.

“Through his introduction of the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act (S. 1947), we can fully develop the policies and programs that spur economic development in communities in Ohio and throughout the nation.”
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“Local farmers feed Ohio families and grow Ohio’s economy. I’m proud to work with partners like OEFFA to help connect family farms with their communities, grow their bottom lines, and create jobs across our state. It’s an honor to receive the Food and Farm Champion award,” said Senator Brown, who provided remarks to the conference’s 1,100 guests.
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Ohio is home to 24 local food councils, a state food policy network, and a growing number of farm to institution programs, food hubs, and direct to consumer outlets. Senator Brown’s farm bill advocacy efforts have supported more than 90 food system projects and resulted in more than $7 million dollars in investments in Ohio’s communities. For example, the Lake to River Food Cooperative established a food hub and a shared retail space, the Youngstown Online Market pick-up site, which helps farmers market their products through a shared online platform.
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Senator Brown serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, where he has been instrumental in strengthening the farm safety net and addressing childhood hunger.

“OEFFA is pleased to recognize Senator Brown’s leadership and looks forward to continue working with him in the future,” said Lipstreu.
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Since 1979, 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. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.
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For high resolution photos of Senator Brown’s appearance at the OEFFA conference, please contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 947-1643 or lauren@oeffa.org. Please provide photo credit: Ed Chen.

Beginning farmers key focus of upcoming Ohio food conference

DAYTON, Ohio — Early-career farmers and those considering an agricultural vocation will get a lot of the information they need during a dedicated “Begin Farming Workshop” that is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Assoc.’s (OEFFA) annual conference Feb. 15-17 at the Dayton Convention Center.

This 39th annual conference is titled A Taste for Change.

“Our goal is to help people increase their knowledge and skills, find leads on farmland, and make business and professional connections,” said OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator Kelly Henderson.

On Feb. 16-17, six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of education, will cover a wide range of topics, from organic certification to farming with children. OEFFA sustainable ag educator Julia Barton will address the top 10 organic transition questions most people ask, while Mike Durante of the National Young Farmers Coalition will discuss land access and affordability for the beginning farmer.

Other beginning farming experts will discuss government regulations, how to market your farm produces, health insurance and risk management and much more.

And this annual event is not just for the beginning farmer. Additional workshop sessions on production, marketing, business and green living will be offered, giving attendees nearly 80 workshops from which to choose.

This year’s keynote speakers include Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute and Stacy Malkan of U.S. Right to Know.

“If you look at the food market system in the U.S., ours is the fastest growth of all,” Moyer said. “This is great news for those in the organic industry – not only for the growers, but the impact on the health of the people. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

His talk will focus on the food of the future rather than that of the present or past.

“We want to look at the history only so we don’t make the same mistakes and to see how we got where we are. I will explain what the future holds for organic growers, as this will give us a picture of the changes and how we as farmers can impact that change.”

Moyer is a renowned authority in organic agriculture with expertise in organic crop production systems, weed management, cover crops, crop rotations, equipment modification and use and facilities design. He conceptualized and popularized the No-Till Roller Crimper for use in organic agriculture and wrote Organic No-Till Farming, a publication that has become a resource for farmers throughout the world.

Malkan’s keynote address, entitled “Fake News, Fake Food”, will be urging attendees how to stand up for organic foods and their right to know in the era of Big Ag. She is an author, investigative journalist and leading consumer advocate for safer products.

She is also co-founder and co-director of the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know, whose mission is to educate and inform consumers about the often hidden practices that shape the food system.

Sarah Flack, a consultant, speaker and author of The Art and Science of Grazing, will cover the basic principles of good grazing management systems, as well as soils and management systems that improve pasture quality and productivity.

Dr. Barbara Utendorf, a nutrition and personal wellness expert, will discuss how to incorporate key health-restoring foods and herbs in a cultivated environment. She will review the multiple benefits of plants.

Matt Fout, ODA food safety supervisor, will train fruit and vegetable farmers to meet the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. He will cover worker health, hygiene and training.

Other topics found among the workshops include lessons in soil biology and soil health; growing organic foods in the face of imports; key principles of well-managed grazing systems; cover crops for small-scale vegetable production; changing customer expectations; planting trees for profit; how to store grain properly; raising pastured turkeys; cool-season vegetable production; underground greenhouse design; inroads into food deserts; and uses for alpaca fibers.

The OEFFA conference also has entertainment opportunities for attending children, with an abundance of arts and crafts.

The Dayton Convention Center is located at 22 E. 5th Street, Dayton, OH 45402. For more information about this event, call OEFFA at 614-421-2022.

A Call To Boost Local Foods in 2018 Farm Bill

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service

2/6/18

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal lawmakers are ramping up their work on the 2018 Farm Bill, and some Ohio farm groups and producers say measures to boost local foods should be included.

Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown says the Local FARMS Act he introduced in the Senate can help family farmers and local growers reach new markets and improve access to fresh foods for Ohioans.

That was the exact mission of Betsy Anderson and others in Wooster when they created Local Roots Market and Café eight years ago.

“The connection to the food is just so different when you grow it yourself,” she says. “And our market gives people an opportunity to meet with the farmers and really see exactly where their food’s coming from. People just seem really happy.”

The Local FARMS Act includes investments in programs such as the Local Food Promotion Program, which Local Roots have utilized to enhance the cooperative over the years. The House Committee on Agriculture is holding a hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill today.

Anderson says Local Roots and the area economy have both benefited thanks to funding from the program. She explains the market was able to expand its advertising, and bring in more local shoppers and sellers.

“The producers are from our communities,” she notes. “We had about 200 already selling products, and then we got up to about 284. And sales continue to increase. We saw a bit over half a million dollars a year in local product.”

According to USDA data, more than 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food through farmers markets and other similar channels in 2015, generating nearly $9 billion in earnings for local producers. The 2018 Farm Bill could move to the full House by mid-March and be in the Senate in May.

An OEFFA 2018 Conference Preview

By Ty Higgins, Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio AgNet

2/5/18

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 39th annual conference, A Taste for Change, will run Thursday, Feb. 15 through Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton.

“The conference is three days of learning, networking, sharing, and breaking bread with an inspiring and growing community of farmers and local food advocates,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director. “Each year, we draw more than 1,200 attendees, and our diverse schedule offers something for all tastes.”

Friday keynote speaker is Jeff Moyer, a world renowned authority in organic agriculture. He conceptualized and popularized the No-Till Roller Crimper and wrote Organic No-Till Farming. He is the Executive Director of the Rodale Institute, which helps farmers make the transition from conventional, chemical-based farming to organic methods. He is a past chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

“This country is in the midst of a food fight in both the production world and the consumer world,” Moyer said. “As consumer demand for organic grows, there is a lot of pushing and pulling on the food dollar in the marketplace. Right now the organic food industry is around 5% of the food dollar in the United States, but only about 1.2% of the farmland in this country is being farmed organically.”

Moyer says the result of that data is that a lot of organic product is coming in from international or offshore enterprises. He is working very hard to change that scenario and encourage more farmers to transition to organic to take advantage of an opportunity to be more profitable and at the same time improve the health of the soil and change the way that resources are being managed on the farm.

AUDIO: The Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins visits with Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute about organic agriculture, how it can be a great starting point for beginning farmers and what he hopes attendees will take away from his talk at the upcoming OEFFA Conference.
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Saturday keynote speaker Stacy Malkan is an author, journalist, and leading consumer advocate for safer products. Stacy is co-founder and co-director of the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know, whose mission is to educate and inform consumers about the often hidden practices that shape the food system. She served as media director for the 2012 ballot initiative in California to label genetically engineered foods.

Ohio State Organic Experts Among OEFFA Conference Speakers

By The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

1/31/18

COLUMBUS, Ohio — How certain natural microbes can help crops grow better and faster.

How to make contaminated soils, sometimes present in cities, healthy for urban farming.

How a new perennial grain could have double uses, as food for people and forage for livestock, and also double benefits, helping soil and water.

Those will be some of the topics when experts from The Ohio State University join the speaker lineup at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 39th annual conference, Feb. 15-17 at the Dayton Convention Center.

Called Ohio’s largest conference on sustainable food and farming, the event offers nearly 80 hour-and-a-half workshops on organic farming and related topics, including 10 with speakers from Ohio State. One track of workshops is especially for beginning farmers.

About 1,200 people — farmers, gardeners, foodies, green living advocates and others — are expected to attend. The conference theme is “A Taste for Change.”

“For 39 years, the OEFFA conference has been the gathering place for sustainable and organic farmers and, more recently, researchers to share information,” said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA. And there’s good reason for the sharing.

Fastest-growing sector in U.S. food industry

Organic food is the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. food industry, with double-digit annual sales increases “far outstripping the growth rate for the overall food market,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA). Organic food still represents only a small share of total U.S. food sales, about 5 percent, but the figure now stands at a record high, OTA says.

Ohio alone had 575 certified organic farms in 2016, up 24 percent from 2015 and good for seventh place in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2016 Certified Organic Survey. Those farms reported sales of about $101 million, a 30 percent jump from the year before.

Ohio State program nationally ranked

Ohio State, for its part, “has one of the strongest organic farming research programs in the United States,” said Doug Doohan, interim director of the university’s Organic Food and Farming Education and Research (OFFER) program. Among similar programs, OFFER “consistently ranks in the top 10 percent nationally when it comes to funding and publications,” he said.

Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) started the OFFER program (not to be confused with OEFFA) in 1998. The decision was spurred by requests from Ohio’s growing number of organic farmers, led by OEFFA members, for research to support their industry. More than two dozen CFAES scientists are collaborators in the program.

‘Strong, growing’ relationship

Since then, OFFER and OEFFA have cultivated a “strong and growing” relationship, Doohan said. OFFER scientists increasingly design their research in consultation with OEFFA member farmers, sometimes even conducting experiments on the farmers’ farms, he said.

“That kind of collaborative relationship really helps get at the most pressing issues and addresses them in the most impactful way possible,” Doohan said.

Such efforts “help equip farmers with the information they need” to take advantage of organic farming’s economic opportunities, Goland said. Those opportunities include earning price premiums compared to conventionally produced products, which can boost a farm’s profitability.

Organic farmers, in almost cases, are prohibited from using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Instead they employ a big toolkit of natural inputs, non-chemical methods and biological processes, such as mulch, manure and beneficial insects, to keep their crops healthy and productive. Other practices, such as cover crops and crop rotation, serve to limit soil erosion, improve soil health, cut the risk of water contamination and increase biodiversity.

Keynoting the OEFFA conference will be Jeff Moyer, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute, and Stacy Malkan, co-director of the food industry watchdog group U.S. Right to Know.

Workshop speakers also will come from farms, businesses, nonprofits, advocacy groups, agencies and elsewhere in higher education, including Ohio’s Central State University.

Buckeyes slated

The speakers from Ohio State, most of whom are collaborators in OFFER, will be:

  • Matt Kleinhenz, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, CFAES, “Microbe-Containing Crop Biostimulants: What We Know, What Is Important to Learn” (Feb. 16, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Douglas Jackson-Smith, School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), CFAES, panel discussion member on “Better On-Farm Research for Better Organic Farming” (Feb. 16, 10:30 a.m.).
  • Steve Culman, SENR, “Dual-Use Perennial Grain Crops: Grain for Humans and Hay for Livestock,” about a new grain variety called Kernza developed by the Kansas-based Land Institute (Feb. 17, 3:30 p.m.).
  • Culman and Kleinhenz, “Base Cation Balance: What Are Crops, Soils, Weeds and People Saying?” (Feb. 16, 2 p.m.).
  • Shoshanah Inwood, SENR, co-speaker on “Health Insurance and Risk Management for Farmers: Tools for Navigating Health Insurance,” part of the workshop track for beginning farmers (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Alan Sundermeier, Ohio State University Extension, CFAES, “Interpreting Soil Health Information for Organic Producers” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Celeste Welty, Department of Entomology, “Organic Approaches to Insect Management on Cucurbit Crops,” cucurbits being such crops as squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelons (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Gustavo Schuenemann, College of Veterinary Medicine and OSU Extension, “Designing Health Protocols for Certified Organic Herds” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Meredith Krueger, OSU Food Waste Collaborative, CFAES, co-speaker on “Weaving Food Policy Work Statewide: The Development of the Ohio Food Policy Network” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Larry Phelan, Department of Entomology, CFAES, “Can Urban Soils Be Made Healthy for Farming?” (Feb. 17, 3:30 p.m.).

Goland said research on organic farming, by OFFER scientists and many others, “is key to supporting this growing industry.”

Find details on the event at oeffa.org/conference2018.php. Online registration has ended, but walk-in registrations are welcome on Feb. 16 and 17.

Writer(s):

Kurt Knebusch
knebusch.1@osu.edu
330-263-3776

Source(s):

Doug Doohan
doohan.1@osu.edu
330-202-3593

Carol Goland
cgoland@oeffa.org

Organic food not perfect, but better than the alternative, says Jeff Moyer

When the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association holds its annual food conference Feb. 15-17 in Dayton, there will be lots of celebration. More than 1,000 folks interested in growing and supporting sustainable food will meet in 80 skill-building workshops, and they’ll do so knowing that organic-food sales are healthy, too.

In a relatively stagnant growth market for food in general, organic-food sales continue to rise by more than 8 percent a year, according to the country’s Organic Trade Association.

With the good news comes the bad. There aren’t enough young people taking up farming, not enough research to make it easier and more profitable, and still not enough sales to make both of those things happen soon.

We talked about that last week with Jeff Moyer, who will be giving one of the keynote speeches at the OEFFA conference. Moyer, 62, spoke by phone from Kutztown in eastern Pennsylvania. He and his family started farming there organically in the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s.

Until five years ago, he served on the National Organic Standards Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a group that came into being in 1990 with the creation of the USDA Organic label. Moyer now heads Rodale Institute, a cornerstone organization in organic agriculture.

From your view, what’s the current state of the organic-food world?

When Robert Rodale was here in 1971, he was frustrated at the slow growth of organic-farming principles. He was concerned about human health, planetary health and wrote about climate change. He saw organic-crop production as a way to mitigate these problems. He saw two reasons for the slow growth. One was that, whether we like it or not, agriculture moves on the back of science, and we don’t have a lot of science on the back of organic agriculture.

He also saw a problem with certification. At that time, anybody could put something on the market and call it organic. He thought the best way was to bring in government certification, which would expand organics, allow people to trust what they purchase and have an understanding for interstate trade which would be converted into research. That part didn’t pan out well, but the labeling did.

Do people understand the label?

I wish everyone had a deep understanding of it. Most don’t have the time, although I think they have the interest. But I think they do trust it.

There were stories last year about missing links in the organic certification of some crops grown overseas. Why should we trust the label?

Because the alternative is far worse. Without the label, you don’t have anything to go by. And you get what you pay for. Yes, there are cheaters out there, but it’s still better than the alternative. Food is one product that we purchase, put it in our mouths and it becomes us. While the seal is less than perfect, it’s the best thing we have that can be verified.

Why does organic food generally cost more?

We’re paying for the quality that the farmer brings to the entire process. Organic farming is more cost-effective than conventional farming. Yet conventional farmers have subsidized crop insurance because their processes are so much more at risk to climate and weather patterns. There’s no way they can afford the insurance.

But consumers, instead of paying for those subsidies through our tax dollars, should really be paying for it at the point of purchase. When people develop [illnesses] that can be attributed to their diet and the way their food is produced, we don’t pay for that in the food but in the cost of health insurance. Not that organic farmers can’t apply for crop insurance, or can’t get into government programs, but they generally don’t need to. They charge what they need to get to a reasonable profit.

So why aren’t there more organic farmers, and how do you get more?

“That’s the $64,000 question. I saw an analysis from Ohio State University that showed you have to spend 10 times more to become a farmer than to become a surgeon, but you make 10 times less money. There are now six times as many farmers over 65 than farmers over 35. Farmers aren’t aging out of the system, and eventually, something drastic has to happen.

At Rodale, we have a dynamic training program for U.S. military veterans. Other folks are doing similar things. Organic Valley is using investor money to get people on the land to transition it over to organic status, and then the land goes to a management company. But we don’t have many other options. We need education in the banking industry to support organic production. It’s not a recipe, and they have to learn to take some risks.”

Are organics at risk in the current political climate?

“If I knew, I’d be a millionaire. We know the GOP wants fewer regulations. Airlines, banks, have all asked to get rid of regulations. But we asked them for regulation, and more of it, because it gives us guidelines to build a business on. Organic certification is completely voluntary. I hope politicians see the difference and leave it alone.”


IF YOU GO

What: A Taste for Change, the 39th annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association. Includes 80 educational workshops for farmers and consumers with special attention this year to new farmers, urban farming, a trade show and more.

When: Thursday Feb. 15-Saturday Feb. 17.

Where: Dayton Convention Center

Contact: oeffa.org/conference2018, 614-421-2022.

Ohio Foodies, Farmers Can Taste the Change

December 4, 2017
By Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service-OH
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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Farmers, foodies and anyone hungry to know more about local, sustainable foods are invited to an annual event that draws more than 1,000 people from Ohio and beyond.

Registration is now open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 39th annual conference, Feb. 15-17.

Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA’s communications coordinator, says it’s a great chance to learn more about a variety of topics, including gardening and urban agriculture, farm business management, food safety and homesteading.

“The goal of the conference really is to bring farmers and food advocates together to learn, network, share and break bread with the goal of inspiring, empowering and growing the local foods and organic farming community,” Ketcham states.

The conference theme is “A Taste for Change.” It will be held at the Dayton Convention Center, and information on registration is online at oeffa.org.

Ketcham says about 1,200 people are expected to attend this year, and she notes the conference has something for everyone, not just farmers working on large tracts of land.

“Folks that are interested in maybe being an effective advocate for the food and farm policy issues that they care about – we have sessions that deal with that,” she states. “We have sessions that are focused on green living, so people that want to learn how to incorporate fresh, healthy foods into their urban landscape, onto their dinner table.”

World-renowned organic expert Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute is the keynote speaker on Friday, Feb. 16. The next day, author and safe-products advocate Stacy Malkan takes the stage for her keynote speech, “Fake News, Fake Food.”

Business of Ohio’s organic farms is growing

The Columbus Dispatch, JD Malone, 11/2/17

Ohio’s big corn and soybean farmers haven’t seen much in the way of sales growth the past few years, but that can’t be said for some of the state’s smaller players — those who produce organic produce, grains and dairy products.

Ohio’s organic farmers reported sales of $101 million in 2016, a 30 percent jump from 2015, while both the number of organic farms and acreage grew year over year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Certified Organic Study. Ohio ranks seventh nationally in number of organic farms — 575. That’s up from eighth in 2015.

“The 2016 survey illustrates the strength of organic production and sales in the state,” said Amalie Lipstreu, policy coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, in a news release.

“Organic” is a designation for food and other products produced under specific guidelines, including which fertilizers and pesticides can be used on crops and how much pasture and outdoor access animals have, enforced by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

For example, organic practices bar the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the housing of animals completely indoors.

Ohio has more than 54,000 acres in organic production, which is tiny by agricultural standards, given that Ohio’s largest commodity crop, soybeans, covers more than 4 million acres. But given that organic farming only really put down roots fairly recently, it has been an achievement.

Byron Kauffman was one of the state’s pioneers in organic farming. He started growing organic crops 25 years ago on his Mac-O-Chee Valley Farm in West Liberty. He worked as a school teacher and farmed as a side gig because it was something he felt strongly about.

“There were not too many markets for products back then. You really had to search for a place to sell your goods,” Kauffman said. “That is not so much the way it is now.”

The number of venues has grown from just farmers markets and specialty grocers decades ago to major chain groceries.

Sales of organic products, especially of food, have grown by double digits every year for at least two decades, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic food sales are growing at about triple the rate of ordinary food. Overall organic sales jumped from $3.6 billion in 1997 to more than $43 billion in 2015.

Kauffman has grown a lot of crops over the years, from soybeans and oats to spelt and popcorn. Popcorn has become his niche. Surprisingly, spelt is something of a hit in Ohio. The state has more spelt growers than any other.

“It’s a good crop,” Kauffman said of spelt, a type of wheat prized for its nutritional value. “It’s vigorous and competes well with weeds.”

He worries now that organic food has become so popular that he is now competing with foreign sources of crops like spelt.

Ohio’s other big organic crops are milk — the state ranks ninth in the United States for its production — as well as eggs and vegetables.

Overall, the United States experienced a 23 percent rise in sales by organic farms in 2016, totaling more than $7.5 billion.

California is by far the leader in number of farms and sales. Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and Iowa round out the top five states for organic farming.

Kauffman has enjoyed the boom in organic production, and he thinks it has moved from fad to trend as more people have embraced organic food.

“At first, I just wanted to see if I could do it, and it just became more and more as the market grew,” Kauffman said.

“In one sense, I am not surprised because the demand for healthier food is real now,” he said. “It’s a good thing for everybody.”

OH Farmers Apply “You Are What You Eat” to What They Farm

Public News Service, 11/1/17

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Harvest season is winding down in Ohio, and sustainable-farming advocates say it’s a great time for growers and producers to learn more about what it takes to go organic. In some cases it’s a matter of making the personal professional.

Renee and Alan Winner, dairy farmers in central Ohio, have been selling into the conventional milk market for years, but now are transitioning the four dairies they and their children operate. Renee Winner said switching to organic was important for them because their farming practices didn’t mesh with their personal lifestyle.

“For the last 30 years, we have eaten organic,” she said. “To be able to marry the way that we live and how we make our living is really something that we’ve talked about and planned about for years, but just didn’t think we’d be able to get it done.”

The Winners began the process with help from organic transition services available through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. They just finished their third year of transition and recently had their official organic inspection.

Ohio currently ranks seventh nationally for the number of organic farming operations. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, organic sales in Ohio rose more than 30 percent between 2015 and 2016.

In order to stay viable, Renee Winner said, they felt they needed to “get big or get out,” and made the decision to go organic.

“Being a smaller, organic dairy is still viable,” she said, “where in the conventional market, everything is trending to larger, so you lose the ability to be yourself and to farm as a family.”

She encouraged those curious about transitioning to organic to speak with other organic farmers and organic inspectors, adding that services available through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association also are very beneficial.

“They have people there that will help you though the transition,” she said. “That’s been phenomenal for us, because you don’t know what you don’t know. They’re there to tell you, ‘No, this is the way to go,’ and to lead you.”

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has education staff who can explain the Organic System Plan, review transition applications and provide mock inspections. There are an estimated 950 organic farming operations in Ohio.

More information is online at oeffa.org.