Archive for October, 2011

Farm Bill Needs to Support Local and Organic Family Farms

Monday, October 31st, 2011

For Immediate Release: Friday, October 28 2011

Contact: MacKenzie Bailey, Policy Coordinator, 614-421-2022 ext. 208, mackenzie@oeffa.org

COLUMBUS, OH – With the U. S. Senate and House Agriculture committees expected to submit draft language for the 2012 Farm Bill to the congressional deficit reduction committee (also known as the Super Committee) on Tues., Nov., 1, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is calling on congressional leadership to protect essential conservation funding, increase funding to programs supporting the growing organic sector, and close loopholes that allow big Ag to disproportionately absorb available funds.

“This is the fastest food and farm bill decision making process in history. While our representatives in Congress are hurrying to draft language, we hope the programs that contribute to the success of local and organic family farmers are protected,” explained MacKenzie Bailey, the policy coordinator at OEFFA, a 32-year-old statewide membership organization representing farmers, rural citizens, gardeners, and consumers looking to source local and organic food.

Earlier this year Congress cut $2 billion from conservation funding.  As a result, for example, funding has expired for the Wetlands Reserve Program, eliminating support for wetland restoration work that provides tremendous water quality and habitat benefits.

Local and organic farmers rely on essential programs funded through the farm bill, such as the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program, which eases the financial burdens organic farmers annually incur to maintain certification while supplying safe and nutritious food to the local community.

“Organic certification is quite expensive. The certification cost-share program encourages us to continue farming in a way that builds the health of people and the environment,” said Ron Meyer from Strawberry Hill Farm in Coshocton County.

OEFFA’s Organic Certification Program certifies nearly 700 organic farmers in the Midwest. Of that 700, approximately 400 are Ohio-based.

Two of the most successful and utilized Farm Bill programs are the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), both of which provide assistance to farmers addressing natural resource concerns. The EQIP Organic Initiative provides cost-share funding targeting farmers who implement organic practices.

Christina Wieg and Rick Perkins from Sandy Rock Acres in Hocking County are one of many farmers that have benefited from the EQIP program, which provided them with funding and guidance on a number of conservation projects, including a fence installation that helps them to prevent water quality impacts from livestock.

“As a small family farmer we wouldn’t have been able to afford these conservation projects without the assistance of the EQIP program,” explained Christina Wieg, “it has allowed us to have a more efficient farm operation, increasing our income, while also protecting the environment.”

Conservation funding is critical to maintaining a growing sustainable agriculture sector. Despite economic turmoil, organic sales hit $42.8 million in 2008 with an average annual growth rate of approximately 7.5%. Maintaining 2008 Farm Bill investment levels in research and conservation programs is essential to the continued success in the organic sector.

Ohio local and organic farmers will be looking to Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representatives Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Jean Schmidt (OH-2) and Bob Gibbs (OH-18) for leadership during the Farm Bill discussion.  Jean Schmidt chairs the House Nutrition and Horticulture Subcommittee, which takes the lead on organic initiatives. Monday Senator Sherrod Brown is expected to introduce the Local Farmers, Food and Jobs Bill intended for inclusion in the Farm Bill that will help to advance the development of local and regional food and farm systems. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) sits on the Super Committee, which is expecting to receive the draft Farm Bill language from the Ag Committees next Tuesday.

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The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1979 by farmers, gardeners, and conscientious eaters who are committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information go to www.oeffa.org.

Michael Pollan talks food, nature and a trip to Cleveland

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
By Evelyn Theiss, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

He may be one of the most famous food writers of our time, but that’s not how Michael Pollan planned it.

The man who changed lives and industries with “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “In Defense of Food” got into food journalism through his passion for the rich tradition of American nature writing.

The timing of his own professional evolution coincided perfectly with a time when Americans were asking why so many more people were getting fatter and sicker.

“Food is the most important relationship we have with nature, and that’s true of all creatures,” says Pollan, who will speak Monday at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland’s PlayhouseSquare. “And to really figure out how we could repair our relationship with nature, we had to look at eating and the food industry and natural agriculture.”

The author and professor of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, also credits his editors at The New York Times Magazine, where he has long been a contributing writer. They realized, as he would, “that the public was ready for a new kind of writing about food, a more political and ecological food journalism.”

He may have backed into it, but writing about food, diet and health turned out to be logical and inevitable, Pollan says.

The food landscape has changed dramatically since 2006. “The word ‘locavore’ hadn’t even been coined then,” Pollan says, referring to those who try to eat mostly what is grown or raised in the region where they live. “The amount of attention to local food has burgeoned since then.”

So much so that corporations naturally want a piece of it. Pollan thinks that is in part attributable to first lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity. “I think these corporations who came to her are afraid of new regulations on processed food, or a farm bill [up for revision this year] less friendly to agribusiness. She brought this into the White House in a way it hasn’t been before.”

Now, Pollan says, “you have an industry feeling very defensive.”

Still, he doesn’t consider the push-back a negative thing. “There’s a debate that is being engaged in about food and farming in America that has really taken off in the last couple of years.”

Pollan, in his “In Defense of Food” book, distilled his common-sense advice to this now famous dictum: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He further condensed that message into his shorter follow-up book, “Food Rules.” (A new edition will be released Tuesday, Nov. 1.)

By that, Pollan means real food, not chemical agglomerations processed into what some of us think of as food. “Not too much” means choosing quality over quantity, eating slowly till you are 80 percent full, then waiting for satiety — not eating to fullness then feeling uncomfortable. It also means eating true meals, not just big snacks, and sitting down at a table for a meal, not mindlessly consuming.

And “mostly plants” means meat is OK, but as a side dish, almost a garnish, rather than a main element. Pollan himself won’t eat meat that comes from factory feedlots (as does most of what’s in grocery chains).

We asked Pollan what he thought about some other food trends:

What do you think of dairy, which is being demonized by some groups and eschewed by vegans, among others? Is it bad for us?

“Yes, it’s true that we are the only species that drinks milk beyond weaning,” he says, citing the argument often used by anti-dairy people. “But we’ve been doing it for about 6,000 to 10,000 years, so consuming what was once an ‘unnatural’ food has been folded into our genes.”

But, he adds, “Milk has definitely been hyped as a wholesome food” by the dairy industry, and it isn’t necessary. “You can get more calcium from eating greens, like spinach. Milk is not the be-all and end-all for healthy children, but I don’t think it’s a bad food.”

However, he adds, the amount of hormones present in much of the milk in this country is a bad thing, and most milk has growth hormone present in it.

As for him? “I eat yogurt and fermented milk products,” and he chooses organic.

What is behind the tremendous growth in gluten-free products?

“There is an increase in gluten intolerance and celiac disease,” he notes. But not nearly so much as to justify the number of gluten-free products that are being made, marketed and purchased. “There is a fad going up around this,” Pollan says. “People fixate on removing an evil nutrient [such as wheat] and then end up feeling better. But reducing the amount of carbs you consume will make you feel better.”

Americans eat too many refined carbs, he says, which is why he recommends true whole grains, whether in bread or other foods.

And what about high-fructose corn syrup?

“I’ve done a lot to demonize it,” he says. “And people took away the message that there was something intrinsically wrong with it. A lot of research says this isn’t the case. But there is a problem with how much total sugar we consume.” High-fructose corn syrup is cheaper than sugar, so it traditionally was pumped into a lot of foods, including savory items.

“It shows the brilliance of the industry, which is always a couple of steps ahead of me,” Pollan says. “They started giving products made of real sugar health claims and [are] trying to make sugar look good.” And that is a problem.

But that’s how the history of dietary fads in this country unfolds: “We obsess about a small group of evil nutrients, and a small group of blessed nutrients, and every generation has an evolving cast of characters.

“And eventually, the fates of those nutrients will completely reverse.”

Today, among the “blessed” nutrients are the omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for us (that may not change). A decade or more ago, oat bran was our dietetic savior. Early in the 20th century, fringe gurus with names like Kellogg set out with success to convince some Americans that protein was evil, and the packaged-cereal industry was born.

Today, Pollan says, “Carbs are the problem. Refined carbs and carbs are implicated in metabolic syndrome, and proteins are getting a free pass, except from ‘The China Study’ guy.” That would be Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of “The China Study,” which claims a no-meat, vegan diet is by far the healthiest when it comes to preventing cancer and heart disease.

So what are we supposed to think, or do? Well, he says, “The all-or-nothing approach is a dead end.”

Mainly, he says, beware of products with labels that brag about the inclusion or exclusion of “good for you” or “evil” ingredients.

Get back to the main message, also known as the “Eater’s Manifesto”: We should eat real food, perhaps in lesser amounts than we’re used to, and mostly plants.

As Pollan’s early inspiration in nature writing, Henry David Thoreau, once said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”

Which, as Pollan’s work conveys, is exactly what we need to do with how we choose to eat.

What is Local Food? Part II

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
Written by  Colleen Leonardi
Edible Columbus

When we asked the question—What is Local Food?—a few weeks ago to our friends and colleagues in our community, we received thoughtful, compelling responses. The question emerged in celebration of Local Foods Week. But as we said—every week is local foods week.

So in honor of the additional responses we received but were not able to share at the time of our post, we wanted to share them with you now. Lauren Ketcham from Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association, Victoria Taylor from Snowville Creamery and Matt Ewer from Green B.E.A.N. Delivery, all share their thoughts on local food.

We hope you enjoying their ideas as much as we do. What is Local Food to you?

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“There’s no standard definition of a “local” food system; instead, it’s a nuanced continuum, which can be measured less in miles than by the results it achieves.

The biggest advantage to buying locally is that it helps create a sense of community and establishes regional food systems which keep money in the community, protect farmland, create local jobs, and support alternative, innovative farming systems. Supporting local farmers also helps consumers get to know who raises their food, enabling them to better understand food production. This relationship also helps keep farmers tuned into the needs of their customers.

Freshness and variety is another aspect of local. When you buy food grown locally that is fresh, flavors will be at their peak. But, for fruits and vegetables, buying locally grown food may also help preserve crop biodiversity. The produce we get through conventional channels are chosen because they ship well and have a relatively long shelf life. In contrast, farmers who sell their products locally have the freedom to choose varieties because they taste good. That’s one reason why, when you go to the farmers market, you can see a mind-blowing variety of tomatoes and other produce!Local doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable, however. Method of production is critical. You could purchase sweet corn grown within 5 miles of your house, but if it was grown using GE seed and Roundup, while you may be strengthening your local economy, you’re do so at the expense of the environment and the health of the soil.

Surprisingly, transporting food accounts for comparatively little of the energy used in our food system. Production practices, specifically the use of chemical inputs, dwarfs the impacts of transportation distance. So, for consumers concerned about the environmental impacts of their food choices, it is important to consider not just shipping distance, but the method of production as well.”

~~Lauren Ketcham, Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association

“My own very personal opinion regarding the definition of “local” when it comes to a food product depends on the product itself. Some products travel better than others. In general, we try to support Ohio grown, produced and manufactured products. After that, made in the USA is preferred to imported products.

I understand the need to define the term, and I frankly resent companies that are not even regional calling themselves local. I have heard someone (Joel Salatin, maybe?) describe “local” as any place that can be reached with a round trip in one day. This is how we justify having our milk in the DC area. If we used the 100-mile radius criteria, we would barely make it to Columbus; Cincinnati and Cleveland would be out of bounds.

There are many products that we use which can not be produced locally or even regionally: coffee, cocoa, tea, quinoa, and oranges, to name but a few. Having said that, I do try to get products that were produced closest to home or produced under the most ethical conditions.

Here in the Athens area we are blessed with a wonderful year round Farmers’ Market. Most of our food bill is spent there on fresh local fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese and eggs. The quality and variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits compete with the selection at any grocery store. Our Farmers’ Market even has a coffee roaster from the next county who sources her coffee beans only from ethical producers, Lorraine Walker of Silver Bridge Coffee Co. We also have the Tea Lady, Maureen Burns-Hooker from Herbal Sage Tea Co. who makes a variety of exceptional tea blends. There are now growers of staple crops, Shagbark Seed and Mill Co., who are growing corn, spelt and beans. Both Laurel Valley Creamery and Integration Acres make wonderful cheeses, and thanks to Shade Winery we only have to pop over a few hills to get a really decent bottle of wine. Needless to say, we get our milk even closer to home.

I have been a “health nut” all of my adult life but had never found such high quality raw ingredients until we moved here. Who could have known that living in Appalachia would allow us to eat like kings?

So, I guess I would have to say that a round trip in one day is local; one way in one day is regional.

How fast do you drive?”

~~Victoria Taylor, Snowville Creamery

“Local food is a study in community and all the elements involved in community. It’s a study in local economy, land stewardship, education, nutrition, health, and fun. It’s not a new phenomenon although it did fall off of the landscape for quite some time in our urban communities. Local agriculture is back at the forefront of American culture. It doesn’t need to be complex or cute. It needs to effective and serve its purpose of feeding our community highly nutritious and healthy food. It’s an American tradition and should simply be supported and celebrated. . The idea is to help our urban communities live healthier lifestyles while adding to the vitality of our rural farmers and urban artisans.”

~~Matt Ewer Owner, Green B.E.A.N. Delivery

October Marks First Farm to School Month

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
By Charles Dilbone and Carol Goland
Newark Advocate/Granville Sentinel
10/21/11

Fish sticks, tater tots and sloppy Joes. Does this sound like your child’s school lunch? Not if you live in Licking County, or in a growing number of school systems across the state, who are ditching frozen and processed foods in favor of fresh and local meals.

There are now more than 2,300 Farm to School programs across the country serving healthy meals in school cafeterias and providing educational opportunities to students about agriculture, health and nutrition.

This October is the first National Farm to School Month, giving us an opportunity to celebrate the connections that are happening in Ohio and all over the country between schools and farmers.

Because of these partnerships, in the Granville school district, beef and pork come from farms in Granville and Zanesville, a baker in Pataskala supplies fresh-made bread, and apples come from a farm 15 miles away. Granola, cookies and tea come from farms and bakeries only 2 miles away. The turkey sandwiches are made from fresh turkey breast carved in the school kitchen, and the pasta dough is made fresh daily. This year, Granville expects to source 45 percent of their food from farms and dairies within 50 miles of the school.

Farm to School programs are based on the idea that students will choose healthier foods, including more fruits and vegetables, if they are fresh, picked at the peak of their flavor and if those choices are reinforced with educational activities.

This idea has borne fruit in Granville. After contracting with AVI Food Systems, the percentage of students purchasing school lunches grew from 22 to 67 percent. Nationally, the choice of healthier options in Farm to School cafeterias has increased daily fruit and vegetable consumption, both at school and at home. Increased access to nutritious meals and food education help students develop healthy eating habits and reduce their risk for obesity and other health issues.

In addition to serving up healthier food choices, the school has incorporated gardening into their curriculum to help teach students about where their food comes from. Granville High School started an organic garden eight years ago, which is part of the curriculum for two science classes and a summer school class in sustainability. The garden produces vegetables for the school lunch program and for a summer farm market.

Because of this integrative approach, Farm to School programs benefit the entire community: children, farmers, parents and teachers. Farm to School programs open up new markets for farmers, and increase demand for local and sustainably-produced food. Such initiatives help keep food dollars in the local economy, and create a generation of informed food consumers, who understand not only the nutritional significance of their food choices, but also the economic, environmental and social impacts as well.

Dilbone is the director of business operations with Granville Exempted Village Schools. Goland is the executive director of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which will hold its 33rd annual sustainable agriculture conference in Granville in February. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org. For more information about National Farm to School Month, go to www.farm toschoolmonth.org.

OEFFA’s Carriage House Farm Tour

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

Carriage House Farm
North Bend, Ohio
Sunday, October 9, 2011