Category Archives: Annual Conference

Lots of Ohio milk in Organic Valley brand, says CEO George Siemon

 
By Debbi Snook
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
February 6, 2013
 
Organic Valley chief

OEFFA Conference 2013

  • What: Ohio’s largest organic food conference for home and commercial growers. Workshops on raising organic food, exhibition hall, talks by Organic Valley leader George Siemon and rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman.
  • When: Saturday, Feb. 16, and Sunday, Feb. 17, with pre-conference work shops Friday, Feb. 15, on food safety and animal grazing.
  • Where: Granville Middle School and Granville High School, Granville.
  • Cost: $205 for nonmembers; member, student and volunteer discounts avail able.
  • Contact: oeffa.org, 614-421-2022.

Milking cows at night, shoveling you-know-what during the day — who wants to be a dairy farmer these days?

Not many, if you look at the plummeting numbers nationwide.

It’s been a long time since George Siemon did it. But the head of Organic Valley‘s dairy farmer cooperative hasn’t forgotten how it works. His 1,814 member farmers from 35 states, including 174 farmers in Ohio, supply a third of the organic milk in the country.

He’ll give the keynote speech Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association‘s annual conference in Granville. We talked to him by phone from his office in Wisconsin, where he says he still sees things looking up for farmers, consumers and cows.

Did you grow up on a farm?

I did not. I was one of the odd ones who just became interested in organic farming. I have some beef cattle now, but not cows. I milked for 20 years and enjoyed it. I raised my kids on a farm, which is an awesome thing. It’s a lot of work, and I became dissatisfied with the conventional milk market, which is why I helped start the co-op.

Why did you decide to farm organically?

That’s easy. I was always a bird watcher and nature lover. As I got into farming, organics fit in better with the belief structure I had. Certainly the use of chemicals is hard on wildlife and bird life.

We’ve lost more than half of our American dairy farms since 1992.

The numbers are going down, down, down. Conventional milk has not been profitable. It might be a little better now than it has been. But farms are facing the challenge of going big or going organic, which has more profit than conventional. We’ve been a lifeline for some farms. In Maine and Vermont, 10 percent of the dairy farms are organic.

Is it hard for the co-op to find farmers?

We have an active staff searching for them. Most are existing farms or farms taken over by the next generation. Only about 1 percent are new farmers, because of the start-up costs. Also, someone has to be really passionate about it to go down that road. It’s a lifestyle of hard work for sure. In Ohio, one-third of our farmers are Amish or Mennonites, mostly in the Holmes County area.

Are we in an era of food enlightenment?

We’re definitely in a place where food is important to people. I see a lot more younger people cooking, and people looking for the healthy effects of quality food. Consumers are making their own decisions about food, based on what they read on the Internet, and not on information they’ve been spoon-fed. You always see real changes in food trends made by young females and mothers. When you have only one or two children, you want to make decisions that don’t endanger them. It really is an exciting time.

Will organic prices ever equal conventional?

It’s probably never going to happen. To start, the organic animal feed is more expensive. But social justice is a big part of what we believe in. We believe in food that should be good for the land, good for the people who eat it and also good for the farmers. The price paid for conventional milk is close to a bankruptcy price. We try to make it sustainable for our farm families.

You served on the National Organic Standards Board for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What’s your view of it now?

I served five years. We faced very difficult, complex scientific issues. It’s a unique committee that actually has legislative authority. I didn’t agree with all the decisions, but it was pretty small stuff. It’s more disappointing that we don’t always have all the science to make decisions. We need to study things like methionine, an amino-acid nutrient in chicken feed. It’s used in very minute amounts, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at it. I just wish the USDA would fund more scientific studies to help us make those decisions.

How do you feel about the recent controversial aggregating study that claims organic food is no more nutritious than conventional?

The study was a well-funded public relations effort by the opposition. You can find plenty of individual studies showing a nutritional difference. Our milk, for example, has twice the omega-3 fatty acids that conventional milk has. When you start out with an organically based, nutrient- and mineral-rich soil, how could food not be better?

Has the consumer’s interest in local food eclipsed organic food, as some surveys suggest?

The field is often portrayed as organic versus local, which is absurd. It’s a natural marriage. People are most concerned about organic food in their own backyard. It’s why we make a big effort to supply local milk to the region that produces it. We try hard to have Ohio milk sold to Ohio customers. We bottle at Smith [Dairy] in Orrville and process when we can at Miceli’s. Ohio is one of our hub sites for distribution.

The title of your conference talk is “How to Fix the Broken Food System.” Can you give us a preview?

I don’t know if I like that title. I’m a pretty positive person. I’m hoping to talk about the alternatives to the conventional food system. It can be tiresome to hear about the negatives, but we do have a crisis in this country. The food system is not a fair system when it’s dominated by interests. What’s the purpose of the food industry? To bring profits to the chemical industry or to take care of the environment? Those of us in organics just don’t think the system reflects a fair, holistic view of food.

American Meat Documentary to Screen at OEFFA Conference

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 29, 2013

Contact:
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org
Amber Gallihar, Chipotle Mexican Grill Public Relations—(216) 831-3767, agallihar@liefkarson.com 

Press Release

Granville, OH—American Meat, a documentary film about the U.S. meat and poultry industry, will be shown at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on Saturday, February 16 at 7:30 p.m.

Presented by Chipotle Mexican Grill, American Meat takes a pro-farmer look at chicken, hog, and cattle production in America.

The movie, released in 2011, features well known sustainable agriculture advocates and farmers, including Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm, who supplies pastured beef, poultry, eggs, and pork to more than 3,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants, and Fred Kirschenmann, an organic farmer, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center, and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. Both Salatin and Kirschenmann have spoken at the OEFFA conference in years’ past.

The movie explores feedlots and confinement operations through the eyes of farmers who live and work on them and compares this conventional model to Polyface Farm, where the Salatin family has developed an alternative agricultural model based on rotational grazing and local distribution. As a local food movement of farmers, chefs, and eaters concerned about the social, environmental, and health implications of today’s food system continues to grow, American Meat considers whether alternative farming methods, like those used at Polyface Farm, could feed the world.

The movie screening is part of the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference on February 16-17, an event that draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. In addition to the Saturday movie showing, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker George Siemon on Saturday, February 16; keynote speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman on Sunday, February 17; two pre-conference workshops on Friday, February 15; more than 90 educational workshops; a newly expanded trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; and locally-sourced and organic homemade meals.

All events will take place at Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St. in Granville, Ohio. The film screening is free and open to the public. All other conference events require paid pre-registration. Space is still available for the conference and pre-conference events, but Saturday meals are sold out. Go to www.oeffa.org/2013 for more information about the conference and registration or click here.

To view the video trailer for American Meat, click here. To read more about the movie, click here.

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About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

About Chipotle Mexican Grill
Steve Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO, started Chipotle with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, Chipotle continues to offer a focused menu of burritos, tacos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla), and salads made from fresh, high-quality raw ingredients, prepared using classic cooking methods and served in a distinctive atmosphere. Through their vision of Food With Integrity, Chipotle is seeking better food from using ingredients that are not only fresh, but that—where possible—are sustainably grown and naturally raised with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food. A similarly focused people culture, with an emphasis on identifying and empowering top performing employees, enables us to develop future leaders from within. Chipotle opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and currently operates more than 1,350 restaurants. For more information, go to www.chipotle.com.

Conference and Pre-Conference Registration
To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers, and a schedule, go to www.oeffa.org/2013. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. The 2010, 2011, and 2012 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.

Artwork and Images
For the conference art image or speaker photographs, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org. For photographs of the 2012 conference, go to www.oeffa.us/oeffa/conference2012photos.php.

Press Passes and Interviews with Keynote Speakers
OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend one or both days of the conference. We can also help members of the press schedule pre-conference interviews with our keynote speakers. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Event Calendar and Public Service Announcement
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) will be holding its 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on February 16-17, 2013 in Granville, Ohio. Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, the event will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, livestock production, and business management; local and organic meals; a kids’ conference and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15. To register, or for more information, go to www.oeffa.org/2013 or call (614) 421-2022.

2013 Conference Sponsors
OEFFA’s 34th annual conference is being sponsored by Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Organic Valley, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Iroquois Valley Farms, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market Columbus, Northridge Organic Farm, Andelain Fields, Albert Lea Seed Company, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Casa Nueva, Earthineer, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Horizon Organic, Lucky Cat Bakery, Raisin Rack, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Metro Cuisine, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Two Caterers, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bird’s Haven Farms, Bluebird Farm, CaJohns Fiery Foods, Eban Bakery, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie’s Old World Baklava, The Going Green Store, Green Field Farms, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Leo Dick and Sons, Marshy Meadows Farm, Nourse Farms, Sunbeam Family Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Sweet Meadows Farm, and Wayward Seed Farm.

Cooperative Organic Farming is Helping Ohio’s Family Farms Flourish

By Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service-Ohio
January 9, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Succeeding in agriculture these days can be a tough task given the rise of mega-factory farms. However, many family farms in Ohio are finding another way to flourish – through a co-op.

More than 170 farmer-owners are part of the largest organic farming cooperative in North America, known under the brand Organic Valley. Unlike the typical business model of a public company, says George Siemon, its founder and chief executive, Organic Valley’s goal is to serve farmers and consumers instead of the stock price.

“Ours is more about how do we hit a sustainable profit level which is quite low. It allows us to focus more on our day-to-day business and serving our mission, which is to offer family farmers a sustainable living and to offer consumers the greatest food.”

Farmers establish equity when joining a cooperative and are supported in various aspects of their business including production, certification and farm planning, all while staying on their own land. By combining the model with organic growing, Siemon says, family farms are seeing their finances stabilize and their businesses become more sustainable.

The organic industry is expanding at a healthy clip, he says, with almost 20 percent growth every year. He says it’s a great time to get involved.

“The enthusiasm in the organic farmer community is very high, and it’s just infectious to see that kind of excitement about farming. Something we always see is how organic breathes life back into people’s farms and their excitement about their future.”

Concerns about food quality, the use of chemicals, healthier living and animal welfare all can be attributed to the growing success of organics, he says.

Siemon will speak more on these topics and the future of organic agriculture on Feb. 16 at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s conference in Granville. More information is online at oeffa.org/2013.

Farmer will discuss raising chickens at home

By GARY SEMAN JR.
ThisWeek Community News
Sunday December 30, 2012

Call it Chicken 101.

Guy Ashmore, a certified organic farmer in Wilmington, will discuss the basics of home-poultry processing at the 34th annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference, slated Feb. 16 and 17 in Granville.

“It’s not as difficult as everybody thinks,” Ashmore said. “I think the hardest part is deciding you want to do it.”

There are a lot of misconceptions about raising chickens at home, said Ashmore, who owns That Guy’s Family Farm with his wife, Sandy.

First off, they don’t smell, if properly attended, and aren’t noisy unless roosters are involved, he said.

“When roosters start to crow, that’s when your neighbors get upset,” he said.

Ashmore suggests starting out small with a flock of about 10 chickens.

The basic starter kit involves a small, heated structure for the chicks until they’re about three weeks old.

Then, a permanent outdoor structure is recommended, encircled by fencing but allowing the chickens have enough room to move about.

In eight to 10 weeks, the chickens will be ready for slaughter — or in the parlance of farmers, “processing.”

It’s not an entirely rosy scenario, Ashmore said. Some people have to get over an initial queasiness factor, and there is an odor when the chicken carcasses are lowered in hot water to remove feathers.

It’s not necessarily less expensive to do it at home — the investment translates into about $2 per pound — but the benefit is in the quality of the product, Ashmore said.

It also satisfies the needs of a locavore, or someone who values locally grown and raised food products, Ashmore said.

“It’s all in your hands,” he said. “A lot of people want to get back to knowing how it’s raised, what they’re eating and how it’s processed.”

The OEFFA conference will include 95 workshops and more than 100 speakers from all facets of the farming industry.

“The conference offers a mix of farmers, agricultural experts and out-of-state talent,” said Lauren Ketcham, spokeswoman for Clintonville-based OEFFA.

The conference will be held at the Granville High School and Middle School complex, 248 Newbury St.

The farm association expects to draw 1,100 people, which would be the largest audience yet, Ketcham said.

OEFFA will accept registrations until the conference is sold out. For more information or to register, visit oeffa.org/2013.

Food Safety and Grazing Pre-Conference Workshops Offer Information for Experienced Farmers: Feature Chris Blanchard and Troy Bishopp

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 15, 2013
 
Contact:
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Full day pre-conference workshops on food safety and grazing on Friday, February 15 are part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

“While our two day conference covers a wide range of topics geared toward farmers, gardeners, and consumers, our full day pre-conference workshops are able to drill deeper, giving specialty crop growers and livestock farmers the skills they need to take their businesses to the next level,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the event’s lead organizer.

Farmer and food safety expert Chris Blanchard will lead the first pre-conference workshop, “Post-Harvest Handling, Food Safety, and GAP: Making It Work on a Real Farm.” The workshop will teach participants how to establish or improve food safety practices. Blanchard will review post-harvest handling practices and share methods for meeting Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) documentation and record-keeping requirements in a way that flows with the work on the farm, rather than existing as a separate set of tasks and requirements.

“Food safety is not just a legal responsibility, but a moral and ethical obligation you have with your customers,” said Blanchard.

As the owner and operator of Rock Spring Farm in Iowa since 1999, Blanchard manages 15 acres of vegetable, herb, and greenhouse production for a 200 member community supported agriculture (CSA) program, food stores, and a farmers’ market. In addition to farming, Blanchard provides education and consulting for farmers and others through Flying Rutabaga Works.

The second pre-conference workshop, “From Our Grazing Experience,” will delve into the intricate art of grass farming with “The Grass Whisperer” Troy Bishopp, and a panel of experienced graziers including Eric Grim of Grim Dairy, Gene DeBruin of DeBruin Family Dairy, Michael Putnam of Grassland Dairy, and Doug Murphy of Murphy’s Grass Farm.

Participants will learn about lengthening the grazing season using a grazing chart, specific grazing and feeding strategies, and balancing ecosystem processes with business profitability. This comprehensive workshop will also cover soil health, animal nutrition, transitioning to organic production, and maximizing profitability in pasture-based systems.

Troy Bishopp has been a passionate promoter and practioner of grazing management for more than 26 years. He contract grazes certified organic dairy replacements and grass-finishes beef on his fifth generation New York family farm. Bishopp is also a grassland conservation professional with the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NE-SARE) Professional Development Program, as well as a free-lance agricultural writer.

“I’ve found real value in building profitable, environmentally-friendly grazing strategies and tricks of the trade through good planning, observation, using my noggin, remaining flexible, and sharing these experiences amongst other farmers,” said Bishopp.

Both pre-conference workshops will take place on Friday, February 15 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Granville Middle and High schools, 248 New Burg St., Granville, OH. Pre-registration is required.

The pre-conference workshops are offered as part of the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference on February 16-17, an event that draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. In addition to the pre-conferences, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker George Siemon on Saturday, February 16; keynote speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman on Sunday, February 17; more than 90 educational workshops; a newly expanded trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

To register, or for more information about the pre-conference workshops or the conference, go to www.oeffa.org/2013.

###
About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Conference and Pre-Conference Registration
To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers, and a schedule, go to www.oeffa.org/2013. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. The 2010, 2011, and 2012 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.

Artwork and Images
For the conference art image or speaker photographs, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org. For photographs of the 2012 conference, go to www.oeffa.us/oeffa/conference2012photos.php.

Press Passes and Interviews with Keynote Speakers
OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend one or both days of the conference. We can also help members of the press schedule pre-conference interviews with our keynote speakers. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Event Calendar and Public Service Announcement
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) will be holding its 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on February 16-17, 2013 in Granville, Ohio. Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, the event will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, livestock production, and business management; local and organic meals; a kids’ conference and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15. To register, or for more information, go to www.oeffa.org/2013 or call (614) 421-2022.

2012 Conference Sponsors
OEFFA’s 34th annual conference is being sponsored by Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Organic Valley, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Iroquois Valley Farms, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market Columbus, Northridge Organic Farm, Andelain Fields, Albert Lea Seed Company, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Earthineer, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Horizon Organic, Lucky Cat Bakery, Raisin Rack, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Casa Nueva, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Metro Cuisine, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Two Caterers, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bird’s Haven Farms, Bluebird Farm, CaJohns Fiery Foods, Eban Bakery, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie’s Old World Baklava, Green Field Farms, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Leo Dick and Sons, Marshy Meadows Farm, Nourse Farms, Sunbeam Family Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Sweet Meadows Farm, and Wayward Seed Farm.

Author and Rancher to Keynote Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farming Conference: Nicolette Hahn Niman to Explore Connections between American Diet and Industrial Agriculture

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 10, 2013

Contact:
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Attorney, rancher, and writer Nicolette Hahn Niman will be the featured keynote speaker at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on Sunday, February 17 in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

“Nicolette will explore the links between modern industrial agriculture and the public health and environmental problems we’re facing today,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the event’s lead organizer. “She’ll offer fixes for our diet and our food system.”

Hahn Niman will speak as part of the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, an event that draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. In addition to Hahn Niman, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker George Siemon on Saturday, February 16; more than 90 educational workshops; two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

Hahn Niman is an attorney, rancher, and author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms, which chronicles the problems with the concentration of livestock and poultry and her work to reform animal agriculture as the senior attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance. The book profiles successful farmers and ranchers using humane practices and gives consumers practical tips for choosing meat, while weaving in the story of her personal transition from being a big city lawyer to ranching in the west.

As she worked to reform factory farming, she found examples of farmers and ranchers throughout the country raising animals humanely and sustainably, including the 700 farmers and ranchers of Niman Ranch, a natural meat cooperative started in Bolinas, California. The company was founded by Bill Niman, who she eventually married.

“Following the footsteps of Eva Gabor in Green Acres, I packed up my high heels and moved to Bill’s northern California ranch,” she wrote in Edible Manhattan in 2011. “After years chronicling industrial animal abuses, I reveled in the rightness of this kind of agriculture. Instead of being fed antibiotics and slaughterhouse wastes, these herbivores ate grass—the food their bodies were designed for; instead of a feedlot pen or metal crate, they roamed across the open range and took afternoon naps in the sun; instead of artificial insemination, they courted and mated naturally, gave birth and raised their young according to their instincts. They lived in a way that I was not only comfortable with, I was proud of,” she continued.

Hahn Niman is also an accomplished author and speaker who has been featured in Time Magazine, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. She is regular blogger for The Atlantic, and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Huffington Post, Cowboys & Indians, and CHOW.

Her keynote address, sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill, is titled, “Eating as We Farm (And Farming as We Eat” and takes place Sunday, February 17 at 2:45 p.m. Hahn Niman will explore how a shift from grass-fed, diversified, and small-scale farming to concentrated, industrial monoculture production methods have led to food overproduction, declining farm income, and fewer farms. While the industrialization of the food system, fueled by farm policy over the past half century, has resulted in cheap food, it has also caused an increase in diet-related diseases, overeating, and environmental pollution. She will offer a vision for a path forward that would improve  both the American diet and our broken food system.

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/2013.

###
About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Conference and Pre-Conference Registration
To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers, and a schedule, go to www.oeffa.org/2013. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. The 2010, 2011, and 2012 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.

Artwork and Images
For the conference art image or speaker photographs, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org. For photographs of the 2012 conference, go to www.oeffa.us/oeffa/conference2012photos.php.

Press Passes and Interviews with Keynote Speakers
OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend one or both days of the conference. We can also help members of the press schedule pre-conference interviews with our keynote speakers. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Event Calendar and Public Service Announcement
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) will be holding its 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on February 16-17, 2013 in Granville, Ohio. Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, the event will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, livestock production, and business management; local and organic meals; a kids’ conference and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15. To register, or for more information, go to www.oeffa.org/2013 or call (614) 421-2022.

2013 Conference Sponsors
OEFFA’s 34th annual conference is being sponsored by Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Organic Valley, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Iroquois Valley Farms, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market Columbus, Northridge Organic Farm, Andelain Fields, Albert Lea Seed Company, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Earthineer, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Horizon Organic, Lucky Cat Bakery, Raisin Rack, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Casa Nueva, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Metro Cuisine, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Two Caterers, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bird’s Haven Farms, Bluebird Farm, CaJohns Fiery Foods, Eban Bakery, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie’s Old World Baklava, Green Field Farms, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Leo Dick and Sons, Marshy Meadows Farm, Nourse Farms, Sunbeam Family Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Sweet Meadows Farm, and Wayward Seed Farm.

Organic Valley CEO to Keynote Ohio’s Largest Food and Farming Conference: George Siemon to Explore How Cooperative’s Model and Organic Farming Can Provide Farmers with a Secure Income and Protect the Environment

 
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 8, 2013
 
Contact:
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org
Elizabeth Horton, Organic Valley Director of Public Relations—(207) 838-0084, elizabeth.horton@organicvalley.coop

George Siemon, C-E-I-E-I-O and a founding farmer of Organic Valley, will be the featured keynote speaker at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on Saturday, February 16 in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

“As one of the nation’s foremost organic agriculture advocates for nearly two decades, Siemon and Organic Valley have developed a successful business model that rewards organic farmers, keeps families farming the land, protects the environment, invests in the future, and meets the growing consumer demand for safe, transparently-produced food,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA’s program director and the event’s lead organizer.

Siemon will speak as part of the state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, an event which draws more than 1,100 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past three years. In addition to Siemon, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Nicolette Hahn Niman on Sunday, February 17; more than 90 educational workshops; two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

In 1988, Siemon joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). Long before there were national organic standards, these visionary founding farmers pledged to farm without antibiotics, synthetic hormones, pesticides, or genetically engineered inputs; to pasture animals; and to steward the environment.

More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America with more than 1,800 organic farmer-owners in 35 states and three Canadian provinces, and 650 employees. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, the cooperative sells milk, dairy products, meats, and produce at supermarkets, natural food stores, and food cooperatives nationwide.

From the outset, Siemon was determined to prove that a successful business need not sacrifice people or the environment for profits. Maintaining this commitment, Organic Valley’s farmer-owners pay themselves a stable, sustainable price, which is set by a farmer board of directors elected by the membership. The organic milk is produced, bottled, and distributed in the region where it is farmed, to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support local economies. And, the company also works to expand organic production by helping farmers transition to organic, and provides leadership training and mentorship to new farmers to help create the next generation of coop owner-farmers.  Following this model, sales have grown and Organic Valley now provides about a third of the nation’s organic milk supply.

Siemon, who often describes Organic Valley as “a social experiment disguised as a business,” described the company’s mission this way in the Huffington Post in May: “Organic Valley represents a pioneering effort of farmers and employees to bring organic foods and farming to a level of maturity that can compete, at all levels, with chemical-based agriculture.”

Organic Valley currently has 171 farmer-owners in Ohio and has had a presence in the Buckeye state since 2002.

Two of those farmers are Jim and Janice Gasser. They have more than 80 cows in milk production outside of Wooster, Ohio in Wayne County. When they started out, they were the only organic farmers in their area. Today, according to Jim, “Our road is like a row of organic. It doesn’t seem like much in the big scheme of things, but when you drive down our road, there’s continuous organic farming for over two miles.”

Scott and Charlene Stoller are also Organic Valley farmer-owners and OEFFA members in Wayne County. Before transitioning to organic, Scott says he would argue that “you cannot feed the world farming organically.” He doesn’t feel that way anymore. “The system has proven itself. It works.” And, the success that organic farming has brought has paved the way for his children to continue in agriculture. “There’s no question that farming organically gives my kids a better chance at farming in the future,” Scott says.

Siemon was instrumental in developing the national standards for organic certification; initiated Farmers Advocating for Organics, the only organic-focused granting fund in the U.S., which is funded entirely by Organic Valley farmer-owners, and currently serves on the boards of directors for The Organic Center and Global Animal Partnership. Most recently, Siemon was recognized by the National Resources Defense Council with the 2012 Growing Green Award in the Business Leader category and was inducted into the Social Venture Network Hall of Fame in the Environmental Evangelist category.

His keynote address is titled, “Organic: Changing a Broken Food System” and will take place Saturday, February 16 at 4 p.m. Siemon will share CROPP’s story and his vision for the future of organic agriculture, and discuss issues currently affecting agriculture such as genetic engineering.

He will also be presenting a Saturday morning workshop, “The Cooperative Model,” where he will examine how a cooperative model works and the opportunities they offer for farmers.

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/2013.

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About OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a state-wide, grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Conference and Pre-Conference Registration

To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers, and a schedule, go to www.oeffa.org/2013. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. The 2010, 2011, and 2012 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to avoid disappointment.

Artwork and Images

For the conference art image or speaker photographs, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org. For photographs of the 2012 conference, go to http://www.oeffa.us/oeffa/conference2012photos.php.

Press Passes and Interviews with Keynote Speakers

OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend one or both days of the conference. We can also help members of the press schedule pre-conference interviews with our keynote speakers. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

Event Calendar and Public Service Announcement

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) will be holding its 34th annual conference, Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change, on February 16-17, 2013 in Granville, Ohio. Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, the event will feature keynote speakers George Siemon and Nicolette Hahn Niman; more than 90 workshops on sustainable farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, livestock production, and business management; local and organic meals; a kids’ conference and childcare; a trade show; Saturday evening entertainment, and two featured pre-conference events on Friday, February 15. To register, or for more information, go to www.oeffa.org/2013 or call (614) 421-2022.

2013 Conference Sponsors

OEFFA’s 34th annual conference is being sponsored by Northstar Café, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Organic Valley, UNFI Foundation, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Iroquois Valley Farms, Mustard Seed Market and Café, Snowville Creamery, Whole Foods Market Columbus, Northridge Organic Farm, Andelain Fields, Albert Lea Seed Company, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Earthineer, Edible Cleveland, Green BEAN Delivery, Horizon Organic, Lucky Cat Bakery, Raisin Rack, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Appalachia Ohio Alliance, Casa Nueva, Curly Tail Organic Farm, C-TEC of Licking County, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Metro Cuisine, Shagbark Seed and Mill, Two Caterers, Whole Hog BBQ, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Bird’s Haven Farms, Bluebird Farm, CaJohns Fiery Foods, Eban Bakery, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Fedco Seeds, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie’s Old World Baklava, Green Field Farms, Hartzler Dairy Farm, The Hills Market, Leo Dick and Sons, Marshy Meadows Farm, Nourse Farms, Sunbeam Family Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Sweet Meadows Farm, and Wayward Seed Farm.

Organic farmers honored

2/21/2012 11:05:00 PM
Submitted photo Doug Siebert and Leslie Garcia are recipients of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 2012 Stewardship Award.

PAUL COLLINS
Staff Writer, Xenia Gazette

COLUMBUS — Two decades of doing things naturally earned two Greene County organic farmers the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) highest honor on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia received the OEFFA’s 2012 Stewardship Award during the association’s 33rd annual conference entitled Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty. The award, according to OEFFA’s website, “recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.” The association was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots organization that promotes local and organic food systems through education and advocacy. The award, says Seibert, was unexpected good news.

“Our reaction was surprise,” said Siebert. “When I was at the conference, I was looking at these major players around me. It made me think, ‘Why me?’”

Since 1992, Seibert and Garcia have been certified as organic farmers in the Greene County area. The farm organically at Peach Mountain Organics, their Spring Valley-based farm. The farm possesses 43 acres, with more than 25 acres certified organic and used to produce seasonal vegetables, early tomatoes, winter greens, cut flowers, log grown shiitake, herbs and gladiola bulbs. For Seibert and Garcia, organic practices represent the most responsible and healthy approach to agriculture.

“I’ve never considered any other way to farm,” said Garcia. “I think its more in line with natural law. It’s more pleasing to God and less toxic. I went to agricultural college just one year. I didn’t like what they were teaching.”

“I’ve never thought of farming any other way,” added Siebert. “My father never used anything but chicken manure in his garden. If you know a lot about chemistry, you know you don’t want to eat a lot of what’s going onto the fields on conventional farms. I can’t appreciate soil loss or pollutions in our streams. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Visitors to the Yellow Springs Farmer’s Market will recognize Seibert and Garcia as market regulars, selling their organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, bedding plants, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants. The duo also sells their products to local restaurants, grocery and health food stores. For a time during the early nineties, Seibert and Garcia were Greene County’s only organic farmers. According to Siebert, the organic way of life has experienced steady growth and expansion since that time.

“When you look at health food stores, it’s certainly on the rise,” said Siebert. “You see more people talking about it. The reality is that it is escalating. Science is starting to convert itself to organics. It works better.”

“As a shopper myself, it’s easy to find organic products now,” added Garcia.

The award-winning organic farmers are dedicated to OEFFA’s mission to educate people concerning sustainable, ecological and healthy food systems. In addition to raising and selling produce, Siebert and Garcia hold farm tours, host agriculture classes for Wilmington College and present OEFFA conference workshops.

“Most of my friends at the OEFFA use me for information,” said Siebert.

“We’re a draw to people who are looking into organic foods,” added Garcia. “People who are concerned about food and eating fresh and local.”

Recipients of the Stewardship Award are selected by the prior year’s winners. When next year’s selection process begins, Seibert and Garcia intend on looking for a recipient who has made organic food a way of life.

“We’ll be looking for people who live and breathe organic in their everyday lives,” said Siebert.

OEFFA conference champions ‘slow money,’ keeping food and cash local

Monday, February 20, 2012
Chris Kick
Farm and Dairy

Click here for photos

Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered,” gave the keynote address Feb. 18 at the annual conference for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

He is chairman of the Slow Money Alliance — a nonprofit that encourages sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. To date, $14 million has been invested in 86 small food enterprises around the country.

Local investing

The program seeks to keep more money in local economies by encouraging Americans to invest at least 1 percent of their money into local food systems. The returns may not be seen immediately, but over time help to build a local, sustainable network of business, he explained.

Tasch said historically, the economy has been based on buying stocks in companies and “stuff” that we don’t understand, and that may be located half-way around the world.

The problem, he said, is “you don’t know where your money really is,” and you have limited control over what it does for you.

Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, described “slow money” as “a movement and an investment strategy. (It’s) about finding meaningful places for people to put their money to work, right in their own communities.”

OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland introduced Tasch, saying that he and other event speakers were helping to bring about “fundamental kinds of shifts within our society and within our culture.”

Changing the language

She spoke about the changing language of food, culture and economy.

“Slow money recognizes that respecting the interrelationships between ourselves, the connectedness of ourselves as a community, we will lead our way to a restorative economy and in doing so transform ourselves both as individuals and as a society.”

The event was in its 33rd year and attracted more than 1,000 attendees to Granville. Preconference sessions were held Feb. 17, and a wide variety of producer and environmental workshops were held the next two days.

Other speakers

Eric Hanson, extension berry crop specialist at Michigan State University, discussed the benefits of using high tunnels: higher yields, longer growing seasons, higher quality, reduced diseases, and reduced populations of Japanese beetles.

Jeff Moyer, director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute, led a workshop on no-till organic farming, and discussed the importance of cover crops to increase soil fertility.

He said if farmers plan to continue feeding the world, they need to pay more attention to the biology of their soils instead of chemistry.
“We have to shift our gears,” he said, keeping chemistry in mind, but focusing on the life and fertility of the soil.

Several presentations were held on hydraulic fracturing — the modern practice of extracting oil and gas from deep shale formations.

Vanessa Pesec, president for the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection, gave a talk on protecting land and communities from irresponsible leasing and drilling. She handed out “stop fracking” signs to those who were opposed to the practice.

Different perspectives

Presenters at times disputed facts over hydraulic fracturing and the tone toward the subject depended on the speaker.

Cheryl Johncox, of Buckeye Forest Council, discussed the legislative and regulatory landscape of fracking. She showed pictures of properties that had reportedly suffered losses in land value and use.

Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension Educator in Jefferson County, talked about the importance of responsible leasing, but also the opportunities shale gas can provide to farmers, communities and whole economies.

A common misconception is the amount of waste water being injected into disposal wells, as well as understanding the difference between disposal wells and production wells. He said most of the water in eastern Ohio’s fracking rigs actually is being recycled and reused, a process he’s witnessed on the sites he’s visited.

OEFFA presented its stewardship award to Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Greene County. Both have farmed organically at Peach Mountain Organics since 1992, growing certified organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants.

They sell their products at the Yellow Springs Farmers’ Market, local restaurants and grocery and health food stores.

‘Slow Money Alliance’ creator pushes cause in Ohio

BY DANIEL NEMAN
TOLEDO BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch authors Slow Money, a national effort to encourage sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch authors Slow Money, a national effort to encourage sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses.

The best description of slow money, said Woody Tasch, who coined the term and started the Slow Money Alliance, is that it is the opposite of fast money. And the best way to think about fast money is to first consider fast food.

Its detractors say that fast food is corporate, standardized, unhealthy, and often harmful to the environment. In rebellion against the fast-food culture, a small but growing population around the world is now actively living the slow food lifestyle — organic foods, freshly grown on local farms.

“Fast money is 1,000-point drops in the Dow in 20 minutes. It’s all the stuff everyone is worried about. … It’s financial institutions that are too big and complicated, derivatives that are too risky,” Mr. Tasch said on the phone from his home in Boulder, Colo.

Mr. Tasch will be a keynote speaker Saturday at the 33rd annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, to be held in Granville, Ohio, east of Columbus. He is the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, and it is from that 2008 book that the young movement sprang. It is a grassroots response to what it sees as the harm done by enormous agricultural corporate interests: It asks ordinary people to invest part of their money in small farmers and local food systems.

The return on these investments will not be large, Mr. Tasch said, but the investors will have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to provide what he said is healthy food grown on human-scale farms.

“Our industrial food system is fraying our way of life,” he said, citing soil erosion, loss of organic matter in the soil, and a decreased population of microorganisms and earthworms necessary for growing crops.

Not everyone agrees. Cargill, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, tries to encourage sustainable farming, said company spokesperson Pete Stoddart. Using a technology called precision agriculture, the company can tell farmers exactly which nutrients are needed for the soil in each part of their farms, he said.

In addition, Mr. Stoddart said, Cargill works to lessen its environmental impact by lowering its own use of energy and emission of greenhouse gasses. Last year, he said, 11 percent of the company’s energy came from alternatives to fossil fuels.

The slow money movement is fairly new, Mr. Tasch said, and it is still finding its direction. As of this writing, there are 14 chapters around the country, with more coming soon, where members get together and try to determine the best ways to give financial support to local food producers and distributors.

Four investment clubs have formed from these chapters, in which the members pool their money and vote to decide how it should be invested. In one club in Maine, 20 people invested $5,000 apiece and have been using this pool to make small loans to farmers and a few small businesses. In North Carolina, 12 people got together and refinanced a loan for their local food co-op, paying off a loan at 10 percent and offering instead a rate of 3 percent to the co-op. They get to help the co-op and at the same time make a small return of 3 percent on their investment, he said.

Of course, not everyone has $5,000 to invest in anything, and Mr. Tasch is sensitive to criticism that his organization is elitist. Organic and locally produced food is typically more expensive than food grown by agribusiness firms, which benefit from the economies of mass production and the higher yields created by using pesticides and chemical fertilizer. Many people cannot afford the higher cost of the organic or locally grown food he promotes.

“There is no question everyone will not have access to this increased organic or locally produced food all the time. The way to think of this is to think of it generationally,” he said, adding in a few generations everyone will benefit from a balance of organic and corporately grown produce.

Mr. Tasch said he does not believe the giant agriculture corporations set out to do harm; they were trying to grow more food for more people at a cheaper price. But they did realize how their policies would affect people’s health — he mentioned the high rates of obesity and diabetes — and the vitality of local businesses.

“Just like we saw in the financial system, when companies become too big they become detached from real life, real people, real consequences,” he said.

The slow money movement wants to counter that model with a plan that is both small and large at the same time. The goal at the end of a decade is for 1 million people to invest 1 percent of their money into local food businesses.

“It just seems to a lot of people that if you stop treating food as a commodity, you begin to recognize other values that it brings to you in your own health, the health of the community, and the health of the land,” he said.

The conference is sold out for Saturday, but tickets remain for a preconference event from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday. At that event, Mr. Tasch will speak about how to finance the local food system.

Contact Daniel Neman at: dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.