Thursday, May 31, 2012

What's on my Food? A Pesticide Resource

Pesticide residues are on your food, even after washing. What are the dangers of these pesticides? How much of this stuff is really on the food we eat?

The Pesticide Action Network has developed a valuable resource that can tell you what pesticides, and how much of them, are on the foods you buy in the grocery store and from conventional farms. What’s On My Food? is a searchable database designed to make the public problem of pesticide exposure visible and more understandable.  The database allows you to search by pesticide or by product, and lists how often a particular pesticide is found, in what ways it is toxic, and what other produce has been exposed to it.  You can search the database online or download the free iPhone app and take it with you when you go shopping.  With every dollar you spend, you make a choice about whether or not to support the poisoning of yourself and the planet.  Arm yourself with this tool in order to make more informed decisions about what is going into your body and take a stand against harmful agrochemicals.

Pesticide exposure is a huge problem in the United States.  Chemicals sprayed on produce remain after washing and turn up in the human body and in the environment thousands of miles from where they were originally applied to crops.  They disrupt our bodies and the bodies of other lifeforms.  In the United States, pesticide regulation lags behind the rest of the industrialized world. The Pesticide Action Network explains:
Since the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) regulates most chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis, the combined and cumulative effects of a mixture of pesticides are nearly impossible for them to address – and so they usually don’t.  Pesticides and industrial chemicals in the U.S. are innocent until proven guilty. It often takes decades to prove a chemical guilty. Meanwhile, we are exposed to dozens of pesticides in the food we eat, water we drink and air we breathe.
As always, a great way to limit your pesticide exposure is to buy organic and local.  Organic foods are prohibited from being sprayed with synthetic pesticides.  Talk to your local farmer.  Even if they aren't USDA Certified Organic, they might not be spraying their crops with harmful chemicals.  Building a relationship with a nearby farmer is the best way to ensure that you limit your pesticide exposure while supporting your local economy. 

Not sure how to take that first step toward buying local and organic?  Check out our website for a listing of Connecticut farmers markets where our member farms sell their produce, or download a PDF of our Farm and Food Guide to see a listing of all our member farms by county.  Visiting a farm or farmers market transforms the chore of grocery shopping into a fun and healthy experience for your whole family.  What better way to help us secure a brighter future for ourselves and the planet!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CT NOFA is having a PARTY

And you're invited!

Join CT NOFA in celebrating it's past thirty years and the next thirty! We are coming together at The Hickories to enjoy:

We will have three more block parties coming up, so if Ridgefield isn't convenient for you, just save one of our upcoming dates!  (Saturday, July 14, 2012, Hidden Brook Gardens in Ledyard and Saturday, September 15, 2012, Urban Oaks Organic Farm in New Britain).

Register online here!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Save Seed in an Orderly Manner: Advice on an easy way to get started saving seeds

                The first step is to make sure that the crop you are interested in saving seeds from is not a hybrid plant, but rather a one that is open-pollinated. This is because hybrids do not “come true” from the saved seeds from each generation to the next the same way the open-pollinated seeds do. Ken Green of the Hudson Valley Seed Library says that the best way to start is with something small and easy such as crops with a perfect flower and a pod, take beans and peas for example. Perfect flowers are plants with both stamens and pistils (male and female parts). Examples of these plants are lettuce, tomatoes, and beans. Imperfect ones are plants where the crop has separate male and female flowers, such as squash and cucumbers, making them not quite as easy to save the seeds as the plants with perfect flowers.      
                Ken recommends that beginning seed-savers try out saving the seeds of easy crops such as bush beans, because they do not cross pollinate as much as pole beans. As well as peas, as long as you make sure to leave a few pods to dry on the vine, and cilantro or tomatoes. 
The key is to prevent cross pollination from occurring because that can have a great impact on your crops. Kens example of this is “the offspring of a sweet pepper may not be so sweet next year if a hot pepper’s nearby”, one way to prevent this from occurring is to just grow one type of crop to “be sure that your seed will be pure”. If you aren’t willing to grow only one type of plant or are not able to isolate different varieties from each other you might want to consider growing one from each of the following groups in order to minimize cross-pollination
  • Mixta: Cushaw types, some gourds
  • Moschata: ‘Butternut,’ Cheese types 
  • Pepo: ‘Acorn,’ Field Pumpkin, Crookneck, Scallop and Zucchini types.
  • Happy Seed Saving!

All of the above information has come from the following article:
Images from:,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Humane and Sustainable Livestock Farming

Footsteps Farm has been in Craig Floyd’s family since 1712.  Craig is a confident long-time farmer with a comprehensive understanding of his animals and their interaction with the land.  About 20 people came out for our workshop on May 21, and despite some drizzle, the workshop was informative and enjoyable.  Footsteps Farm is beautiful, the animals friendly, and Craig freely shares years of experience and knowledge about livestock raising.
Michael Keilty from the Risk management Association discussed Risk Management's work (they sponsored this workshop!) and a SARE research project on grassfed livestock. (Executive Director Bill Duesing and Farmer Craig Floyd are on the left)
 “On a sustainable farm, everything has to have more than one purpose” – Craig Floyd
Craig buries chicken remains under high blueberry bushes because they are high in calcium.  And instead of drilling holes for fence posts, buckets weighed down with rocks and small holes drilled in the sides can run the wires around the perimeter of the enclosures. 
Craig makes a compelling case for the benefits of allowing all kinds of insects living in his soil.  Dung beetles break down the cow manure and make holes in the soil for water infiltration.   Small cleared oak trees are cut into about 3 foot sections and piled in a log-cabin type of style.  He then drills holes and puts in mushroom plugs. 

 Heritage breed turkeys and a sow with her piglets!

Here come the pigs!
 “When you’re dealing with animals, if you’re always nice to them, you won’t have a problem”

Craig is “Certified Humane” which he felt was an effective way to “make a public statement” that a farmer’s meat is different from what one can buy in the grocery store.  His pigs and cows stay in large pastures surrounded by electric fences with a high enough voltage to keep the pigs in the enclosures.  For the pigs, only two lines at 9” and 18” are needed. When a number of his chicks were sick, they were prescribed antibiotics, which Craig hates to use.  Instead he gave his chicks apple cider vinegar which he said treated his birds.
It seems that happy healthy animals will at some point down the line, make for happy healthy consumers.  The difference (according to Craig) between a butterball turkey and a heritage breed is that heritage breed turkeys can run, fly and have thicker skin holding moisture in the meat.  Footsteps Farm has turned its focus to producing Spanish-style ham. He has dark pigs called “Large Shireworths”.  Dark animals have more muscle and Craig pointed out that lighter colored pigs can get sunburns while this is not a concern with dark pigs.  Craig also has an entire oak lot so that pigs can eat lots of acorns.  He said the tannic acid in acorns makes pig meat more flavorful.  To keep animals in wood lots he uses one of Joel Salatin’s tips, to tie the electric lines up with polypropylene rope around tree trunks. 

One of Craig's favorite pigs, Eddy.

“We give thanks to the Lord for the chickens and we give thanks to the chickens for giving their lives”
An important element of Humane livestock production is the slaughter.  Craig explained that Footsteps uses slaughterhouses that have been approved by inspectors from Certified Humane.  He also showed us his own chicken processing facilities, which quickly slaughter, clean and package his chickens on sight so they do not need to take the stressful ride to a far away facility.  Craig said that an instructor at Johnson and Wales brings their students to Footsteps Farm to teach their culinary students how animals should be raised, and what defines quality meat. 

After the workshop we had a beginning farmer dinner thanks to Sheryl who made everyone frittatas with their eggs and sausage!

We have a bunch of other workshops coming up! Visit to see what we have scheduled.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Join Right to Know CT for a GMO town hall meeting May 23

An important message from our Executive Director, Bill Duesing:  
We can't let Monsanto keep control of our legislative process through threats and disinformation.

90 percent of Americans want to know if GMOs are in their food.  A prĂ© vote tally of CT representatives indicated that 85 percent of them supported the labeling legislation.

Monsanto (and its biotech buddies) don't support labeling.

Look at the results in CT and VT (no labeling) and compare that to what you'd expect in a democracy.

Did you see the latest damnation of industrial food?

KPMG, a major accounting firm says that the food industry produces over $2 worth of environmental and resource damage for each $1 in profits.

Other information indicates that the industrial food system produces at least $1.50 in medical costs for each dollar of profit, just for the big three diet related diseases-obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We've been told that one in three children born in this century will develop diabetes and that currently many teenagers are developing this expensive and dangerous disease.

So just these two categories, which likely miss some things-like the cost of food related cancers and allergies-indicate that for each $1 for food system profits, humans and the environment pay $3.50 in costs.

The profits of the food industry are literally coming from destruction of the health of people and the environment.

It is time to get serious about our food system. Little else is so important.

Our food choices are powerful tools for change. Eating locally, organically and lower on the food chain are ways each of us can make a difference.
You are invited to join us at a Right To Know CT town hall-style meeting. 
Wednesday, May 23
Church of the Redeemer, UCC
185 Cold Spring Street, New Haven, CT 06511
10:20 am – 12:00 noon 

We will discuss a number of key campaigns and initiatives we will be undertaking over the next few months to educate and influence Right to Know CT's three main constituent groups: farmers, consumers and legislators. Leaders spearheading these efforts will briefly present them to the group and welcome members to volunteer to help. We will also discuss strategic partnerships and invite members to take ownership of and manage these relationships on behalf of Right to Know CT. During the communal share, members will have an opportunity to share with the group any program, event, initiative, project, etc. they are involved with and invite others to participate. We will also be organizing groups by geographical areas and encouraging attendees to sign up for Jeffrey Smith's Tipping Point Network. Representative Richard Roy, the original sponsor of the GMO labeling bill will be in attendance. We hope to see you there.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What grocery brands contain genetically modified ingredients?

If you shop regularly in the grocery store, you might wonder how you can avoid genetically modified organisms if they don't have required labeling. Unfortunately, without buying exclusively organic it's impossible to know 100% of the time, but there are easy steps you can take to be more certain.

True Food Now has released this shopping guide that gives tips and information on foods found in grocery stores based on category (meat, fish, fruits, grains, etc) and includes listings of commonly found brands of foods that are organic or may contain genetically modified ingredients.  You my not have the freedom of a labeling system at your disposal, but you can greatly reduce your risk of eating genetically modified foods if you know what foods have the greatest risk of containing gm ingredients.

As always, buying local and organic skips the whole necessity for labels, because you can just ask your farmer if what they are growing suits your needs. Check out our website for listings of farmers markets where you can buy CT NOFA farmer organic produce.

Have an informed week,

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gardening in the Shade

When CT NOFA tables at farmers markets and other environmental events, a lot of people drop by the table and ask questions about gardening.  The complaint we hear so often is about gardening in the shade.  At-home food production is good for the planet and good for you, but so are the trees in your yard!  Many are turning to community gardens which have full sun, which is a great idea.  But even shady yards can have significant food production! Here is an article from Mother Earth News about gardening in the shade, and a list of the more shade tolerant veggies you can grow:

Shade Notes 
Growing Tips 
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Arugula welcomes shade, as this crop is prone to bolting as soon as the weather turns warm if in full sun.
Asian greens
At least two hours of sun per day.
Asian greens such as bok choi (also spelled “pac choi” and “pak choi”), komatsuna and tatsoi will grow wonderfully with a couple hours of sun plus some bright shade or ambient light.
If you grow chard mainly for its crisp stalks, you will need at least five hours of sun per day; if you grow it mainly for the tender baby leaves, three to four hours of sun per day will be enough.
Expect chard grown in partial sade to be quite a bit smaller than that grown in full sun. Baby chard leaves are excellent cooked or served raw in salads.
Culinary herbs
At least three hours of sun per day.
While many culinary herbs need full sun, chives, cilantro, garlic chives, golden marjoram, lemon balm, mint, oregano and parsley will usually perform well in shadier gardens.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
You'll notice only a small reduction in growth if comparing kale grown in partial shade with kale grown in full sun.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Lettuce is perfect for shadier gardens because the shade protects it from the sun’s heat, preventing it from bolting as quickly. Often, the shade can buy a few more weeks of harvesting time that you’d get from lettuce grown in full sun.
One of the best crops for shady gardens. Grows in as little as two hours of sun per day and handles dappled shade well.
The delicate leaves of this salad mix can be harvested in about four weeks, and as long as you leave the roots intact, you should be able to get at least three good harvests before you have to replant.
Mustard greens
At least three hours of sun per day for baby mustard greens.
Mustard grown for baby greens is best-suited for shady gardens.
Peas and beans
At least four to five hours of sun.
If growing these crops in partial shade, getting a good harvest wil take longer. Try bush and dwarf varieties rather than pole varieties.
Root vegetables
At least four to five hours of sun per day for decent production.
Beets, carrots, potatoes, radishes and turnips will do OK in partial shade, but you'll have to wait longer for a full crop. The more light you have, the faster they'll mature. Alternatively, you can harvest baby carrots or small new potatoes for a gourment treat that would cost an arm and a leg at a grocery store.
At least three hours of sun per day.
This crop does well in partial shade throughout the growing season.
At least three to four hours of sun per day.
Spinach welcomes shade, as it bolts easliy if in full sun. If you grow it specifically to harvest as baby spinach, you'll be able to harvest for quite a while as long as you continue to harvest the outmost leaves of each plant.

Many of these crops will grow more slowly in the shade, but you'll still ultimately have some homegrown produce - which is always better than none!
Happy gardening!

P.S. Visit our table this weekend at the Urban Oaks Green Faire (and meet our new intern Maya!) or the Girlscout Jamboree in Durham, CT.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our New Guide to Organic Land Care is in!

This is a view of the lower level of our office building with our new shipment of 2012-2013 Guides to Organic Land Care.  Hopefully it won't get too cold for a while because it looks like we won't be using that stove for a few months.

As you know, last month we received a shipment for the first of our two printed Guides, the 2012-2013 Farm and Food Guide, which provides information by county of our member farms, farmers markets, csa programs, supporting businesses, community farms, and community gardens.  Yesterday, our second Guide developed by the NOFA Organic Land Care Program was completed and brought back to the office!  The 2012-2013 Guide to Organic Land Care provides course information, local pesticide info, and AOLCP listings by state and county, as well as a large number of feature articles and book excerpts about pest control, compost, rain gardens, and much more. The Guide is a great resource to help you find Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals in your area who can help you maintain your property without the use of harmful chemicals.  If you are an Accredited Professional, this is a great way to advertise yourself as part of a large and influential community of sustainable landscapers while also providing helpful tips to homeowners and groundskeepers on how to organically maintain their land.

You can order a copy of the Guide to Organic Land Care for just $2 to cover the cost of shipping, and if you visit us at one of our outreach events, you can pick up a copy for free!  To order larger quantities of the Guide for distribution, contact the CT NOFA office at 203-888-5146 or e-mail  A PDF of the Guide will also be available online shortly.  

Have a lovely Thursday,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Kashi Lesson

The work of corporate watchdog groups, greater awareness, social media and a general skepticism of corporations are giving consumers more power to make ethical and environmental choices in their purchases.  Thank goodness for this, because federal and state governments seem to be shying away from any regulation of industry including food production and toxics reduction.

With 93% of Americans indicating that they believe genetically modified ingredients should be labeled, it is not surprising that Kashi's customers were especially enraged to find that Kashi's cereal ingredients are not nearly as "natural" as their marketing might have customers believe.  The cold cereals use genetically modified (the Roundup-ready variety) soy

Kashi defended itself by creating a video that explains that over 80% of crops are grown using GMO and that the issue is not Kashi's ingredient choices, but an environment where GMOs are not sufficiently controlled.  To give the impression that the use of GMOs is unavoidable is inaccurate.  Kashi announced that it will work with the Non-GMO Project to verify its cold cereals as "non-GMO" on its website this week.

People seem to care more and more about what's in their food, and companies that generally don't care about the ingredients (that means you McDonald's and Burger King) are responding and even preempting consumer disapproval by removing ingredients like pink slime and beginning to alter their meat sourcing based on animal welfare (they still have a long, long way to go).

So vote with your dollar and vote with your voice.  Social media seems to work, posts on Kashi's wall were powerful.  And if you question how "natural" something in your health food store is, you can probably talk to the owner about your concerns.  Most small, independently owned health food stores are concerned about these issues and responsive to their customers.  Removing Kashi from one store in Rhode Island was what ignited this whole conversation.

Read more about Kashi's GMO use exposure and their response:


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Farm Camps are Great for Kids!

In Connecticut, interest in farm camps is growing.  With camps all over the state offering a wide variety of educational programs for children and youth of all ages, it's no wonder that people are starting to notice this great opportunity that's available to both parents and children.  Farm camps are a wonderful way to give youth the kind of exposure to sustainable methods of growing food that can't frequently be found in the standard school curriculum.  Kids truly learn where their food comes from, while getting outside, learning practical skills, and having a lot of fun.  A recent article by the New York Times describes how Connecticut's farm camps are reconnecting kids with the food they eat, and encouraging kids to make better food choices at home as a result,
“I learned that pizza is one of everything,” said Andersen Steele, 8, during her second week of camp last year. “It has dairy, it has grain, it has vegetables and it has a little bit of oil on it and it has meat if it’s pepperoni.”
Her mother, Beth Steele, recalled her daughter’s pizza fascination and her overall increased interest in what her family eats since she attended farm camp. “She has a better appreciation when we go to the grocery store of what it takes to get that food from the farm to the store to your table,” she said.
Below is a list of Connecticut farms and organizations that offer on-farm educational programs ranging from seminars and day camps to week-long or multi-week opportunities.
Many of these programs still have openings for the 2012 season, but they are filling up fast.  Check out their websites and give them a call to find out more about the programs they offer.  Let's help our kids learn valuable, relevant, hands-on skills that are enjoyable while also helping to make a better future for us all.

Have an educational and fun week!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Last Beginning Women Farmer Session

Twelve women who enrolled in Connecticut’s Beginning Women Farmer program graduated from the training program at their final class at the Community Farm of Simsbury on May 12. The Connecticut Beginning Women Farmer Program is administered by Holistic Management International in partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA). 

Sherry Simpson (co-coordinator) handed out framed "Holistic Goals"
The Community Farm of Simsbury hosted the last BWF Session.
Friendly livestock helped teach about grazing and pasture management.
More about pasture management!

The students have attended classes from October 2011 through May 2012 to learn about whole farm planning based on the Holistic Whole Farm Planning process.  This approach to farming challenges farmers to develop a deep understanding of how nature functions and how to manage agricultural and natural resources to capitalize on these functions with the least negative impact on the land and environment around it. Holistic management also instructs farmers to consider every aspect of their farming operation including themselves (their own health, economic needs, hopes), their community, life on the farm, and the greater environment.

The graduates are: 
Allyson Angelini, Full Heart Farm, Mystic (Read more about Allyson's farm here)

Pamela Dunn - Goode Field Farms, Litchfield, CT. and Just signed to host a cooking segment on a local access show and will also be featuring her herb & spice mixes in the bulk section at the new New Morning Store.

Christine Wendel Farrugia- Sterling, CT.

Renee Giroux - Gillbertie's Herbs in Easton and lives in Washington Depot.  

Darcy Hutzenlaub - Farms at the Food Pantry Farm in Southampton, NY. 

Jolie Milstein - Rhinecliff, NY. Works in NYC at various food security and access activist programs.

Cheryl Placido - Teacher at Waterford Country Day School, Waterford, CT.

Sharon Roy - Raising Grace Farm, Canterbury, CT.

Rachael Silva - Manchester, CT

Courtney Swift - Coventry, CT

Martha Sylvestre - Canterbury, CT. Teacher, certified chef, part-time farmer raising pigs & various poultry.

Cindy White - Bethel, CT. Brand-new; gardener transitioning to farming.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Organic is Growing!

There's lots of bad news for organic producers these days, but we love all this good news in this infographic developed by the Organic Trade Association. Click the image to visit the OTA site and see the large graphic.

The organic industry is growing.  More individuals and families demand organic foods, organic products and organic services.  This proves that organic is not just some expensive elitist Whole Foods product, it is a personal nutrition and health choice to which everyone deserves access.  I especially liked the statistic that 94% of organic operations are retaining all their employees or planning to hire more in 2012, and that the organic industry is creating jobs at 4 times the national average.  Organic is not just beneficial for environmentalists and health-conscious consumers, it can be beneficial for our economy!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Get Ready for Seedling Sales!

We are well into May now, and that means Connecticut farms have been growing their seedlings for some time and many of them are ready for sale!  If you want to grow delicious food in and around your home, but don't have the time or space to start seedlings, shopping at a seedling sale might be right up your alley.  Seedling sales are happening throughout the spring, with a concentration this Saturday May 12 and next Saturday May 19, and offer wide varieties of plants started early indoors or in the greenhouse.  Seedlings are often very inexpensive, and with a little water and sun are a great way to save money on your grocery bill this summer and fall.  The food you'll get from a healthy local seedling will be much more delicious than anything you could get shipped from far away and at a fraction of the price. Seedlings also make great gifts for Mothers Day - which is this Sunday May 13 - and if you make an event out of it, going to a seedling sale with Mom and picking out a few plants together is a great way to say "I love you".

Check out our website for a listing of upcoming seedling sales.


Don't see your seedling sale on our webpage?  Let us know and we can add you!

And it doesn't take a lot of space or time to care for your seedlings either.  If you have the space, a small garden can feed you while fitting into a busy schedule, and if you don't have the space, containers and container gardens are a great alternative.  Make sure to choose compact bush seedling varieties for large plants like cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash, and you can easily grow your produce out of containers on your front porch, outside your window, or on a rooftop.  If you have access to a spot outdoors, you can grow a garden!  Here's a couple helpful tips from our office manager, Deb:
Even a five gallon bucket can work.  You'd be amazed at what you can grow out of one of those.  And don't forget that if you have absolutely no access to the outdoors at all you can join a community garden in your area and plant your seedlings there.  Just search your area online to see if there is a community garden available.
Give us a call at 203.888.5146 if you have questions about seedlings and gardening, or ask the farmers and staff at the seedling sales.  There is a wealth of information and expertise available, so that anyone can grow their own fresh food!

Have a bountiful day,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Meet the animals at Footsteps Farm

We are getting really excited about our Humane and Sustainable Livestock workshop! Craig Floyd, the farmer at Footsteps Farm sent us some pictures to share of their operation! Footsteps is "Certified Humane" which means the animals were raised and handled in a way that meets the Humane Farm Animal Care Standards which include a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.
One of the pigs "Auntie" decides to take a bath.
Footsteps has laying hens and heritage breed turkeys.
All the animals are on open pasture and rotational grazing is employed
Scottish Highlander Cattle

Chickens are pastured in mobile coops
Footsteps Farm has "Large Shireworth" pigs, but they aren't so large in these photos.
Here is a Shireworth sow with her young piglets.

These cold frames made from old windows keep the chicks warm!
Craig bottle feeds a calf named Anna
For more information, visit our website or read the Stonington Patch article. You can register online or call the office at 203-888-5146.  The cost is $20 for Beginning Farmers (10 years or fewer of experience) and members and $30 for non-members.

We are planning a couple of other exciting livestock workshops including backyard chickens and poultry farming, once we have firm dates and locations we'll let you know!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's Almost Summer Farmers Market Season!

As you know from our Winter Food Project, farmers markets aren't just a harvest-time occurrence.  They happen year-round across the state, and a whole host of them will be opening up in May and June and run through the fall.  A listing of the markets where our members sell goods can be found on our website, and you can also view a complete listing of markets on the Department of Agriculture website.

And don't forget, markets don't just sell produce!  You can often use a farmers market as a one-stop shop for all your grocery needs, from delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, to meat, seafood, dairy, sweets, coffee, baked goods, prepared foods, and even some inedible items like wool, beeswax, and crafts.  Give your local market a phone call or check out their website to learn more about their vendors.  Going to a market is a wonderful way to get your grocery shopping done while having a great time and heading home with the freshest goods available!

CT NOFA will be tabling at many upcoming markets this spring through fall.  Check out our website and sign up for our Gleanings eNewsletter to receive regular updates on where we will be and when.  For now, however, here is where we are confirmed so far:

Ellington Farmers Market
Saturday May 12, 2012
Arbor Park on Route #286/ Main Street
Ellington, CT

Downtown Milford Farmers Market
Saturday July 7, 2012
58 River Street
Milford, CT

Manchester - CCC Farmer's Market
Thursday August 9, 2012
35 Oakland Street
Manchester, CT

Higganum Village Farmers Market (tentative)
Friday August 10, 2012
Higganum Green (intersection of Routes 154 and 81)
Higganum, CT

Stay tuned for more and have a great afternoon!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Right 2 Know CT withdraws support from altered labeling bill

As many of you may have already heard, Connecticut's labeling bill no longer requires the labeling of genetically engineered foods.  Once again, we defer to Analiese Paik of Fairfield Green Food Guide who has explained the situation on her website, quoted below:

Connecticut’s Genetically Engineered Foods bill may still be alive, but it is no longer a bill requiring the labeling of GE foods. As of last night, the labeling provision was removed. Why was this bill eviscerated?
Rep. Richard Roy of Milford, co-chair of the Environment Committee and the original sponsor of the bill, when reached for comment this morning said “I feel very strongly that someone or some state has to challenge the use of the Bill of Rights, designed to protect we individuals, from using it to thwart the sharing of information and the subjugation of a whole industry. Residents of more than 50 other countries get simple information saying that saying that GMOs are present in a product. The freest society in the world cannot get that simple sentence.”
Bill Duesing, Anliese Paik, Tara Cook-Littman and Representative Roy
address the pro-labeling demonstrators.  
I asked Rep. Roy why the labeling provision was removed from his bill, the Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Foods. “The labeling provision was eliminated from the bill due to fears that it opened the state up to a lawsuit. The attorneys for the leadership and Governor’s office felt that the Constitutional Rights of Monsanto gave them the power to successfully sue the state. Their main duty was to protect the welfare of the state” said Roy.
Tara Cook-Littman, my fearless partner in leading Right to Know CT, repeated what she’s been saying for weeks about the constitutionality of the bill. “The constitutional argument is absurd, and everyone knows it.  As long as Connecticut law makers had a legitimate state interest that was reasonably related to the labeling of products produced from the process of genetic engineering, the GMO labeling bill would be considered constitutional by any court of law.”  Littman added, “It appears that the biotech industry’s influence was in place all along, waiting for this tactic to be deployed at the last minute, with no time to argue before the vote.”
Right to Know CT will no longer endorse or support HB 5117, An Act Concerning Genetically Engineered Foods. I said to Rep. Roy this mornings “you are our hero and we supported your bill, but this is no longer a bill that reflects your intent to label and we must register our discontent by withdrawing our support.”
Rally at the Capitol on May 4, 2012.
We will not go quietly into the night. Will you?

Despite this disappointing set back, there is a loud and visible support for GMO-labeling in Connecticut. On Friday, those in support of GMO-labeling came together at the capital to express their support.  Analiese Paik, Tara Cook Littman, CT NOFA Executive Director Bill Duesing and Representative Roy addressed the rally attendees about the public's right to know about food ingredients.

Read more about the bill on The Fairfield Green Food Guide or The Organic View.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Borrowing Against the Future for the Present

Yield isn't the issue.  The issue is sustainability.
As an addendum to yesterday's blog post about the organic -vs- conventional debate, let's talk a little about our societal perspective on how to go about feeding ourselves.  Although we might not want to think about it, it's no secret that in the United States we often lack a forward thinking mentality, and that focus on the present has negatively manifested itself a lot in the last few years - the Bush-era tax cuts, the social security crisis, the medical emphasis on expensive treatment rather than preventative care, the list goes on.  And because this is a systemic problem, you might guess that it also makes itself apparent in our food system.  Well, you're right.

As Kristiane mentioned yesterday, the debate about whether organic can outperform conventional or vice versa is really beside the point.  During a really good growing season, conventional agriculture might increase your yields for a year or two, while simultaneously:
  • degrading your soil and water
  • producing less nutrient dense (and therefore less nutritious) food
  • running the risk of failure should the affects of climate change rear it's head
  • pumping tons of fossil fuels into the air to accelerate the risk of failure from climate change
  • poisoning the wildlife (and people) of the surrounding ecosystems
You might get a few exceptionally good harvests, but at what cost? Is it really worth it in the long run, and when you look at it with that broader perspective, can you really consider it a success? Probably not.  In this way we have taken out a loan against the future of our food system in order to sustain an expensive, wasteful, unhealthy, and wholly unsustainable present-day food system.

And it's not just the environmental effects of conventional farming that show a consistent lack of forward thinking. An editorial response to yesterday's mentioned study about conventional -vs- organic yields begins,
A new a study from McGill University and the University of Minnesota published in the journal Nature compared organic and conventional yields from 66 studies and over 300 trials. Researchers found that on average, conventional systems out-yielded organic farms by 25%—mostly for grains, and depending on conditions.
Embracing the current conventional wisdom, the authors argue for a combination of conventional and organic farming to meet “the twin challenge of feeding a growing population, with rising demand for meat and high-calorie diets, while simultaneously minimizing its global environmental impacts."
This statement assumes that it's reasonable to expect and tolerate an ever increasing demand for meat and high calorie foods, even though a diet high in meat and animal products is both less cost effective and less healthy than consuming mostly plants.  It takes more energy, both in fossil fuels and in feed, to produce enough meat to feed one person than it does to produce enough plants to feed that same person, and the person who ate the plant-based diet is much less likely to develop (and cause everyone to spend a lot more on healthcare to treat) lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease. By continuing to emphasize a diet loaded with animal products, we are indulging in an unsustainable present at the expense of our economic and medical future.  This system is also exclusionary:
In reality, the bulk of industrially produced grain crops goes to biofuels and confined animal feedlots rather than food for the 1 billion hungry. The call to double food production by 2050 only applies if we continue to prioritize the growing population of livestock and automobiles over hungry people.
So we are also taking out a loan against the future of the many in order to provide an expensive and unhealthy lifestyle for the few, an action that ultimately will adversely affect us all, regardless of our socioeconomic status. Continuing with a conventional food system affords us the possibility of a few years of questionably higher yields at the expense of our climate, our farmland, our money, and our health.  That's a tradeoff that isn't in anyone's best interest, so lets try to eat more plants and buy food that was produced sustainably and closer to home in order to promote a better future for us all.

Have a healthy afternoon!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Conventional vs. Organic Yields

An interesting study from the science journal, Nature, has found that generally organic crops have lower yields than conventional crops.  

CNN reports that: "The comprehensive analysis of current scientific literature compared 316 organic and conventional crops across 34 species from 62 study sites.  Organic cereals and vegetables fared worst with yields 26% and 33% respectively lower than conventional agriculture. Legumes (e.g. soybeans) were 11% lower while fruits were almost comparable with conventional farming with yields just 3% lower.But other organic produce fared much better."

This study will probably pop up more and more in defense of conventional agriculture.  It is not very surprising that conventional agriculture has a higher yield - when a farmer adds unnatural (and unsustainable) levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil, plants have access to an excess of nutrients that make them grow larger.

The conversation really is not about which form of agriculture produces the most food.  After all, the United States throws away 40% of it's food - why give Americans more to toss in the garbage? While macronutrients like nitrogen create higher yield, chemical fertilizers disrupt soil biology and make fewer micronutrients available which ultimately grows food with much lower nutrient density.  

Organic production at Starlight Gardens in Durham, CT
John Reganold, a soil scientist at Washington State University is quoted in this "Voice of America" article, as saying "I think when people see these studies, their first reaction is, 'Well, my goodness, organic farming can't feed the world.' Guess what? Conventional farming cannot sustainably feed the world." 

And then, of course, there is the Rodale Farm System Trial which looks at agricultural yields over the course of 30 years and compares organic with conventional:
  • Over the 30 years of the trial, organic corn and soybean yields were equivalent to conventional yields in the tilled systems. 
  • Wheat yields were the same for organic and conventional systems.
  • Organic corn yields were 31% higher than conventional in years of drought.
  • Corn and soybean crops in the organic systems tolerated much higher levels of weed competition than their conventional counterparts, while producing equivalent yields.
*This raises an important point, to take most scientific studies with a grain of salt (and always try to figure out who carried out the research and who funded the research).  Conditions and numbers can be manipulated to support almost any statement.  

If we're looking to feed more people in the course of one or two years, conventional is probably the way to go.  But in terms of food production for hundreds or thousands of years, we're going to have to be a little more sustainable and protect the soil and our water sources.  We don't mean every farmer should transition to certified organic right now (we're aware that this is beyond unrealistic), and many of our own member farms aren't certified.  The issue is much more complex than conventional versus certified organic.  Agricultural production around the world must shift from a a focus on this year's yield, to a focus on the next couple decades of yield, and that means improving the quality of farmland instead of degrading it.  

Lets hope for more rain tonight!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Don't Miss This Opportunity to Start a Great Garden!

Farmer Shannon Raider and Gardener
Bettylou Sandy demonstrate how to
fill seedling cells with soil in our last
workshop at Common Ground.
Our Organic Gardening Workshop at Common Ground High School is less than a week away! This educational event offers instruction and seasonal tips on what can be planted in your garden now and what must wait for warmer weather. Learn how to prep your garden beds, plan your plantings, deal with early garden pests, and improve soil fertility using organic methods. At only $10 a person, this is a great way to help yourself save a lot of money on groceries this season while being able to enjoy the freshest produce you can possibly get - produce picked right from your own backyard!

Our last workshop at Common Ground, Starting Seedlings, provided hands-on instruction on how to sprout, grow, and transplant seedlings into an organic garden.  This Saturday, May 5, learn what to do with your seedlings once they have sprouted before they get too big for their containers.  Give our office a call at 203.888.5146 to register.

Don't forget to mark your calendars for another upcoming workshop on Monday May 21. Join us along with the owners of Footsteps Farm, Craig and Sheryl Floyd, to learn about humane certified and sustainable livestock farming. Since 2002, Craig and Sheryl have produce humanely raised, grass fed pork, chickens, turkeys, beef and other farm products on the 15 acre Footsteps Farm in Stonington.

And stay tuned for information on more workshops we have in the works for this growing season. You won't want to miss out on these great opportunities to expand your knowledge in the garden and on the farm!