Thursday, September 29, 2011

Debunking the Myths of Organic Farms by the Numbers

The idea of organic farms outperforming conventional farms may come as a surprise to some and be seen as common knowledge to others, but no matter how you look at it, the numbers are compelling.  As reported in the Star Phoenix, Pennsylvania's Rodale Institute conducted a 30 year side-by-side study comparing conventional farming to organic, and came up with some interesting results.  According to this study and others like it, the truth is conventional thinking on farming - that we have to tolerate toxic chemicals because organic farming can't feed the world - is wrong.  Here are some of the hard findings:

-Over a three-year transition period, organic yields equalled conventional yields.
-In years of drought, organic corn yields were 31 per cent higher than conventional yields.
-Genetically modified (GM) "drought tolerant" varieties showed increases of only 6.7 per cent to 13.3 per cent over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.

-Organic systems were almost three times as profitable as the conventional systems, which reflects the premium organic farmers receive and consumers pay for.
-Even aside from the premium, however, the Rodale study found organic systems are competitive with the conventional systems because of marginally lower input costs.
-The most profitable grain crop was organically grown wheat netting $835/acre/year.
-The least profitable grain crop was no-till conventional corn, netting just $27/acre/year.

-Organic systems used 45 per cent less energy than conventional.
-Production efficiency was 28 per cent higher in the organic systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage.
-Soil health, often measured by the amount of carbon present in the soil, increased over time in the organic systems, while the conventional systems remained essentially unchanged.
-Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced run-off. Water volumes percolating through the soil were 15-20 per cent higher in the organic systems.

-A separate UN study showed organic farms create 30 per cent more jobs per hectare than nonorganic.

The Star Phoenix went on to ask, "With results like these, why does conventional wisdom favour chemical farming? Vested interests. Organic farming keeps more money on the farm and in rural communities and out of the pockets of chemical companies. As the major funders of research centres and universities, and major advertisers in the farm media, they effectively buy a pro-chemical bias."  Farming in developing countries, however, has been shifting to a more organic approach, as many independent studies are showing that small scale, organic farming is the best option for feeding the world now and in the future. In fact, agroecological farming methods, including organic farming, could double global food production in just 10 years, according to one UN report.
Read the full Star Phoenix article here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't let fast food companies define what a "value" meal is

Image: New York Times
As the economy quickly becomes the only issue discussed in Congress, on television and in conversation, it is powerful for environmentalists and food advocates to point out that, while local or organic or simply fresh food might not be the profitable choice for this financial quarter, it will save consumers and the United States a lot of money in a matter of years (not decades).
 In Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times on September 24, he asks “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?”  He explains that the costs for a family of four to eat at McDonald’s is about $28, while a meal of rice, canned beans, bacon, green peppers and onions is about $9. In fact SlowFood hosted a “$5 Challenge” to take back the value meal. There is another challenge scheduled for October 24, national Food Day.
In 2008 the medical care costs of obesity were estimated to be about $147 billion (Center for Disease Control).  And in 2007 the cost of diabetes was about $174 billion, and people with diabetes have about 2.3 times higher than the average expenditures of a person who does not have diabetes.  Approximately $1 in $10 health care dollars is spent on diabetes (American Diabetes Association).  
Sorry to go on about corporate greed, but this food system caters to expensive food that is truly low value, and expensive health care to address the effects of malnutrition.  Our diet is a personal and cultural choice, more so than an economic one.  Mark Bittman points out that a transition from unhealthy eating habits will have to be as wide and popular as acceptance that cigarette smoking was unhealthy, causing high health care costs, and was a result of corporations prioritizing profit over people. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Celebrating the Life of Nobel-Winning Environmentalist Wangari Maathai

Wangari Maathai
Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, Nobel Peace Laureate, environmentalist, scientist, parliamentarian, and founder of the Green Belt movement, passed away on Sunday at the age of 71 from ovarian cancer.  She was the first African woman to win the Nobel and the first person to win the prize for environmental activism.

In the 1970's, after becoming the first woman in east and central Africa to earn a Ph.D., Professor Maathai became active in humanitarian and environmental organizations in her home of Kenya, including the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK).  Through her work within that organization, she spoke to rural communities about the deteriorating environmental and social conditions affecting poor, rural Kenyans—especially women. The women told her that they lacked firewood for cooking and heating, that clean water was scarce, and nutritious food was limited.

Professor Maathai suggested to them that planting trees might be an answer. The trees would provide wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, and material for fencing; they would protect watersheds and stabilize the soil, improving agriculture. This was the beginning of the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was formally established in 1977. GBM has since mobilized hundreds of thousands of women and men to plant more than 47 million trees, restoring degraded environments and improving the quality of life for people in poverty.

As GBM began to expand, Professor Maathai began to realize that deeper issues of disempowerment, bad governance, and a loss of the values that had enabled communities to sustain their land and livelihoods lay beneath the surface issues of environmental destruction and poverty.  Planting trees ultimately became a starting point for a larger social, economic, and environmental agenda.  Over the next twenty years The Green Belt Movement joined with other pro-democracy advocates to press for an end to the abuses of the dictatorial regime of then Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi.  As a consequence of these and other advocacy efforts, Professor Maathai and GBM staff and colleagues were repeatedly beaten, jailed, harassed, and publicly vilified by the Moi regime. Professor Maathai’s fearlessness and persistence resulted in her becoming one of the best-known and most respected women in Kenya. Internationally, she also gained recognition for her courageous stand for the rights of people and the environment.

Because of her following within Kenya and her commitment to democracy, Professor Maathai was elected into parliament in December 2002, in the first free-and-fair elections in her country for a generation.  Later, in 2004, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work for sustainable development, democracy, and peace.

For a full bio of Professor Maathai's achievements, click here.  For an interview with Professor Maathai, click here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Horizon Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The leading organic dairy brand in the U.S. is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011 and reflecting on its growth from a small organic yogurt brand to not only the top-selling organic milk brand in the U.S., but the top-selling milk brand, conventional or organic.

“Over the past 20 years, Horizon has grown its network of family farmers from seven to more than 600, and helped create and grow the organic dairy category,” said Mike Ferry, Horizon president. “While we are proud to celebrate these achievements throughout our 20th anniversary year, we are also marking the occasion by reaffirming our commitment to sustainable agriculture, to advancing the organic movement and to our family farmer partners.” 

Horizon's story began in 1991 in Boulder, CO, when two veterans of the natural food industry saw a potential market in organic yogurt.  After launching 6 flavors of yogurt, however, it became increasingly clear that the real opportunity lay in producing organic milk.  As there were very few organic milk options available at the time to consumers, Horizon aimed to open up that part of the market.  Over the next twenty years, their idea became a huge success.  Here is a chronology of Horizon's major milestones:
  • 1993: Half gallons of Horizon organic milk are launched, leading to a boom in demand from retailers and consumers.
  • 1994: Horizon becomes the first national organic dairy brand, in part to offer consumers an alternative following the FDA’s approval of the use of rBGH in conventional dairy cattle.
  • 1995: The brand expands the organic dairy category with the introduction of the first organic sour cream, half and half and butter products.
  • 1998: Horizon goes public on the NASDAQ, reinforcing the idea that good organic companies can accelerate their growth and support local farmers at the same time, while meeting consumer demand for quality organic dairy products.
  • 1999: The first national Horizon ad campaign is launched, which is also the first national organic campaign of any kind, helping to create demand for
  • 2001: Horizon introduces the Horizon Organic Producer Education (HOPE) program to help farmers transition to organic, provide organic farmers with information on topics important to their business and support organizations that benefit family farms and the environment.
  • 2001: Horizon introduces the first shelf-stable milk boxes. Since their introduction, they have become a staple in millions of U.S. households.
  • 2002: The USDA National Organic Program regulations become law. Horizon has since worked hard to advocate for and strengthen the regulations.
  • 2003: A long-term relationship with Farm Aid is initiated. Since 2003, Horizon has donated $375,000 to the organization to help keep family farmers on their land.
  • 2004: Horizon acquired by Dean Foods (NYSE: DF).
  • 2004: Horizon becomes part of WhiteWave Foods, a division of Dean Foods.
  • 2005: Horizon begins purchasing renewable wind energy certificates from Bonneville Environmental Foundation to offset 100 percent of the electricity used to manufacture its products at its company-owned plants, an investment which to date is the equivalent of removing nearly 14,000 passenger vehicles from the road each year.
  • 2007: The brand launches the first organic milk with plant-bas
  • 2007: Horizon launches its Standards of Care, detailing its livestock and farm management practices and beliefs, which were developed in collaboration with organic industry partners and reviewed by the non-profit organization Conservation International.
  • 2010: Horizon reports that it kept 18 million pounds of pesticides off farming land that year thanks to its organic practices.
  • 2011: Horizon introduces the first fat-free organic milk with plant-based Omega-3 DHA, as well as 1% milk boxes with reduced fat, calories and sugar.
Today, there are over 50 USDA-certified organic dairy products carrying the Horizon logo. All Horizon organic products are produced in strict adherence with the USDA organic regulations, without the use of added growth hormones, pesticides and antibiotics, and also continue to be made without genetically modified organisms, artificial colors or flavors.Throughout its history, Horizon has been committed to being transparent about its business and farming practices. To that end, as part of its 20th anniversary celebration, Horizon is introducing a new Horizon Organic Stewardship resource that will be updated regularly, providing facts and data on the company and its dairy farms, including its more than 600 family farmers and its two company-owned farms. The full document is available at organic milk – and opportunities for organic dairy farmers. ed Omega-3 DHA. Since then, Horizon has added more than 370 family farmers to its network.

Read the full article here.

Friday, September 23, 2011

9/24: Moving Connecticut

Tomorrow is Moving Planet Day.  People from across the state, from civic organizations, faith communities, non-profits and businesses are coming together at events through out the state in the morning with participants meeting up at the New Haven Green at 4pm for a rally, critical mass bike ride, music and all kinds of other opportunities to get involved.  The satellite events are happening in Hartford, New London, New Haven, East Haddam, Hamden, Middletown, Mystic, Wallingford, Watertown, Willimantic, Wilton and Woodbridge.

Why is an organization like CT NOFA involved with this day of climate action? For two big, and fairly simple reasons:

1. Our industrial food system contributes more greenhouse gases to our atmosphere than all forms of transportation put together.  Pesticides and fertilizers require lots of natural resources to produce and transport.  Livestock in feeding lots and factory farms  are the biggest producers of methane, a gas that heats the atmosphere more than carbon dioxide.  Then our food is heavily processed, packaged, and shipped , often by plane and then on a truck, an average of 1500 miles to a consumer.
CT NOFA advocates organic farming (eliminating the carbon footprint of pesticides and fertilizers) and local food sourcing ("local" labelled foods usually travel within 100 - 250 miles to a customer, depending on the climate for growing and other factors).  In some instances it makes more sense to ship food a longer distance, maybe it can be more efficiently grown, with fewer chemicals in a warmer climate, but instead of using planes and tractor-trailers, this shipment should occur on trains which are about 10 times more energy efficient.

2. Climate change effects farmers.  Many of the areas experiencing famine have also been exposed to severe drought conditions.  We are seeing persisting droughts in our own country, while extreme weather in the form of precipitation is wiping out crops in the northeast.  As weather becomes less predictable, our agricultural systems mono-cropping model will be vulnerable to being completely compromised by these weather conditions.  For the sake of the farmers and consumers CT NOFA serves, climate change should be mitigated and adapted to as much as possible.  We're already facing natural disasters and rising food prices, why not reform our food and transportation system now?

All these points are summed up very well in this video:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Memphis Kitchen Garden Deemed Illegal

This story has been circulating a lot in the past week, so you might have read a bit about it, but I thought it would be beneficial to post about it here.  Adam Guerrero, a math teacher at Raleigh-Egypt High School in Memphis, TN, has been charged with a "failure to maintain a clean and sanitary condition free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage" at his home in Nutbush.  The home garden in his front yard, although kept continually clear of trash or debris, has been labeled as a nuisance by the local authorities.  As a teacher, he also uses his garden as a school garden of sorts in an effort to help local students learn about agriculture and the production of biodiesel.  Unfortunately, he was told that if his garden generates a complaint, it's a neighborhood nuisance.  He has been ordered to remove his front yard kitchen garden before his court date on September 23rd.  If you are interested in helping Adam to keep his garden, and continue providing technical training to the youth of Memphis, click here.  There's also a video listed farther down on the website that tells a little bit about Adam and his current situation.  To see the Memphis Flyer article, click here

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CT NOFA's Permaculture Workshop

Let's talk permaculture.  CT NOFA hosted a Permaculture Workshop on September 19, at the Center for Sustainable Living in Bethlehem, CT.  Our workshop leaders, Cynthia and Stuart Rabinowitz, explained the principles of permaculture to a full classroom, and then gave us tours of their beautiful (and ecological of course) grounds.
Cynthia and Stewart each took half the group around their grounds for a tour.  Cynthia battled off the mosquitoes with a horse tail swatter

Stewart and Cynthia's yard is a certified Wildlife Habitat meaning that their yard satisfies certain qualifications and serves as a home for animals.

 Fruit trees, tomatoes and a variety of other plants demonstrate the value of polyculture their greenhouse and to-be edible forest garden area.

 One of five green houses on the property  - this one is attached to a to-be chicken coop (it's under construction) so chickens can benefit form the warmth of the green house all winter.  The raised beds are at waste height so they will not have to kneel and bend over as much for their crops in these greenhouses.

 The Center for Sustainable Living has taken advantage of the Connecticut Solar Lease Program and the same sun that grows their plants provides energy for the Connecticut power grid!

 Permaculture sometimes means getting creative and also using logic, these fall crops have been insulated with hay bales and will be covered with plastic to create a mini-greenhouse as it gets colder.

Stewart shows workshop attendees his blueberry bushes, which ripen at all different times through the summer so they can continue eating them through the season!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Distribution as Missing Link Between Local Crop Producers and the Market

Photo by
The Ohio State University's Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics posted an article titled, "Scaling-Up Connections Between Regional Ohio Specialty Crop Producers and Local Markets: Distribution as the Missing Link" that sites indirect marketing strategies as an important but often overlooked means of getting local food out to consumers.  The article argues, "Many local food systems advocates focus on increasing the number of farmers selling their products directly to consumers, but this type of direct marketing is only one strategy for increasing the consumption of local foods. Over 90 percent of all food for home consumption is acquired from retail venues (such as grocery stores) (USDA, ERS, 2010), suggesting an important strategy to increase the consumption of Ohio grown foods by Ohioans, is to focus on increasing the flow of these foods through the state’s distribution and retail market systems."  Their research is a first step toward focusing on the barriers that currently exist between local food producers and their communities.  While their report draws on information gathered within the state of Ohio, the implications of their findings can certainly be applied outside of the state, and can also be used as a foundation to identify the next steps in scaling-up the amount of specialty local foods that are widely provided to consumers. 
Although many of the retailers interviewed expressed concern with the complexity of dealing with multiple local farms as opposed to established large vendors, they are also increasingly embracing the trend of preserving the identities of local farms offering products in their stores as a selling point.  Additionally, "while food safety is a concern for all retailers, the larger retailers seek formalized certifications, especially those purchasing from large-scale farmers or companies not in close proximity. The greater physical and social distance from the actual producers creates the need for extra security, often achieved via third-party certification."  Thus, local suppliers decrease the need for retailers to procure added security.  Distributors also report that their transportation costs are significantly decreased by dealing locally.  Overall, the findings suggest that, while building an efficient network between local growers and retails may be problematic to start, this alternative method is ultimately a viable and beneficial option.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What does Irene and the bigger picture of climate change mean for agriculture?
This American Farmland Trust article by Bob Wagner, titled, "In the Wake of Irene: What Natural Disasters Teach Us About Farmland Protection" highlights pertinent lessons from Irene for our society in terms of deciding how much we value agriculture and to what lengths we must go to keep agriculture viable. 
Wagner writes "Farmland is of value to local populations beyond the food and fiber it provides. It helps to absorb and filter water, an indispensable characteristic in mitigating the impact of flooding and other results of a natural disaster. Unfortunately, these valuable benefits are often not missed until they are gone and – as is the case with Irene – lost attributes with disastrous consequences. The rainfall and flooding from Irene was unprecedented in much of the Northeast. What appears an anomaly for the region may be the result of our changing landscape."
You have probably heard about the benefit concerts  for Vermont farmers and emergency loans and the exception response to Irene as a natural disaster and as a farming disaster. But we must also consider how agricultural conservation is closely tied to environmental management.  It was tragic that so many crops were destroyed, but would have been far more disastrous if those properties had been turned into housing developments. 
As this Huffington Post article, "Hurricane Irene 2011:Climate Change To Blame?" explains, Hurricane Irene also fits into a larger issue for farmers of addressing more extreme weather due to climate change.  While Hurricane Irene cannot be directly attributed to climate change (after all hurricanes occur naturally on the East Coast), but it demonstrates that we are not ready to face climate change's extreme weather forecasts. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Debating Atrazine

The pesticide atrazine is banned in the European Union and is linked to harm to wildlife and potentially to humans as well.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council: "Approximately 75 percent of stream water and about 40 percent of all groundwater samples from agricultural areas tested in an extensive U.S. Geological Survey study contained atrazine." and that "Atrazine was found in 80% of drinking water samples taken in 153 public water systems. "
Atrazine Conatmination source: earthactually
The organization "Save the Frogs" has a petition out to ban atrazine in the United States.  They claim that it is one of the world's most widely applied pesticides with 80 million pounds used in America last year.  The herbicide is used to fight weeds in corn, grain sorghum, sugar cane and other crops.  The effect the pesticide has on frogs in particular, is turning malefrogs into female frogs.  The chemical has the effect even at very low concentrations - about 2.5 parts per billion.  Atrazine is also considered a harmful carcinogen.
Save the Frogs argues that frogs share half of their DNA with humans,  pointing out the potential for these chemicals to have harmful effects for people as well.  You can sign the petition here:
The chemical company that produces atrazine, Syngenta, argues that the rates of amphibian extinction  can be blamed on a number of other factors including habitat destruction, exploitation, pollution, introduced species, climate change and chytrid fungus.  These other natural and human factors are reducing the population of frogs, which makes it all the more important to ban a pesticide shown to effect frogs health so dramatically.
The EPA is seeking public comment on a May 2011 petition from the amphibian conservation group, Save the Frogs, requesting that  the Agency ban the use and production of atrazine.  EPA asks that comments on the Save the Frogs petition be submitted within 60 days, by November 14, 2011, to docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0586 at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Empowering Beginning Women Farmers through Whole Farm Planning Training

USDA/NIFA has funded a Beginning Farmer Grant to teach beginning women farmers the tools of whole farm planning. Groups have been formed in New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York. This year's classes will begin in October 2011. Participants must attend at total of 10 sessions with 6 sessions that will take place over the winter of 2011/2012 and 4 farm tours that will take place during the spring of 2012. The Connecticut sessions will be on weekends, generally Saturdays, and last 7 hours.

The program also includes farm mentors with onsite farm visits. If you are a woman farmer who has been farming less than 10 years, contact the CT coordinator, Deb Legge, at for an application. If you would like to participate as a farmer mentor, please also contact the program coordinator.

This program includes:
·         One-on-one mentorships
·         On-farm field days
·         Business planning seminars
·         Last but not least, a network of women farmers with concerns similar to yours.
We also want to remind everyone that these sessions will rely heavily on planning, analysis, marketing strategies, etc. and less on the nuts-and-bolts of actual farming techniques.  Don’t let this throw you off, as there will be plenty of opportunities to learn from each other, share experiences and more.

The 10 seven-hour training sessions have been tentatively scheduled as follows:

10/22/2011 -Session 1 - Orientation/Overview of Holistic Management
11/12/2011 - Session 2 - Holistic Goal and Testing
12/10/2011 - Session 3 - Financial Planning 1
1/14/2012 - Session 4 - Financial Planning 2
2/11/2012 - Session 5  - Business Planning
3/10/2012- Session 6  - Marketing
TBD - Session 7 - Leadership & Communication
TBD - Session 8 - Land Planning
TBD - Session 9 - Soil Fertility
TBD - Session 10 - Grazing Planning / Graduation

Connecticut Coordinator: Deb Legge,, 203-888-5146

Monday, September 12, 2011

Right to Know - Demand for GMO Product Labeling

Leading up to the Right 2 Know March this October, there has been an increasing demand for GMO labeling.  These demonstrations are not even calling for a GMO ban, simply a GMO label so that consumers can vote with their dollar.  This document explains the logic behind requiring GMOs to be labeled:
 Sara Snow is one of many high profile R2K speakers
This explains the argument against labeling, which is, to put it in simple terms, that 
The Organic Consumers Association provides the opportunity to find a group in your area which is organizing to demand GMO labeling.  You can send an e-mail to your state legislator demanding state action on the issue, I already sent mine in!
You can also contact President Obama about your desire for national policy demanding for labeling by clicking this link.
The Millions Against Monsanto group is also heading up some labeling compaigns including this one where you can label GMO products yourself
Think about joining the Right2Know March coming up in October. A 313 mile march from the UN to the Whitehouse, this demonstration demands that genetically engineered foods are labeled as they already are in Europe and Japan.  The route is also a prime leaf peeping route if that entices you at all . . .
You can walk the entire 313 miles or only 1 mile.  There will be a large rally at the UN in New York City to kick off the march. 
No matter what you do, if you care about full disclosure about the ingredients of your food (think about if we still did not have calories, or transfat, or whether something was kosher or not on food labels), this is an issue you must take action on.  Consumer's fear of GMO foods is consider "irrational" by GMO proponents, and that is probably because for many people it is an instinctive rejection of consuming something completely unnatural and untested for long-term health threats.  This is a good enough reason to demand labelling, but for many of us this is also a conscious, educated concern about the impact that corporate control of our food system will have on our world food supply and on our future. 

I don't know about you, but when it comes to choosing the food I eat every day for nourishment which plays a central role in my nutrition now, my health in the future and even determines my life expectancy, I would prefer to err on the side of caution. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Think about rain gardens on your property!

Diagram from Ohio Wesleyan University
All the rain lately has highlighted the value of having rain gardens in your yard.  A rain garden is a depression, filled with shrubs and perennials that collect water runoff from a roof or paved surface allowing it to infiltrate into the soil of your yard. 
Water runoff is a major source of pollution to our nation’s waterways and run off and erosion contributes to the flooding which has really affected the northeast in the past couple weeks.   This fairly simple process (it requires a little more thought than a regular garden, and you need to dig a 6 inch depression).
A really helpful guide to a Do-It-Yourself rain garden is this brochure published by the UConn Cooperative Extension System. 
The brochure recommends that to design your garden you should consider placement of the rain garden – choose a location with good drainage that is fairly level that could catch water flowing from a gutter.  Determine if the soils are suitable at your rain garden site by doing a small percolation test – dig a hole about 6 inches deep and fill it with water, if there is still standing water 24 hours later, this location has inadequate drainage and your rain garden will  become a rain puddle.  The UConn brochure has detailed information about what kinds of plants to include in your rain garden and where to put them.
The Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, UConn Cooperative Extension System and the town of Old Saybrook are hosting a "Build a Rain Garden" workshop on Sept. 22 from 9am – 1 pm at the Acton Public Library in Old Saybrook. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Photos from our Fall and Winter Harvest Workshop last week!

Despite some Irene damage and a number of power outages CT NOFA held our workshop, originally postponed due to bad weather, about Fall and Winter Harvests at Common Ground High School in New Haven, CT.  Shannon Raider, Farm Manager at Common Ground, showed workshop attendees what to plant late in the season and how to care for crops which seem to be growing late in the season so that you can keep eating garden-fresh food in the coming months! 
Workshop leader, Shannon Raider, started off in a classroom at Common Ground High School giving workshop attendees the resources to find more information online for planting and purchasing seeds.

Then everyone went outside to discuss fall and winter crops.  Here Shannon shows participants how to make row cover supports by bending pipes into arcs.

 The workshop looks at row-covered turnips. The cloth covering the rows is called reemay, and protects crops from frost while retaining more heat during the day.

 Hardy greens can be planted in the late summer and early fall and grow under row covers until late in the growing season. Beets, carrots, radishes, escarole, radicchio and turnips Hukera are some other plants which can be planted in the fall and grown into the winter.

You probably don't have one of these in your yard . . . but high tunnels are a great way to extend the growing season for farms.  Functioning in the same way a greenhouse does, they retain heat and keep plants warm and growing well into the winter.

For some more information on fall planting, look out for some of CT NOFA's orther workshops and check out this site:
look for a seed calendar and other tools on this site:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Glyphosate Persistence in the Environment

Glyphosate, or Round Up has been found in rain and rivers throughout the Mississippi River watershed.  Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, with an increase from 11,000 tons used in 1992 to 88,000 tons in 2007.  However there have been few tests to determine glyphosate contamination, persistence and potential health effects because it is expensive to test for the presence of glyphosate. 
Glyphosate was frequently detected in surface waters, rain and air where it is heavily used in the basin.  It persists in streams throughout the growing season in agricultural hotspots like Iowa and Mississippi, but is not observed in other times of the year.  However the degraded product in glyphosate, aminomethylphosphonic acid or AMPA was frequently detected in streams and even in rain.  These studies were completed as part of the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program to study water quality conditions and whether they are getting better or worse over time. 
The EPA has set a deadline of 2015 to determine if glyphosate has been continued to be sold or in some way limited. Round up has been sold consistently to the agricultural sector since it was first marketed in 1974 . . . that will have been over 40 years of unlimited use before regulations or restrictions are considered.  These findings along with with new studies about superweeds raise doubt about industry claims that glyphosate is harmless in our environment.