Category Archives: Annual Conference

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.

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.”

Incentivizing Organic Farming

By Andrew Flinn, Brownfield Ag News, 2/13/17

A former USDA official says the upcoming farm bill needs to provide incentives to help conventional farmers who want to shift to organic farming. Jim Riddle is a past chairman of the USDA National Organic Standards Board.

“That allows a conventional farmer just to make a choice based on economics and provides technical assistance so they have people they can go to but also a financial safety net so they’re not risking the farm by going organic,” says Riddle.

He tells Brownfield there are additional rules and regulations for farmers shifting to organic operations before they can be certified as organic.

“You’re signing up to be regulated at a level that a lot of farmers haven’t been in the past but it needs to pencil out,” says Riddle.

Riddle says the certification is necessary for the industry to maintain its relationship with consumers.

“There have been ideas floated like we need to weaken the standards to make it easier to get into organic, and that would kill the market. The consumers demand rigorous standards and that’s what it’s all based on” says Riddle.

Brownfield spoke with Riddle at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s Conference in Dayton Ohio.

Audio: Jim Riddle, Organic Farmer, Former Chair, USDA National Organic Standards Board

Organic farm leader Jim Riddle seeking common ground with Donald Trump, conservatives

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/7/17

OEFFAJimRiddle.jpg


While organic farming groups are moving an arm’s length from President Donald Trump’s views, from immigration to an agriculture secretary nominee, Jim Riddle is leaning in to the new administration with a corn-huskers’ handshake.

Riddle, a 60-year-old who grew up on an Iowa farm and now raises berries in Minnesota, says there’s an unclaimed common ground between organics and conservatives.

His own perspective is certified organic. For 20 years he was an organic inspector, one of those folks who show up at least once a year to determine if certified farms really do merit the federally approved organic label by avoiding harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds, among many other strictures.

After co-founding a farmers market, he served five years on the National Organic Standards Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Since then he has been appointed chair of Minnesota’s organic advisory board. This weekend he comes to Dayton as a keynote speaker at the 38th annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. He’ll talk 3:45 p.m. Friday at the Dayton Convention Center. More information online.

Politics were heavy in the air when we talked to him by phone two weeks ago.

“In part, I want to talk about how organic values are conservative values,” he said. “At its core, organic farming is pro-life. From the ground up, it’s about keeping things alive – the seeds, the soil health, pollinators and wildlife. It embraces all species at all levels of farming.”And I also want to say that organic farming is really free-market farming. It’s farming the land in response to consumer demand. The demand for organic products is skyrocketing by double-digits each year. But because organic crop rotations are more complex methods, there typically aren’t government subsidies. That matches really well with the conservative agenda.

“The organic community went to the government and said it wanted standards that protect the word organic, and it worked really well. We’re really a model for self-regulation with clear, strong, transparent standards and protection of the word organic.”

Riddle believes organic food corresponds to the perceived conservative values of heightened personal responsibility.

“We are what we eat,” he said. “If it’s junk, you have lots of health problems. If you eat clean and live a smart life, your health improves and you’re less of a cost to society.”

Still, Riddle would like to see some changes, especially in what he calls loopholes to the organic trade laws.

In 2014, he said, Minnesota was one of the biggest producers of organic soybeans, selling more than $7.5 million a year. That same year, he said, India sold $75 million in organic soybeans to the United States. India got permission to sell here in a “magical, not transparent,” process during the George Bush administration, Riddle said. “India wanted access to the U.S. organic market, and it was granted as part of a nuclear arms agreement.”

While India has its own certifying groups to grant the use of USDA Organic labels, Riddle says the there’s no U.S. oversight on how they are being certified. In fact, Indocert.org, the site for a national certification body in India, says that because of forged certificates, buyers should double-check with Indocert first.

“Maybe it’s all totally authentic,” said Riddle, “and good for India if that’s true. But we don’t know. There’s no transparency, no U.S. audits, no reviews.”

Right now, he said, we import 70 percent of the organic soybeans we use, and 40-50 percent of organic corn.  Many of those grains are coming not only from India, but also from Turkey, Romania and the Ukraine. Those three, he said, are inspected by a Turkish agency which lost its accreditation to sell in the European Union and Canada two years ago. The USDA tried, but failed, to suspend the Turkish agency’s accreditation. From Riddle’s point of view, this means we are letting in questionable imports.

“Even if they are authentic, we are rewarding farmers in foreign lands rather than supporting organic farmers in America who are protecting water quality, preventing soil erosion, enhancing biodiversity, and growing good clean food. We need to do everything we can to preserve organics here. And, hello, if anything can grow here organically, it’s corn and beans.”

But who will grow it? Riddle admits that while organic food sales have spiked, the number of U.S. organic farmers has not increased. He himself turned from annual to perennial crops after some severe storms.

So, beyond blueberries, who will grow our vegetables? Riddle says produce is still a good, quick-turnover crop for beginning farmers, although he encourages diversification for biodiversity and future profit.

Organic farmers still face “a huge barrier” economically in the required three-year transition period from conventional farming methods to organic certification.

“There’s no safety net to help conventional and beginning farmers convert to organic,” he said. “While a country like Denmark is behind that transition 100 percent.

“As a result, we become more dependent on imports. The farther we get away from our own gardens, community supported agriculture programs, farmers markets, there’s a larger danger of not being authentic.

“There are container ships arriving here with 450,000 tons of “organic” grain at a time. It’s really difficult to think about traceability on that grain.”

Riddle, along with major players in the organic community, also worries about the rise in hydroponically grown products being labeled as organic.

“It’s right in the law that the term organic means it enhances the health of the soil. If there’s no soil, how can you apply the term? It’s misleading to the consumer. It’s fine if they want to label the products as pesticide-free, but hydroponic growers shouldn’t be cashing in on the organic market.”

Riddle worries about the current immigration crackdown, fearing that people will forget the contributions to agriculture made by Hispanics, Somalians, and, in his neck of the woods, the Hmong of Laos.

He’s hoping Ohio will create its own organic advisory board, to help bolster the movement. He may find ways to shake hands with the new administration, but he wants them to feel an organic grip.

“This whole movement toward organic food and farming happened outside the political sphere,” he said. “And it’s not going to go away.”

Grow Home: 38th Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conferences moves to Dayton Convention Center

By Tara Pettit, Dayton City Paper, 1/31/17

Collaboration, ideation, and innovation on statewide practices in sustainable food and farming practices will be “homegrown” this year at the 38th annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) Conference, “Growing Today, Transforming Tomorrow.” For the first time, Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference will be hosted on Dayton soil, transforming the Dayton Convention Center into what will become the new “brainstorming headquarters” of OEFFA’s kick-off food and farming event of the year.

Previously held in Licking County’s Granville school building for 11 years, OEFFA’s continuously growing conference prompted leaders to seek a larger space to accommodate increased participation and diversify programs, speakers, workshops, and banquets. OEFFA is excited that conference attendance continues to increase as a result of the nation’s growing awareness and interest in sustainable farming and food production.

“The local and organic audience is very different than what it was 38 years ago when we first started,” says Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator. “When we first started holding the conference, ‘the O-word’ [‘organic’] was a dirty word. Since then, our work has become much more mainstream and the demand from consumers for organic foods has grown tremendously.”

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As the conference has grown since its inception in the early ’80s, OEFFA has tailored programs for multiple audiences, incorporating a wider variety of workshops and sessions that appeal to both the agriculturalist and the food enthusiast. OEFFA designed many sessions to stimulate public discussion on food and farming issues, policies, and best practices—with current-focus topics at the community and state level. As these legislatures address issues around food production and farming practices, OEFFA has continued to play an influential advocacy role.

Work for the farm, you

Since its establishment in 1979, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, help farmers and consumers reconnect, and work to build a sustainable food system. The organization aims to bring prosperity to family farmers, meet the growing consumer demand for local food, create economic opportunities for rural communities, and safeguard the environment in Ohio and beyond. The organization also supports several key initiatives that have made a real difference in Ohio’s local and organic food systems: an investment fund to create access to affordable capital for local farmers, direct assistance for small farmers through promotion and support of their businesses and products, diligent state and federal policy advocacy, annual free public farm tours and workshops, and publicly accessible local food and farm resources.

Additionally, OEFFA operates one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the nation. The annual conference serves as the culminating event where results from OEFFA’s past year of activities are featured, directly connecting individuals from the Ohio communities in which it invests.

Family style

Responding to the expanding interest and involvement in food and farm policy, OEFFA has restructured the conference’s programs to accommodate a wide spectrum of agricultural knowledge and expertise, even for the non-farmer.

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“We have really designed this year’s conference to have something for everyone,” Ketcham says. “If you are a farmer, gardener, participate in a community garden, or just like to shop at the local farmer’s market and care about local food, the conference has a lot to offer.”

With Dayton hosting this year, several local OEFFA members and organizations will lead a variety of workshops and sessions to educate the community on innovations and best practices in the sustainable food and farming field. Local workshop and session leaders include Krista Magaw of Tecumseh Land Trust leading “Farmland Access 101: Options for Landowners and Growers”; Lisa Helm of former Garden Station co-op leading “Low-Tech Farm Hacks and DIY Infrastructure”; Mary Lou Shaw of Milk and Honey Farm leading “Chemical-Free Home Orchards”; and Ben Jackle of Mile Creek Farm leading “Old MacGyver Had a Farm: A Forum for Sharing On Farm Innovations.” In addition, OEFFA Stewardship Award winners Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics will engage in a live interview as part of the Ohio Humanities’ newly launched OEFFA multi-media oral history project.

As key players in Dayton’s sustainable food and farming efforts, each local leader involved in this year’s conference will share her or his own expertise and lessons to educate and engage participants on ways they can contribute to a local sustainable movement.

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Shaw points out that OEFFA’s conference “gives attendees the information they need for a changing future… the tools and resiliency to survive a changing climate, weakening global food system, and threatened water sources.” She advocates for personal food production beyond the U.S. population’s 2 percent of industrial farmers, stating, “It is for all of us, wherever we live, including urban areas like Dayton. Nothing is more healthful and satisfying as growing our own food.”

Each workshop leader is excited to be part of this statewide event and to bring OEFFA members from all over Ohio to Dayton for a weekend dedicated to what they are most passionate about and to present a diverse, but united, farming community right here in our city.

“The conference serves as an open community space to allow people with a shared passion for food and sustainable agriculture to come together,” Magaw says. “It will expose more newcomers to OEFFA and the great local food resources we already have in the Dayton region. Our hope is that people leave with a greater connection to the larger community working on these issues that, hopefully, continues beyond the conference to help throughout the year.”

This year, in addition to the traditional lineup of innovative food and farming key note talks, brainstorming sessions, open discussions, and do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops, OEFFA has scheduled several additional special programs to boost the conference’s renown as an intimate setting for networking, learning, and fellowship. With the conference’s new home in Dayton, these events will also allow participants to become more intimate with Dayton’s local food culture.

On Thursday evening, in remembrance of Ohio’s “Contrary Farmer” Gene Logsden, a brand new Contrary Farmers Social will be held at 2nd Street Market for a special, small plate sampling provided by market vendors. The social will also feature a fine assortment of Ohio and other domestic cheeses and craft beer as conference-goers gather to remember Logsden and reflect on where agriculture was in 1995 when his seminal book (“The Contrary Farmer”) was published.

Also new is the Cream of the Crop Banquet, held on Friday evening, a specially prepared meal comprised of local and organic food coupled with a program featuring insights from Ohio Senator Steve Maurer, former Ohio Department of Agriculture director and executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Ohio from 2009-2017.

With a greater focus on free events to increase exposure of the conference across the city, this year’s event will introduce morning yoga and Chi Kung exercise, open to the public, as well as free extended trade show hours on Thursday, from 4-7 p.m. and Friday, from 5-6:30 p.m.

“We have been heartened by how welcoming the Greater Dayton community has been to implement some of these community events,” Ketcham says. “We have been lucky to have received such a warm embrace by local organizations and look forward to building on those relationships in the future.”

Each year, OEFFA invites recognized leaders to present lectures on key topics in sustainable agriculture and food. This year, the organization brings two nationally-renowned individuals whose work has transformed standard practices within the larger food and farming industry.

Jim Riddle, former chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Standards Board and founding chair of Winona Farmers’ Market in Minnesota, and the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), will present his lecture titled “Transform Organic Today, Grow with Integrity Tomorrow” on Friday afternoon. Riddle will speak to the group about making “personal, societal, and political transformations during challenging times, in order to preserve human life on earth by transforming our agricultural systems to support life at every level,” as he tells Dayton City Paper. Riddle will focus on the role we all must play to advance sustainability and protect America’s future in farming and agriculture.

“I hope that audience members will hear my wake-up call, combined with suggestions for positive change, and leave with a sense of empowerment and concrete ideas they can incorporate in their daily lives,” Riddle says.

Saturday’s keynote will feature former financial and food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien, who has been considered “food’s Erin Brockovich” for her work focused on transforming our food system and calling out how our foods have been manipulated with additives that can cause allergies, cancer, and other health problems. Her talk, “Building the 21st Century Food System: Capitalizing on the New Food Economy,” reviews the state of our country in terms of health care costs associated with consumption of unhealthy foods, explores the challenges of the organic industry’s lack of support, and poses the larger question of how we would rebuild our food system to promote smarter consumer decisions.

“Progressing the sustainable food production movement is going to require all hands on deck,” O’Brien says in an interview with Dayton City Paper. “It is initiated at the local level with locally-focused individuals who understand the local issues. To be at an event like this where you not only have access to keynotes, workshops, data, but access to network with the local farming community, is so important. It’s the most valuable information you can gather for yourself and your family.”

As in previous years, this year’s conference will continue to promote family-participation. Child and teen conferences will be held, which engage youth in age-appropriate food and farming activities and programs. Childcare is available for children under the age of 6.

Dayton HQ

With the conference’s expansion comes a need for a larger space and accommodations, which spurred OEFFA’s hunt for a larger, more conference-friendly venue.

“We have actually spent years looking into our site options around the state…” Ketcham says. “Many conference venues were just not going to be a good fit for us.”
Dayton was officially chosen as OEFFA’s appointed gathering grounds for the conference, becoming this year’s epicenter for transformative food and farm ideation.

However, what’s most curious about Dayton’s hosting this statewide food and farming event is that it holds a not-so-remarkable ranking as one of the nation’s top 10 worst cities—and worst city in the state—for food access.

Last year, WHIO reported that since Kroger closed its Gettysburg Avenue store in Dayton eight years ago, thousands in the area now lack access to a full-service grocery store. Nearly every urban area in the Miami Valley contains food deserts (areas where there is limited access to both affordable and nutritious food) and local urban farming initiatives, often with the help of OEFFA, have attempted to fill the gaps with their dedicated work. The issue, however, is far too large for small groups to tackle and requires full-on citywide support.

“Maybe this year OEFFA’s presence can have a greater impact on influencing our local government to take sustainable food production more seriously… the city should be supporting efforts like ours, not undermining them,” Helm says.

Despite the obvious need for improvement in the city’s plan for food and farm sustainability reform, the decision to host in Dayton was strategic, nonetheless. In fact, the reason OEFFA decided on Dayton may point to the city’s growing alignment with the organization’s values, its conference, and the aspirations of those who are a part of it.

It was only in Dayton that OEFFA found a willing partner with the Dayton Convention Center to support its goal—nearly impossible to find elsewhere.

OEFFA “walks the talk,” as Ketcham puts it, ensuring the conference provides quality, made from scratch, all locally-sourced meals for its attendees; Dayton Convention Center rose to the call, agreeing to OEFFA’s request.

“We have worked to make sure our chicken and pork are local, but also even down to the butter and individual ingredients in our carrot cake… and that meals are prepared from scratch,” Ketcham emphasizes. “The Dayton Convention Center has been really generous in working with us to accommodate our needs.”

Sherry Chen of Adelain Fields has donated her free-range, slow-growth, and organic-fed chickens to the OEFFA conference for the past four years. She understands how important providing locally-sourced, made-from-scratch meals is to the organization and the statement it makes about the conference, which is why she readily contributes each year.

“I so believe in this organization… not only what they’re doing, but how they do it,” Chen says.

Helm remains hopeful that community sustainability efforts may be reaffirmed and even increase with OEFFA’s local presence in Dayton this year.

“Hopefully, having the conference in our area will encourage more people who have never attended from our area to make the commitment to go and ramp up their production,” Helm says. “We need more than ever to support local and sustainable food production. I would like to see Dayton’s OEFFA partnership bring more credibility and awareness to the sustainable food production efforts in our area.”

Perhaps the choice to host in Dayton is the motivation our city needs to actively join OEFFA in transforming the state’s food and farming system while addressing food security issues here at home. Regardless, it will be more important than ever, at both the state and local level, to build and support a locally focused system that improves access to wholesome foods t a time when homegrown quality is imperative.

OEFFA’s 38th Annual Conference takes place Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 at Dayton Convention Center, 22 E. Fifth St. in Dayton. The Exhibit Hall is open to the public Thursday, 4-7 p.m. and Friday, 5-6:30 p.m. All other conference events require paid registration. Registration will only be accepted at the door, not online. Thursday’s pre-conferences, as well as all meals, are sold out. Adult member registration weekend tickets cost $165 and non-member registration costs $225. Day passes, student discounts, and teen and kids’ registration will be available at the door. For more information, please visit
OEFFA.org/Conference2017.

Young, urban farmers the focus of OEFFA’s conference in Dayton, Feb. 9-11

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/20/17

Leading organic farmer, Jim Riddle, and a prominent foe of genetically engineered food, Robyn O’Brien, will be keynote speakers at this year’s annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Feb. 9-11 in Dayton.
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Educating and supporting young farmers and urban farmers is the theme of the conference, which offers a series of workshops specifically geared to beginning farmers or those about to expand their operations. Planting and management of crops, water quality, business planning, safe handling of organic approved pesticides and other topics will be discussed in more than 70 workshops.

Others include organic grain production, on-farm poultry processing, soil fertility, bee health, local meat co-ops, foraged food and combating food waste.

“Urban Agriculture has the ability to transform our urban and blighted communities by becoming a practical solution,” said Clarence Bunch, associate director at Central State University’s Cooperative Extension Service.

The annual meeting dedicates all its programming to sustainable farming – done for the health of the environment, the farmers and consumers.

Riddle, a Minnesota berry farmer, has been an inspector for organic certification and spent several years on the National Organic Standards board of the United States Department of Agriculture. He has also devised ways for farmers to better afford organic certifications.

O’Brien is a former financial and food industry analyst and author of “The Unhealthy Truth,” a popular book about the health effects of food additives and manipulations.

This year’s conference moves to Dayton after many years in Granville. Dayton Convention Center will host most of the events. A trade show, meals, kids’ and teen conferences are part of the weekend.

Registration fees are $90 for the intensive, pre-conference session on Thursday, focused on growing high-nutrient food and working smarter on the farm, and $225 for the Friday and Saturday sessions. Discounted prices are available for OEFFA members, students and children. For more information, and for registration through Jan. 23, go online. The OEFFA offices can be reached at 614-421-2022.