Archive for December, 2011

The Beautiful, the Local and the Slow

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Written by  Marta Madigan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MM: What is your dirt solution?

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

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

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

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

MM: And what is beautiful to you?

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

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

What do poetry and capitalism have in common?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sign the Slow Money Principles NOW by clicking here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why not invest local, Ohio?

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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

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

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

Hoop houses extend the growing season so farmers can meet demand for local veggies

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Students from Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program help erect a hoop house for Val Jorgensen of Westerville. Jorgensen invited 18 students and faculty members to her 65-acre farm to help put up five solar greenhouses early last month. Putting on the finishing touches to one of the houses are, from left, Sarah Fillius, Hannah Weber, Perry DeBruhl (on ladder) and Nate Baldwin.

Students from Michigan State University’s Organic Farmer Training Program help erect a hoop house for Val Jorgensen of Westerville. Jorgensen invited 18 students and faculty members to her 65-acre farm to help put up five solar greenhouses early last month. Putting on the finishing touches to one of the houses are, from left, Sarah Fillius, Hannah Weber, Perry DeBruhl (on ladder) and Nate Baldwin.

By Tracy Turner

The Columbus Dispatch Thursday December 8, 2011 8:23 AM

You can expect something more than snow to dot Ohio farmland this winter. Increasingly, domed plastic structures are popping up on farms around the state, aimed at keeping local produce flowing even when weather turns nasty.

Inside those structures, everything from salad greens to herbs will grow, warmed by the winter sun.

The domes, called hoop houses, stand as testament to the “eat local” movement that has sparked increasing demand for locally grown foods.

Val Jorgensen will have an entire crop of kale, spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard and herbs growing outside this winter on her 65-acre organic farm in Westerville.

With demand up for the products grown by Jorgensen Farms, she invested several thousand dollars this fall to build five hoop houses. The 20-feet-by-96-feet enclosed plastic structures will allow her to extend her growing season.

“The demand is greater than the supply right now. Even with the hoop houses, I won’t be able to meet all of the orders I’ve gotten for local organic foods,” Jorgensen said. “Ohio farmers are able to produce enough for local farmers markets, consumers and retailers during the summer months, but often have to rely more on shipping in foods grown in other areas to meet demand in the winter.”

The increased crop is key for her to meet her increased customer demands, which includes Jeni’s Ice Cream and several catering companies and restaurants.

One reason for the increased demand is that grocers are embracing “buy local” based on growing consumer demand.

Meijer in August announced that it plans to increase by 5 percent the amount of locally grown fruits and vegetables it sells in its stores. The goal is to ensure that nearly one-third of all produce Meijer sells this season comes from local producers, said Scott Calandra, a produce buyer for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based chain.

And Kroger and Giant Eagle both obtain a majority of their produce from local sources, as do other grocers, including Whole Foods.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that demand for local and organic foods is soon going to overtake supply, said Sharon Sachs, an owner of Women Farm, a Columbus-based company that helps women start or expand farms.

“As farms get smaller and local foods emphasis grows, there is more opportunity to get more people into the farming business, particularly women,” she said. “The expansion of farmers markets coupled with a growing demand by restaurants and chefs to work directly with growers and producers has resulted in the need for growers to expand their growing capacity and growing season.”

Hoop houses, especially in climates such as Ohio’s, are one way of doing that, Sachs said.

Hoop houses, also called high tunnels, are similar to greenhouses but are less expensive and require no artificial energy source, according to the Agriculture Department. The structures are typically made using wood or metal covered in layers of plastic, which trap daytime air inside and minimize heat loss at night.

Depending on the size of the high tunnel, the cost can range from about $2,000 to $15,000, Jorgensen said.

There are those who’d be glad to see more of those hoop houses pop up.

Michael Jones, who owns the Greener Grocer, a local organic food store, said farmers who are able to continue supplying produce beyond the usual central Ohio growing season are in strong demand.

“We could sell five times more local foods than what we are getting from growers,” he said. “The issue is being able to fill the demand for orders.

“It’s taken awhile for farmers to see that there is a strong demand for local foods, and it takes more time to get production up to meet that demand.”

Jones, also a spokesman for Local Matters, a central Ohio nonprofit group that supports local food, said the goal for many retailers is to sell more local foods.

“As you grow it, we’ll sell it,” he said.

As more retailers espouse that sentiment, more growers are realizing the benefits of expanding their growing season through the use of hoop houses, especially in colder states such as Ohio, said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, a Washington-based trade group.

“More younger and new farmers are getting into agriculture and are finding that with the addition of hoop houses, they don’t need a lot of land to grow fruits and vegetables. They not only can get a farm up and started this way, they can also earn additional money and expand their operations.”

That was the case for Mike Laughlin, who operates the 20-acre Northridge Organic Farm in Johnstown. Laughlin has two hoop houses, which he uses to get a head start on spring planting of greens, broccoli, cabbage and other cold-tolerant crops.

He said the structures have been so successful for the farm that he plans to add at least two more.

“Anytime you can get produce earlier than you’d normally get it is an advantage,” Laughlin said. “People are looking for local foods and if you have it, they’re wanting to buy it.

“The longer you can produce local foods, the more additional income you can generate. Retailers and consumers are always excited to get their hands on the products. Word travels pretty quickly in terms of what growers are doing and how they are growing.

“There’s an awful lot of demand out there for these products.”

Pollution linked to ‘fracking’: Industry objects; EPA says report isn’t final in case from Wyoming

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced yesterday for the first time that “fracking” — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — might be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.

The draft finding could have significant implications while states, including Ohio, try to determine how to best regulate the process.

“All of the rhetoric from the industry has been there’s no way that this can happen,” said Trent Dougherty, a lawyer for the advocacy group Ohio Environmental Council.

“This shows that it has happened, and we need to protect the people in Ohio.”

The EPA found that hydrocarbons likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink the water.

The announcement will add to the controversy over fracking, which has played a large role in opening up many gas reserves, including the Marcellus shale in the eastern United States and the Utica shale in Ohio in recent years.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents disagree.

In Ohio, where oil and gas companies are buying up mineral rights beneath millions of acres of land across the state, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is in charge of overseeing the new field.

Andy Ware, a deputy director at the agency, stressed that Wyoming state regulators dispute the findings and that Ohio’s geology is different.

“We’re confident that we will protect groundwater — we are protecting groundwater,” he said.

The U.S. EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists.

“EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA regional administrator in Denver. “We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process.”

The EPA also emphasized that the findings are specific to the Pavillion area. Fracking there occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells. Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that normally would be used.

Pavillion resident John Fenton applauded the EPA for listening to homeowners with contaminated water.

“Those of us who suffer the impacts from the unchecked development in our community are extremely happy the contamination source is being identified,” Fenton said.

Calgary, Alberta-based Encana owns the Pavillion gas field. Spokesman Doug Hock said there was much to question about the draft study.

The compounds the EPA said could be associated with fracking, he said, could have had origins not related to gas development, such as contamination in the sampling process, water-well construction or natural occurrence.

“There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. This is a probability, and it is one we believe is incorrect,” Hock said.

Tom Stewart, with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said there have been more than a million “ frack jobs” created in the United States.

“There has always been circumstances that they say that there’s a connection that did not necessarily exist.”

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe said the study was “not based on sound science but rather on political science.”

“Its findings are premature, given that the agency has not gone through the necessary peer-review process, and there are still serious outstanding questions regarding EPA’s data and methodology,” the Oklahoma Republican said in a statement.

Wyoming last year became one of the first states to require oil and gas companies to disclose the chemicals used in fracking.

Ohio does not require full disclosure.

Last year, oil and gas company speculators visited Robert Bevier’s 500-acre farm north of Mansfield to try to sign him to a lease.

He said he is for drilling, but wants it to be done by a reputable company that doesn’t put cash ahead of environmental responsibility.

“I don’t want my farm turned into a waste zone,” he said.

Information from Dispatch reporter Bill Bush and the Associated Press was used in this story.

Testimony on the proposed rescission of administrative rule 901-11-8-01 on dairy labeling

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
MacKenzie Bailey
Program Policy Coordinator
Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
December 20, 2011

Ohio Department of Agriculture, Reynoldsburg, Ohio

Thank for the opportunity to present this testimony.

My name is MacKenzie Bailey, and I am the Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).

Our organization has taken a leading role in promoting and supporting sustainable agriculture and family farmers in Ohio for over thirty years, and has operated an organic certification program for nearly as long.  Our membership of almost 3,000 includes farmers, including many dairy farmers, consumers, retailers, researchers, educators, and others.

I am here today to express our strong approval for the rescission of Rule Number 901:11-8-01.  We thank the Ohio Department of Agriculture for reconsidering this rule.  When first introduced, it explained that the intent behind the rule was to reduce consumer confusion.  However, the labeling rule does not accomplish this purported aim, in practice it limits the information consumers have about dairy products and makes it more difficult for them to identify and purchase milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and other items produced without the use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH).  Moreover, the U.S. Court of Appeals found little support for the contention that any consumer confusion regarding the use of artificial growth hormones arises from the labels themselves.

According to a Food & Water Watch poll, an overwhelming majority of Americans support “rbGH-free” labeling: 8 in 10 adults believe that milk that originates from cows that have NOT been treated with rBGH ought to be allowed to have an “rbGH-free” label.  Ohio consumers echo these national trends quite clearly: they are informed about the use of genetically engineered bovine growth hormones, and want information on labels in order to be able to make informed decisions in purchasing dairy products.  In the specific case of the proposed dairy labeling rule, during the comment period when it was first proposed, fewer than 70 out of 2,700 letters sent to the ODA supported it.

Consistent with the FDA Interim Guidance, the Court emphatically ruled that labels such as “rbGH-free,” “rbST-free,” and “artificial hormone free” are to be allowed.  We enthusiastically support this for a variety of reasons, chief among them is that this will bring Ohio’s labeling rule in greater alignment with the rules in other states, provide consumers with the information they seek about dairy products in a clear and unambiguous way, and protect dairy farmers and processors right to communicate truthful information about their products.  We thus urge you to proceed swiftly with rescission of the proposed rule.

The Court has also acknowledged compositional differences between milk from cows treated with rbGH and those that have not been treated.  The Court identifies three such differences, related to elevated levels of IGF-1, nutritional components, and somatic cell counts.  These scientific findings were either ignored or minimized by the FDA 16 years ago; the Court’s affirmation of them is significant.

The State of Ohio has repeatedly affirmed that its interest in changing the dairy labeling rules was to eliminate false and misleading information, and this was one reason that the dairy labeling rule required the inclusion of the statement “The FDA has found no significant difference between cows treated with artificial growth hormones and those not treated.”  Given the acknowledgement by a Federal Court that there exists compositional differences in milk, we fully support rescission of this rule, thereby eliminating the requirement to include this so-called “FDA disclaimer.” To continue to require this statement would be contrary to the state’s interest in reducing false and misleading information.

For these reasons, we fully support quick and complete rescission of the dairy labeling rule.  Doing so will:

  • Be in keeping with the Court’s finding that “rbGH-free” or equivalent claims must be permitted.
  • Remove the requirement that the misleading disclaimer “The FDA has found no significant differences between milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones and milk from untreated cows” appear on all labels making the rbGH-free claim.
  • Provide consumers the information they seek in purchasing dairy products and protect farmers and processors right to communicate important information about those products.

On behalf of the 3,000 members of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, including farmers and conscientious eaters, we congratulate and support the Ohio Department of Agriculture in its decision to rescind Administrative Rule Number 901:11-8-01, a burdensome and unnecessary dairy product labeling rule.

Ohio’s Largest Sustainable Food and Farm Conference: Online Registration Now Open

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 8, 2011

Contact:
Renee Hunt, Program Director—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 205, renee@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

Press Release

Granville, OhioRegistration is now open for the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty, February 18-19, 2012 in Granville, Ohio (Licking County).

The state’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, the event draws more than 1,000 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest, and has sold out in advance the past two years. This year’s conference will feature keynote speakers Woody Tasch and Andrew Kimbrell; more than 70 informative, hands-on workshops; two featured pre-conference events on February 17; a trade show; a fun and educational kids’ conference and child care area; locally-sourced and organic homemade meals, and Saturday evening entertainment.

“Our conference title says a lot about what we believe and what we’re trying to accomplish,” says OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Farmers, businesses, chefs, and consumers are working together to reclaim our food sovereignty—rebuilding local food systems and Ohio’s rural farming communities, demanding access to healthy, organic food and information about how that food is produced, and relearning sustainable agriculture practices that nourish our bodies, our communities, and the environment.”

Keynote Speakers

Saturday’s keynote lecture titled, “Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Matter,” will be provided by Woody Tasch. Tasch is the chairman of the Slow Money Alliance and inspired the Slow Money movement by writing Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered.

The Slow Money Alliance advocates for sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. So far, $4.5 million has been invested in 16 small food enterprises through Slow Money’s national gatherings. In the last year, $5 million more has been invested through Slow Money chapters.

For 10 years, Tasch was chairman of Investors’ Circle, which has invested $133 million in 200 early stage sustainability businesses since 1992. Tasch also served as treasurer of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation where, as part of an innovative mission-related venture capital program, a substantial investment was made in Stonyfield Farm, now the world’s largest maker of organic yogurt.

Sunday’s keynote lecture titled, “The Future of Food,” will be provided by Andrew Kimbrell. Kimbrell is one of the country’s leading environmental attorneys and the founder and executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS) and the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA). The Center for Food Safety pursues public education, policy advocacy, and legal actions to curtail industrial agricultural production methods that harm human health and the environment, including genetic engineering.

Kimbrell is author of 101 Ways to Help Save the Earth, The Human Body Shop: The Engineering and Marketing of Life, Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food and general editor of Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture. His articles have appeared in numerous law reviews, technology journals, magazines, and newspapers across the country, and he has been featured in documentary films, including “The Future of Food.”  In 1994, Utne Reader named Kimbrell one of the world’s leading 100 visionaries. In 2007, he was named one of the 50 people most likely to save the planet by The Guardian-U.K.

Workshops

The conference will also feature more than 70 hands-on, educational workshops and cooking demonstrations with topics including: bramble and strawberry production; no-till farming; edible landscaping; pest management; compost; pork, beef, and lamb production; poultry nutrition; food preservation; food safety; social investing; farm and business planning; renewable energy; mushroom production; season extension; mulch; cover crops; aquaculture; dairy health; recordkeeping; Farm Bill policy; co-ops; small space gardening; companion planting; organic certification; fiber production; permaculture; tax planning; genetic engineering; field crops; grassroots organizing; conservation funding; cheesemaking, and more.

In addition, the conference will offer a three part series of workshops about high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF), commonly known as “fracking,” which is an intensive extraction process that uses a high pressure chemical cocktail to fracture rock to release natural gas. The workshops are designed to educate farmers, landowners, and concerned citizens about the environmental and social risks of this process, existing laws and regulations, and what actions can be taken by landowners and community organizers.

The conference will also offer the following featured conference guests:

-          Jeff Moyer, the director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute and an expert on organic crop production, will discuss no-till organic farming, utilizing cover crops to enhance soil fertility, and effective compost management.

-          Gary Zimmer, farmer, author, educator, and president of Midwestern Bio-Ag, will discuss nutritional considerations for pasture-based dairy operations.

-          Dan Ravicher, a patent law professor and executive director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), will provide an update on a federal lawsuit against Monsanto which seeks preemptive court protection for farmers who may be accused of patent infringement if they become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered seed.

Pre-Conference Events

Two on-site pre-conference events will also be featured on February 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first, “Slow Money for Ohio? Financing the Local Food System,” will feature Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch and a panel of experts, to talk about Slow Money, the challenges of capitalizing the local food economy, and successful strategies to nurture sustainable food systems and businesses.

The second pre-conference event, “No Till, No Drill, No Problem: Integrating No-Till Methods into Organic Production Systems,” will feature Jeff Moyer, director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute, to discuss practical ways to build soil fertility and tilth, suppress weeds, and manage cover crop rotations, to increase production.

Additional Features

The conference will also feature a kid’s conference offering a variety of exciting workshops for children ages 6-12; a playroom for children under 6; a book signing by Woody Tasch and The Contrary Farmer, Gene Logsdon; an exhibit hall offering an interesting array of information, products, services and resources that relate to sustainable agriculture; a raffle; a non-denominational Sunday service; and Saturday evening entertainment, including a performance by The Back Porch Swing Band and a film screening and discussion of The Greenhorns.

Our Sponsors

OEFFA’s 33rd annual conference is being sponsored by Chipotle Mexican Grill, Northstar Café, Organic Valley/CROPP, Granville Exempted Village Schools, Mustard Seed Market, Whole Foods Market Dublin, Snowville Creamery, Edible Ohio Valley, Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese, Casa Nueva, Earthineer, Earth Tools, Green B.E.A.N. Delivery, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Lucky Cat Bakery, Midwest Bio-Ag, Ohio Earth Food, OEFFA Grain Growers Chapter, Stauf’s Coffee Roasters, Stonyfield Farm, Swainway Urban Farm, Whole Hog BBQ, Andelain Fields, C-TEC, Curly Tail Organic Farm, DNO Produce, Eden Foods, King Family Farm, Luna Burger, Marshy Meadows Farm, Mrs. Miller’s Homemade Noodles, Rodale Institute, Bad Dog Acres, Bexley Natural Market, Blue Jacket Dairy, Bluebird Farm, Crumbs Bakery, Equine Veterinary Dental Services, Flying J Farm, Glad Annie’s Old World Baklava, Green Fields Farm, Hartzler Family Dairy, The Hills Market, Hirzel Farms/ Dei Fratelli, Kitchen Basics, Leo Dick and Sons, Locust Run Farm, OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources Social Responsibility Initiative, Phoenix Organics, Shagbark Mill, Schmidt Family Farms, Stan Evans Bakery, and Wayward Seed Farm.

“No matter who you are—a farmer or a conscientious consumer—there’s something valuable for you at the conference. We look forward to sharing this programming with everyone,” concluded Hunt.

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About OEFFA

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

Conference Registration

To register or for more information about the conference, including maps, directions, workshop descriptions, speakers, and a schedule, go to http://www.oeffa.org/conference2012.php. For additional questions, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org. The 2010 and 2011 conferences sold out in advance, so early registration is encouraged to guarantee a spot.

Artwork and Images

For the conference art image or pictures of keynote speakers, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org. For photographs of the 2011 conference, go to http://www.redplanetwd.com/oeffa/conference2011.php.

Press Passes and Interviews with Keynote Speakers

OEFFA offers a limited number of press passes to members of the media who would like to attend one or both days of the conference. We can also help members of the press schedule pre-conference interviews with our keynote speakers. To arrange an interview or request a press pass, contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org

Event Calendar Announcement

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty, February 18-19 in Granville, Ohio is Ohio’s largest sustainable agriculture conference. The event will feature keynote speakers Woody Tasch and Andrew Kimbrell, more than 70 workshops, local and organic meals, kids’ conference, childcare, a trade show, Saturday evening entertainment, and two featured pre-conference events on February 17. Workshop topics include farming, gardening, homesteading, cooking, green living, livestock production, business planning, and marketing. To register, or for more information about the conference, go to www.oeffa.org or contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205 or renee@oeffa.org.

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