Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree on the politics and business of organic food

Check out this all-new episode of The Business Beat, which aired 7/29/2012 on WICN/90.5 FM. 

Steve D'Agostino interviews Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).  They talk about the politics and business of organic food.

In the 1970s, with a degree in human ecology from the College of the Atlantic, now- Congresswoman Pingree started an organic farm on the island of North Haven, Maine. By selling produce to summer residents and raising sheep for wool, she built a thriving mail-order knitting business that eventually employed 10 people in her small community.

Rep. Pingree is still a small-business owner, operating the Nebo Inn and Restaurant on North Haven, which features locally grown food. After serving on the local school board, and as the town’s tax assessor, she went on to serve eight years in the Maine Senate, become the national CEO of Common Cause, and in 2008 get elected as a Democrat to represent Maine in Congress.

As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congresswoman Pingree is committed to helping reform farm policy -- with interests of small farmers and consumers in mind. Last year, 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.

Don't forget, Rep. Pingree is one of the keynote speakers at the NOFA Summer Conference on August 10 - 12 at Umass-Amherst. She will speak on Friday, August 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Campus Center auditorium.  Register for the conference today to take advantage of the excellent keynotes and workshops the Summer Conference has to offer.

Hope to see you at the Conference!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Enjoy the Bounty of Summer All Year!

It's nearly August! The bounty of summer is in full swing, and in Connecticut there is no shortage of delicious, fresh, and varied produce to put in our kitchens. Produce, however, has a pesky habit of going bad over time, especially when you're dealing with highly perishable fruits like berries. This month, when all the tomatoes in your garden are ripening at the same time and you have more access to fresh local produce at the market than you know what to do with, use some of these methods to preserve the harvest so you can enjoy it all year!

Drying: Out of the three major food preservation options, drying is the most economical. It requires the least amount of energy input, and much of the work is done in the background while you're off doing other things. Here's an article by Jean Nick from Rodale that details the process of dehydration, complete with tips and recipes sure to make your mouth water.

Canning: Canning takes some time and skill, but it's the only way wet foods can be preserved without refrigeration. If you want to learn how to can just about anything, peruse this blog by Canning Granny. She provides a wide variety of recipes and tips from her own kitchen and from readers' submissions.

Freezing: Freezing is arguably the easiest food preservation technique, requiring relatively little time or preparation, but it requires a lot of freezer storage space and, therefore, a lot of energy. Good Housekeeping gives a good introduction to freezing, including what not to freeze and how to properly prepare and wrap food for freezing.

And if you want to learn more in depth guidelines and tips, the Cornell Extension has a great webpage about all three food preservation techniques. Check out our webpage as the summer draws to a close to learn about our fall food preservation workshops as they are scheduled.

Have a bountiful day!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

As the Farm Bill debate goes on and is in sharp contrast with a devastating drought that has affected agricultural yields across the country.  According to David Rogers at Politico, Republicans in the House might not call up the New Farm Bill for a vote before the law expires on September 30.  Rogers reports that no Farm Bill, once out of committee, has ever failed to be called for a vote.  In Rogers' article today, the House's Republican leadership is considering extending the old Farm Bill while Democratic Representatives Debbie Stabenow (Michigan) and Collin Peterson (Minnesota) insist that extension is not an option because the drought requires specific political action and there is agreement that direct cash payments to producers must be ended with the new Farm Bill.

Check out the hidden costs of the Farm Bill that's about to expire - it makes it pretty clear why these laws require replacement and the reasoning behind calls for improvements in the Farm Bill.  And also why the new Farm Bill's deep cuts to the Food Stamp program and nutrition programming are pretty disconcerting.  
Infographic from Takepart.com


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CT NOFA Member Farms Spotted at the Coventry Farmers Market!

Sweet Acre Farm in Mansfield
Running June through October, the Coventry Farmers Market is the largest farmers market in the state of Connecticut, with dozens of vendors, many of whom are members of CT NOFA. Our Board Secretary, Janet Heller, went to visit the market recently and documented many of the CT NOFA member farms that were there to represent local organic farms and food.  Check out the farms' websites listed in the captions below their photos and pay them or the market a visit.  Shopping at a farmers market or visiting a local farm is a great way to spend some time outside on a nice summer's day while getting your grocery shopping done at the same time.  It's also a lot of fun for kids! 

Topmost Herb Farm in Coventry
Grow Hartford CSA
If you want to learn more about our other member farms and the farmers markets they attend, check out our listing online.  You can also download a PDF of our Farm and Food Guide, a listing by county of all our member farms, markets, and supporting businesses, complete with descriptions and maps, here.
Maggie's Farm in Lebanon

The Coventry Market specializes in organic, heirloom, ethnic and gourmet varieties of fruits and vegetables, and offers grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, milk, yogurt, smoked bacon, rustic breads, farmstead cheeses, European pastries, salsa, pesto, fresh herbs, cut flowers, chocolate, fudge, honey, and maple syrup, and also features the work of local artists and artisans including hemp clothing, goat’s milk soaps, beeswax candles, stoneware, herbal tinctures, handcrafted beadwork, vintage cotton tote bags, and handspun yarns.

Terra Firma Farm in Stonington
Provider Farm in Salem
What a wonderful way to support your local farmers and all the hard work they do to produce healthy, nutritious, and delicious food!

Happy Shopping!

Friday, July 20, 2012

New Ways to Get Rid of Those Pesky Invasives

The Ecological Landscaping Association recently wrote an article detailing creative uses for invasive plants, including eating them, building with them, and creating stationary.
We picked out some of our favorite ideas, but you can visit the ELA's site about invasive species for more information.
Eat knotweed when it looks like this. Or else . . . 
The first option is, eat them! 20 of the 66 invasive species in Massachusetts are edible.  The ELA article focuses on knotweed recipes like pie and cake.  You can also put knotweed in jams and fruit butters, if you harvest knotweed in early may, it can replace rhubarb in a lot of recipes, and it tastes sour like an apple.
It will become like this.
For more information on eating invasives, check out "Eat the Invaders", you can find recipes for knotweed, kudzu blossom sorbet, purslane (not quite an invasive), and dandelions. This site offers a lot of advice on eating invasive animals - I'm not quite there, but if you want to try eating Asian carp or wild boar, all the more power to you. There are even more recipes in Wild Flavors a cook book in which the main ingredient is weeds.

You can make crafts out of invasive vines, like bittersweet.  When I was young I used to make bittersweet wreaths. You have to be careful not to move any bittersweet berries (or else you might spread the invasive!) Nancy Riley uses bittersweet to make furniture in the ELA article.

Now identifying and removing invasives in your yard can be fun! Consult with Connecticut Invasive Plant Council's list and also use this guide from the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Advertising Pesticides to Children

There is growing concern among parents, consumers, and organizations like our own about pesticide advertising targeted at children.
Pest World, the website of the National Pest Management Association has created Pest World for Kids where children can learn about the kinds of pests that can come in from the outdoors when "it's not pretty. Homes wrecked . . . people sick."  You can learn all about the kinds of pests that might infect your home and yard and their identification.  To be fair, Pest World for Kids is mainly educational, and in the mosquito and tick sections, there is mention of repellent but no endorsement or recommendation of pesticide treatment.  But the games are designed to make children afraid of insects and anything that might wander into their house.
This cartoon character, created by Mosquito Squad is a little more blunt about his endorsement of pesticide use.  Dread Skeeter, a pesticide applying superhero is in a number of YouTube videos, they're all pretty similar to the one posted here.

These advertising campaigns seem pretty unethical, but besides the parallels to Joe Camel, they highlight the trade off between reducing chemical use and risking ore insect bites or using pesticides to eliminate biting insects.  I (not surprisingly) would rather take my risks with mosquitos and ticks.  There were only 715 cases of West Nile (the main mosquito-born, scary disease in America) in the United States in 2011 (CDC). Lyme disease is considerably more worrisome with about 30,000 cases in 2010 (CDC), but teaching children about wearing close toed shoes, long white socks, and checking for ticks, is an important lesson that would probably, in the long run, protect children from ticks more than pesticide application in your yard.

The post from last week about the persistence of pesticide contamination in the environment and the affects this is suspected (and in some cases confirmed) to have in the human body are more threatening.  With pesticides being linked to learning disorders, cancer, autism and hormone imbalances, it seems like there are fewer risks associated with mosquito bites and having to check for ticks and even pulling goofy white socks over the cuffs of your pants. Here are some coloring pages for kids about protecting yourself from, checking for and removing ticks from the California Department of Public Health.

There are also some natural repellants like clove oil and garlic spray, and some products that claim to be safe and environmental like EcoSmart Mosquito and Tick Control.  You should always read the ingredients of products like this, and do some research about them online! You can also talk to your land care professional about these options (if you'd like to talk to an Accredited Organic Professional, use our database to find one near you)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thanks to all who came to our Block Party!

CT NOFA had another lovely Block Party last Saturday at Hidden Brook Gardens in Ledyard, Connecticut.
Bill kicked off the Block Party with a welcome to the guests. He introduced Bill Sokol and Anita Kopchinski, the owners of Hidden Brook and second career farmers who only started six years ago.

The first destination of the tour was the Hiddne Garden's Greenhouse, which currently houses many many pepper plants.  

Anita explained some of their growing practices and efforts at using biodynamic growing principles.

Anita shows us the field behind their house, surrounded by a tall NRCS-funded deer fence.

Hidden Brook Gardens' dog, Collins, who was very happy to have so many visitors (and so much food to be dropped on the ground!)

The tour heads through the brussel sprouts.

Grape vines covered in an organic clay-based product that keeps pests away but allows light through for photosynthesis.  This can only be used on the parts of the plant that aren't consumed because it's difficult to scrub off.

This field is closer to the road and hosts more hot peppers, eggplants, and 400 tomato plants!

In 2009, Hidden Brook Gardens started working with Allyn Orchards, and are maintaining their orchard and have transitioned the orchard to organic in the past three years!

People who love farms and food make for great pot luck participants.  Attendees enjoy dinner over hay bales.

It was a great evening! We had guests of all ages, and the staff enjoyed meeting so many new people interested in organic farming! Thanks so much for coming!
If you've missed our first couple of Block Parties, don't worry, you have one more chance! Save the date for our Block Party in New Britain at Urban Oaks Farm on September 15, 5:00pm to 8:00pm.

A big thanks to Chabaso Bakery for bringing us lots of delicious olive oil bread sticks, to Steaz tea for our drinks, and to Bill Sokol and Anita Kopchinski for sharing their beautiful farm with us and a number of strangers.  On their website you are able to make appointments to visit their farm, and you might want to check it out! Look out for Hidden Brook Gardens at the Old Lyme and Milford Markets, or for their produce at the Oyster Club in Mystic, CT.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our Upcoming Organic Land Care Program Events

Are you interested in caring for landscapes organically, either through your business or as a homeowner?  If so, you should check out these events!  The NOFA Organic Land Care Program has been working hard to provide valuable information and hands-on experience in organic land care practices, and we want to share that knowledge as widely as possible.

Mark your calendars and check out the Organic Land Care Program's website for more information and to register.  


 Don't forget, you can always ask questions and register by calling our office at 203.888.5146.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Farm Bill Follow Up

Yesterday the House Agricultural Committee passed a Farm Bill that has some very positive elements and some neutral elements.  The bill passed 35-11 with 7 democrats voting against it mainly because of the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and 4 Republicans citing fiscal concerns an disagreements about the commodity program. These are some positive elements, as highlighted by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC):
  • Pingree (D-ME) and Ellmers (R-NC)'s amendment allows certain school to make their own food purchase choices so it's easier to buy local.
  • Pingree's amendment that enables SNAP Recipients to use benefits for Community Supported Agriculture shares was passed
  • Her amendment requiring the USDA to make recommendations on steps to serve small meat and poultry processing facilities and to access to information on the meat and poultry labeling process
  • An amendment by Rep. Sewall (D-AL) requires the USDA to conduct a study on increasing specialty crop production by small, women, minority and socially disadvantaged farmers.  
  • an amendment that authorizes micro loans for beginning young and small farmers was passed and a military veterans liaison at the USDA will be established. 
The bad news is that, Tom Philpott calls this Farm Bill "boldly regressive" and reports that Ferd Hoefner, the policy director at NSAC called it an "anti-reform bill—bad for family farmers, rural communities, and the environment." Some particularly negative elements of the farm bill include: 

  • deep cuts to the SNAP program over all
  • it limits what the USDA can consider when conducting environmental reviews of GE Crop and according to Philpott   "all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act, would be banned, even if a crop approval would harm protected species."
  • There are also deep cuts in the beginning farmer and rancher development program (though there is funding in other programs that will support beginning farmers).  
  • Oh and then there's the Environmental Working Group's Top Ten Reasons to Reject the House Farm Bill (cuts in nutrition assistance, even higher subsidies for big farms, cuts in conservation programs, few incentives to encourage healthy diets, weakening of GMO regulations, and taking power away from states in terms of making their own farm and food laws, and it repeals an organic cost-sharing program to reduce the burden on farmers when they go organic).
The House Agricultural Committee's Farm Bill is not the one that sustainable agriculture advocates hoped for - at all.  This image has stuck with me for months (it's showed up on the blog two or three times now):
The USDA acknowledges that a healthy diet (which is less likely to result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc.) is one half fruits and vegetables. Which means, instead of receiving 11% of funding, these "specialty crops" should receive 50% of it (maybe even more).  That was the big hope for this Farm Bill, that the local producers that grow "specialty" crops would finally receive the support from the government that acknowledges the role that these producers have in our nation's health.  Subsidizing organic food and fruits and vegetables can reduce prices for consumers. And cheaper healthy food would mean foodstamps would go a lot further in feeding our nation's starving families (half of the people using food stamps are children). 

Instead, it's more of the same.  It could even potentially be worse. With no incentive for farmers to grow organic, and leaving health foods as an expensive "specialty" food, and diminishing the funding for food stamp so underprivileged can  buy any kind of food at all, the 2012 Farm Bill is a pretty transparent gift to Big Agriculture while taking from the environment, national health, and small producers.

And on that note, have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Far Reach of Pesticide Contamination

In the past couple days, three articles have caught our eye in the CT NOFA office:

Owner responsibility for private well quality is at heart of contamination issues in state
This article raises some important questions about water quality in Connecticut wells.  As this study in Woodbridge proved pesticide use - even by neighbors, can contaminate wells.  This article shows that Connecticut's health code only requires testing when a well is initially built after that homeowners are "on their own."  It is recommended that homeowners test their wells regularly (but most never test their well water). Based on these findings, a filter might be available that addresses particular contaminants.  Spiegel points out that New Jersey is considered a model for Connecticut on well water quality and monitoring because the state requires that well water is tested each time a house or property is sold.

"Pesticides found in LI Sound lobsters for the first time: more study planned"
Image: Council on Environmental Quality
Enough pesticides have been applied to Connecticut's lawns that these chemicals have run off through Connecticut's rivers, into Long Island Sound, where they were still in a high enough concentration, that traces could be found in the organs of lobsters.  The article, by Jan Ellen Spiegel, explains that it had been thought that lobster die-off was due to rising temperatures in the sound.  But these recent findings might mean that pesticide run-off also might play a role in lobster die-offs.  According to this 2008 New York Times article "Connecticut Lobstermen Hope for a Reprieve, the die-off in the late 1990s was thought to kill 80% of Long Island Sound's lobsters.  The lobster industry brought in just under 12 million pounds a year leading up to 1999 and after that the catch dropped to 2-3 million pounds per year.

Environmental Threats to Children's Health
Image: Autism Speaks Official Blog
This article, by Margie Kelly, explains that the prevalence of childhood diseases is increasing, rapidly.  Child cancer rates are rising, as are developmental disabilities.  Kelly focuses on the prevalence of autism (1 in 88 children are affected by autism, a 23% increase since 2006).  In this video, Dr. Phillip Landrigan discusses the connections between these diseases and phthalates, BPA, flame retardants and pesticides. Dr. Landrigan recommends avoiding the use of pesticides, feeding children organic vegetables, and taking off shoes to decrease the amount of pesticides tracked inside.  Check out these steps to reducing pesticide exposure.

Sorry for the depressing post - but the fact is that people can be exposed to pesticides in food and water, and these chemicals are definitely threatening.  These findings are scary, but they also require continued action.  Consumers can be aware and protect themselves, and that makes a big difference.  Consumers also need to pressure the companies that produce and use these chemicals which are poisonous to animals, people, and the animals that people eat.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Upcoming GMO Activism Events

Jeffrey Smith and Tara Cook-Littman from Right to Know CT

On August 8, 2012 save the date for a day packed with GMO activism and some of the most renowned people in the non-GMO movement!


The day starts out with a Legislative Meeting in Hartford where Jeffrey Smith will be speaking, and continues with a Right to Know Coalition meeting:
GMO Public Meeting
August 8, 2012
10am: public meeting at the Capitol with Jeffrey Smith
12pm: Right to Know Coalition meeting
Hartford, CT

Later on, the Institute for Responsible Technology will be holding a benefit celebrating non-GMO food from around Connecticut:
an Evening Benefiting The Institute for Responsible Technology
Wednesday August 8, 2012
Greenwich Audubon
613 Riversville Road
Greenwich, CT
Celebrate the Non-GMO food offerings available in CT from organic chefs and restaurants from around the state such as Catch A Healthy Habit, Health in A Hurry, Bakery on Main, Du Soleil, Just Food, Green & Tonic, Double L Market, and Natures Temptations!

Still can't get enough Jeffrey Smith?  You're in luck!  He is also one of the keynote speakers at the NOFA Summer Conference on August 10-12.  Jeffrey will also be holding a pre-conference training on fighing GMOs on Thursday, August 9, 1pm-5pm and Friday 8am-12 noon. You can learn more about the fantastic speakers and workshops at the Summer Conference and register for the event here.

Have a great Wednesday!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Join us for our 2nd Block Party on the Farm!

Our first Block Party on the Farm back at the end of June was a huge success, but if you missed it fear not!  We are holding a second block party this Saturday July 14 from 6-9pm at Hidden Brook Gardens in Ledyard.  Admission is FREE, but please bring a potluck dish to share.  Gather with your friends and neighbors to enjoy a farm tour with farmers Anita Kopchinski and Bill Sokol, and delicious potluck meal, with organic teas provided by Steaz.  What a great way to spend a summer's evening, relaxing on the farm!

It's not too late to register!

Email us or give us a call at 203.888.5146 to register for this event.  Learn more about our Block Parties here.

We can't wait to see you there!

Friday, July 6, 2012

FAMILY FARMERS CHARGE AHEAD IN BATTLE AGAINST MONSANTO: Ask Appeals Court to Reinstate Case Challenging Patents on Seed

The lawsuit against Monsanto continues.  Read the press release from the Public Patent Foundation below:

Seventy-five family farmers, seed businesses, and agricultural organizations representing over 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms filed a brief today with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington asking the appellate court to reverse a lower court's decision from February dismissing their protective legal action against agricultural giant Monsanto's patents on genetically engineered seed.
The plaintiffs brought the pre-emptive case against Monsanto in March 2011 in the Southern District of New York and specifically seek to defend themselves from nearly two dozen of Monsanto's most aggressively asserted patents on GMO seed. They were forced to act pre-emptively to protect themselves from Monsanto's abusive lawsuits, fearing that if GMO seed contaminates their property despite their efforts to prevent such contamination, Monsanto will sue them for patent infringement.

“Monsanto is known for bullying farmers by making baseless accusations of patent infringement,” said attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit legal services organization Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), which represents the plaintiffs in the suit against Monsanto known as Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v Monsanto. “They've sued and harassed other farmers who wanted nothing to do with their genetically modified seed and now that organic and conventional farmers are fighting back, they claim they would never do such a thing without backing up their words with an enforceable promise.”

In an attempt to sidestep the challenge, Monsanto moved to have the case dismissed, saying that the plaintiffs' concerns were unrealistic. In February 2012, the district court took Monsanto's side and dismissed the case, ridiculing the farmers in the process. Despite the fact that the plaintiffs are at risk for being contaminated by genetically modified seed and then sued for patent infringement by Monsanto, Judge Naomi Buchwald of the Southern District of New York dismissed the case because she didn't find a case worthy of adjudication, saying “it is clear that these circumstances do not amount to a substantial controversy and that there has been no injury traceable to defendants.”

Plaintiffs feel otherwise. Two of the plaintiffs submitted sworn declarations in the case highlighting the prevalence of contamination by genetically modified seed. Both Chuck Noble, an alfalfa farmer from South Dakota, and Fedco Seeds, a seed distributor in Maine, have repeatedly discovered GMO contamination in purportedly conventional seed they sought to purchase. To protect themselves from being contaminated, they have had to adopt expensive and time-consuming genetic testing procedures.

"We have a right to farm the way we choose,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA). “Yet Monsanto is unwilling to control their GMO pollution and they refuse to sign a binding covenant not-to-sue our family farmers for patent infringement should their seed contaminate our crops. Monsanto’s publicized ‘Commitment’ promising that they would not sue farmers was described by Monsanto’s own lawyers as being ‘vague.’ The law says we deserve protection under the Declaratory Judgment Act. We will continue to pursue our right to farm, and the right of our customers to have access to good clean food and seed.”

Other plaintiffs have simply stopped growing certain types of crops due to the threat of contamination. Bryce Stephens, a certified organic farmer from northwest Kansas, had to give up on trying to grow organic corn and soy once his neighbors started using Monsanto's genetically modified seed because it could easily spread onto his property and contaminate his organic crops, which would put him at risk of being sued for patent infringement by Monsanto.

“It’s time to end Monsanto’s scorched earth legal campaign of threats and intimidation against America’s farmers. Family farmers should be protected by the courts against the unwanted genetic contamination of their crops,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now!, a grassroots community of more than 300,000 farmers and citizens dedicated to reforming food and agriculture that is co-plaintiff in the suit.

In the brief filed today, the plaintiffs point out numerous errors in the district court decision that warrant reversal. Among them are the lower court's failure to accept certain facts alleged by the plaintiffs that were undisputed by Monsanto, application of too harsh a legal standard on the plaintiffs to show the existence of a controversy, and neglect of public policy that encourages broad jurisdiction be available to those challenging bogus patents like Monsanto's.

Watch Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Traders Association.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Looking Back to Look Forward - Independence in America

Back in 1976, Robert Rodale wrote an editorial for the September issue of Organic Farming and Gardening about personal independence.  Almost 36 years later, the relationship between personal independence and sustainability is a major issue in current social and political movements, regardless of whether those movements are conservative or liberal, and related concerns about food, energy, and healthcare are some of the most hotly debated topics in the United States today. Case in point: the images in this post are not from the 70's; they're part of the current shift in mindset from reliance on outside groups to a more local and holistic approach to living, an approach Rodale discusses in his editorial:
The garden is the best place to start looking for ways to help people become more independent. A garden is both the symbol and reality of self-sufficiency—especially an organic garden, which recycles organic wastes of the yard and household, permits the production of significant amounts of food with only minimal reliance on outside resources. Any campaign to boost personal independence should start by helping people become gardeners—teaching, motivating, and making land available.
Liberty doesn't end at the border of the garden, though. Home production of a variety of goods and services extends the idea of gardening. Both gardeners and non-gardeners can also grow their own bean sprouts, make some of their own clothes, become proficient at crafts, improve insulation of their home, and do similar home production tasks. Each such activity you learn makes you less dependent on others.
Even treatment of disease could be improved by fostering a greater spirit of personal independence. We need to learn more about how to take care of ourselves during illness. Any doctor will tell you that an intelligent patient, who knows how to observe and evaluate symptoms, can be treated with fewer drugs, and is therefore less likely to have side effects and will probably recover faster. Being totally dependent on the doctor is the worst way to act when sick.
As of yesterday our nation is one year older.  As you take time to be with friends and family and celebrate our country's independence, take a moment to think about your own independence and what that means to you. Think about all the ways you can take charge of your life and live more independently, and save money be healthier and happier as a result. Whether your goal is to start your own garden, replace some of your driving with bicycling, or buy goods and services from people in your town, every step you take toward sustaining yourself is also a step toward making us more sustainable as a nation.  What better way to show your patriotism than by advocating for one of the most fundamental ideals of our country?

Happy Belated Independence Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NOFA Summer Conference Keynote Spotlight

Get ready for two amazing keynote addresses at the 2012 NOFA Summer Conference!

On Friday August 10 and Saturday August 11, NOFA Summer Conference keynote speakers Chellie Pingree and Jeffrey Smith will be delivering speeches that are sure to impress.  Both keynotes have extensive experience in their fields, and are renowned for their accomplishments. Below is a brief description of each speaker.  To read full bios, please visit the NOFA Summer Conference website.
Representative Chellie Pingree is an organic farmer and a member of the Agriculture Committee in the U.S. Congress. Chellie is committed to helping reform farm policy with interests of small farmers and consumers in mind. Last year, Chellie 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. Rep. Pingree will be speaking on Friday August 10 at 7:30pm
Jeffrey Smith is 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. Jeffrey Smith will be speaking on Saturday August 11 at 7:00pm
Additionally, Jeffrey Smith will also be holding an 8-hour training on GMO organizing as a pre-conference event on Thursday, August 9, 1pm-5pm and Friday 8am-12 noon. Titled Fighting GMO's: a Pre-Conference Training for Consumers, Community Leaders, Activists, and Organizers, this training will teach participants how to speak about genetically modified organisms and how to organize effective activism. The seminar will include the five components of a GMO presentation, resources and materials documenting why genetically engineered foods are dangerous, instructions on how to customize PowerPoint slides (provided), and examples of proven organizing techniques to motivate people. Graduates of this Pre-Conference Training with Jeffrey Smith will be invited to join a GMO Speakers Bureau, participate in ongoing webinars, and join the network of active campaigners reclaiming a non-GMO food supply.  Learn more and sign up for this and other pre-conference events here.

Excited? Click here to register for the conference!


Monday, July 2, 2012

Tractor Maintenance and Repair Workshop

We had a great workshop at Nonnewaug High School last week! Our instructors were David Blyn, owner of Riverbank Farm, a certified organic farm in Roxbury Connecticut, and Ed Belinsky, the Agricultural Mechanics Teacher at Nonnewaug High School.
First Ed and David went over basic points of tractor maintenance to take care of tractors and prevent the damages that require expensive repairs that will also take tractors out of commission.   Then workshop attendees went to Nonnewaug's shop to do a type of tractor scavenger hunt and identify the tractor parts that require maintenance using each of the three tractors' manuals.  

The workshop concluded with a discussion about choosing a used tractor - which is really a lot like buying a used car. Is there any obvious wear-and-tear? Are there records about the tractor's repair history? Has it been stored in our outdoors? After weighing these options, you might find it is better to buy a basic, but new tractor and avoid any some of the risks associated with buying an older, worn one.  

If you missed our workshop you might want to stay tuned for some of the adult education courses at Nonnewaug this fall!