Thursday, June 30, 2011

Good News for Connecticut Agriculture

The state legislature has passed a number of farm-friendly laws.  New legislation will benefit Connecticut dairy farmers, those who prefer to buy local, agricultural students.  The Connecticut Farm Bureau Association worked with Connecticut legislators to create laws that will maintain or strengthen agriculture’s role in Connecticut’s economy (agriculture contributes $3.5 billion and 20,000 jobs to the state economy) while also preserving open spaces and making local foods more accessible to Connecticut residents.  Dannel Malloy has acknowledged that he sees Connecticut agriculture as an industry which will show significant growth in the future, especially with the number of Connecticut’s “buy local” campaigns.  The Department of Agriculture also continued the Farm Reinvestment Program to support Connecticut agriculture.  Through this program framers can apply for grants to expand production facilities, diversity crops and improvements to equipment or land.  The goal of the grant program is for the investments to benefit tax payers for years to come.  This is an important concept for our state and others to continue to value: investing in local, sustainable farming is the key to food security, nutrition and economic prosperity in our state; we can’t cut that investment in our future out of our budget.  

According to the Connecticut Farmer’s Bureau Association the legislature agreed to a number of positive aspects for CT Ag:

-  The maintenance of vital funding for the state's nineteen regional Agriscience & Technology programs (formally Vo-Ag) which will ensure the education of tomorrow's farmers.

 · The funding of the state's Community Investment Act which helps preserve farmland and secures the permanent funding for Connecticut's dairy farmers that helps them maintain viability in case of low wholesale milk prices.

 · A change in the law to allow food vendors at farmers' markets to use one universal health department license for all towns, instead of requiring individual licenses for individual towns.
This will allow more variety at farmers' markets and give farmers access to additional revenue streams.

 · Creation of an Agricultural Council for the state's Executive Branch, giving Connecticut's Governor a way to receive direct input from those in the agricultural community on how to grow our state's $3.5 billion agricultural sector.

 · The creation of a state-run timber harvesting account that will pay for hiring of additional state foresters to oversee responsible timber harvesting on state forest lands.

 · Permitting almost 14,000 acres of private Connecticut forest land under the 10 mil program to be taxed at the PA 490 rate instead of a substantially higher rate. This change will have a significant positive impact on the protection of forest land.

 · The passage of language that allows state dairy farms to create and fund a Connecticut Milk Promotion Board to educate state residents about the importance of dairy products and their impact on our state's economy.

 · New language that encourages towns to form Agricultural Commissions in order to highlight issues facing local farms and requiring municipalities to consider agriculture when amending their plans of conservation and development

 · The defeat of proposals that would have severely restricted farming near state wetlands and prevented many farmers from having access to adequate supplies of water.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NOFA Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals in the news!

Accredited Organic Land Care Professional, Tovah Martin, has done numerous talks and presentations in the northeast on a range of topics from terrarium construction to the use of trowels and perennials in the garden.  She is a perennial, heirloom, vegetable and cottage gardener.  Check out her most recent book, The New Terrarium, in which Ms. Martin writes about "gardening under glass." Plants are able to thrive when encased in glass and require little care, and Ms. Martin explains how to set up a terrarium.  She spoke at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury in the beginning of the month but will be hosting more talks in the New York and Connecticut area in August and September.   Her schedule for talks, demonstrations and workshops,  can be found here.  Ms. Martin has authored more than a dozen books and writes for a number of news publications.  Her blog can be found at  To find out more about the NOFA Organic Land Care professional program head over to our site:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

National Day of Action to protest farm bill cuts

Not only are state agricultural resources in danger, so are national agriculture resources!  Today is the National Day of Action to protest the cuts to farm bill conservation programs and prohibitions on support for local food in the House of Representatives. 

Here’s more from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s website: 

Take Action
On Tuesday, June 28th participate in the National Day of Action to protest the huge cuts to farm bill conservation programs and prohibitions on support for local food in the House of Representative-passed spending bill.  Your Senator needs to hear from you that the federal budget shouldn't be balanced on the back of conservation programs.

It’s easy to call:  Enter your zip code in the box below to get phone numbers for your Senators.  Call both of your Senators and ask to speak to the staff member responsible for agriculture.  If the staff member is unavailable leave a message with the receptionist or a voice mail message.   Be sure to identify yourself as a constituent and a farmer or a consumer and to leave a call back number.

Message: Tell them the Senate needs to protect farm bill conservation program spending and programs essential to promoting local and regional farm and food systems.   Tell them the House agriculture spending bill is extreme and unfair.

Additional Talking Points:

1.    The Senate needs to protect farm bill conservation programs from further spending cuts.  Conservation programs were cut by $500 million in fiscal year 2011 and the House is proposing an additional cut of $1 billion for fiscal year 2012 to the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program.  These cuts will require USDA to break contracts with farmers who have committed to conservation practices and they are disproportionate to other spending cuts.
2.    Conservation programs are consistently oversubscribed with long waiting lists of farmers wanting to implement conservation systems.  Conservation programs are effective - creating jobs while protecting our future agricultural capacity for future generations. 
3.    Conservation program spending has been slashed while funding for commodity programs remains untouched.   If cuts to mandatory funding are to be made, then everything has to be on the table.
4.    The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF, KYF) provides crucial coordination and public outreach to build new income opportunities for farmers producing for the local and regional markets.  These markets are essential to rural economic recovery and cutting KYF, KYF is shortsighted and extreme.
5.    Development of local and regional food systems and markets is a job creator and a good investment in public health.  

Check out their website to sign up for updates on budget cuts, action alerts, information on how to contact your senator or representative and an advocacy toolkit.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Connecticut's Agricultural Extension Threatened by Budget Cuts

Around the country, agricultural research and support has really suffered as states budgets are being aggressively cut.  Defunding agricultural research extensions and education programs will help balance budgets now, but add to our nation’s growing problem of being unable to produce enough food to feed our population.  The National Institute for Food and Agriculture took a 9% cut this year and a 2012 funding bill that passed House this month cuts $35 million in extension funds from the current level of $294 million (keep in mind that the United State’s defense budget is $700 billion).

Here in Connecticut, Governor Malloy’s budget “Plan B” will completely eliminate the CT Agricultural Experiment Station.   The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) was the first in the nation, founded in 1875.  The research station has been an invaluable resource making scientific advances to improve farming and food safety.  CAES has done research on new fruit and vegetable crops, integrated pest management, plant disease, invasive species, improvement of soil and water quality.  To learn more about CAES here is an explanation of its history and accomplishments:

Plan B was put out by the governor’s office about a month ago as the budget alternative if state employee unions did not agree to pension, and health care concessions.  At that time, the list of layoffs included the complete elimination of CAES, with 100% of the employees laid off.  Although a majority of the state employee union members voted for the concessions, it was not the overwhelming majority required to put the concessions in place. If you would like to speak up in favor of keeping the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in operation, please do so before Thursday.

The Office of the Governor can be reached at (860) 566-4840 or (800) 406-1527.  Send him an e-mail at this link:
Contact your state senator or legislator or find out who they are at the following state government site:

Friday, June 24, 2011

NOFA Summer Conference!

For today’s post, I thought I’d just write about a few of the workshops available to NOFA summer conference attendees.  The 36th Summer Conference, in Amherst, Massachusetts on August 12 – 14, features 232 workshops, for beginners, experts, gardeners, farmers, children, teens and adults on topics ranging from establishing a farm, creating a garden, planting, canning, composting, CSA management, food justice, cooking etc.  So if any of the following workshops sound interesting, there are 226 other workshop choices that might peak your interest even more (they are conveniently organized into thematic tracks so you can only view workshops that line up with your interests).  For information on other conference happenings (vendors, exhibits, speakers, films, farm tours, farmer socials, dance parties, I can go on and on) get your information here:

Ecological Models for Economic Development Beginner
Campus Center 811-15
Andrew Faust: Premier permaculture teacher with two decades of experience in Northeast.
We need regional plans of economic development that are more self-reliant, ecological, socially
attuned, and prosperous for many generations. Learn how to create bioregional economies,
farms and communities, using conservation tools and maps to design local foodsheds,
decentralized energy, and local economies for the Northeast.

Understanding the Soil Foodweb, Advanced
Campus Center 804-08
Paul Wagner: Lab director of Soil Foodweb New York.
Participants will learn how to manage plants and soils utilizing compost, compost teas, and
organic amendments. Participants will develop a working knowledge of soil microbes and their
roles in plant and soil health, and learn how to integrate compost tea into treatment programs.

Easy no-Knead Artisan Bread at Home Beginner
Wheeler Kitchen
Linda Ugelow: Farms (small-scale), and loves cooking and baking nutrient dense foods.
No-Knead bread is the easiest method of bread-making with fantastic results. Gorgeous and
delicious whole grain bread can be yours for just a few minutes effort, and stored dough can be
baked on a moments notice into loaves, flat breads, pizza and dessert. I'll touch on the science
and demonstrate techniques for round loaves, pizza, pita and gluten free for cooking in the oven
and on the stove.

The Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods Intermediate
Campus Center 905-09
Ed Stockman: Organic Farmer (39 years), Agrobiologist, former NOFA/Mass Organic Extension
Participants will be introduced to the documented human health dangers of genetically
engineered food. Following the PowerPoint, I will discuss how we can stop the madness and
prevent genetic engineering of our food supply. Prior to the workshop, participants should
watch the film ―The World According To Monsanto‖ at

Backyard Chickens All levels
Outside: Meet at the Registration Tent
Pam Raymond and David Turner: Raise grass-fed beef, pastured broilers, free range layers and
grass-fed pigs. They also have organic vegetable gardens in Hatfield, MA.
There will be information on breed selection, raising day old chicks, coop requirements, raising
layers and/or broilers, free ranging/pasturing, deep litter, handling predators, feeding
requirements, general chicken information, and lots of resource materials. We also hope to have
chickens of different breeds in pasture pens.

Getting Started in Beekeeping All levels
Campus Center 803
Roland Sevigny: Gardener, fruit grower, winemaker, MA Beekeeper of the Year: 2000.
Learn the basics of the rewarding hobby of keeping honey bees, which pollinate one third of the
food we eat. Learn how a bee hive works, from queen to drone to worker bee. Learn how to have
bees work for you and give you honey. We will cover the essential equipment needed for homescale
production and how to get started.
127) Green Schools: Recycling, Composting, Gardening

Thursday, June 23, 2011

GMO crops potentially linked to animal and plant disease

In the beginning of 2011, one of the nations senior scientists, Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University alerted the federal government to an organism that might cause infertility and spontaneous abortion in farm animals and might also pose a significant health risk to humans.   The organism is a microscopic pathogen that appears to significantly impact the health of plants and animals.  The pathogen is “widespread, very serious, and is in much high concentrations in Roundup Ready soybeans and corn.”

Dr. Huber’s letter was timed to discourage the USDA from approving round-up ready alfalfa.  His research showed that animals that feed on FM corn or soybeans may suffer serious health problems due to the pathogen.  Dr. Huber did acknowledge that the source could be the GM properties of the plants or the pesticide, glyphosate, that causes the pathogen.  Dr. Huber’s letter to Senator Vilsack cited a figure of 450 out of 1000 pregnant heifers fed wheatlage experienced spontaneous abortions and infertility rates in diary heifers of over 20% and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.  Some farmers have also observed more health issues in livestock since the introduction of GMO food crops in  the late 1990s.  While these problems, including ulcers, reproductive and immune issues could come from a variety of sources, some of these symptoms 

Glyphosate reduces manganese in plants which is essential for plant defense reactions to disease or environmental stress.  The glyphosate kills weeds by tying up essential micronutrients in the soil weakening weeds so pathogens in the soil kill them.  However this has increased the virulence of the pathogens that kill plants.  The micronutrients in the soil are important to human health, and are being reduced in availability by glyphosate around the world. 
Don Huber’s professional experience before researching glyphosate was studying the threat of biological warfare and even took part in the negotiation of bio-terrorism treaties with the Soviet Union on behalf of the U.S. government. 

The especially disturbing aspect of these findings, are that Dr. Huber sent a letter detailing the dangers of Roundup ready crops to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  Vilsack decided to deregulate Roundup Ready Alfalfa.  Additionally, many believe that GMO alfalfa is unnecessary because alfalfa competes well with weeds in a well-managed system. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

UN Agencies Recommend an Organic Green Revolution

One of the most common arguments in favor of GMO and industrial food production, is the reality that one billion people do not have adequate access to food and one in four children in developing countries is underweight, and the earth’s population is projected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050.  How can we produce enough to feed a growing hungry population?
The UN’s Conference on Trade and Development and UN Environment Programme have made a short film which addresses this question titled “Organic Agriculture: A Good Option for Least Developed Countries”.  These international organizations call for another Green Revolution, but one that is based on sustainable, ecological agriculture without imported pesticides, fertilizers, and industrial machinery which are very expensive for the world’s developing countries. 
First, organic produces high yields: In the video, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director says “We prepared a study on the transition towards agriculture and the associated productivity gains achieved.  Across Africa on average, the increases in yields were 100% and in East Africa even 125%."
Second, organic is easy and cheap to implement everywhere: poverty and hunger are closely linked to environmental degradation.  It is much easier to implement new farming techniques in the poorest, most rural communities than to ship chemical pesticides (produced by developed countries) to these areas. 
Third, organic agriculture is sustainable ecologically, but enables farmers to become economically independent.  Organic agriculture’s comparative resilience to climate change is another important consideration for these Least Developed Countries (LDCs). Organic agriculture does not just create jobs, but better living standards.  Dr. Supachi Panitchpakdi,  UNCTAD Secretary-General, says “To be able to make use of locally available renewable products for the production processes could also help to shield the least developed countries from the vicissitudes and the vulnerability to the kind of shocks that could come from climate change and price fluctuations.”
The video is only four minutes long, check it out!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lawn Pesticide Regulations in Connecticut

Every year Americans use more than 80 million pounds of pesticides and other chemicals on their lawns and gardens.  Some studies show that only 5% of pesticides reach target weeds, the rest is absorbed in the ground, washed into surrounding water sources, and can be tracked into homes.  In Connecticut much of these chemicals are carried by storm run off into rivers and then into Long Island Sound.  This has caused hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen in the water, in Long Island Sound which has begun to decline since environmental regulations have been implemented in Connecticut.  When these chemicals are not flushed into the sound, they seep into the soil and can enter the water table potentially contaminating well water.  When pesticides are applied to residential lawns, children, pets and parents are exposed to harmful chemicals which have been linked to a large variety of health issues including cancers, birth defects, and challenges to child development.

Many Connecticut towns have adopted bans or restrictions on pesticide use on lawns and gardens. The state of Connecticut has already adopted a ban on the use of pesticides on school lawns, forcing landscapers to learn organic land care techniques for public school grounds. Before the ban was in effect, Branford, Connecticut stopped using pesticides on all twenty-four of the town’s fields.   The town collects the residents’ leaves to create compost and mulch, which greatly reduced the need for pesticides or fertilizers because the compost created healthier soils which produced healthier grass.  Connecticut is now looking to extend a pesticide ban to high schools.  Plainfield enacted a resolution in support of voluntary non-use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on lawns and gardens by the citizens of Plainfield.  The town went a step further and declared Paderewski Park pesticide and synthetic fertilizer free as a pilot project to test out organic turf management.  Essex has adopted a similar resolution urging voluntary refrain from the use of chemical fertilizers and lawn pesticides.  Essex and Plainfield’s resolutions both cite potential water pollution, environmental degradation, significant health threats to children, pets, and unborn children, water conservation and soil health in their resolutions.  The town of Roxbury also put in place regulations on pesticide and fertilizer applications within 50 feet of a water course. 

New York has joined sixteen other states in banning the sale of artificial lawn fertilizers because of high phosphorus content.  Phosphorous has a significant negative impact in lakes and reservoirs and about 50% of phosphorous found in storm runoff comes from lawn fertilizer.  New York also was the second state, after Connecticut, to ban pesticides in schoolyards and on playing fields.  

As organic lawn care becomes more main stream and there are a greater variety of resources and options, there will hopefully be more pesticide bans in Connecticut.  As a state with a high population density and neighboring a water body which is highly sensitive to run off pollution, we have the responsibility to continue to reduce the use of unnecessary chemicals.  Each town must already use some form of pesticide free land care for their schools, this has made for an easy transition to town-wide voluntary reductions of pesticide use.

For more information on the health of Long Island Sound, visit:
For more information and resources on organic land care:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Organic Invasive Control in Connecticut

Donna Ellis releasing Weevils (photo credit Helen Neafsey / Greenwich Times)

A joint project between the University of Connecticut, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and state Department of Environmental Protection is testing weevils as invasive control for mile-a-minute-vine.  Mile-a-minute has been a pesky invasive for the western regions of Connecticut, earning its name from its fast growth (up to 6 inches on a hot summer day).  Mile a minute wraps around trees and grows over plants, reducing the light their leaves can absorb allowing the vine to overtake native vegetation.  It was first discovered in Greenwich and is pervasive throughout Fairfield County, but only spread to eastern Connecticut last summer.  A total of 5,000 weevils have been dispersed around the state through this program. Weevils are effective at killing the vine because they feed on the leaves of the vine and then lay eggs inside the plant causing it to collapse.  They also are thought to be species specific, which means the weevils will eat and destroy only the mile-a-minute vine but natural vegetation will be unaffected.  They must be reintroduced every year because weevils cannot survive Connecticut winters.  Donna Ellis, co-chair  of the Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group and a member of the University of Connecticut’s Department of Plant Science, who has been working spreading weevils around the state, is also co-teaching one of NOFA’s summer organic land care workshops titled Organic Invasive Removal and Control on July 8.  If you’re interested in organic removal of invasive plants you can check out NOFA’s Organic Land Care site for resources or to register for the workshop in Bridgeport!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Urban Roots Documentary

Check out this new documentary "Urban Roots" about urban farming as a cultural and economic renaissance in Detroit.  As many of America's urban areas decline, and food access issues become more pronounced, there will hopefully be a growing role for farming and gardening in economically vulnerable inner cities. The film's website ( explains that urban farming is a way that individuals can take control of something that directly effects them and aids them.  As people learn to grow food and feed themselves their physical being improves while they become more self-reliant.  Out of community gardens of course, grow communities, which is the most fertile soil in which children, families and individuals can take root.  

Here is the director, Mark MacInnis' Director Statement: 

Growing up in Detroit, every kid I knew had a mom or a dad who worked for the auto industry. For twenty years, my mom worked at a ware-house that distributed wiring harnesses to Ford Motor Company. That job put braces on my and my brother’s teeth, paid for our skateboards and our weekend trips up north.

My mother was tough, the Michigan stiff upper lip hardened by wage labor and cold winters. I had never seen my mother cry until I was a teenager––on the day I picked her up from her last day of work. She’d already survived three waves of layoffs, but finally got her pink slip with a gold clock and a low-ball severance check.
All my life, I watched the decline of the city, and suffering with it were all of us who’d hitched our hopes to the great American industrial dream of making cars for the greatest country on earth. I never got to see Detroit in its true heyday. But I knew enough to know what it meant to lose that.
My mother may have lost her job, but she never lost that stiff upper lip. And so it was with Detroit—the city that lost its engine but never lost its drive. And now, where nature has reclaimed vast stretches of the abandoned rust belt, Detroiters are reclaiming their spirits. Wherever there is grass, there is a chance to put food on the table. And where there is a chance to put food on the table, there’s a chance for a new start. Now, all around the city of Detroit, a growing movement of urban farmers is changing the way people think about food—and life in the “D”. It took men like Henry Ford, William Durant, and Lee Iacocca to build this city, but it’s taken a bunch of strong willed self-taught urban farmers to save it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bill Duesing on Agroecology and Farmland Preservation

Last week, CT NOFA's Executive Director, Bill Duesing, discussed land use and sustainable farming at a Connecticut Council for Philanthropy conference titles "Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems: What is the role for philanthropy in Connecticut?" Bill's words characterize the mission of CT NOFA, but also contextualize NOFA's work in social and environmental movements on the local to global levels:

Thank you for inviting me. It is a pleasure to be here with so many colleagues in the important and exciting, agriculture and food systems work here in Connecticut.  Special thanks for your interest in this critical topic.  I believe that feeding ourselves in a way that improves our health and the health of the earth is the biggest challenge we face.  We need to understand that the current industrial food system is destroying human and environmental health in the search for cheap food that turns out to be really expensive when the human, community and environmental health costs are counted.

We should put the food system at the center of our planning for the future at all levels. For example we need very different infrastructure if we are eating processed and packaged food that is produced all over the planet, then we do if we are eating largely from our communities.

Food is our most important connection to the earth, after air and water.  In the industrial food system, that connection is largely far away, damaging to the earth, dependent on cheap energy, a stable climate and tax subsidies.  All those are in doubt (except the tax subsidies for growing corn and other commodities).

Food is our most important energy source.  It is the way we take solar energy into our bodies to power them. (Currently we use at least 10 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce one calorie of food energy.)

Food is critical to our health. Many of the most serious and expensive, chronic diseases are related to the food we eat.

CT NOFA is a non-profit organization of about 800 farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, businesses and others who are Cultivating an Organic Connecticut.  We’ve been educating and advocating for a local and organic food system here since 1982. We do this through conferences, workshops, farm tours and collaborations with agricultural, environmental justice, educational, land conservation, community gardening and farming organizations and state agencies.

What is organic agriculture? The USDA says “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people." - National Organic Standards Board, 1997

In this venue, I’d like to mention that the NOFA regional organization is one of four founders of the Agricultural Justice Project, designed to bring fairness to workers in all parts of the food system.

Farmland protection has been a part of NOFA’s mission since 1982, but we couldn’t do much beyond education, advocacy and a conference until we received our 501c3 status and employed the first staff in 2000.  Through the opportunity to join the board of Connecticut Farmland Trust, I was able to participate in the real work of protecting farmland.  (Bringing Henry Talmage to CT was a proud accomplishment of my term as president there.) I’d like to give a shout out to Working Lands Alliance, and Jiff Martin’s leadership there.  The Alliance has played an important role in creating what our chairman calls “a fierce collaboration” among many players in Connecticut’s agriculture to protect farmland.

There’s been an incredible growth in agricultural projects here in the past decade! Here I’m going to broaden the definition of agriculture.  From the Farmers Cow, new farmers, farmers markets and small farms to community farms and gardens, backyard chickens, the interest and activity has exploded.

This is part of the trend everywhere!

There is a newish term you should know-agroecology.  It encompasses a wide variety of ways to feed ourselves.

According to, agroecology is based on these principles:
• Using renewable resources
• Minimizing toxics
• Conserving resources, including soil, water, energy, genetic resources and capital
• Managing ecological relationships
• Adjusting to local environments
• Diversifying landscapes, biota and economics
• Empowering people
• Managing whole systems
• Maximizing long term benefits and
•Valuing the health of people, cultures, the environment, animals and plants

Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said in December  2010, “To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available. And today's scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production in regions where the hungry live.

As an example of the differences between industrial agriculture and agroecology, we can compare the production of an acre of corn grown in Iowa with the fruits and vegetables grown on 1.7 (less than 2) acres of community gardens in New York City.

According to the Iowa State University, an acre of corn in Iowa produces about $900 worth of corn (roughly 10,000 pounds of shelled corn) and it costs the farmer over $800 to produce that corn.  That cost doesn’t include the costly effects of that corn production on soil health, on the climate (from the release of nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide when the high nitrogen fertilizer is applied) and on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

In NYC, the group Farming Concrete surveyed the production of those 1.7 acres of community gardens.  They found that the gardeners there produced over 87,000 pounds of vegetables and fruits worth over $200,000.  They did that largely with human labor, recycled materials and mostly organic methods.

If you are going to support agriculture for the future, which would be the most effective agriculture to support?  For our future food security, permanently protecting the smaller production areas in cities may be as important as protecting prime farmland. 

I’d like to call your attention to a study of the earth’s vital life support systems that was carried out in 2009 by several dozen leading earth scientists.  They found that three important life support systems are way outside the safe zone.  They are: climate change, nitrogen use and biodiversity loss.  All of those are closely connected with the way we feed ourselves and are brought more into the safe zone by a more local and organic food system and agriculture. 

There are four important characteristics of a food system that I’d like to mention.  I’d like to see a food system that provides knowledge, is democratically controlled, is largely run on solar energy and which builds community.

This is all a big challenge, but the evidence points to the value of a more local and organic food system.  It is a good thing that there is currently so much enthusiasm among the public and especially young people for good food, locally and largely organically grown.

Statement by Bill Duesing, executive director of CT NOFA,