The Erie Wire interviews innovative farmer, Joel Salatin, who was the silver-lining featured in the sobering documentary Food, Inc., released in 2008. Joel’s production practices and clever marketing methods have attracted a large consumer following – his farm serves more than 1,500 families and 10 retail outlets – and even Chipotle, a billion dollar fast food chain dedicated to serving sustainably raised food. Joel was sponsored by Chipotle to be a keynote speaker at the 2010 OEFFA conference that took place in Granville, Ohio. In his speech titled “Everything I Want to do is Illegal” he discussed the local food movement challenge – from zoning to food safety to insurance, and regulatory hurdles designed and implemented to benefit industrial food models – and called for guerrilla marketing campaigns and other solutions to grow access to nutritionally-superior, sustainably raised food.
Two decades before the federal government created standards for labeling food as “organic,” the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association came into being.
The OEFFA is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1979 “by farmers, gardeners and conscientious eaters who committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system,” according to its Web site.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture adopted the first standards for the labeling and processing of organic foods in December 2000.
As the organization, with offices on Croswell Road in Clintonville, was finishing celebrating its 30th year of existence and looking ahead to a major annual conference in February, executive director Carol Goland said that members of the small staff were reaching out to founders to understand just how it got going.
“It was very grass roots, and that flavor of the organization has stayed over the 30 years,” Goland said. “These folks were visionaries and they were pioneers, and like all pioneers they took their share of arrows.”
While consumers concerned about what was in their food and home gardeners were part of the movement that led to OEFFA’s creation, Goland said that an especially important element came from the growing number of farmers committed to using what were variously called ecological or biological or organic methods. The latter term finally caught on.
That puts Ohio in the vanguard of a movement that seems to be catching on in a big way, according to a 2001 article in the online magazine Organica.
“These innovators offered the technical and philosophical backdrop for the mainstreaming of organic foods and farming that occurred when the flower children’s ‘back to nature’ movement converged with the broader, anti-pesticide, anti-war, anti-agribusiness sentiment so characteristic of the youth movement of the 1960s and ’70s,” the story states.
“Today it’s hard to imagine that back then you would say the ‘O’ word, organic,” said Renee Hunt, the association’s program director. “The ‘O’ word was almost heresy.”
But not anymore, Hunt said. These days, products bearing the label organic are where growth is taking place in the food industry and with OEFFA.
“The OEFFA membership is very diverse,” its Web site states. “It includes farmers, consumers, gardeners, chefs, political activists, teachers, researchers, retailers and students. What members have in common is an interest in creating and maintaining a food system that is good for people, good for the earth and good for the future.”
To that end, the OEFFA offers members a consumers guide to organic and ecological farms and gardens, a directory and a bimonthly newsletter.
“OEFFA is also involved in research and development, farm and farmer preservation, policy making and product promotion,” the Web site states.
A separate wing of the OEFFA is a USDA National Organic Program Accredited Certifier, and has been since 2002. The certification territory includes Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.
OEFFA organic certification is one of 55 accredited around the country, Goland said, and was one of the very first certifying agencies, according to Hunt.
Group goes to bat for farmers
The main thrust of the association’s work, Goland said, is supporting its member farmers who are growing produce for local markets and helping consumers to find them. The OEFFA seeks to let food producers know that being responsible and “doing the right thing” for human health and the ecology can still be profitable, Goland said.
“It’s a different mindset,” she said.
All of this, Goland added, has brought greater visibility to the issue of sustainable farming and, in turn, made it easier for other farmers and consumers to follow in the footsteps of those already part of the movement.
“There are broader social trends that we are working in concert with,” Goland said.
“All of our work revolves around working with volunteers,” Hunt said. “We do not operate in a vacuum.”
“We have members in almost every county (in Ohio),” said Lauren Ketcham, membership services and communications coordinator for OEFFA.
The northwest part of the state and also central-eastern Ohio are somewhat underrepresented, Goland said.
Some members are in Indiana, which has no similar organization, according to Hunt.
The OEFFA is not formally involved in traditional efforts to preserve agricultural lands, Goland said, believing that the best way to preserve farms is to preserve farmers. Ohio is unique, however, in that it boasts many substantial metropolitan areas surrounded by farmland, giving those farmers a ready market for what they grow, which is an aspect of the fresh, organic food effort.
“Whether we’re taking full advantage of that or not is another question,” Goland said.
OEFFA has, in the past, had a somewhat prickly relationship with state government agencies involved with agriculture, the executive director said.
Things have improved somewhat under Gov. Ted Strickland, she said.
She pointed to the creation of a Food Policy Advisory Council, which Strickland announced at the Ohio State Fair in 2007, and the first sustainable agricultural program as major steps toward bridging the gap between government programs and the ideals of the OEFFA.
“These are really positive signs,” Goland said.
Annual conference to be held in Granville
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 31st annual conference, “Growing with Integrity, Eating with Intention,” will take place Feb. 13-14 in Granville.
The conference, to be held in the town’s middle and high schools, will feature keynote speakers Joel Salatin and Ann Cooper, as well as hands-on workshops, exhibitors, a separate educational conference for children, locally sourced meals, a child-care area and Saturday evening entertainment.
Online registration for the conference is ongoing at www.oeffa.org.
“More and more people are beginning to realize that the food they can get from local farmers is fresher and better tasting than what is available in grocery stores,” OEFFA executive director Carol Goland said in a prepared statement announcing the conference. “The OEFFA conference is an ideal place for local farmers and consumers to network and plan how best to improve Ohio’s food production system.”
Salatin is called one of the best-known farmers of the sustainable food movement. His family farm in Swoope, Va., serves more than 1,500 families, 10 retail outlets and 30 restaurants with grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, eggs, pork, forage-based rabbits and pastured turkey.
In his Saturday evening talk, “Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal,” Salatin “will get to the heart of the local food movement challenge,” according to the announcement.
“From zoning to food safety to insurance, local food systems face regulatory hurdles designed and implemented to benefit industrial food models,” the announcement stated. “Joel will call for guerrilla marketing and other solutions.”
Salatin also will be speaking at an all-day pre-conference event, “Ballet in the Pasture,” on Friday, Feb. 12. He will discuss how his farm’s choreographed plant-animal symbiosis heals the landscape, the community and the eater.
An author, chef, educator and self-proclaimed “Renegade Lunch Lady,” Cooper is an advocate for better food for children. Her mission is to “transform the National School Lunch Program through lunch menus emphasizing regional, organic, fresh foods and nutritional education, helping students build a connection between where their food comes from and personal health and wellness,” according to the OEFFA announcement.
In her Sunday evening keynote address, Cooper will detail the importance of changing the way children eat and why parents, schools, farmers, food service providers and governments must work together.
In addition, the conference will feature more than 60 hands-on educational workshops with topics including: cheese-making, becoming a successful farmers market vendor, off-grid energy production, goat husbandry, organic certification, weed control, farmers market management, social networking, green building, organic dairying, urban gardening, fruit production, organic grain production, pastured poultry, sustainable agriculture policy and grassroots organizing, soil testing, rain water harvesting, pruning, pork production, community kitchens, on-farm record-keeping, tree grafting, healthy lunch programs, green cleaning products, drip irrigation, worm composting, farming with horses, beekeeping, renewable energy and cover crops.
It’s straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting – the whole family sitting down to Sunday dinner with chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and … .corn. It’s as American as apple pie. On the cob, it’s a sought-out treat at county fairs and summer festivals. Corn is the United States’ largest crop both in volume and value. What people don’t know about corn, though, can and does hurt them. As a government subsidized staple of the American food system, it holds some dark secrets.
It is believed that the first corn originating in the Andes, later spread to Central America and up into Mexico where it was hybridized and domesticated sometime between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C. Corn didn’t reach the United States until around 600 A.D. By the time Columbus reached America, Indians grew it extensively. He ferried some back to Spain and, by 1700, it had become a major European crop. Today, corn is one of the most widely grown vegetables on Earth, with the U.S. and China leading the world in production.
Corn, Ohio’s second most valuable agricultural crop (soybeans are first), puts Ohio 6th in the U.S., right behind Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota and Indiana. Yet, just a fraction of the 3-plus million acres of Ohio corn is Sweet Corn, fit for human consumption. The majority of Ohio’s and all U.S. corn is Yellow Dent Corn, which is used primarily as livestock feed and in the manufacturing of industrial products. Flint Corn, is the last corn category. It is also known as Indian or ornamental corn. And popcorn? It’s just a subcategory of Flint corn.
More than half of Ohio’s corn crop becomes animal feed, 8 percent is used for sweeteners, 5 percent for fuel (ethanol) and almost 23 percent is exported to other countries. Corn starches, corn oil, corn syrup, industrial alcohol, toothpaste, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), glue, shoe polish and a variety of plastics, used in everything from carpeting to clothing, are derived from corn. As an overabundant government-subsidized crop, companies are finding a multitude of ways to utilize corn and its byproducts. Kevin Mote Fireplaces & Stoves in Laura, Ohio, carries stoves that efficiently burn dry corn kernels without polluting the air. These multi-fuel stoves can burn corn, cherry pits or wood pellets. One advantage cited by owner Kevin is the fact that these cleaner-burning stoves can safely sit just 3 inches away from an interior wall with only a short pipe needed to vent them outside. His showroom carries multiple wood, corn and multi-fuel styles, some computerized. He or his main technician Dan Norton can be reached at (937) 947-1883 or 1-800-526-1978.
New products made from corn continue to come onto the market. Second Street Market’s “A Greener You” booth offers environmentally friendly products, including mini-composters that use small plastic biodegradable bags made from corn starch -a wonderful alternative to the plastic bags clogging our landfills. Corn starch also makes frozen pizzas possible, preventing a soggy crust. Corn syrup keeps bread and other bakery products fresher longer. Citric acid, made from corn sweeteners, prevents the browning of fruits and vegetables. Corn syrup was long ago added to lollipops and other hard candies to keep them from dripping. It also stops the formation of ice crystals in ice cream and keeps marshmallows soft. Corn Ethanol, although it burns cleaner than gasoline, is not a panacea for today’s energy problems since it actually requires more energy in its production than it provides. The Ohio Corn Growers Association is currently pushing Congress to extend the Ethanol Excise Tax Credit for five more years to stimulate Ohio’s economy with more jobs, while making fuel cheaper for consumers since the tax credit pays gasoline refiners $.45 per gallon to blend ethanol into the gasoline supply.
But it’s time to peel back the husk and look more deeply at the darker, more dangerous side of corn. Corporate greed has attached itself to government subsidies and created a hidden monster for the unaware American consumer.
HFCS … a wolf in sheep’s clothing
The most troubling and controversial derivative of corn by far is HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), unknown until the 1970s. Today, more than 4,000 common grocery store items contain it as a preservative and a sweetener. We see it as delicious and desirable; in truth, it is an addiction – and a poison. By the late 1980s, HFCS took over half of the U.S. sugar market because corn and thus high fructose corn syrup, is much cheaper than cane sugar. It’s a dominant ingredient in soft drinks, frozen dinners, cereals, breads and a host of our favorite everyday household staples. But in our bodies, it interferes with our metabolism and our detoxification processes. Putting profits ahead of ethics, companies poured millions into commercials and colorful packaging to convince Americans to buy these ‘foods’. The consequences are shockingly visible. In just 30 years, while the consumption of this sweetener jumped by 30 percent, the rates of obesity and diabetes exploded. How can this be?
High fructose corn syrup causes inflammation in our bodies, which is associated with the increasing litany of America’s common health complaints: arthritis, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, senility, obesity, depression, fatty liver, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Type II diabetes was formerly found only in adults but now affects our children in epidemic proportions. Adverse metabolic effects are also well documented. Anyone who has ever dieted can attest to the difficulty of losing weight in this age of refined and hidden sugars.
To make HFCS, all nutritional value is stripped from the corn, leaving only a cheap sugar substitute created by soaking corn in sulfuric acid. Yes, sulfuric acid. HFCS puts such a load on the pancreas and liver that they cannot metabolize and eliminate it. Instead, the sugar overload is stored as fat that cannot be lost because the organs that would ordinarily convert the sugar to energy are in crisis mode, leading to the surge in diabetes as the pancreas fails to release enough insulin to neutralize the excess sugars in today’s average diet.
Sadly, our own government is subsidizing this situation based on erroneous policy, leaving Americans battling corn’s dark side on two fronts: HFCS in our food and the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in our meat. More than 80 percent of corn is now GMO corn, much of it Bt corn, a Monsanto creation that has its own built-in pesticide. Anyone who eats it can become a living pesticide factory since Bt corn contains pesticides in its DNA that can then transfer into human DNA.
GMOs in Corn, messing with our DNA
This GMO corn has not been sufficiently tested, making Americans its unwitting guinea pigs. GM corn is engineered to produce a built-in pesticide called Bt-toxin. Monsanto’s own research found that rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions. Bt corn is implicated in the deaths of cows in Germany and chickens and horses in the Philippines. Cows never eat corn in nature. Most of Europe, by law, requires clear labeling of GM products, but no such protections exist for American consumers since our powerful agribusiness industry has a vested interest in keeping government policy favorable to them while keeping us ignorant. Fortunately, for those curious enough to seek answers, a number of books, documentaries, articles and studies are available on the impact these unnatural ‘foods’ and crop byproducts are having on us and on our children’s health. (See listing at the end of this article.)
The agribusiness marketing campaign has been so effective that the average consumer actually believes that “corn-fed beef” is a positive attribute of meat when the opposite is true.
Factory farming has removed cows from their natural environment, from the grasses that they naturally eat. Cows, by the tens of thousands, are crowded into grassless feedlots where they spend the last months of their lives standing knee-deep in dirt and manure, eating a dried corn diet that sickens them and would kill them within six months if they were not slaughtered first. These sick and mistreated cows become our food, our “corn-fed beef” and nothing about it is healthy.
It is no accident that e-coli and other food-borne illnesses are on the rise across this country. The documentary movie, “Food, Inc.” exposes agribusiness’s harmful effects on animals, on the safety of our food supply and on the rise in e-coli in everything from hamburger to lettuce as a result of toxic factory farm run-off. While there were thousands of slaughterhouses in the 1970s, there are now only 17 in the entire U.S. America has lost 5 million family farms since the rise of factory farms 30 years ago. The result is unnatural, unsafe food. The hamburger we now eat is likely to be made from thousands of animals rather than just one under this perverse system, exponentially raising the risk of mad cow disease, e-coli, salmonella or other illnesses.
According to the New York Times, the “majority of hamburger” now sold in the U.S. contains the fatty slaughterhouse trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil, including material from the outer surface of the carcass that contains “larger microbiological populations.” This meat filler or “pink slime” as one FDA microbiologist called it, is commonly used in the federal school lunch program, in our favorite fast food restaurant hamburgers and in grocery-store ground beef. This nasty stuff is ineffectively cleaned with ammonia to cut its toxicity. This saves Beef Products, Inc., the industry that produces it, 3 cents a pound in production costs while earning it an additional $440 million a year.
As corporations get richer and we get sicker and fatter, we keep running to doctors and drug stores looking for relief when their income depends on us not finding any. Corporations push the double goal of efficiency and profit at the cost of our very lives. Our only defense is to educate ourselves.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have now infiltrated almost every nook and cranny of the food system, leaving us vulnerable to a host of problems including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging and negative changes in our major organs and gastrointestinal systems. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (ASEM) concluded, “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation … ” Renowned biologist Pushpa Ghargaza believes GMOs are a major contributor to the deteriorating health in America.
Scientists at the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) warned that GM foods might create new allergies, poisons, new diseases and nutritional problems. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says “I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it.” With GM foods everywhere now, one way to be pro-active, health-wise, is to opt out of GM foods by printing off the Non-GMO Shopping Guide at www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com.
The story of corn is long, convoluted and fascinating. With the healthy food movement gaining ground in the United States, more and more people are growing their own organic vegetables and demanding meat that is free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and GMO products and that is grass-fed, rather than corn-fed.
Ohio is fortunate to have the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA), a membership-based, grassroots organization founded in 1979 and dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological and healthful food systems. It provides a consumer guide for its members of organic and ecological farms and gardens, a membership directory and a newsletter, plus regional and national news of particular interest including farm profiles, practical tips on such things as community gardens and composting, book reviews, resources, events and opportunities.
Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, said, “Organics have been the one growth area of the food system in the U.S.” This year, for the first time, OEFFA had to close its registration for their annual February conference because demand is so high now for information on sustainability and healthy choices. They can be reached at (614) 421-2022 in Columbus or online at oeffa.org.
Hunt summed it up by saying, “Farmers, backyard gardeners, researchers, students, consumers are all wanting to connect with a healthier food system. There’s a sense that there’s a movement going on.”
Sunbury, OH –Mike Anderson grew up in the suburbs. He hadn’t really intended to be a farmer. But, in college, he spent some quality time on a research farm. Now, he’s a full-time agriculturalist with five acres near Sunbury. Sundog Special Crops harvests blackberries, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, beans and even sunflowers. And all his products carry a very special label: “Certified Organic.”
“Each year, for the past 10 or 12 years, we’ve seen 15- to 20-percent growth in the demand for organic produce. And this is a market that is not being met,” Mike says.
There are fewer than 500 organic farms in Ohio but Mike says the numbers are increasing every year. It isn’t easy, though. Each farm has to meet and maintain strict standards before its products earn the USDA’s organic label.
“We can use legumes and clovers to provide nutrients because those are natural forms of fertilizer,” Mike says. “We can use lime which is mined from the ground or other kinds of mined minerals or rock powders to provide nutrients.”
He can use a derivative from chrysanthemums as a natural, plant-based insecticide. But weed control is still one of the most difficult problems.
“There just aren’t natural herbicides available,” Mike laments. “So organic farmers rely on cultivation and crop rotations to control weeds.”
In his greenhouse, Mike uses a ground-fish emulsion to add nitrogen to seedlings’ soil packs. (It really smells.) And he’s found a natural fertilizer made from a mixture of ground soy beans and molasses.
Every organic farm is monitored and certified by a qualified agent. In Ohio, one of the largest certifying agencies is the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association. But independent, third-party inspectors also make regular visits.
Mike says an inspector can rip the certification from an organic farm for something as seemingly minor as an oil drip from a tractor. Once the soil is contaminated with anything synthetic, it takes three years before the farm can be re-certified.
The inspectors expect to see the farmers’ very detailed logs of all their activities and purchases.
Many times, organic foods are more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. Mike says there are many reasons for the difference, not the least of which is basic supply and demand economics.
“There’s a lot more demand for this kind of produce than there is supply at the current time. So that also contributes to the price difference,” he says. He also points out that organic farming often involves more labor done by hand. And without herbicides, there is more labor-intensive mechanical weeding.
Still, despite the headaches and requirements, Mike says he loves what he does. He says it’s a “more enjoyable way to raise produce.”
It’s lunchtime and, like millions of American convenience-eaters, I’ll leave my desk and grab a cheap meal prepared in about as long as it takes to walk the half block to the place where I’ll eat it. The portions will be (dangerously) generous, and I won’t have dishes to do. We eat like this day after day, month after month, and we don’t think twice about it.
But, what happens when we do think about where, how and what we eat?
These days most of our meals, whether from a restaurant or from our fridge, are composed less of actual food than chemical compounds that require a limber tongue to pronounce and a doctorate in organic chemistry to decode. Agribusinesses “biotechnology” corporations with their attendant leagues of scientists “ take the simple foods humans have eaten for thousands of generations, break them down to manipulate the genetic material, and reassemble them into the tasty “stuff” we feed on.
The result bears little resemblance to anything grown in the ground, plucked from a tree, or cooked over a fire. And, while Big Ag’s bottom line is growing, so are our bottom lines. Studies show undeniable correlations between the science experiments on our food and our ever-increasing waistlines and ever-decreasing health.
Abraham Maslow, the guy who made that neat pyramid that shows the hierarchy of human needs, saw fit to put food at the base because, without it, we’d die and thus not need anything. What’s interesting, though, is why people seem to regard eating (and the impact on our health) as less important than, say, watching tonight’s “Lost” episode. We seem content to believe that something sold as food must be good for us or else it wouldn’t be for sale. Apply that same reasoning to firearms and see where you get.
Here’s another food-related logic problem I struggle with: I asked myself, Who in America makes the “big bucks”? Professionals, right? Doctors, lawyers, football coaches, CEO’s, et al. What do these folks have in common and why do they get paid so well? They all possess a knowledge of incredibly complex concepts and the creativity to use that knowledge toward providing a unique service to the rest of us ““ hence, the big paychecks.
It occurred to me, however, that one profession is missing from the list: the farmer. Farmers also possess a knowledge of incredibly complex concepts, and they use it creatively to provide us with food, that basic human need. Seems like a pretty important job, right? Yet, farmers don’t generally drive BMWs or own condos in Cocoa Beach. On the contrary, most farmers throughout America struggle just to break even and put food on their own tables. Um…?
This past Valentine’s Day weekend my sweetheart and I attended an event that brought food issues into focus. The event was the 31st annual OEFFA Conference. For those of you who are unaware (as I was until very recently), OEFFA is the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association. Since 1979, they have committed themselves to bringing visibility to and offering support for sustainable, ecologically viable agriculture and healthy eating.
Now, to be clear, I’m no ostrich: my head isn’t buried in the sand. I have a library card, listen to NPR, and (if forced) watch cable news… I know what’s going on. But the conference not only opened my eyes a bit wider, it motivated me to consider my own behavior and gave me the means to change it. I found myself among a group of people who demonstrated a working knowledge of things as wide-ranging as soil ecology, renewable energy, genetically modified organisms, botanical chemistry and (yes) animal husbandry.
As a layman, I was able to attend workshops in many of these areas and get exposed to cutting-edge ideas that can change the current paradigm of corporate food culture.
At a time when issues such as health care, energy consumption and economic turmoil have surged to the fore of political dialogue, OEFFA seems uniquely positioned to make an impact. By promoting fair treatment for farmers who grow real food and by assisting in the proliferation of local food economies, the organization strives to educate and offer positive, common-sense solutions that extend beyond the farm into society as a whole. They contend that eating and buying locally grown food can help create a healthy, energy-saving, prosperous America.
The next time you put that Frito to your face, take a look at it first. Think about where it comes from and why you’re eating it. Look into OEFFA. Listen to your gut. Really. Grow your own garden, eat something you’ve grown. Think about what you can do in your own back yard. Chances are you’ll discover the farmer inside you.
WASHINGTON – More antibiotics are used in farm animals than in people in the United States, according to the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming. A growing number of experts are questioning the possible side effects, including new forms of bacteria that are antibiotic-resistant.
At a hearing in Congress on Wednesday, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and some of the country’s top veterinarians weighed in on the issue. Some Ohio farmers feed antibiotics to their cows, pigs and chickens to keep them healthy and prompt faster growth, but Lauren Ketcham at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association says the practice also has environmental effects.
“Animal waste that is produced on factory farms contains ammonia, nitrates, phosphorous and, in many cases, antibiotics. When these waste products are concentrated in such high volumes and not properly disposed of, these things find their way into our groundwater and our soil.”
The FDA is suggesting what it calls “judicious use” of antibiotics in food animals, although some people don’t believe the agency’s stance is tough enough.
A bill in Congress to restrict antibiotic use in animals except for treating diseases has 130 co-sponsors, including four Ohio representatives: Reps. Fudge, Kaptur, Kilroy and Sutton.
Ketcham says no matter what Congress decides, Ohio consumers who are concerned always have a choice to buy organic.
“Farmers and producers who sell their products with the ‘organic’ label may not use drugs, including hormones to promote growth, and cannot sell animals or animal products treated with antibiotics as organic. And the organic standards are rigorously enforced, so consumers can be assured that they’re getting what they’re paying for.”
The bill, “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act,” is HR 1549 amd S 619.
A good meal can satisfy more than just the appetite.
Farmers markets are a critical part of the local and sustainable food systems that nourish our bodies, our communities and our environment.
When you visit one of North Union Farmers Market’s locations, you’ll see streams of families with wagons, baskets and reusable bags brimming with colorful local produce, fresh baked goods and flowers, and farmers under white shade tents chatting with customers about recipes, as well as chef demonstrations and workshops.
North Union is among at least 213 farmers markets in Ohio. Since the USDA began tracking this data, the number of markets in the United States has tripled, up from 1,755 in 1994 to 5,274 in 2009. Nationally, these farmers markets generated more than $1 billion in sales in 2006.
National Farmers Market Week, which is Aug. 1 through 7, gives us an opportunity to celebrate this important segment of the agricultural economy and an increasingly central feature of our communities.
In contrast, between 1950 and 2000, Ohio lost more than 6.9 million acres of farmland, representing nearly one-third of Ohio’s agricultural land. One way that farmers markets are helping to preserve Ohio’s family farms and rural heritage is by providing low-cost entry points for beginning farmers to incubate their businesses. By selling directly to consumers, a new generation of farmers may be able to make a better living from farming.
When our nation was in its infancy, almost every municipality provided a place for farmers to bring their produce to meet the weekly needs of townsfolk. That tradition died as refrigeration and transportation made central markets obsolete. By the time we were coming of age on our farms, we took it for granted that small-scale farming was uneconomical because there was no way to get produce and livestock directly to consumers. That has now begun to change.
Snake Hill Farm began selling at North Union’s Shaker Square market 15 years ago. We took in only $12 the first day, but have seen steady growth each year as the market has grown. Because of the markets, Snake Hill Farm has always been able to receive fair prices for as much as we can produce, giving us hope that we will be able to preserve our land.
Farmers markets are integral in creating robust local economies. Customers who support farmers markets are keeping their food dollars in the local community. Farmers markets are again becoming more than just a place to buy food, a community destination in their own right, supporting non-food businesses nearby. In communities where access to fresh, healthful food is limited, farmers markets are beginning to help make such access easier.
Farmers markets deliver some of the freshest, most delicious ingredients available for food lovers. Locally grown organic fruits and vegetables are usually sold within 24 hours of being harvested. Fresh food is more nutritionally complete because nutritional value declines as time passes after harvest.
At the height of the season, now’s a great time to experience one of Ohio’s farmers markets, which are helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system — one meal at a time.
Goland is the executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. Rorimer is with Snake Hill Farm L.P. in Geauga County and serves on the board of trustees of North Union Farmers Market.