Wednesday, January 30, 2013

American Consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup Has Declined

       After Melissa's blog post the other day about Coca Cola, I thought it was only appropriate that I follow up with a post about high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). High fructose corn syrup is the second ingredient in a Coca Cola  beverage (carbonated water is the first) and can be found in other sodas, juices, and many condiments. Although there is no  research that directly links this sweetener to health problems, too much sugar in any form can be extremely bad for your health, causing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease (find out more here).

But enough with the negativity - the news that I have to deliver about HFCS is positive (for the most part).

According to an article by, an environmental news forum, Americans have been consuming less high fructose corn syrup and only 4.5 percent of corn produced in the United States this year it expected to be used for the sweetener.

        "Americans consumed an average of 131 calories of the corn sweetener each day in 2011, down 16 percent since 2007, according to the most recent USDA data. Meanwhile, consumption of sugar, also blamed for weight gain, rose 8.8 percent to 185 calories daily, the data show.

Even with the increase in sugar use, total U.S. sweetener production remains down 14 percent from a 1999 peak, according to the USDA.
“We’re seeing a real decline, and that people aren’t just switching to sugar,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington."
Despite the good news, we cannot ignore the "serious public health hangover" that Americans are faced with after decades of consuming sweeteners such as HFCS. This past week researchers in Philadelphia found a 70 percent increase in diabetes in kids under the age of 5 over a 20 year period. 
Regardless, it seem as if the ads similar to the one in Melissa's blog post aren't fooling everyone. In that case lets raise our glasses (of water of course) to our fellow Americans for making a positive change for their health! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Translating Cokespeak into English

The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently reported on a promotional video by Coca Cola that invites the American public to "come together" in the fight against obesity.  As a part of this report, the Center reposted Coke's video with edits and translations added that show the real meaning behind what Coke is saying.

When watching first the original Coke ad and then the translated version, I was reminded of how insidious and effective modern corporate advertising can be at using spin to bend the truth. It often requires substantial effort and knowledge to see past the glossy surface of a corporate public service announcement and get at the real core of what it means.  Despite working in a discipline that recognizes this, it's still sometimes hard to see through the smoke and mirrors, which is why responses like CSPI's video are important.
"Generally, when a company claims to be 'part of the solution' it means 'we know we're culpable so we must deflect the blame elsewhere,'" said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "So we thought it would be useful for consumers and policymakers to unpack similar examples of Coke's disingenuous corporate gobbledygook and present them in plain English."
Have a lovely, critically-minded evening,

PS, stay tuned for a report and photos from our Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference that just happened on Saturday January 26 - it was a wonderful event and we can't wait to tell you more!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Are You a New or Transitioning Organic Farmer?

If so, you should join us at our Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference! 

January 26, 2013
8:00am - 3:30pm
Goodwin College
One Riverside Drive
East Hartford, CT
This conference helps aspiring organic farmers develop successful farming careers by linking them with important resources and experts in the field.  Whether you're interested in farming for the very first time, or you've been farming for a while and want to learn more about how to work organically, this conference will provide you with valuable insight and support.

Here's some information about some of the conference presenters:
Wayne Hansen, Wayne's Organic Garden -Diverse “Tools” For Success in Organic Vegetable Production
How several tools, some small, some larger, some inexpensive, some not so, have helped me to create a productive growing situation on a tiny lot not obviously meant for growing and selling produce. How I got there may help you do the same.
Bio: I never knew what I wanted to do in life. Academia seemed like a trap to put me in an unimaginative job in a world without a soul. I've found a life in soil, weather, hard work, and the joy of good food. It's all been worth it.
Erin Pirro, Farm Credit East - Budgeting From the Bottom Up
It's good to have a plan. Before you have a plan, you have an idea - something on the back of a napkin about how you will run your business. A budget is a plan in numbers, designed to show you not just if it's worth it, but if it can take you where you need to go. A bottom-up budget is an easy-to-use technique to help you get there.

Bio: Erin Pirro has been helping farmers large and small make their businesses run better since 2001. As a Farm Business Consultant for Farm Credit East with a background in agricultural economics, Erin's focus has been on benchmarking and profitability improvement because sustainability means economics, too! At home, Erin's small family farm raises and markets sheep and wool products in southern New England.

Kerry and Max Taylor; Provider Farm - Starting a CSA for Long Term Success
CSAs are great but starting a CSA should not be taken lightly, and involves careful planning. We will address the benefits and draw backs of starting a CSA in your first year as well as lessons learned, tools for success and how our CSA fits into our whole farm plan.

Bio: Max and Kerry Taylor own and operate Provider Farm in Salem, CT. Provider Farm is a 200 share CSA, wholesale, and market biodynamic farm. We also maintain a small herd of beef cows on 20 acres of rotationally grazed pasture.

Adam Maikshilo, USDA NRCS - NRCS Opportunities for the Organic Producer 
NRCS can provide technical and financial assistance to organic producers utilizing Farm Bill programs. Who is eligible and how do you apply? Common conservation practices for an organic producer.

Bio: Adam has been a Soil Conservationist for CT NRCS for approximately 2 years. Previously worked as a Wildlife Technician for USDA - Wildlife Services for approximately 6 years. Graduated from UCONN with a degree in Natural Resources.
Kip Kolesinskas, Gaining Access to Quality Farmland
Participants will gain an overview of the common methods and sources for gaining access to affordable farmland, such as matching services. Opportunities on Municipal and Land Trust properties will also be explored. Basic elements of a good lease, technical resources, and its role in risk management will be discussed.
Presenter bio

Bio: Consulting Conservation Scientist, Formerly State Soil Scientist for CT /RI, USDA-NRCS, 35 years of experience. A.A.S. SUNY Cobleskill, B.S. Cornell University, Lancaster University, and Schumacher College -UK. Kip has been a major contributor in efforts to increase farmer access to land, develop farm friendly municipalities, and promote locally grown food.
Kim Stoner, CT Agricultural Experiment Station - Insect and Pest Management
Organic farmers need to think ahead about pest management. Plan to reduce pest damage by diversifying, using resistant varieties, and using other non-chemical strategies of control. Learn which pests can be tolerated, which can be managed at low levels, and which can appear suddenly and devastate a crop.

Bio: Kim Stoner has been the vegetable entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven since 1987. Her current research focuses on pollination and bees – including measuring exposure of bees to pesticides, monitoring native bee species, and studying pollination in pumpkins and squash.

Duncan Cox, Baystate Organic - Organic Certification
Duncan will explain how the organic certification process works. He will describe how crop, livestock, and processing operations large and small can become certified to the USDA National Organic Standards.
Bio: Duncan Cox has been inspecting organic farms and processors for Baystate Organic Certifiers since 2003, after first obtaining an MS in Soils from Washington State University, organically producing apples and onions in Washington State, and assisting farmers in both the Pacific Northwest and in South Carolina. 

In addition to these presentations, the conference will also feature a CSA Roundtable with Mark Gauger of Maple View Farm, Rodger Phillips of Grow Hartford, and Karen Pettinelli of Holcomb Farm.  During the roundtable, attendees will be split into small groups and be placed with one of the three roundtable speakers.  This will give attendees a greater opportunity to ask questions and start a dialogue with farmers who have had many years of experience with running a CSA program. 

You can learn more about the conference and register here.  If you have questions, or want to register over the phone, give us a call at 203.888.5146.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 Hottest Year on Record for United States

Between winters with barely any snow, very mild springs, and summers with intense, dry heat it comes as no surprise that 2012 was claimed to be hottest year on record for the continental U.S. 

From National Geographic:

"2012 marks the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S., with the year consisting of a record warm spring, the second warmest summer, the fourth warmest winter, and a warmer than average autumn," Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center at the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a press release on Tuesday". 

1998 was the last year that a heat record was broken, and like most records they are usually measured in a fraction of a degree. The 2012 record however was set by an increase in a full degree Fahrenheit taking the average temperature for the lower 48 states to an alarming 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. New records were also set across the country with 34,008 daily high records compared to only 6,664 record lows set. All 48 states had above average temperatures; 19 states had their warmest year on record and 26 had one of their top ten warmest years on record. 

So what did all this mean for agriculture? 

With the severe heat it only makes sense that this year was the 15th driest for the nation. The drought affected 61% of the nation, particularly the agricultural Midwest and was most intense in July of 2012. On July 1st, crops in the Midwest were at their worst since 1988 and the heat wave in that one week set or tied 1,067 temperature records.  This increased the price of corn and soybeans by 37% in only three weeks (!), causing a spike in global food prices and feed prices for meat producers. 

While scientists agree that weather variability (which occurs each year) played a factor in the heat record, many cannot deny that the record could not have been set without the effects of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. Many also agree that years like 2012 will soon become the norm. 

If this does become the norm, one can only think how it will continue to affect agriculture and our production of food. Supporting growers within your local food system will at least help you to avoid feeling the effects of food prices and keep them going during tough times like this past year of 2012. 

Let us hope for the best. Have a good afternoon!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Connecticut’s Largest Sustainable Food and Agriculture Conference on March 2

David Zemelsky of Starlight Gardens will teach
Winter Growing: Have a Winter Salad at the Conference

All are welcome to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut’s annual celebration of local food and organic farms, the Winter Conference on March 2.  Now in its 31st year, the 2013 Winter Conference will feature more workshops and vendors than ever before and has moved to a new venue, Wilton High School. 

The 2013 Winter Conference’s theme is adjusting to climate change on the farm, in the garden, and at home.  With rising temperatures and increasing food prices, now is the time to talk about climate change. To discuss climate resilient farming and land management, the keynote speaker is David W. Wolfe Ph.D., the Faculty Fellow and Chair of the Climate Change Focus Group, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Professor of Plant and Soil Ecology, Department of Horticulture at Cornell University.

The 2013 Winter Conference will feature over 50 workshops for homeowners, farmers, cooks, students, environmentalists and activists.  Beginners can learn the basics of how to start a garden or keep backyard chickens while the experts can attend technical workshops about growing fruit trees and soil biology. Connecticut’s experienced organic farmers will instruct on growing a variety of crops from grain to garlic. Food lovers can explore adventurous foods (like wild edible plants and mushrooms), healthy foods (with workshops about GMO-free purchasing and intestinal health) and new recipes.  Refer to the complete list of workshops at to check if any of the 2013 workshops can teach you something to improve your health, garden, or ecological footprint!

Visit with any of 60 vendors and exhibitors who will be distributing information and selling delicious local foods, Connecticut crafts and garden tools.  Learn about purchasing shares of food from farms with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs at the CSA Fair.  Attendees may also bid on goodies donated by our vendors at the silent auction and help support CT NOFA’s work in 2013.

Young children can stay with a guardian in the Family Play Area where they can relax, read or enjoy music, story time, and children’s workshops.  Everyone will enjoy a lunch provided by seven of Fairfield County’s favorite restaurants including: Schoolhouse at Cannondale in Wilton; Barcelona in South Norwalk; Terrain Garden CafĂ©, Dressing Room and LeFarm in Westport; and Sugar & Olives and Wave Hill Bread in Norwalk. 

The 2013 Winter Conference is on March 2 at Wilton High School at 395 Danbury Road in Wilton.  Registration fees range from $30-$60 with an additional $15 fee for lunch.  To register, please visit or call the CT NOFA office at 203-888-5146.  For information on being a vendor, exhibitor or sponsor, please visit the website, e-mail or call the office.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Get Ready for our 2013 Winter Conference!

Keynote David W. Wolfe

The 2013 Winter Conference brings into focus the challenges of adjusting to climate change for farmers, gardeners and consumers. Join us to discuss the future of sustainable farming and celebrate local food.

In between workshops, attendees can visit with over 50 vendors and exhibitors with local foods, crafts, books, and sustainability initiatives. There will be a silent auction with garden supplies and other Connecticut grown and crafted items and services. Families are invited to participate in children’s activities and workshops scheduled throughout the day.

Our keynote David W. Wolfe Ph.D., the Faculty Fellow and Chair of the Climate Change Focus Group, Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and Professor of Plant and Soil Ecology, Department of Horticulture at Cornell University.

Dr. Wolfe's topic will be Farm and Landscape Management for a Changing Climate.

Click here to listen to a recent interview with Dr. Wolfe on climate change, agriculture and policy issues.  For a list of confirmed workshops, vendors, exhibitors, and a video of last year's conference highlights, click here.  Online registration will be available by the weekend, so stay tuned!