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Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York

THE LOCAL FOOD AND FARM CONNECTION

VOL. 33, NO. 3 • FALL 2015

Bringing the Food Back Home The Locavore Challenge – Connect, Eat, Share! In the community… Linking consumers and farmers in Northeast NY l Changing lives in city food deserts – with healthy foods l Decoding cultural norms for seasonal eating l

On the farm… Helping organic specialty growers boost capacity l Reclaiming New York’s breadbasket status l Producing “Made in New York” organic milk l


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Director’s Outlook ANNE RUFLIN Executive Director, NOFA-NY

Locavore Heaven New York Organic News Fall 2015 • Vol. 33 No. 3

Publisher Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Editor David Ford Production Designer David Lembeck Contributors: Jenn Baumstein, Lisa Engelbert, Andy Fellenz, Sondra Gjersoe, Amy Halloran, David and Susan Hardy, Elizabeth Henderson, Matt Kelly, Leah Penniman, Anne Ruflin, Matt Volz Advertising Inquiries: Contact Sondra Gjersoe at Sondra@nofany.org or 585-271-1979, ext. 510. Subscriptions: A subscription to New York Organic News is a benefit of membership in NOFA-NY. For membership information, go to www.nofany.org/give or call the office at 585-271-1979. Submissions: Send article queries, photos, letters to the editor, and suggestions to newsmagazine@nofany.org.

NOFA-NY is a statewide organization leading a growing movement of farmers, consumers, gardeners, and businesses committed to promoting sustainable, local, organic food and farming.

local produce. I find myself in my own version of a feeding frenzy— happily eating every fresh, local, organic and sustainably grown fruit and veggie coming my way—and squirreling away a bit of everything for the long winter ahead. I have family in other parts of the country who assume that, because of my job, I must eat fresh fruits and vegetables all year round. Well, not exactly. Since committing myself to eating locally as much as possible (I did have to make exceptions for citrus, chocolate and coffee!) I eat fresh food that is in season—so you won’t catch me eating a “fresh” broccoli in February. I know that vegetable must have traveled thousands of miles to get to my plate at that time of year! Eating locally has changed my way of thinking about both eating and cooking. In some ways it is the way I remember eating as a girl—peas in spring, tomatoes in summer, corn in the fall, and winter vegetables from fall through the first asparagus sighting. But being a locavore is easier now, too. So many of our farmers now use high tunnels to extend their growing seasons that lettuce and other cool-tolerant vegetables are often available well into the winter months. High tunnels also mean tomatoes come earlier than ever—sometimes in June! And there are new varieties and revitalized heirlooms that withstand all sorts of growing conditions and ripen at different times of the year. I remember my grandmother canning and “putting up” tomatoes, beans and just about anything else. The house would fill with steam and the gentle smell of vinegar from her pickling and preserving. My own mother refused to do those things, considering herself “modern,” and she was a big fan of frozen vegetables—mainly in “butter sauces” and “boil in bags.” Now, I feel old and new at the same time. I don’t do much canning myself, because I’m not usually preserving foods in enough bulk to make it worth the effort. But I love to freeze as I go through the season. It’s easy to slice a tomato for a salad and freeze a second one for the winter months. By the end of November I have a stash sufficient to last until May. So enjoy this season of plenty, when being a locavore is easy and fun, and join me in stashing away your favorite foods for the deepest dark of winter—can it, freeze it, dry it, pickle it—and be a locavore year round. Thor Oechsner checks his oats. Photo by Rachel Lodder

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New York Organic News is published four times a year by NOFA-NY, 1423 Hathaway Drive, Farmington, NY 14425. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NOFA-NY Board of Directors, staff, or membership. No part of this publication may be used without written permission of the publisher.

his is the time so many of us wait for each year. Our fields, farmers T markets, roadside stands and CSA baskets are flush with the freshest

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This publication is printed on recycled newsprint.

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Contents FEATURES Soul Fire Farm Targets City “Food Deserts” with Healthy Foods .. 14 A family farm in the Capital Region partners with its urban neighbors to provide fresh foods, while helping inner-city youth reconnect with the land. by Leah Penniman

How Small World Food Supports Local Growers ............................. 17 One Rochester food producer enables local organic farmers to build capacity and lowers barriers for specialty growers. by Matt Kelly

Bringing the Grains Back Home

.......... 19 Advocates team up with organic grain producers to boost consumer awareness and reclaim New York’s status as a regional breadbasket. by Amy Halloran

e Hunt Family Farm .............................. 22 rough six generations, the Hunts have built a rich legacy of stewardship and innovation based on the core values of local organic farming. by Matt Kelly

THE FARMERS’ ROUNDTABLE ............................ 7

A Cultural Locavore Challenge Organic market farmers must adapt to cultural expectations about seasonal eating that may be out-of-sync with the real harvest. by Andy Fellenz IN THE GARDEN .................................................. 8

Troy Market Connects Farmers and Consumers in the Northeast Gardenshed Now in its 16th year, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market creates a year-round meeting space for regional farmers, shoppers and community activists. by Jenn Baumstein ON THE FARM ................................................... 10

Producing Local Organic Milk on the Hardy Farm e Hardy family and their contented cows partner with Organic Valley to produce, process and market New York Fresh organic milk. by David and Susan Hardy FOOD ADVOCACY .............................................. 12

New York’s Own GMO Labeling Bill Is Gaining Ground

COLUMNS DIRECTOR’S OUTLOOK ....................................... 3

Locavore Heaven Notes from NOFA-NY Executive Director Anne Ruflin FOOD LITERACY ................................................. 6

While the Locavore Challenge can mean overcoming personal and community barriers, NOFA-NY invites all New Yorkers to connect, eat and share. by Sondra Gjersoe

On the cover

Capturing the Spirit of Organic Farming After years of sharing his fellow growers’ commitment to caring for land and community, a seasoned organic farmer reflects on the infectious spirit of their way of life. by Matt Volz

DEPARTMENTS

NOFA-NY News ................................................ 27 Field Days Remembered! A recap of NOFA-NY’s early summer Field Days.

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News from Certification ........................................ 26 NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC launches grass-fed certification program for organic beef and dairy producers.

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Soul Fire Farm’s Black and Latino Farmers Immersion participants enjoy a festive meal of fresh, healthy foods they’ve learned to grow and prepare. Photo by Capers Rumph

WHY LOCAL ORGANIC ...................................... 30 N E W YO R K O R G A N I C N E W S

Taking the Challenge… In my life, in my community

NOFA-NY and its GMO Labeling Coalition partners are working hard to make 2016 the year New York shoppers finally learn what’s in their food. by Elizabeth Henderson

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Food Literacy his September, NOFA-NY is T sponsoring its fifth annual Locavore Challenge to build awareness of the local and organic food movement across New York State. Since 2010, the Locavore Challenge has worked to reconnect consumers with the food they eat. Food provides us with energy—yes, but it also provides us with nutrition, culture, community and comfort. Yet the act of eating is so often an unconscious act, with no thought of how our food is produced or where our it comes from. By shifting this mentality and making our food choices consciously and deliberately, we can play a vital role in saving our food system, our environment and our health, while strengthening the communities we live in.

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Connect, Eat, Share

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This year, NOFA-NY invites you to connect, eat and share. Whether you’re a farmer, a gardener or an individual who enjoys eating healthy, fresh, local foods, your journey has led you to this amazing community. By sharing our stories, we welcome and encourage others to do the same. I come from a long line of mariners. My Scandinavian heritage and childhood upbringing instilled in me a great love for the sea. It’s a frolicsome friend, full of joy, laughter and mirth—a place to go when I’m happy, and my spirit longs to be wild and free. Yet there are times in my life, periods of struggle or quiet reflection, moments of great change, when I long for the earth—to feel grounded, to be reminded of the roots I have forged in my community and to

Taking the Challenge... in my life, in my community by Sondra Gjersoe share in the creation of new growth. About a decade ago, I had a bit of a revelation. I had reached an all-time low: the end of a longterm relationship, dissatisfaction in my job, a loss of self-identity and self-worth. I would go to work, come home, shut myself off from the world and sit in front of the computer—surfing the web until I was so tired I’d pass out. My sedentary lifestyle took its toll on me physically. I reached my heaviest weight ever, and began to have heart palpitations at work when I was moving quickly. I knew this was not the person I wanted to be, and that it was up to me to make the changes necessary to improve my overall health. If I wanted a positive change, I had to be willing—nay, eager—to put forth the effort to make it.

Accepting a Personal Challenge So I eased into it, did some research on nutrition and started changing my diet, incorporating fresh organic foods rich in vitamins and nutrients. I began to visit local farmers markets and discovered this rich tapestry of life, a community coming together. I would often strike up conversations with the farmers, learning more about their lives and their passion for farming. There was a sense of comradery, and I found myself filled with inspiration. I started doing things that brought me joy again—

cooking new dishes, sewing, yoga. I bought myself a bike and started cycling. The weight flew off, my muscles strengthened and the endorphins kicked in. I was living again, laughing, appreciating the abundance. I realized that, while the source of the change started within me, I fueled that power to change with healthy, delicious food rooted in a community both vibrant and welcoming. I still love the water. But these days, I also have a great respect for the earth. I’ve planted my own garden, learning the joy of seeing hard work and nature’s abundance come together. I visit my farmer friends at the local markets and share that joy with them. I entertain family and friends with meals made from fresh, local, organic ingredients and encourage others in my community to become locavores as well. Please join me, and all of us at NOFA-NY, in celebrating National Organic Harvest Month by taking the Locavore Challenge. To find out more about how you can participate, visit www.nofany.org/events/locavorechallenge.

Sondra Gjersoe handles special projects for NOFA-NY. Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent (Columbia Co.), a NOFA-NY member, sells at the ever-popular Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. Photo by David Ford


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A Cultural Locavore Challenge by Andy Fellenz

Labor Day Switch For many of our farmers market customers, even ones who think of themselves as seasonal eaters, a mental switch is thrown on Labor Day weekend. While many of our summer vegetables are still at their peak in terms of flavor and production, as soon as the kids return to school our big sellers change from summer to fall items—acorn or spaghetti squash, rather than zucchini and yellow squash, no more melons, hardly any sweet corn and fewer tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant—even though it’s still the height of the season for many of them. So, what is the take home for this market farmer? After Labor Day—while I can try to sell what’s truly in season, as far as our climate and weather are concerned—I need to make sure I have produce available that reflects our societal season. And after Labor Day, no matter the weather, it is fall.

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Andy Fellenz, NOFA-NY’s organic fruit and vegetable coordinator, operates a certified organic produce farm in Phelps (Ontario Co.), New York.

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I have learned to adjust my planting calendar to reflect what customers are looking for. We grow some varieties of squash, like acorn, that can be ready at the beginning of September. But we’ve given up on some other items like watermelon, which in central New York—unless heroic measures are taken—just starts to ripen at the end of August and doesn’t hit its peak until September. Ultimately, I guess my definition of seasonal eating isn’t as dogmatic as it was a few years ago. While I have no plans to grow tomatoes for market in January, pushing the calendar a little bit to have acorn squash at the beginning of September, or pulling productive tomato plants from the high tunnel in September to make room for kale for December markets, is now part of our planting plan. I’ve learned that there is more to seasonal eating than growing conditions. Cultural expectations are also important, which means that for many of us in central New York, fall starts the Tuesday after Labor Day—no matter what it says on the calendar, or the fact that most years we’ll still have at least three to five more weeks of delightful summer weather.

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ince I began market farming in 2002, eating locally and in step with the season has become part of what we do at home. September, with the Locavore Challenge, is the perfect time to reflect upon what this means in central New York. On the farm, we eat what we grow—which means lots of asparagus in May, rhubarb, garlic scapes and strawberries in June, raspberries, yellow squash, zucchini and the first tomatoes in July and, by August, the full slate of warm-weather summertime favorites and some early potatoes. Fall and winter lead to lots of squash, potatoes, roots and onions. Our high tunnels ensure that we’re also dining on salad and cooking greens year round. A favorite memory for me, from about a decade ago, was when my youngest child (then age 8) asked me with a note of concern whether we could have some fall food. He was getting tired of the summertime fare— lots of salads and cook-outs—and was ready for some oven-baked fare. But he knew that it wouldn’t be on the menu until fall arrived. I assured him fall would come soon, along with a change in diet and cooking style.

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The Farmers’ Roundtable

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In the Garden Troy Market Connects Local Farmers and Consumers in the Northeast Gardenshed by Jenn Baumstein

years, Saturdays have Fbeenor several my favorite day. I’d managed

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farmers markets in Rhode Island until 2010, when we moved to New York. In search of a new community, I met an organizer at the 2013 NOFA-NY conference who suggested I check out Troy. Despite some initial skepticism, our new acquaintance asked a few people to meet us at the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market. So one cold February morning we headed over to the year-round market, which had moved indoors for the winter. We were greeted by a new father who’s also an artist, a recent college grad opening a “makerspace,” and a PH.D student working to make the world a bit more just. Thus began my relationship with the Troy farmers market and its city.

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Farmers and Consumers Together Every Saturday the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market hosts more than 80 vendors, and attracts roughly 8,000 shoppers during its summer season. Most farms that sell at the market are within an hour’s drive from Troy, from Washington and Warren counties up north to Columbia and Dutchess to the south— offering the full bounty of northeastern New York’s “gardenshed!” The farmers’ consistent presence at the Troy market helps deepen their relationships with consumers. They might offer food

You'll find the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market on River St. from May to October. preparation advice or answer the perennial question: “What’s that vegetable, and how do I use it?” Many of these hard-working growers even contribute some of those once-unfamiliar vegetables to a monthly community dinner in Troy. Beyond their generosity, a number of farmers at the market are directly involved in research and eagerly share their expertise.

About Troy and Its Market Located near the juncture of the Hudson and Mohawk rivers, Troy was once a thriving center of industry—prosperous and

bustling with people. But the century-long exodus of manufacturing from the region, and the resulting sharp decline in Troy’s population, left the city looking for creative ways to redefine itself. The farmers market is helping its hometown achieve that goal. The Troy Waterfront Farmers Market began in 1999 in an office parking lot. Market manager Monica Kurzejeski recalls that they set up shop after the space was offered for free (a new organization’s best price!) and because Troy was seeking to bring people back to the city. After a few


All photos courtesy of Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

became well known in the Capital Region as a popular Saturday destination.

Fresh, Healthy Food for All

Jenn Baumstein lives in Troy and spends most Saturdays selling at the market. Her family runs a farm-based bed-&-breakfast in Washington County (www.lanthill.com).

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Many greenmarkets and CSAs accept responsibility for helping to make fresh, local foods available for everyone. The Troy Waterfront Farmers Market meets this challenge through its welcome table, where all shoppers may purchase wooden “coins” using either EBT benefit cards or credit/debit cards. Most vendors at the market accept the prepaid tokens in lieu of cash. The Troy farmers market and its vendors also partner with the state Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which makes locally grown fruits and vegetables more accessible to seniors and WIC participants. Troy is a city with a lot of grit—and its citizens are passionate about the Earth! For many regular patrons, the farmers market also serves as a community center. Each week the

market donates table space to local organizations who provide outreach and education, such as Troy Zero Waste (which collects food scraps for composting) and Solarize Troy. Shoppers might find anything from tips on preparing local cuisine to low-cost animal adoptions. You may live in the Capital Region or be just passing through. But the next time you’re in town on a Saturday morning, we invite you to stop by the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market. It’s one of New York’s most exciting greenmarkets: a vibrant community where you can connect with local farmers, learn about environmental issues, or just sample some delicious raspberries!

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years the farmers market relocated to River Street, in the city’s redeveloping downtown. Soon the Troy market began to grow with the surging popularity of greenmarkets across the region. After the organization’s board—representing both farmers and the community— decided to proactively boost community awareness, the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market

Left: NOFA-NY member Happenchance Farm sells at the Troy farmers market. Right: In winter the market moves indoors.

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NOFA-NY members represented at the Troy farmers market include: u Denison Farm (Rennselaer Co.), u Happenchance Farm (Washington Co.), u Little Seed Gardens (Columbia Co.), u Lucy Jo’s Coffee Roastery (Washington Co.), u Monkshood Nursery (Columbia Co.), u Slack Hollow Farm (Washington Co.), u Tierra Farm (Columbia Co.), and u Wellington’s Herb & Spices (Schoharie Co.). For more information about the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market, visit www.troymarket.org, or email troywaterfrontfarmersmarket@gmail.com. The summer market is open every Saturday, 9 am to 2 pm, from May through October.

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In the Garden

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On the Farm n 1993 David and Susan Hardy, Iwith their three young boys, found their dreamland nestled in the heart of New York’s Mohawk River Valley. The Hardys built their dairy barns and house literally from the ground up. At first the family lived in an 18-foot trailer with no running water, but soon became “cellar dwellers” for five years while they completed construction on their home. During the first brutal winter their barn was not completed. They had to shovel snow in the feed alley at the start of chores every day, while caretaking their initial herd of 28 cows. David and Susan knew that if they made it through that winter, their farm would survive. Today the Hardy Organic Dairy Farm is milking 113 animals—and thriving! The family also grows all their own food organically. They wouldn’t have done it any other way for their growing family, or for themselves. A large vegetable garden supplies a bountiful harvest to feed the family until the next growing season. In addition to the dairy, the Hardys manage pigs, sheep, chickens (for eggs and meat), three ducks, two dogs, two “grand-dogs” and two barn cats. Organic practices have always been at the heart of their lifestyle—and their approach to farming. In the early years, David and Susan watched their children running barefoot across the lawn or biting into a beautiful apple. How comforting it was to feel confident that no harmful sprays had been used. There was always a good laugh when the kids came in with a foot covered in chicken manure from the poultry that roamed across the lawn! Farming is not a job for the Hardys. It is a way of life.

Producing Local, Organic Milk on the Hardy Farm by David and Susan Hardy

Aaron Hunt with his father, David.

Certified Organic— and Made in New York The Hardys’ farm became a certified organic dairy in 1999 through NOFA-NY. Their milk is marketed with Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, a nationwide co-op serving 1,800 family farms. Organic Valley distributes fluid milk regionally. Currently the Hardy’s milk is allocated to the “New York Fresh” carton, which is reserved for milk produced, processed and sold in New York State! Over the years the Hardys have gleaned much useful information from the educational Field Days and trainings provided by NOFA-NY. In addition, the Hardys and other commercial dairy farmers have benefited from

NOFA-NY’s annual Winter Conference and Organic Dairy and Field Crop Conference, which offer specialized workshops that hone in on dairy production issues. A few basic practices unquestionably make a difference in cow health and milk production. Cow comfort is key. Allow the entire herd to eat and lay down on the same schedule. Of course, providing adequate space and nutritious feed is essential—and makes for happy cows! Proper management of fields (e.g., soil sampling, plus fertilizing with manure and minerals) helps to increase the nutritional value and yields of feed. It’s mind boggling to realize that one billion microorganisms live in every


tablespoon of soil. This fact emphasizes the tremendous impact and importance in doing our best to help maintain a healthy earth.

Healthier Cows = Healthier Milk

Organic farming provides the foundation for healthy soil— fostering healthy grass, healthy animals, healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet. What more could one desire, both for ourselves and as a legacy for the next generation?

Building Family Bonds Family ties are often reinforced through the business of dairy farming. Pitching in is essential! Together, the Hardys share wondrous moments, while overcoming the challenges presented by nature and farm life. These experiences have made their family connections strong. The “organic way of life” has instilled values that David and Susan have passed on to their children. As young adults they have excellent work ethics, along with a deep understanding of the importance of caring for and respecting Mother Nature. Left: David and Susan Hunt survey their pasture. Above right: Sarah Hunt tends to the cows.

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All photos courtesy of Hardy Organic Dairy Farm

Susan and David Hardy, along with their three sons, operate the Hardy Organic Dairy Farm in Mohawk (Herkimer Co.). Their farm produces certified organic milk, marketed in New York through Organic Valley, as well as organic meat and field crops.

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The Hardys utilize intensive rotational grazing with their milking and young livestock herds. Animals are moved to fresh grass every 12 hours, which insures optimal nutrition at all times. In addition to benefitting from established organic dairy standards for grazing and pasturing, research has shown that organic milk is significantly more nutritious, thanks to the cows’ high-forage diet. According to Utah State University dairy nutritionist Dr. Tilak Dhiman, the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content of milk is up to five times higher when cows graze green, growing pastures. His research suggests that green grass enhances the growth of specific bacteria in the rumen that are responsible for producing beneficial CLA. Or, grazing cows may have different microbes in the rumen than cows fed inside the barn. When compared to conventional whole milk, researchers at Washington State University found that

organic pasture-raised whole milk contains 62% more omega-3 and a healthier balance of essential fatty acids, plus 18% more CLA. These findings should reinforce consumer confidence in organic dairy products. Another difference between conventional versus organic farming has to do with pay price. The amount conventional farmers are paid for their milk varies from month to month. However, organic dairy farmers receive a fair and stable pay price that accurately reflects the cost of production. This is vital when budgeting for personal and business expenses.

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On the Farm

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Food Advocacy

New York’s Own GMO Labeling Bill Is Gaining Ground by Elizabeth Henderson

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s the State Legislature ended its session, it was clear that although we didn’t win in 2015— and despite interruptions in the legislative process due to corruption scandals—the GMO food labeling bill did better this year than last. The bill to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in New York State, A 617-S 485, was a top priority for NOFA-NY policy action this year. We were active participants in the New York State GMO Labeling Coalition—along with Food and Water Watch, GMO Free NY, the Hunger Action Network, Consumers Union, NYPIRG, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Catskill Mountaineer, Fire Dog Lake, Good Boy Organics, the Green Party of New York, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter. All of our groups worked well together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. We started out the 2015 legislative session with a lobby day in Albany in late January, the day after NOFA-NY’s annual Winter Conference. Soon after, we helped organize and participated in a second rally and lobby day, in April, that brought out more than 300 people from across the state. There were also dozens of smaller actions in critical districts—and a big noise from the May 23 march against Monsanto. The coalition collected 43,000 signatures on

petitions to the Legislature in support of the GMO labeling bill. By June, the Coalition was sure that enough Senators and Assembly members had signed on to the bill to pass it in both houses—if the leadership could only be persuaded to take it to the floor for a vote. The bill advanced through the Consumer Protection committees in both houses, then as far as Rules in the Senate and Codes in the Assembly. Our guess is that behind the scenes, legislators were saying, “Let’s not have to go on record for or against that one.” As Stacie Orell, a staffer for GMO Free NY, declared: “Nonetheless, onward we march. We will continue to work hard during the so-called ‘off season’ to spread public awareness about GMOs and labeling, educate legislators on the issue, and combat the misinformation spread by the incredibly wellfunded opposition campaign. We’ll ramp up for next year’s fight. It’s only a matter of time before we join the rest of the world and get the right to know. It’s just gonna take longer than we’d like!” It’s worth noting that all GMO labeling bills in other states have also taken years to move through their legislatures. Vermont’s successful bill took three to four years to win passage. NOFA-NY will be back at it in the next session—and we’ll be asking even

NOFA-NY joined the coalition supporting a state GMO food labeling bill at the April 28 rally in Albany. Board member Elizabeth Henderson is right in front (bottom, center). Photo by Liana Hoodes

more of our members to help convince their state legislators. Thanks to everyone for your hard work this year!

Elizabeth Henderson is a NOFA-NY board member and the founder of Peacework Farm in Newark (Wayne Co.), New York.


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Targeting City Food Deserts Getting it right for six generations with Healthy Foods Taking the Locavore Challenge full circle

by Leah Penniman, with an introduction by David Ford

In New York’s capital region, Soul Fire Farm has forged a radical partnership with its neighbors in urban “food deserts,” supplying fresh healthy foods while helping inner city youth reconnect with the land.

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t first glance, Soul Fire Farm resembles many of the state’s small family farms. Jonah VitaleWolff and Leah Penniman (assisted by their children, Emet and Neshima) cultivate a variety of organic vegetables and fruits, plus eggs and meat chickens, on six of the 72 forest-cleared acres they call home. eir CSA delivers shares to urban neighborhoods in Albany and Troy, and to other nearby communities. But the resemblance ends there. In creating Soul Fire Farm, Leah and Jonah have taken the Locavore Challenge to the next level—but with a twist! By the time they moved to Albany’s low-income, largely minority South End, the couple had acquired a wealth of experience in organic agriculture, farming and teaching both internationally and closer to

home. ey also brought with them a passionate commitment to the growing Food Justice movement. As activist farmers, Jonah and Leah share a deep understanding of the challenges faced by families living in America’s inner city food deserts. And they know that education—combined with regular access to fresh, healthy foods—holds the power to change people’s lives for the better.

Back to the Land New organic farmers typically get their farm up and running before reaching out to local communities to market their first harvest. Makes a lot of sense, right? But in the case of Soul Fire Farm, it’s as if one urban neighborhood came together, decided what they should be eating (and what they’d been

missing), then trekked up into the hills east of Troy and reclaimed the land from virgin forest— essentially, so they could grow their own food! “We used to live in Albany’s South End and would grow food and give it away,” Jonah VitaleWolff said in a recent interview with the Albany Times Union. “en our neighbors said, ‘Why don’t you get a farm so you can bring us more food?’” us the seeds of Soul Fire Farm were sown. “We moved to the South End in the summer of 2005,” Leah Penniman told NY Organic News. “We were struck by the inaccessibility of healthy, fresh food. No community garden plots were available, so we asked a neighbor to let us use a small portion of their garden. We also joined the CSA with the nearest


Youth from Collard City Growers, in Troy, at the hoop house. Photo by Jonah Vitale-Wolff drop-off—two miles away! I would walk to pick up my share with one kid strapped to my back and the other in the stroller. It was very challenging to raise kids in a healthy manner with these barriers. “Determined to make a change, Jonah and I started Soul Fire Farm with a mission to grow and deliver food directly to our neighbors,” Leah explained. “We came together at community meetings to get their ideas about what we should grow and what programming should be offered. We are those people in the food desert!”

Fresh Food on Your Doorstep Soul Fire Farm delivers CSA shares directly to nearly a hundred families in Albany’s South End, Arbor Hill and Mansion neighborhoods, North Central Troy, and western Rennselaer County. Sliding-scale fees and EBT/SNAP benefits ensure that anyone can participate, regardless of income. In return, community members continue to work with Leah and Jonah on the farm in Grafton, lending a hand with

Youth from Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood build a raised bed herb garden. Photo by Jonah Vitale-Wolff

anything from weeding and hightunnel maintenance, to raising the roof on their new barn! During the growing season Soul Fire Farm hosts numerous potlucks and skill shares. Visitors of all ages are welcome. Supplying fresh foods to underserved areas is central to their mission. But there’s a lot more to Jonah and Leah’s advocacy work. For example: u

Education and training, such as the innovative Black and Latino Farmers Immersion for novice growers, free workshops for urban youth, apprenticeships in sustainable agriculture, and activist retreats

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Partnership with Albany County’s restorative justice program, for teens convicted of theft, which allows them to pay back their victims while gaining valuable farm skills

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Leadership in the international Food Sovereignty movement, which recently took them to Mexico, Haiti, Brazil and Ghana

Soul Fire Farm continues to grow. One day it will be a very big tree, with roots and branches extending in all directions. Locavore in its purest form? Perhaps… We’ll let Leah wrap up the story, for now, in her own words.

by Leah Penniman

Photo of Leah Penniman by Capers Rumph

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Twenty years and five farms later, I am still working the land. Jonah and I purchased property in upstate New York at the end of 2006 with the vision to start a farm that would serve the community we loved. With our very young children in tow, we invested every spare dollar and hour over the next several years to build our earthen home by hand, repair the mountain soils, install water, electricity and sewage, and otherwise etch a homestead out of the virgin forest. Describing those years as challenging is a severe understatement and I am

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When I was 15, I started my first real summer job working on a farm in the Boston area. It was tough being 15. I remember lots of questions and confusion about race, relationships, family belonging, justice, and my own worth. Something profound and magical happened to me as a I learned to plant, tend and harvest, and later to prepare and serve that produce in Boston’s toughest neighborhoods. I found an anchor in the elegant simplicity of working the earth and sharing her bounty. What I was doing was good, and right. ere was no confusion.

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Why This Farm Matters to Me

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Left: Apprentice Crysbel Tejada displays an herb harvest. Photo by Capers Rumph. Middle: Black and Latino Farmers Immersion participants harvest salad mix. Photo by Capers Rumph. Right: Jonah leads a community weeding party. Photo by David Ford proud that our family survived intact and that we are manifesting our dream. Soul Fire Farm is a special project, born of our hands but with a life and identity far beyond what we can claim as ours. I could share lots of fancy statistics about how many families we feed, how many youth we educate, how many farmers we train domestically and internationally, how many people look to us for leadership in the national Food Justice movement. While these numbers are useful, they are not what keeps me going. What keeps me going is this: A young man who struggles with his own worth and belonging arrives at the farm, takes off his shoes so he can feel the warm and firm earth, and tells me that in that contact he can feel his ancestors supporting him and he can remember that the world is not scary and that he belongs here…

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It’s the family in Albany’s South End who remind me that without our vegetable deliveries to their doorstep each week, they would have to feed their kids just boiled white pasta…

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It’s the participants in our Black and Latino Farmers Immersion actively working to heal their own land-based trauma inherited from their enslaved ancestors, and reclaim their right to grow and prepare their own food…

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Soul Fire Farm is not a paradise and the work is quite imperfect. Sometimes it seems the world demands that we paint a perfect picture of victory in order to garner support. e truth is that our food distribution model reaches some and not others. Sometimes it even confuses people. We don’t have enough contact with all the youth to know if our program makes any change beyond the short time they are here. Some farm apprentices are not happy with their experience and move on to other places. Jonah and I work way too many hours and are not always the best partners and parents, too distracted and stressed.

All of it is true. e beauty. e struggle. We are committed to growing Soul Fire Farm into the best version of itself, and have dedicated this year to reflection and strategic action. We have incorporated as a nonprofit and assembled a brilliant, dedicated board of directors as thought partners. We are building new infrastructure—a barn for packing and distribution and lodging for program participants. We are raising money so that people can actually get paid fairly for their work. For the first time, we are asking for help in a substantial way. anks for hearing my story!

Soul Fire Farm is a NOFA-NY Farmer's Pledge member in Grafton (Rensselaer Co.). When she's not working hard on the land, Leah Penniman leads the farm's education programs and teaches high school science in Troy. Jonah Vitale-Woolf is Soul Fire's full-time farmer and manager. For more information, visit www.soulfirefarm.com.

The Soul Fire Farm family sets up shop at a market in Albany’s Arbor Hill neighborhood (left to right: Leah Penniman, Neshima Vitale-Penniman, Emet Vitale-Penniman, Jonah Vitale-Wolff ). Photo courtesy of Soul Fire Farm


Organic ingredients, collectively sourced

How Small World Food Supports Local Growers by Matt Kelly

One food producer in western New York is enabling local organic farmers to build capacity, while helping to lower the barriers faced by specialty growers. ant the very best food porn? Small World Food W Collective in Rochester has it. Cruise just a few pages

Where does it all come from?

What’s the difference?

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“Using local organic whole-grain flour feels a lot like listening to real live music instead of canned, pop radio,” says Nathan. “There’s more variation and it takes some time to get accustomed to it, but the quality of local flour is so much higher that it’s worth a little inconvenience.” Inconvenience, in this case, means not being able to blindly follow a recipe or simply dump everything

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When you’re done ogling their ferments, check out the list of over 50 farms that Small World sources from. “Most of our farms are between 20 and 80 miles from downtown Rochester,” says Luka Stodola, a coowner of Small World and one of the founding members of this worker-owned cooperative. “For ingredients we can’t get locally, we make sure they come from producers who follow organic practices.” Which begs the question: when Small World has to choose, is it better to go local or go organic with ingredients? “It’s a false dichotomy,” says Luke, completely knocking the question out of the air. “Our goal is to

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on their website and you’ll see: farm maize bread, maple cashew granola, purple sauerkraut, spicy kimchi and—oh, yes—sweet white miso! Want the very best food? Yup, Small World has that too: the food they make really is as good as it looks. Which is the result of two very important factors: the extremely thoughtful production that goes into each and every item, and the almost exclusive use of local ingredients.

help build up sufficient production capacity that is both local and organic.” And this is a pretty important idea to wrap our heads around: if we want great organic food to come from local producers, we have to support them. We can’t just sit back and wonder why they aren’t making things for us to consume. “Fresh veggies are the easiest to find locally,” says Nathan Carter, another co-owner and a one-time intern at the co-op. There aren’t many barriers to getting into the organic vegetable game for local growers. Dry beans and specialty grains, on the other hand, can be hard to source locally because the barriers tend to be pretty high. “The harvesting and cleaning equipment are extremely expensive.” And yet Small World uses locally grown and locally ground flour for every loaf of bread they bake.

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Left: Matt Kelly’s first batch of fermented kraut. Below: Empty bottles ready for Small World's apple cider vinegar. Photos by Matt Kelly

into a bread machine to get a perfect loaf. Using local grains requires paying careful attention every time because the character of the flour—the texture, the hydration, the potential to build gluten—can change with each harvest. You have to adjust quantities, often on the fly, to get the end product you want. Relying on local ingredients always seems to require a little problem solving.

“Sometimes ingredients aren’t cleaned properly,” says Nathan. He’s referring to a recent pallet-sized delivery of oats—the hulls were sticking to the kernels. But there’s a straight-forward solution for this kind of problem when the oats are local. “We load them up, drive them back to the farm and run them through a different cleaner.” Sometimes the quantity that Small World receives isn’t what they order. They might get more or less of a crop than planned, because small-scale farms may end up getting more or less than they planned from their harvest. That’s just the nature of farming. So Small World has to adjust their production to accommodate. “A few times we’ve had to scramble to find alternate sources, sometimes reaching father afield to farms in Vermont or Pennsylvania.”

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What are the problems?

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Can we all do it? The Small World kimchi that you’re leering at was made back in November 2014. Eight pallets of Napa cabbage arrived at the shop: 3,000 pounds of crunchy, brassica goodness. It was all hand diced by a crack team of staff, interns and volunteers. It was mixed with salt and other ingredients in a purposebuilt wooden bin that was the size of a small room. It was packed by hand into 50-gallon drums, assemblyline style, to sit and ferment for months. Just the sheer volume of this one batch of kimchi brings up another important question: could our local sources of food really meet the demand if every

baker, producer and restaurant in the region wanted to buy locally like this? I mean, that’s a lot of food. “Yes,” says Luke. No hesitation, no doubt. “It might take a few years to scale everything up, but we could do it.” And a recent study makes this more than just one man’s opinion. Elliot Campbell and Andrew Zumkehr from the University of California, Merced, completed an analysis of the entire United States. They compared available local crop land, productivity of that crop land and the nutritional needs of the average American. Their results demonstrate “an unexpectedly large current potential for meeting as much as 90% of the national food demand” through local sources, including major population centers. But the study and Small World assume certain changes need to happen to our current food system to make this possible. What’s the old saying? “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So put down the porn. Pick up the fork. And make local food the norm by digging in at every meal.

Matt Kelly, a writer living in the Finger Lakes, works with Fruition Seeds in Naples, Small World Food in Rochester, and Lakestone Family Farm in Farmington. He writes regularly at BoonieAdjacent.com.


Bringing the Grains Back Home by Amy Halloran

An array of dedicated groups have joined forces with local organic growers to raise consumer awareness and rebuild New York’s capacity as a regional breadbasket.

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Greenmarket, which started in 1976, had a producer-only rule. However, the limited supply of regional flour resulted in the sale of baked goods made from generic wheat of uncertain origin. Among farmers, the conventional wisdom was that bread wheat doesn’t grow in the Northeast because you need dry summers to get a good crop. Among bakers, the word was that you can’t use local flour because there isn’t much of it, and when you do find it the quality is too irregular.

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Bucking these assumptions, organic feed producer Alton Earnhardt of Lightning Tree Farm, in Millbrook, grew wheat because people said he couldn’t. Then baker Don Lewis of Wild Hive Farm, in Clinton Corners, found Earnhardt’s grain when he was buying chicken feed, and began milling it—and adding the flour to baked goods he sold at Greenmarket. Their early, enterprising work in Dutchess County defied the accepted logic about local grains, and helped Greenmarket bring all of their bakers into compliance with the organization’s mission to support regional agriculture. In 2010, Greenmarket instituted a rule that bakers use a percentage of regionally produced flour—and today, these bakers use more than 65,000 pounds of regional flour every month.

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rains are the last to the locavore ball, partly because their Cinderella-like reputation didn’t net an invitation. Flour and cornmeal, rice and wheat berries hide in the background and do a lot of caloric and nutritional work, but don’t seem to have a lot of flavor. Since most food-grade grains are grown out of sight in the country’s grain belts, they stay out of mind, too, and don’t get consumer attention. In New York State and throughout the Northeast, many groups are collaborating with enterprising farmers and producers to change that. NOFA-NY has sponsored and partnered with other farming support groups like the Organic Growers Research and Information Network (OGRIN) and Greenmarket/ GrowNYC, which runs farmers markets in New York City. Universities such as Cornell and others in surrounding states, as well as their cooperative extensions, are also part of grain research and outreach projects. Greenmarket and its Regional Grains Project has been a key partner in advancing the farming, processing and use of regional grains and flour. A map on their website identifies the growers and mills that make up the Northeast grainshed. But the map doesn’t illustrate the work they’ve done, and are continuing to do, behind the scenes to get grains in the ground and make them a part of consumers’ lives.

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The issue of baker’s ingredients had been discussed since the early 2000s. However, Greenmarket’s efforts to change the status quo began with a change in administration in 2007 when June Russell, who had been managing markets, took on the role of farm inspector. While touring farms in New York and Pennsylvania on routine inspections, Russell was also on the lookout for staple crops that were missing at the markets—not just flour, but beans too. “It took two years to identify the players and start to bring everybody to the table,” said June. Greenmarket needed to find supply that would support a rule for flour use. She made connections with existing mills, like Daisy Mill in Pennsylvania and Champlain Valley Milling in upstate New York. Then Russell discovered that two farmers in the Ithaca area wanted to start a mill, and urged Erick Smith and Thor Oechsner to launch Farmer Ground Flour. Greenmarket’s flour hunt led her to allies like Eli Rogosa of the Heritage Seed Conservancy, NOFANY, and Elizabeth Dyck of OGRIN.

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Reviving the Market As Greenmarket drew these resources together to support a rule on regional sourcing for bakers, it became apparent that building up supply and demand would be a tricky task. Food-grade grains are a low-value crop, and had not been produced in the area for more than a century. Convincing growers to take a risk to support bakers’ needs meant developing the market for all grains and all uses, not just flour for baking. “If we were going to put growers in that position, we really had to up the ante and create a bigger market,” June said. Toward that end, Greenmarket hosted events to raise awareness of local grains. A 2010 tasting event at the French Culinary Institute, and the Rye Project with Dutch cookbook author Trine Hahnemann, introduced culinary

professionals and average consumers to the potential and identities of small-scale grains. Around that time, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets joined their efforts, and put together a grant proposal to connect the dots between farmers, mills and New York City bakers. The resulting New York Farm-to-Bakery project acted as a kind of dating service among players in the bread chain—and helped expand markets for growers and mills. This was the case for Farmer Ground Flour, which began in a former Agway building in 2010. Three years later, Oechsner and Smith built a new mill in Enfield (Tompkins Co.) and within a year, they built an extension for more storage and bagging. Farmer Ground Flour now serves many artisan bakers in New York City and the Northeast, thanks to the education and advocacy efforts of Greenmarket and others. Miller Greg Mol credits Ithaca-based distributor Regional Access with facilitating the logistics and delivery that also made their growth possible. “There’s nothing else like Regional Access,” said Mol. “They are a small distributor that really focuses on other small businesses.” Regional Access has also been very helpful within the mill’s immediate vicinity, said Mol. And Ithaca’s GreenStar Cooperative Market has been a strong and loyal customer. Brooklyn’s Purity Restaurant is now using Farmer Ground Flour in their pancakes, and a new pizza enterprise in central New York is planning to use their flour, too. Wide Awake Bakery, a small wood-fired operation tucked like the mill in the midst of grain fields near Trumansburg (Tompkins Co.), helps promote this lesser-known crop. The bakery runs on a communitysupported model, selling subscriptions like other CSAs. In the summer, their bread piggybacks on other farm shares. It also makes its way to farmers markets, where Wide Awake’s bread and pastries articulate the tasty possibilities of eating the landscape. Access to markets in New York City has also enabled vegetable growers like Lucky Dog Organics in Hamden (Delaware Co.) to stretch into grains. Farmer Richard Giles grew up farming commodity grains in Mississippi and Alabama. “You take it to the elevator and take what they offer. Up here, I’d steered away from commodity crops because they’re a dead end,” he said. But a summer neighbor’s curiosity about bread helped Lucky Dog Organics apply a specialty approach to grains as well as vegetables. Michael O’Malley offered to source seeds and buy a harvester, and his commitment to tend to a crop that matures


A Nationwide Grains Revival? The renaissance of regional grains is not limited to New York and the Northeast. Pockets of small-scale grain farming are popping up all over the country. Dietary concerns about gluten have had the side benefit of consumers seeking alternatives to commodity staples, and are helping to nudge along the development of regional grains systems. In Maine—historically, a breadbasket for the Union Army during the Civil War—a vibrant mesh of efforts is intersecting, too. Interest in revitalizing the state’s capacity to grow grains is fostering research at the University of Maine, while repurposing of a former county jail into a food hub housing the Somerset Grist Mill. New grain farms focusing on value-added direct sales are starting up, and existing farm mills like Aurora Mills and Farm are getting stronger. Across the country in Eugene, Oregon, dynamic enterprises are afoot. Two new mills have opened up in the area, Greenwillow Grains and Camas Country Mill. Hummingbird Wholesale is a natural foods distributor that acts much as Greenmarket does in the Northeast. Hummingbird is helping farmers develop new markets for the crops they want to see grown, and encouraging organic farming. Pioneers of a new relationship in the commercial marketplace, the company is building a model of Distributor Supported Agriculture.

Amy Halloran is a writer living in Troy, New York. Her latest book, The New Bread Basket: How the new crop of grain growers, plant breeders, millers, maltsters, bakers, brewers, and local food activists are redefining our daily loaf (Chelsea Green), has just been released.

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Facing page: Moving wheat at Farmer Ground Flour. The author's son, Felix Magai, samples the grain.

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Page 19: Farmer Ashley Loehr at Sparrowbush Farm in Columbia County.

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in the height of a complicated farming season was a critical factor. Now, Lucky Dog sells whole grains and flour in New York City and at their farm store in the Catskills. This partnership is a model that could make the agronomical dream of grains in rotation possible for more vegetable farmers. While the profit from the grains is currently minimal, the profit to the farm’s health is considerable. OGRIN agronomist Elizabeth Dyck is a champion of small grains for their capacity to break disease cycles and build organic matter. Because grasses are not in the same family as everything else they grow,

intensive vegetable farmers can exploit this capacity of grains to be a value-added rotation. “I know these crops are important for sustainable rotations, but that’s not the point. You have to help the farmers develop or reach markets, otherwise they can’t possibly grow them,” Dyck observed, referring to work she did in Africa and its echoes in the work she’s pursuing now. She is helping farmers investigate seed varieties, as well as planting and fertilization styles suited to the Northeast. She and June Russell have teamed up on joint grant projects to boost the regional grain economy from the farming side, arranging baking classes with Stefan Senders of Wide Awake Bakery, and a one-day tour of seed cleaning operations at a long-established Pennsylvania company. In 2014, Greenmarket began selling grains and grain products from the Northeast at their markets. The large land base and equipment required for grain farming necessitates farms being located in remote and less expensive areas. And that extra layer of processing, in the form of milling, limits the number of farmers who can directly represent their crops at market. Farmer-millers like Small Valley Milling, known for their spelt flour, can’t commute from central Pennsylvania, while Maine Grains can’t travel from Skowhegan with their oats. Thanks to the efforts of many individuals and organizations, amber waves of grain are moving from a patriotic metaphor in a song into a place-based exploration of what it means to live from and with the land—from seed to loaf.

Left: Harvesting corn at Oechsner Farms. All photos by Amy Halloran

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The Hunt Farm Getting it rightFamily for six generations by Matt Kelly

Getting it right for six generations

Throughout their 175 years on the land, the Hunts have built a rich history of perseverance, stewardship and innovation—while helping to define the core values of local organic farming.

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n 1840 the Hunt family first put down roots in a Ihillside on the west bank of Keuka Lake. It was

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exactly the kind of farm you’d find drawn with pen and ink in an Eric Sloane book. The family began clearing the land and built a log cabin as their home. They had a few cows, some pigs, sheep and chickens. They had small mixed orchards and planted a wide variety of crops: small fields of hay, oats, wheat, beans, barley, buckwheat, rye and corn. They had a large garden. And then the fire happened. It destroyed the cabin and everything they owned except for a clock and a small black walnut tray. But the Hunts still had their lives and their land. Today that same spot of earth is covered by six acres of grapes being grown organically. The farm is now 170 acres and includes 40 total acres of grapes, 26 acres of organically grown vegetables, a winery that produces 20 different varieties, a wind turbine, a geothermal system, forest-grown mushrooms and 200 meat birds. It’s the work of six generations of Hunts who knew how to handle change and care for the land upon which they’ve built their lives.

The Grapes and Wine: Art and Joyce In 1973, Art and Joyce Hunt moved back to Art’s family farm. The land was being minimally maintained by Art’s elderly uncle, Norman, and a single hired hand. The cows had long ago been sold off. There were just 18 acres of Concord and Niagara grapes. Norman was thrilled to have another generation who wanted to move back and help. But Art and Joyce knew little to nothing about running a farm. “Both my uncle and the hired hand were excellent teachers,” says Art. He and Joyce learned how to plant and grow a wide variety of grains and dry beans. They started a garden for themselves, with both vegetables and fruit. They learned to cut down trees for wood and handle all of the old farm tools laying around. “I became quite adept at restoring old buildings and old equipment.” Perhaps most importantly, Art and Joyce put nearly 50 acres of grapes into the ground, eventually selling them to the biggest wine producer in the area: the Taylor/Great Western Wine Company. Just like every other grower in the Finger Lakes. But growing grapes isn’t like growing cucumbers.


Opposite page (left to right): Hunt family members Caroline (with Amelia), Jon (with Will), Suzanne, Art, and Joyce. Right: Caroline Boutard-Hunt putting cabbage into the ground with farm hand Shanna Fiorucci. Below: Will helping Jon lay drip tape. All photos by Matt Kelly

Grapes require an investment of time, energy, acreage and money over several years before they ever produce their first crop. A grower has to put all his eggs in one basket. So when Coca Cola bought Taylor/Great Western in 1977 and moved all of its operations to California, local grape growers were decimated: the local market for grapes completely vanished. So Art and Joyce used the moment to learn yet another skill—wine making—and started a small farm winery. For years, Art made weekly trips down to New York City to sell their wine, helping to rebuild a market for Finger Lakes grapes and wines, one bottle at a time. Eventually, they turned the small farm winery into Hunt Country Vineyards. They accomplished all of this while rehabilitating a dilapidated farmhouse with sagging ceilings and a family of raccoons inside, and starting a family of their own.

The Soil and Food: Jon and Caroline In 2009, Jon Hunt—Art and Joyce’s son— returned to the family farm with Caroline Boutard-Hunt and started Italy Hill Produce. Which they had never planned to do. “Jon and I both just really enjoy growing food,” says Caroline. They both also went to Cornell University for degrees in agriculture, and come from

The Sun and Power: Suzanne

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Just this summer, Suzanne Hunt—Art and Joyce’s middle daughter—came back home from Washington, D.C. She brought with her a decade’s worth of experience on environmental issues: founder of HuntGreen LLC, senior advisor to the Carbon War Room, project manager and lead author of the book Biofuels for Transportation, and a speedracer in zero-emissions road rallies across Norway and Central America. She has stories to tell. But there is one that’s particularly important to her right now. “When the Chesapeake Energy Company wanted to dispose of fracking wastewater in Pulteney a few

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farming families. “Our own vegetable garden kept getting bigger and bigger each year. We had to decide: do we scale back, or begin selling some of our crops?” So they started selling: fresh market vegetables, potatoes, Concord grapes, grape juice, a local variety of popcorn, organically raised meat birds, mushrooms. Caroline sells their produce at the Canandaigua Farmers Market and through a weekly “subscription” service at the farm. But the funny thing about organic growing is this: it’s not as much about the vegetables as it is about the soil. Caring for the soil in a way that makes it better than when you found it—better not just for you, but for everyone after you as well. “Our major interest at this point is to promote the long-term viability of the soil, which is our most critical resource.” Jon says this as both a vegetable farmer and winemaker. Each of their vegetable fields is on a three-year rotation: covered for two years with a biomass producing cover crop and then tilled every third year for growing. It’s not a quick process for maximizing agricultural production. “We’re not going anywhere,” says Caroline. “We’re totally focused on making the family land the best it can be.”

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this next generation to take on the farm through an honest choice, without pressure or expectations from those who came before. “It should be a privilege, not a burden.” “I hope whoever takes over after us is able to adapt the farm and make it a success,” says Jon. Because change is the only constant. Weather rolls in from the west, heavy clouds make you pause and wonder what’s coming next. Rain keeps you from cutting and baling hay, strong rains knock it to the ground before you can even get to it. Balers break down and need fixing. Markets and consumers are fickle. Technology and tools are only as good as their users. In the end, it’s people that make a farm. It’s people that determine exactly how fruitful this earth is allowed to be. Six generations of Hunts have gotten it right so far. And their story is far from over.

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Art and Jon Hunt working on a baler.

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years back, it was a direct threat to my family’s wellbeing and livelihood,” says Suzanne. It was a threat to every farmer’s way of life. “But you can’t demand an end to gas drilling and dependence on fossil fuels if you don’t replace those systems with something else. You have to fill the void with something that works.” So Suzanne is taking the family farm solar. “We’re installing a roof-top system of over 300 panels that will allow us to be even more self-sufficient in our energy use.” She’s also working the Finger Lakes like it’s located inside the Beltway—creating the structure, the financing and the relationships needed to help every winery in our region go solar if they choose. Maybe every farm in our region, too. A bold strategy, for sure.

The Future and Change Art thinks a lot about bold strategies and the impact of a changing climate on the future of the family’s land. “We need to determine strategic moves now. If there’s more drought, should we build more ponds? Which varieties of grapes will tolerate that? Should we strive to be more self-sufficient like our ancestors, or aim to produce specialty crops as part of a more connected system?” Nothing can be taken for granted by the current or future generations of Hunt farmers. “We definitely have a new generation coming up,” says Caroline. “Our kids—Will and Mellie—and their cousins will all have the chance to become involved in the farm someday.” But the Hunts want

Matt Kelly is a writer living in the Finger Lakes. He works with Fruition Seeds in Naples, Small World Food in Rochester and Lakestone Family Farm in Farmington. Matt writes regularly at BoonieAdjacent.com.


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News from Certification A

s more consumers look for organic grass-fed beef and dairy products, the time is ripe for a new certification program! Surveys of certified producers over the past few years have shown that interest in grass-fed certification is increasing each year. This has been spurred in part by organic dairy companies that are clamoring for certified organic, grass-fed milk, and from grass-fed beef producers looking for ways to expand their markets. In response to the needs of our certified producers, NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC started developing a grass-fed certification program last fall as an supplement to organic certification. The program was officially launched in mid-April 2015, when applications were sent to all NOFA-NY-certified organic livestock producers. The response has been encouraging, with four dairy and five beef applicants to date, and more applications anticipated. Beef and dairy cows, as well as goats and sheep raised for meat or dairy, can be certified as grass fed. However, there are slightly different requirements for meat and dairy. Organic certification must be in good standing before a producer can apply for grass-fed certification and must remain in good standing for the duration. Once a herd is certified as grass fed, the animals must be managed on 100 percent organic grass and grass-based crops. No grain is allowed at any time. Grass-fed animals may consume organic molasses, which serves as an energy source in place of grain. Some farms raise organic fodder sprouts to feed in the non-grazing season, but the roots and any residual seeds must be removed prior to feeding. Organically

NOFA-NY Launches Grass-Fed Certification by Lisa Engelbert

approved mineral supplements are allowed, provided they do not contain grain carriers. Grass-fed dairy animals must have consumed 100 percent grass or grass-based crops like hay, balage and haylage for at least 90 days prior to being eligible to produce grass-fed milk. For grass-fed beef, the animals must have consumed only grass or grass-based crops for their entire lives, with the exception of mother’s milk prior to weaning. The same requirements apply to goats and sheep being raised for meat.

Certified organic grass-fed products are truly the best of both worlds! Not only is the feed verified, but how the feed was raised, livestock living conditions, origin of livestock, healthcare practices and many other management practices are all verified annually. Watch for the NOFA-NY Certified 100% Grass Fed logo!

Lisa Engelbert is certification program administrator for NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC.


Field Days Remembered! A recap of some of our early summer Field Days

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FEATuRED FIELD DAY

Making Milk on Grass June 17 at Stone Mill Dairy, Earlville (Madison Co.)

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that calves raised on pasture from the start will be better grazers as milking cows. After great discussion, the group headed back down to the lawn for a fantastic lunch under the shade trees. In the afternoon, participants broke out into discussion groups. Dr. Guy Jordarski addressed questions concerning Up in the pasture, host farmer David Stratton shares his expertise with Field Day participants. herd health. Karen Hoffman focused on Photo by Bethany Wallis the nutrition behind grass-based milk production, great topics were addressed, while Anne Philips and Nathan including Brix readings of pasture Weaver discussed their plants (thanks to Sarah Flack), experiences as grass farmers. rumen development in calves, “Grass whisperer” Troy Bishopp grazing genetics, and fencing and shared his grazing chart, watering systems. Nathan Weaver explaining how to track pasture offered sage advice on the topic of performance and plan for the preferred cow breeds: “If there’s coming season. Stratton trekked one thing I have learned, you back out to the fields with a group never insult a man’s wife, a man’s interested in a more in-depth look dog, or a man’s cows.” in his pasture system. Everyone e Field Day at Stone Mill had a chance to join each Dairy was a fantastic success. We are very pleased with the discussion group. program, and thankful to Organic With a wealth of farming Valley for their support. knowledge represented, many

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tone Mill Dairy’s David Stratton hosted this well-attended Field Day sponsored by Organic Valley, who provided lunch for the 74 participants. Also joining the workshop were NOFA-NY dairy and livestock coordinator Bethany Wallis, and NOFA-NY Certified Organic LLC staff Erika Worden and Lauren Tonti. We were greeted by a beautiful warm day— a respite from the weeks of rain this June—plus a gorgeous hilltop view of Madison County’s lush green farmland. e Field Day began with a walk up to the pasture where the herd was enjoying their postmilking brunch. Stratton shared his knowledge of pasture management, breeding genetics and raising calves on cows. Other farmers and presenters discussed optimum timing of weaning for rate of gain, as well as economic impact. Many who had experimented with longer nursing felt that three months worked best financially, while giving the calves a great start for growth. Keeping calves with the cows on pasture also allows them to learn grazing from their mothers. When transitioning a herd to a grassbased diet, the participants agreed

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DEPARTMENTS

NOFA-NY News Creating the Cooperative Farm Designing for diversity May 2 at Letterbox Farm Collective, Hudson (Columbia Co.), www.letterboxfarm.com Letterbox Farm Collective is a growing community of young farmers who produce specialty vegetables, herbs, pork, pastured poultry, eggs and value-added products. e collective is the combined effort of four farmers: Faith Gilbert, Audrey Berman, Laszlo Lazar and Nichki Carangelo. e team shares ownership of the business, makes important decisions together and divides management of farm operations. ey offered tips for a successful group business: Take time to plan and set realistic goals; establish a clear structure and agreements between members; organize day-to-day operations; and establish an effective group process.

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From Tillage to Drainage Working with your farm’s diverse soils

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May 14 at Mud Creek Farm, Victor (Ontario Co.), www.mudcreekfarm.com Whether you’re bringing new acres into production or renovating existing fields, there’s plenty to be done to ensure optimum soil fertility, while properly incorporating infrastructure like irrigation and drainage. Ruth Blackwell hosted the Field Day, along with NOFA-NY staff Paul Loomis. Anne Ruflin and Marne Coit also joined the discussion. Blackwell discussed Mud Creek’s existing soil health management, while and Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Crystal Stewart shared techniques for making

the most of the soil and land. Presenters Steven Sprecher, a soil scientist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and NRCS resource conservationist Dan Weykman discussed soil type identification and resources, as well as current NRCS programs to improve land use.

Organic Apple Production Managing productivity, insects, disease and weeds June 10 at Loomis Farm, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva (Ontario Co.) Nearly 100 participants joined NOFA-NY staff Andy Fellenz and Brittany Mendez—along with entomologists Arthur Agnello and Elson Shields, horticulturists Terence Robinson and Susan Brown, and plant pathologist Kerik Cox—for a workshop about organic orchard practices informed by Cornell University’s ongoing research. e Field Day at the state Agricultural Experiment Station covered new and upcoming disease-resistant varieties, rootstocks, training systems, pruning, weed control options, potential use of nematodes for plum curculio management, and nitrogen fertilization. Participants reported learning a great deal from this cutting-edge research team.

Iroquois White Corn Project Preserving a past, providing a future June 11 at Ganondagan State Historic Site, Victor (Ontario Co.), www.iroquoiswhitecorn.org Ganondagan site manager and farmer Peter Jemison (Knowledge Keeper, Seneca Heron) partnered

with Kim Morf (Mohawk), manager of the Iroquois White Corn Project (IWCP), to lead this unique event. Field Day participants were introduced to the fascinating history of Native American white corn and the ree Sisters planting traditions. During a field walk the group discussed weed and pest issues, then toured the IWCP processing center. Everyone experienced the great energy surrounding those involved with this amazing project, which is reviving a healthy, ancestral food at the heart of Iroquois culture. NOFANY staff Paul Loomis and Sondra Gjersoe co-hosted.

Ready to Roll? New field research on organic no-till soybean with rolled-crimped cover crops June 18 at Musgrave Research Farm, Aurora (Cayuga Co.) Want to reduce your spring tillage? To find out how, nearly 40 participants gathered for a twilight Field Day at Cornell University’s Musgrave Research Farm. Prof. Matt Ryan led the workshop with the help of grad students Jeff Liebert and Margaret Ball, research support specialist Brian Caldwell, and NOFA-NY staff hosts Nancy Apolito and Robert Perry. In the field where Musgrave’s organic soybean and silage research is under way, equipment was demonstrated for rolling down cover crops and planting soybeans into the resulting mulch. is is a viable way to improve your soil while saving time and money. Field plots also showed the results of different rolling dates and cover crop species, including cereal rye, triticale and barley.


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COLUMNS FA L L 2 0 1 5 | N E W YO R K O R G A N I C N E W S

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Why Local Organic working on an organic Ifarmbegan when I was in college and immediately I felt that I was part of something special. There was a sense that what we were doing was difficult and contrary, but necessary and incredibly satisfying. Organic farming challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally. But it also rewarded me. The relationships that I developed with the land that I farmed, and with the animals, plants, farmers and customers that I met, were very special to me. When I started my own farm in 2010, there was no question whether or not I would employ organic practices. Concern for the health and well-being of my land, my plants and animals, and my customers made this an easy choice. I also wanted to recreate as best as I could the spirit that I’d felt at previous organic farms. I’ve learned over the past five years that the spirit of organic farming is infectious. When people visit Greyrock Farm they fall in love with the land, the food, the farmers and the animals. For some, the farm is a place to find the kind of fresh, healthy food that they can no longer find elsewhere. For others, it’s a breath of fresh air, a place to find some sense of peace that is missing in their everyday lives. And some come to the farm to reconnect with that very basic human craft, the growing of good food. Over 20 farmers have worked at Greyrock Farm since I began and the spirit that is here, in large part, is the result of those farmers and their commitment to caring for land and community. NOFA-NY has helped connect us with many aspiring farmers. We post job openings and internship opportunities on the

Capturing the Spirit of Organic Farming by Matt Volz

Matt Volz tends to a calf and its mother at Greyrock Farm. Photo by Gillian Goldberg NOFA-NY website each year, and I am always amazed at the quality and quantity of applicants we get. NOFA-NY also has helped me connect with many other likeminded farmers. The Winter Conference is an event that I look forward to each year, both for the workshops and for the opportunities to talk with other producers about their triumphs and disasters, their dreams and realities. Last but not least, NOFA-NY supports me and my farm with their strong policy work. They keep me informed and provide me and other organic producers with a voice that is

much stronger and louder than any of our voices would be alone. I’m incredibly proud to be an organic farmers and proud to have an organization like NOFA-NY to support me. I know that the spirit of organic farming is strong on my farm and at NOFA-NY, and I’m excited to see where it will lead us in the next five years.

Matt Volz is a NOFA-NY board member and the owner of Greyrock Farm CSA, near Cazenovia in Madison County, New York.


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Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc. 1423 Hathaway Drive Farmington NY 14425 www.nofany.org

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