Friday, December 19, 2014

Organic Farming and the Age of the "Locavore" Movement- Getting Started in Organic Farming 2015

With 2014 coming to a close, it is time to look at what educational opportunities CT NOFA is offering in the new year!

On January 24th CT NOFA will be heading to Connecticut College for the 10th annual Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference where there will be a ah-mazing line up of speakers to motivate attendees to start their careers in organic agriculture. 

Organic Farming and the Age of the "Locavore" Movement
Presented by Patrick Horan, Waldingfield Farm

A discussion about the "locavore" movement , and how organic food production was a principle reason for the local food movement's rise in the Northeast. But cost of production and the availability of locally produced conventional product has made it increasingly difficult to survive. How do we survive?

Patrick has been working at Waldingfield full time since 2006. He is responsible for all marketing, sales, and operations, as well as day to day farming duties. He and wife and son, Suzie and Griffin, divide their time between Brooklyn, NY, and Washington. CT.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Conference Teaser: Improving Food Access, Raised Bed Gardens and Seed Saving!

The Winter Conference is 3 1/2 months away!

We will begin counting down to CT NOFA's largest celebration of local and organic food, farming and community with a glimpse into to line-up each week showcasing a few workshops we have recently announced.  

Improving Food Access Through Farmers Markets, CSAs, and Mobile MarketsDan Gregory & Pauline Zaldonis
"In this workshop, we will give an overview of Hartford Food System's efforts to improve food access in the City of Hartford. We will also go over various low-income inclusive CSA models and how to increase market revenue by accessing state and federal initiatives such as SNAP, WIC, and FMNP."

Dan Gregory is the farm manager for the urban farm, Grow Hartford. The farm offers subsidized low-income CSA shares and sells at local farmers markets in Hartford. Pauline Zaldonis is the program coordinator of the Hartford Mobile Market and policy analyst for Hartford Food System.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Food Safety Modernization Act, Round 2; Your comments are critical, again!

By Bill Duesing 

Both organic and conventional foods can be a source of food poisoning outbreaks. However, in an organic system, theres a much higher level of microbial biodiversity, so there are more naturally beneficial microbes in the system and soil.

Studies show that when you introduce pathogens into an organic system, they often dont survive very long because the biologically rich community of organisms thats naturally there either competes effectively with them or uses them for lunch.
 -Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State Universitys Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources in Pullman.

We all want our food to be "safe."  We expect those mixed greens we buy for our salads to be free of microbes that could make us sick.  That's the case whether we pick up a plastic package of conventional mesclun which comes from the other side of the country or our organic CSA share, freshly mixed from produce of several neighboring farms. *(See #2 below.)

In September, as part of its implementation of the Food SafetyModernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the second versions of the two Rules which apply to fresh fruits and vegetables which are normally eaten raw.  The Produce Rule applies to farms.  The Preventative Controls Rule applies to facilities which process food.  In the rules there are many references to RACs.  Those are raw agricultural commodities. The extensive Table 1 in the appendix lists all the different things that are done to RACs and whether they are classified as harvest activities or processing activities.

FDA will accept comments from farmers, eaters, handlers and researchers on these new versions until December 15, 2014. Your comments are critically important.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Journeyperson Check-in: Allyson Angelini at Full Heart Farm *WinterShare*

Full Heart Farm is excited to be wrapping up our third growing season and begin planning for 2015!

The 2014 growing season produced our best harvest yet -  an abundance of vegetables, pasture-raised chicken + eggs, and pork.  We continued to provide dinner ingredients for the  50+ families that support our farm through our MemberShare Program, and are incredibly grateful for the community that surrounds the farm.  Our main harvest season is 26 weeks (six months straight!), with a smaller WinterShare program that completes the year.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fueling up in Cheyenne, Wyoming

An array of fueling options at a gas station in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Even the gasoline contains a corn product-it is 10 percent ethanol.
The wastes from making ethanol are fed to
beef and dairy cows, pigs and chickens.
Fueling up in Cheyenne, Wyoming
By Bill Duesing

The American way of eating is shaped more by the availability of low-cost fossil fuels and government crop and other subsidies than it is by nutrition, health or flavor.

I took the photo above while buying gasoline at a station in Cheyenne, Wyoming this summer. This array is an example of the ubiquitous advertising for these kinds of foods: ground beef sandwiches, often with bacon and/or cheese or processed hot dogs on white bread buns. (For the chicken nuggets, their wheat breading is the bun equivalent.)

It also made me think about the health consequences of eating this kind of food: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, sore joints, heart disease, cancer and possibly even schizophrenia!

Why are foods that may cause so much damage so heavily advertised? A rhetorical question really. The answer: profit.  Much of that profit comes because food industry accounting doesn't include many significant costs.  Health care costs are not included.   The illnesses above, and the foods that cause them, are responsible for millions of dollars in health costs.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Updates From the Field: Ro-Jo Farms

Ro-Jo Farms 2014 Season Wrap-up
-Josiah Venter, CT NOFA Journeyperson

With the 2014 CSA season coming to an end, Ro-Jo Farms of Bethany has several highlights to share with the farming community. We had a very successful growing season with fortey CSA members in New Haven, Hamden, Bethany and Woodbridge getting fresh produce delivered to their door along with a handful of restaurant sales in New Haven and Hamden.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Climate Change and Organic Agriculture

By Bill Duesing

Many of us participated in the inspiring People's Climate March on 9/21/2014 in New York City. Marchers represented a wide variety of religious, educational, environmental, energy, social justice, peace, health, labor, cultural and other organizations.  Though they all had their own agendas for solving problems and making the world a better place, they agreed that climate change is very serious and needs to be addressed.

From right, soil scientist, permaculturalist and CT NOFA founding Board member Cynthia Rabinowitz, CT NOFA Executive Director Eileen Hochberg and former executive director Bill Duesing at the beginning of the People's Climate March.
CT NOFA was a partner in the March. That day, I saw many CT NOFA members, including former board members and folks from many of our partner organizations. Many more NOFA colleagues were among the 400,000 participants in this resounding call for action on climate change.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Vermont Food Fight

By Bill Duesing

The month after Vermont governor Peter Shumlin signed into law the country's first genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling bill with a firm effective date, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the Snack Food Association (SFA), the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) sued in Federal Court to overturn the new law. This law is scheduled to take effect in 2016; there is no trigger clause requiring other states to pass similar legislation before it takes effect.

With foresight, the Vermont legislature established the Vermont Food Fight Fund to help defend the GMO Labeling Law.  A strong defense of Vermont's law should strengthen Connecticut's. You can contribute here. 

Why are these three multibillion dollar lobbying associations, representing the world's largest and most powerful corporations, suing to stop what the citizens want? After all, these citizens are their customers.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thank you for a wonderful weekend at Winvian!

Thank you everyone who attended our Special Culinary Fundraiser and Summer Gathering
CT NOFA had an incredible time at Winvian last weekend! Enjoy this short video and collection of photos to show our gratitude for your support!

Claire Criscuolo receiving the 2014 Organic Leadership Recognition Award    

The Big Picture

By Bill Duesing

We've been traveling around our beautiful country this summer.  Aside from the wonderful natural places, we've seen evidence of incredible wealth and of some big messes we've made and abandoned. 

From Texas west, the drought has dried up lakes, closed parks and seriously impacted forest health and agriculture.  There are so many decaying small towns.  Yet the supermarkets are well stocked, most even with a widening organic selection, and the container ships keep coming from Asia to fill store shelves, homes and the burgeoning number of self-storage facilities.

Center pivot irrigation systems help produce alfalfa, wheat and corn in the desert, until the aquifer dries up.  Long, long trains carry coal east across the top of Texas.  Other long trains there carry shipping containers to fill southern stores. During two days of driving, we passed full cattle trucks heading west and empty ones heading east. Must be to a big distant slaughterhouse. Everywhere there are ads for elaborate hamburgers.

It is clear that this is not sustainable.  We are now using the resources of one and a half Earths each year.  In the Houston area, it seems like they are working as hard as they can to use two Earths' worth of resources.  They are building highways in the sky.

Rock formations and Native American names remind us of the longer history of this land and of the enormous changes that have occurred.

I think that "The Big Picture" written nearly 20 years ago for The Natural Farmer is still relevant and useful in guiding our response to the serious challenges we face. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Auction Items for Sale!

We had a very successful silent auction this past Friday night at our Special Culinary Fundraiser! 

We do have a few items left that we are now selling at the minimum bid prices. 

We are selling items from Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery, Audubon Greenwich, the Litchfield Jazz Festival, Griffin Woodworks, Sisco & Berluti, and Lawrence Jeffery Estate Jewelers. 

To Purchase any of these items please call our office at (203) 308-2584

For a more details description of each item are after the jump...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Notable People at Winvian

By Bill Duesing

At the upcoming Winvian event, you will have the unique opportunity to hear from and visit with many notables, including two notable women who are pioneers and leaders in the local, sustainable and organic food movement. I've had the great pleasure of knowing, working with and being inspired by them for decades.

For over 40 years, their work has exemplified the holistic nature of the changes that are needed in our food system if we want a healthy future for people and the environment.  Both these women have inspired CT NOFA members.  They also remind us that this isn't a new or short term problem. 

In 1978, Joan Dye Gussow published her classic book, The Feeding Web: Issues in Nutritional Ecology. She was then and for several decades more the Mary Swartz Rose chair of the Teachers College nutrition program at Columbia University.  Her approach to nutrition was radical at that time and to some extent still is considering the narrow vision of many in the nutrition profession. 

Throughout her career, Joan has connected nutrition to farming, and health to the nature of the food system.  She inspired and educated many of our current food heroes.  Michael Pollen for example, said "Once in a while, I think I've had an original thought, then I look and read around and realize Joan said it first."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Organic, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Conventional Agriculture: What are the differences?

by Bill Duesing

A recent study found that many people think that all local food is organic.  Others assume that all CSAs are organic, or that all the products at a farmers market are organic, or that IPM and organic are the same. None of this is true. And there's lots of confusion.

The Vegetable Management Guide for the New England Region provides much useful information not only for anyone who grows vegetables, and also for those who want to understand the differences between conventional, IPM and organic methods and produce. (The color photos of pests and diseases alone warrant a visit for anyone who grows vegetables or strawberries.)

The Guide is updated and published two years by the Cooperative Extension Services in the six New England states. A comprehensive guide for commercial vegetable growers, it is available free electronically or as a hard copy for a fee. Click here for details.

The Guide is intended for use by both organic and conventional growers.  It provides encouragement for conventional growers to use IPM practices, many of which can also be used by organic growers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Going Underground by Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate

CT NOFA's Organic Advocate

Going Underground

By Bill Duesing

The more we understand about soil, the more important how we treat it becomes. 

New understanding and recent research point the way to more fertile soil, healthier crops and healthier people, as well as to a strategy to slow down climate change and adapt to the increasing deluges and droughts it brings. This knowledge may even help us produce better flavor in our crops - a more distinctive terroir or sense of place1.

The focus of this latest research is the rhizosphere, the incredibly active zone around plant roots that is filled with carbon-rich substances given off by roots and with the innumerable organisms - bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes and arthropods - attracted by those substances and organisms.

The best advice for obtaining these benefits: Disturb the soil as little as possible and keep it covered with a diversity of growing plants.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Journeyperson Spolight: Roger and Isabelle Phillips

I don't want to jinx it, but dare I say it finally looks like spring is here to stay! After CT was welcomed into the season with a wintry mix of snow and sleet a few weeks ago, this bright and sunny Monday gives me hope that we are in the clear of any further reminder of the harsh winter. This sense of inspiration by nature is a great transition into.....  

Our final installment focusing on the recent round of Journeyperson takes us to central CT to Roger & Isabelle Phillips of Sub Edge Farm in Farmington!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Journeyperson Spotlight: Josiah Venter of Ro-Jo Farms

Josiah Venter (right) with friend and business partner Toby Fischer
Last week we announced the 3 newly accepted farmers of the 2 year Journeyperson program with CT NOFA which helps beginning farmers in their most formative years. Today we shine the spotlight on Josiah Venter of Ro-Jo Farms in Bethany, CT! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CT NOFA Accepts 3 New Journeypersons! Spotlight on Ben Harris

CT NOFA is proud to announce the next round of Journeyperson farmers to take part in the 2 year program funded by a grant from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture through the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. The Journeyperson program strives to support farmers in the education gap between apprentice and independent farmer and to provide resources and opportunities for prospective new farmers who have completed an apprenticeship to further develop skills they need to farm independently.  

This year we have accepted 3 beginning farmers into the program: Ben Harris of Root Down Farm CSA in Coventry, Josiah Venter of Ro-Jo Farms in Bethany and Roger &  Issabelle Phillips of Sub Edge Farm in Farmington. 

Ben Harris. photo by Weston Monroe/Cara Paiuk
Today's blog spotlight will focus on beginning farmer Ben Harris.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Who will feed China? What does it mean for us?

by Bill Duesing

Lester Brown's Who Will Feed China?: Wake Up Call for a Small Planet was published nearly 20 years ago.
Bill Duesing
He noted that in an integrated world economy, China's rising food prices become the world's rising food prices.  China's land and water scarcity become the whole world's problems.

It looks like he got it right.

As the New York Times reported this morning, "A large, growing and increasingly affluent population, worsening soil and water pollution and rising urbanization rates have combined to reduce Chinas arable land and put immense pressure on the countrys ability to meet its food needs domestically."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Why we need to ban Genetically Engineered Grass by Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate

Why we need to ban Genetically Engineered Grass
by Bill Duesing, CT NOFA Organic Advocate, Old Solar Farm, Oxford, CT

It is urgent for Connecticut to pass a ban on sale of genetically-modified grass and other perennials now.

Scotts Miracle-Gro company has genetically engineered a strain of Kentucky bluegrass to resist Roundup herbicide. It has been reported that employees of the Ohio company will plant this GMO grass seed this summer.  It is scheduled to go into commercial production in 2015 and be marketed to consumers in 2016.(1.)

Kentucky bluegrass is a valuable pasture plant which grows well in fertile soil.  It is often used in a mix of other grasses and legumes for grazing animals and making hay.  It was brought to this continent by the Europeans "to feed their livestock because it was nutritious, fast growing, and able to stand up to heavy grazers."  (2.)

Bluegrass is also widely used alone or with other grasses (and sometimes legumes) for lawns and playing fields.

Never missing an opportunity to sell more of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and encourage lawns that look as close as possible to astroturf, Scotts Miracle-Gro came up with Roundup Ready Kentucky bluegrass. 

The idea is that you plant your lawn, playing field or golf course with this fancy and more expensive seed.  Once it grows, weed control is easy.  Just spray Roundup and every plant except the genetically modified grass is killed.  There you have it!  A bluegrass monoculture.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Inspiring Farmers in the Northeast at our 32nd Annual Winter Conference!

Swift Farms sold their amazing bees wax products
I don’t know about you, but the staff at CT NOFA is still bathing in the afterglow of an inspiring and successful Winter Conference!

The 32nd annual Winter Conference was held at Western Connecticut State University this past Saturday, March 1st and had over 900 people in attendance, a new record! The day started with attendees gathering in our vendor area where they were able to fill their free CT NOFA tote bags with literature and goodies from educational exhibitors, local farmers, and crafters! (A full list of vendors and exhibitors from the day can be found at HERE)

CT NOFA's Organic Advocate: How are we going to eat?

CT NOFA's Organic Advocate

How are we going to eat?

By Bill Duesing

"Coincident with the rise of industrialism, people started to see food less as a connection between one's body and the natural world and more as a barrier between humans and the imagined savagery of the natural world." 
Against the Grain: How Agriculture has hijacked civilization, by Richard Manning

First the good news.

CT NOFA had record attendance at our 32nd annual winter conference.  Over 900 attendees created "... a contagious sense of community and passion at this event," according to one reporter.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Nature's Medicine

The winter nose drip getting you down?  
Has persistent coughing or a sore throat been making you agitated? 

Leigh White is to the rescue, presenting her workshop Kitchen as Medicine Cabinet: Using Food for Acute Illnesses at the 32nd Annual Winter Conference on March 1st. Acknowledging the incredibly innate healing power of nature and how individuals can help restore their bodies to a state of homeostasis through this power is White's speciality. There are an influx of herbs, roots and flowers growing in our very own backyards that can make us feel balance within our bodies again! If you are interested in learning how to utilize those seemingly mundane ingredients in your kitchen for medicinal value, this workshop is for you!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bee Conscious On Your Farm and In Your Garden!

Species are becoming endangered at un-paralled rates and bees are at the forefront of this crisis, as their declination are posing threats to global food supply.  Bees may seem like enemies at first glance (or first touch with their sting) BUT bees are extremely pertinent pollinators that essentially enable plants (our food) to blossom and grow!  Approaching bee endangerment from a more science based manner, Kelly Gill's workshop, at the Winter Conference on March 1st, on Creating Pollinator-Friendly Farms and Gardens focuses on the dangers along with the varying avenues humanity must take to aid in the bee revival. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The End of Nature: Climate Change, Organic Agriculture and Local Food by Bill Duesing

From CT NOFAs Organic Advoacate

The End of Nature: Climate Change, Organic Agriculture and Local Food

By Bill Duesing

Over seven billion of us live on the only habitable real estate in the known universe. The living things that have evolved on this planet over billions of years provide our life support systems.

The Earth's ecosystems produce clean air, clean water, fertile soil and most importantly, a stable climate.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The grass is always GREENER on the other side

Do you savor those special times when you get to cook yourself a tender, juicy filet mignon? If you 
have these carnivorous cravings from time to time but find yourself at a crossroads with the  
problems that USDA infrastructure for slaughter and processing present, come down to our Winter Conference on March 1st to attend Michael Keilty and Jean C. King's workshop on the importance of sustainable perennial agriculture!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fight those winter blues by learning how to make your own wine!

Do you fancy yourself a DYI master? Take your love of home made goods to the next level and learn how to make your own fermented beverages! John Kriz will be teaching a workshop at the Winter Conference on March 1st all about home fermentation! 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Meet Your Crop Plan's Better Half at the Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference on Jan. 18th!

Spots are still open at this year's Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference this Saturday, January 18th at Goodwin College in East Hartford. At this conference attendees will not just learn about sustainability when it comes to farming but also when it applies to responsible business practices. 

Erin Pirro, a consultant with Farm Credit East, will be presenting on the importance of tracking your businesses funds in her talk titled "Cash Flow Budgeting: Meet Your Crops' Better Half". A crop plan is something you do every year - because you have to order the inputs, you need to know in advance what you're growing and what it takes to make that happen. If you think of money - working capital- as one other necessary input to a successful crop, you've taken the first step to a solid financial plan. Learn how to cultivate your financial plan while you're doing your crop plan, develop a cash flow budget, and easily monitor that budget so all of your resources are available when you need them - in the height of the growing season.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Getting a Chef's Perspective on Local Agriculture with Executive Chef Chris Eddy

Residents of CT are continuing to embrace buying locally from their farmers and now we are really seeing a demand for more local, organic foods to be used in restaurants. CT NOFA farmers and supporters are well versed in the cycle of food from planting to harvesting, but what about after your customers in the restaurant industry walk away with your fresh products? Chris Eddy, the Executive Chef of Winvian, will be sharing his unique perspective at the 2014 Winter Conference during his workshop titled "The Relationship Between the Garden, Kitchen, Restaurant and Everything in Between"

Monday, January 6, 2014

Legal Nuts and Bolts for Beginning Farmers on January 18th!

Has the complicated web of permits, taxes and zoning laws kept from pursuing your passion for organic farming? Not to Worry, CT NOFA is here to help! Marjorie Glover, organic farmer, attorney and CT NOFA board member, will be teaching the "Legal Nuts and Bolts for Beginning Farmers"  session at this years 2014 Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference held on January 18th at Goodwin College. 

The course will offer the legal nuts and bolts for beginning farmers, including the nuts and bolts of setting up a farm business entity, paying federal, state and local farm taxes and filing related forms, complying with local regulations such as zoning and health and safety, employing employees and interns and qualifying for farm tax status.  This course will also briefly cover the many laws related to processing, handling, cooking and packaging farm products, such as crops, livestock and poultry as well as provide an overview on how to obtain organic certification status.