Category Archives: OEFFA in the News

Agricultural Justice Advocate Onika Abraham to Keynote 40th Annual Ohio Sustainable Food and Farm Conference

Healing a history of oppression in agriculture by honoring the contributions of our ancestors will be the focus of a keynote address by farmer and educator Onika Abraham at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 40th annual conference, Just Farming: The Path Before Us, this February in Dayton, Ohio.
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In her Saturday, February 16 keynote address, “Unearthing Our Roots,” Abraham, Executive Director of Farm School NYC, will explore why it’s as important for farmers to know where their farming comes from as it is for the public to know where their food comes from. Abraham will explore the history of sustainable growing practices, the contributions of black and brown people, and why these often obscured stories are an obstacle to beginning farmers of color claiming power and autonomy in this movement.
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During remarks made before the 2018 Northeast Organic Farming Association-Vermont (NOFA-VT) conference, Abraham notes the stories of slaves, immigrants, and oppressed people  can “connect us to traditional practices of our ancestors, practices that are reverent to the land, and these stories are the rich, intricate, fibrous roots of organic agriculture.”
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“It’s important to recognize the very real ways farming has been used as a tool of oppression in the past, so we don’t replicate them in the present,” Abraham said. “Our current food system is still used as a tool of oppression in so many ways, against people of color, against people with disabilities, against immigrants and women and farm workers. It’s important to share these stories as a way to join together and to dismantle the system and build something better and more just in its place.”
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Abraham is a farmer and educator with more than 15 years of experience in teaching, nonprofit management, marketing, and entrepreneurship.
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She was a teacher at Farm School NYC, before becoming its Executive Director in 2014, where she works to train residents in urban agriculture in order to build self-reliant communities and inspire positive local action around food access and social, economic, and racial justice issues.
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She has completed the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Brooklyn Urban Gardener certification program and the 1,000 hour Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS) in Santa Cruz. She served on CASFS’s Social Justice Action Committee, helping expand the curriculum, diversify of staff and faculty, and create more support systems for apprentices of color.
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Abraham is one of the co-founders of Black Urban Growers and has helped organize three national Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conferences. She is a founder and teacher of A Farmers’ Yoga and a founding member and volunteer at Seedkeepers Collective, a people of color-led seed saving initiative. She previously managed communications for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and has previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications at Safe Horizon, which empowers victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and human trafficking.
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“We’re so pleased to have Onika at our 2019 conference, which is focused on agricultural justice,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “Acknowledging the roots of agriculture and considering the ways in which injustice continue to permeate it is essential for forging a path to a healthier food system.”
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On Friday, February 15, Abraham will also lead a 90-minute workshop, “Rooting Up,” for attendees who want a deeper, more personal exploration of the themes she will explore in her keynote.
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Abraham will speak as part of Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 14 through Saturday, February 16 at the Dayton Convention Center.
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In addition to Abraham, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Elizabeth Henderson on February 15; nearly 80 educational workshops; four full-day Food and Farm School classes on February 14; a three-day trade show; evening entertainment; activities for children; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.
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A limited number of scholarships are available to persons of color and beginning farmers, along with reduced rate volunteer spaces.
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For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2019
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Our Sponsors
  
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Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition | Chelsea Green Publishing | Columbus Irrigation |  The Fertrell Company | Great River Organics | Green Field Farms Co-Op | Greenacres Foundation | Hartzler Family Dairy | Hiland Supply Co. | Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT) | Lucky Cat Bakery | Pastured Providence Farmstead | Paul Hall and Associates | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | SuperGro of Iowa | Tiger Mushroom Farms | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Casa Nueva | Certis USA | Curly Tail Organic Farm | Dale Filbrun/Morning Sun Organic Farm | Eden Foods | Grassroots Farm and Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Lucky Penny Farm | OEFFA Grain Growers Chapter | Ohio Environmental Council | Rosebud’s Ranch and Garden | Plant Talk Radio | Tea Hills Farms
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Ag Credit, ACA | Ann’s Raspberry Farm | Bexley Natural Market |  Blue Jacket Dairy| Branstool Orchards | Flying J Farm | Fox Hollow Farm | Herbruck Poultry Ranch | Nourse Farms | Pure Life Organic Foods | Storehouse Tea | Stutzman Farms | VanBuren’s All/Buckeye Highlands | Warped Wing Brewing

Organic Farmer Elizabeth Henderson to Keynote 40th Ohio Sustainable Food and Farm Conference 

The need to connect soil and human health with social justice and fairness on the farm will be the focus of a keynote address by long-time organic farmer, agricultural justice advocate, and writer Elizabeth Henderson at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 40th annual conference, Just Farming: The Path Before Us, this February in Dayton, Ohio.

In her Friday, February 15 keynote address, “Agrarian Justice: Creating a Food System Worth Sustaining,” Henderson will explore why we need to support fair pricing for farmers, instead of subsidizing corporate control of our food system. She’ll also explain why we need to unite family-scale farmers with other food workers and build a coalition powerful enough to bring to life a food system grounded in agroecology, health, freedom, justice, and equity.

“If we are honest, we have to admit that for the most part social relations in organic agriculture mimic those of the dominant industrial food system, and organic farmers, even farmers who sell direct in local markets, have a hard time making ends meet,” Henderson said. “By stretching towards fairness, organic can take its rightful place in the struggles for freedom and justice, for civil liberties for all. We will not reach the promised land of sustainability based on the environment and humane treatment of livestock alone. Farmers and farmworkers, the people who do the work of farming, must have justice.”

Henderson is a core leader behind the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) and its Food Justice Certification label, working to create fairness for farmers and farmworkers.

“The basic premise of AJP is that supportive relations of mutual respect and cooperation among the people who grow and sell food will result in a triple win for farmers, food workers, and ultimately the people who eat the food,” she said.

Henderson is also a pioneer of the community supported agriculture (CSA) model. She co-founded the Genesee Valley Organic CSA in Rochester, NY in 1989, and later Peacework Farm in Newark, NY in 1998, one of the country’s longest running CSAs.

“For me, farming for a community of people whom I know well is very satisfying,” she told the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. “It’s not like shipping crates off somewhere, where I never see the customers. I know everyone, and I know most of their children.”

She co-authored the definitive work on CSA farming, Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture, and is honorary president of the international CSA network, Urgenci.

On Friday, February 15, Henderson will also lead a 90-minute workshop, “CSAs Around the World.”

“Around the planet there are many different ways of doing [CSA]. And that’s part of what’s so exciting, that CSA isn’t an orthodoxy, nobody certifies it, nobody dictates that you have to do it this way or that way. It’s a concept of the direct connection between a group of eaters and one or several pieces of land. And after that you can do it however you want,” she told the Farmer to Farmer podcast in 2015.

Deeply involved in the organic movement, Henderson is a founding member of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) in Massachusetts. She has served on the Board of Directors for NOFA-New York and other farming organizations.

She is also co-author of Whole Farm Planning: Ecological Imperatives, Personal Values, and Low-Input Practices, and her writings on organic agriculture appear in Grist, The Natural Farmer, and other publications.

“We are honored to welcome Elizabeth to our 40th annual conference,” said OEFFA Program Director Renee Hunt. “As we reflect on how far we’ve come and the work ahead, her decades of experience and leadership in the organic movement and thoughtful ability to explore the themes of justice and diversity make her a perfect fit for helping to shape our work for the next 40 years.”

On Saturday, February 16, Henderson will co-present the 90-minute workshop, “OEFFA’s Advocacy Agenda: Policy Priorities Past, Present, and Future.”

Henderson will speak as part of Ohio’s largest sustainable food and farm conference, which will run Thursday, February 14 through Saturday, February 16 at the Dayton Convention Center.

In addition to Henderson, this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Onika Abraham on February 16; nearly 80 educational workshops; four full-day Food and Farm School classes on February 14; a three-day trade show; evening entertainment; activities for children; locally-sourced meals; a raffle; book sales and signings, and more.

A limited number of scholarships are available to persons of color and beginning farmers, along with reduced rate volunteer spaces.

For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2019

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Our Sponsors
  
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Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition | Chelsea Green Publishing | Columbus Irrigation |  The Fertrell Company | Great River Organics | Green Field Farms Co-Op | Greenacres Foundation | Hartzler Family Dairy | Hiland Supply Co. | Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT) | Lucky Cat Bakery | Pastured Providence Farmstead | Paul Hall and Associates | Shagbark Seed and Mill | Snowville Creamery | Stauf’s Coffee Roasters | SuperGro of Iowa | Tiger Mushroom Farms | WQTT Ag Today Central Ohio
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Andelain Fields | Casa Nueva | Certis USA | Curly Tail Organic Farm | Dale Filbrun/Morning Sun Organic Farm | Eden Foods | Grassroots Farm and Foods | Kevin Morgan Studio | Lucky Penny Farm | OEFFA Grain Growers Chapter | Ohio Environmental Council | Rosebud’s Ranch and Garden | Plant Talk Radio | Tea Hills Farms
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Ag Credit, ACA | Ann’s Raspberry Farm | Bexley Natural Market |  Blue Jacket Dairy| Branstool Orchards | Flying J Farm | Fox Hollow Farm | Herbruck Poultry Ranch | Nourse Farms | Pure Life Organic Foods | Storehouse Tea | Stutzman Farms | VanBuren’s All/Buckeye Highlands | Warped Wing Brewing

Organic Certification: Creating a Sustainable Future

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service – OH, 11/12/18

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The end of the harvest signals the start of prep work for the next planting season.

And an increasing number of farmers and producers in Ohio also are preparing for a transition to organic certification.

Kim Bayer operates a mixed vegetable operation, and recently became certified as an organic producer. She says the process is a bit tedious, but well worth it.

Bayer was already doing some outreach to community members about what it takes to bring food to the table, and she sees becoming organic as part of creating a sustainable future.

“It’s kind of a shorthand way of communicating that this food was grown with the highest standards of promoting health for the environment, for the community and for individuals,” she states. “When people know the farm that they’re buying the food from, they care more about the place where they live.”

According to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture data, there are 575 certified organic operations in Ohio – a number that rose 24 percent between 2015 and 2016.

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association currently certifies more than 1,300 organic farms and food operations in Ohio and eight other states in the region, and it offers resources to farmers who want to make the transition.

Bayer says one of the educators there helped her feel less intimidated by the process, which can take more than three years.

“Honestly, I was scared to death at the beginning of it, but she really helped me understand step-by-step what was needed,” Bayer relates. “So, she really provided a lot of guidance and made me see that it was really, really doable. ”

At Bayer’s farm, people can pick their own produce, which she says allows them to see, smell, touch, and better understand local foods.

“It gives people a different and a deeper experience of the incredible range of flavors and colors, and shapes and sizes, and people start thinking about how little choice there is in a grocery store,” she states. “We don’t even know the names of the varieties in the grocery store that were grown to travel well instead of taste good.”

Ohio ranks seventh among states for its number of organic farms, with more than 54,000 acres of certified cropland.

Reimbursement for Certification Makes Organic an Even Better Deal for Farmers and Processors

For Immediate Release:

June 20, 2018

Contact:

Carol Goland, OEFFA, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 202, cgoland@oeffa.org

ODA Communications, (614) 752-9817, agrcommunications@agri.ohio.gov

Columbus, OH—The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) announced that $285,000 is available through the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program to make organic certification more affordable for organic producers and handlers in Ohio.

This funding covers as much as 75 percent of an individual applicant’s certification costs, up to a maximum of $750 annually per certification scope. Four scopes of certification are eligible for reimbursement: crops, wild crops, livestock, and handler.

Retail sales of organic products grew to nearly $50 billion in the United States in 2017, an increase of 6.4 percent from the previous year, and six times faster than the overall food market, according to the Organic Trade Association.

Since 2011, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has partnered with OEFFA to administer Ohio’s cost-share program.

“Ohio is a national leader in the number of organic farms and top 10 in terms of the value of organic milk, eggs, and spelt produced in the state,” said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA.

Not all of the nearly 1,000 Ohio organic operations fully utilize the cost-share program. “We encourage more organic businesses to take advantage of this opportunity, which can help make becoming—or staying—certified more affordable,” said Goland.

Reimbursable costs include application fees, certification fees, travel costs for inspectors, user fees, sales assessments, and postage.

The program is currently reimbursing for expenses paid between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018. Applications for reimbursement must be postmarked by November 15, 2018, although requests are processed monthly. County Farm Service Agency offices also accept and process requests for cost-share reimbursements.

Organic farmers and processors in Ohio can access the reimbursement application from OEFFA’s website at http://certification.oeffa.org/costshare or by calling (614) 262-2022.

Certified organic producers and handlers outside of Ohio can find the contact information for their administrating agencies at www.ams.usda.gov/NOPCostSharing.

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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, go to www.oeffa.org.

Senator Sherrod Brown Honored for Promoting Investments in Local Agriculture

For Immediate Release:  February 17, 2018

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 947-1607, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator, (614) 947-1643, lauren@oeffa.org

Dayton, OH—At a gathering of more than 1,100 farmers and local food advocates, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) received the Food and Farm Champion Award from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). The announcement was made in Dayton on Friday, February 16 as part of OEFFA’s 39th annual conference, A Taste for Change.

The award recognizes Senator Brown’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and his leadership in making positive investments in local food systems, community economic development, and public health.
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“Senator Brown has consistently supported investments in local and regional food systems that contribute to farmer viability, create jobs, and improve public health,” said OEFFA’s Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu, who presented the award.

“Through his introduction of the Local Food and Regional Market Supply (FARMS) Act (S. 1947), we can fully develop the policies and programs that spur economic development in communities in Ohio and throughout the nation.”
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“Local farmers feed Ohio families and grow Ohio’s economy. I’m proud to work with partners like OEFFA to help connect family farms with their communities, grow their bottom lines, and create jobs across our state. It’s an honor to receive the Food and Farm Champion award,” said Senator Brown, who provided remarks to the conference’s 1,100 guests.
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Ohio is home to 24 local food councils, a state food policy network, and a growing number of farm to institution programs, food hubs, and direct to consumer outlets. Senator Brown’s farm bill advocacy efforts have supported more than 90 food system projects and resulted in more than $7 million dollars in investments in Ohio’s communities. For example, the Lake to River Food Cooperative established a food hub and a shared retail space, the Youngstown Online Market pick-up site, which helps farmers market their products through a shared online platform.
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Senator Brown serves on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, where he has been instrumental in strengthening the farm safety net and addressing childhood hunger.

“OEFFA is pleased to recognize Senator Brown’s leadership and looks forward to continue working with him in the future,” said Lipstreu.
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Since 1979, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has been working to build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, creates economic opportunities for our rural communities, and safeguards the environment. For more information, go to www.oeffa.org.
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For high resolution photos of Senator Brown’s appearance at the OEFFA conference, please contact Lauren Ketcham at (614) 947-1643 or lauren@oeffa.org. Please provide photo credit: Ed Chen.

Beginning farmers key focus of upcoming Ohio food conference

DAYTON, Ohio — Early-career farmers and those considering an agricultural vocation will get a lot of the information they need during a dedicated “Begin Farming Workshop” that is part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Assoc.’s (OEFFA) annual conference Feb. 15-17 at the Dayton Convention Center.

This 39th annual conference is titled A Taste for Change.

“Our goal is to help people increase their knowledge and skills, find leads on farmland, and make business and professional connections,” said OEFFA Begin Farming Program Coordinator Kelly Henderson.

On Feb. 16-17, six 90-minute workshops, totaling nine hours of education, will cover a wide range of topics, from organic certification to farming with children. OEFFA sustainable ag educator Julia Barton will address the top 10 organic transition questions most people ask, while Mike Durante of the National Young Farmers Coalition will discuss land access and affordability for the beginning farmer.

Other beginning farming experts will discuss government regulations, how to market your farm produces, health insurance and risk management and much more.

And this annual event is not just for the beginning farmer. Additional workshop sessions on production, marketing, business and green living will be offered, giving attendees nearly 80 workshops from which to choose.

This year’s keynote speakers include Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute and Stacy Malkan of U.S. Right to Know.

“If you look at the food market system in the U.S., ours is the fastest growth of all,” Moyer said. “This is great news for those in the organic industry – not only for the growers, but the impact on the health of the people. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

His talk will focus on the food of the future rather than that of the present or past.

“We want to look at the history only so we don’t make the same mistakes and to see how we got where we are. I will explain what the future holds for organic growers, as this will give us a picture of the changes and how we as farmers can impact that change.”

Moyer is a renowned authority in organic agriculture with expertise in organic crop production systems, weed management, cover crops, crop rotations, equipment modification and use and facilities design. He conceptualized and popularized the No-Till Roller Crimper for use in organic agriculture and wrote Organic No-Till Farming, a publication that has become a resource for farmers throughout the world.

Malkan’s keynote address, entitled “Fake News, Fake Food”, will be urging attendees how to stand up for organic foods and their right to know in the era of Big Ag. She is an author, investigative journalist and leading consumer advocate for safer products.

She is also co-founder and co-director of the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know, whose mission is to educate and inform consumers about the often hidden practices that shape the food system.

Sarah Flack, a consultant, speaker and author of The Art and Science of Grazing, will cover the basic principles of good grazing management systems, as well as soils and management systems that improve pasture quality and productivity.

Dr. Barbara Utendorf, a nutrition and personal wellness expert, will discuss how to incorporate key health-restoring foods and herbs in a cultivated environment. She will review the multiple benefits of plants.

Matt Fout, ODA food safety supervisor, will train fruit and vegetable farmers to meet the Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. He will cover worker health, hygiene and training.

Other topics found among the workshops include lessons in soil biology and soil health; growing organic foods in the face of imports; key principles of well-managed grazing systems; cover crops for small-scale vegetable production; changing customer expectations; planting trees for profit; how to store grain properly; raising pastured turkeys; cool-season vegetable production; underground greenhouse design; inroads into food deserts; and uses for alpaca fibers.

The OEFFA conference also has entertainment opportunities for attending children, with an abundance of arts and crafts.

The Dayton Convention Center is located at 22 E. 5th Street, Dayton, OH 45402. For more information about this event, call OEFFA at 614-421-2022.

A Call To Boost Local Foods in 2018 Farm Bill

By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service

2/6/18

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal lawmakers are ramping up their work on the 2018 Farm Bill, and some Ohio farm groups and producers say measures to boost local foods should be included.

Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown says the Local FARMS Act he introduced in the Senate can help family farmers and local growers reach new markets and improve access to fresh foods for Ohioans.

That was the exact mission of Betsy Anderson and others in Wooster when they created Local Roots Market and Café eight years ago.

“The connection to the food is just so different when you grow it yourself,” she says. “And our market gives people an opportunity to meet with the farmers and really see exactly where their food’s coming from. People just seem really happy.”

The Local FARMS Act includes investments in programs such as the Local Food Promotion Program, which Local Roots have utilized to enhance the cooperative over the years. The House Committee on Agriculture is holding a hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill today.

Anderson says Local Roots and the area economy have both benefited thanks to funding from the program. She explains the market was able to expand its advertising, and bring in more local shoppers and sellers.

“The producers are from our communities,” she notes. “We had about 200 already selling products, and then we got up to about 284. And sales continue to increase. We saw a bit over half a million dollars a year in local product.”

According to USDA data, more than 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food through farmers markets and other similar channels in 2015, generating nearly $9 billion in earnings for local producers. The 2018 Farm Bill could move to the full House by mid-March and be in the Senate in May.

An OEFFA 2018 Conference Preview

By Ty Higgins, Ohio’s Country Journal and Ohio AgNet

2/5/18

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 39th annual conference, A Taste for Change, will run Thursday, Feb. 15 through Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Dayton Convention Center in Dayton.

“The conference is three days of learning, networking, sharing, and breaking bread with an inspiring and growing community of farmers and local food advocates,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director. “Each year, we draw more than 1,200 attendees, and our diverse schedule offers something for all tastes.”

Friday keynote speaker is Jeff Moyer, a world renowned authority in organic agriculture. He conceptualized and popularized the No-Till Roller Crimper and wrote Organic No-Till Farming. He is the Executive Director of the Rodale Institute, which helps farmers make the transition from conventional, chemical-based farming to organic methods. He is a past chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

“This country is in the midst of a food fight in both the production world and the consumer world,” Moyer said. “As consumer demand for organic grows, there is a lot of pushing and pulling on the food dollar in the marketplace. Right now the organic food industry is around 5% of the food dollar in the United States, but only about 1.2% of the farmland in this country is being farmed organically.”

Moyer says the result of that data is that a lot of organic product is coming in from international or offshore enterprises. He is working very hard to change that scenario and encourage more farmers to transition to organic to take advantage of an opportunity to be more profitable and at the same time improve the health of the soil and change the way that resources are being managed on the farm.

AUDIO: The Ohio Ag Net’s Ty Higgins visits with Jeff Moyer of the Rodale Institute about organic agriculture, how it can be a great starting point for beginning farmers and what he hopes attendees will take away from his talk at the upcoming OEFFA Conference.
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Saturday keynote speaker Stacy Malkan is an author, journalist, and leading consumer advocate for safer products. Stacy is co-founder and co-director of the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know, whose mission is to educate and inform consumers about the often hidden practices that shape the food system. She served as media director for the 2012 ballot initiative in California to label genetically engineered foods.

Ohio State Organic Experts Among OEFFA Conference Speakers

By The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

1/31/18

COLUMBUS, Ohio — How certain natural microbes can help crops grow better and faster.

How to make contaminated soils, sometimes present in cities, healthy for urban farming.

How a new perennial grain could have double uses, as food for people and forage for livestock, and also double benefits, helping soil and water.

Those will be some of the topics when experts from The Ohio State University join the speaker lineup at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 39th annual conference, Feb. 15-17 at the Dayton Convention Center.

Called Ohio’s largest conference on sustainable food and farming, the event offers nearly 80 hour-and-a-half workshops on organic farming and related topics, including 10 with speakers from Ohio State. One track of workshops is especially for beginning farmers.

About 1,200 people — farmers, gardeners, foodies, green living advocates and others — are expected to attend. The conference theme is “A Taste for Change.”

“For 39 years, the OEFFA conference has been the gathering place for sustainable and organic farmers and, more recently, researchers to share information,” said Carol Goland, executive director of OEFFA. And there’s good reason for the sharing.

Fastest-growing sector in U.S. food industry

Organic food is the fastest-growing sector in the U.S. food industry, with double-digit annual sales increases “far outstripping the growth rate for the overall food market,” according to the Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA). Organic food still represents only a small share of total U.S. food sales, about 5 percent, but the figure now stands at a record high, OTA says.

Ohio alone had 575 certified organic farms in 2016, up 24 percent from 2015 and good for seventh place in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2016 Certified Organic Survey. Those farms reported sales of about $101 million, a 30 percent jump from the year before.

Ohio State program nationally ranked

Ohio State, for its part, “has one of the strongest organic farming research programs in the United States,” said Doug Doohan, interim director of the university’s Organic Food and Farming Education and Research (OFFER) program. Among similar programs, OFFER “consistently ranks in the top 10 percent nationally when it comes to funding and publications,” he said.

Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) started the OFFER program (not to be confused with OEFFA) in 1998. The decision was spurred by requests from Ohio’s growing number of organic farmers, led by OEFFA members, for research to support their industry. More than two dozen CFAES scientists are collaborators in the program.

‘Strong, growing’ relationship

Since then, OFFER and OEFFA have cultivated a “strong and growing” relationship, Doohan said. OFFER scientists increasingly design their research in consultation with OEFFA member farmers, sometimes even conducting experiments on the farmers’ farms, he said.

“That kind of collaborative relationship really helps get at the most pressing issues and addresses them in the most impactful way possible,” Doohan said.

Such efforts “help equip farmers with the information they need” to take advantage of organic farming’s economic opportunities, Goland said. Those opportunities include earning price premiums compared to conventionally produced products, which can boost a farm’s profitability.

Organic farmers, in almost cases, are prohibited from using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Instead they employ a big toolkit of natural inputs, non-chemical methods and biological processes, such as mulch, manure and beneficial insects, to keep their crops healthy and productive. Other practices, such as cover crops and crop rotation, serve to limit soil erosion, improve soil health, cut the risk of water contamination and increase biodiversity.

Keynoting the OEFFA conference will be Jeff Moyer, executive director of the Pennsylvania-based Rodale Institute, and Stacy Malkan, co-director of the food industry watchdog group U.S. Right to Know.

Workshop speakers also will come from farms, businesses, nonprofits, advocacy groups, agencies and elsewhere in higher education, including Ohio’s Central State University.

Buckeyes slated

The speakers from Ohio State, most of whom are collaborators in OFFER, will be:

  • Matt Kleinhenz, Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, CFAES, “Microbe-Containing Crop Biostimulants: What We Know, What Is Important to Learn” (Feb. 16, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Douglas Jackson-Smith, School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), CFAES, panel discussion member on “Better On-Farm Research for Better Organic Farming” (Feb. 16, 10:30 a.m.).
  • Steve Culman, SENR, “Dual-Use Perennial Grain Crops: Grain for Humans and Hay for Livestock,” about a new grain variety called Kernza developed by the Kansas-based Land Institute (Feb. 17, 3:30 p.m.).
  • Culman and Kleinhenz, “Base Cation Balance: What Are Crops, Soils, Weeds and People Saying?” (Feb. 16, 2 p.m.).
  • Shoshanah Inwood, SENR, co-speaker on “Health Insurance and Risk Management for Farmers: Tools for Navigating Health Insurance,” part of the workshop track for beginning farmers (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Alan Sundermeier, Ohio State University Extension, CFAES, “Interpreting Soil Health Information for Organic Producers” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Celeste Welty, Department of Entomology, “Organic Approaches to Insect Management on Cucurbit Crops,” cucurbits being such crops as squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelons (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Gustavo Schuenemann, College of Veterinary Medicine and OSU Extension, “Designing Health Protocols for Certified Organic Herds” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Meredith Krueger, OSU Food Waste Collaborative, CFAES, co-speaker on “Weaving Food Policy Work Statewide: The Development of the Ohio Food Policy Network” (Feb. 17, 8:30 a.m.).
  • Larry Phelan, Department of Entomology, CFAES, “Can Urban Soils Be Made Healthy for Farming?” (Feb. 17, 3:30 p.m.).

Goland said research on organic farming, by OFFER scientists and many others, “is key to supporting this growing industry.”

Find details on the event at oeffa.org/conference2018.php. Online registration has ended, but walk-in registrations are welcome on Feb. 16 and 17.

Writer(s):

Kurt Knebusch
knebusch.1@osu.edu
330-263-3776

Source(s):

Doug Doohan
doohan.1@osu.edu
330-202-3593

Carol Goland
cgoland@oeffa.org

Organic food not perfect, but better than the alternative, says Jeff Moyer

When the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association holds its annual food conference Feb. 15-17 in Dayton, there will be lots of celebration. More than 1,000 folks interested in growing and supporting sustainable food will meet in 80 skill-building workshops, and they’ll do so knowing that organic-food sales are healthy, too.

In a relatively stagnant growth market for food in general, organic-food sales continue to rise by more than 8 percent a year, according to the country’s Organic Trade Association.

With the good news comes the bad. There aren’t enough young people taking up farming, not enough research to make it easier and more profitable, and still not enough sales to make both of those things happen soon.

We talked about that last week with Jeff Moyer, who will be giving one of the keynote speeches at the OEFFA conference. Moyer, 62, spoke by phone from Kutztown in eastern Pennsylvania. He and his family started farming there organically in the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s.

Until five years ago, he served on the National Organic Standards Board of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a group that came into being in 1990 with the creation of the USDA Organic label. Moyer now heads Rodale Institute, a cornerstone organization in organic agriculture.

From your view, what’s the current state of the organic-food world?

When Robert Rodale was here in 1971, he was frustrated at the slow growth of organic-farming principles. He was concerned about human health, planetary health and wrote about climate change. He saw organic-crop production as a way to mitigate these problems. He saw two reasons for the slow growth. One was that, whether we like it or not, agriculture moves on the back of science, and we don’t have a lot of science on the back of organic agriculture.

He also saw a problem with certification. At that time, anybody could put something on the market and call it organic. He thought the best way was to bring in government certification, which would expand organics, allow people to trust what they purchase and have an understanding for interstate trade which would be converted into research. That part didn’t pan out well, but the labeling did.

Do people understand the label?

I wish everyone had a deep understanding of it. Most don’t have the time, although I think they have the interest. But I think they do trust it.

There were stories last year about missing links in the organic certification of some crops grown overseas. Why should we trust the label?

Because the alternative is far worse. Without the label, you don’t have anything to go by. And you get what you pay for. Yes, there are cheaters out there, but it’s still better than the alternative. Food is one product that we purchase, put it in our mouths and it becomes us. While the seal is less than perfect, it’s the best thing we have that can be verified.

Why does organic food generally cost more?

We’re paying for the quality that the farmer brings to the entire process. Organic farming is more cost-effective than conventional farming. Yet conventional farmers have subsidized crop insurance because their processes are so much more at risk to climate and weather patterns. There’s no way they can afford the insurance.

But consumers, instead of paying for those subsidies through our tax dollars, should really be paying for it at the point of purchase. When people develop [illnesses] that can be attributed to their diet and the way their food is produced, we don’t pay for that in the food but in the cost of health insurance. Not that organic farmers can’t apply for crop insurance, or can’t get into government programs, but they generally don’t need to. They charge what they need to get to a reasonable profit.

So why aren’t there more organic farmers, and how do you get more?

“That’s the $64,000 question. I saw an analysis from Ohio State University that showed you have to spend 10 times more to become a farmer than to become a surgeon, but you make 10 times less money. There are now six times as many farmers over 65 than farmers over 35. Farmers aren’t aging out of the system, and eventually, something drastic has to happen.

At Rodale, we have a dynamic training program for U.S. military veterans. Other folks are doing similar things. Organic Valley is using investor money to get people on the land to transition it over to organic status, and then the land goes to a management company. But we don’t have many other options. We need education in the banking industry to support organic production. It’s not a recipe, and they have to learn to take some risks.”

Are organics at risk in the current political climate?

“If I knew, I’d be a millionaire. We know the GOP wants fewer regulations. Airlines, banks, have all asked to get rid of regulations. But we asked them for regulation, and more of it, because it gives us guidelines to build a business on. Organic certification is completely voluntary. I hope politicians see the difference and leave it alone.”


IF YOU GO

What: A Taste for Change, the 39th annual conference of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association. Includes 80 educational workshops for farmers and consumers with special attention this year to new farmers, urban farming, a trade show and more.

When: Thursday Feb. 15-Saturday Feb. 17.

Where: Dayton Convention Center

Contact: oeffa.org/conference2018, 614-421-2022.