Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Working Together for a Sustainable Future in Connecticut


At this joyous time of year, we ask you to do what you can to support sustainable organic agriculture and land care in Connecticut. For our part, we are working smarter and harder to maintain the high level of programming and distribute the timely, relevant content you have come to expect from us. However, we cannot do it alone.
Thank you, and let's keep it going.

Together we've made important strides and have had a great impact creating a strong demand for locally-produced organic foods in Connecticut.

Here are just a few of the things we've accomplished
Hidden Brook Gardens on-farm workshop

  • 125 local farms and businesses are listed in Connecticut NOFA's 2012-2013 Farm and Food Guide
  • Annually, 10,000 free copies the Farm and Food Guide are distributed across the state
  • 4000 people receive CT NOFA's Gleanings e-Newsletter monthly 
  • Over 400 farmers receive The Farmer e-News
  • Thousands of people are reached each week using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook
  • Over 200 people receive our new CT School Garden Network e-Newsletter, Growing and Learning
  • The CT NOFA Facebook page has an average 5000 person weekly reach
  • 300 people have taken our on-farm workshops on winter food growing techniques and other topics 
  • 60 women over four years have taken the Beginning Women Farmer Program
  • Over 800 people have attended CT NOFA's educational programs so far this year

 Impact of the NOFA Organic Land Care Program (OLC)

The NOFA Standards for Organic Land Care are the only standards of their kind that have been accepted into the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Family of Standards. These standards include the Basic Organic Principles-Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care as the foundation for all land care programs and projects. Here's what we've accomplished:
  • In 10 years over 1200 professional landscapers have taken the NOFA Accreditation Course in OLC
  • Compost Tea Advanced Workshop 
    526 of these professionals maintain their Accreditation with the NOFA Organic Land Care Program
  • 300 professional landscapers have taken the NOFA Organic Lawn and Turf Course
  • Over 2,000 copies of the Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards were distributed 
  • 1000 land care professionals receive the monthly NOFA AOLCP eNewsletter
  • 1000 Homeowners receive our quarterly newsletter
  • NOFA Organic Land Care's Facebook page has over 300 fans and reaches 1200 people each week
  • Over 200 homeowners have attended our 90 minute workshops on organic land care
  • Our program has been copied by Oregon Tilth, the State of New York and Rutgers University 
And there's more to be done! Will you give a year-end gift to help carry our work forward? Now more than ever, we need your continued support of CT NOFA for our Annual Appeal. 

This is a 100% tax-deductible gift that supports our operations and allows us to build a sustainable local food system and a healthier environment for all the residents of this beautiful state we live in and learn from. Please help us to help others and together we will weather these uncertain economic times. We are reaching out and asking for you to consider an Annual Appeal gift of $100 or more.

     We've made it easy   
  • You can donate securely online by clicking the button above. 
  • You can join by clicking the button below. 
  • If you're already a member, renew by December 31st to extend your current membership at 2012 membership prices.

Do you work for a company with a Matching Gift Program? If so, please submit a matching gift form with your donation and

double the impact of your gift
to CT NOFA. 

We thank you for your continued support. Please know that your contribution and membership will be gratefully received and deeply appreciated.

With gratitude,

Bill Duesing
Executive Director

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving friends!  All of us in the CT NOFA office sat down for a Thanksgiving Potluck with local pumpkin pie, corn-bread with local peppers in it, local potato-leek soup, quinoa-stuffed squash rings, and some probably not-as-local-brownies.

What a feast! Hopefully if you eat turkey, you've already ordered and picked up your local turkey.  If you don't eat turkey, we know you won't starve. Hopefully you've already visited the New York Times Wells' Vegetarian Thanksgiving 2012 (even if you aren't a vegetarian, these recipes will make your mouth water).  Mark Bittman also writes about the Thanksgiving staple, the sweet potato, one of my personal favorite Thanksgiving foods.

Next week after days of eating, left-overs, and potentially some shopping (maybe skip Black Friday for Local Business Saturday!) you will receive CT NOFA's Annual Membership appeal, if you're already a member or are involved in some way with our programs.  As our 30th anniversary year is ending, we are so thankful for CT NOFA's first thirty years and for your support.  Donations and memberships enable CT NOFA's staff to make a real difference hosting a winter conference, farming conference, eight farm workshops, three gardening workshops, two organic land care accreditation courses, four advanced organic land care workshops, and an organic land care conference.  We are almost out of 2012-2013 CT NOFA Farm and Food Guides, which means that nearly 10,000 people in the state of Connecticut received a guide to how to buy food organically and sustainably this past year.

In the same way that you choose organic foods, and buy locally in order to invest in your community and environment, we ask that you consider becoming a member, or renewing your membership, to sustain the work of CT NOFA for another thirty years, and beyond!  Of course you can join or donate now, but keep your eye out for the appeal e-mail to read more about what we've accomplished this year, and what we've got planned for next year that can only happen with your support.

Have a Happy, Hearty, Delicious Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 19, 2012

CSA School Program on November 28

On November 28 in Haddam, CT the UConn Extension with the funding of the USDA Risk management Agency is hosting an all-day, intensive CSA School.  This is a great way to learn from other farmers about their experiences operating CSAs of all shapes, sizes and models here in Connecticut.  Check out the agenda:

8:30 Welcome- Jude Boucher, UConn Cooperative Extension
Who is your CSA customer? – Monique Basch

8:45 - 9:15 Traditional CSA Vegetable Share
Paul Bucciaglia, Fort Hill Farm, New Milford
Key elements of the CSA model

9:15—9:45 Multi-farmer CSA
Brad Isnard, Bishop’s Orchard CSA
Working with other farmers, using CSA share add-ons

9:45 – 10:00 BREAK
10:00 – 11:00 Multi-season CSA/Partnering with Chefs
Fred and Stacia Monahan, Stone Garden CSA, Shelton
Deciding to shift to CSA business and impact on farm income, layering CSA shares, aspects of managing large # of members

11:00 – 11:30 Meat CSA
Rick Hermonot, Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm, Sterling
Unique aspects of operating a meat CSA, share options, aggregating product from other farmers

11:30 – 12:15 LUNCH

12:15 – 1:00 Tips & Tools for CSA business management
Jiff Martin, UConn Cooperative Extension
Model CSA contract, share prices, communicating with members, case studies and snapshots, innovative aggregation models

1:00 – 1:30 Insuring a CSA
Joe Bonelli – UConn Cooperative Extension

1:30 - 2:30 Getting Started – What I learned my first year running a CSA
Farmer Panel:
 Michelle Collins – Fair Weather Acres, Rocky Hill
 Bruce Gresczyk Jr. – Gresczyk Farms, New Hartford
 Steve Munno – Massaro Community Farm, Woodbridge
Moderated by Jude Boucher, UConn Extension Center

2:30 - 3:30
CT NOFA will be hosting a roundtable discussion for farmers who are just getting started with a CSA, those who are looking to improve or scale up their CSA and a discussion about CSA Regulations.  The group will break out into smaller groups to learn about:

Group A – Getting Started – Led by Max and Kerry Taylor (Provider Farm)
Group B – Getting Better – Led by Steve Munno (Massaro Farm)
Group C – Regulating the CSA – CSA farm businesses and issues with town and
state government, led by Joan Nichols from the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association

Register by filling out this form and sending it to
24 Hyde Avenue
Vernon, CT, 06066

Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Successful Organic Land Care Business Workshop

On Friday, November 9, 2012, the NOFA Organic Land Care Program hosted its fourth advanced workshop, titled Business Essentials: Pricing and Marketing your Landscaping Services for Success. The half-day workshop was held at the Connecticut Forest and Park Association in Rockfall, CT. Frank Crandall of Frank Crandall Horticultural Solutions in Wakefield, Rhode Island began the first presentation about pricing and estimating organic versus conventional lawn care services.

Frank started out by reviewing the fundamentals of profitable estimates, and then went on to compare the pricing of organic, transitional, and conventional lawn care programs over a three year period. Frank was able to show from the three year comparison that:
a transition program can convert to fully organic after the second year
an organic program can approach traditional lawn care in cost in the third year and
all phases of the organic plan can be profitable with comprehensive estimating

One of the biggest concerns many land care professionals and clients have about organic land care is the idea that it more costly and less profitable than traditional land care. Frank's presentation argued that this isn't always the case, as long as land care professionals provide accurate estimating, and make sure to sell organic as a comprehensive program rather than the organic version of a 4-step program. Frank emphasized discussing expectations with clients before signing an agreement, to ensure that clients understand the differences in methodology between organic and conventional management. He also noted that it's easier to finalize contracts with clients that request organic services rather than trying to convert traditional customers. More>

If you are interested in organic landscaping, we are excited to tell you about our other upcoming events this winter, including our Accreditation Courses, Annual Gathering, and Organic Lawn Care Certificate CoursesCheck out our website to learn more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

GMO Labeling Movement Pushes On Despite Prop 37 Defeat

Former Fairfax, CA Mayor Frank Eggar campaigning. Photo: S. Bates
Yesterday Californians voted on Proposition 37, a GMO labeling initiative that we've been following for many months now.  Unfortunately, the initiative lost by 6 percentage points, with the no on 37 vote at 53.7% and the yes vote at 46.3% as of early this morning.  This is certainly discouraging news, since labeling only seeks to give consumers the basic right to know what is in their food, and the initiative was favored by a large majority of California voters up until recently.  Agribusiness giants have been able to sway public opinion on GMO labeling by wielding huge sums of money used to advertise the no on 37 campaign.  With such wealthy opposition, the fight to label genetically modified foods in this country might seem like an impossible dream, but in the wake of the Prop 37 defeat, I want to share with you a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle's article written today:
Stacy Melken, a spokeswoman for the Prop, 37 campaign, said supporters believe they will win the labeling debate over the long term. She noted that proponents were outspent by a five to one margin and still managed to capture more than 4.2 million votes.

"We showed that there is a food movement in the United States, and it is strong, vibrant and too powerful to stop," she said. "We always knew we were the underdogs."
That quote helped to put things in perspective for me, and I don't feel nearly as discouraged now as I did this morning.  The fact that the yes on 37 campaign was outspent five to one and still managed to rally nearly half the California vote is really impressive, and proves that money is powerful, but a strong movement is more powerful.  It often takes time to build a movement, and even more time to push the values of that movement through government, so although feeling discouraged is natural and understandable in the wake of a defeat, the truth is that the loss of Prop 37 is really just one part of a much larger picture.

The GMO labeling movement isn't going away.   The issue of labeling will continue to be brought up in the political sphere, forcing agribusiness to spend its money each time to quell it until finally enough people who won't be swayed by costly marketing exist to pass a labeling law.  Proposition 37 shows us how far we have come as Americans who want the right to know what is in our food.  It shows how resourceful and resilient the movement is, and it shows that we really can pass labeling legislation if we keep working toward it.  In the meantime, know what's in your food by knowing where your food comes from.  Buy whole, local, organic, and in season whenever possible, and get to know farmers near you.  Ask your grocery store to stock more local items, and start a garden in your yard, or in containers if you don't have a yard.  And talk to your friends and family about GMOs and why it's important to label them.  Check out and sign the federal petition, and if you still feel a bit discouraged, read this article.  Labeling initiatives are currently being brought up in other states and nationally.  Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt company, and chairman of the "Just Label It" campaign, puts it very succinctly:
Labeling of GE (genetically engineered) foods is not a question of whether, but when.
Have a great evening!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Do or Die in California: OCA's Final Plea

A message from the Organic Consumers Association:

The final Pepperdine pre-election poll on the November 6 Proposition 37 California ballot initiative to label genetically engineered foods came out October 30. After enjoying a 26-point lead for the past six months, our side is now supposedly 10 points behind in the polls. The online poll, which in theory has a margin of error of 3-5%, was conducted before our Yes on Prop 37 TV ads finally began running last weekend. But the results are nonetheless alarming.

We still enjoy a lead among those who don't watch TV, but the opposition's ads have turned huge numbers of California TV-watchers against us.

For a full month Monsanto and their allies have pounded the California airwaves with nearly $50 million in TV and radio ads, spewing lies about how mandatory labeling for genetically engineered food will mean higher costs for consumers, lawsuits clogging the courts, "confusing" labels and poor farmers and grocers facing "nightmares of paperwork." Surveys have shown that once undecided or even opposed voters see our Yes on Prop 37 ads they change their minds, and come back over to our side. But we're running out of time - and money - to reach those voters. Meanwhile, money continues to pour into the opposition's campaign. Monsanto just upped its contribution this week from $7.1 million to more than $8 million.

We can still win on Nov. 6, by exposing millions of confused or undecided California voters to our TV ads. But we need to raise money, and we need to raise it today. Please click here to make a donation today.

In addition to running more ads, we need to step up our ground strategy in these last few days. Our 10,000+ volunteers for Yes on 37 are fighting back on the ground by talking to voters in front of supermarkets, sharing information with their friends by email and on Facebook, and by talking to prospective voters on the phone. These grassroots efforts will culminate in a major Get-Out-the-Vote campaign on November 6.

If you live in California, we desperately need you to hand out leaflets at grocery stores between now and Nov.6. If you can spare a few hours, please sign up here for instructions on where to get leaflets and where we need help.

If you live outside California, please volunteer for our national phone bank to help us call millions of California voters. It's easy. You can get quick, easy online training and sign up for one or more shifts here - and it won't cost you a dime in phone charges.

The "Do or Die" moment of truth has arrived in this David versus Goliath battle. The whole world is watching. We desperately need your emergency last-minute donations and your volunteer energy. Please support us in these last five days of this historic campaign!

Have a great weekend!