Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ATTRA - Sustainable Agriculture Resources

        Are you involved in, or interested in learning about, sustainable agriculture? Well one place to look is the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, known simply as ATTRA. 
        What is interesting about ATTRA is that it is actually a partnership of a public agency (the USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service) and a nonprofit agency (the National Center for Appropriate Technology).  Together, ATTRA provides information and assistance to farmers, gardeners, educators, and anyone else involved in sustainable agriculture.
        On the ATTRA site, you will find a multitude of resources on topics like horticultural and field crops, soils and compost, local food systems, farm start-up, energy alternatives, water and pest management, organic farming, livestock, marketing, business and risk management, and many more!
        You can also find a ton of databases, including farming internships and apprenticeships, organic livestock feed suppliers, local food directories, sources of organic fertilizers and amendments, a directory of organic seed suppliers, just to name a few.  They even have a listing of current funding opportunities!
        Finally, they offer a host of multimedia including video and audio presentations, a calendar of events, and an archive of the  Sustainable Agriculture Spotlight - a weekly Internet radio show.
        You can find the ATTRA website here - http://attra.ncat.org/. Check it out!

Monday, November 29, 2010

NOFA Visa Card

Here’s a new way to help out the Northeast Organic Farming Association…apply for a NOFA Visa Card!
By using this card, you will be supporting NOFA every time you make a purchase! When you swipe, NOFA receives: $50 after your first purchase, a 2% donation on gas and grocery purchases, a 1% donation on all other purchases, and up to 10% of purchases made at select merchants.
You even get to choose from these three styles!
 For more information, please visit this site. NOFA sincerely thanks you for all that you do to promote local organic food production.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

CT NOFA's New Connecticut Farmer Program

CT NOFA is proud to announce the launch of its New Connecticut Farmer Program!  Here’s a letter explaining the program from CT NOFA’s Executive Director, Bill Duesing.
Dear friend,
Connecticut needs more farmers and a lot of people would like to farm.
To help bring these two resources together CT NOFA is launching its New Connecticut Farmer program, supported in part by a USDA Beginning Farmer grant in collaboration with NOFA NY and other NOFA chapters. (According to the USDA, a beginning farmer has been farming for fewer than ten years.)
We've contracted with Shannon Raider (a partner in Four Fields Farm) to coordinate this program.  She's designed this survey for beginning farmers. Please take a moment to fill out and pass on a survey to share your farming experiences with us.
The results will help us program our Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference on January 29, 2011 in New Haven, and the beginning farmer track at the Annual Conference on March 5th in Manchester. We have scholarship funding to help beginning farmers pay for registration to those conferences.
This February new, young, and emerging farmers are getting together for the first ever New CT Farmer Summit and Farmer Mixer! This organizing summit serves to unite farmers who are in their first to 9th season and are looking to network, resource share and commiserate in support of our efforts to farm and KEEP farming in CT. As the next generation of Connecticut farmers, we are digging into what Connecticut has to offer. This will be an opportunity to share our successes and challenges together.
We welcome all new and beginning farmers to participate, whether they are organic or not.
If you'd like to sign up for a New Farmer eNews, email ctnofa@ctnofa.org with "Add me to the New Farmer eNews" in the subject line.
This project was supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2010-49400-21847.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Real Food Campaign

Have you seen the commercial that states "great cheese comes from happy cows"? Well here's a new one...happy plants come from healthy soil. 
The mission of the Real Food Campaign is to restore human health by renewing the minerals and life in soils to optimize the nutrient quality of food, to support farmers in applying biological principles in effective soil stewardship, and to create Standards and Certification to deliver authentic Nutrient-Dense food to consumers.
Next week, the Real Food Campaign will be presenting “Introduction to Nutrient Dense Crop Production” which asks two questions: How can we build vitality in our soils, crops and bodies? And, how can we better understand the complex relationship between soil, crop nutrition, and human health?  Dan Kittredge, Director of the Real Food Campaign will be there to speak about the 5-Day Course on Nutrient Dense Crop Production.  Starting in December 2010, the 5-Day Course will be held in several locations in CT, MA, NY, and VT.  Designed to educate participants in reliable principles and practices to produce more nutritious food crops, the course will include classroom discussions and hands-on demonstrations.  Dan will also be available to answer any questions about the Real Food Campaign.  For more information, you can check out the flier here.
Here's a video of Dan talking about the importance of soil management and the 5-Day Course.

This presentation will be held on Monday, November 29th at Mansfield (CT) Town Hall from 7:00pm-9:00pm.  This event is free and open to the public so you definitely do not want to miss the opportunity to hear about this great organization!  For more information, you can contact Charles Galgowski at 860-429-7094 or cgalgowski@charter.net.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flatbread Company

Calling all pizza lovers!
Flatbread Company started with a simple idea – make quality flatbread pizzas from local ingredients.  Starting with their first restaurant in 1998, the company has expanded to 10 restaurants in 6 states, and even Canada! What makes Flatbread Co. so successful (and delicious!) is its standards: Quality ingredients, pesticide and chemical-free food, support of local, organic farming, a friendly atmosphere, and the capacity to give back to the community.  Every Tuesday night Flatbread Co. donates $3.50 of every flatbread sold, along with other community events.
For all of the Connecticutians out there, you can find one in Canton. For the rest of the Northeast, restaurants can be found in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. 
Have you been there before? If so, tell us what you think!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bodhichitta Farms - Prospect, CT

Nicknamed Prospect’s Purest, Bodhichitta Farms main crops are Maple Syrup, Mushrooms, and Salad Vegetables.  In Buddhism, Bodhichitta means the ability to have limitless compassion for all beings.  By following this mantra, the farm keeps an open heart as it does business. 
Bodhichitta Farms is currently accepting applications for 2011 CSA’s, including a Winter Option! Here’s the sample weekly menu for a 16-week period.  Pick up will be in Rocky Hill. But hurry…last day to sign up is December 4th!!

Feburary                                           March
1 Bag Microgreens                              2 Head Lettuce
1 Bag Baby Kale and Mustard          1 Head Escarole
Scallions, Mushrooms and More      1 Bag Collard Greens
                                                              Fennel, Scallions, Radishes                                                                                    1 Bottle of Syrup and More
 April                                                             May                                      
Broccoli                                                          2 Heads Lettuce
1 Bag Arugula                                               Broccoli Rabe
2 Head Lettuce                                             1 Head Raddichio
Peas and Early Beans                                  Peas, Beans, Leeks, Spinach
Onions, Dandelion and More                      Flowers and More

Well, what are you waiting for? Give them a call (203-758-0768) or email (bodhichittafarms@yahoo.com) and sign up!
You can check out their Facebook page here

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mark Winne

Former Keynote Speaker at CT NOFA’s Annual Meeting, Mark Winne, is an author, food activist, community organizer, and former Executive Director of the Hartford Food System.  He has over 40 years of experience with community food systems, especially local agriculture.  He recently released his second book, Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture, which has received a lot of praise.
Here’s a great video about Mark Winne.
Wayne Roberts, manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council and weekly contributor to Toronto’s NOW Magazine, recently reviewed Mark’s new book.  You can read an excerpt below.  For the full review, please visit http://wayneroberts.ca/archives/394
Mark Winne’s New Book an Organizer’s Manual for America’s Food Rebels -
By Wayne Roberts
            Looking beyond the book’s cover, Winne brings a way of looking at food issues that makes this book unique: he’s first and foremost a people person and community organizer, not a journalist, dietitian, chef, restaurant critic, academic or diet promoter. This lens on the food world accounts for most of the topics that aren’t in the book: anything related to wagging fingers at anyone but big corporations and lackey governments, or anything related to gourmet meals, specialized diets, superior French and Italian food culture, highfalutin alternative agriculture techniques – all subjects that might scare off, turn off or exclude the folks back home.  Indeed, the folks back home, ordinary people trying to deal with their everyday food problems, are the stars of the book, and the problems holding them back are at the centre of Winne’s policy diagnosis and prescriptions.  Winne’s “peoplistic” perspective makes this the first book of the last decade’s food book explosion to zero in on food and the human condition, not just food and the physical body, or food and the body politic…In my opinion, this is the book that shows American food activists – the progressive people with the best chance of communicating with the entire country -- how to use their inheritance of the great traditions of late-1800s agrarian populism. Winne’s book serves up plain American English and archetypes that stick to the ribs of a food movement properly understood as inspired by such deep and abiding traditions and values.”

To read more about Mark Winne, you can visit his website - http://www.markwinne.com/.  Be sure to check out Wayne Roberts’ website too - http://wayneroberts.ca/
If you would like to purchase Mark Winne’s new book Food Rebels, Guerrilla Gardeners, and Smart Cookin’ Mamas: Fighting Back in an Age of Industrial Agriculture, click here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Q&A with Bill Duesing, Take Two

Here’s another Q&A session with CT NOFA’s Executive Director, Bill Duesing! 
1) What are the most common insecticides and the insects they are supposed to kill?  Is there a difference between pesticides and insecticides?
Pesticides are substances that kill pests.  They can be insects, or weeds, or mites, or fungi, or other living things, hence insecticides, herbicides, miticides, fungicides, etc.  All are pesticides.  The most common ones vary with each crop.  Apple growers need to control apple maggots and others, potato growers need to control potato beetles, broccoli growers control cabbage loopers.    See http://www.foodnews.org/ to see which fruits and veggies have the most pesticides on them.    You can find out which pesticides are used on each kind of produce here: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/

 2) What are some of the harmful effects of said insecticides?  
See the Whatsonmyfood.org web site.  Those most at risk from the pesticides are the farm workers who are most exposed to them and nature which can be harmed in a big way.

 3) What are the restrictions and laws that organic farmers adhere to? What is the cost associated with certifying a farm?  
Organic farmers need to follow the National Organic Standards.  You can find them at baystateorganic.org or http://nofavt.org/programs/organic-certification.  There are many ways to manage or control pests without pesticides, even organic ones.  Crop rotation, timing, encouraging beneficial insects, cover cropping, mechanical methods including exclusion with row covers, vacuuming, etc.  Then there are pest controls that are natural and/or biological.  Plant extracts like Neem, organisms such as the  Bts,   things like Kaolin clay which is used to cover apples and deter insects, and newer products derived from soil organisms.  See http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/pp/resourceguide/mfs/07kaolin.php for more information on organic insect and disease management.  The cost of certification depends on the size of the operation.  I believe that the minimum is under $500 for a small operation and as size increases, the cost of certification does too.  However, many farmers can get about three quarters of the certification cost (up to $750 per farm) back through a Federal cost share program.  ( I bet these fees are on the websites mentioned above.)

 4) What does biotechnology mean to you as an advocate for organic farming and also as an organic farmer yourself? Do you agree with the use of Bt cotton if it reduces the use of harmful pesticides by 80%? Why or Why not?
I'll use GMO as short hand for biotechnology.  GMOs are prohibited in organic systems.  GMO pollen can be a dangerous pollutant of organic farms if the pollen from GMO corn fertilizes a field of organic corn thousands of feet away as it blows long distances in the wind.   I've attached something I wrote providing arguments against biotechnology.  It was written a while ago and now they find the very serious weed problems have developed as weeds become resistant to herbicides due to repeated use of the same chemical (which is the primary thing that GMOs do-promote herbicide use).  Google "Indian Farmer Suicides" and find things like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html  and
http://www.democracynow.org/2006/12/13/vandana_shiva_on_farmer_suicides_the.  GMO systems are high priced (seeds and chemicals) and are doomed to breed resistance in insects and weeds because of the continual use of a same pesticide.  Bt can be used in organic systems, but is just used when needed.  In GMO systems, it is there all the time and encourages resistance in the pests and may ruin the usefulness of Bt for organic growers.  When Bt is used in GMO corn, the Bt is in all parts of the corn instead of just on the outside as it would be if use on an organic farm. That means that anything that eats the GMO corn is eating Bt on a regular basis as never happened before.  The GMO companies (there are only three major ones-Monsanto, Dupont and I believe Syngenta), which have created lots of dangerous and long lasting pollution including agent orange, PCBs, lead in gasoline, ozone destroying chemicals, dangerous pesticides and more.  Their pollution is widespread and long lasting.  GMOs have been called pollution with a life of their own, and are consistent with the polluting behavior of these companies in the past.  They are looking to control the food system.  We can't eat the fish in the river near our house because of the PCBs made by Monsanto and distributed by GE from a plant in Pittsfield.

Here's the article on "Arguments Against Biotechnology" that Bill referred to - Link

Monday, November 15, 2010

Four Fields Farm - West Granby, CT

Four Fields Farm is a great farm in West Granby, CT. Run by Shannon Raider and Hannah Gant, this 1-acre farm produces items such as onions, shallots, leeks, turnips, peppers, kale, chard cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and various herbs. From this harvest, the Four Fields Farm feeds many in the Hartford area, including the West End and Coventry Farmers Markets, along with 7 local restaurants.  Here are some great pictures from their website.

 Many locals participate in CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) where farmers offer shares of their harvest to the public.  By joining, consumers offer a steady income to the farm and receive weekly, fresh (and hopefully organic!) local produce. It’s a win-win situation!
Well Four Fields Farm is taking it another step by asking the public to invest in a CSM (Community Shared Market).  How does it work? Well you sign up, pay your fee before the growing season, and then you can use that throughout the normal crop season. Instead of picking up a weekly basket, you can shop at a farmers’ market stand. It's like having a tab open so you can save up one week and use more the next.
Right now, Four Fields Farm is offering a Thanksgiving Share. For $40, you will receive brussel sprouts, cabbage, escarole, braising green mix (kales and collards) hearty salad greens, baby carrots, carnival winter squash, and herbs! Hurry though, space is limited. You can e-mail the ladies directly at fourfieldsfarm@gmail.com.
Be sure to check out their website as well - http://fourfieldsfarm.weebly.com/community-supported-market.html