Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ohio Farmers Feeling the Effects of Fracking Boom

March 15, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – is expanding in Ohio, and debate is heating up over the process. A lot is at stake for farmers, especially those who use sustainable practices.

Oil and gas companies are approaching landowners across Ohio and asking them to sign leases to permit drilling for natural gas in shale formations.

Matthew Starline, whose organic farm near Athens is surrounded by leased land, says the potential for air, soil and water contamination could threaten his organic label and business.

“That could be soil contamination that would result in loss of my organic certification. If I water the ground with contaminated water, there’s a possibility that my certification would be in jeopardy.”

During fracking, experts say, wastewater returned to the surface can contain radioactive materials. They add that heavy metals, such as lead or mercury, can contaminate the soil through spills, leaks, or during venting and airing.

Supporters say fracking could create hundreds of thousands of much-needed jobs and increase revenue in the state.

Ohio has nearly 53,000 acres of certified organic pasture and cropland, much of it in areas containing shale deposits.

Starline is a member of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, which represents 3,000 farmers, businesses and individuals. MacKenzie Bailey, the group’s policy program coordinator, says they support a moratorium on the process because so little is known about fracking’s long-term effects.

“Ohio needs strong regulations to protect our farmers and consumers from the risks associated with hydrofracking, including the disclosure of chemicals prior to injection and significantly increasing transparency in the permitting process.”

Local governments have little opportunity to speak up, Bailey says, adding that promoting local control of fracking is critical.

A few months ago, Starline says, many farmers in his area didn’t believe fracking would become an issue for them. Now, he says, they’re being bombarded with information about the gas industry and fracking.

“All of a sudden now, we have over 140,000 acres that are being leased off by three different land groups. So, it came in with amazing speed and everyone wanting to jump right into it.”

Starline says state leaders need to take a step back and evaluate environmental concerns before allowing any more drilling.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH

Bryan store, All Things Food, taking organic path

By Mary Alice Powell
March 13, 2012
Toledo Blade

BRYAN — The owners and the products at All Things Food in downtown Bryan are home grown.

Natives of the Williams County town located 69 miles west of Toledo, Staci Stevens and Monique Tressler opened the grocery store in September as a source for locally grown and organic foods.

“We want people to get back to real food,” Ms. Stevens said.

“Our motto is responsible food means the animal, the farmer, the land, and the consumer,” Ms. Tressler said.

The ground lamb from the store freezer is from Earthway Foods in Osseo, Mich. The jar of apple butter was made by Ravens Roost in Bryan. While chatting with Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler, I sipped organic herbal tea in a hand-sculpted mug and nibbled on flaxseed crackers that are an example of the raw food trend that retains nutrients because the cooking temperature does not exceed 110 degrees. The crackers are a product of Foods Alive of Hamilton, Ind.

Ms. Tressler is a former pre-school teacher who changed her diet to organic and healthier foods when she weighed 250 pounds and began suffering from Crohn’s disease.

Ms. Stevens returned home to Bryan from California where she had worked in restaurants and did some organic farming. The store fulfills her life-long dream having her own food-related business that connects people with local farmers.

Products range from apples and eggs to herbs and pastas that are displayed for both shopper and curiosity-seeker. Herbs, spices, teas, and coffees are in clear glass containers. Meats, milk, cheese, and eggs are in a self-serve refrigerator. When the local produce season opens, the owners plan to have a large representation of northwest Ohio fruits and vegetables. In the meantime, greens in the hoop houses at Kinsman Farms in Archbold will be ready for picking in mid April.

Before opening the store, Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler visited farmers markets throughout northwest Ohio, Indiana, and southern Michigan to get acquainted with local growers and invite them to participate in their store.

“We had to do a lot of networking to make this work,” Ms. Tressler said.

Karen Wood of Bowling Green an urban agriculture student at Owens Community College who is an All Things Food shopper, explained what buying locally means to her.

“If we don’t support our local farmers, there won’t be any more and there will be another Walmart on the bean field,” she said.

In addition to the extensive stock of edible products, kitchen tools, cookbooks, and local pottery are sold.

Ms. Stevens and Ms. Tressler are active in the Williams County community and frequently do public speaking. They are members of Eating Local Foods, the organization where they met. It is a network of northwest Ohio people who promote a sustainable, local food system through education.

The annual convention will be held Nov. 24 at Northwest Community College in Archbold and is expected to draw 100 members and food vendors.

Andrew Philpot, of Bean Creek Farm in Archbold is conference chairman. Mr. Philpot supplies the store with organic mushrooms, eggs, and goat milk soap.

Because they opened the store with more determination than money, the partners are proud of the appliances and fixtures they bought through Craig’s List. A demonstration counter and tables and chairs are the store centerpiece where customers gather for demonstrations and lectures, or just for a cup of tea or coffee.

The public is invited to events that are scheduled each month. Home cooks interested in scratch baking from grain to flour can attend an appliance demonstration March 31. Linda Yoder of Mark Center, Ohio, will demonstrate the Nutri-Mill appliance.

Recipe demonstrations are given by chef Vincent Pavon, who moved to Bryan from northern California to help sister Monique’s new venture. Although he worked in fine dining restaurant kitchens on the West Coast, he said, the lessons in Bryan are more basic techniques. He will prepare the lunch to be served at the Eat Local Foods conference Saturday in Archbold.

All Things Food is at 114 N. Main St., in Bryan. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Ohio Organics Could Grow With EU Agreement

By Debbie Holmes
March 14, 2012
WOSU

Organic dog treats ready for purchase at Heidi’s Homemade, Inc.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)

Organic farming in Ohio could get a boost from a new trade agreement between the United States and European Union. The deal allows organic products to flow more freely between the overseas markets.

Organic sales are a $50 billion dollar industry in the US and Europe, combined, and that figure could grow.

Lisa Weate stamps the expiration date on bags of dog treats at Heidi’s Homemade on Columbus’ west side. The treats are part of a test sample that will be sent to a company in London, England interested in selling the organic dog snacks. Most of the treats are made with spelt, a form of wheat that has a sweet and nutty flavor that is non-allergenic to dogs. A variety of flavors are added, like peanut butter, rye carob, white cheddar and parsley. Owner Rochelle Lavens says expanding overseas makes sense.

“We think we could probably grow our business 30 to 40 percent a year opening up to European markets. The fact that we can now have one London company opens up all kinds of opportunities for us with other countries in Europe,” says Lavens.

Lavens company benefits from the new trade agreement between the U.S and the European Union. Both sides agree to accept each others’ organic certifications. Prior to the agreement countries in Europe could opt out of the EU standard and force companies like Lavens to get separate permits from each nation to export organic products.

“It allows us opportunities to sell into the European markets whereas before if I wanted to I had to get special certifications, which becomes very expensive for small businesses,” says Lavens.

The streamlined process also means that organic farmers, like Gary Mennell of Medina County in northeast Ohio, can potentially sell more of their crops to Europe. Mennell and his brother have been farming organically for 30 years. They work about 200 acres growing spelt and soft red winter wheat, corn, alfalfa, and soybeans.

“ The more streamlined that becomes the easier it is for us to move grain across international lines,” says Mennell.

Mennell says he sells organic tofu soybeans to Japan that can make up to 60% of his income. Japan has its own certification process that Mennell says is stricter than Europe’s. But prices will be the deciding factor to where Mennell sells his crops.

“If the EU market is good this year and Japan’s not I’ll sell to EU, if Japan’s higher and wants our grain and EU doesn’t have the prices I can get from Japan, it goes to Japan. I’m going to be certified to go anywhere in the world I can,” says Mennell.

Carol Goland the executive director of Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association or OEFFA says a national organic certification program has only been in place for 10 years.

“It’s a great opportunity for organic farmers to broaden their horizons and go overseas and it provides a great opportunity for people to get into farming and organic farming, I mean right now quite honestly demand is outstripping supply,” says Goland.

OEFFA certifies about 700 organic farms and food processors in the Midwest…half of those are in Ohio.

“Where we really, really see growth is in organic processed foods, so I’m thinking convenience foods, organic TV dinners, organic mac and cheese,” says Goland.

Goland says the EU agreement also makes it more affordable and easier for small and midsized producers to reach the European markets with their organic certification. Consumers will also be able to access a larger variety of organic products year round. And prices could drop as quantities increase.