Archive for February, 2012

Judge Sides With Monsanto: Dismisses Farmers’ Right to Grow Food Without Fear, Contamination, and Economic Harm

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

For Immediate Release: February 28, 2012

Contact:

Carol Goland, OEFFA, Executive Director, cgoland@oeffa.org, (614) 421-2022

Daniel Ravicher, PUBPAT, ravicher@pubpat.org, 212-461-1902

Press Release

New York, NY—On February 24, Judge Naomi Buchwald handed down her ruling on a motion to dismiss in the case of Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto after hearing oral argument on January 31 in Federal District Court in Manhattan.  Her ruling to dismiss the case brought against Monsanto on behalf of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and other organic farmers, seed grower, and agricultural organizations representing farmers and citizens was met with great disappointment by the plaintiffs.

Plaintiff lead attorney Daniel Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) said, “While I have great respect for Judge Buchwald, her decision to deny farmers the right to seek legal protection from one of the world’s foremost patent bullies is gravely disappointing.  Her belief that farmers are acting unreasonable when they stop growing certain crops to avoid being sued by Monsanto for patent infringement should their crops become contaminated maligns the intelligence and integrity of those farmers.  Her failure to address the purpose of the Declaratory Judgment Act and her characterization of binding Supreme Court precedent that supports the farmers’ standing as ‘wholly inapposite’ constitute legal error.  In sum, her opinion is flawed on both the facts and the law.  Thankfully, the plaintiffs have the right to appeal to the Court of Appeals, which will review the matter without deference to her findings.”

Monsanto’s history of aggressive investigations and lawsuits brought against farmers have been a source of concern for organic and non-GMO farmers since Monsanto’s first lawsuit brought against a farmer in the mid-90′s.  Since then, 144 farmers have had lawsuits brought against them by Monsanto for alleged violations of their patented seed technology.  Monsanto has brought charges against more than 700 additional farmers who have settled out-of-court rather than face Monsanto’s litigious actions.  Many of these farmers claim to not have had the intention to grow or save seeds that contain Monsanto’s patented genes. Seed drift and pollen drift from genetically engineered crops often contaminate neighboring fields. If Monsanto’s seed technology is found on a farmer’s land without contract they can be found liable for patent infringement.

“OEFFA members and farmers across the United States undertook this action because of legitimate concerns about Monsanto’s overreaching protection of their patents.  It is disappointing in the extreme that in addition to the economic losses suffered by organic and other non-GMO farmers in order to avoid contamination, they now must continue to operate in fear of Monsanto’s assertion of patent infringement,” said Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director.

“Family farmers need the protection of the court,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of OSGATA.  “We reject as naïve and undefendable the judge’s assertion that Monsanto’s vague public relations ‘commitment’ should be ‘a source of comfort’ to plaintiffs. The truth is we are under threat and we do not believe Monsanto.  The truth is that American farmers and the American people do not believe Monsanto. Family farmers deserve our day in court and this flawed ruling will not deter us from continuing to seek justice.”

The plaintiffs brought this suit against Monsanto to seek judicial protection from such lawsuits and challenge the validity of Monsanto’s patents on seeds.

A copy of the judge’s decision is available here: http://woodprairiefarm.commercev3.com/downloads/OSGATA%20v%20Monsanto%20-%20MTD%20Decision.pdf

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The Ohio Ecological Food and 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, visit www.oeffa.org.

Destruction 
in ‘fracking’

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
Akron Beacon Journal
Letter to the Editor
January 13, 2012

“Fracking.” The word says it all. It is short for high-volume hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing destroys the land, water and air. It destroys communities, health, safety and our grandchildren’s futures. The high volume refers to the copious amounts of fresh water used (on average, 5 million gallons per well). Sand and toxic chemicals are used.

There is currently no safe place to put the contaminated water when it comes out of the well. It doesn’t all come out. It must be transported by heavy trucks on our roads — to where?

In independent studies, all aspects of fracking are being proved to be unsafe. With water contamination, we have air pollution from particulates, which then contaminate the soil. Our food will become contaminated. We are in the Lake Erie watershed, and are risking a major source of the Earth’s drinking water.

Decreased crop yields of 30 percent are being shown for farms in “fracked” areas. Grasses and trees near wells die. Wildlife dies, livestock dies and people become sick. The quality of life is ruined, all while we exported 27.5 billion gallons of crude oil and products, including 5.1 billion gallons of gasoline, in 2011.

There are earthquakes, property devaluation and the inability to get insurance. I’m originally from Louisiana, and lived in Texas for a number of years. I have seen the total destruction that oil brings with the boom-and-bust cycle.

Become proactive. A pro-oil talking point is our ever-increasing need for and use of oil. Consider this: There was no real market for it 100 years ago. Someone sold us a bill of goods. We must sharply reduce our use of oil. We must invest, personally and nationally, in renewables (instead of giving oil subsidies), and get off our oil addiction.

My husband and I are farmers. We won an environmental stewardship award in 2011 for work we have done in soil and water conservancy. My husband retired from the U.S. Air Force after a tour in Iraq, and we came home to farm. We are working to eliminate petroleum inputs on our farm within five years.

Our website (aggiesrest.com) has more information on reducing use, simplifying and living more sustainably. For the future of all our children, it’s the right thing to do.

Sheryl Ann Billman

Grafton

Sheryl Ann Billman is an OEFFA member and was a workshop presenter at the 2012 conference.

Organic farmers honored

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
2/21/2012 11:05:00 PM
Submitted photo Doug Siebert and Leslie Garcia are recipients of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 2012 Stewardship Award.

PAUL COLLINS
Staff Writer, Xenia Gazette

COLUMBUS — Two decades of doing things naturally earned two Greene County organic farmers the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) highest honor on Saturday, Feb. 18.

Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia received the OEFFA’s 2012 Stewardship Award during the association’s 33rd annual conference entitled Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty. The award, according to OEFFA’s website, “recognizes outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.” The association was founded in 1979 and is a grassroots organization that promotes local and organic food systems through education and advocacy. The award, says Seibert, was unexpected good news.

“Our reaction was surprise,” said Siebert. “When I was at the conference, I was looking at these major players around me. It made me think, ‘Why me?’”

Since 1992, Seibert and Garcia have been certified as organic farmers in the Greene County area. The farm organically at Peach Mountain Organics, their Spring Valley-based farm. The farm possesses 43 acres, with more than 25 acres certified organic and used to produce seasonal vegetables, early tomatoes, winter greens, cut flowers, log grown shiitake, herbs and gladiola bulbs. For Seibert and Garcia, organic practices represent the most responsible and healthy approach to agriculture.

“I’ve never considered any other way to farm,” said Garcia. “I think its more in line with natural law. It’s more pleasing to God and less toxic. I went to agricultural college just one year. I didn’t like what they were teaching.”

“I’ve never thought of farming any other way,” added Siebert. “My father never used anything but chicken manure in his garden. If you know a lot about chemistry, you know you don’t want to eat a lot of what’s going onto the fields on conventional farms. I can’t appreciate soil loss or pollutions in our streams. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Visitors to the Yellow Springs Farmer’s Market will recognize Seibert and Garcia as market regulars, selling their organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, bedding plants, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants. The duo also sells their products to local restaurants, grocery and health food stores. For a time during the early nineties, Seibert and Garcia were Greene County’s only organic farmers. According to Siebert, the organic way of life has experienced steady growth and expansion since that time.

“When you look at health food stores, it’s certainly on the rise,” said Siebert. “You see more people talking about it. The reality is that it is escalating. Science is starting to convert itself to organics. It works better.”

“As a shopper myself, it’s easy to find organic products now,” added Garcia.

The award-winning organic farmers are dedicated to OEFFA’s mission to educate people concerning sustainable, ecological and healthy food systems. In addition to raising and selling produce, Siebert and Garcia hold farm tours, host agriculture classes for Wilmington College and present OEFFA conference workshops.

“Most of my friends at the OEFFA use me for information,” said Siebert.

“We’re a draw to people who are looking into organic foods,” added Garcia. “People who are concerned about food and eating fresh and local.”

Recipients of the Stewardship Award are selected by the prior year’s winners. When next year’s selection process begins, Seibert and Garcia intend on looking for a recipient who has made organic food a way of life.

“We’ll be looking for people who live and breathe organic in their everyday lives,” said Siebert.

OEFFA conference champions ‘slow money,’ keeping food and cash local

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Monday, February 20, 2012
Chris Kick
Farm and Dairy

Click here for photos

Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered,” gave the keynote address Feb. 18 at the annual conference for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

He is chairman of the Slow Money Alliance — a nonprofit that encourages sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. To date, $14 million has been invested in 86 small food enterprises around the country.

Local investing

The program seeks to keep more money in local economies by encouraging Americans to invest at least 1 percent of their money into local food systems. The returns may not be seen immediately, but over time help to build a local, sustainable network of business, he explained.

Tasch said historically, the economy has been based on buying stocks in companies and “stuff” that we don’t understand, and that may be located half-way around the world.

The problem, he said, is “you don’t know where your money really is,” and you have limited control over what it does for you.

Renee Hunt, OEFFA program director, described “slow money” as “a movement and an investment strategy. (It’s) about finding meaningful places for people to put their money to work, right in their own communities.”

OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland introduced Tasch, saying that he and other event speakers were helping to bring about “fundamental kinds of shifts within our society and within our culture.”

Changing the language

She spoke about the changing language of food, culture and economy.

“Slow money recognizes that respecting the interrelationships between ourselves, the connectedness of ourselves as a community, we will lead our way to a restorative economy and in doing so transform ourselves both as individuals and as a society.”

The event was in its 33rd year and attracted more than 1,000 attendees to Granville. Preconference sessions were held Feb. 17, and a wide variety of producer and environmental workshops were held the next two days.

Other speakers

Eric Hanson, extension berry crop specialist at Michigan State University, discussed the benefits of using high tunnels: higher yields, longer growing seasons, higher quality, reduced diseases, and reduced populations of Japanese beetles.

Jeff Moyer, director of farm operations at the Rodale Institute, led a workshop on no-till organic farming, and discussed the importance of cover crops to increase soil fertility.

He said if farmers plan to continue feeding the world, they need to pay more attention to the biology of their soils instead of chemistry.
“We have to shift our gears,” he said, keeping chemistry in mind, but focusing on the life and fertility of the soil.

Several presentations were held on hydraulic fracturing — the modern practice of extracting oil and gas from deep shale formations.

Vanessa Pesec, president for the Network for Oil and Gas Accountability & Protection, gave a talk on protecting land and communities from irresponsible leasing and drilling. She handed out “stop fracking” signs to those who were opposed to the practice.

Different perspectives

Presenters at times disputed facts over hydraulic fracturing and the tone toward the subject depended on the speaker.

Cheryl Johncox, of Buckeye Forest Council, discussed the legislative and regulatory landscape of fracking. She showed pictures of properties that had reportedly suffered losses in land value and use.

Mike Hogan, Ohio State University Extension Educator in Jefferson County, talked about the importance of responsible leasing, but also the opportunities shale gas can provide to farmers, communities and whole economies.

A common misconception is the amount of waste water being injected into disposal wells, as well as understanding the difference between disposal wells and production wells. He said most of the water in eastern Ohio’s fracking rigs actually is being recycled and reused, a process he’s witnessed on the sites he’s visited.

OEFFA presented its stewardship award to Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Greene County. Both have farmed organically at Peach Mountain Organics since 1992, growing certified organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms, hay and greenhouse plants.

They sell their products at the Yellow Springs Farmers’ Market, local restaurants and grocery and health food stores.

Kids Conference plants seeds of learning

Monday, February 20th, 2012
February 19, 2012
Anna Sudar, Writer
Zach Gray, Photos
Newark Advocate

GRANVILLE — Ryder Kardas smiled as he squeezed an avocado, watching as the green fruit plopped into his bowl.

Using a fork, he mixed in jalapeños, cilantro, salt, lemon and lime juice and enjoyed his guacamole with chips.

The 7-year-old came from Delaware, Ohio, to Granville with his family Saturday to participate in the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s annual conference.

While his parents attended adult sessions, Ryder joined a group of 45 other kids participating in the OEFFA’s Kids Conference.

“We try to make this a family event,” said Lauren Ketcham, communications coordinator for OEFFA. “It’s a conference about educating adults, but also about educating kids.”

OEFFA is a nonprofit organization that works to promote local food systems and sustainable agriculture. The organization has about 3,000 members around Ohio, including farmers, gardeners and educators, Ketcham said.

OEFFA has hosted an annual conference for 33 years. This weekend is the seventh time it has been conducted at Granville High School and Granville Middle School.

About 1,200 people signed up for this year’s event, which continues today.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Sowing the Seeds of our Food Sovereignty.”

Participants could attend more then 70 workshops, which emphasized learning about where food comes from and the importance of consumer choice, Ketcham said.

Workshops ranged from making mozzarella cheese and selecting sheep to information about fracking and marketing a business.

“We really try to craft the conference so there is something for everyone,” Ketcham said.

The Kids Conference is designed for ages 6 to 13 and offers two days of activities, said Krissy Pfleider-Smeyak, an OEFFA volunteer who organized the conference.

This weekend’s events were centered around getting kids excited about healthy food and food production.

“We want to pique their interest and plant the seeds (of learning) early,” Pfleider-Smeyak said.

Saturday’s conference started with a lesson on worms and what they do for the soil. After dancing to the sounds of the Columbus Women’s Drum Chorus, the children walked to the Denison Homestead to talk with students about sustainable lifestyles.

After their trip, employees from Chipotle Mexican Grill — one of the conference’s sponsors — helped the children make guacamole and work on crafts.

Older children in the group had the opportunity to attend one of the adult lectures on organic strawberry production and got to make wooden strawberry boxes to take home, Pfleider-Smeyak said.

Today, the children will learn about milk production, paint gourds and learn about the history of trail mix, she said.

“We try not to make it school. We just want to expose them to different activities,” Pfleider-Smeyak said. “If they learn one new thing, you’ve succeeded.”

Many of the children who attend the conference come back year after year.

“You learn a lot from them,” she said. “They surprise you with the answers they give.”

Seth Armstrong, 10, said he really enjoyed learning new facts about worms — including that they have five hearts.

The Columbus boy has been coming to the conference for several years.

“It’s really interesting and fun also,” he said.

Hannah Gardner, 12, attends some of the adult workshops but also enjoys the Kids Conference.

This year, she took a class on fracking and worked on a strawberry box.

The North Canton girl said she enjoys coming to the conference and talking to people about gardening and farming.

“It’s very important to learn about your food and where it comes from,” she said. “Some people have no clue.”

Anna Sudar can be reached at (740) 328-8544 or asudar@newarkadvocate.com.

Grace Gordon, left, dances with children Saturday during the Kids Conference, part of the 33rd annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference at Granville Middle School. / Zach Gray/The Advocate

Grace Gordon, left, dances with children Saturday during the Kids Conference, part of the 33rd annual Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association Conference at Granville Middle School. / Zach Gray/The Advocate

Local food is ‘attached to a much, much larger vision’

Monday, February 20th, 2012
February 19, 2012
By COURTNEY ALBON

ASHLAND — A movement to better harness local food resources could boost the health, economy, ecological sustainability and vitality of a community.

It may appear a lofty vision to some, but Brad Masi, former director of the New Agrarian Center at Oberlin College, has seen it happen. At least he’s seen it start to happen.

Masi spoke as part of Ashland University’s Center for Nonviolence Creating a Caring Community symposium. He highlighted efforts across Northeast Ohio to develop a more sustainable, regenerative local food system, including a movement in Oberlin to decrease the community’s dependence on non-local food sources. And he suggested ways counties could adapt some of those initiatives locally, though in some cases the community is already doing so.

“A local food economy is in many ways an approach to economic development that is focused on retaining and circulating dollars in the local economy while promoting regenerative forms of economic activity,” Masi said.

“Creating a local food economy is about asking how do we create something that’s more regenerative where we create the web of relationships that allow us to grow that system over time?”

Masi shared examples of urban farming projects in Cleveland, including one in the Ohio City neighborhood where an Amish farmer from Middlefield helped turn an empty plot of land behind some public housing units into an urban garden.

He cited an Ohio State University Extension Center study that found Cleveland’s 225-plus urban gardens occupy 56 combined acres and generate between $2.6 and 3 million in fresh fruits and vegetables for the Cleveland area.

“That’s a pretty enormous value. And for a lot of people, that’s actually savings; it allows them to stretch their budget a little bit further,” Masi said.

In Oberlin, Masi has been a part of an effort to better use local food production in surrounding counties.

Local individuals, markets restaurants and businesses have worked to increase collaboration with producers in Ashland, Wayne, Huron, Medina and Erie counties and have increased the counties’ overall local food consumption to 6 percent.

Masi said he thinks there is potential for the activity in Oberlin to be emulated in the Ashland community. Citing data from the 2010 Census, Masi said Ashland’s approximately 21,000 residents spend about $55 million each year on food, 40 percent of which is spent eating out at restaurants.

“These are dollars that are being spent every day,” Masi said. “That’s one of the economic drivers of the food market is we all eat. It’s a daily activity and it happens 365 days a year so in terms of market stability. It’s a guaranteed market.”

Masi recognized as a promising venture Local Roots — a Wooster-based farmer-producer co-op planning to open a permanent store this spring on South Street in Ashland.

To continue that movement, Masi said it’s important to work to increase collaboration with surrounding communities, grow cooperative networks with those communities and take small steps toward realizing a bigger vision for Ashland.

“Think about the Amish farmers bringing their horses up to Cleveland to help start an urban farm. Think about the Ashland farmers that are down here supplying food to Oberlin. Think about the Local Roots sprout that’s coming from the Wooster community to help an effort here,” Masi said. “Don’t underestimate the power of small acts, but think about how those small acts can be attached to a much, much larger vision.”

Marlene Barkheimer, treasurer for Local Roots, was in attendance at Tuesday’s event. She said the co-op has seen its presence in downtown Wooster impact the way people in the community think about local food.

“We try to do a lot with education, teaching people about different foods and demonstrating different cooking techniques,” Barkheimer said.

As people recognize local farmers are able to grow certain foods year-round with various techniques and as farmers realize the demand, the co-op has seen a shift in the way people think about local food.

“It’s sort of that chicken and egg idea, but we’re starting to see the demand from the consumers, which gives our farmers an incentive to produce,” Barkheimer said.

OEFFA Announces 2012 Stewardship Award Recipients: Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics Recognized for Contributions to Sustainable Agriculture in Ohio

Monday, February 20th, 2012

For Immediate Release: February 20, 2012

Contact: Carol Goland, Executive Director, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org

Press Release

Cropped Seibert_Garcia_OEFFA_2012_Credit_George_RemmingtonCOLUMBUS, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has bestowed its highest honor, the Stewardship Award, to Doug Seibert and Leslie Garcia of Greene County. The announcement was made on Saturday, February 18 as part of OEFFA’s 33rd annual conference, Sowing the Seeds of Our Food Sovereignty. The award recognizes “outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community.”

Doug and Leslie have farmed organically at Peach Mountain Organics since 1992, growing certified organic mixed vegetables, microgreens, fresh-cut flowers, mushrooms, hay, and greenhouse plants. They sell their products at the Yellow Springs Farmers’ Market, local restaurants, and grocery and health food stores.

The Greene County-based Peach Mountain Organics currently has two farm sites and one half acre greenhouse location in Spring Valley, Ohio. Altogether, the operation is 43 acres, more than 25 of which are certified organic.

“Leslie and Doug’s energy and skill with commercial-scale, organic growing is an inspiration for many of us,” said Steve Edwards, who serves on OEFFA’s Board of Trustees and presented the award at the Saturday evening ceremony. “Their willingness to share their experiences with other growers has helped provide healthy food for people beyond Peach Mountain’s customers. They make it happen in the real world with an artful balance of intelligence and hard work.”

Doug and Leslie have helped organize group seed and potato orders for other farmers and grown organic bedding plants for other growers, hosted farm tours, presented OEFFA conference workshops, and were involved in the creation of both OEFFA and the Federation of Ohio River Cooperatives (FORC).

“Both Doug and Leslie care deeply about creating a sustainable food system. We should all be sincerely grateful for what they have done to advance sustainable agriculture in our community,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.

For a full list of past Stewardship Award winners, click here.

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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 committed to work together to create and promote a sustainable and healthful food and farming system. For more information, visit www.oeffa.org.

For a high resolution photo of the stewardship award recipients, please contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203 or lauren@oeffa.org.

‘Slow Money Alliance’ creator pushes cause in Ohio

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
BY DANIEL NEMAN
TOLEDO BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch authors Slow Money, a national effort to encourage sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses. Slow Money Alliance founder and chairman Woody Tasch authors Slow Money, a national effort to encourage sustainable financial investments that support local, community-based food and farm businesses.

The best description of slow money, said Woody Tasch, who coined the term and started the Slow Money Alliance, is that it is the opposite of fast money. And the best way to think about fast money is to first consider fast food.

Its detractors say that fast food is corporate, standardized, unhealthy, and often harmful to the environment. In rebellion against the fast-food culture, a small but growing population around the world is now actively living the slow food lifestyle — organic foods, freshly grown on local farms.

“Fast money is 1,000-point drops in the Dow in 20 minutes. It’s all the stuff everyone is worried about. … It’s financial institutions that are too big and complicated, derivatives that are too risky,” Mr. Tasch said on the phone from his home in Boulder, Colo.

Mr. Tasch will be a keynote speaker Saturday at the 33rd annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, to be held in Granville, Ohio, east of Columbus. He is the author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, and it is from that 2008 book that the young movement sprang. It is a grassroots response to what it sees as the harm done by enormous agricultural corporate interests: It asks ordinary people to invest part of their money in small farmers and local food systems.

The return on these investments will not be large, Mr. Tasch said, but the investors will have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to provide what he said is healthy food grown on human-scale farms.

“Our industrial food system is fraying our way of life,” he said, citing soil erosion, loss of organic matter in the soil, and a decreased population of microorganisms and earthworms necessary for growing crops.

Not everyone agrees. Cargill, one of the world’s largest agribusinesses, tries to encourage sustainable farming, said company spokesperson Pete Stoddart. Using a technology called precision agriculture, the company can tell farmers exactly which nutrients are needed for the soil in each part of their farms, he said.

In addition, Mr. Stoddart said, Cargill works to lessen its environmental impact by lowering its own use of energy and emission of greenhouse gasses. Last year, he said, 11 percent of the company’s energy came from alternatives to fossil fuels.

The slow money movement is fairly new, Mr. Tasch said, and it is still finding its direction. As of this writing, there are 14 chapters around the country, with more coming soon, where members get together and try to determine the best ways to give financial support to local food producers and distributors.

Four investment clubs have formed from these chapters, in which the members pool their money and vote to decide how it should be invested. In one club in Maine, 20 people invested $5,000 apiece and have been using this pool to make small loans to farmers and a few small businesses. In North Carolina, 12 people got together and refinanced a loan for their local food co-op, paying off a loan at 10 percent and offering instead a rate of 3 percent to the co-op. They get to help the co-op and at the same time make a small return of 3 percent on their investment, he said.

Of course, not everyone has $5,000 to invest in anything, and Mr. Tasch is sensitive to criticism that his organization is elitist. Organic and locally produced food is typically more expensive than food grown by agribusiness firms, which benefit from the economies of mass production and the higher yields created by using pesticides and chemical fertilizer. Many people cannot afford the higher cost of the organic or locally grown food he promotes.

“There is no question everyone will not have access to this increased organic or locally produced food all the time. The way to think of this is to think of it generationally,” he said, adding in a few generations everyone will benefit from a balance of organic and corporately grown produce.

Mr. Tasch said he does not believe the giant agriculture corporations set out to do harm; they were trying to grow more food for more people at a cheaper price. But they did realize how their policies would affect people’s health — he mentioned the high rates of obesity and diabetes — and the vitality of local businesses.

“Just like we saw in the financial system, when companies become too big they become detached from real life, real people, real consequences,” he said.

The slow money movement wants to counter that model with a plan that is both small and large at the same time. The goal at the end of a decade is for 1 million people to invest 1 percent of their money into local food businesses.

“It just seems to a lot of people that if you stop treating food as a commodity, you begin to recognize other values that it brings to you in your own health, the health of the community, and the health of the land,” he said.

The conference is sold out for Saturday, but tickets remain for a preconference event from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday. At that event, Mr. Tasch will speak about how to finance the local food system.

Contact Daniel Neman at: dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.

Athens-Area Farmer To Speak At Ecologial Food And Farm Conference

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012
By Andrew Fowler, WOUB
Published Tue, Feb 14, 2012

Athens, OH

Thousands of Ohio farmers will make there way to Licking County this weekend for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s thirty-third annual conference.

The conference deals with the future of food production and how our country can reclaim food independence.

An Athens-area farmer will be speaking at this weekend’s conference.

J.B. King will talk about niche pork production.

King says his farm and many farmers who will attend the conference have a more sustainable way of farming.

“Well, we try to be real sustainable. We try to do things that not only are we doing them today, but we’re doing several years down the road. A lot of the people in the organization try to work without chemicals and without drugs, we do the same,” says King.

King was a guest on WOUB’s newswatch last night.

The conference will also include several discussions about fracking.

Mechanicsburg woman educates others in farm management

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012
By JIM PAINTER
The Urbana Daily Citizen

MECHANICSBURG – Amy Forrest of Mechanicsburg is one of four children, all girls, born to farming parents who turned the soil just southeast of here for many years. She took to the chores like the others, but fully adopted the agricultural lifestyle and is teaching other women about the business.

“My dad was a farmer and he had four daughters, so he had different farm hands than most,” laughed Forrest, whose children are the fifth generation of the family to live on the farm.

“We (the sisters) were active in 4H and FFA and all that, but I really liked being a farmer. I got my state farming degree using a part of the land as my project.”

Forrest is a graduate of Mechanicsburg High School and has degrees in animal science and agricultural communications from Ohio State University. She has been a single mother for the past 15 years. Her son, Corie Murphy, is a senior at Mechanicsburg; and her daughter, Lyndsey Murphy, has a degree in agriculture from Ohio State.

The farm is located at 8331 state Route 187, south of state Route 29. The family owns 800 acres, which includes 450 tillable acres. The remaining is pastures, woodlands and gardens.

Forrest moved back to the farm in 1994, and in 2005 began to farm full time.

In addition to farming, Forrest is the principal operator of A Tasteful Garden, which features more than two acres of organically grown vegetables, fingerling potatoes and salad greens. She also heads the In Good Taste Catering Co., which uses 85 percent of her farm products.

The organization Women Farm sought out Forrest, who now serves as a co-instructor in skills related to field vegetable and livestock farms in southwest central Ohio. The organization seeks to develop training programs to help Ohio women farmers become more sufficient in their farm operation. Officials claim nearly 3,600 women farm operators, of which nearly 900 are principal operators.

The company’s website can be found at www.womenfarm.com.

Forrest will host a series of seminars through April 17, both on her farmland and by teleconference. The topics include organic requirements, farm workload and labor projections, planting and soil strategies to equipment maintenance and storage.

She met co-founder Sharon Sachs in the mid-1990s during a presentation known as Wisdom of the Land, which addressed under-used farm land. They kept in touch over the years, Forrest said, and became active with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).

“When I moved toward niche farming and financial planning, we were part of the OEFFA, and she (Sachs) was looking for people with hands-on experience. We had livestock, gardens and (it) was part of a family with generational involvement.”

Forrest sold her organic garden produce in Columbus until the catering business took the majority of the goods in 2007. The pastureland is used to raise grass-fed beef from a Miniature Hereford cattle herd and brown eggs from their poultry stock.

The farm products are marketed through an e-mail network of those who market and operate a Community Supported Agricultural program.

Her father is researching whether or not the farm has been in the family for 100 years. A Depression Era cabin in the woods, used to hide from bankers at the time, has been moved and now serves as a nostalgic reminder of the farm’s history.

Upcoming sessions

Aspiring, beginning and experienced women farmers in Southwest Central Ohio can benefit directly from Amy Forrest’s co-instruction this year, both on her Mechanicsburg farm and via teleconferences. Upcoming sessions include the following:

•Feb. 26 – Growing a farm business from the middle of three generations

•March 13 – Amending soil and plowing for field vegetables

•March 13 – Women farm operators and the men, women and children in their lives (via phone)

•March 27 – Season Extension practices

•April 3 – How to access, maintain, store and use a tractor and tilling equipment

•April 17 – Cover cropping for field vegetables

For more information, visit www.womenfarm.com.

Forrest can be contacted through her website at www.ingoodtastecateringco.com.

Jim Painter can be reached at jpainter@urbanacitizen.com.