Category Archives: Annual Conference

Organic Valley’s George Siemon — a Living Legend in Sustainable Agriculture

The Huffington Post
February 26, 2013
By Stefanie Penn Spear

While attending Ohio’s largest food and farming conference last weekend, I had the opportunity to sit down with Organic Valley CEO George Siemon. Siemon was the featured keynote speaker at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association‘s (OEFFA) 34th annual conference in Granville, Ohio.

I’m inspired by Siemon’s ability to engage in food advocacy and policy while at the helm of this highly successful business. Organic Valley is an exemplary nearly billion dollar company that shows prioritizing human health and the environment is not only smart business, but vital to creating a sustainable planet for future generations.

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SS: How did you get involved in farming and what did you do prior to the formation of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP) in 1988?

GS: I was your classic back-to-the-lander. I moved to the country and lived close to the land. I got pulled into being a farmer and really enjoyed the traditional wisdom of the older farmers. Then I discovered organic farming. I wasn’t raised on a farm, so I was very excited for something new. I milked cows for about 10 years, but then got increasingly frustrated by the marketing system. It wasn’t rewarding, it wasn’t reasonable and commodity prices didn’t make any sense, so the economic part of it wasn’t satisfying.

At the same time, the 1985 Farm Bill was the last hurrah of what you call a populous farm movement. There was the unloading of manure on the steps of the USDA [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and the different American radical ag groups, and there was a group in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Farm Unity. After the 1985 Farm Bill had very disappointing results, they felt that they would not get the kind of help they needed from the government. They needed to find ways to help themselves, and the Wisconsin Farm Unity had the idea of starting value-added co-ops which was very pioneering at that time. It just so happened that one of the board members was in our region and he wanted to start an organic produce co-op, vegetable co-op. So, it was really a political activist group that had the idea to start a co-op that would help do what the government was unwilling to do, which was trying to provide farmers with a viable market.

It was a do-gooder concept that started taking root. We started our co-op in 1988. We had tremendous community support from the beggining.

SS: You were a big part of designing the original organic standards. What can you share on how and why they were formed?

GS: Organics is a unique industry in that they actually want more regulations. There were starting to be state laws on the definition of organic and they were conflicting and it was getting to be a mess, so in 1989 we started the process of a national bill. We passed an organic labeling law in 1990 and right away we noticed that organics was a fairly neutral political issue and crosses many stakeholder groups. It was a unique law in that it has the only congressional empowered advisory group in the whole United States government called the National Organic Standards Board. That took a while to get going. Between 1990 and 2002 there was a long period of time to get the standard up and out. It was very challenging to have a program that covered all the commodities.

We have the strictest standard in the world and we should be proud of that.

SS: Local vs. organic, what do you think?

GS: First off, organics is part of the movement of people reconnecting to their food and that’s the good news. Seeing how it affects their lives and so naturally local is part of that same reconnecting to your food. I could never comprehend the local vs. organic because it would seem that if you’re reconnecting with your food and concerned about your food and your local community that you would be concerned about farming organically in your local community and not polluting your watershed. To me it’s a way over played conversation.

There are farmers that farm organically that don’t get certified. That’s a different story. They are still organic, they just can’t use the USDA seal. So to me supporting local chemical farmers vs. an organic farmer, I’m pretty sure that if you look for a local organic farmer you’d find one. You should always support your local people because that’s your local community.

Local is a value that needs to be built on top of organics, not a value instead of organics. It should be organics plus other values because organics only go so far on its value model. It tells you how food is produced. It doesn’t tell you that it was produced locally. It doesn’t tell you if it was produced on a small farm or a big farm, or all the things that you as a consumer may choose to think is important. It’s a consumer choice issue.

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SS: What are your hopes for the next five years?

GS: My hope is always about educating the consumer. I’m all for everything we do in Congress and politics but its been a little disillusioning to say the least. Educating consumers and getting them to make choices is to me still our biggest hope going forward. Unfortunately, the economy, the recession or whatever you want to call it, just drove us to this numbing conversation about jobs, jobs, jobs and it has really set us back. I am very excited about the web and how it educates people. I’m very excited about educating young mothers, which is really what drives our business. You can really see a very positive movement out there that keeps going despite all the challenges.

SS: What about the connection between human health and the environment?

GS: Part of my talk today is to at least acknowledge that we have some very serious health issues and we are not connecting it to food enough or the environment, and they are obviously connected. Health has got to take on a preventative basis. We have to start preventing health [problems] versus coming up with these health crisises and part of that is through food. We are not addressing food related health issues near enough.

SS: What are your thoughts on genetically engineered (GE) food?

GS: GE foods have never been regulated. There’s a lack of regulation and there’s a grip of control by the GE community in D.C. that’s pushing bills through. They tried to get a bill passed recently to make it faster yet to get these products through. They are basically being railroaded through. There’s a lot of investment money on the line that hasn’t come to bear yet, so there’s a lot of pressure to get these products out there.

I don’t have much confidence in the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] doing good due process. First thing they should have real regulation and they don’t. Second, we should at least label it. Number one, organic farms need to know they are buying input that is not GE. Number two consumers should know as well.

We started the labeling effort and it has been a very good educational tool. We’ve gone from ground zero to a very impressive position. We are going to have a hard time ever getting through in D.C. But the state label initiatives started up. I don’t think that California was necessarily the best state to start with, but we had a good fight in California and we did really well. The truth is now that one of these states is going to pass a law and it’s going to be disruptive. We’ve actually made big strides, very big strides. I’m very pleased. It looks like Washington state will pass and that will rock the boat because no food processor, me or otherwise, supports state by state laws, because it’s a nightmare for packaging. So we’ve actually gone from no hope to a pretty amazing position in just two years. It’s really exciting seeing us reverse the trend.

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SS: So you’re close to becoming a billion dollar company. Where do you see Organic Valley in 10 years?

GS: What’s nice about working for a family farm cooperative is you’ll know where you’ll be in 50 years, which hopefully will be an honest marketing vehicle for their children’s children. It’s kind of neat to know who you want to be in 50 years. Not many businesses can actually say that, but we can. As far as in 10 years, we’ve always been very thrifty and modest but we have to now face the reality that we might have a 19 percent growth rate this year, and that if we were to grow 10 percent starting in 2014, by 2020 we’ll be a $2 billion company. So we’re having to put a different set of glasses on now and look at our reality which has been a fantastic success.

Thanks to Siemon for his hard work and dedication in the sustainable agriculture industry and to OEFFA for their long-standing mission 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.

Ohio’s organic farmers opt for biology over chemistry

WKSU Quick Bites
Friday, March 15, 2013
By Vivian Goodman

Having a bite to eat could get scary… very soon.

Among potential impacts of the sequester: reduced food safety when federal inspectors are sent home.

But food worries are nothing new.  Consumers learning about the harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified organisms have long been demanding healthier, seasonal and local food. To meet that demand, many of our region’s small farmers use biological rather than chemical methods to keep crops healthy and bug-free. For today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman looks at the future for organic farming.

When the federal government first set national standards for organic farms in 1990, there wasn’t all that much consumer demand for fruits, vegetables and grains grown without synthetic fertilizers and insecticides, and meat from animals that don’t do hormones.

Finding new non-chemical methods
Today organic farmers are rotating crops, composting, finding new ways to make pesticides passé, and doing about $55 billion in annual business.

But big agribusiness still rules. Only 1 percent of America’s cropland is organically farmed.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s annual conference drew about 1,100 participants last month, about 100 more than last year’s event. They came on a snowy mid- February weekend from all over Ohio and neighboring states and included farmers, research scientists, food producers, distributors, backyard gardeners and foodies of all kinds.

The root of the matter

Kitty Leathem led a workshop on root vegetables.“I’m known around here as the green chef.”

That’s what they call her at Granville’s farmers market, where it’s easy to find her. Just follow the bee-line to her turnip and rutabaga pies.

The Green Chef calls her workshop “Out of the Dirt and On to Your Plate”

“Because where do root vegetables live?”

In the dirt.

“And of course if you put chemicals on, where’s it going to go?”

Into the plants.

“Right into the plants. Try and eat organic root vegetables.”

There are 90 workshops at the conference; 10 have the word “organic” in the title.

Willing to pay for healthier choices
On average, eating organic costs about 20 percent more. But consumers who have read the works of Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin and seen the movie Food, Inc. don’t mind paying the difference.

“There’s a better environment for organic foods, which is a big part of it,” says George Siemon. He runs the largest organic farm cooperative in the nation. Organic Valley represents farmers in 31 states including 174 in Ohio.

A food system that needs organics

Siemon’s keynote speech at the ecological food conference is titled, “Organic: Changing a Broken System.”

“Part of the broken food system is the amount of control that certain parties have in D.C. So I don’t feel the farm bill is really an honest process that serves our bigger community. … Organics just got hurt badly in the recent farm bill. Anything that was extra, like research on organic farming and other things. got cut to zero.

“Of course we get very little anyway, but that’s the beauty of organics. It’s been very self-starting. … It’s a grass-roots movement, and we’ve done well without the government’s help.”

Siemon’s organic cooperative is in its 25th year. It recently reached $1 billion in annual sales.

Improving but still needs fixing
But he says the system remains broken.

“We have a lot of food-related illnesses and environmental issues and cultural issues that are related to our agricultural practices, and I think it needs to have a better conversation than we have. Organic farming is a wonderful answer for financial viability and care for the land and producing healthy food, … so it’s a real solution.”

But Stanford University came out in September with a report that said organic doesn’t make a real health difference.

“I could challenge that study all day long,” says Siemon. “And of course, we have people who are opposed to us.”

More funding in the pipeline for organic farmers
He believes more financial organizations are willing now to fund organic farms, because of demand from consumers.

“And one of the things our coop has taken great pride in is trying to  provide a stable price to farmers and a stable marketplace and bankers recognize that there’s a future here.”

Mike Storer of Columbus-based DNO Distributors couldn’t agree more. He’s in the food conference’s exhibit hall because the grocers and restaurants he serves want more organic food.

In search of Ohio organic farmers
 “At this show, what we’re trying to do … is we’re trying to locate some more farmers, specifically Ohio organic farmers. We have a lot more demand than supply right now. It’s really picked up in the last three years.”

Three years ago, he says, “We would … get maybe one or two calls. Last year we started to get dozens and dozens, and this year (there’s) so much demand for organic that we’ve exhausted almost everybody who currently grows for us.”

Another hopeful sign for the future of organic farming: OEFFA last year launched a “farmer’s bank” to provide capital for sustainable agriculture in Ohio. It now has $500,000 going to build the supply of farm-fresh local food for our tables.

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next Friday, we’ll learn the business secrets of a veteran quality grocer.

George Siemon wants to fix America’s food system

February 12, 2013
By Dan Neman
The Toledo Blade

When George Siemon looks at the food system in America, from the soil to the way we eat, he sees problems.

The soil is contaminated with chemicals, he said in an interview last week. Farmers are trying to survive on the smallest of margins. Far too much food is wasted. And too many Americans suffer from food-related illnesses such as diabetes and obesity.

The food system is broken, he said, though “a lot of people would not agree with me.”

Siemon, 60, is CEO and one of the founders of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, an agriculture co-op that produces dairy products, eggs, and similar foods under the Organic Valley and Organic Prairie brands. It is the largest organic farming co-operative in North America.

On Saturday, he will be in Columbus at a conference sponsored by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. He will deliver the day’s keynote address, “Organic: Changing a Broken Food System.”

His co-op is made up of more than 1,800 organic farmers in 31 states; each farmer owns a share of the company and receives a portion of the profits. They produce food they consider to be better for the environment than from conventional farms, and possibly healthier for consumers.

Though the number of people eating organic food is rapidly growing, they are still bucking a national trend. Conventionally grown foods are cheaper than organic, and some government policies — Mr. Siemon specifically cited the push for ethanol — seem to favor using chemicals in farming, he said.

“If you get involved in food, you very quickly learn that farm politics are controlled by big corporations whose main concerns are the the same as the people’s,” the Wisconsin-based former dairy farmer said on the phone from Florida, where he was taking a vacation.

“Food is a complicated subject, and a lot of our policies are very simplistic,” he said.

One of the perceived problems with organic farming is that the farmers’ yield is often thought to be smaller than that of conventional farmers, who use chemicals and pesticides specifically formulated to help boost the farms’ output. Mr. Siemon countered that organic farmers actually can match the average yield of conventional farmers in some produce such as corn, though not every year.

Instead of pumping nutrients into the soil, organic farmers have to rotate their crops in the traditional manner, for instance planting corn, alfalfa hay, small grains, and soybeans in successive years.

“Ideally, you have livestock involved, and you have manure,” he said.

Pastures are not just an important way to rest the soil, it is also good for the health of livestock, he said. It gives them exercise and allows them to eat something other than corn feed.

While last year’s drought affected farmers everywhere, he said that organic farmers actually made it through better than conventional farmers.

“There is no question that organic farmers do better during a drought because we have more diversity in crops. The more diversity you have, the more options you have for rain helping you,” he said, explaining that rain generally helps the crops that need it most.

“We have a loose, viable soil. Because it is not a chemical agriculture, it encourages more roots. And roots are a big part of organic farming,” he said.

The more roots a plant has, the more able it is to absorb moisture in the ground.

“It’s kind of like if a human got spoon-fed food, they wouldn’t be very fit, as opposed to a human who has to go out and hunt for his food.”

Ohio Food and Farming Conference Draws Near

WYSO
By Jerry Kenney

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is a statewide, grassroots, nonprofit group that  was founded in the late 90’s.  Farmers, gardeners, and folks who were thinking more about the foods they were  eating began working together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system.

On February 16-17, Granville, Ohio, in the heart of the state, will be home to OEFFA’s 34th annual conference,  Growing Opportunities, Cultivating Change.  It’s Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference, an event  which draws more than a thousand attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest.

Renee Hunt is the Education Director at the Ohio Food and Farm Association. We talk with briefly about the OEFFA and the conference.

One of the keynote speakers at this year’s conference is Nicholette Hahn Nieman, she’s an Attorney and rancher who writes and speaks about improving our food and farming system.  She also spoke to us by phone from her home in Northern California.

Listen to the interviews here.

The Intersection of Food and Public Health

WOSU
All Sides with Ann Fisher

We live in a world where one billion people are undernourished while another billion are overweight. On this hour, we’ll hear about the role of public health in achieving both local and global food security. Can we change how we make our food?

Guests

  • Nicolette Hahn Niman, a rancher, attorney, and author of Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms
  • Lynne Genter, co-founder of the Clintonville Farmers Market, practicing nurse and serves on the OSU Wexner Medical Center Food Advisory Council

Listen to the podcast here.

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.

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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.

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.