Category Archives: Annual Conference

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.

……..

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!

………

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

Joan Dye Gussow talks about why the local-food movement matters

Joan Dye Gussow says she has found the secret to getting a 12-hour day of vegetable gardening out of her 82-year-old body. She has breakfast, works for four hours, comes in for lunch and lies down to get her spine straightened out. Then she gets up and does it two more times before the day ends.

Gussow, a nutritionist by trade, applies this dogged behavior to her 35-year campaign to get the public to think more about what happens to food before they eat it.

Since 1970, she has brought lessons of local and organic food to the nutritional ecology course she teaches at Columbia University. She made it the core of her 1996 book, “This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader,” and part of her newest work, “Growing, Older,” (Chelsea Green, $17.95).

Michael Pollan, best-selling author and the reigning guru of local food, has said that a lot of what he preaches, Gussow said first.

She remembers appearing at the Ohio Ecological Farm & Food Association conference 10 years ago. This weekend, she’s back with the group in Granville near Columbus for another keynote speech.

Gussow talked by phone from her home in Piermont, N.Y., where her garden stretches to the Hudson River — a river that rose and flooded her out in 2009, an act she attributes to global warming.

You’re not bored with teaching nutritional ecology?

It changes every year. And it’s life-changing for the students. This year I gave them Bill McKibben’s “Eaarth” to read. He says your children will never see glacial ice caps at the poles. It’s so clear and brilliantly written. We live on a different planet that requires us to have to live quietly and locally.

Making food more local is no longer what my graduate students of years ago thought was a nutty idea. Still, we just elected five people to Congress who don’t believe global warming is happening. My real impulse is to stake them on a beach at the present high tide mark and wait until they drown. Because they will.

Part of your new book is about becoming widowed. How is that part of your life going?

I was married for 40 years. But I was stunned to realize I didn’t miss him. I spent, really, a lot of years figuring out why.

I deeply believe we are in serious trouble on our planet, so serious that we could cut off the capacity to support human life. I was in grief about that.

Whenever something broke, I’d want to fix it. He’d say, ‘We can get a new one.’ Finally I’d scream, ‘It’s not the money. Somebody’s out there mining that chrome and in a terrible environment.’ It was a puzzle to me after 40 years that he didn’t understand what drove me.

I wasn’t unhappy. The real secret to happiness, and the reason I wanted to write about it, is to be a person who is happy with themselves and the world around them. Somebody else is not going to make you happy.

What’s different since your last Ohio visit?

A lot more people are aware of the local food movement, at least for reasons of freshness and transportation costs. From when I started out in the ’70s to now, it’s stunning how much has changed. It’s very rewarding.

What will you talk about?

I’ll probably give them a history of the movement, and look at the future and how we have to be very conscious of the traps along the way.

What traps?

We have a very, very, very powerful food industry, from seed to table. It’s the biggest industry in the United States. They argue that nothing is wrong with the way we typically raise and slaughter animals. And they have a lot of money to put that message out there in large type.

We just lost a major battle when the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved genetically modified alfalfa, which was fought passionately by a huge number of people. They [the USDA] just took all boundaries off and approved it .

I think it’s extraordinarily dangerous. If you get genetically modified alfalfa pollen spreading around and contaminating all the organic alfalfa crops, organic farmers will either not be able to feed alfalfa to their animals or they’ll have to give up the organic label.

What do you say to people who don’t follow this point of view?

I would think that nutritional and taste benefits were obvious to people. There are people who think this means you can’t have an orange in winter. I get a box of grapefruit every year from Texas. It ships once and I use it for two months. It’s a wonderful winter treat.

It’s about what you do about dinner normally. Two thirds of people don’t understand how well-fed you can be with local food in Ohio in the winter. Or how dysfunctional and dangerous our present food system is. It’s dangerous in terms of toxic things such as E. coli scares of lettuce and in the way our standard meat system handles and slaughters animals.

Or to the degree to which we depend on people who make less than they can live on, all the way down the chain, from growers to shippers to some restaurant workers. These are all minimally paid people whom we really exploit through the system.

The hope is that with a local-food system, you can watch what’s going on. You can be aware where food comes from and be responsible for it.

How do you talk about eating locally and organically to seniors and others on a limited budget?

I sense that the right to eat really well is very upscale at this point. You can go to a store and get lot more calories of junk food for the dollar than you can with fruit and vegetables. So yes, it’s very difficult.

The only thing I can say is that in summers sometimes farmers markets have produce at the peak of season that is cheaper than at the supermarket. The food is fresh and the farmers get the whole benefit. Now there are food stamps given out for seniors, programs for poor seniors, for poor mothers. In some cases you can even double the value of those coupons.

In my view, local is more important than organic. And I think local is not inherently more expensive, as organic sometimes is. It shouldn’t be if we had subsidies for fruits and vegetables as we have for things that go into junk food: corn, soy and wheat. We would not have this disparity in price. It’s something people have to think about politically and push for.

The other thing I’d like to mention is the degree to which people think they need meat all time. If you really study how much protein we need, it’s a little over 50 grams a day. It’s not hard to get to that. People should not spend so much of their budgets on meat. It’s better for them anyway.

– Debbi Snook, Cleveland Plain Dealer, February 15, 2011

To read the original post, click here.

Joan Dye Gussow, outspoken godmother of the local-food movement, comes to Granville this week for Ohio's sold-out organic food conference. Photo Credit: Susan Frieman
Joan Dye Gussow, outspoken godmother of the local-food movement, comes to Granville this week for Ohio's sold-out organic food conference. Photo Credit: Susan Frieman

Local food movement founder hopes it’s not a fad

Thirty-five years ago, Joan Dye Gussow realized that the food system in America was broken.

She was teaching a nutrition course at Columbia University which covered such topics as the limits to growth, the impact of advertising, and the relationship between people and food.

“It looked at all those issues and where we were headed. I realized that the implications of that course were that we were headed off a cliff and we had to do something about that. We were headed off a cliff in terms of the production of food,” Ms. Gussow said on the phone from her home on the Hudson River just north of New York City.

And so she began to teach and write and lecture about growing one’s own food and buying the rest from local farmers, especially those who do not use chemicals. Her ideas and her passion helped ignite what became the current red-hot interest in foods that are local, organic, and sustainable.

“I am now known officially as the matriarch of the movement. It’s pretty awful to be called the matriarch of anything,” the 82-year-old Ms. Gussow said.

On Sunday, she will be giving the keynote address at the 32nd annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association in Granville, Ohio.

The speech will be about “whether things are moving as they should be. The news is not terrific,” she said.

When she first began thinking about the food supply chain, Ms. Gussow was struck by the fact that the United States exported large amounts of food to countries like India and China, which have huge populations and widespread unemployment. American machine and chemical-based efficiency meant that very little labor was being used in this country to send food to nations with a large pool of idle laborers.

And Americans were consuming food from distant shores as well, and even distant parts of this country. And that unsettled her, too. In order truly to know about something, she determined, you have to live near it and be a part of it.

“I figured we had to have agriculture locally, and in order to keep the agriculture local we had to eat what the [local] farmers produced,” she said. “So we have to be willing to change our diets and not depend on things shipped from across the seas.

“I’ve been playing with that idea for 35 years, and I can tell you 35 years ago it was a big hit,” she said sarcastically. “It was like a piece of lead dropped into the ocean. Some of my students thought I was crazy.”

But she persevered, writing such books as This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader and Chicken Little Tomato Sauce: Who Will Produce Tomorrow’s Food?

And she practiced what she preached, growing vegetables in two long garden plots behind her house. She freezes what she can and plants hardy, winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale to get through the leaner months. She gets fruit from a few trees including “an apple tree with apples only a mother could love, but they’re very good — if you cut out the insects.”

And her meat, bread, and cheese come from upstate farmers as part of a Community Supported Agriculture arrangement, an increasingly popular way for consumers to purchase their food items straight from the farmers and artisans. The one treat she allows herself in the winter is to order a big box of grapefruit from Texas, which her grandmother used to get for her and which she now gets for her loved ones.

“Nature does not grow fruit in winter,” she said.

Now, in large part because of her efforts, “there is a huge change in the amount of interest in local [food]. It’s almost a fad, and I worry sometimes that it is a fad, and it will end. There has been a tremendous change in people’s awareness. There has been a tremendous spreading of the word, and not just on the coasts, but in the Midwest and the Ecological Farming Association.

“There is a tremendous change, but there is also a tremendous pushback. The people in power are in power because they have so much money. The Department of Agriculture just passed a bill eliminating restrictions on genetically engineered alfalfa. Now you can plant it anywhere. It is disheartening to see how the Department of Agriculture is overwhelmed by the powers that be. We have a congress that has been bought by them.”

The local food movement is growing, but it still remains upscale and out of reach for most people, she said. The efficiencies of conventional farming make it cheaper than organic farming, and one of the fundamentals of the local food movement is to ensure that the farmers and their laborers are paid a decent living, which makes organic foods even pricier.

“The truth is that the food at farmers’ markets is more expensive,” she said. “The poor can’t afford fresh produce, because they can get more food from junk than they buy in the store.”

“I’m fundamentally a person who’s optimistic, but I also think we have a tremendous fight ahead of us. I’m thrilled that we’ve come so far from where we started, but we have a long way to go.”

— Daniel Neman, Toledo Blade, Feb. 14, 2011

To read the original story, click here.

Interview: Steve Bosserman on Building a Local Economy

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association (OEFFA) held their 32nd Annual Conference, complete with a trade show, featured keynote speakers Joan Dye Gussow and Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens, and over 70 educational workshops.

The workshop titled, “Networking Food System Businesses to Build Local Economies”, was co-hosted by Steve Bosserman of the Ohio State University USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Regional Partnerships for Innovation grant team. He is also the president of the consulting firm Bosserman & Associates, and the administrator of localfoodsystems.org. Steve sat down with The Erie Wire and gave some insight on how the characteristics of Ohio’s local food systems are being encouraged and strengthened.

To listen to to the interview, go to http://www.eriewire.org/archives/10540/section/agriculture/

Steve Bosserman, of the OSU USDA SCRI Regional Partnerships for Innovation (grant), discussing the development of local food economies from collaborative research made available through a grant. Photo: Joshua B. Pribanic
Steve Bosserman, of the OSU USDA SCRI Regional Partnerships for Innovation (grant), discussing the development of local food economies from collaborative research made available through a grant. Photo: Joshua B. Pribanic

Interview: Charlie Fritsch on Growing Organic Apples in Ohio

An Erie Wire interview with Charlie Fritsch, who presented a workshop about organic apple production at OEFFA’s 32nd annual conference. Crisp, tasty, high quality apples can be grown following organic practices, even in Ohio if one starts with disease resistant varieties. Researcher and Windy Hill Apple Farm orchardist Charlie Fritsch will offer strategies for managing insects and fungal diseases as well as horticultural concerns for both commercial and backyard orcharding.

Listen here to an interview with Charlie where he discusses the likelihood of commercial scale organic apple growing within the state of Ohio.