Archive for the ‘OEFFA in the News’ Category

Monday, July 21st, 2014
Public News Service
By Mary Kuhlman
7/14/14
 
 Mud Run Farm in Stark County uses horsepower to reduce emissions linked to a warming climate. Photo courtesy of Mud Run Farm.

Mud Run Farm in Stark County uses horsepower to reduce emissions linked to a warming climate. Photo courtesy of Mud Run Farm.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The National Climate Assessment finds climate stressors, such as weeds and diseases, are threatening the future of farming.

But the report also suggests that sustainable agriculture practices could help slow the pace of climate change.

Mud Run Farm in Stark County is a small organic operation. Owner Alex Dragovich says changes of his farm’s position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zone maps indicate a shift to warmer temperatures for growing.

And he admits there have been some changes in weather patterns impacting agriculture in Ohio.

“The season went from very cold to warm in a short amount of time and then a lot of rain,” he points out. “Can I say that that’s climate change? Maybe in the long-term but not in the short-term. It’s like a chronic illness, you don’t realize you have it until it’s too late.”

Dragovich says his farm uses earth-friendly practices that reduce carbon emissions.

He’s cut back on the use of diesel fuels by powering his farm mostly with horses and also manages cover crops, which reduce the amount of tractor time needed in the fields.

The National Climate Assessment found that the resiliency of the agriculture system can be increased through sustainable methods such as diversifying crop rotations, integrating livestock with crop production systems and minimizing off-farm flows of nutrients and pesticides.

Dragovich says he’s hopeful the next farming generation embraces sustainable methods, and considers the impact agricultural practices have on the environment.

“I see a lot of young people taking up the organic mantra and trying to save this planet,” he says. “So hopefully these young people will be a little more respective of Mother Earth and hopefully will be better at it than my generation.”

Recent research found organic farming methods that encourage soil health create higher yielding crops better able to cope with weather-related stressors compared to conventional farming.

Making sure what you are buying is truly organic

Monday, June 30th, 2014
WDTN Channel 2 TV
By Pam Elliot
6/25/14

Okra, tomatoes, broccoli, and basil, are just some of the fresh items you’ll find at Mile Creek Farm in New Lebanon.

Emily Jackle and her husband Ben started turning land in Montgomery County into an organic farm in 2007. It took three years to get the USDA to approve it because they had to document a three-year history with the land.

Jackle told 2 NEWS it’s worth the extra work to be able to use the USDA seal and it’s a good way for consumers to know they are getting produce that was not genetically modified or sprayed with chemicals.

“Looking for the certification is my biggest piece of advice, like I said, we think it’s the gold standard. We don’t feel it’s burdensome to us. We are a really small farm and we find time to do the certification,” said Jackle.

The Jackles grow flowers and vegetables.  They start packing the greenhouse in March, then when it’s warm enough they move plants into the hoop house. It all starts with non-treated seeds and homemade potting mix.

Jackle told 2 NEWS, “We had a surprise visit from our certifier who came and took soil samples from our tomato crop and he was looking for pesticides.

Their certifier is the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association which the USDA says checks organic farms at least once a year.

“It would be illegal for us to have the certified organic if we weren’t certified, but we are, so we’re allowed to display this on our farm stand at market,” she explained as she showed 2 NEWS the banner she uses at farmers’ markets.

The USDA reports those who label their produce “organic” and are not certified can be fined.  You can actually file a complaint, if you suspect someone.  The USDA does make exceptions for people who make less than $5,000 a year from their produce.

You can also check on the status of a farm that claims to be organic by using the website http://apps.ams.usda.gov/nop/.  You can put the farm’s name under “operation name.”

Jackle suggests you talk with the actual farmers and pick their brains, have them explain why they consider their products organic.

OEFFA Tour Stop: Harmonious Homestead

Monday, June 30th, 2014
This Week News
June 2014

This Week News previews a farm tour, part of OEFFA’s 2014 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop series, at Harmonious Homestead, a community-oriented urban homestead in Columbus, Ohio. The tour took place on June 22, 2014. Click here to take a video tour of the farm.

Ag Today in Central Ohio

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

Ag Today of Central Ohio

6/2/2014

OEFFA’s work Eric Pawlowski spoke with Pete Emmons at QT1270 in Marysville about OEFFA’s work and organic agriculture. Click here to listen to the full story.

USDA reports record growth in organics

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
by Kristy Foster Seachrist
Farm and Dairy
March 27, 2014

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. organic industry now encompasses a recordbreaking 18,513 certified organic farms and businesses, according to new figures released by the USDA, a 245 percent increase since 2002.

The figures show the organic industry continues to grow domestically and globally, with over 25,000 certified organic operations in more than 120 countries.

Through the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program, USDA has helped an additional 763 producers become certified organic in 2013 alone, an increase of 4.2 percent from the previous year.

Record

The 2013 list of certified USDA organic operations shows an increased rate of domestic growth within the industry, resuming previous trends.

“Consumer demand for organic products has grown exponentially over the past decade,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“With retail sales valued at $35 billion last year, the organic industry represents a tremendous economic opportunity for farmers, ranchers and rural communities.”

Ohio picture

Carol Goland, executive director for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, said the report mirrors what is happening in Ohio.

OEFFA has witnessed an increase in the number of certified organic farms year after year.
Goland said growth in the organic food sector has outpaced its conventional counterpart for more than a decade.

“This industry signal means that we can expect to see more farms transition to organic production, and more new farmers begin their businesses as certified organic,” said Goland.

Now that the farm bill has passed and the National Organic Cost Share Program will be reinstated, Goland expects more farmers to chose to complete the organic certification process.

New programs

USDA has a number of new efforts to connect organic farmers with resources that will help develop the growth of the organic industry.

The USDA is helping organic stakeholders access programs that support conservation; providing access to loans and grants; funding organic research and education; and mitigating pest emergencies.

Funds are currently available for research projects under the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and extension initiative to solve critical organic agriculture issues or problems.

The program also funds research projects to enhance the ability of organic producers and processors to grow and market their products. Additional information is available online, and request for proposals are due by May 8.

Ohioans Can Get The “Dirt” on Organic Growing from Farmers

Thursday, June 12th, 2014
By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service
May 27, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Getting organic and sustainable foods from the field to the dinner table takes a lot of knowledge, effort and care, and Ohioans can get an inside look at how it all happens. This summer, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association is sponsoring 15 tours and six workshops across the Buckeye State as part of the group’s 2014 farm tour series. Spokeswoman Lauren Ketchum says it’s a unique opportunity.

“The great thing is that farmers know all the dirt, so during this summer series they’re sharing that knowledge about how sustainably produced food is grown. The tours are also designed to help farmers and gardeners learn from each other so that they can improve their production and marketing techniques,” Ketchum says.

Beyond just seeing how food is grown, consumers can learn about rooftop gardening, sustainable flowers, solar-electric use, farming with horses, and more. Most of the tours and workshops are free and open to the public and will take place rain or shine.

Fulton Farms in Miami County is among those opening its gates, Ketchum says, allowing people to glimpse its operation.

“They’re a diverse, family-owned, organic vegetable farm that is operating a pretty large community supported agriculture program, which feeds more than 400 families. People will have a chance to see more than 30 acres of organic field production,” she explains.

Ketchum says they see great turnout at the tours as demand for fresh, local foods grows, and consumers want to make informed choices.

“We really encourage growers, educators and conscientious eaters to attend the tours. They can learn about sustainable agriculture in a real-world setting from farmers with years of practical experience,” she says.

The tours have been offered for more than three decades, and this year the Ohio State University Sustainable Agriculture Team is sponsoring 10 additional tours.

More information on the tours is at www.oeffa.org.

OEFFA workshops offer wealth of information

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014
Farm and Dairy
By Chris Kick
2/25/2014

GRANVILLE, Ohio — From livestock production to field crops and horticulture — this year’s Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference offered guests more than 100 workshops in just two days, Feb. 15-16.

In the Feb. 20 edition, Farm and Dairy focused on the two keynote speeches by author and organic consultant Atina Diffley, and former U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

However, there was a wealth of information presented by farmers, university professionals and industry experts. Most of the sessions were recorded and are now available for purchase at www.oeffa.com.

Backyard poultry

In the area of backyard poultry, producers were reminded about the importance of selecting good, productive stock, and replacing animals that behave poorly.

“You never need to put up with a mean rooster,” said author and homesteader Mary Lou Shaw, who led a workshop called Creating Sustainability for Your Backyard Poultry.Shaw told about a rooster she once owned named Hotshot, who was mean and spurred her. So, she replaced him with a much gentler rooster.

While that may seem too simple — the solution really is that simple.

Jim Adkins, poultry specialist with the Sustainable Poultry Network, said producers should start with good stock. But if they get a mean bird, the best thing to do is to get rid of it. Otherwise, it will create more birds just like it.

OEFFA workshop

“An aggressive daddy produces aggressive sons,” he said.

This is one advantage small-scale producers have over large hatcheries, Adkins said, because small-scale producers have the time to cull their birds.

Selecting good birds

Adkins led a talk on selecting heritage poultry, or historic poultry breeds.He gave five criteria for selecting productive birds, as adopted from the 1914 book The Call of The Hen.

The first thing is to select birds with wide skulls, which usually leads to wide bodies and more meat. Other considerations include the size of the heart girth, back flatness, body depth, and straightness and quality of the breast bone. The back of the bird should be wide and long, which indicates growth potential.

He told producers that to be profitable, they should seek at least $6 a pound on a four-pound carcass. That may seem like a lot, but it takes that much to cover all the expenses.

“I think that’s incredibly do-able in our country,” he said. “People who will pay for that bird live where you live — you’ve got to find them.”

Local foods compass

In other workshops, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan led a talk on accessing government grants for local foods projects. She walked producers through USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass — an online mapping tool that shows producers where grants and projects are taking place.

Be persistent

Merrigan said not as many people are using the compass as she had hoped, but said it’s a valuable tool nonetheless. She encouraged farmers to be persistent when applying for grants, and to seek help with the grant-writing process.

“If you don’t get it the first time around, you might get it the second,” she said.

Many of the projects awarded funding actually end up failing, but Merrigan said that’s part of the process and part of taking chances.

“You know a lot of these are not going to succeed because what we’re doing is cutting-edge,” she said.

At the same time, she said it’s important to “intelligently learn from our failures.”

Food trends

In a separate workshop, Mike Hogan, OSU Extension educator from Fairfield County, outlined the top 10 emerging marketing trends for 2014.

The No. 1 thing is that local will be big — whether it’s local meats or local produce. He cites the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, which lists local foods as the top trend for the year.

The second trend is healthy foods, which includes dark greens and more plant-based protein, as well as healthy beverages.

The third and fourth are signature foods and ugly foods — both being products that stand out and that are unique to specific farms.

Snacking trend

The fifth is that people are snacking more. He shared research that revealed one out of every five of today’s eating occasions is for a snack — not a meal. These on-the-go consumers want something that is bite-sized or hand-held, creating new demand for snack-size portions.

Snacking is especially popular among millennials (18-34). And, many of the snacks they demand are actually healthy — replacing high-sugar, high-fat snacks.

Social media

No. 6: social and mobile will continue to be big. This includes all major forms of social media, as consumers look to click their way to recipes and ingredients, and to read about a product.

7. Food packaging is changing, with more sensory-stimulating packages that tell the story of the product, and more packages that are edible.

8. Consumers want foods that are sustainable and that produce less waste.

9. Consumers will continue to fall into market segments, and you’ll need to know the behaviors of each. A big one to watch will be baby boomers, who by 2015, are expected to control more than half of grocery sales

10. Technology will continue to grow, whether it’s robotics, aeroponics or growing indoors.

Ohio farmers consider their next steps now that the Farm Bill is law

Friday, February 21st, 2014
WKSU Quick Bites
By Vivian Goodman
2/21/2014

The former deputy secretary of the USDA, Kathleen Merrigan, shared good news about the Farm Bill at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association‘s annual conference last weekend in Granville.

“We’ll see more money for farmers’ markets and food hubs, beginning farmers and ranchers, more money for organic research. And those gains would not have happened had it not been for grass-roots advocacy across the countryside.”

It took two years to get the bill passed, and now, Merrigan says, the big game in Washington is implementation.

“This Farm Bill is nearly 1,000 pages. I’m sure you’ve all read it, but it’s a huge amount of work to implement. So everyone wants to get their provision on the short list. That’s what’s going on now.”

More help for small and family farms and local foods
The bill triples funding for the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program.

Downtown Columbus’s Pearl Market hopes to use its new money to help food-stamp recipients buy more fruits and vegetables.

The bill also helps farmers stretch their growing seasons with plastic, temporary greenhouses called high tunnels or hoop houses. Beth Knorr of the Akron area’s Countryside Conservancy’s Farmers’ Markets says they’ve been a real help through this brutal winter.

“Everybody’s being really hard hit and even in some of the high tunnels the products are freezing. I can say without a doubt that without hoop houses, our growers would be bringing no fresh produce.”

Another provision of the bill allows research into industrial hemp production. It’s high time for that according to E. R. Beach, a hemp snack maker from Athens. He’s circulating petitions in the exhibition hall for a fall ballot issue to legalize cultivation of hemp for non-drug purposes.

“There’s 20 states right now that are talking about it in their legislative bodies. Now, with the passing of the newest Farm Bill and the president signing it, … the federal government has officially reclassified industrial hemp. And so that’s really going to open up the doorways.” 

Inequities remain
But some doors remain closed. Former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan says small farms are still at a disadvantage.

“This is not any game change. It is slightly regressive on some of the subsidy issues or the structure of traditional Ag programs. It’s just not where the American public is. I think that there’s a real … hunger for change across this country and Congress just hasn’t caught up.”

While there’s $1.2 billion for sustainable agriculture, there’s $7 billion in crop subsidies for Big Ag’s factory farms. 

Mardy Townsend’s biggest beef with the new Farm Bill is about crop insurance. She raises grass-fed cows in Ashtabula County.

“I’m very disappointed in the fact that most of the Farm Bill commodity programs have switched to a reliance on crop insurance. I cannot get crop insurance because my farm does not fit into the parameters that they want. Smaller farmers who have a much more diversified system do not fit the model that’s basically made for corn, soybeans, rice, cotton and wheat.”

Most new Farm Bill subsidies are for those who grow single crops rather than the variety of fruits and vegetables small farmers bring to farmers’ markets.

More protection for the soil
But Shavaun Evans of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says at least now there’s a string attached to crop subsidies for the big guys.

“Farmers will actually have to have some sort of conservation plan in place to conserve our soil and protect the land.”

Phil Nabors of Blueberry Hill Family Farms in Loudonville came to a workshop at the conference to see if his soil, now growing berries, might also be good for hops, now that so many locally owned microbreweries are popping up. Nabors says change is coming thanks to consumer demand.

“The whole local foods movement is happening no matter what the government does or doesn’t do. Local foods is exploding. Look what’s happening in California, the 500,000 acres won’t be planted this year because of the drought in California. That creates great opportunity for Ohio growers.”

Today’s farmer is no bum — almost heroic

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
Farm and Dairy
By Chris Kick
2/17/2014

GRANVILLE, Ohio — When Atina Diffley was a child in the 1960s and ’70s, she wanted to grow up to be a farmer or a bum.

The two lifestyles seemed similar. The farmer and the bum both worked outdoors, they both set their own rules and made their own way in life.

But as Diffley matured and later became a farmer herself, she found the role of farmer evolving into something more similar to a “hero.”

The author, activist and organic foods consultant gave a keynote address at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association’s annual conference Feb. 15 in Granville.

Diffley was raised in rural Wisconsin, where her family grew and canned most of their own fruits and vegetables. They also sold sweet corn alongside the road.

Turning point

But her career in agriculture evolved in 1985, when she joined organic farmer Martin Diffley on his farm in Eagan, Minn.

She described their first meeting during a road trip when she was looking for produce. She saw a sign that read “Turn Here, Sweet Corn” and when she pulled in the drive, she found “everything she was looking for.”

That included sweet corn and tomatoes, but also “a really handsome farmer.” The two were married and have farmed and worked together ever since.

In 2012, she released a memoir about their experience, Turn Here, Sweet Corn.

Relationships

The book focuses on relationships between community, family and farming. A central theme is land use and development.

The couple faced urban pressure in 1988, when 20 acres of the Diffley family’s 120-acre farm were needed to build an elementary school. Sewer and water infrastructure crossed the remaining land to serve the school, and assessments were placed against the rest of land.

The Diffley family sold the rest of the farm for development and from 1989-1993 it was bulldozed for housing projects.

They were allowed to continue to farm the land until it was developed — but each day they witnessed an erosion of the land they loved.

On the go

During this period, Atina and Martin farmed on 18 different properties within a 30-mile radius to meet their certified organic production needs.

She recalled how this difficult time affected their lives, causing deep anger and frustration in her children.

“We were farming on land that was immediately adjacent to land that had no life,” she said.

A new beginning

In 1991, they purchased a new farm in Eureka Township, Minn., and began the three-year process of converting it to organic production.

Educate others

During her speech, Diffley encouraged organic farmers to educate others about what they do — something she and her husband have done their whole career. They teach other growers, but they also educate politicians and members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“I encourage you to talk about it through your own experience,” she said. “We have to be educators.”

Defend yourselves

She also encouraged farmers to view organic certification as a line of defense against criticism and legal fights. She said certification can serve as evidence and is a federally registered document.

“Certification not only helps us in the marketplace, but it actually protects us in matters of drift and matters of eminent domain,” she said.

Stewardship award

Before Diffley’s speech, OEFFA officials presented the Stewardship Award to Kip and Becky Rondy of Green Edge Organic Gardens in Amesville, Ohio.Stewardship award

The Rondys farm 120 acres of certified organic, including microgreens, salad mix, mushrooms, greens and other seasonal produce. They use high tunnels and sell their produce at the Athens Farmers Market, two CSAs, and at stores and restaurants in Athens and Columbus.

Kip Rondy said he and his wife take stewardship seriously and that stewardship does not stop with the soil. He is also an outspoken critic of the shale gas drilling industry — particularly the disposal of waste drilling materials.

“Our region — southeastern Ohio — is under attack,” he said, referring to billions of gallons of “radioactive poisonous fracking waste” being stored beneath the ground.

He and a group of helpers carried in a large banner during his speech that read “Our water, our lives.”protestors

He said the people of southeastern Ohio have worked to reclaim their land from the coal industry, timber cutting and oil and gas, and have no reason to believe the current drilling will be different.

“We of Athens County — we ain’t going to take it,” he said, adding that “when our work is done, the forests will echo in laughter.”

In early February, Rondy participated in blockade effort to block the drive leading to a fracking waste disposal site. He and seven other activists were peacefully arrested for trespassing.

Former USDA official urges sustainable farmers to get involved

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Farm and Dairy
By Chris Kick
2/17/14

GRANVILLE, Ohio — Former Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan encouraged farmers to get involved with government and the policies that affect their industry during a keynote address Feb. 16 at the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference.

Merrigan served as deputy secretary from April of 2009, to her resignation on March 14, 2013. She was known as an advocate for local foods and organic farming, having helped to write the National Organic Program, and later, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program.

“It was a hard four years in a lot of ways,” she said. “But I believe I was able to make a lot of changes there. I took my turn — I need someone to step up and take (their) turn.”

During her speech, Merrigan gave 10 reasons why farmers should be engaged in federal policy, including protecting their interests, their way of life and their democracy.

Agricultural renaissance

One of the things she’s noticing is a “renaissance of interest in agriculture.”

crowd

As that renaissance takes place, new farmers are being made, including farmers who did not come from farm families. This requires education and resources, she said, as the industry works to grow its next generation.

And, there is renewed interest in government itself — for local foods and regional systems. Merrigan said even other state and federal branches, like the departments of transportation and commerce — are all showing renewed interest in how they can get involved.

“There’s this interest — this hunger across all the federal bureaucracy for local and regional efforts in food production,” she said. “And that’s screaming out ‘opportunity and opportunity.’”

Same goal

Merrigan was introduced by Ohio State University’s Bruce McPheron, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He said he wants to be an open partner to OEFFA and provide the resources the organization and its members need.

“We’re all batting for the same team here and that is a sustainable, healthy and abundant food supply for the people of Ohio, the nation and the world,” McPheron said, to applause.

Nearly 1,200 people attended the conference, which was held inside Granville High School and Middle School.

New farmers

Service award

Before Merrigan’s speech, Ed Perkins, OEFFA Service Award recipient, talked about the joy he gets from working with soil, and the need to attract new farmers. He and his wife, Amy Abercrombie, operate Sassafras Farm in Athens County.

They grow chemical-free vegetables, herbs, and berries on 2 acres, which are sold year-round at the Athens Farmers Market.

“This isn’t just a job — it’s a lifestyle because you’re out there as part of nature’s cycle,” he said.

He challenged young farmers to “pursue that interest because we need new farmers … I need a replacement — a lot of us do.”

Ten reasons to get involved

Here are the reasons Merrigan said farmers should get involved with government.

1. Advocacy makes a difference. Merrigan pointed to the 2014 farm bill as an example, saying the bill is not “game-changing” for local foods, but it does include provisions that are a direct result of producers’ input.

2. The rest of the country is counting on you. She told producers to consider their elected officials in state and federal office and how well they represent the farmer’s interests. These leaders are making a difference not only in Ohio, but across the nation.

3. Defense can be just as important as offense. She pointed to the Food Safety Modernization Act (2011) as an example, noting how the FSMA rules are bringing the biggest changes to food safety in 70 years, while also providing a good defense against foodborne illness. Although it has taken a long time to finalize the rules, Merrigan said they have the potential to be a “real game changer” for the better.

4. Renaissance of interest in agriculture. There is a renewed interest in farming and local systems, including among government officials and government agencies beyond just the USDA.

5. Money is there for the taking. She spoke about the USDA compass tool, which provides a transparent map of where USDA funds have been invested for different local foods projects, searchable by zip code or topic. There are many grant opportunities available that can help specialty crop growers and local producers. The compass is available on www.usda.gov, under “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.”

6. Decreased ability to coexist with farmers growing genetically engineered crops. “The ability to have a GMO-free product is becoming increasingly difficult,” she said. She made it clear she is not against using GMO seeds, but she said farmers who do not use GMO seeds face some real concerns. Those concerns include drifting and co-mingling and contamination of the two different kinds of seeds. “I’ve never been an anti-GMO person but I do believe that there is definitely a marketplace demand for a GMO-free product and if farmers want to produce for that market, then they should be allowed to and there should be procedures in place…,” she said.

7. Uncle Sam needs you. She said there are many good job opportunities within the federal government, especially with some recent retirements.

8. There’s a big event coming.  Most recently, the big event was the new farm bill. But as hard as it was to pass that bill, Merrigan said the next farm bill attempt could be even harder, and may be unsuccessful. “I think we got this one through by the hair of the chinny-chin-chin,” she said. “But I’m not sure we’re going to see farm bills — those big omnibus bills going through anymore. The sand’s shifting and we have a lot of big things at play.” Other big changes include climate change and how to respond, as well as immigration reform. With immigration, farmers are unsure if they will have the labor force they need to be competitive and keep food production in the country.

9. Resources and strategies to re-populate farms. While the Feb. 20 Agriculture Census will tell the numbers, Merrigan is already concerned there is a need for more farmers.

10. We cannot take our democracy for granted. She said each producer has the power to make important decisions and should do his or her part to help make a difference.