Monthly Archives: June 2011

Federal Sustainable Agriculture Spending Cuts Would Hurt Economy, Local Food Systems

A statement from Dr. Carol Goland, Executive Director,
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

The agriculture appropriations bill the House of Representatives just passed slashes $1 billion from mandatory farm bill conservation funding and tells the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to drop the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.

The House measure would slash programs that support farmers who protect the soil and water on which our nation’s future productivity depends. Conservation programs were cut by $500 million in fiscal year 2011 and the House is proposing an additional cut of $1 billion for fiscal year 2012 to the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farmland Protection Program, and the Wetlands Reserve Program.

These cuts are between 20 and 30 percent, and are grossly disproportionate to other spending cuts. The Conservation Stewardship Program cut is particularly egregious as it would require USDA to break contracts the government has signed with farmers who have committed to conservation practices.

Conservation program spending has been slashed while funding for commodity programs remains untouched in the House-passed bill.  If cuts to mandatory funding are to be made, then everything has to be on the table.

A provision denying any funding for the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative is a direct attack on new farm and market opportunities, rural job growth, and public health.  The initiative provides crucial coordination and public outreach to build new income opportunities for farmers producing for the local and regional markets.

These markets are essential to rural economic recovery and eliminating the Know Your Farmer initiative is shortsighted and extreme. Development of local and regional food systems and markets is a job creator and a good investment in public health.

We strongly urge the Senate to reject these unfair cuts to sustainable agriculture research, conservation, and education.

###

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization 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. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.

Contact:
Carol Goland, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, (614) 421-2022
Ferd Hoefner, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, (202) 547-5754

Field Day: Joseph Swain Turns His City Lot Into Bountiful Urban Farm

Columbus Underground

By Anne | June 26, 2011 1:30pm | Filed under Features | Comments

You’ve probably seen Joseph Swain at the Clintonville Farmers Market where he sells his certified organic produce at his stand for Swainway Urban Farm. There, he offers a “a variety of gourmet vegetables, herbs, specialty items like shiitake and oyster mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, and sustainably grown potted plants and seedlings.” He’s been at the market since last year and it has been a wonderful experience for him.

“I enjoy creating a product that is unique, beautiful and tasty and blows people away,” Joseph said. “I want to show others that you can do an urban farm as your full-time job – make it your career and your living.” In the early stages of researching and forming his business plan, Joseph found that few people actually make their living off of produce farming. This fact motivated him to be an example that you can make a living off of subacre farming. He has turned his two tenths of an acre into nearly 650 linear feet of production space.

Joseph did not grow up with a background in farming. In fact, he didn’t really even eat many vegetables while growing up in Northern Indiana. While in Columbus to see The String Cheese Incident, he met a girl named Jess. They started dating and soon, he moved to Columbus for good. Jess had a home in Clintonville and they enjoyed spending time at the Clintonville Farmers Market together and getting closer to the local food movement.

His desire to eat better food and live a more sustainable lifestyle sparked the idea of starting a garden. He started with two plots in 2007 and grew the normal plants – tomatoes, peppers, things like that. He did more research on Urban Agriculture Systems and how to make a living off of subacre farming. He checked out as many books as he could from the library about starting organic growing and he studied indoor vertical growing.

In 2009, the success he was enjoying with his produce led him to study the farmers’ markets. Clintonville would be the ideal one to participate in because it was in his neighborhood and it was the one that got all of this going. But it was very competitive.

“I needed a niche,” he said. “Herbs, carrots, microgreens and mushrooms were things that I felt were missing there that I could offer.” He put in his application and got accepted. In his first year of business, he sold everything he grew, exceeding his goal of growing enough food to sell every Saturday the market is open. But that didn’t leave much food for him and Jess.

Trays of lettuces and microgreens

“Figuring out the balance of how much to keep for yourself and how much to sell is hard,” said Joseph. “In my desire to make my business profitable, I wasn’t leaving much for us to eat and we would have to buy food for ourselves.”

West side view of backyard

Some of his favorites things to grow are different varieties of carrots. They are also his favorite to eat. He said carrots can be very difficult to grow – the seeds take three weeks to germinate and once in the beds, they need to be delicately weeded. He now has eight boxes for carrots, growing hybrids such as Red Dragons and White Satins.

The backyard space consists of 30″ beds that are make of 2′x8′ pine. The beds have 12″ walkspaces between them. In the very back are his slow compost piles – a 3 year system he developed for leaves/yard waste/weeds/straw. He also uses a tumbler system (pictured right) for a faster 30 day turnaround to compost mushrooms/microgreens/food waste. A greenhouse sits on the east side of the backyard and houses many of the organic starts that he sells for $3 a plant. The plants are in 4″ pots.

Slow composting system and greenhouse

His pricing is his attempt to bridge the gap between convention plants and certified organic plants. “Eating organically does not have to be expensive,” he shared. Because he does not have the required space around his farm that organic certification requires, his neighbors have signed agreements that they do not use any pesticides or such on their properties.

His mushroom and seed operations occupy the basement of their home. This year he has added an orchard to the front yard, with rows of blueberries, raspberries and two fruit trees – a nectarine and a peach. Soon he is hoping to add asparagus and rhubarb. View a complete list of what Swainway Urban Farm grows to sell.

You can visit Joseph at the Clintonville Farmers’ Market on Saturdays until October 29th. Hours are from 9am to 12pm. He also supplies the Clintonville Community Market with seedlings and has participated in the Worthington Plant Fest. Visit Swainway Urban Farm on the web.

Ohio couple picked for National Farmers Union Beginning Farmer Institute

Nancy Allen
The Daily Standard
June 21, 2011

A New Knoxville couple are among a group of 10 farmers from across the nation selected to participate in the National Farmers Union’s (NFU) inaugural Beginning Farmer Institute.

Jeff and Deb Eschmeyer, who operate Harvest Sun Farm, will learn about financial planning, farmer-owned cooperatives, marketing, USDA farm subsidy programs, renewable energy, understanding local food systems and more during ongoing sessions held across the U.S. The first session is this fall in Washington, D.C. Participants will be surveyed before the first session to set the eighth-month-long agenda to suit their needs, said NFU Education Director Maria Miller. Participants will get to choose the site and date of one of the sessions.
Harvest Sun Farm is a certified organic farm raising fresh fruits and vegetables for two farmers’ markets in Sidney and Columbus, restaurants and several small wholesale accounts. The Eschmeyers hope to start operating a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program next year, where patrons would pay a fee to receive fresh fruits and vegetables from their farm each week.
The couple, who bought Jeff’s grandparents’ farm in 2008, see participating in the Beginning Farmer Institute as an opportunity to learn. The pair are high school sweethearts and the fifth generation of the Eschmeyer family to own the farm.
“We are new, and we face a lot of challenges and decisions. On top of growing stuff, you have all the business stuff too,” Jeff Eschmeyer said. “We saw it as an opportunity to gain insight from others who have been doing it awhile and network with others going through some of the same challenges and struggles we are.”
The first session will include officials who influence USDA farm program decisions. The couple will be able to learn about how USDA programs affect them. They intend to inquire about what types of policies are being considered to encourage more people to go into farming and those for organic farmers like themselves. “With the average age of the U.S. farmer being 58, we need to create a new generation of farmers because there is not a huge backlog of people getting into the business,” Jeff Eschmeyer said. Many organic farming programs are being cut by USDA, he added. The current farm bill contains a program to help new farmers save money to acquire capital, but the program was never funded, he said.
Deb Eschmeyer said it will be nice to network with other young beginning farmers at the national level. “We’re just excited to do it,” she said. “Our first meeting is this fall, and we get to meet everybody.”
The Beginning Farmer Institute will provide participants with a better working knowledge of the tools available to help them succeed, Miller said. “NFU expects to be actively involved with these participants after they return to their farms,” Miller said. “We ask that they become an inspiration or mentor to others in their area and become involved in local boards.”
Others chosen to participate in the Beginning Farmer Institute hail from Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Montana, Connecticut and Colorado. They include grain farmers, a rancher, a CSA operator and an organic farm.
The Eschmeyers stood out in the application process because of their “ability to make things happen, their drive and motivation,” Miller said.
Finding locally grown food:
Two area organic farms, Harvest Sun Farm, 5601 Lock Two Road, New Knoxville, and Oakview Farms, 443 Canal St., New Bremen, are listed on the Good Earth Guide to Organic and Ecological Farms, Gardens and Related Businesses by the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA).

Products available at Harvest Sun Farms include green beans, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, chard, collards, corn, cucumbers, edamame, eggplant, squash, decorative gourds, kale, kohlrabi, fennel, leeks, garlic, greens, okra, onions, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, raspberries, scallions, spinach, strawberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips and a variety of herbs. Products available at Oakview Farm include food grade soybeans, corn for feed and spelt, an old variety of wheat.

Ohio summers are a time to enjoy the bounty of fresh garden vegetables, ripe off-the vine berries and orchard harvests bursting with flavor, the OEFFA says. The Good Earth Guide includes information on more than 315 farms and businesses that sell directly to the public, including more than 150 certified organic farms and businesses and more than 70 community supported agriculture (CSA) programs.
Farming organically typically means using techniques that grow food in harmony with nature and not using synthetic chemicals or fertilizers.
The directory identifies locations of farms to go to for locally grown vegetables; fruits; herbs; honey; maple syrup; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; fiber; flour and grains; cut flowers; plants; hay and straw; seed and feed; and other local farm products. Each farm listing includes a name and contact information, products sold, a farm description and whether the farm is certified organic. Both the print and online versions include tools that make it easy to search the listings for a specific product, farm or farmer, by county or by sales method. Additionally, the online version includes locations and maps for where the farm’s products are sold.

Guide guides people to healthful foods

This Week Clintonville
June 22, 2011

A publication of the Clintonville-based Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association can help in bringing fresh garden vegetables, off-the vine berries and orchard harvests to any kitchen.

Titled “The Good Earth Guide to Organic and Ecological Farms, Gardens and Related Businesses,” the publication includes information on more than 315 farms and businesses that sell directly to the public, including more than 150 certified organic farms and businesses and more than 70 community supported agriculture programs.

The directory identifies sources for locally grown vegetables; fruits; herbs; honey; maple syrup; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; fiber; flour and grains; cut flowers; plants; hay and straw; seed and feed; and other local farm products.

“Since we started publishing ‘The Good Earth Guide’ in 1990, it’s grown from a list of a dozen or so farms to more than 315, reflecting the tremendous growth in demand for locally sourced and sustainably produced foods,” association program director Renee Hunt said in a statement.

“You can find just about anything you’d want being grown or produced right here in Ohio,” she added. “By offering this guide, we hope to help Ohioans make the connections they need to find quality local foods, and to help ensure the future of a vibrant and sustainable food system,” said Hunt.

Each farm listing includes name and contact information, products sold, a farm description and whether the farm is certified organic. Both the print and online versions include tools that make it easy to search the listings for a specific product, farm, or farmer, by county or by sales method.

Additionally, the online version includes locations and maps for where the farm’s products are sold.

“‘The Good Earth Guide’ helps provide a blueprint for consumers interested in eating locally and in-season,” according to Hunt. “Eating locally allows consumers to get to know who raises the food they eat, and to find out how it was produced. It keeps produce from traveling far distances, allowing it to be picked and sold ripe and full of flavor and nutrition. Buying locally and directly from the farmer also helps keep our food dollars in the local economy, which in turn helps our rural communities.”

“The Good Earth Guide” is available free to the public in an online searchable database found here.

Print copies are distributed free to OEFFA members and are available to non-members for $7.50 each at OEFFA’s online store.

Read this article at it’s original source at This Week Clintonville.

A “snapshot” of Ohio’s organic and sustainable food operations

Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service
June 23, 2011

Going organic has never been more popular, and in Ohio, conscientious eaters have a newly updated resource to help them find fresh and organic foods. The Good Earth Guide published by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association identifies sources for locally grown vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, flour and many other Ohio farm products.

Guy Ashmore’s family farm in Clinton County has been featured in the guide for years, he says.

“The guide offers a nice cross-section of the state; readers can see what’s going on from southwest to northwest Ohio, down to the southeast. It’s really diverse and really gives everybody a good snapshot of what is being grown sustainably and organically in Ohio.”

Renee Hunt, program director with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, says eating locally allows consumers to get to know who raises the food they consume and to find out how it was produced. Her group offers the guide as a way to ensure the future of a vibrant and sustainable food system, she explains.

“As a reflection of the networking and the efforts made by conscientious and ecological Ohio farmers over the years to branch out and teach each other, the public demand for fresh, local foods has just grown.”

Ashmore adds that buying locally and directly from the farmer is important for the economies of Ohio’s rural communities.

“Of every dollar that is spent locally, generally about 67 percent stays in that local community. What it does is encourage job growth. This year, we were able to get a couple of interns on our farm, thanks to consumers spending money locally.”

Since the Good Earth Guide was first published in 1990, its coverage has grown from about a dozen farms to more than 315. Each farm listing includes name and contact information, products sold, a farm description and whether the farm is certified organic. The guide is available in print and online.

Read the original text of this article at Public News Service.

Organic food group to observe Wood County farm: Hirzel’s Luckey site part of statewide tour

Jon Chavez
The Toledo Blade
June 17, 2011

A group devoted to organic food production will visit the operations of  Hirzel Farms in Wood County Saturday as part of a 40-stop tour of Ohio sites engaged in organic farming and sustainable agriculture.

Beginning at 10 a.m., members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association will be at the Hirzel site near Luckey where they will view its grain cleaning and compost operations.

“When the grains come in from the field, they have one step in between harvest and the flour mill. It’s the cleaning out of all the nonfood debris, weed seeds and the like, that can go to a food processor,” Lou Kozma, a Hirzel family member and manager of Hirzel Farms.

Most farmers or farming operators just send grains as is on to a processor or milling operation, but Hirzel uses an air-blowing screening process to clean its grains and those of any farmer who contracts to use its cleaning process. The process removes “everything you wouldn’t want to see in a package sitting on the store shelf,” Mr. Kozma said.

The value-added service makes Hirzel products more desirable because a mill can go right to the flour-making process, he added.

Hirzel also has a process, called dehulling, which removes the outer covering of oats and a species of wheat called “spelt,” to make them ready immediately for processing.

The waste it gathers from the grain cleaning, dehulling, and processing of tomatoes at its Hirzel Canning operation in Northwood is used to make compost that is reapplied to its 1,850-acre farming operations, 700 acres of which grow organic crops.

Hirzel Farms grows tomatoes, cabbage, nongenetically modified soybeans, organic edible soybeans, feed corn, spelt, winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, alfalfa, and clover.

Mr. Kozma said the Hirzel family starting grain cleaning in 1979 as a way to give it a competitive edge over its rivals.

“What started out as a way to market our products turned into a custom cleaning operation for us and for others. We now have 20 area growers that feed into the cleaning facility,” he said.

Hirzel began a composting operation to dispose of its cannery and cleaning waste.

The ecological food and farm group began its tour June 11 at a dairy farm in southern Ohio. After the visit to Hirzel Farms, the group will head to a poultry farm in central Ohio.

Read the original text of this article at The Toledo Blade.

Hirzel’s organic farm featured in tour

Larry Limpf
The Press
June 16, 2011

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 2011 tour of some of the state’s sustainable and organic farms includes a stop at a local family farm.

Hirzel Farms, 20790 Bradner Rd., Luckey, will be open to the public June 18 at 10 a.m.  About 700 acres of the 2,000-acre farm have been certified organic.

The farm’s grain cleaning and bagging operations will be featured, said Lupe Hernandez, who manages the farm and has worked for the Hirzels for 32 years. “There aren’t too many machines like we have in Ohio,” he said, adding the farm ventured into organics in the early 1980s.

Soybeans, corn, wheat, and oats are grown organically on the farm, which has been in the Hirzel family for five generations.

Hernandez said the farm’s grain products are sold locally and nationally and, through the Andersons brokerage division, the farm has even sold some products in Japan.

Tour participants will also see the farm’s licensed compost operations which processes waste from grain and livestock operations as well as the Hirzel’s canning business.

Hernandez said about 4,000 tons of compost are generated annually, with about half applied to the farm’s fields and the rest sold through a cooperative to other growers.

Cabbage and tomato fields supply the Silver Fleece sauerkraut and Dei Fratelli tomato product lines but are not part of the farm’s organic business.

Hernandez said the farm was also included in the OEFFA tour in the mid 1990s.

OEFFA was formed in 1979 and has offered the tour series for 29 years.

“The food production system is a mystery for many consumers. This series of free tours shows that some farmers are eager to open their doors to share their experiences with other farmers and with the general public,” said Michelle Gregg-Skinner, Organic Education Program Coordinator at OEFFA. “The more consumers know about how their food is grown, the better prepared they are to make informed choices about who to support with their food dollars.”

The tour continues into November. The next stop will be June 30 at a family-owned poultry farm, Ridgway Hatcheries, in Marion County.

Federal cuts to agriculture budget will harm natural resources

Carol Goland
The Columbus Dispatch editorials
June 9, 2011

Given the country’s fiscal situation, agriculture spending will have to take its share of cuts (“Farm Programs Under Scrutiny,” Columbus Dispatch, 6/1/11). However, the targeting of particular programs is troubling.

Budget cuts recently approved by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee make a second round of massive cuts to conservation, extension, research, renewable energy, and rural development programs.

Any short-term savings will be at the expense of critically important soil and water resources. These programs provide crucial benefits to us all-farmer and consumer-by helping farmers address key resource concerns, comply with regulations, and protect soil and farmland to provide lasting food security. Pressure to produce food and fuel is increasing and voluntary programs to help farmers adopt sustainable farming practices are needed now more than ever.

Working lands conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) improve soil, air, and water quality on farms. Innovative programs such as the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) and the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) are providing farmers with the information, support, and incentives needed to profitably steward the land. The demand for these programs routinely exceeds the funds available. Reducing, or in some cases, eliminating these programs altogether, is short-sighted.

Read this editorial at The Columbus Dispatch.

Swainway Urban Farm

Hounds in the Kitchen
June 7, 2011

Innovative. Compact. Sustainable. Friendly. Swainway Urban Farm is a new model for growing.

Settled on a large lot in Clintonville Ohio, Joseph Swainway and partner Jess Billings (of Jess Bee Natural lip balm fame) have a half acre empire dedicated to growing edibles in an earth friendly way.

Their farm grew out of a desire to provide themselves with healthy fresh food. As their interest deepened, their garden grew to the point of being able to give and sell the excess to friends and family. Soon, restaurants came calling and Swainway Urban Farm was born.

In 2011 the farm applied for and received Organic status by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

straw bale compost bed
straw bale compost bed
urban composted soil
urban composted soil

Minimizing garden inputs is one goal of the farm. Joseph maintains several large compost heaps designed to produce rich organic matter to return to the soil. Part of the motivation for growing edible mushrooms was to use the spent mushroom beds in the compost. The enzymes found in the mushroom compost ‘closes the loop’, as these nutrients are unavailable from traditional plant compost.

The farm was also founded to be an educational resource for home growers and healthy eaters. Jess and Joseph are eager to share gardening and cooking advice at their Clintonville Farmer’s Market stand. They are participants in the Clintonville Farmer’s Market children’s program where kids visit and help work on the farm. On August 7 from 2-4 pm the farm will be open for an OEFFA Farm Tour.

watering in greenhouse at swainway
watering in greenhouse at swainway

Joseph and Jess gave intern Keara and I a tour in mid-April. The farm was in the midst of seedling production. Heirloom seed starts grew under artificial light and then were transfered to the large greenhouse. They were transplanted into four inch pots for selling at the Clintonville Farmer’s Market and Clintonville Community Market.

Joseph and Jess also grow a wide variety of produce for restaurant chefs and farmer’s market shoppers. From early spring through the fall, the farm provides radish, kale, and pea shoots. Shitake mushrooms have been a popular item for years and this spring Joseph debuted oyster mushrooms. Lettuces, herbs, greens, tomatoes, carrots, and more are available seasonally.

Keara had this to say about visiting Swainway: “Rachel introduced me to two amazing, hard working farmers, Jess and Joseph. They live in an urban area and yet are still driven to have the most sustainable lifestyle possible. I was in awe of their backyard as they used every inch they could for gardening purposes.

Never before had I thought that such comprehensive farming was possible in urban Columbus. Seeing how they went about it I could tell they put an enormous amount of work into their extensive garden. Jesse and Joseph obviously care deeply about a healthy lifestyle for themselves as well as the Earth. Witnessing how they live makes me want to let everyone know that even though you might live on a street by a busy city with long rows of houses adjoining your house doesn’t mean that you can’t have a significant farm in your backyard.”

For more information, visit Hounds in the Kitchen.

Local Roots Market schedules three farm tours

Farm and Dairy
June 14, 2011

WOOSTER, Ohio — Inspired by the annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association farm tour, the Local Roots Market and Cafe farm tour provides shoppers with the chance to meet the farmers who grow or raise the food sold at Local Roots as well as to learn more about growing practices, environmental stewardship and farming life.

The tour kicks off June 23 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Weaver’s Truck Patch in Fredericksburg. Martha Gaffney of Martha’s Farm in Ashland opens the gates for visitors June 25 to learn more about the all-natural produce and grass-based beef, pork, chicken and turkeys raised on the farm.

Mary and Joe Gnizak of Adonai Acres in Lakeville will host visitors June 26 from 2-6 p.m. and offer tours of this hilly but productive chemical-free farm, from field to high tunnels. (This farm may not be accessible for those with wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility assistance needs.)

Additional tours will be held in July.

For more information about the Local Roots farm tour, visit Local Roots Wooster and download the June newsletter, or stop by the market to pick up handouts with directions and more information.

In addition, a handful of Local Roots producers will be featured on the OEFFA Farm Tour, and Local Roots Market and Cafe will team up with the South Market Bistro to host the tour Oct. 1. For more information about these tour dates, visit the OEFFA events page.

The market, 140 S. Walnut St. in Wooster, is currently open Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For information on upcoming events or membership, visit the web site at Local Roots Wooster or sign up for the monthly newsletter.