Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Update: A Citizen's Assembly of Support for Family Farmers vs. Monsanto

Community members assembled early this morning.
At 9:00 am this morning community members and stakeholders assembled outside of the Southern District Court in New York City to announce a public message that they stand behind family farmers as they go to court with Monsanto.  The lead plaintiffs in the case stated, " In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto.  In many cases organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits."  In response to the injustice leveraged on farmers by Monsanto, the Organic Seed Growers and Traders Association has filed suit against Monsanto.

Activists rallied after the court hearing.
The lawsuit OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) et al vs. Monsanto was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in "protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed". The judge has requested and agreed to hear oral argument in orders to make a decision of whether or not to allow the farmers’ case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Supporters of farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation assembled outside the courtroom today to support the farmers in their claims, recognizing that these injustices affect us all and that this case is deserving of the court’s time and attention.

We won't know the results of the hearing for a few weeks, but are taking a stand and are committed to seeing this through. 

Have a great afternoon!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monsanto's Take on GMO Testing

A recent post in the Natural News highlights a claim made by Monsanto Corporation that "there is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans".  Despite many studies pointing to the dangers of GMO foods, Monsanto has taken the stance that GMOs are not substantially different from natural crops.  Here is a selection of text from the article that details a bit of Monsanto's argument:

In the "Why aren't you running human clinical trials on GM crops?" section of Monsanto's Food Safety page, the biotechnology giant explains its opinion that GMOs are "substantially equivalent" to natural organisms. According to Monsanto, since concentrations of proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrient factors vary among natural crops, as well as among natural and GM crops, then these differences are unimportant in light of GMO safety.

Furthermore, Monsanto claims that its injection of foreign DNA into its GM crops is also safe because DNA is present in natural crops as well. Never mind that the injected DNA is foreign and unnatural, and is used to alter the entire genetic structure of GM crops -- according to Monsanto, its unnatural DNA is non-toxic because every other plant also has DNA.

It's time that we learn the truth about what's in our food, so that we can make more informed decisions as consumers about what goes into (and potentially harms) our bodies.  We are building a list of members interested in anti-GMO activism who can help send letters to the FDA or locally organize to advocate for state labeling regulation in which Rep. Roy and the Ledgelight Health District have led the way. Please e-mail Kristiane if you'd like to be added to the list as we coordinate more GMO activism activities.

Additionally, if you want to learn more about the Dangers of GMOs, register today for our Winter Conference!  With over 40 workshops, potluck lunch, vendors, live music, cooking demos, exhibits, expert panels, and a keynote by Jeffrey M. Smith, the leading spokesperson on the dangers of GMOs, this is an event you don't want to miss!

Have a great week!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Growing Fruit in a Healthy Orchard Ecosystem

Join NOFA Organic Land Care on March 9, 2012 for a workshop lead by "The Apple Grower" himself, Michael Phillips. The workshop is intended for land care professionals interested in edible landscapes, community gardeners, and aspiring or current fruit growers!
The program will start at 9:00am at the Connecticut Forest and Park Headquarters in Rockfall, CT.  During this time in the Classroom Michael will discuss the primary role of orchardists; which is to build system healt hcreating the most favorable conditions for the production of delicious, healthy fruits.  He will discuss holistic method which are about deep nutrition and competitive colonization along with organically-approved approaches to achieving pest balance.  
After a hearty lunch the class will move out of the CFPA Headquarters to High Hill Orchard in Meriden (about a ten minute drive away).  At High Hill Orchard, the class will learn in the field about forest edge ecology, embracing the right biology in your yard or orchard, and roots cycles which suggest a particular timing of tasks. The workshop will wrap up around 4:00pm.
Michael Phillips has written a number of books on the topic of holistic orchard management including The Holistic OrchardThe Herbalist's Way and The Apple Grower.  For more information about Michael Phillips, visit his websites at www.HerbsAndApples.com and www.GrowOrganicApples.com
Course Cost:
Regular: $155
AOLCP/ NOFA Member: $140
Early Registration: $140
Early AOLCP/NOFA Member Registration: $125
To register call the office at 203-888-5146 or visit the Organic Land Care website: http://www.organiclandcare.net/education/advanced-workshops

Thursday, January 26, 2012

GMO's unfavorability in Europe

According to the Euractiv.com article "Disgruntled GMO firms start pulling out of EU market" Monsanto has announced that it will cancel plans to sell an insect-resistant maize in France, the second move in a weekly by biotech company to retreat from the genetically modified foods market in Europe.  
German's chemical company BASF also has suspended the development of GM crops in Europe and move its plant science arm to the United States.  
"No one wants to eat them and few farmers want to grow them," explained Adrian Bebb, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.  

This is encouraging for anti-GMO activists in the United States, because it is evident that government regulations of GMO crop development and distribution discourages biotech companies.  This means that the labeling the 93% of Americans demand   along with some closer regulation of the distribution of GMOs (currently genetically modified blue grass seed and alfalfa have the same regulations as non-GMO strains) can seriously impede Monsanto and other GMO companies.  

Many Americans don't want to eat GMOs and many farmers would prefer that GMOs were heavily regulated or banned because of the continued risk of contamination.  

Check out Friends of the Earth Europe's page about GMOs for more information. 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Local Farming is Important

Rebecca Kline of New Haven Farms stands at the site
of a proposed community garden in New Haven.
An excerpt from a recent Huffinton Post Article about our local (and impressive) Common Ground Farm and High School reads, "In a 1787 letter to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson wrote, 'Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will, in the end, contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.' In short, farming produces not only food, but also the foundation for a good life." Growing the number of farms in our state addresses more than just food access and nutrition; it also fills a cultural void that has been present in our country ever since industrial agriculture stole the spotlight from traditional community-based means of food production. Without local farms available in and around the places where we live and work, we suffer emotionally and culturally as well as physically. In communities where there aren't many remaining farms, losing another one can be especially unsettling, as is the case with Purdy's Farm in Greenwich, one of only two farms left in the town.

But there is light on the horizon. Of late there has been a new resurgence in the number of new people, many of whom have never farmed before, developing an interest in local sustainable agriculture. In New Haven, the same city in Connecticut that Common Ground calls home, a nonprofit called New Haven Farms has set its sights on creating a new urban community farm that aims to feed 250 people in the surrounding area. Additionally, other nonprofits and farming organizations like the NOFA state chapters have implemented programs to help teach and train a new generation of farmers.

If you are interested in starting a sustainable farm and want to learn more about taking the first steps, join CT NOFA and a group of other established and prospective farmers this Saturday at the Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference in Rockfall, CT. Come and learn about the topics that are most integral to starting your farm - land access, leasing, marketing, and more. To learn more about the conference and to register, check out our website. Working together, we can change the culture of farming in our state and in our country.

Have a great day!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Climate Negotiators Start Talking about Agriculture

Climate scientists, climate activists, farmers, agricultural scientists, and sustainable food advocates around the world have tried to highlight the close, and alarming, relationship between climate change and agriculture.  Current industrial agricultural methods contribute heavily to green house gas emissions (more than the entire transportation sector) while floods in Vermont, droughts in the south, wildfires in Texas, tornadoes in Mississippi and northern California, have shown that agriculture is threatened by more frequent extreme weather.  

This post, Agriculture and Climate Change, Revisted in the New York Times Green Blog by Justin Gillis, is a nice overview of the complexities related to how climate change is interrelated with global agricultural production.  Especially this quotation from Dr. Molly Jahn, a plant breeder at the University of Wisconsin: “Agriculture needs to be front and center, as an activity on which our lives very literally depend.”

This led me to a report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change titled "Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change" which is definitely worth a read oiver, it's only 20 pages.  Here are two images that struck me the most (the first is on page 5 of the publication and the other is on page 6).
This map shows the areas that will gain in agricultural production by 2080 (in green) and those that will lose agricultural production (in red), notice what countries are in red (almost all developing countries).

 Now check out this image considering the green house gases emitted to produce food in different countries and how that food is used.

There are lots of solutions proposed to address these issues, mainly that we need more farms and more farmers in more places using sustainable methods.
Also it looks like America's beloved corn crops are going to be heavily affected by climate change, should we try planting something else? Maybe something that's a little bit more edible and healthy?

Just some more food for thought!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The 30th National Pesticide Forum Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments

Yale University, New Haven, CT
School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
March 30-31, 2012
The 30th National Pesticide Forum, Healthy Communities: Green solutions for safe environments, will be held March 30-31, 2012 (Friday evening and all day Saturday) at Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The conference will focus on organic landcare, urban/ suburban pesticide use, organic food, and protective national, state, and local policies.
Registration: Register online.
Student: $15
Grassroots activist/member: $35

Non-member: $75
Business: $175 

Just added speaker:
David Hackenberg is the beekeeper who first discovered the disappearance of honeybees known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Mr. Hackenberg believes that pesticides contribute to CCD and that honeybees are a barometer of the environment. He is featured in the film Vanishing of the Bees and various media reports, including this 60 Minutes segment. David is a past president of the American Beekeeping Federation, and currently serves as co-chair of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board.
Other speakers include, Nancy Alderman, President of Environment and Human Health, Inc, Gary Hirshburg, co-founder of Stoneyfield Farm and a number of other environmental leaders in the pesticide action field.  See the speaker list here!

Convenors and co-sponsors
The conference is convened by Beyond Pesticides, Environment and Human Health, Inc., and the Watershed Partnership, Inc., and co-sponsored by Audubon Connecticut, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Connecticut Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), Grassroots Environmental Education, Green Decade/Newton, GreenCape, NOFA Massachusetts Chapter, Northern New Jersey Safe Yards Alliance, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut, Safelawns.org, Sierra Club-Connecticut Chapter, and Toxics Action Center.

Sessions will be held in the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies' Kroon Hall. It is a truly sustainable building: a showcase of the latest developments in green building technology, a healthy and supportive environment for work and study, and a beautiful building that actively connects students, faculty, staff, and visitors with the natural world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Another Reason to Avoid GMOs: Bt Toxin Superpests

This is hardly breaking news, but worth remembering when deciding if you want to eat food processed with Bt corn or soy.  At the end of last year, both Grist and GM Freeze wrote articles about insects developing resistance to genetically modified Bt crops.  The following is an excerpt from GM Freeze:
Corn Rootworm

Scientists have confirmed five incidents of insects evolving resistance to Bt toxins in the field to date: Bt cotton in India (2010) and US (2008), moth pests in maize in Puerto Rico (2007) and South Africa (2007) and a beetle pest in maize in the US (2011).

Reasons for resistance developing are:
  • Failure to provide adequate non-GM refuges in GM crops to ensure non-resistant adult insects can survive to breed with resistant ones so that the resistance gene does not become dominant. Refuges are required by US laws that are widely flouted.
  • Levels of Bt toxin in the crops too low to deliver lethal doses to pests. Sub-lethal doses mean resistance can develop as pests survive, mate and pass on the resistance gene. If the number of resistant individuals is high they can multiply quite rapidly and become dominant.
This failure of Bt crops goes hand in hand with a separate superweed problem affecting Monsanto's Roundup Ready line of herbicide resistant crops. The moral of this story: genetic tinkering has a host of unintended consequences, some of which you can plan for (as in the case of non-GM refuges, which demonstrates another issue of whether or not companies will comply with knowledge-based regulations) and some of which you can't.  Since the yields of these crops are the same or worse than the organic alternative, why not just skip the GMOs altogether?

If you would like to know what's in your food, join our GMO Activist Project and add your voice to the public outcry to label genetically modified foods.  Check out our GMO resource page and take action at Just Label It.  If you want to learn more about the dangers of GMOs, register for our Winter Conference with keynote Jeffrey Smith, the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of genetically modified organisms.

Have a great rest of your week!

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 31: A Citizen's Assembly of Support for Family Farmers vs. Monsanto

When: Tuesday, January 31, 2011 @ 9:00 am
Where: Southern District Court, New York City
Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse
500 Pearl St.
New York, NY 10007-1312
Here is a message from the lead plaintiffs in the Organic Seed Growers and Traders Association et. al v. Monsanto court case:

We wish to assemble free and peaceful citizens outside the Manhattan District court in an effort to present the important message to family farmers that millions of Americans stand behind them as they seek their day in court. In the past two decades, Monsanto’s seed monopoly has grown so powerful that they control the genetics of nearly 90% of five major commodity crops including corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. This has resulted in onerous costs to farmers through high technology patent fees for seeds as well as burdensome litigation costs in defending themselves against lawsuits asserted by Monsanto.
In many cases organic and conventional farmers are forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and April 2010, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents and/or breach of its license to those patents, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.
The lawsuit OSGATA (Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association) et al vs. Monsanto was filed on behalf of 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers and citizens to seek judicial relief in "protect[ing] themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic (GMO) seed". The judge has requested and agreed to hear oral argument in orders to make a decision of whether or not to allow the farmers’ case to move forward in the courts after Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. We are encouraging supporters of farmers’ rights to grow food without fear and intimidation to assemble outside the courtroom in a peaceful manner to support the farmers in their claims, recognizing that these injustices affect us all and that this case is deserving of the court’s time and attention.
Due to limited space, only a small number of individuals will be able to enter the courtroom and listen to the proceedings. We respectfully ask that farmers and plaintiffs in the case be given priority to hear this case in person as each plaintiff has traveled many miles and put a great deal on the line to be a part of this case.
In the spirit of peaceful assembly and respect for the courts, we request that you adhere to the following principles:

Principles for Citizens' Assembly
1.     Assemble outside the court in a show of support for family farmers and their right to grow food without the threat of intimidation, harassment or loss of income.
2.     Assemble peacefully to present a positive message that America’s citizens stand behind family farmers and support their rights of legal protection under the Constitution.
3.     Bring signs that portray messages of:
a.     Hope
b.     The positive impacts of sustainable and organic agriculture
c.     Solutions to our current crisis in food, agriculture and society
d.     Support for farmers who seek justice in the courts
4.     Be respectful of court security requests and follow them faithfully.
5.     Maintain a respectful distance from the court entry on Pearl Street, making sure not to block access for foot traffic or vehicles.
6.     Maintain a tone of respect for the court and the sanctity of our legal process as the judge hears the merits of this important case.
7.     Cell phones, cameras and tape recorders are prohibited inside the courthouse. Those who enter the courthouse must conform to court security protocols.
8.     No signs, t-shirts with slogans or other disruptions, visual or otherwise, are appropriate or allowed in the courtroom.
9.     No chanting or loud noises allowed outside the courthouse as all must maintain their conduct in ways that are respectful to the judicial process and in accordance with the seriousness of the case.
10.  Please follow the instructions of designated assembly captains who will continue to update you as the events of the day unfold.
As advocates for farmers and supporters of a citizen-based democracy we greatly appreciate your support for family farmers and your agreement to act in accordance with these principles in order to guarantee farmers' rights to grow food without fear and intimidation.

Location to Hear Plaintiffs and Attorney Comment After Hearing
Once oral arguments are heard in the court, farmers, plaintiffs and lead attorney Dan Ravicher of the Public Patent Foundation will be available for comments to supporters and the media, at the Southwest Corner on 500 Pearl Street, at Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
For those planning on assembling at 9 am, Pearl Street has been recommended to gather respectfully and overflow can gather at Foley Square.
If link does not work, Google: 45 Cardinal Hayes Place, New York, NY for location of assembly, which is the intersection of Pearl Street and Cardinal Hayes Place.
Click here to RSVP to attend the Citizen's Assembly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The CT NOFA Winter Conference Welcomes Families, Farmers and Foodies!

The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA) welcomes all to the 30th Annual Winter Conference on March 3 to discuss the future of sustainable farming and celebrate local food.  Geared not only toward farmers, but also gardeners, locavores, homesteaders and anyone interested in a sustainable lifestyle, the conference features workshops, internationally-celebrated speakers, and the renowned potluck.  Geared not only toward farmers, but also gardeners, locavores, homesteaders and anyone interested in a sustainable lifestyle, the conference features workshops, internationally-celebrated speakers, and the renowned potluck.

The 2012 Winter Conference’s keynote speaker is Jeffrey Smith, noted author and speaker on genetically modified organisms (GMOs). He is the author of Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette, and will share insights on the real threats that GMOs pose to local food production as well as to consumers’ health.  A second workshop on GMOs will be hosted by Daniel Ravicher, legal counsel representing CT NOFA and 80 other plaintiffs against Monsanto to legally protect small farms and farmers.

All workshops are taught by regional professionals bringing expertise from the farm, kitchen, government, or non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable lifestyle. Specific growing workshops include production of fruit, garlic, honey, nuts, and mushrooms. Classes on pollination, nitrogen management and soil microbiology are among those that will provide more technical instruction. Sustainable home-life classes include seminars on root cellars, food storage, cooking, household products as well as well as how to make healthy choices in cosmetics. For activists and organizers the conference offers workshops in climate change, starting food co-ops, and establishing a winter farmers’ markets.

The Winter Conference is a celebration of local foods and farms.  In keeping with this theme, attendees are encouraged to bring a favorite food dish for the potluck feast.  Local, organic vendors including Sweet Sage Bakery of Madison, CT and Bean & Leaf of New London, will be selling delicious, sustainable treats.  Children are welcome to spend time in the Family Play ‘n’ Chill room.

The CT NOFA 30th Annual Winter Conference will be held at Manchester Community College, on Great Path Rd in Manchester, CT on Mach 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Registration is $50 for NOFA members, $60 for non-members ($35 for students or seniors).  There is a $5 discount for early registration (before  February 18th) and an additional $10 discount for those interested in volunteering.  For more information and registration online, visit www.ctnofa.org, or call the office at 203-888-5146.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Can you have fair, green, affordable, and healthy food all at once?

What do you think?  The folks at Slow Food USA are vehemently divided on the subject.  Last August, after electing a new president, Slow Food started the "$5 Challenge", a pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal for under $5 per person as an alternative to a fast food value meal.  This marks a change in direction for Slow Food, as they were originally an organization that believed consumers should be willing to pay more for their food.  Proponents of this new outlook believe that the old way of doing things preached too much to the choir, and was often elitist, classist, and exclusionary.  Critics, however, argue that competing financially with fast food companies and big agribusiness is nothing more than a race to the bottom - an unsustainable effort that sacrifices the livelihoods of small scale farmers and food producers.  Personally, I can see both sides of the debate.  Not everyone can afford to pay more for the organic items sold in stores, but it's also dangerous to apply fast food economics to slow food situations.

However, you don't necessarily have to pay a lot more for healthy organic food.  Offset packaging and transportation costs by buying goods from your local farmer's market or CSA program.  Visit a farm and pick your own.  Or start a garden, either in your yard if you have one, or in containers if you don't.  You'll be supporting the local food movement, helping the environment, being kind to your wallet, and doing your health a favor.  Check out our Winter Food Project webpage and CT Farms and Food webpage to learn more about farms, markets, and CSA programs in your area all year round.

Read a Chow article here to learn more about the Slow Food debate and let us know what you think either here or on Facebook!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

One Great Reason to go Organic: GMOs

Right now the only way to know for sure if the food you're eating is GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) free is to buy organic.  Organic produce is prohibited from containing any genetically modified material, and organic livestock may not be given any genetically modified feed.  Maria Rodale, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc., posted an article yesterday on the Huffington Post that describes the dangers of GMOs and the resulting need for product labeling.  Maria sites three studies listed in her article and summarizes them concisely: "One reports that GMOs survive in our bodies -- they aren't killed in the stomach, as some have suggested, but travel to the intestine where they remain active in the body. Another study reports that we are exposed to these GMOs, not only from the GMO foods themselves, but also from eating animals that eat GMO foods. And finally, animal studies reveal that these GMOs may be linked to disease.

So I say, Just Label It!"

The Just Label It campaign calls for mandatory labeling of GMO ingredients. The NOFA Interstate Council, NOFA RI, NOFA-VT, NOFA-NY and CT NOFA have joined the Campaign and are also plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Monsanto to protect organic producers from the ramifications of GMO contamination.  As part of our GMO Activist Program, we are building a list of members interested in anti-GMO activism who can help send letters to the FDA or locally organize to advocate for state labeling regulation in which Rep. Roy and the Ledgelight Health District have led the way. Please e-mail Kristiane if you'd like to be added to the list as we coordinate more GMO activism activities.

Check out our webpage to learn more about what you can do to ensure that you know what's in your food.

Have a great week!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Did You Know about CT NOFA's Support for Beginning Farmers?

Below is a press release about CT NOFA's work supporting beginning farmers. If you are a beginning farmer, or know one, let them know about our programs and that we're planning six beginning farmer workshops and offering scholarships to the CT NOFA Winter Conference!
From Grassroots International's Flickr:

Contact: Kristiane Huber
January 2, 2012

To replace the estimated half of American farmers expected to retire in the next decade, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has called for 100,000 new farmers. In Connecticut, where the average age of our food producers is 57, while the demand for “Connecticut Grown” increases, it is evident that beginning farmers require support in farm planning, financing and land access. Agriculture’s $2 billion contribution to the state’s economy as well as the value of local, sustainable foods means that Connecticut needs to attract new farmers to the state. The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA) seeks to support beginning farmers with a variety of programs supporting organic, women, young and beginning farmers.

CT NOFA’s Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference will be held in Rockfall, CT on Saturday, January 28, 2012. The conference features speakers with farming, business and organizing expertise who will discuss organic certification, green house planting, marketing, land access, and specific organic growing methods. Confirmed speakers include Dina Brewster from the Hickories in Ridgefield, Bryan O'Hara from Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, and Shannon Raider from Common Ground Farm in New Haven. The conference aims to help provide new and transitioning organic farmers with the tools and the expertise necessary to be successful. To register, visit www.ctnofa.org and click on Getting Started in Organic Farming.

Seventeen women enrolled in the third year of CT NOFA and Holistic Management International's Beginning Women Farmer Program and have already attended three seminars to learn whole farm management practices. This program will move outdoors in the spring to on-farm workshops and tours.

The Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and New Hampshire NOFA chapters, as well as the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), have received a grant from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program to fund the regional Beginning Farmer Program, "Cultivating the Next Crop of Northeast Organic Farmers from Apprenticeship to Independence". The goal of the collaborative project is to help each organization boost their Beginning Farmer outreach through educational programs, networking opportunities and overall support to aspiring and beginning farmers and to experienced farmers who help to train them in the art and science of agriculture.

Each state is expected to organize and provide six beginning farmer workshops in 2012, a beginning farmer workshop track at their chapter's Winter Conference and an online service to match apprentices with farm-hosts and mentors. The grant also enables CT NOFA to offer scholarships to beginning farmers attending the Winter Conference. Interested farmers with ten years of experience or less are encouraged to visit www.ctnofa.org for more information.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Come Visit us at our Upcoming Events!

This year marks our 30th anniversary, so to make this year our best one yet we are hosting or tabling at a vast array of events over the next several months.  This means you will have even more opportunities to come visit us and learn more about organic agriculture, land care, and sustainable living.  Check out the following list of events for farmers, land care professionals, and consumers, and click on many of the titles to learn more information.

If you are thinking about becoming an organic farmer, register today for this conference:

2012 Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference
Saturday, January 28
CT Forest and Park Association
Rockfall, CT

If you are an Accredited Professional, come check out these conferences, courses and workshops:

NY Turf and Landscape Conference 

January 11, 2012
White Plains, NY

RI Nursery and Landscape Annual Winter Meeting 
January 24-25, 2012
Warwick, RI

CT Groundskeepers Association 2012 Turf Conference
January 24, 2012
Cromwell, CT

New England Grows
February 1-3, 2012
Boston, MA

11th Annual Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care
New Haven, CT
February 15-17, and 21-22, 2012
(Snow Date: February 23, 2012)

Charlestown, RI
February 27-29, March 1-2, 2012
(Snow Date; March 5)
Ecological Landscaping Association - 18th Annual Conference and Marketplace
March 7-8, 2012
Springfield, MA

Organic Apple Growing OLC Advanced Workshop with Michael Phillips
March 9, 2012
Location and time TBA

And if you're a farmer, Accredited professional, or consumer, these events are open to all:

30th Annual CT NOFA Winter Conference
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Manchester Community College
Manchester, CT

How to Plan For a Bountiful Vegetable Garden 
Saturday, February 18, 2012
Common Ground High School
10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Starting Seedlings Workshop 
March 10, 2012
Common Ground High School

Soils and Compost Workshop 
March 11, 2012
Common Ground High School

Organic Gardening Workshop 
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Common Ground High School
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wal-mart's threat to the food system

The Atlantic
"Eaters beware: Walmart is taking over our food system" by Stacey Mitchell, on Grist.com brought to light the power of Wal-Mart in the American food system.  I knew Wal-mart was becoming a considerable force in conventional and organic markets, but had not realized their pervasiveness in our food system, and how rapidly their presence has grown.

I won't ruin the article for you (you should read it), but here are some interesting facts I learned:
  • The first Walmart supercenter (store with an included grocery store) opened in 1989
  • By 1998 there were 441 supercenters
  • From 1998 - 2012 that number has grown to over 3,000 super-centers
  • Wal-Mart is targeting New York, Chicago and Washington DC for expansion
  • This has set off a chain of mergers and purchases so food companies can grow to a large enough size to do business with Wal-Mart
Also this little statistic is some real food for thought: Walmart has also been linked to rising obesity. "An additional supercenter per 100,000 residents increases ... the obesity rate by 2.3 percentage points," a recent study concluded. "These results imply that the proliferation of Walmart supercenters explains 10.5 percent of the rise in obesity since the late 1980s."

This is a great reminder that there are many elements to the sustainable food debate - we aren't just looking for local and organic, we are looking for decentralization and where it is possible, completely removing the "food provider" middle-man part of the food supply chain that insures farmers are underpaid while customers over pay. 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How Much Did you Eat This Holiday Season?

Maybe it was more than you think.  According to NPR's food blog, The Salt, the average American ate nearly one ton of food last year, much of it as cheese, sweets, potatoes, and corn.  The data, compiled by the US Department of Agriculture, estimates that, per person annually, we consume on average a whopping 630 pounds of dairy (including 31 pounds of cheese), 141 pounds of sweeteners, and 185 pounds of meat.  The 273 pounds of fruit and 415 pounds of vegetables may seem to make up for all that, but unfortunately most of the fruit figure is water weight and a large portion of the vegetables are comprised of corn and potatoes, two of the least healthy vegetables out there.  All of this accounts for a grand total of 2700 calories per person per day on average, quite a bit more than we need.  Of course, you might be well below that number, but these averages speak to a very clear consumption problem in the United States and a heavy reliance on subsidized and processed foods. 

This winter, skip the prepackaged and processed foods and buy a bag of produce from your local winter farmers market.  It will taste delicious, will be easier on your budget than you think, and will help your local economy, the environment, and your health.  Check out our Winter Food Project webpage for details.

Wishing you a healthy and sustainable new year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Not All Organic Farms are Created Equal

We generally think of organic and sustainable as going hand in hand, but in the produce department this isn't always the case.  The New York Times featured a front page article on the 30th questioning the sustainability of many organic produce farms, focusing mainly on those farms in Baja, Mexico that are technically organic, but don't often match up with what we would typically consider environmental sustainability.  Organic tomato farms on the Baja Peninsula have depleted the water table in the area to the point where local subsistence farmers can't grow food because their wells are dry.  Additionally, tomatoes produced in this region overwhelmingly serve the United States market, meaning that they are shipped long distances at fossil fuel costs rivaling those of conventional farms.

How should we as consumers respond to this?  Buy local!  If you live in a cold winter climate, reduce your intake of warm-weather produce in an effort to eat more sustainably.  If the northern United States didn't have such a high demand for tomatoes all winter, we wouldn't be so reliant on imports.  Eating local winter food can be just as delicious and satisfying as eating imported hot-weather foods, and is also better for the environment and your local economy.

If you want to eat local this winter but aren't sure how to get started, check out our Winter Food Project webpage for recipes, winter CSA programs, and winter farmers markets in Connecticut.

Watch the New York Times video about sustainability here.

Happy New Year!