Category Archives: OEFFA in the News

Ohio State Experts to Speak at Sustainable Agriculture Conference

By Kurt Knebusch, 1/13/17, OSU CFAES

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ten experts from The Ohio State University will be among the 100-plus presenters at this year’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

Organizers call the event, which is Feb. 9-11 in Dayton, the largest sustainable agriculture conference in Ohio.

It will have, for example, nearly 80 hour-and-a-half educational workshops, two keynote speakers, a three-day trade show, four full-day intensive preconference workshops, a banquet featuring Ohio-grown foods and “The Contrary Farmer’s Social” honoring the late Ohio farmer-writer Gene Logsdon.

Now in its 38th year, this is the first time the conference is being held in Dayton.

CFAES well represented

The Buckeye presenters — most of them from the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences — will speak on topics such as cover crops, local meats, food policy and soil organic matter. They’ll be, for example, from the college’s research and outreach arms — which are the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and Ohio State University Extension, respectively — and programs including the Organic Food and Farming Education and Research program.

The college is one of the conference’s many sponsors.

The presenters from Ohio State will be:

A complete list of all the conference’s speakers is at oeffa.org/conference2017.php. Online registration for the event is available at the same URL and is open until Jan. 23. Onsite registration will also be available. Prices range from $95 to $225 depending on full-conference, one-day, student or adult registrations.

Grassroots coalition

OEFFA, according to its website, 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, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, creates economic opportunities for our rural communities and safeguards the environment.” It was founded in 1979.

Ohio State has made transforming food production and agriculture, and improving people’s food security as a result, one of its university-wide areas of focus. Details are at discovery.osu.edu/focus-areas/infact/.

“Generation Rx” and a “Sick” Food System

Robyn O’Brien with the AllergyKids Foundation says it's time to heal the nation's "sick" food system. (OEFFA)
By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service, January 12. 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Food allergies, diabetes and cancer are among the growing health concerns for Ohio families, and a best selling author and mother says the nation’s “sick” food system is partly to blame.

Robyn O’Brien, director of the AllergyKids Foundation, is scheduled to speak about the issue at an upcoming event in Ohio. She says rising rates of diseases are increasing health care costs and giving today’s children the reputation of “Generation Rx.”

O’Brien believes it’s all connected to the use of genetically-engineered ingredients in food.

“People are really struggling in a way that we weren’t 50 years ago,” she stresses. “And all families are being impacted – regardless of what side of the aisle we’re on, regardless of where we live – and it’s becoming one of the biggest issues we face as a country.”

One in 13 children in the U.S. has a food allergy; nearly 1 in 4 people under age 20 are estimated to have diabetes; and cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death under age 15.

O’Brien contends that healing the food supply can protect the nation’s health.

She’ll deliver the keynote address Feb. 11 at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference in Dayton.

Genetically-engineered ingredients are said to be found in 80 percent of processed foods sold in the U.S. And O’Brien says other parts of the world have placed a higher value on people’s dietary health.

“Other countries tend to exercise precautions,” she states. “They do not allow things into the food system until they have been proven safe where we take an approach and we say, you know, ‘It’s not yet been proven dangerous, so we’ll allow it.'”

O’Brien notes that with growing demand for organic products, many food companies are stepping up and working to eliminate artificial ingredients. But she says the farmer’s role in creating a healthier food system needs to be elevated.

“Our biggest constraint is that about 1 percent of our farmland in the United States is organic, and we have a bottleneck,” she points out. “So, what can we do, how can we have these conversations, how can the farmers’ voices be heard? What can companies do to support the farmers? Because our federal policy is sort of stuck in 1995.”

Things to Love About the 2017 OEFFA Conference

By Claire Hoppens, Edible Columbus
Illustrations by Kevin Morgan

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association has been hosting their annual conference for the farming community for over 35 years. This year they celebrate their 38th gathering in Dayton from February 9 – 11. Read more about highlights for this year’s conference, and purchase tickets at oeffa.org.

From Granville to Dayton

This year’s move to the Dayton Conference Center allows for growth and added amenities, but won’t sacrifice any of the charm or programming that have become synonymous with the conference. “We’re excited to have new partners and reach a new part of the state,” says OEFFA Communications Coordinator Lauren Ketcham. The conference, previously held in Granville, will celebrate its 38th year with the theme “Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.”

Convenience and Comfort

Even a late winter optimist can appreciate the tunnel connecting the Dayton Conference Center and all OEFFA activities to the on-site hotel, the Crown Plaza Dayton. Parking is complimentary, and be sure to ask for the special OEFFA rate when booking.

For Farmers and Advocates

Workshops cover a wide range of topics including organic and sustainable agriculture, food policy, home cooking, business tactics and certification. Whether you’re a farmer seeking organic certification or a local food advocate, there are topics suited for all interests and occupations. All workshops are 1½ hours long and feature prominent leaders, teachers, authors or instructors.

Family Friendly

The OEFFA Conference offers unique programming for kids ages 6–12 and teens ages 12–15, in addition to on-site childcare for children 5 and under. Teens may adhere to customized programming or overlap with the main sessions as they wish, and kids will have opportunities to get their hands dirty, take on a project and learn on a level that best suits them.

Three Days of Trade

Exhibitors participate in a trade show from Thursday to Saturday, offering a chance for attendees to connect and research sustainable businesses, products and farms. Explore the trade show during schedule breaks or between sessions to learn about innovative new products and tools of the trade, sample food and beverages and meet individuals from all over the state.

Foods’ Erin Brockovich

This year’s keynote speakers are Robyn O’Brien, former financial and food industry analyst and author of The Unhealthy Truth, and Jim Riddle, an organic farmer, inspector, educator, policy analyst and activist. Robyn founded and served as the Executive Director of the AllergyKids Foundation, and advises companies making changes in the food industry. She’s been called “foods’ Erin Brockovich.” Jim served on the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board from 2001 to 2006. He remains engaged in organic issues and operates Blue Fruit Farm, a five-acre farm in southeastern Minnesota.

Local Meals Made with Love

Conference attendees have the choice to include lunch and dinner options on their ticket. Meals are made from scratch and feature as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible, some from the farms of conference sponsors or attendees. The meals offer a chance to mingle and connect over food prepared lovingly and in the spirit of the conference.

Dayton is Worth the Trip

Dayton is home to vibrant neighborhoods, historical explorations and family activities in every season. The 2nd Street Market is a year-round farmers market open Thursday–Saturday in close proximity to the Dayton Conference Center, RiverScape MetroPark opens a seasonal ice rink to the public and microbreweries, like Warped Wing Brewery, are scattered across the city.

Community Connections

Gathering diverse and passionate people for a food and farming conference makes for abundant networking opportunities. Newfound farmers can garner wisdom from their more experienced counterparts. Interns might connect with future employers. And throughout the conference, OEFFA will host designated networking sessions and a reception.

Guide Highlights Food, Farm Issues for Ohio Candidates

By Mary Kuhlman, 10/6/16, Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The future of food and farming in America affects every Ohioan, and it’s an issue that advocates of sustainable agriculture maintain should be a higher priority for those running for office in November.

Amalie Lipstreu, policy program coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) says state and federal policies shape local food systems, and sustainable farming policies benefit public health, economies and the environment.

She contends it would be wise for candidates to pay attention.

“Clearly, food and farming issues have not risen to the top of the presidential race,” she concedes. “But we’re working to make sure state and federal candidates know what Ohioans think.

“It is an important issue. It’s kind of an ultimate sustainability issue.”

OEFFA’s “Food and Farming Questions for Candidates” guide contains key policy points and background information for voters as they attend debates, forums and other pre-election events.

The guide, along with responses from candidates who answered the group’s online survey, are available at oeffa.org.

Lipstreu says the guide covers major issues related to sustainable agriculture and farming in Ohio.

“Whether it’s investment in local and regional food systems, whether it’s looking at the impact of fracking and wastewater injection wells, climate change, federal crop insurance, or even the issue of algal blooms and water quality,” she explains.

Lipstreu hopes elected leaders learn to see the potential for sustainable agriculture, and she encourages Ohioans to be informed and engaged.

“This election is a real window of opportunity for voters to ask questions, make informed decisions and get to know the candidates who may be their future leaders,” she states.

Besides a new president, Ohio voters will select 16 U.S. House seats and one U.S. senator. At the state level, there are 99 House seats and 16 Senate seats up for grabs.

Ag breakfast speaker notes sustained growth of organic certification

Growing vegetables and crops organically continues to grow in demand each year.

On Thursday, Eric Pawlowski, a sustainable agriculture educator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association was the featured speaker at the monthly Ag Business Breakfast Forum.

In addition to being an organic farmer himself, in his OEFFA role Pawlowski helps other growers enter into the organic growing circle and receive organic certification.

“We are a nonprofit organization by farmers for farmers,” he said of the organization.

Not all members of OEFFA are organically certified and of those who are, not all of them are 100 percent organic as many have some standard crops as well as their organics.

During his presentation, he often reminded those interested in achieving organic certification to pick up the phone and call with any questions.

“We want to help. It will save you time and money in the long run,” he said.

Pawlowski outlined the five steps necessary to become a certified organic operation. First, complete and submit an application. Second, undergo initial review. Third, have an inspection. Fourth, have the post-inspection review. And finally, get a decision on certification.

He said the certification is essential to assure the highest level of standards are being met. “Certified organic is the gold standard.”

During the program he ventured away from the OEFFA policy and expressed his personal frustration with growers who choose not to certify but claim their operation goes “beyond organic.”

“Personally that offends me,” he said. “How can you go beyond a standard if you are not willing to verify you meet that standard?”

He explained those who claim to be organic and are not diminish the power of the certification and the high standards they set for the organics. He suggested they develop their own name for it. This is necessary he said “to uphold the integrity of the label.”

He said those wishing to be organic not merely get in it for the premium price being paid for organics.

“I found that if you are in it for the price premium, you’re not going to make it. You have to be in it with your heart and that will show in your business,” Pawlowski said.

He offered descriptions of requirements such as buffer zones and the three-year time frame needed to transition a field to organic. He also stressed the importance of keeping detailed records of all action in the field and with the harvested crops.

By doing the right things and documenting what is being done most growers can avoid the dreaded “noncompliance.”

He also offered some of the top reasons people are deemed non-compliant. The reasons include problems with record keeping, use of prohibited substances, incomplete organic systems plan, incomplete or inaccurate organic system dates and statistics.

He stressed the need for proper communication, including being sure to read any correspondence from their office.

For more information, contact Pawlowski at 614-262-2022 or through www.oeffa.org

Visitors to Hirzel Farm view high-tech ag systems

By Bill Ryan

Sentinel Tribune, 8/23/16

Visitors from across Ohio gathered at Hirzel Farm in rural Luckey on Friday for a tour of the farm. After meetings, lunch and the tour there, they traveled to the company’s composting facility in rural Pemberville to see that operation.

The tour was part of the 2016 Farm Tour by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

At the Luckey site, the visitors were shown the grain movement, grading and storage facility which uses state-of-the-art equipment, which maximizes the value of the crops to food buyers.

Hirzel composting

The movement of grain uses no augers, but rather paddle conveyors, which minimize damage to the beans, for example.

It was explained that a split bean loses all its nutrient value and lowers the value of the entire lot of beans. The conveyor moves the crops slower but the speed of traditional augers is what can damage them and lower the commercial value to food buyers.

The organic crops carry a higher price tag, but also require a higher standard of quality to be met.

The visitors also were able to see a new sophisticated optical scanner that can grade the beans, even down to subtle differences in colors. Again, it is all part of the commercial grade needed to sell to the buyers for the optimal price. The equipment also provides for full traceability of each lot.

From the farm, the group visited the composting facility.

Mike Chandler is the site manager of the facility. He explained he is a geologist by trade and works the composting as a scientist.

One of the primary sources for their compost is scrap vegetables, including cabbage and tomatoes from their own farms as well as cucumbers from Hartung in Bowling Green.

Joe Hirzel Sr., though somewhat retired, is still active in the operation and was on hand for the tour.

Though there was initial resistance to the composting as well as switching over the processes to organic, he said the success has “proven how wrong we were.”

His sense of humor showed when he talked about the work involved in maintaining a healthy compost facility. He said, “I love work. I can watch people work all day.”

Chandler explained, “Compost is an art form. It’s a living organism and needs attention.”

He added that the changing weather along with the high moisture content in the food waste used provides challenges.

“For me, it’s a lot of trial and error, but he said by maintaining the proper mixture of carbon and nitrogen in the materials used, they can have the “compost cooking” to 160 degrees within two to three weeks.

Aside from the food waste, they also include bulking agents such as manure, grinding hay and fodder, along with such odds and ends as coffee, and egg waste from Hertzfeld Poultry.

Hirzel said they are proud of their Class 2 certified organic facility.

“It’s very costly to develop and maintain such a facility,” Hirzel said, noting for the permit it is $2,300 a year compared to $100 a year for a canning facility permit.

He noted the stack of paperwork required, not as a complaint, but rather as a warning device.

“These are the laws and we simply must follow them,” Hirzel said.

Clay Hill brings kale and more to farmers market

The Sentinel Tribute, 8/16/16

Today’s Downtown Farmers Market vendor profile comes to us from Kristy Buskirk of Clay Hill.

Clay Hill is located just north of Tiffin and specializes in produce and flowers. This is the third year Clay Hill has appeared at the Clay Hill Farmsmarket.

“We are a certified organic vegetable and cut flower farm. We specialize in greens, bring lots of kale to the market every week,” Buskirk said. “We are certified organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association.

“We are a small family farm in its third year of production. We have gone through the organic certification process to show our commitment to providing the healthiest food for you, your family and the environment. We take care to bring the highest quality products to market every week.”

Buskirk said she loves that the market is in downtown because it “makes it feel like part of the community.”

When asked if she shops from other vendors while at the market, Buskirk said, “Absolutely! I mainly pick up fruit from Haslingers, since fruit is something we don’t grow yet. I also get bread from Bella Cuisine and if there is an item I don’t grow, I generally pick it up from Rheims.”

Buskirk said there are many reasons people should visit the Downtown Farmers Market.

“Attending the farmers market is a weekly celebration of food and community. I believe that supporting local farmers is an important part of citizenship. The food and goods available at the market all stream dollars into local businesses and are the freshest and generally tastiest available. The prices are comparable to what you find in the grocery store and can be more affordable, not to mention superior in quality.”

“There is always music at the end of the market, which is an enjoyable way to spend summer afternoons,” Buskirk said.

The Downtown Farmers Market is open rain or shine every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. through Oct. 12. A variety of vendors bring fresh fruits and vegetables, plants, flowers, home-baked goods, artisan crafts, and more. The market is in the parking lot on the corner of Main and Clough streets. Keep in mind that metered parking is enforced until 5 p.m. Visit the website at bgfarmersmarket.org.

 

USDA awards more than $1 million in grants for beginning farmers, aquaculture boot camp

By JD Malone

Columbus Dispatch, 8/18/16

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded grants to Ohio State University and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

The grants, part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, are meant to help farmers start and sustain businesses. The USDA hopes these programs encourage the growth of younger farmers as the average age of America’s farmers has reached 58 years old.

The OEFFA will use $566,000 over three years to train farmers starting out in organic and sustainable farming. The organization hopes to help people not only make the leap into organic farming, but to also build a profitable business that can last for years.

Ohio State plans to use its $599,000 grant to fund the second part of an aquaculture “boot camp” to help farmers start sustainable aquaculture and aquaponic businesses. The first phase was funded last year through the same grant program.

In Memory: Gene Logsdon

By Wendell Berry

Gene Logsdon was the first friend I made away from home who loved farming as much as I did. In 1970 I published a book of poems, Farming: A Hand Book. A copy went to the office of Farm Journal where Gene was then working, where he and my book were about equally misplaced, and where he and my book came together perhaps by mutual attraction. Gene, anyhow, read the book and came to see me.

https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50235/images/Gene-and-his-wife-Carol-signing-books-at-the-2014-OEFFA-Conference.gif
Gene and wife Carol, OEFFA Conference 2014 book signing table

He drove in here on a bright morning in, as I remember, late spring, after my garden was well started. As I would eventually know, he was almost a perfect gardener. He also had been properly brought up and had good manners. He noticed politely that my strawberries were not quite as good as his. But as we stood looking and talking at the row-ends, I deduced easily that he was in general a better gardener then I was. He was in fact a better gardener than I was ever going to be. Like all the incidental differences between us, that hardly mattered.

From the garden, we went down to the rockbar by the river, sat down, and talked a long time. Our conversation revealed further differences, for we had grown up in different places and different cultures. But we had grown up farming, and with close to the same old ways of feeling and thinking about farming, ways that had come to Gene, I believe, mostly from his mother, and to me mostly from my father. And so our talk that day was full f the excitement at discovering how well we understood each other and how much we agreed. That was the start of a conversation that lasted 46 years and was for me a major life-support. It involved much talking face-to-face, much letter-writing, and phone-calling. It dealt with farming, gardening, our families and histories, other subjects of importance, but also unimportant subjects, and it was accompanied always by a lot of laughter. I have needed his writing, and have been especially delighted by his late-coming fiction, but I have needed even more his talk and his company. Gene was a great companion.

I have always enjoyed especially my memory of one of the trips we made together. It was another fine day, and we were driving in northeastern Ohio, looking for a land-restoration project we both were much interested in seeing. But we fell into our ongoing conversation as we might have fallen into a river that just carried us along. We talked intensely on and on about our urgent-as-usual agenda of subjects. When it finally occurred to us to wonder where we were, we found that we were a good many miles inside the state of Pennsylvania. It was a good day.

Gene’s last days were spent at home in the care and company of his family. His participation in this life ended on the morning of May 31. Not long before, when we lasted talked on the telephone, we were still in our conversation, telling our news, remembering things, thinking together, laughing. I’m sure it would be wrong to wish Gene had lived longer, for that would be only to wish him a longer illness. But for me, as I am sure for many others, his absence is large. I won’t cease to miss him. But I’m glad to think that my missing him will always remind me of him.

This article originally appeared in OEFFA’s summer newsletter, with the following editor’s note:

Prolific writer, farmer, and OEFFA member Eugene (Gene) Logsdon, age 84, passed away on May 31 at his home. Gene was born in Tiffin, Ohio and lived the majority of his life in his beloved Wyandot County with Carol, his wife of almost 55 years.

He inspired and entertained many readers and farmers through his collection of written work. He wrote more than 30 books and countless magazine articles on small-scale farming and sustainable living. Beginning in 1974, he wrote a weekly column for the Progressor Times and more recently began a popular blog called The Contrary Farmer.

OEFFA was privileged to have Gene as a supporter, advocate, and member; an annual guest of the conference, and a newsletter contributor. We’re deeply grateful to novelist, poet, activist, and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry for generously sharing memories of his friend Gene.

Correcting organic misinformation

Rural Life Today, 5/4/16

By Carol Goland, Ph.D

OEFFA Executive Director

COLUMBUS — Don “Doc” Sanders’ question (In his April Rural Life Today column) —“So, what’s better, organic or traditional farming”— is the wrong one to ask. Instead: “What do consumers want?” and “What will benefit farmers?” are the relevant questions.

Dr. Sanders brought up rbST; however, this issue has been decided in the court of consumer opinion. Consumers don’t want milk from cows injected with this drug. Arguing the merits of its benefits is beside the point. When grocery stores such as Kroger and juggernaut dairy processor Dean Foods state they don’t want to buy milk from farmers who use this product, it’s time to acknowledge the marketplace has spoken.

And the marketplace continues to speak: consumer demand for organic products has grown by double digits every year since the 1990s, with 84 percent of Americans now reporting they purchase organic food. Fresh produce and dairy are in the highest demand.

Consumers want what organic delivers: farming practices that maintain and improve the soil and water resources on which we all depend; eliminating the reliance on synthetic fertilizers that run off fields and pollute our waterways; enhancing biodiversity; animal health care practices that emphasize prevention; allowing ruminants to forage on grass and exhibit their natural behaviors; traceability from farm to table, and a prohibition on genetically engineered seeds and feed.

It’s unfortunate that Dr. Sanders’ column shared some misinformation about organic dairy production, such as the idea that antibiotic treatment is denied to cows that need it. The National Organic Program regulations require that “all appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail.” If antibiotics are needed, they must be used; the animal must then be removed from the organic herd.

Organic is not about substituting an unacceptable input for an acceptable one. Instead, it’s about managing a system. It is that production system – in which a variety of clever and effective natural practices are used – that allows organic farmers to avoid using synthetic pesticides that, in turn, remain as residues on food.

Organic farmers have access to 25 synthetic active pest control products which have been evaluated for their environmental and human health effects and which are only allowed under a restricted set of conditions; over 900 pesticides are registered for use in conventional farming. It is these contrasts in production systems that produce the demonstrable differences in what Dr. Sanders calls “quality, purity, and nutritive value of organic versus conventional food.”

An organic livestock system relies on preventative health practices to reduce the risk of common diseases, and to ensure animal welfare and productivity.

We need veterinarians like Dr. Sanders to help organic livestock farmers understand what they can do to reduce risks in their farming operations, and help them manage those animals if they do get sick. This approach to livestock farming, and the systems used in organics, can benefit all herds— whether the farm is organic or conventional.

For more information about organic certification and livestock management, go to http://certification.oeffa.org/.

Carol Goland, Ph.D, is Executive Director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.