Category Archives: Annual Conference

Interviews from OEFFA’s Annual Conference

By Seth Teter, Town Hall Ohio, 5/11/15

“Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil” was the theme for this year’s OEFFA Conference. Listen to perspective from farmers and eaters alike on how to keep Ohio growing. Featured interviews include Alan Guebert of the Farm and Food File, Joseph Swain of the Columbus Agrarian Society, Tom Redfern of Rural Action, and Jill Clark of the John Glenn School of Public Policy.

Listen here.

Length: 39:20

OEFFA workshops help promote farmer skills

By Chris Kick, Farm and Dairy, 2/17/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — If you wanted to learn something new about farming or food production, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference had you covered.

More than 100 educational sessions were presented Feb. 14-15 at the conference in Granville, Ohio, which covered such things as field crops, livestock, specialty crops, business and marketing decisions, and farm policy.

Sessions were led by everyone from small-scale, part-time producers, to full-time farmers and university researchers.

Beginning producers

Ben Jackle, of Mile Creek Farm in New Lebanon, talked about what it takes to get started growing vegetables for profit. He and his wife, Emily, have grown vegetables and flowers in the Dayton area since 2007.

Many decisions must be made when starting a produce farm, but Jackle said, “it all comes back to the soil.”

Good soil means considering the chemical, biological and physical properties, Jackle said.

Biologically, producers need to build soil organisms and organic matter. Chemically, they must balance and supply the necessary mineral nutrients; and for good physical properties, they need to install the right drainage to reduce erosion.

Beyond soil, producers need to learn some of the “farmer skills” that it takes to grow a crop. Jackle and his wife did not grow up on a farm, so they’ve been learning things like painting, welding, drilling and cutting, record keeping, and maintenance.

“Even if these things aren’t things that are necessarily interesting or something you yourself want to learn — you’re going to have to be hiring someone to do these things,” Jackle said, because they need done.

Producers also need to consider whether they want to scale up their production, or stay at the same size and become more efficient.

Raising livestock

Choosing the right scale was one of the key points in a presentation about how to raise and manage livestock.

Jesse Rickard and Chelsea Gandy, assistant managers at Fox Hollow Farm, in Knox County, discussed “practical and innovative methods” for raising livestock.

For Fox Hollow, some animals, like the farm’s 300 sheep and 100 beef cattle, are raised on a “production” level, while other things, like the farm’s two dairy cows raised for milk, are kept on a “homestead” level.

Rickard said farms can have a combination of production and homestead ventures, and even a few experimental ventures, if they so choose.

Fox Hollow Farm is nearly 300 acres and includes 180 acres of managed pasture. The farm also produces chickens and pigs.

Livestock on a grazing operation require less infrastructure and to a great extent, the animals manage on their own, and that includes nutrient recycling.

“Animals are basically employees, if you manage them correctly,” Gandy said. “If you use them right, you can really get them to build your soil fertility, build your organic matter and they just do a fantastic job.”

In addition to deciding what animals to raise, livestock producers need to think about equipment needs, water availability, nutrition, marketing, labor and safety of farm workers.

“These are all things that will make or break your operation,” Gandy said.

Good record keeping is also a must, and so is being profitable.

“Sustainable farming is only sustainable if we can continue doing it,” Gandy said.

Awards

OEFFA presented its stewardship award to Bill Dix and Stacy Hall of the Brick Dairy Farm, of Athens County. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.

In 1992, Dix and Hall started Big Rumen Farm, a 300-acre pasture-based dairy farm in Athens County with a small herd of Jersey heifers and a milking parlor.

In the years that followed, they joined a regional network of dairy farmers known as “Prograsstinators,” which, in conjunction with Cornell University, helps producers compare financial information to improve the management and profitability of grass-based dairy operations.

John Sowder, of Franklin County, received the Service Award, which recognizes outstanding service to OEFFA.

Sowder served on OEFFA’s board of trustees from 1992 until 2015, including multiple terms as treasurer.

He lends catering skills to OEFFA by helping to organize farm-to-table events and OEFFA’s conference meals, which are locally sourced and made from scratch.

 

Breakthrough in varieties make organic apples easier to grow in Ohio

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/16/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — Having trouble finding an organic apple grown in Northeast Ohio? You’re not alone. Most are from the state of Washington, clear across the country.

Yet apples grown in our soils and shaped by our weather happen to taste better. If we could buy organic versions more easily, we could also support our local farm economy.

Apple scab is the main reason for the lack, a fungal infection that thrives in more humid climates and leaves apples disfigured. Most scab is controlled by chemicals that do not meet standards for organic certification.

But there’s new hope to increase organic apple production in our region, and two of its proponents are orchardists Don Kretschmann and Tim Gebhart from Rochester, PA, about 40 miles southeast of Youngstown. The farming duo appeared at the recent 2015 OEFFA sustainable food conference and said there are a lot of reasons to start growing organic apples, at home and on a commercial farm.

Here are five of them:

More scab-resistant varieties are on the market. Gebhart listed a few of his favorites: Pristine (yellow, tastier than most early apples); Liberty (MacIntosh style flavor); Crimson Crisp (a good keeper, Gebhart’s favorite) and Gold Rush (flavorful, keeps in refrigeration for many months). Each is resistant to scab and many other diseases, and there are more hybrids like them coming out each year. Some of their favorite sources Cummins Nursery near Ithaca, N.Y. and Adams County Nursery near Gettysburg, PA. The duo recommends dwarf rootstocks for easier access, and spreading the roots fully when planting, not curling them into place.

More information on growing organically is available. Cornell University recently released its Organic Apple Production Guide, available online. The two farmers also recommend the web site and books by New Hampshire organic orchardist, Michael Phillips, which can also be found online.

More supplies are readily available. Organic apple growing still requires lots of specific soil conditions, serious pruning, good drainage and foliar spraying to fight off pests and diseases that like fruit as much as we do. A list of certified organic suppliers can be found online. Surround, a mudlike organic pesticide sprayed on trees to fight plum curculio that causes fruit drop, is available at Ohio Earth Foods in Hartville (330-877-9356.)

More is known about the harm caused by conventional pesticides and herbicides. Beyond effects on human health, they can kill the very beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that provide a biologically healthy soil web. Find more information in the sources previously listed. Also, commercial growers might consider the duo’s technique for warding off deer: Setting up a 6,000-volt wire around the orchard, attaching an occasional metal mesh covered in peanut butter. Once the deer get shocked, said Kretschmann, they rarely come back.

More people want organic apples. Krestchmann admits that also means more education. Organic apples can look as pristine as grocery store apples, but that is not always the case. Still, they sometimes get three times the price for whole apples by the bushel compared to the same amount they once used only in cider. The education is worth it, he says. “I can produce quality fruit to an educated customer,” he said. “I always say that using a paring knife (to trim unwanted parts of the fruit) are always better than using chemicals. Chemicals, you can’t pare off.”

Guebert tells OEFFA members ‘big ag’ is unsustainable

By Chris Kick, Farm and Dairy, 2/16/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — Bemoaning the ways of “big agriculture” and many of the trade groups that represent it, Illinois writer and columnist Alan Guebert encouraged a return to affordable, sustainable agriculture during his keynote address Feb. 14 at a state meeting of organic and sustainable farmers.

“Twenty-fifteen is going to be a big year both for sustainable and a big year for unsustainable agriculture,” he told a crowd of about 1,100 people, at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association annual conference, held at Granville schools.

On the “unsustainable” side, he expects farmers will continue to face steep financial burdens.

“How sustaining is it to plant a $350 bag of seed corn on $10,000-an-acre ground, with a $250,000 tractor,” he asked.

Government support

The only way such farmers will sustain their operations, he said, is with tax breaks and subsidies, including government-subsidized crop insurance.

“The way they farm won’t succeed and, in fact, on its own, it’s never going to succeed,” he said. ”Throughout American history, American agriculture, left to its own devices, has produced itself smack dab into poverty.”

Aside from the financial challenges, Guebert said modern farming practices are destroying fertile soil, which results in $400 billion in lost food production every year.

“American farmers and ranchers are going to have to change,” he said, noting that all generations of farmers have had to change in order to survive.

But some things don’t change, like the demand for good-tasting food that is fresh, safe and high quality, he said.

He recalled growing up on his family’s crop and dairy farm in southern Illinois, when most of their food came from within 10 miles of their home farm. The term “junk food” was unheard of, people were thinner and healthier, and there were more neighbors and neighborhood businesses.

Original foodies

Guebert said he and his rural neighbors were “foodies” long before the movement began.

“With almost perfect ignorance, we ate from farm-to-table,” he said, adding, “Our farm, to our table.”

He said some of the things “big ag” is promoting, like its claim of feeding the world and producing the safest food supply in the world, are myths.

He pointed to recent salmonella cases and foodborne illnesses, as proof.

Guebert said corporate agriculture tries to tell people what to think, when it should be informing them about the facts.

Challenging ag

If left unchallenged, big ag’s message, would be to “sit down, eat and shut up,” according to Guebert.

Guebert has definitely been a challenger throughout his career, which has mostly centered around ag journalism and a syndicated column, called the Farm & Food File, which is carried by Farm and Dairy.

Many of his columns are critical of large farm organizations and government leaders, and commodity checkoffs, especially the National Cattlemen’s Beef Checkoff, which he faults for not doing a proper job of auditing its spending.

His brother, Richard Guebert, has taken a different approach to farming. Richard is president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and now serves on the national Farm Bureau board — organizations that Alan Guebert criticizes for promoting myths and misinformation.

Guebert said the kind of agriculture he expects to survive is that which is “sustainable,” betting against things like genetically modified organisms and certain soil amendments.

“If I was to bet on the food production scheme most likely to succeed in the next 50 years, I’d bet on the scheme that has succeeded for the last 50 centuries,” he said. “I’d bet on sustainable food production.”

Organic checkoff

In a morning session, he moderated a panel discussion about a proposed organic checkoff program. The checkoff has been in the works for the past couple years, and the 2014 farm bill contains language that could move it forward.

In favor of the checkoff was organic dairy farmer Gene DeBruin, of Fayette County, Ohio. And opposing the checkoff was Carmen Fernholz, an organic crop farmer from Minnesota.

DeBruin said he supports creating a checkoff because it would help promote and distinguish the organic brand.

“If we’re going to protect our premium market, we’re going to have to put some effort into it,” DeBruin said.

Fernholz, who also holds a position with the University of Minnesota as organic research coordinator, said he’d rather see the work of a checkoff be done through a land grant college, with public tax money.

Fernholz said he’s “never seen what I would call a good story from checkoffs.”

As an organic farmer, he finds himself paying to checkoffs that already exist, but that don’t do research into organic practices.

“If I’m not getting organic research on those dollars, who’s getting it,” he asked.

One of the challenges to creating an organic checkoff, Fernholz said, is that organic producers can’t really claim it’s any better than conventional food.

“What are we going to promote?” he asked. “What promotion can you really say, other than ‘look for the organic label.’”

Organic exemption

Fernholz said he’s in favor of “complete organic exemption” from all checkoffs, and more emphasis on public research.

But new funding, even for food research, can be a tough sell for taxpayers.

“I’m just afraid that ain’t going to happen,” DeBruin said.

Guebert concluded the checkoff discussion by talking about the challenges of operating a checkoff and the responsibilities of its members.

“They’re (checkoffs) not hard to start, but they’re really hard to monitor,” he said.

A federally supported checkoff would have U.S. Department of Agriculture oversight, and certain budgeting and auditing requirements.

Guebert said organic producers still need more information, to “ensure that if this is what you want, it’s done in the manner that you want.”

Middlefield plant growth guru says strong plants make strong soil

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/14/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio — We try pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, compost, integrated pest management and crop rotation – even in our littlest yards.

But do we really know what plants want?

John Kempf, a Middlefield consultant on plant health who has clients across the country, said we are not going to get the best out of agriculture and the environment if we don’t start paying attention to the distinct needs of plants.

“They have immune systems, just like we do,” Kempf told an audience of mostly organic farmers Friday at a pre-conference session of the annual meeting of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

And, like ours, those immune systems need to be fortified over a life cycle. Kempf revealed his own food pyramid for plant nutrients, and a diagram of the stages of growth when it’s necessary to administer the right minerals in the right balance.

Herbicides and pesticides are a relic of our “warfare mentality” he said. Pests have sharpened sensors that will always draw them to a weakened plant.

“You can spray insecticide, kill the pests, and you’ll still have a weak plant,” he said.

A strong plant will not only fend off pests and disease, he said, it will also help build up the soil, assuring a stronger future for both.

Kempf says he’s not offering new information, just a synthesis of findings lost in a rush to chemical solutions and the fragmentation of plant study.

“Farmers used to be generalists,” he said. “Now there are so many specialists, and they don’t always talk to each other.

“An incredible amount of information never gets applied to the field.”

A member of the Amish community who set down his straw hat before his presentation, Kempf said much of what he’s saying can be obtained by Internet searches. He recommended a Google search for the words “nutrient requirements of” before adding the Latin name of the plant to be grown. Also helpful, he said, is the online bookstore operated by www.acresusa.com .

He recommended that home gardeners start with seeds from good sources (such as Baker Creek, Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Fedco), well-composted soil and then follow a proper schedule of nutrient application.

Over-application of certain elements can inhibit plants from accessing nutrients, with potassium and calcium frequently at odds. He advocates the analysis of sap from living plants rather than the more common practice of testing dried plant matter for nutritional content. When the crop is still alive in the ground, he said, there may still be time to improve it. He relies on the Bellville company, Crop Health Labs (1-800-495-7938).

Kempf said he got interested in plant health when he noticed a patch of cantaloupe on his family farm planted on two kinds of soil, one with a long history of chemical use, and one without. The latter had fewer pests and disease, which sent him into a self-education and eventually a consulting business. He operates Advancing Eco Agriculture at 4551 Parks West Road, Middlefield, 44062, where he sells nutrients for both commercial and home use.

At OEFFA, Kempf recounted numerous cases of strong plant health trumping bad growing conditions and pests. This spring, he will establish his own demonstration farm on 160 acres in Orwell, Ashtabula County, where he’ll grow food that will develop into a community supported agriculture program by 2016.

“It will have the healthiest plants possible, with the highest immune systems possible, and absolutely no pesticides,” he said.

Paid interns are being sought for this growing season, with information available by emailing Kempf through his web site.

The sold-out OEFFA conference continues through Sunday with more than 100 workshops on sustainable growing.

Granville, C-TEC students team up on food posters

By Charles A. Peterson, Newark Advocate, 2/14/15

Granville High School environmental studies students and a C-TEC Licking County visual communications class are working together on a graphic arts project they hope will end up on Capitol Hill.

Saturday at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference in Granville, the student teams manned a Pop-Up Gallery Show to exhibit the fruits of their labor on seven posters depicting local sustainable foods and farming efforts.

The “fruits” of the students’ efforts had a lot to do with the chief theme for the conference, “Sustainable Agriculture: Renewing Ohio’s Heart and Soil.”

The students of Granville environmental studies teacher Jim Reding conducted the research, and the C-TEC class taught by Jennifer Evans Kinsley turned that information into marketing posters.

The project is being conducted through Project Localize, a nationwide food literacy initiative through the California-based Lexicon of Sustainability. Lexicon is an organization that shows teachers and students how to identify, promote and involve themselves in sustainable economic, cultural and social progress in their communities.

The student teams generated seven colorful 48-inch by 32-inch posters displayed at the conference.

Kinsley called the experience an “authentic experience on how to work for a client and a creative team.”

“It’s providing real-life experiences working with a client and working in a design team,” she said, noting that 80 percent of the art careers her students could end up in are in marketing and advertising. “I could not replicate this in the classroom.”

Reding said his students were nominated by Farm to School program to be involved in Project Sustainability. They started the process last year by studying local sustainable food systems and carried the project over to this year.

Students had lists of farmers, food processors and other key stakeholders to visit in central Ohio to begin their research.

“We did a schoolwide field trip to all of these locations,” he said of those represented on the posters. “They interviewed the individuals after doing research and coming up with their questions.”

After taking photos and writing the text, Reding said, “We turned it over to Mrs. Kinsley’s students, who put the posters in place.”

The visual arts students used a template provided by Lexicon to produce the posters. A key challenge was taking numerous photos — as many as 80 — and knitting them together on the poster to make them look like one single photo.

“There’s close to 30 or 40 hours of work on the final posters,” Reding said, all approved by Lexicon.

C-TEC student Grant Harris, of Lakewood High School, helped assemble numerous photos to create a poster depicting the Greener Grocer at the North Market in Columbus.

“I’ve always liked the atmosphere of the North Market,” he said. “Everybody gets together to show their foods and their culture.”

Granville students Bailey Blanchard and Emily Pitcher provided the text and photos.

“What we wanted to drive home here was that (the Greener Grocer) follows a value-driven system,” Blanchard said. Those values, listed on the poster, are “nutrient dense,” “organic” and “affordable.”

Closer to home, Granville students Conner Wallace and Maddy Richardson chose Snapshots Lounge in Granville, where owner Lucas Atwood uses locally grown food and will plant his own garden behind the lounge this spring to grow produce for his menu.

“All food served is sourced within a 3-mile radius of Licking County as part of the ’30-mile meal movement,’ ” states the poster featuring Atwood and his chef, Drew Spurlock.

“They’re trying very hard to locally source their food,” Reding said of Snapshots. “They really tie into that whole idea of community supported agriculture.”

Another poster, headed “Student led and student fed,” featured the Granville High School garden and greenhouse behind the school, maintained by Reding’s classes.

“We walk outside and work in the garden, then come back in to class,” environmental studies student Tyler Thomas told an onlooker.

Kinsley said food and farm association officials offered to host the students’ first Pop-Up Gallery as part of their 36th annual conference, which featured 100 educational workshops, a trade show and locally sourced and organic from-scratch meals. Between 1,100 and 1,200 were registered to attend, an association spokesperson said.

The student teams will learn May 1 whether their posters make it to the nation’s capital, Reding said.

“Events like this weigh in to that,” he said.

‘Safe, cheap food’ is a big myth says OEFFA keynote speaker Alan Guebert

By Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/15/15

GRANVILLE, Ohio – When Alan Guebert was a farm boy in southern Illinois, Cokes came in six-ounce bottles, there wasn’t much “junk” food, and most of what his family ate came fresh from the farm or from other farms 10 miles away.

“We were skinnier and healthier,” he told his Saturday audience at the 2015 OEFFA conference on Ohio organic food and sustainable agriculture.

“No wonder there’s a foodie culture today,” he added. “These foodies just want to eat like we used to.”

A lot of life has changed, the award-winning agricultural columnist told his audience of several hundred Ohio farmers and local food enthusiasts.

“But something that hasn’t changed is good, healthy food.”

While he sees the appetite for that food increasing, he also sees a greater backlash from industrial agriculture. He cited the millions recently spent in western states on defeating campaigns on labeling genetically modified food.

“Are they trying to educate me, or are they telling me what to think,” he asked.

“A lot of people in agriculture don’t want you to succeed,” he told the group. “Somehow they see your success as their failure.

“Corporate agriculture would love to say, ‘Sit down and eat, and shut up.'”

Guebert rebutted the message that industrial agriculture provides our country with the safest, cheapest food on the planet.

“Maybe ‘cheap’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” he said, citing U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics that 24 percent of cut up chicken parts carry salmonella bacteria. He also mentioned a Consumer Reports study that showed one third of bacteria on chicken was resistant to antibiotics. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the pathogen causes 1.5 million illnesses each year, 19,000 hospitalizations and 380 deaths.

“When did eating become such a gamble,” he said, “and not even a good gamble.”

With all the subsidies from tax monies, Guebert said “big ag is not interested in giving up its dominant role.” But he believes the tide is turning in Washington, D.C., and that the next farm bill might just be a “food bill.”

“Are you ready for that,” he asked. “Are you ready for a member of Congress to ask you how important sustainable agriculture is to the health of America, and can you answer it in five minutes? What would you say? Do you have a vision? If not, you’d better get one.

“Good luck, Godspeed, and I mean it.”

Research funding stacked against sustainable agriculture, says OEFFA speaker

By Debbi Snook, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/30/15

When Doug Gurian-Sherman gears up to talk about sustainable agriculture versus industrial agriculture, he pauses to consider the farmer in the middle.

“It’s important not to demonize big ag farmers,” said the senior scientist for the advocacy group, Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. “They’re stuck in the system, too.”

When those farmers cut back on chemicals to reduce their environmental impact, they risk being less competitive with similar farmers.

But, Gurian-Sherman adds, farmers who practice sustainable agriculture – a process of conserving and enriching the soil more organically – can have similar yields and many more ecological benefits.

“It requires 30 percent more labor,” he said of the ecologically principled farm, “but that’s not necessarily a problem, since more money goes to farmers. And it can reduce the need for chemicals by 90 to 95 percent, which is better for our water and soil.

“But the money for research is stacked against us.”

Gurian-Sherman, who is working to change that, is one of the keynote speakers at the 36th annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association, a statewide support and certification group holding its36th annual meeting Feb. 14-15 in Granville.

His talk will be part of a weekend of events that include a film about genetically modified organisms, a marketplace of sustainable goods and more than 75 workshops on everything from growing hogs in pasture to gut health to understanding the Farm Bill. A pre-conference event on Feb. 13 focuses more deeply on poultry production, udder and plant health. Two-day conference costs are $225 for adult non-members, with discounts for fulltime students, OEFFA members, one-day registrants, and online purchases before Jan. 31. Costs for the Feb. 13 pre-conference sessions peak at $95.

Gurian-Sherman, a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expert on the effect of genetically engineered plants on human health, doesn’t dismiss the potential benefits of genetically modified organisms or GMOs now regularly used on the country’s largest corn and soybean farms. Transplanting genes from one plant to another can sometimes make plants more disease resistant. But they can also transfer hidden allergens.

He says more regulation and research is needed to sift through new GMOs and the growing concern over their potential to adversely affect people and the land.

If Gurian-Sherman could, though, he’d turn the argument away from GMOs.

“Part of the problem of that debate is that it focuses too much on potential health risks. Yes, all the major scientific bodies have admitted that some GMOs could be harmful to eat, but right now our research system is not robust enough to detect the risk in those crops.”

His real worry is that other, more important issues are ignored.

He lists the emergence of “superweeds” that have become resistant to herbicides, and are now reported in Southern Ohio. Farmers who grew food crops resistant to herbicides, but raised superweeds instead, are now returning to older herbicides to wipe them out.

“They’re going back with a vengeance,” said Gurian-Sherman, “and those older herbicides cause more health problems. There’s a lot of epidemiology to show a connection between one of those herbicides and higher rates of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in farmers.”

Also, he says some of today’s herbicides have likely contributed to the estimated 90 percent decline in Monarch butterflies because they’ve wiped out the insect’s main source of food, a variety of milkweed.

The trouble, Gurian-Sherman says, is the style of agriculture itself. Better soil health can be achieved with crop rotation, cover crops to enrich the soil coupled with no-till methods that curb nutrient runoff.

One is not as good without the others, he said, especially if you’re looking to tackle the algae-causing runoffs in places such as Lake Erie.

“Growing single crops without a sustainable agriculture process is in a nutshell why phosphorus is going into the lake,” he said. “Also, climate change with bigger storms.”

No-till reduces erosion and runoff, he said, but a lot of phosphorus stays on the surface, doesn’t bind with the soil and can get washed away. Growing cover crops helps prevent that.

“If no-till is implemented in a piecemeal way, you won’t see the real benefits,” he said.

Getting the word out is hard when the playing field is tipped in favor of big agriculture, he said.

“Over the last several decades, as we’ve reduced money for university research, private industry has stepped in. Now 60 percent of agricultural research money comes from industry. A lot of scientists are beholden to companies for research funds. Even if they are not directly beholden, their universities are. I know from talking to a lot of them that there is pressure to say the right thing. I’m not saying they’re making things up, but if you don’t ask certain questions, all you have is the answers to other things.”

Expert to Examine Ways to Build a Successful, Sustainable Farming System

Public News Service
01/22/15
By Mary Kuhlman
PHOTO:Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Senior Scientist at the Center for Food Safety, Doug Gurian-Sherman, will speak in Ohio about possible ways to building a successful, sustainable agriculture system. Photo courtesy of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
PHOTO:Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Senior
Scientist at the Center for Food Safety,
Doug Gurian-Sherman.
.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – While the nation’s agriculture industry is productive, a leading scientist and biotechnology expert says it’s not sustainable. Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Senior Scientist at the Center for Food Safety Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman says the industrial model of farming, focusing on methods rather than the whole system, has contributed to loss of biodiversity, as well water and air pollution.

He suggests moving toward an agroecological approach that takes into account the ways farming interacts with the environment.

“To use natural processes that are more and more understood through the science of ecology in a way that enhances production and preserves scarce resources and reduces the impacts and pollution from farming,” says Gurian-Sherman.

He says no-till farming is an example of focusing on only a method. While it reduces soil erosion and saves water, it has increased the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides. Gurian-Sherman will discuss the relationships between biotechnology and agroecology, and how they can combine to build a successful, sustainable agricultural system when he speaks at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s annual conference in February.

Gurian-Sherman points to the toxic algae pollution in Lake Erie as another example, because it is linked to the runoff of excess nutrients from no-till farming.

“It illustrates dangers or risks of relying on piece-meal solutions without taking a more holistic, systemic view of agriculture as an endeavor and as a system in the environment as opposed to a series of methods,” he says.

Another problem, says Gurian-Sherman, is the uneven playing field when it comes to social, political, and regulatory views of agriculture.

“Maybe about two to five percent of our agricultural research budget goes to ecologically-based and sustainable farming systems and the rest goes towards reinforcing the industrial model including improving its efficiency,” he says.

Gurian-Sherman adds, research has contributed tremendously to the success of industrial farming, and with better support, sustainable farming systems would become more efficient as well. He’s scheduled to speak at the conference in Granville on Feb. 15th.

Genetically Modified Crops Continue to be Controversial

All Sides with Ann Fisher
1/14/15

Ohio farmers have now joined a nationwide lawsuit against a Swiss agriculture company for selling genetically modified corn before it was approved by China, a major corn importer. Ann explores the larger issue of genetically engineered crops, the concerns over health and environmental risks, and the role they play in feeding the world with guests:

  • Ellen Deason, professor at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law
  • Doug Gurian-Sherman, Director of Sustainable Agriculture at the Center for Food Safety, and Featured Keynote Speaker at OEFFA’s 36th Annual Conference on Sunday, February 15
  • Douglas Southgate, professor in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics at The Ohio State University

Listen to the hour long conversation here.