Category Archives: Annual Conference

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.

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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.

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.

Athens-Area Farmer To Speak At Ecologial Food And Farm Conference

By Andrew Fowler, WOUB
Published Tue, Feb 14, 2012

Athens, OH

Thousands of Ohio farmers will make there way to Licking County this weekend for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s thirty-third annual conference.

The conference deals with the future of food production and how our country can reclaim food independence.

An Athens-area farmer will be speaking at this weekend’s conference.

J.B. King will talk about niche pork production.

King says his farm and many farmers who will attend the conference have a more sustainable way of farming.

“Well, we try to be real sustainable. We try to do things that not only are we doing them today, but we’re doing several years down the road. A lot of the people in the organization try to work without chemicals and without drugs, we do the same,” says King.

King was a guest on WOUB’s newswatch last night.

The conference will also include several discussions about fracking.

The 33rd Annual OEFFA Conference

Feb 8th, 2012

February is here, which means the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) conference is approaching! OEFFA expects a sellout, and only Sunday and the pre-conference workshops have space left.  Sowing the Seeds of our Food Sovereignty marks the 33rd installment of this important statewide gathering (it also features a fantastic poster by Kevin Morgan – possibly the best EVER designed for an agriculture conference!). On February 18th, approximately 1,000 members of Ohio’s sustainable agriculture community – including farmers, artisans, grocers, chefs, policy leaders, gardeners, and many others – will convene in Granville for a robust weekend of dialogue, networking, professional development, and good times with colleagues!

The keynotes are fantastic, as usual. Slow Money Alliance Chairman, Woody Tasch, will discuss Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Matter, while leading environmental attorney and executive director of the Center for Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell, will share his thoughts on The Future of Food. Green B.E.A.N. Delivery is really excited to see everyone, talk shop, and engage the issues facing Ohio’s sustainable food movement!

For those unfamiliar with OEFFA, they are a coalition of passionate people who “share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and creates economic opportunities for our rural communities.” OEFFA ConferenceA few farmers founded the organization in 1979 while rediscovering a way of growing food that the United States had largely lost in the transition to an industrial agriculture paradigm. Those were the days when mentioning the word “Organic” elicited laughter. Today, OEFFA’s membership is 3,000 strong and Green B.E.A.N. Delivery is a proud member business!

OEFFA is extremely important to sustainable agriculture in Ohio. They are the state’s largest and oldest Organic certifier. In fact, their Organic Certification program predates the USDA’s, making them one of the longest operating certifiers in the country. They certify over 700 farms and processing facilities throughout the Midwest and approximately 550 in Ohio, which encompasses between 70 to 80 percent of organic operations in the state. So, if you frequent a Buckeye State farmers market, there’s a good chance your favorite organic grower is certified by OEFFA!

Organic Certification is just one facet of OEFFA’s work. They engage in multiple programs and initiatives that build their grassroots networks and empower farmers. In addition to their certification program, they coordinate the annual conference; host a series of public workshops, free farm tours and webinars; maintain the Good Earth Guide, which lists over 300 farms and food businesses; support and connect the state’s agriculture community through educational resources, an apprenticeship program and a comprehensive listserv; and advocate for sustainable farm friendly policies at the state and federal level (Advocacy is particularly important in 2012 with the Farm Bill up for reauthorization). Yeah, they’re pretty busy folks, especially these days with the conference looming.

Speaking of the conference… it features many great workshops on a variety of topics, a screening and discussion of The Greenhorns, Contra Dance with the Back Porch Swing Band, and big exhibit hall packed with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. And, if you can’t make it this year (or – since you are only one person – you can’t make it to everything) OEFFA sells recordings of the whole thing on cd or mp3. Registration remains available for the pre-conference workshops with Woody Tasch and Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute until Friday, February10th or until sold out. But those spots, as well as remaining Sunday spots, are going quickly and they do not accept walk-in registrations; so if you are interested, do not delay, register ASAP! ! If you want to learn more about Slow Money, the winter Edible Columbus contains a great interview with Mr. Tasch. Check out the conference website for more information on the weekend’s activities!

If you are as passionate about sustainable food as we are, we really encourage you to learn more about OEFFA. They do great work. Important work. And we thank them.

Is ‘Genetically Modified’ the Future of Our Food?

January 31, 2012
Ohio Public News Service

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The proliferation of genetically-modified foods has put agriculture at a crossroads in Ohio and around the country, and some believe it is also putting food safety at risk.

Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the Center for Food Safety, says genetically-modified or “GMO” crops can contaminate organic and conventional crops, hurt other organisms, and affect human health. He says GMO crops also are becoming more pest- and weed-resistant, leading to greater use of pesticides and herbicides.

“They’re ratcheting up the toxic spiral of the herbicides they’re using. So, in the future, unless we stop these GMO crops, we’re going to see more and more of these more toxic herbicides poured on our crops. That means it’s in our air; that means it’s in our water; that means it’s in our food; and that means it’s in our bodies.”

Last year, the USDA approved unrestricted use of genetically-engineered alfalfa, the nation’s fourth-largest crop. Kimbrell says the decision sends a message that no federal agency is looking out for food safety.

“I think what you are seeing with the FDA, the USDA and even the EPA is that these are agencies that are really working to benefit a handful of major chemical companies and not really acting on behalf of the American consumer, which is what they are supposed to be doing.”

Kimbrell says polls indicate the public wants genetically-engineered foods to be clearly labeled. And Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently introduced the “Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act,” which would require such labeling.

Kimbrell cites GMO crops as one factor contributing to the larger problems of industrial agriculture. In his view, consumers and farmers need to work together and get back to basics, to build a lasting food future.

“We need agriculture that’s local, appropriate-scale, diverse, humane and socially just. That’s the ‘beyond organic’ vision, and it’s not pie in the sky. We’re going to have to do this, because the other system is simply unsustainable.”

Supporters of genetically-modified foods say they can help end the scourge of hunger and can help a farmer’s bottom line. Opponents counter that they could be dangerous, and that there aren’t regulations in place to manage them responsibly.

Kimbrell will speak at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Conference on February 19 in Granville.

More information is at oeffa.org.

The Beautiful, the Local and the Slow

Written by  Marta Madigan

Where do your investment dollars go? Woody Tasch, founder and president of Slow Money, envisions where our money could go. Inspired by the Slow Food movement, he has created a strategy embracing more ecological, human and direct approaches toward investing. A former venture capitalist and entrepreneur, Tasch came to the conclusion that there should be room in anyone’s portfolio to patronize smaller, regional enterprises.

Focusing on sustainable food and agricultural producers, Tasch thinks we can make return on investment (ROI) on healing broken relationships starting, literally, from the ground up. His blue chip tip: reintroducing organic matter into the soil. He challenges our conventional, past-century way of thinking about money and earth, asking the following three questions:

  • What would the world be like if we invested 50% of our assets within 50 miles of where we live?
  • What if there were a new generation of companies that gave away 50% of their profits?
  • What if there were 50% more organic matter in our soil 50 years from now?

Mind-blowing or common sense? Woody Tasch suggests in his answers simple ways to rebalance agriculture. One of his goals is to get a million people to commit 1% of their assets to local food systems within the next 10 years.

To “slow” part of your money down, Tasch first invites us to sign the Slow Money Principles—a six-point “reduction” of his book entitled Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money. He also proposes to join the Slow Money national network through which we can learn about investing possibilities showcased at the Slow Money regional and national meetings. Finally, he encourages sustainably minded groups to start their own Slow Money chapters and keep the momentum going locally.

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Marta Madigan: What is Slow Money? Is it an investment strategy or a movement?

Woody Tasch: It is both. And that is what makes it fun. There are two parts. One is a conversation. You can call it a movement if you want, but I really think of it as a conversation that is emerging nationally about the extent to which our global financial market and our global economy has become disconnected from sense of place, from community and, in our case, we go all the way down to actually the dirt itself, to the land, the life in the soil. And that conversation has lots of ramifications that have become very vibrant in light of the financial volatility of the last several years.

The investment strategy part drops way down to something relatively very simple. We need to take a little of our money and start investing near where we live, in things that we understand, and food being the most important place to start.

MM: In your book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, you stress the fact that soil erosion exceeds soil production. Can we really run out of dirt?

WT: Soil erosion and loss of organic matter in the soil is an environmental challenge of global proportions. And yes, we are losing it. We are losing topsoil to erosion. We are not maintaining organic matter in the soil. If we don’t change the way we are farming and living, we are going to destroy the fertility base that agriculture depends on. The estimates from Worldwatch and other environmental monitors say we are losing somewhere between half a percent to a percent of arable topsoil globally every year.

MM: What is your dirt solution?

WT: The solution is actually, again, very simple. I am not anti-technology. I am just anti-making believe that technology can solve all the problems all by itself, because in addition to new technologies we have to change behaviors. The bottom line is we have to put back organic matter in the soil. Nature is a cycle but we have been acting, in terms of what we take out and how we use it, as if it were a straight line.

The good news is that relatively simple changes in farming practices can put us on the right track. This is pretty much what organics is all about. Instead of dumping chemicals on, to try to make up for the fact that we are working in a linear way, you actually farm in a way that is more in keeping with natural cycles, putting organic matter back in the soil.

MM: Describe the ideal candidate to receive a Slow Money loan. Must this enterprise be small, sustainable, local and beautiful?

WT: We are focused on direct investing from individuals into small, sustainable, locally placed businesses, where the intent is not to focus on gaining national market share or becoming an international company as quickly as possible. The intent of the enterprises is to serve the local market first. Local and regional first and foremost.

MM: And what is beautiful to you?

WT: I love to talk about the beautiful part because the book that set me on my course was Small Is Beautifulby E. F. Schumacher. It was written in the 1970s and I think it is one of the seminal works of the 20th century. Schumacher was an economist for the British Coal Board after WWII. He was the first major industrial economist to raise his hand and say: “I think we are on a collision course with the environment. Unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is, to my thinking, an impossibility.” And he added something equally important: “Increased consumption is not synonymous with improved well-being.” I think it is beautiful because it raises all kinds of questions about quality of life and purpose of life and something that is of greater importance than economic growth or the economy.

MM: You wrote a poem in which you conclude: “Poetry is the portal/ through which capitalism can return.”

What do poetry and capitalism have in common?

WT: Capitalism per se may not be very poetic. But there’s a bit of poetry in Slow Money. Poetry is a way of communicating that forces the mind to slow down. It says as much about what isn’t said as what is. For me all of the arguments in the world, all the facts in the world, just like all the new technologies in the world, won’t get us where we need to go. What we need, if I can borrow some inspiration from Wendell Berry, is a new kind of imagination. We need to rediscover our place in the scheme of things. We need to rediscover awe in the face of nature. By nature, I mean everything from looking up at the night sky to looking down into the soil where there are billions of microorganisms in every gram of soil. This is fundamental to the life that sustains us, yet we almost never pay attention to it. Wendell Berry talks beautifully about how we need a new kind of imagination to reconnect to nature. Poetry is about imagination.

MM: What is the rate of return for a Slow Money investment?

WT: There is no one rate of return for a Slow Money investment. In fact, Slow Money can even mean philanthropy. It can be low-interest loans. It can be 0% money, the kind of investment that Muhammed Yunus calls for. Or it can be private equity. The point is that we are moving in a new direction, moving towards small food enterprises, not because of arithmetic. We are doing it for many reasons, and perhaps the least of these is the arithmetic. That said, we can justify the move on many financial grounds, as a hedge, a diversification, an interesting alternative to the increasingly volatile thing we call the stock market.

MM: How do you entice investors to park their money for a long period of time?

WT: Our job it not to entice or convince. It is more about giving people permission to do something that they already want to do.

How many people will do it? We say in shorthand that one of our goals is to have a million Americans investing 1% of their money in local food systems, within a decade. Both of those numbers are important. It is a lot of people taking a little of their money and starting to put it to work directly in things that they understand, near where they live, starting with food.

MM: Can you tell me about the Soil Trust that you plan to launch in 2012?

WT: The idea emerged for a nonprofit fund called the Soil Trust which would allow people to put in as little as $25. It would be a tax-deductible donation but it would be an investment in the sense that those dollars would be aggregated with lots of other small donations and then it would be invested alongside Slow Money investors around the United States. This capital would be used as catalytically as possible—for instance, to provide guarantees and co-investment, alongside Slow Money investing around the country. Think of it as a new kind of foundation, in which all of the assets are used to invest, rather than to generate income that is used as grants.

If we are going to build a new food system and a new restorative economy, we are going to need billions upon billions of dollars. Where is this money going to come from? Wall Street? Washington? Foundations? Whatever they can do, it won’t be enough, it won’t be direct enough and there won’t be enough of it. The only place it can come from is from all of us, who have a direct, vested interest in the places where we live. The investment returns of the Soil Trust will come back to the Trust, to be re-invested for the benefit of future generations. It is a very forward-looking “compost”-oriented form of investing, if you want to use that metaphor. It is all about putting back more than we take out.

MM: Scott Savage—a Quaker farmer and a publisher of Plain Magazine from Barnesville, Ohio—is one of your heroes. Although we can’t all revoke our driver’s license like he did and move in with the Amish, how can we simplify our lives?

WT: A lot of what Slow Money is about is just saying: “Hey! Don’t let somebody tell you that money has to be so complicated.” It gets complicated when there is layer after layer of intermediation, veils of security laws and the distance between you and what you are investing in is so great that you need legions of experts to tell you where your money is and what it might be doing.

In 1900, of every dollar that was spent by a U.S. consumer on food, about 40 cents went to the farmer. The rest went to processors, shippers, retailers, etc. Today, the farmer gets around nine cents. What happened? The system has become so complicated, the distance between the producer and the consumers has become so great, that all the steps between producer and consumer are taking more and more of our money. The quality of our food and the quality of our investing both suffer.

So your question has the answer in it. We need to simplify, we need to get closer, we need to get more direct—we need to take back control of some of our money and, in so doing, reshape our food system, our economy and our culture.

…….

Established in 2009, Slow Money plays a catalytic role, connecting investors to local entrepreneurs and money to place. Since its inaugural gathering in Santa Fe, 15,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles, 2,000 have become members, 11 Slow Money chapters have emerged around the country and nine million “slow” dollars changed hands. And in February 2012, Woody Tasch will attend the Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association 33rd Annual Conference as a keynote speaker and workshop leader. For more information about Slow Money visit slowmoney.org. For more information about OEFFA’s conference, visitoeffa.org.

Sign the Slow Money Principles NOW by clicking here!

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O SOLE Mio: Spend local, save local, invest local!

As Slow Money chapters begin budding throughout the country, SOLE is engaging the conversation in Central Ohio. SOLE, which stands for Support Our Local Economy, is a coalition of locavores, independent businesses and locally bred organizations such as Simply Living, Local Matters, SBB, ECDI and KEMBA. For over a year, they have worked together to keep our dollars circulating in our community. In their ongoing “Think Columbus First” campaign, launched during Comfest this year, Chuck Lynd—interim director of Simply Living and the soul of SOLE—emphasizes the importance of buying local. “For every $100 spent at independent, locally owned and operated businesses, $68 stays in our community,” he says. “The same $100 spent at nonlocal chains retains only $43.”

Supporting one neighborhood business helps other local enterprises. “Fresh Connect,” a local food guide published online by Local Matters, lists Columbus restaurants and grocers committed to buying their produce from Central Ohio farms. “We are interested in stronger local economy, even beyond food and farming,” says Todd Mills, director of development and marketing of Local Matters, as well as the organization’s representative at SOLE. “The main thing is just wanting to see more local businesses choosing to support other local businesses with their sourcing and business practices,” he adds.

Small Business Beanstalk (SBB), another shining ray of SOLE and a B2B matchmaker, connects local companies to each other as well as to consumers. Serving as a concierge desk for their member businesses, if a coffeeshop needs to print a menu, SBB will match them with one of their printers. Free of charge, SBB also offers “save local” community cards with all kinds of deals and discounts in over 400 businesses all over Columbus. “At The Hills Market, for instance, if you spend $50 or more, you will get 10% off your entire purchase,” says Wolf Starr, the founder of SBB. “With over 100,000 SBB cards out, it is a better way for us to connect as community,” he believes.

To keep money where we live, we can also move our savings to a local bank. Kroger Employee Mutual Benefits Association (KEMBA), the largest credit union in Central Ohio, has been providing financial services since 1933. “By banking with KEMBA, all of our profits are shared with you and other members within our local communities,” says Vincent Neal, KEMBA’s business development officer.

Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), a small business micro-lender and SOLE’s fiscal agent, takes us to the next level with its new, Slow Money–like, program. Launched in April, “Invest Local Ohio” is a vehicle for corporations and individuals like us, to put our money directly into Central Ohio small businesses. The minimum investment of $1,000 goes to a special fund where ECDI leverages it with at least a double of the invested amount and then makes it available for local entrepreneurs.

To receive up to a $100,000 loan, the candidate can but does not have to have lengthy business experience. ECDI offers its services even to complete beginners, giving them a hand with start-up capital and training. Giving money and expertise to help purchase additional equipment for Luna Burger and facilitate in the opening of the Jury Room are just a couple of many success stories at ECDI. “Our goals have always been to help people build assets, become sustainable, create jobs and businesses,” says Steve Fireman, president and general counsel of ECDI.

As to the potential of playing the part of a small investor, people like us would receive a 2% to 3% return for our slow-return investment (in three- and five-year terms, respectively) as well as a great opportunity to actively participate in developing our local economy.

So why not invest local, Ohio?

………

Resources for those interested in SOLE and its initiatives:

solenow.org

thinkcolumbusfirst.org

simplyliving.org

local-matters.org

thesbb.com

considerbiking.org

ecdi.org

kemba.org

moveyourmoneyproject.org

……..

SOLE is a part of a large international network called the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) comprised of over 80 community networks in 30 U.S. states and Canada. For more than a decade, BALLE has been promoting sustainable local economies by catalyzing and connecting independent businesses in North America through workshops, gatherings and webinars. Slow Money is a partner of BALLE’s very popular “Accelerating Community Capital” webinar series.

For more details about BALLE, visit livingeconomies.org

Editor’s note: For more information about emerging Slow Money Columbus initiatives, please contact Flippo Ravalico of Food System Bonds at usr@foodsystembonds.us.

Reclaiming Ohio’s Food Sovereignty

COLUMBUS, Ohio – From foodies to farmers, hundreds are expected at an upcoming conference to look at ways to reclaim Ohio’s food sovereignty. Registration is open for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 33rd annual conference, the state’s largest sustainable food and farm event, to be held in February.

Woody Tasch, co-founder of theSlow Money movement, which aims to organize investors and donors to steer new sources of capital to small food enterprises, organic farms, and local food systems, is a keynote speaker and will discuss how investments in food and farms can help the overall economy. He says the current system of investing is complicated and disconnected and we need to bring money back down to earth.

“We’ve got to take some of our money out of all this stuff that we no longer understand or can manage effectively and put it to work near where we live, starting with food.”

Tasch says that means investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses.

He says access to healthy, organic food, grown with sustainable agriculture practices, has increased. But he says it will take more than consumer demand and dollars to help local food systems succeed.

“Also it’s going to take massive amounts of investment capital, because organic farmers need to get on the land, they need to create their enterprises, there needs to be new distribution and processing and a whole bunch of other things that require investment capital.”

Tasch says the idea is to put money where we live, behind those entrepreneurs who are already using sustainable practices.

“So, whether it be a small farmer or someone who’s developing a niche brand or someone who’s got a seed company or a creamery or grain mill or a distribution business, there’s a myriad of small businesses that create a vibrant local food system.”

Other topics to be covered at the conference include food safety, gardening, livestock, green living, and cooking.

The event draws more than 1,000 visitors from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past two years. It will be held February 18-19 in Granville.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH