Philanthropy Friday: OEFFA

The Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association (OEFFA) is a grassroots coalition of farmers, backyard gardeners, consumers, retailers, educators, researchers, and others who share a desire to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, helps preserve farmland, offers food security for all Ohioans, and economic development for rural communities.

Founded in 1979, OEFFA’s founders were visionaries and ahead of their time promoting today’s popular terms “organic” and “local”. For over 30 years, OEFFA has used education, advocacy, and grassroots organizing to promote local and organic food systems, helping farmers and consumers reconnect and together build a sustainable food system, one meal at a time.

Mike Laughlin of Northridge Organic Farm in Licking County has been involved with OEFFA for over 25 years. He initially invested himself in OEFFA because of the support they provide small family farms by teaching them about sustainable farming and helping them get their products into the hands of local consumers. Back them he was gardening on a 10’ x 16’ plot in his backyard for his own consumption with the aspirations of being a farmer. Since then, he has built his business growing vegetables on 10 acres, selling at two farmers markets, five Columbus stores and numerous restaurants. He attributes all this to the help of OEFFA.

Today, OEFFA has expanded to more than 2100 members. They help to establish the original organic standards in Ohio and OEFFA Certification has become one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the country. Their education programs now reach hundreds of people each year. For more information on becoming an OEFFA member visit oeffa.org/membership.

Services Offered by OEFFA

OEFFA works with its members to create and maintain a food system that is good for people, good for the earth, and good for the future.

In order to support this mission the following services are offered:

  • OEFFA’s Annual Conference—Each year, OEFFA organizes Ohio’s largest ecological agriculture conference featuring nationally-recognized speakers, a trade show, entertainment, locally-sourced meals, and more than 60 workshops taught by experienced OEFFA members, farmers, and researchers on sustainable farming, gardening, and living.
  • OEFFA’s Annual Farm Tour Series—In 2009, OEFFA organized 15 farm tours, drawing approximately 650 attendees, allowing consumers the opportunity to shake the hands that feed them and giving gardeners and farmers a chance to learn from each other’s successes and mistakes. The 2010 series features 11 of Ohio’s finest organic and sustainable farms and is taking place now through October.
  • Good Earth Guide—OEFFA connects producers with buyers through a yearly Good Earth Guide, which includes information on farms and businesses that sell directly to the public. It includes sources for locally grown vegetables; fruits; honey; dairy products; grass-fed beef, pork, and lamb; free-range chicken and eggs; flour and grains; cut flowers; seed and feed, and more. The farm list has grown from only a dozen farms in 1990 to more than 260 today, and now includes an easy-to-use online searchable database.
  • Organic Certification—OEFFA Organic Certification has been in operation since 1981. In 2002, when the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) was created, OEFFA was among the first group of certifiers to be accredited by the USDA to certify under the new national standards. As a result, OEFFA operates one of the oldest and most respected organic certification programs in the nation, ensuring that organic crop and livestock producers meet the high standards established for organically grown food. Today, OEFFA certifies a diverse group of over 650 operations throughout the Midwest, including mixed vegetable and grain farms, family dairies, food processors, and everything in between. For more information on organic certification visit oeffa.org/certification.
  • Workshops—In 2009, OEFFA provided hands-on experience to more than 200 people who attended the skills-based workshops on such topics as cover crops, composting, beekeeping, fermentation, and permaculture. This year, they’ve organized nine workshops and lectures as part of the “Gardening Like the Forest” workshop series with Dave Jacke.
  • OEFFA Apprenticeship Program—OEFFA helps to nurture the next generation of Ohio’s ecological farmers by providing an apprenticeship program that gives young people hands-on training. For an on-line apprenticeship application visit oeffa.org/apprentice.
  • Direct Assistance—OEFFA staff provide one-on-one consultation to farmers, ranchers, and producers to help answer questions and solve problems;
  • Policy Advocacy—The livelihood and viability of sustainable and organic farmers and family farms are constantly under threat from policies which tilt the playing field in favor of the large-scale, corporate controlled, unsustainable agriculture. OEFFA helps counter these trends, giving voice to the needs of small- and mid-sized producers, and advocates for policies that work in the interest of the family farmers who enhance our rural communities and safeguard the environment.

2010 Farm Tour and Summer Workshop Series

OEFFA’s 2010 Farm Tour Series—OEFFA’s summer farm tour series of some of Ohio’s finest sustainable and organic farms is currently underway. For the past 28 years, OEFFA has offered this series so that Ohioans can learn more about how farmers are meeting the growing demand for sustainably produced food. Eleven tours will be held between June and October, featuring livestock producers; a poultry processing facility; certified organic farmers; farms that incorporate renewable energy and green building techniques; and farmers using a wide range of direct-to-consumer marketing strategies, including farmers’ markets, restaurants, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The remaining tours are:

  • July 17–Mapleside Farm, Hiram, Ohio (Portage County)
  • July 18–Sandy Rock Acres, Rockbridge, Ohio (Hocking County)
  • August 7–Mockingbird Meadows, Marysville, Ohio (Union County)
  • August 14–Crown Point Ecology Center, Bath, Ohio (Summit County)
  • September 18–Bluebird Farm, Cadiz, Ohio (Harrison County)
  • September 25–Central Ohio Poultry Processing, Bellville, Ohio (Richland County)
  • October 2–Clearview Farm, Pataskala, Ohio (Licking County)
  • October 16–Carriage House Farms, LLC, N. Bend, Ohio (Hamilton County)

For more information, click here (PDF).

Summer Workshop Series

OEFFA’s “Gardening Like the Forest” Summer Workshop Series—This summer, OEFFA is pleased to be offering a series of permaculture workshops with instructor Dave Jacke, the author of the award winning two-volume book, Edible Forest Gardens. Jacke has studied ecology and design since the 1970s, and has run his own design firm, Dynamics Ecological Design, since 1984. He has designed, built, and planted landscapes, homes, farms, and communities throughout the United States.

The series consists of nine workshops and lectures:

  • Public Evening Talks: “Home-Scale Ecological Production”—Friday, July 23 in Cleveland, Ohio; Friday, July 30 in Columbus, Ohio; Friday, August 6 in Cincinnati, Ohio; Monday, August 9 in Yellow Springs, Ohio;
  • Public Evening Talk: “Soil Ecology and Self-Renewing Fertility”—Wednesday, August 11 in Yellow Springs, Ohio;
  • Two Day Workshops: “Fundamentals of Ecological Gardening”—Saturday, July 24-Sunday, July 25 in Cleveland, Ohio; Saturday, July 31-Sunday, August 1 in Delaware, Ohio;
  • One Day Workshop: “Urban Ecological Food Production”—Saturday, August 7 in Cincinnati, Ohio; and
  • Weeklong Design Immersion: “Forest Garden Design Intensive”—Monday, August 9-Sunday, August 15 in Springfield, Ohio.

For more information about this workshop series, go to oeffa.org/forest or contact Laura Wies at (614) 421-2022 or laura@oeffa.org.

Giving Back to OEFFA

The majority of OEFFA’s funding comes from individuals who choose to support them with donations or by becoming members. They have an on-going need for donations that can help them continue and expand their programmatic work. There are many ways people can donate to OEFFA:

  1. Checks or money orders can be mailed to OEFFA, 41 Croswell Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43214.
  2. Credit card donations are accepted by phone at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203.
  3. Credit card donations can be made online.
  4. OEFFA participates in workplace giving through Community Shares of Mid-Ohio (CoSMO). If your workplace does not already offer you the opportunity to donate to OEFFA through paycheck deductions, you can go to www.communityshares.net or call Melissa Magers at (614) 262-1176 to start a workplace giving campaign at your place of employment.
  5. The success of their annual conference, held each year in February, is largely dependent on sponsors and in-kind donations of food, equipment, and supplies. To find out more about supporting OEFFA’s annual conference, contact Renee Hunt at (614) 421-2022 Ext. 205.

If you would like to give of your time and talents OEFFA has many volunteer opportunities. OEFFA’s strength is its grassroots support and volunteer energy. Volunteer opportunities include: serving on the board, advocacy/lobbying, helping to plan their annual conference, mentoring beginning farmers, chapter leadership and organizing, fundraising, contacting elected officials, data entry, bulk mailings, office work, hosting a farm tour, acting as a press contact, leading a conference workshop, or writing for the newsletter. For more information about volunteer opportunities, call (614) 421-2022 or email oeffa@oeffa.org.

For more information on the OEFFA visit their website, oeffa.org. Become a Facebook fan at oeffa.org/facebook, follow them on Twitter at @oeffa or view photos on their Flickr page at flickr.com/photos/oeffa/.

Philanthropy Friday is a feature article by Michele Savoldi that will highlight a Columbus area non-profit organization every other week. For more nonprofit information follow Michele on Twitter at @cbusimpressions and @inkindconnect.

This article originally appeared on the Columbus Underground on July 9: http://www.columbusunderground.com/philanthropy-friday-oeffa.