Friday, July 29, 2011

Prince Edward Island Fishkills

In the beginning of the week, a number of Canadian newspapers and news websites reported on large scale fish kills in Prince Edward Island.  Dead fish were first discovered in the Trout and Big Pierre Jacques Rivers.  Pesticide runoff was suspected as the cause, because late July is the time of year that PEI farmers apply pesticides each week to riverside crops.  Last summer there was a kill of trout and other fish along the Montrose river directly after heavy rainfalls and A fish kill in 2007 was thought to be probably caused by pesticides.
This 2011 fish kill is thought to be the worst since 1972 when chemical dumping in the West River caused a far reaching fish kill.   The 2011 kills have now been called catastrophic having affected two of the ten salmon-spawning rivers on the island and the rivers will take years for the fish populations and ecosystems to recover.
Currently the province has a mandatory buffer zone between fields and rivers of 15 meters.  A toxicologist with the Canadian Rivers Institute named Mike Van den Heuvel was quoted as saying that the buffer zone must be larger and the government must more actively enforce these restrictions to prevent any future fishkills. 
The Environment minister has discussed altering the buffer zone laws to accommodate areas of high risk, however the Green Party Leader, Sharon Labchuk insisted that this was not enough, because the pesticides harm people as well as wildlife.  It is in the interest of PEI's economy to curb pesticide use as well.  The Trout River had a dense population of brook trout attracting people from around PEI to fish there.  

Find much more information in these articles:

P.E.I. river fish kills called 'catastrophic'

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Upcoming CT NOFA and OLC workshops

Permaculture Workshop
Connecticut NOFA is hosting a Permaculture Wokshop from 5:00 to 8:00pm on Monday, August 8, 2011 at the Center for Sustainable Living on 90 Cabbage Road in Bethlehem, Connecticut. 
What is permaculture exactly? The Permaculture Institute defines it as an ecological design system for sustainability in all aspects of human endeavor.  It teaches us how to build natural homes, grow our own food, restore diminished landscapes and ecosystems, catch rainwater, and build communities and much more.  The Center for Sustainable Living is transitioning from a conventional greenhouse operation and home garden to a homestead designed according to permaculture principles.  They grow most of their own fruit and vegetables and are planning a chicken coop attached to a greenhouse for mutual benefit of each of those.
The workshop will commence with a short introduction to permaculture and a presentation of the written/drawn plan developed for the site.  The workshop will focus on the plan for an edible forest garden and maintaining a mostly wooded site by growing specific products like mushrooms, ramps, goldenseal, etc.  The Center is also developing a coppiced woodlot, water catchment and integrated garden area.  You can learn more about the center’s work and plans at their blog
The registration is $25 for CT NOFA members and $30 for non-members.  If you are interested, please preregister by calling the CT NOFA office at 203-888-5146, printing and mailing this form or registering online here:

There is also one more Organic Land Care Workshop this summer!
The OLC workshop is titled “Compost Tea: First Defense in Organic Land Care” and is scheduled for August 23, 2011 from 9 am until 4 pm at the New York Botanical Garden (2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10458-5126). 
Peter Schmidt of Compostwerks, LLC will lead land care professionals and advanced gardeners through the environmentally cutting edge process that can reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides.
An understanding of how roots, biology, and soil influence plant health is critical in managing a landscape. The workshop will comprise both classroom time and a staff-guided site visit to the Botanical Garden’s compost tea facility. Topics to be examined include compost production and its specific uses, the relationship between soil and plants, and the role and importance of organic matter and soil structure.
Students will come away with practical diagnostic tools and the knowledge of how to brew compost tea.
Peter Schmidt is a certified Soil FoodwebAdvisor,  a certified arborist, and founding partner of Compostwerks, LLC. He has worked in the horticultural industry for 25 years.
Registration Fees are:
Peter Schmidt of Compostwerks
General Public: $200
AOLCPs, NOFA and or NYBG members: $185
AOLCPs who register by August 2nd: $150
To register please call our office at 203-888-5146 or register online here:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Right 2 Know March

“The Right2Know is at the heart of democracy.  The right to know what we eat is at the heart of food democracy” – Dr. Vandana Shiva

Every day, you probably purchase and consume genetically modified foods, and are unaware because there is no legislation that GM ingredients must be disclosed on packaging.  Now a coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals are planning a widespread mobilization to raise awareness about the lack of labeling and to pressure the government to take legislative action.  The “GMO Right2Know March” will travel from New York to Washington D.C. from October 1 – 16.  It is especially enraging that Americans do not have the right to know and choose GM or non-GM food while consumers in Europe and Japan have the power and knowledge to make this decision about what they are eating.  High profile anti-GMO activists will also be taking part in the march including Vandana Shiva, Percy and Louis Schmeiser, Andrew Kimbrell, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, Sara Snow, Joseph Wilhelm, Michael Funk, Megan Westgate, David Bronner, Ashley Koff and many others.  This promises to be an inspiring march, and even if you don’t want to travel all the way from New York to Washington, DC, you should check out the rallies that are happening in cities along the route!
  • New York:  Brooklyn, New York City
  • New Jersey:  Jersey City, Newark, Millburn, Union, Springfield, Scotch Plains, New Brunswick, Princeton
  • Pennsylvania:  Morrisville, Trevose, Jenkintown, Philadelphia, Springfield
  • Delaware:  Wilmington, Hockessin, Newark
  • Maryland:  Darlington, Monkton, Timonium, Baltimore, Elicott City, Jessup, Laurel, College Park, Takoma Park, and 
  • Washington, D.C.
 For more information head over to the march's website: or read this article:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Connecticut Pesticide Ban?

Check out this article from this morning's Connecticut Post! 
Environmentalists want pesticides banned on private property
Monday, July 25, 2011
By Vinti Singh
Staff Writer
NEW HAVEN — Towns and cities in Connecticut may be able to ban pesticide use on private properties if environmental activists in Connecticut can convince state legislators.
The environmentalists would like to see a reversal of a 1983 law that prohibits municipalities from passing stricter lawn-care pesticide regulations than the state government has.
As a general rule of thumb, Connecticut towns have the right to pass custom regulations as long as they are at least as strict as the state’s. But pesticides, like tobacco and a few other products, are protected from local crackdowns. Forty-two other states also prevent local governments from passing stricter regulations on pesticides, said Nancy Alderman, president of Environments and Human Health.
She led a meeting of like-minded environmentalists on Wednesday at Yale University to decide what the anti-pesticide agenda should be for the next legislative session. State Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, and state Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford, who co-chair the Environment Committee, were at the meeting, as well as state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport.
While the activists are pushing for stricter measures, the pesticide industry’s agenda will be to get rid of the ban altogether, Roy said.
Many pesticides can pose a risk to people, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some pesticides may affect the nervous system, while others may affect hormone production, the agency says. Some pesticides may be carcinogenic.
Greenwich has a moratorium on pesticides on any town-owned grounds where children might be present. But a reversal of the existing law would allow towns to also ban lawn-care pesticides on private lawns. The activists propose exempting agricultural uses and personal gardens so the law has a better chance of passing.
They would also like to mirror some of New York state’s pesticide laws enacted in the past year, specifically one that requires insect or rodent bait to be in a tamper-resistant container. A provision in current pesticide laws allows the use of certain banned pesticides if they are used as bait, said Jerry Silbert, executive director of The Watershed Partnership in Guilford.
The state also currently bans some pesticides that are actually non-toxic, like plant extracts that attract insects to traps, Silbert said. Another such pesticide is boric acid, which is commonly found in eye wash. He said he would like to see Connecticut copy New York and make those pesticides legal.
Pesticides cannot be used on day-care center or elementary school grounds. Environmentalists would eventually like to see that ban extended to high schools as well, but the existing laws have gotten a lot of push-back from groundskeepers, who say organic methods do not work, Silbert said.
Contact Vinti Singh at 203-330-6285 or Follow Vinti at

Read more:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Garden Tour is Coming Up!

As you may know, Connecticut NOFA's City Farm and Garden Tour is coming up! I went out and scouted some of our sites yesterday, and discovered that one of our restaurant participants, the Kasbah Garden Cafe (which is offering a 10% discount to tour participants on August 6), is a garden site itself! Stay tuned for more photos from the Community Gardens and check out our facebook for more photos and the City Farm and Garden Tour site for more information!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More on the USDA's decision on GMO Kentucky Bluegrass

Remember that article on the blog a couple weeks ago about the USDA’s deregulation of genetically modified Kentucky Blue Grass? This news has received more and more attention since the decision was first made the Friday before the Fourth of July weekend.   
The decision regarding genetically engineered Kentucky bluegrass is disturbing; however the precedent set for future GMO regulation decision is alarming.  There was already a lenient regime governing GMOs, however the Kentucky bluegrass decision reduced the USDA’s oversight even further.  

Tom Philpott explains in his article for Mother Jones that the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology has been the oversight body of GMO foods since the Reagan administration.  However the framework’s organization and regulations created no new laws and only regulated GM through already-existing laws (from a time when genetically engineered food was not a political issue or environmental threat).  The Plant Pest Act is the main law that gave the USDA regulatory power, however this oversight is nearly meaningless, because plant-pest substances are used in the genetic-modification process but are not in the final GM product. The USDA decision agreed with the letter from John Sanford, the president of Scott’s Miracle-Gro Company, that Scott’s genetically engineered grass is not a plant pest because there are no plant-pest genes in the final product.   

Philpott explains that in 2000 the Plant Protection Act broadened the Plant Pest Act a little bit to add regulation of “noxious weeds” or engineered crops that might become herbicide resistant and even more difficult to control.  The Center for Food Safety petitioned to have the GMO grass classified as a noxious weed. The application of Round-Up to the tens of millions of acres of US farmland that grow Roundup ready corn, soy and cotton have allowed the growth of herbicide resistant “superweeds” which require higher doses of herbicide or more harmful chemicals. If this herbicide is also applied to the United States' millions of acres of lawn, herbicide resistant weeds will become even more prevalent and durable.  However the USDA concluded that the GMO grass was not a noxious weed because conventional blue grass is not classified as such. 

The widespread application of glyphosate is also alarming because of the pesticide's linkage to serious health risks including birth defects and kidney problems.  The first two pages of this report from the Pesticide Action Network in the UK outline more health issues: 

Scott's can now sell the blue grass without federal approval and requires no federal permits to conduct field trials.  According to this New York Times article by Andrew Pollack, a different type of genetically engineered grass managed to escape company test plots and began to grow in the surrounding areas.  Bluegrass is already able to spread rapidly, because it is wind pollinated. An article on Grist by Tom Laskawy worries that the USDA has just "opened the floodgates" for genetically modified regulation, especially of non-food crops. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The New Food Policy Paradigm

Local, ecological farming has been framed as the new paradigm for global agriculture in the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) new report “Save and Grow.”  1 billion people face absolute hunger and another 2 billion endure chronic nutritional deprivation, and these figures are expected to grow as global food prices continue to climb.  High food prices are known to have contributed to the Arab Spring revolts. 
According to food policy analyst, Wayne Roberts, in NOW Magazine, the link between hunger and regime change has made food a policy issue calling for attention from the elites who manage world politics.  He writes in this article, about a meeting of the G20’s agriculture ministers in June.  The ministers had been called together to address the issue of growing food prices because of their role in civil unrest, but did not really discuss the heart of the problem - large-scale corporate agriculture. 
The FAO recently published “Save and grow: A policymaker’s guide to the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production.”  The foreword outlines the past of the Green revolution, that high-yielding crop varieties, irrigation, agrochemicals and modern agricultural management had a role in saving around one billion people from famine.  However this intensive crop production came at a cost: the degradation of fertile land depletion of fresh water.  As our population grows the yield growth rate of food is declining.  Diversity and locality are what count in food production.  As Wayne Roberts points out in his article in NOW Magazine, 80% of human calories come from 12 super crops.  This mono-cropping lends itself to big agriculture business, but also to the spread of plant disease and vulnerability in the case of crop failure.  The “new paradigm” according to the FAO report is that “in order to grow, agriculture must learn to save”.  Conservation agriculture minimizes tillage, protects the soil surface, and alternates cereals with soil-enriching legumes.  This new paradigm is sustainable crop production intensification – or “save and grow”. 
According to the publication: “SCPI represents a major shift from the homogeneous model of crop production to knowledge-intensive, often location-specific, farming systems. Its application will require significant support to farmers in testing new practices and adapting technologies. Governments will need to strengthen national programmes for plant genetic resources conservation, plant breeding and seed distribution in order to deploy improved crop varieties that are resilient to climate change and use nutrients, water and external inputs more efficiently. Fundamental changes are also required in agricultural development strategies. Policymakers must provide incentives for adoption of SCPI, such as rewarding good management of agro-ecosystems . . .”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Organic Invasice Removal and Control Workshop

Last week, NOFA's Organic Land Care Program hosted a workshop on Organic Invasive Removal and Control at the Beardsley Zoo Hanson Exploration Station.  The workshop started off in a classroom at the Station.  Dr. Charlotte Pyle, a landscape ecologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, first explained how to identify Connecticut's invasives.  Mike Nadeau of Plantscapes, Inc then discussed his first-hand experience controlling invasives species organically.  The classroom portion of the workshop concluded with Donna Ellis, a Senior Extension Educator in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn, discussing her successes with biological control of invasive plants.  
 The workshop then moved to the field. Pictured below is Mike Nadeau demonstrating the use of a large weed wrench to remove unwanted plants (all photos credited to Bill Duesing) 
This photograph is of purple loostrife which has been controlled through the release of targeted, beneficial insects. This use of biological control can perhaps be more widely implemented to effectively control this invasive species in other areas.  
Donna Ellis discusses biological pest control with Charlotte Pyle to her right in the photograph.
Mike Nadeau demonstrated removal of Japanese knotweed using a specially type of bladed shovel that removes the plants deep roots.

For more information on the Organic Land Care program and resources for land care professionals or homeowners, please visit  If this workshop interested you and you missed it, we have another summer workshop on August 23 in the New York Botanical Gardens titled Compost Tea: First Defense in Organic Land Care

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 15 is the last day for early registration for the garden tour!

Early registration for the City Farm and Garden Tour in New Haven ends tomorrow (July 15)! Check out just a few of  the farms and gardens on our tour!

A Private Garden on Lennox Street

The Bioregional Lifeboat Garden (photo Maria Tupper)

A Peasful Garden on Alden Avenue (photo Kanani Milles)

The Common Ground High School Farm (photo Bill Duesing)

The Edgerton Community Garden (Photo Lynne Bonnett)

For more information and tickets call our office at 203-888-5146, head over to the event page or buy tickets here:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Organic Land Care Guides for Homeowners are Available

We picked up all the new homeowners’ manuals yesterday! “Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards” is a booklet that focuses on introducing homeowners to the concepts of ecological, sustainable and organic landscaping. The booklet will help you to understand and begin implementing organic methods right away. Basic methods are described that will help you maintain your property with less effort, less money and less of a negative impact on the environment around you.  The booklet also provides references to other resources that can help you care for your lawn and yard without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.  The guide includes a checklist which lays out basic changes you can make in your yard. Some simple solutions recommended by the guide include:

-         Choose natives and species adapted to your property and climate  which will require less water
-          Mix compost into the soil to improve quality and water retention
-          Water rarely, and only in the morning to reduce evaporation
-          Mow high 3” – 4”
-          Leave your grass clippings on your lawn
-          Seed with a mixture of grasses including some natives

If you have more questions, the guide and our website can direct you to Accredited Organic Land Care professionals who can help with soil testing and any large scale alterations you might want to make in your yard.

The guides are $5 each with a bulk rate (if you order 10 or more) of $3 each plus shipping charges which vary based on the quantity of guides ordered.
This manual is a great first step in the direction of going organic in your yard!
For more information head on over to to see the pdf and description and to purchase the guide check out

Monday, July 11, 2011

Organic Agriculture in India

It seems that every week another newspaper publishes a story about India’s success in implementing organic farming in the country side.  With issues of hunger and food security remaining a priority in national policy, and more than half of India's population working in the agriculture sector, this widespread implementation of organic can be a model for other locations.  Most farms in India are small, making the cost of fertilizer and pesticides prohibitive for farmers.  A recent article in The Hindu reported that the number of hectares used for certified organic agriculture increased from 42,000 in 2003-2004 to 4.4 million in 2010.  There are 320,000 hectares in the process of being converted to organic as well.  The Ministry of Agriculture is promoting organic farming through the National Project on Organic Farming as well as through a horticulture mission and a technology mission.  The National Project on Organic Farming provides production infrastructure, technical capacity building, human resource development, standards for quality control of organic inputs and technology and market development.  Some of the food was exported, creating a beneficial income for farmers, but most was produced for Indian consumption.  Nine Indian states have drafted organic farming policies and four states have declared intention to convert all agriculture to organic production.  The state of Sikkim has already converted 40% of the total cultivated area to organic. 
A New York Times article, published in June and titled “Organic Farming Finds a Growing Fan Base in India” focuses on the work of a nonprofit biodiversity center and farm named Navdanya. Founded by Indian environmentalist and social justice advocate Vandana Shiva, this organization trains farmers about organic methods.  Many farmers and similar organizations have found that more ecological farming methods increase the output of overall nutrition and quality while reducing agricultural input costs. 
In the United States, it is important to consider the viability of organic in other parts of the world and to keep in mind that investments in organic agriculture research and development can benefit farmers and consumers in any location, now or in the future.
For more information check out these newspaper articles: