Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tractor Repair and Maintenance Workshop

Thursday, June 28th Tractor Repair and Maintenance Workshop at 4 to 7 pm! Our workshop will be at Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury. Farmers with ten years of farming experience or fewer are welcome to come for free - just register using this form

This workshop will be led by Edward Belinsky and David Blyn.  The workshop will be an intro to tractor repair with a focus on preventable maintenance. This includes fluid checks, oil changes, basic hydraulics, and routine pre operational checks.  David Blyn will also have pointers on purchasing used tractors. The workshop is $25 for members and $35 for non-members.  Online registration is now closed, but call the office to register at 203-888-5146.
Here is a little bit of background on our workshop leaders:

David Blyn is the founder of Riverbank Farm, and currently runs the farm with his wife, Laura. Riverbank is an organic vegetable farm which David has been caring for full time since 1991. He also has a lot of knowledge when it comes to old cultivating equipment and farm machinery which he has gained over his many years of personal experience. Our other workshop leader is Edward Belinsky, who teaches Agri-Science at Nonnewaug High School.  Ed, is also an advisor for the Woodbury FFA which he joined in 1998.
This workshop should be very helpful and a lot of fun, enjoy! You can visit the event page by clicking here

Picture source:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thanks to all who came to our Block Party!

CT NOFA's Block Party on Saturday was so much fun for us, and we hope (and are reasonably sure) it was fun for all of you who came (and for those of you who didn't come - we have more coming up this summer!)
CT NOFA's president, Bettylou helps move the sheep before the event
A few of CT NOFA's Board members enjoy the evening in the foreground.
The Hickories looked beautiful and it was the perfect summer evening for our party.  Dina lead an informative and entertaining tour of her farm and answered all of the attendees questions about her farm.  We enjoyed talking to attendees about the momentum and excitement building behind Connecticut's sustainable food movement.
Dinner from the Taco Pacifico Truck was shared over hay bales.

We loved this beautiful little herb garden of Dina's.
The tacos were delicious!

Block Party on the Farm!
Cupcakes anyone?

Dinner from Taco Pacifico!

Taco Pacifico served delicious Mexican food, smokey beer, courtesy of Southport Brewing Company and organic wines donated by Cellar XV.  Not a cupcake remained by the end of the night, due to their tempting flavors and  sweet presentation by The Cake Box.  Bill Duesing closed the evening with remarks about CT NOFA being 30 years strong, and the need to create 1000 more farms like the Hickories in order for Connecticut to feed itself and provide food security for its citizens in the future.

A special thanks to our headlining sponsors:
 Our regular sponsors:
 Hines & Associates ~ Landscape Architecture

And to businesses that donated food and drink!

Join us for our next Block Parties!
Saturday, July 14, 2012
Ledyard, CT 

Saturday, September 15, 2012 
New Britain, CT

I hope to see you at one of our upcoming Block Parties!

Friday, June 22, 2012

NOFA Organic Land Care partners with Three Rivers Community College

The Organic Land Care Program is excited to announce a partnership with Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Connecticut.  Three Rivers offers a certificate in Sustainable Landscape Ecology and Conservation which is training students in practical skills for the field while teaching valuable principles of sustainablity and organics with a broad application.  
Below is a photo of the Program Coordinator of the certificate program, Diba Khan-Bureau with one of her students, Jorge Rodriguez a student of the environmental engineering program and nursing program.  The work at TRCC is so exciting for us at NOFA.  
NOFA Organic Land Care's Program Director, Jenna Messier, asked Jorge about his participation in the certificate program, and he explained that "we are damaging the environment every day, why not work to fix the environment?"
Our thoughts exactly! This is why the regional Accreditation Course in Organic Land Care will be held at Three Rivers Community College in winter 2013, and students that go through the full certificate program and satisfy our accreditation requirements will become accredited organic land care professionals.  We are looking forward to seeing how this new partnership works out, and we hope it will be a replicable model for as many community colleges that have matching missions to ours.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Announcing the NOFA Summer Conference Workshop Tracks

Attention farmers, gardeners and landscapers!

The NOFA Summer Conference on August 10-12 features a host of workshop tracks to suit your needs!  If you are in need of valuable information about getting started in farming, operating a CSA program, earning AOLCP credits, and more, this conference has it all!  Here are some of the tracks that will be offered at the conference:
  • Beginning Farmer Track: This track highlights a range of technical and farm-planning topics of particular interest to farmers with fewer than ten years of independent farming experience. Don't forget, if you've been farming for less than ten years, you may qualify for a scholarship to attend the conference.  You can fill out a scholarship application form online here. Please submit by July 2 in order to have your application reviewed and granted in time for you to register early.
  • Nutrient Density Track: Presenting principles of biological farming aimed at improving crop nutritional quality for a variety of scales and applications. Own own Connecticut farmer, Bryam O'Hara from Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, CT will be teaching a workshop in this track.
  • Organic Land Care Track: Attending these workshops qualifies participants for credits in the NOFA Organic Land Care Program. Other AOLCP credit opportunities can be found on our website.
  • Permaculture Track: Presenting permaculture approaches to organic agriculture and ecological design.
View a full list of tracks by visiting the Summer Conference website.  You can also register for the conference here.  For a list of registration fees, click here.  We can't wait to see you at the conference!

Happy Solstice!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Last Chance to Register for CT NOFAs First Block Party on the Farm

Meet Dina and tour the farm!

It's not too late to register for CT NOFA's Block Party on the Farm at The Hickories!   

June 23, 2012  6pm-9pm
The Hickories

The Block Party is in celebration of CT NOFA's first thirty years of advocacy for local farms and kicking off our next thirty years in support of Connecticut agriculture. Online registration has closed, but you can still sign up by calling us at 203.888.5146 through Thursday.  Come relax on a summer's evening with friends and neighbors while enjoying delicious food, wine, and beer!

Give tickets as a gift for a friend and
you'll be giving a gift to CT NOFA as well!

Join us for:
  • A Wine Tasting by Cellar XV 
  • Beer samples from Southport Brewing Company 
  • Dinner from the Taco Pacifico Truck
  • Dessert from The Cake Box 
  • Organic tea from Steaz 
  • Music by Jon Baurfeld Music 
  • A farm tour of The Hickories led by Connecticut farmer, Dina Brewster 
  • A talk about sustainable food production and the future of Connecticut local agriculture from Bill Duesing, our Executive Director, long-time local food activist, and farmer.
  • A summer celebration on the farm with new and old friends, music and good food. 

We hope to see you there! Call 203-888-5146 to buy tickets ($40 each).  

Friday, June 15, 2012

Deb Legge's Homestead

Today we have a Guest Blog Post from the Organic Land Care Program's Director, Jenna Messier!
“Deb Legge’s Homestead” interviewed by Jenna Messier
You may imagine that the CT NOFA staff members each have beautiful, exemplary gardens at their homes.  In the case of CT NOFA office manager, Deb Legge -this is true!  Deb has a unique and charming homestead in Wallingford which all neighbors and visitors admire.  She lives in an old farmhouse on .5 acres of land, and she has craftily utilized her space to create a mini-farm with chickens, a greenhouse, a lovely screened-in patio and flowers spanning seasons.
I thought I would interview Deb, to find out how she has created this suburban paradise, so our readers will know what is possible.

Jenna:  When did you start your garden?
Deb: I moved into my house in October 1993 and brought about 50 pots of plants with me from the house I'd been renting. I left them under a snow bank for the winter and started the first garden the following spring. There had been a vegetable garden there and some mint scattered around, so I cleaned it all up and just started planting.
Jenna: Did this design evolve, or did you always know the type of garden you were envisioning?
Deb: It's definitely evolved over time as I've taken more of the lawn out and trees have come and gone. There's just enough lawn left now to walk on and play an occasional game of bocce during a family get together.  I've always liked jumbly cottage-style gardens, so you'll find herbs in the flower beds and a stray tomato plant out by the compost bins.
Jenna:  What edibles are you growing and how many seasons are you in food production?
Deb:  With the little unheated greenhouse, I have fresh produce most of the year. Last winter was pretty mild and there was lettuce, chard and mache in there. If you plan in late summer to have things started before it gets cold, they'll start growing again as soon as the days get noticeably longer in late January/early February.
For perennial edibles, I have several kinds of raspberries, blackberries, red and black clove currants, grapes, figs, rhubarb, asparagus, Egyptian onions, horseradish, Jerusalem artichokes. For the past couple years I've been adding some small tree and shrub fruits and nuts.  Two years ago I added 9 smallish hazelnuts and just this year put in a couple each of beach plums, Nanking cherries, western sand cherries and elderberries.
For the rest of the edibles, many of the usual like tomatoes, cukes, lots of greens, peas, beans, peppers. Except for the peppers, I either direct seed or start everything in the greenhouse.
Jenna: Did you have any problems with the town or your neighbors when you decide to have chickens?
Deb: My neighbors have been just fine. There are other chickens in the area, and no one seems to mind. At the risk of outing myself, I didn't even check with the town and couldn't find any information about whether there are even any ordinances for or against keeping a few hens.
Jenna: How many hours per week are you spending in your garden on maintenance?
Deb: The question that's always hardest to answer! I guess a lot in the spring, especially for a new project or renovation, but once everything is in and planted, probably just a few hours a week.  But it's my form of exercise, sanity-keeping and much of our food, so I don't even think of the time involved, except that I wish I could spend more time there!
Jenna:  Would you share an estimate of what you spend per year on your mini-farm, to cover the costs of chicken food, potting soil, plants etc.?
Deb: For the three hens, I only need to buy layer feed (organic, of course!) every few months, as they love to eat a huge variety of weeds and kitchen scraps, so maybe $10 a month for them.  As to the rest, I buy very few imports and not many plants any more.  I make compost, buy an occasional batch of mulch and lots of seeds, but still spend less than a few hundred dollars a year. Good potting soil is probably my biggest expense, and I get that once a year through the NOFA bulk order.
Jenna:  Do you have any suggestions for the aspiring gardener who wishes to have their own garden paradise on a small lot under an acre?
Deb: Start small! Even in the smallest yard you can grow a little something. And make friends with a more experienced gardener. I've never met a gardener not willing to share time, plants and experience with someone willing to ask and spent some time with them.
Thanks for sharing with us, Deb!  And Friends, keep working your soil and tending your garden dreams!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

DEADLINE TOMORROW: Sign up to Support Key Amendments to the Farm Bill

The Senate Food and Farm Bill Needs Your Help!

Please call your Senators - It's easy! The Food and Farm Bill is on the floor of the US Senate and your action is needed to make it better! Right now they are lining up support for amendments that are sorely needed in this bill. Please take action!

Please call your Senators and tell them what you want. If you are with an organization, please make calls and also sign on to letters.

Phone Calls: Just dial the Senate switchboard: (202) 224-3121 Ask to be connected with one Senator from your state, and then call back and ask to speak with the other Senator. Once connected, introduce yourself and ask to speak with the agriculture staffer. Tell that staffer (or leave a message) what you support or opposes from the amendments, or other key points.

Key Senate Farm Bill Amendments:
Pick your issues and make the call! SUPPORT:

  • Brown- (SA 2362) The amendment includes important programs to farmers and local food infrastructure, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer programs, including: Value-Added Producer Grants, Rural Microentrepeneur Assistance Program, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (Section 2501)
  • Tester (SA 2234)- This amendment will set aside 5% of annual funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for public cultivar and breed development.
  • Grassley-Conrad (SA 2170) - This amendment will make it unlawful for a meatpacker to own, feed or control livestock intended for slaughter for more than 14 days before slaughter. This will reduce vertical integration of the livestock market and help independent and family growers compete.
  • Merkley-Feinstein-Sanders-Kerry (SA 2382) - This amendment will address barriers to make crop insurance more accessible to organic farmers.
  • Durbin-Coburn (SA2186) - reduces the federal premium support for farmers with Adjusted Gross Income of more than $750,000.
  • Cardin -(SA2219) This amendment would ensure that farmers receiving taxpayer-subsidized premium subsidies for crop insurance do not drain wetlands or farm erosion-prone soil without conservation measures (eligibility only for the crop insurance federal premium subsidy and it only applies to highly erodible land.)
  • Gillibrand (SA 2156) - This amendment restores the $4.49 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (Cuts made in the Committee Bill that is going to the Senate floor) The SNAP funding would be paid for by a cut to the amount the federal government pays to insurance companies to provide crop insurance to farmers. Gillibrand’s amendment will also provide an additional $500 million over 10 years to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). This program provides fresh produce snacks to schoolchildren. The bill also grants authority to USDA to make bonus purchases for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has submitted an amendment that would eliminate the fresh-only requirement in the FFVP by expanding this program to include frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Sanders-Leahy (SA 2386)- Enables schools to purchase from local and regional producers.
  • Udall (NM) (SA 2417)– Disadvantaged Producer Training – This amendment would restore funding for the Outreach and Assistance Program for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Rancher (also known as the 2501 Program).
  • Harkin (SA 2239) – Beginning Producer Training – This amendment would increase funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.
  • Harkin-Casey (SA 2245) – Microloans to Beginning and Veteran Producers – This amendment would allow FSA to make smaller "microloans" of up to $35,000, tailored to meet the needs of small, young, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers, streamline the application process, and provide discretionary authority to FSA to establish intermediary lender pilot projects. This amendment would also give FSA discretionary authority to establish a new pilot program to support micro-credit programs administered by non-governmental or community-based organizations.

Please call your senators or sign on to the letter by tomorrow to give these amendments a chance in the Senate!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Recipe Finder with Built-In Price Estimator and Nutrition Facts

The SNAP-Ed Connection recently released a new resource that anyone can use to find healthy, affordable recipes, regardless of whether or not they are using the SNAP Program. The new Build a Cookbook feature added to the SNAP-Ed Connection Recipe Finder allows users to create a personalized cookbook from any of the nearly 600 low cost, healthy recipes in the Recipe Finder. You can also choose one of the fixed cookbook options that use pre-selected recipes from categories such as children’s favorites, older adults, or fruit and veggie recipes.

All recipes are nutritious and budget friendly, include cost and nutrition information, and are available in English and Spanish. Users can search for recipes by ingredient, recipe name, menu item and cost, as well as a variety of other search options including audience, cooking equipment required, and nutrition education topic. You can also rate each recipe and view ratings from others.

This is a great resource if you've ever found yourself wanting to cook something but are concerned about what the total cost will be.  If you are cooking for a larger group, cost can be especially important, so this is a good way to estimate your total cost ahead of time and budget accordingly.  This is also a good search engine if you want to see the nutrition facts of what you're cooking.  What a convenient way to keep track of what is in your food!

And if you want to save your recipes in a cookbook, you can enter a cookbook title, choose a cover design, and personalize it with your name and/or organization. Completed cookbooks will be available as a PDF file for viewing and printing. Get started building your new cookbook today at Recipe Finder!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Make the Most of Marketing Your Farm

Cranberry Hill Farm at the market
We started our Beginning Women Farmers Program in an effort to educate and connect farmers who are just starting out so that they can be successful selling the products they offer.  At the Beginning Women Farmer Conference on March 22-23 in Amherst, MA, beginning and established farmers alike came from all over to hear experts in the field speak about how to successfully run a farming operation.  One of our past member farmers, Sherry Simpson of Cranberry Hill Farm, shared her marketing expertise in a recent article by one of our Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals, Sanne Kure-Jensen.  Sherry's advice makes marketing a farm or related business much less overwhelming.  Here are some key points to get started:
[Sherry's] three-step approach was simple, inexpensive and successful: Tell your story, Create a logo and Accessorize. Everything the consumer experiences, from the way your phone is answered, your business card, Farmers’ Market display or website, to a story in the paper is part of your business marketing. Make sure the message says what you want it to say.
Tell Your Story
“You are Local!” said Simpson. Be sure you remind customers and sell your farm and farm family. Tell what you grow and how; explain why are you a farmer and when you started farming. Assume that your customers are not home gardeners and will need details.

Create a Logo
Design a logo and use it on everything. Make it simple and clear. To improve your credibility, use every appropriate partner logo on your brochures, fliers, website and Facebook page. Include your state department of agriculture logo, Harvest New England and Slow Food USA. If you are a member of NOFA, a Chamber of Commerce or other associations, include their logo as well. Be sure to request permission from the organization and have them send you a high resolution image rather than just pulling it from their websites.

Create business cards, product signs, tri-fold brochures, rack cards and signs. Each spring, or for special events, print and mail post cards. Place your Farmers’ Market or Farm Stand hours in the free calendar listings in your local newspaper, Patch and other online calendars. Check with your local or state Visitors’ Bureau, tourism office or Chamber of Commerce to investigate their listing options. Establish a presence on the internet. Take advantage of all the free listings you can: your state’s department of agriculture and any member associations you belong to like a livestock association or Chamber of Commerce.
And that's only a small taste of the wealth of knowledge Sherry offers in her article.  We are always trying to get the word out about tips to help farmers be successful, so if you have any information you think other farmers would like to know about, send us an email and we'll review it to post on the blog!

Best of luck with your marketing!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Our first Block Party is less than two weeks away!

June 23, 2012
The Hickories

Ridgefield, CT


CT NOFA is turning 30 this year! Join us in a kickoff to celebrate the next 30 years of great food, fun, and community! We will be holding several parties throughout the summer, with our first to be held at The Hickories farm in Ridgefield. Farmer Dina Brewster will be your host and there will be a guided farm tour, a wine tasting by Cellar XV and very hip food truck dinner catered by Taco Pacifico.

Dessert will be provided by The Cake Box, along with local brewery samples from Southport Brewing Company. Organic teas will be supplied by Steaz. The night will include live music by Jon Bauerfeld. Our beloved Executive Director, Bill Duesing, will be there to greet and talk to all about the importance of our local community.
Dina Brewster on her farm.


Tickets for this exciting evening are $40 each. Online registration is available HERE or just call 203-888-5146 to reserve yours today. What a great way to spend a summer's evening, on the farm with friends and neighbors enjoying live music and tasty local food!


And just in case you want to have your cake and eat it too, if you volunteer with us for the event, you can get in for free! Come in and set up before and during the event to have your ticket price waived. What a deal! Volunteer space is limited, however, so contact Melissa today for details about how you can get involved.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hunger, Agriculture and Climate Change

Rio +20, a meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is June 20-22, 2012.  The original Rio Summit, in 1992 was the largest environmental summit ever held, and the topics of sustainable development and climate change were discussed seriously for the first time on a global level, and activities to address the monumental global challenges were discussed and agreed upon. You have maybe seen this video of Severn Suzuki speaking at the Rio Summit, about the diplomats' responsibility to future generations that have no voice in international politics.  She is now old enough to be having her own children and there has been almost no progress. 

Now the debate is shifting to feeding a growing population on less land in extreme and unpredictable weather.  This video made by Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) explains the limits to food production and how to address the issues of climate change, hunger, population growth and environmental limits at the same time. I promise the video isn't as somber as the post.  Check it out!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Right To Know Ballot in California

The GMO-Labeling issue is going to ballot in California! Almost one million Californians signed a petition in favor of adding the provision to the California ballot.

Get ready for the biotech and big ag industry to push back against this legislation, with "grassroots" organizations, a large media campaign and unbelievable amounts of money.  In his Mother Jones article "How California Could Force the Rest of the US to Label GMO Foods", Tom Philpott writes that "A move to labeling would likely create a robust market in non-GMO, conventional versions of those crops, giving large-scale farmers incentive to transition away from GMOs and cutting into the profits of giants like Monsanto, Syngenta, and DuPont. If a substantial percentage of them did, that would be a hard blow to the profit plans of the big agrichemical companies, whose business models are based on constant growth, not shrinkage." 

An article by Organic Consumers Associations' Alexis Baden-Mayer and Ronnie Cummins reposted from the Organic Consumers Association (read original article here):What do a former mouthpiece for tobacco and big oil, a corporate-interest PR flack, and the regional director of a Monsanto-funded tort reform group have in common? They're all part of the anti-labeling PR team that will soon unleash a massive advertising and PR campaign in California, designed to scare voters into rejecting the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act.

In November, California voters will vote 'yes' or 'no' on a law to require mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered ingredients in processed foods, and ban the routine industry practice of mislabeling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients as 'natural.' Polls show that nearly 90 percent of the state's voters plan to vote 'yes.' But when November rolls around, will voter support still be strong? Not if the biotech, agribusiness, and food manufacturers industries can help it.

It's estimated that the opposition will spend $60 - $100 million to convince voters that genetically engineered foods are perfectly safe. They'll try to scare voters into believing that labeling will make food more expensive, that it will spark hundreds of lawsuits against small farmers and small businesses, and that it will contribute to world hunger. . . .

Alexis Baden-Mayer is Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association.
Ronnie Cummins is founder and director of the Organic Consumers Association. Cummins is author of numerous articles and books, including "Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers" (Second Revised Edition Marlowe & Company 2004).
© Copyright 1997-2012 Dr. Joseph Mercola. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New York City's Big-Soda Ban

By  now you have probably heard of Mayor Michael Bloomburgs plan to amend the New York City Health Code in order to establish 16 ounces as the maximum size for sugary drinks.  This would only be for containers served for immediate consumption like restaurants or theaters. The plan has drawn a great deal of criticism, and the CT NOFA staff weren’t sure how we felt about it. 

On one hand is the argument that adults can and should make their own decisions, especially about their own food consumption (as Jon Stewart pointed out on the Daily Show).  Also, the ban does not actually stop anyone from drinking more than 16 oz of soda, they can just buy a second drink.  The main argument is that, consumers must learn about nutrition and how to make these healthy choices, instead of having someone legislate their behavior. 

On the other hand (which I'm starting to lean towards as I read more) is that portion sizes are huge in the United States, and these unlimited portion sizes are probably the greatest contributor to America's obesity epidemic.  The issue is not as much our food choices (every culture has some delicacies and foods that are unhealthy, but delicious).  Take for instance, this infographic from the Center for Disease Control:

Even people who are very careful about their consumption and aware of proper portion sizes, just don’t have the self-control to “save half their meal for later” or “share with a friend” - the recommended methods to beat big portions.  According to this column in the Huffington Post (and the infographic above), sodas are six times larger than they were 60 years ago, and Americans consume 200-300 calories more per day than 30 years ago. 

Whether the obesity epidemic is addressed with more aggressive education initiatives or legislation (preferably both), Bloomberg's impatience and desire to take immediate action is an attitude more politicians should have.  Political affiliation and personal health decisions have little to do with the truth that drinking large amounts of soda can cause weight gain, weight gain can lead to obesity, and obesity is a serious health condition.

This Report “Economic Causes and Consequences of Obesity”published in Annual Reviews in 2005 found that: “Much of the rise in energy intake is related to increased consumption of carbohydrates. In 1976–1980, adult men and women aged 20–74 years consumed daily 1039 and 700 kcal of carbohydrates, respectively. In 1999–2000, these numbers increased to 1283 and 969 kcal (10). Beverages, particularly fruit and soft drinks, are also responsible for a surprising number of calories. In 1997, the average American consumed 53 gallons of soft drinks and 17 gallons of fruit juices or drinks, a 51% and 40% increase since 1980 (55).”

A press release from Mayor Bloomberg’s office explains “Obesity is the only major public health crisis in America that is getting worse and nearly 60 percent of New York City residents are currently overweight or obese. In addition to the toll on health, the costs to the public are steep: in New York City $4 billion is spent annually on health care costs related to obesity. The Mayor’s Task Force on Obesity has proposed initiatives – including limiting the size of sugary drinks, significant contributors to the epidemic – with the goal of reducing the percent of obese adults by 10 percent and children by 15 percent over the next five years. 

The statistics for the United States as a whole are staggering. In 2007, diabetes cost the United States $174 billion in medical expenditures and reduced productivity and in 2008, obesity expenses totaled about $147 billion. By comparison, cancer (of all kinds) cost the United States $125.5 billion in 2010.

Also, as this debate plays out, keep in mind the American Beverage Association's political and economic power. As Nancy Huehnergarth points out in her column in Huffington Post, the ABA spent close to $13 million in New York in a six-month period in 2010, lobbying against a proposed penny-per-ounce statewide soda tax.  No one wants there to be large soda sizes available more than soda companies themselves.

Here's to healthy hydration!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Farm Bill Call to Action

As you know from reading the last blog post, the 2012 Farm Bill will soon be debated on by the Senate.

NOW is a crucial time to advocate for key priorities including funding to ensure rural economic development and the next generation of farmers.

As cuts to the Farm Bill are being discussed, many programs that benefit small scale farming operations and local sustainable agriculture are threatened.

Please sign this letter to ensure that the needs of our hardworking and valuable farming community are met!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Farm Subsidies and the Farm Bill

The new 2012 Farm Bill could move onto the Senate floor as early as this week, promising to shape federal agricultural policy for the next 5 years.  The bill allocates nearly a trillion dollars of funds into farm subsidies, conservation programs, and food stamp aid, with the vast majority of the funds that are directed to subsidies going into the pockets of large farms growing commodity crops.  When you think of farm subsidies, your initial reaction might be a negative one, conjuring up visions of large corporations draining taxpayer dollars into unsafe and unsustainable farming practices that hurt workers, the environment, and the health of the nation, while simultaneously diverting funds away from small growers who need the money the most.  But the thing is, farm subsidies were originally meant to help those same small farmers that are hurt by them today.  An editorial by Robert B. Semple Jr. in the New York Times explains:
The subsidies have always been controversial. A mix of direct payments, price supports, loans, subsidized insurance and disaster relief, these subsidies provided protection for millions of farmers in the New Deal and afterward against the vicissitudes of the weather and the market. But in recent years, they have mainly lined the pockets of big farmers of big row crops who don’t need help, while ignoring the little guys who do.
So the original intent of farm subsidies was to help small farmers to make a living in order to ensure that enough food was produced in any given year to adequately feed the nation.  But as a multitude of small growing operations began to merge into a few drastically larger ones, subsidies began to undermine the very goals they had been put in place to achieve.
The story of modern agriculture in this country is a story of concentration, of huge subsidies flowing to relatively few farmers who grow a handful of row crops — corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice — in a dozen or so Midwestern and Southern states. Because farm subsidies, old and new, have been tied to production, those cultivating the largest acreage get the biggest payouts. The top 20 percent of recipients from 1995 to 2010 got 90 percent of the subsidies; the bottom 80 percent just 10 percent. Many farmers — well over half the total, by some estimates — get no help at all.
It's time we made a concerted effort to promote local small scale production of the nutritious fruits and vegetables we need rather than siphoning our tax dollars into the hands of a small number of giants growing less nutritious commodities.  It's time we remembered as a nation what farm subsidies were originally put in place to do.  Please do your part to shift agriculture back to sustainability.

What You Can Do

  • Buy Local - Check out our website for listings of farms, farmers markets, and CSA programs across the state.  Support a small scale farmer near you. 
  • Grow Your Own -  Every year, we have many workshops designed for new gardeners and farmers.  Check our website often, and sign up for our eNewsletters to learn more helpful tips about growing food yourself.
  • Learn More - Check out the American Farmland Trust website for information about the farm bill and how it affects you.
  • Tell Your Friends -  No movement can exist in isolation.  Talk to those around you about the Farm Bill and what it means to them, because what happens on the Congressional floor affects all of us.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Save the date for the NOFA Summer Conference!

The NOFA Summer Conference is August 10-12 at UMass Amherst and it's time to add it to your calendar! There are two keynote speakers this year:Chellie Pingree, an organic farmer and a member of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. Congress. She introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act-a comprehensive package of reforms to agriculture policy that will expand opportunities for local and regional farmers and make it easier for consumers to have access to healthy foods. Jeffrey Smith, (yes, of CT NOFA Winter Conference fame) a consumer advocate promoting healthier non-GMO choices and author of the world's bestselling and #1 rated book on the health dangers genetically modified organisms (GMOs). His meticulous research documents how biotech companies continue to mislead legislators and safety officials to put the health of society at risk, and the environment in peril.The program of workshops is up on the website,  AND, we have scholarship money for farmers with fewer than ten years of experience! The Beginning Farmer Project of CT NOFA, supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grants #2010-49400-21847 and #2011-49400-30510.We are offering partial scholarships for attendance at the NOFA Summer Conference.  Please fill out the scholarship application before July 2 so you can hear back if you received a scholarship and still get the early registration rate (deadline July 10).

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!


Managing the Non-GMO Message

If you are reading this there is a pretty good chance that you already know what a GMO is and it is likely that you also know the disastrous potential genetically engineered foods have for our food system, our economy, the environment, and our health.  You might have also found that it's relatively easy to talk about GMOs with other people who know about them, but it is much harder to discuss the issue with people who don't.  Educational groups like CT NOFA are always trying to avoid preaching to the choir, but with so much information to disseminate, trying to be concise when introducing the GMO issue to people who haven't been involved before can be overwhelming.

That's why the Non-GMO Project has developed a new Non-GMO Communications Toolkit.  This soon-to-be downloadable PDF describes how to communicate the non-GMO message effectively in order to maximize awareness and understanding, and push the non-GMO movement forward as a result.  The Toolkit will be available online this month, and also comes with supplemental webinars, the first of which is available now.  The Project writes:
Consumer concern about GMOs is increasing rapidly in the United States and Canada. As awareness grows, it’s essential for leaders of the Non-GMO movement to communicate effectively. Research shows that for the Non-GMO message to be successful, simplicity and consistency in communications are essential.
Every great movement in history has required a clear, concise, and compelling message in order to succeed.  Use this tool to help inform yourself and those around you as a means to making more informed food choices. After all, knowledge is power, but only if it can be understood.

Have an informed weekend,