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NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | WINTER 2013
VOL. 32, NO. 2 • SUMMER 2014
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
I’ve asked the staff to prepare a list of times/locations/titles of some of the summer Field Days. And Marne Coit wrote a short blurb about Field Days, too, which we can put on this page also. There will probably be room for a filler photo too.
Save Time for Field Days! The NOFA-NY Education Team is proud to present a lineup of 30 diverse, interactive Field Days for the 2014 season. Field days are a great way to promote farmer-tofarmer education, and NOFA-NY’s Field Days will feature some of the most knowledgeable organic farmers, gardeners, and researchers in New York. Topics will include: season extension, soil management, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), biodynamic farming, equipment demonstrations for grains and field crops, managing plum curculio, sprouting fodder, and fly control for organic dairy cows. For a full listing, please visit our website at nofany.org/events/field-days, and plan ahead to attend one or several of these on-the-farm opportunities to gather fresh ideas and insights, see successful organic farm operations in action, and make new friends. We look forward to seeing you!
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Daniel Bartush compares brussels sprouts varieties at Blue Heron Farm in Lodi while preparing them for sale at Ithaca Farmers Market. In 2012 and 2013, Blue Heron Farm conducted on-farm research on organic Brussels sprout production with funding from the Sustainable Agriculture and Research Education Program (SARE). You can read the full report on this research on the NOFANY website, nofany.org. Photo by Robin Ostfeld
Director’s Outlook ANNE RUFLIN Executive Director, NOFA-NY
Back to My Roots New York Organic News Publisher Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) Editor Fern Marshall Bradley Production Designer David Lembeck Contributors: Ann Anthony, Kathie Arnold, Jenn Baumstein, Elizabeth Burrichter, Scott Chaskey, Marne Coit, Rebecca Heller-Steinberg, Elizabeth Henderson, Christina Le Beau, Laura McDonald, Sara Milonovich, Laura Nywening, Robert Perry, Sarah Raymond, Anne Ruflin, Rachel Schell-Lambert, Maryellen Sheehan Advertising Inquiries: Contact Sondra 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/join or call the office at 585-271-1979. Submissions: The Fall 2014 issue theme is the Locavore Challenge. Send article queries, photos, letters to the editor, and suggestions to Fern Marshall Bradley at firstname.lastname@example.org. New York Organic News is published four times a year by NOFA-NY, 249 Highland Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620. 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. 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. This publication is printed on recycled newsprint.
ou can’t escape your DNA—that’s what came to mind when the job posting for Executive Director for NOFA-NY popped up on my computer while I was looking for something completely unrelated. The experience of having my dream job come across my desk at precisely the moment when I was poised to take it was stunning. Although my career has largely been in not-for-profit health care, I have been intrigued about farming and gardening since I was a young child. My grandparents emigrated from Switzerland in 1911 and settled into biodynamic farming in Upstate New York. Together they managed to cobble together a living and a life, raising four children, including my father, who left the farm as quickly as he could while a young man. As much as my father wanted to leave the farm behind, I pulled him back there for frequent visits. I was entranced by the chickens and the rotation of the animals and crops from one place on the farm to another. My grandfather enjoyed seed work and hybridizing flowers as well as vegetables and was particularly proud of his goats. My grandmother sold his flowers in town and built up a vegetable stand and an egg run. After a visit to the farm, I was happily covered with a combination of dander, pollen, various types of manure, and good dirt. Back home, my parents would shuffle me off to a hot bath with the hope that my farming fascination was just a phase. Fast forward to my adult life. Although I had dreams of farming, I wasn’t too sure how to make it happen. The old family homestead was long gone. I graduated from college with a degree in business, dutifully set off on a career in not-for-profit management, and as quickly as possible purchased an old (as in dilapidated) dairy farm with 82 acres (much of it swamp). I started my dual life of businesswoman by day and small organic homesteader by night (and weekends, and early mornings). I had a small herd of goats, a flock of ducks, and a flock of chickens. I grew and harvested hay for my livestock and tried my hand at maple syrup. I tried and failed to grow apples organically. My vegetable garden was immense. I also had a few horses and, once, a beef steer. My father would come to visit and would gently ask me when this phase would end. Over the course of about a decade, I learned the perils of being overextended—and the joys of having real food and a connection to the earth. Eventually life handed me some changes. I sold the 82-acre farm and relocated with my daughters to a 25-acre plot in the Finger Lakes region. I live there today with my husband, my horses, my dogs, and an overly ambitious vegetable and flower garden. NOFA-NY’s vision of ensuring access to local, organically and sustainably grown food for everyone in New York State is inspiring to me. I am looking forward to meeting you all and learning how NOFA-NY can best support you as hardworking organic farmers and gardeners and grateful eaters of locally grown, organic and sustainable food. And by the way—when I told my elderly father of my new journey, he simply chuckled and said, “Good for you.”
Focus on the Farm Bill
The 2014 Farm Bill includes new and continuing funding for important programs that help organic farmers—but also falls short in other critical areas. by Elizabeth Henderson ................................................. ?
Going Green at the Market Sustainability programs including composting, recycling, and reuse swaps add vibrancy to farmers markets. by Lynn McDonald........................................... ?
Farmers Markets for Food Deserts Harvest Home Farmers Markets, which seeks out sites in underserved communities, hopes to connect with New York organic farms. by Sara Milonovich .......... ?
Vacation Adventure, Farm Style Staying at a family farm can be a perfect choice for a family vacation. by Sarah Raymond ............................. ?
Seedtime An excerpt from a new book about the history, politics, botany, literature, and mythology of seeds. by Scott Chaskey............................................................. ?
Back to My Roots Notes from NOFA-NY Executive Director Anne Rufflin .................................................................... ? FOOD LITERACY
Still in the Salad Days Thoughts on trying a new way for my family to get our farm fix. by Christina Le Beau ...................................................... ? FOOD ADVOCACY
Would a “National Checkoff” Fit Organic? Why a national promotion program to expand the market for organic may not be a good idea. by Elizabeth Burrichter ................................................. ? THE FARMERS’ ROUNDTABLE
Recordkeeping and Pest Advice Improve your recordkeeping and pest-control practices with advice from the staff at NOFA-NY. by Rachel Schell-Lambert, Robert Perry, and Maryellen Sheehan ........................................................ ? ON THE FARM
On the cover
Fighting Flies with a Cow Vac An innovative vacuum device for dairy cows reduces fly problems. by Kathie Arnold .......................... ?
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
IN THE KITCHEN
Home-Dried and Delicious Learn to dry fruits, veggies, and more to make the most of the bounty of the season. by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg .......................................... ? IN THE GARDEN
Small Spaces, Big Results Tips for city gardeners on reaping maximum harvest from a small garden. by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg .......................................... ? WHY LOCAL ORGANIC
Honoring Our Heritage by Laura Nywening, Peace and Carrots Farm .............. ?
You could pick a peck of colorful heirloom hot peppers from this farmers market display at the world-famous Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. The Union Square market has been in operation for 35 years and plays host to as many as 140 vendors during the peak season. Photo by Johanna Kolodny
DEPARTMENTS ORGANIC BITES ............................................... ? NOFA-NY NEWS ............................................... ? RESTAURANTS ................................................. ? MEDIA .............................................................. ?
What Does Fair Trade Mean? Does it mean fair pricing for farmers? Fair wages and working conditions for farmworkers? Fair pricing up and down the supply chain from farm to table? If you want to learn what exactly is fair about Fair Trade, check out the website of the Domestic Fair Trade Association (theDFTA.org). Over the past two years, DFTA has been developing a detailed set of criteria to evaluate fair trade claims in the marketplace. The first set of evaluations is now complete. DFTA has posted summary and full evaluations of the Agricultural Justice Project’s Food Justice Certified certification program, Fair Trade USA, the Institute for Marketecology Fair for Life program, the Rainforest Alliance, Food Alliance, and the Fairtrade Labeling Organization International.
Organic vs. Nonorganic
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has declared outright war on consumers’ right to know. Documents obtained by lawyer and food writer Michele Simon reveal a bold plan by the GMA that would make it illegal for states to pass GMO labeling laws, while at the same time excluding the possibility of a federal labeling law. As Simon explains, the GMA’s “Defense of Brand” strategy calls for the federal government to outlaw states from enacting GMO labeling laws, presumably to prevent a scenario where food makers have to comply with a checkerboard of state laws. But the GMA doesn’t want to play by the normal rules for federal preemption laws. Under the food industry’s plan, the feds would preempt state labeling laws, but without substituting a uniform federal labeling law. The GMA represents more than 300 food companies—companies that exist because consumers buy their products. Yet these companies are prepared to go to any lengths to hide basic information about what’s in the products they’re selling you. — Organic Consumers Association
Genetic Engineering (GMO) Update According to many sources, over 80 percent of the processed foods for sale in U.S. stores contain genetically engineered (GMO) ingredients. Corn and soybeans and their innumerable derivatives such as lecithin, high-fructose corn syrup, and ascorbic acid make up most of that 80 percent. Sugar from sugar beets, as well as some papaya, canola, and cottonseed oils, account for most of the rest. The only way to avoid eating GMOs is to buy processed foods with the Certified Organic or the Non-GMO certified labels. As yet, few fresh vegetables are genetically engineered; farmers are growing a few varieties of GMO summer squash, zucchini, and sweet corn. However, many more fruit and vegetables are in the pipeline for commercialization. So now is the time to push for GMO labeling in New York! For the latest information on the campaign to pass Bill A.3525/S.3835, visit the GMO Free NY website at gmofreeny.net.
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
Consumer demand for healthy, sustainably grown food has grown the organic market from just $1 billion in 1990 to nearly $30 billion today. Increasingly, consumers are saying “No” to foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), “No” to highly processed junk foods, and “No” to foods that come from factory farms. Health tops the list of concerns about GMOs, junk foods, and food from factory farms. But consumers aren’t rejecting these foods only because of their potential to cause health problems. They’re consciously choosing organic for its nutritional superiority. The health safety benefits of organic foods are well-known. For the most part, organic farming prohibits the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, nanoparticles, climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers like toxic sewage sludge or coal waste, and genetically engineered ingredients. But recent studies reveal that organic foods, especially raw or nonprocessed, are also substantially more nutritious. They contain higher levels of beta carotene; vitamins C, D, and E; health-promoting polyphenols; cancer-fighting antioxidants; flavonoids that help ward off heart disease; essential fatty acids; essential minerals; and significantly lower levels of saturated fats. — Organic Consumers Association
Secret Strategy to Stop GMO Labeling
DEPARTMENTS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
Organic Bites Food Is a Human Right! After six years of investigating nutrition and hunger around the world, Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on World Hunger, has issued his final report. De Schutter gives a sober evaluation of the failures of industrial agriculture to resolve hunger or conserve resources. This is a very brief summary of his conclusions: “The right to food is the right of every individual, alone or in community with others, to have physical and economic access at all times to sufficient, adequate and culturally acceptable food that is produced and consumed sustainably, preserving access to food for future generations.” To reduce the negative impacts of agriculture on global warming and to correct the inequitable distribution of food, De Schutter calls for a reduction in industrial meat production and consumption, abandoning the production and consumption of agrofuels for transport, the elimination of food losses and waste, and a shift to local food systems and agroecology. Instead of productivist goals and cheap food policies, national governments should support universal social security, cash transfers to the poorest families, and higher standards for employment and wages. His report concludes that to end hunger, nations and communities must adopt food sovereignty. The full report is available online through the Special Rapporteur’s website at srfood.org/en.
USDA Power Grab In a move that has outraged public interest groups, the USDA’s National Organic Program announced that the agency has changed the process for removing or restricting nonorganic materials used in the production of food bearing the certified organic or “made with organic” label. No opportunity for public comment period was provided. The change will make it much more difficult to remove questionable additives and synthetics from allowed materials. The former policy, which had been in place since 2005, required a review of the materials every five years by the 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to determine if they were still appropriate for organic use. A detailed investigative report by
The Cornucopia Institute, The Organic Watergate, published in May 2012, outlined inappropriate corporate influence in approving synthetics. This made it even more important that the every-fiveyear “sunset review” be performed thoroughly by the NOSB. The NOSB was endowed by Congress with special statutory power. This authority is now being usurped by the USDA. — The Cornucopia Institute
Protecting Farmworkers After 20 years of inaction, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally revising and strengthening the Worker Protection Standards (WPS), which have provided minimal workplace protections against pesticide exposures for farmworkers. A coalition of farmworker, public health, and other nonpartisan organizations has long urged the EPA to include stronger protections for farmworkers in the WPS. An estimated 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to crops annually in the United States, with our nation’s 1 to 2 million farmworkers facing the highest threat from the health impacts of these chemicals. The federal government estimates that there are 10 to 20 thousand acute pesticide poisonings among workers in the agricultural industry annually. Short-term effects of pesticide exposures include stinging eyes, rashes, blisters, nausea, headaches, respiratory problems, and even death. Cumulative long-term exposures can increase the risk of serious chronic health problems such as cancer, birth defects, neurological impairments, and Parkinson’s disease for farmworkers, their families, and their children. “Farmworkers have waited long enough,” said Tirso Moreno, General Coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida. “Every day without stronger regulations is a day where a farmworker risks short- and long-term health effects from workplace pesticide exposure. The time is now. Farmworkers need improved WPS standards.” — Farmworker Justice, Jan 30, 2014.
Recordkeeping and Pest Advice Planning ahead and keeping records are important whether your goal is to certify a field for organic production, run your farm business efficiently, or stop pest problems before they ruin a crop. In this issue, Beginning Farmer Coordinator Rachel Schell-Lambert offers advice on how to make recordkeeping less tedious and more rewarding. Field Crops Coordinator Robert Perry points out the importance of accurate records in the
Recordkeeping: Plan On It
Let’s focus on a necessary farm activity that has a pretty nasty reputation: recordkeeping. It’s a tedious, time-consuming chore that can stymie farmers, whether they’re novice or experienced. Many farmers keep only those
organic certification process. Organic Fruit and Vegetable Coordinator Maryellen Sheehan describes the lifecycle of an important pest of organic vegetable crops, the potato leafhopper, and how to plan ahead to control it. This trio always enjoy answering farmer questions at workshops, field days, and conferences as well as through e-mail or calls to the NOFA-NY Technical Assistance Helpline (1-855-2-NOFA-NY).
records required by outside parties: organic certifiers, GAPs auditors and the IRS. They view maintaining records as a frustrating chore. However, the benefits of good recordkeeping habits will make you glad you invested the time to devise a strategy for collecting information that is uniquely useful to you and your farm. Wondering how much seed you need to order? Check your production records. Thinking about what farm activities took employees the longest? Better hope it’s written down, so you can make a smart choice about how much help to hire. Set a needs-based limit. Setting this limit is as important as the act of recordkeeping, and it will vary for your individual farm needs. Here’s an exercise to try: Imagine yourself six months in the future. What would you want your future self to know about the farm’s activities? What information would help your future self to analyze the past six months? Chances are your future self would want plenty of data and observations about production,
labor, marketing, finances, the weather, and even how happy you and the farm team were. As you ponder this, make a list of items you want to keep records about. Next, edit yourself, because you’re unlikely to be able to record every detail. Refine your list to focus on the critical pieces of information you’ll need to record during the next six months. Contain the urge to track every interesting aspect of your farm, but be sure to consider what data outside parties and your own farm team need to know. Make it standard and simple. Once you’ve identified what information you’re planning to collect, create Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for recordkeeping. If you have trouble coming up with a recordkeeping plan that seems feasible, you may be trying to collect too much information, or you may need to devise new or alternative strategies. Write down your SOPs, specifying who will collect information and observations, what tools will they use to collect information (a notebook and
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
Rachel joined NOFA-NY in 2010 to launch a comprehensive program for beginning farmers. This program supports farmers Rachel Schell-Lambert from their first exploration of farming as a career through 10 years of hands-on farming. (The program supports the mentors and teachers who work to train beginners too). Rachel holds a BS in Plant Sciences from Cornell University. She has experience working on a small diversified farm in Vermont and served as an agricultural extension coordinator and regional coordinator for the Peace Corps in Panama and Bolivia.
The Farmers’ Roundtable
COLUMNS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
The Farmers’ Roundtable paper, a thermometer, or beyond) and where recordkeeping tools will be kept. Then acquire supplies and put them in the right places! Your shopping list may include boxes of pens, clipboards, and even plastic bags (to keep written records dry). I’ve heard that some farmers print out week-by-week harvest data spreadsheets and stash them in vehicles, greenhouses, packing sheds, barns, and in the house. If you’re planning to compile information electronically, you could set up the software or document in advance of the season, too! Farm employees should be trained (and retrained) to observe and record all data that you’ve decided is necessary. Build in time to train employees on recordkeeping based on your SOPs. Don’t neglect discussing the way financial transactions are handled! A new employee, not usually involved in the marketing side of the farm, may answer the phone one day and end up taking a sales order. There should be no difference between that employee’s capability and the regular sales manager’s capability to keep an accurate record. Pair socialization with recordkeeping. You’re more likely to keep up with recordkeeping if you have a positive association with it. During the growing season, try setting up a standing “coffee date” with a fellow farmer or group of farmers, during which you talk over highs and lows of your markets, different varieties you’re trying, how you’re feeling. Use this defined time to record your observations. It’s helpful to have the encouragement of a group. Another idea: set a goal to take one photo of some aspect of your farm each day. These photos can’t replace data, but a daily practice like this will help you commit to moments of observation and recording.
Think: take the photo, keep a record. (Bonus: you’ll end up with an ever-growing collection of images for marketing purposes.) A weekly team supper or field walk with the stated purpose to recap and record the week’s activities will help everyone on the farm understand what’s happening and why. Don’t leave it at a casual dinner discussion—write it down, too! Recordkeeping, when approached as an enhancement for the current farm and a component of the farm’s sustainable future, becomes a positive experience. You may even forget it’s a chore you once dreaded!
First Steps to Certification Robert is a sixthgeneration farmer on the family homestead and grows a variety of grains and hay while working parttime for NOFA-NY. Robert Perry He is a longtime inspector for NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC. Robert is also involved in the Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) Value-Added Grains Project mobile processing unit. Each year, NOFA-NY staff set up an informational display at several farm outreach events, including the Empire State Producers Expo, New York Farm Show, and Empire Farm Days. These events are a great opportunity for NOFA-NY and NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC staff members to answer questions about NOFA-NY programs and organic farming in general. We also set out our publications for people to pick up: New York Organic News, our Organic Food Guide, and other
informational fact sheets about our programs. At these events, one of the most common questions we hear is: “What do I need to do to certify my field?” or “I have this field that has had nothing done on it in 20 years, what can I grow organically that will be profitable?” We sometimes start by asking questions to learn precisely what the questioner means by “nothing.” You see, to qualify for certified organic production, a field cannot have had any of the following applied in the past three years: treated seed, sewage sludge, or chemical herbicides, fertilizers, insecticides, or fungicides. As the discussion proceeds, sometimes the questioner’s concept of “nothing” changes. He or she may simply mean that the field has been left fallow from corn in the past three years, or may not know the details of the field’s history. A field of goldenrod is not a sure sign of organic by neglect! While verification of a plot’s history is essential for organic certification, often the inquiry is about a plot for home use, or by someone just looking for potential cash crops to utilize the land. Having a crop and market in the plan is essential for anyone investing in a certified organic program. For home use, being certified organic would be for personal satisfaction, rather than for market recognition. The NOFA-NY Farmer’s Pledge program is another opportunity for farmers to profess a commitment to using sustainable practices. An option for certifying a field might be to find a certified farmer in the area to lease and manage the field and add it to an existing organic farm plan. In this case, the landowner cannot sell the crops as organic, but the agreement would start the process so that the landowner could certify the field in
his or her own name in the future. Planning for future organic production should follow the same practices required for a certified organic operation. This would provide documentation; it includes saving seed tags, labels, and receipts for other inputs for the three years prior to certification. It can be difficult to verify inputs for land leased out to another grower, so if certification is in the longterm plan, make sure that required organic inputs are documented. Letting a potential lease holder for your land know your future plans for organic production is essential for your success. If you have a field you want to put into production, one good way to learn about which crop might be perfect for you and your land is to attend Field Days and workshop events offered by NOFA-NY and other regional educational organizations. The opportunities range from quick-and-easy zucchini squash to long-term apple orchards and many other crops that are being successfully grown throughout the region by farmers who had a dream, set up an organic farm plan, and got busy growing.
Be Prepared for Leafhoppers Maryellen switched from working horses to working with vegetables when she moved east from Indiana in 1998. She’s grown on Maryellen organic farms and Sheehan managed CSAs around the region and is thrilled to be part of the NOFA-NY team. When not fielding calls on fruits and veggies, she works with her husband on their farm in central New York.
<<<Leafhopper>>> Photo by As summer kicks into full gear, it’s time to scout your crops and get prepared for pests and diseases! One pest I’ve struggled with these past two years is potato leafhopper. At last winter’s NOFANY conference, Cornell Vegetable IPM Coordinator Abby Seaman covered leafhoppers extensively as a potato pest. Her presentation inspired me to do a better job of leafhopper control. Leafhoppers are migratory, blowing up from the South each season, so crop rotation is not an effective control method. Leafhopper arrival times vary, but usually run early June to mid-July. Potato leafhoppers have a wide host range, and you may not see them immediately on your crops, especially if you live in an area with lots of alfalfa hay. When the hay is mowed, however, the leafhoppers may relocate to your potatoes or beans. (Remember to keep your field alleyways regularly mowed—or don’t mow at all—so if they harbor hoppers, you aren’t encouraging them to relocate to your crops.) During feeding, leafhoppers pierce the leaves, sucking plant juice and causing damage by breaking leaf surfaces and through
the toxins in their saliva. Adults lay eggs deep in the plants, so it is challenging to spot eggs and young. Young leafhoppers can do a fair amount of damage feeding on new growth. Damaged leaves first start to yellow and may roll up from the outer leaf margins, often looking diseased rather than eaten. Minor damage might not set back a crop much, but an infestation can escalate rapidly, causing the classic “hopper burn” that greatly impacts yields. Sometimes you may not know you have a leafhopper problem until it’s already an uncontrollable infestation and too late to take action! Cultural controls. Growing strong, healthy plants in fertile soil is a start to limiting leafhoppers. However, because of their migratory nature, leafhoppers can still cause problems even if you have ideal soil. Row cover is effective, but likely not commercially viable on larger scales. Some potato varieties show a bit of resistance: Elba and King Harry among others, though the latter is scab-susceptible. (Anecdotally, farmers have also had luck with Nicola and Chieftain.) Siting potatoes in areas protected from wind may help reduce leafhopper landing, and heavy rains or high-pressure water sprays can wash nymphs off plants (it’s hard for them to crawl back up). However, neither of these measures are entirely effective or feasible for all growers. One important cultural focus is encouraging potato plants to set tubers as early as possible before leafhoppers descend, either by choosing short-season varieties or through green sprouting. Scouting. I find early hopperscouting challenging because the adults are so small (under 1⁄8-inch long) and hide their eggs well. By later infestation (when it’s too late
The Farmers’ Roundtable
COLUMNS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
The Farmers’ Roundtable to control them), leafhoppers are depressingly obvious, leaping in swarms around you. At the conference, Seaman demonstrated effective sweeping with an insect net to monitor early populations. To scout for the nymphs, get in and inspect the leaf undersides— one distinctive feature of potato leafhopper nymphs is that they scuttle sideways like crabs. Cornell’s Organic Guide recommends taking action at a threshold of 1 adult per sweep and 15 nymphs per 50 leaves. Spraying and other controls. Treatment starts at such a low threshold in part because leafhoppers are hard to control and because their damage can come on so fast. There aren’t many organic spray options yet beyond Pyganic (or Pyganic mixed with Surround). In moderate years, starting at nymph stage and
spraying three times for the season at one-week intervals results in some degree of control. (Ideally, spray later in the day and be sure to cover all leaf surfaces with the spray.) Because leafhoppers move in fast (depending on the winds), preparation is key to producing a
good yield under hopper pressure! Build up your soil, use row covers if that’s a feasible option, grow early varieties (or try green sprouting), scout early and often, and make sure you have sprays on hand before the leafhopper arrives. Good luck, and have a great growing season!
Resource Recommendations • Cornell’s Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management is available for download at web.pppmb.cals.cornell.edu/resourceguide. Cornell’s Organic Production Guides, available for downloading at nysipm.cornell.edu/organic_guide/, are also excellent references. • To learn about greensprouting potatoes, Abby Seaman recommends an article in the Spring 2007 issue of Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener, which is available online at the MOFGA website, mofga.org. • Watch this online video of sweeping with a net to monitor leafhoppers: youtube.com/user/NYSIPM.
lies are a challenge in the Fsummertime on our organic dairy farm. Last summer, we added one more tool to our tool chest to combat the pests when we installed a Spalding Cow Vac—a stall-like unit equipped with fans and blowers. As cows walk through the Cow Vac, the fans and blowers blow and suck the flies off the cows’ bodies and into a captive chamber; the primary fly caught is the small horn fly, which clings tightly to a cow’s belly and withers. Unfortunately, most other flies depart from the cows as they enter the Cow Vac. Still, we collected a couple of quarts of horn flies, even though the Cow Vac wasn’t operational until early August and we ran the cows through it only once a day, as they came off pasture in the afternoon. This year we will begin running the cows through the Cow Vac as soon as the flies make their initial appearance. We’ll start by herding them through as they come off pasture in the afternoon, to remind them of the drill and let the new heifers learn the ropes while someone is there to help. Once the cows are used to the procedure, we will also run them through in the morning as they come off pasture. (Last summer, it was already too dark to try the morning run-through.)
Fighting Flies with a Cow Vac
On the Farm
by Kathie Arnold
We set up the Cow Vac on our concrete barnyard at the end of the lane. We made a chute in the laneway using metal gates with a funnel channeling to a one-cowwide chute, using 16-foot gates for the chute. The first several attempts to make the cows enter and pass through the chute and Cow Vac were a challenge. We had to phase in use of the Cow Vac itself. The first time through, we didn’t turn on the fans, and we left the clear strips that help enclose the space up and out of view. Then, each day we would add one element—one strip hanging down, then two strips, then three, then
Visit Kathie’s Cow Vac If you are interested in seeing the Cow Vac in operation, come to a NOFA-NY Summer Field Day at Twin Oaks Dairy on Tuesday, July 1 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. At this session, Controlling Flies to Keep Your Organic Cows Happy and Healthy, Keith Waldron will explain how to develop a fly-control program. Keith is a Cornell University Senior Extension Associate who serves as the Livestock and Field Crop IPM Coordinator with the NYS Integrated Pest Management Program at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. Sonny Graves from Spalding Labs will also be there to talk about the technical aspects of installing and using a Cow Vac.
four, then the fans and blowers on. It took about 10 days before the milking herd would readily walk through the Cow Vac. Once the milking herd was well acclimated to it, new heifers went through it quite easily without individual training. Cows that had been dry during training were a little more reluctant at first time through, but mostly not a problem when in the company of the rest of the herd. The Cow Vac is a severalthousand-dollar investment, but we have confidence that it will pay off over time. Removal of the blood-sucking horn flies will eliminate the production losses and irritation experienced by our cows and hopefully lead to better grazing and less mobbing of the herd. Horn flies can also transmit mastitis, including Staph aureus, which we have been battling for many years. We also intend to add an adjunct to the Cow Vac this year to try to catch other flies that depart from the cows’ bodies just before they head into the Vac. Our idea is to build a screened, peaked roof over the chute area. The screening will let light through, which should
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On the Farm encourage the flies to stay on the cows until they get near the Cow Vac. Then when the insects fly off, they will rise up into the peak of the roof, pass through slots in the peak, and get trapped in screen bags, which we can remove and empty periodically. We had a similar system in place several years ago, set up as our cows walked into a culvert under the state highway. That homemade fly trap worked well until one year when there was a heavy, wet snow in early November, before we had taken down the trap for winter storage. The snowplow threw snow onto the unit, ruining it beyond easy repair. Our other fly-control tools include parasitic wasps and fly tape and other sticky devices in the barn. We have used herbal fly repellents on the cows, but
spraying the herd is a lot of work and the effect doesnâ€™t seem to last too long. We do use the repellents routinely for the weaned calves on pasture.
Photo by Robert Kathmann
Kathie and son, Kirk Arnold, operate Twin Oaks Dairy LLC in Truxton. The farm has been certified organic since 1998 and has a milking herd of 135 Holsteins and crossbreds.
y daughter was in a stroller M the first summer she visited the farm. Six months old, with a sun hat on her head and sunlight on her toes, she watched (and snoozed) as my husband and I and our CSA comrades picked the day’s crops, then washed and packed them for the trip back to the city for pickup. The following summer, we brought a little pop-up tent for her and a friend. But by the next, she was working right alongside us, eating a cherry tomato for every few she picked, chomping fistfuls of pea shoots like a cow. This was before bugs became “gross,” so every wiggler and caterpillar was a new friend. The memories of those days are etched in the mommy memory bank. The salad days. Literally. A couple years later, we switched to a CSA without a work component, and while it’s been
Still in the Salad Days
by Christina Le Beau
easier and we’ve loved the variety on offer, it’s felt a bit weird to simply show up, check our name off a list, and start bagging. No work at the farm. No work at pickup. Just pay our money and get our food. This isn’t unusual, I understand. It’s how many CSAs these days work, and how most people prefer it. But it makes me a little sad. I miss the experience of
On an early CSA farm visit, the author’s daughter delights in a caterpillar. Photo by Christina Le Beau
working the farm and the camaraderie of knowing fellow members as more than faces in a line. Most of all, I miss exposing my daughter to all of that and more. This season, though, instead of going back to our old CSA, we’re doing something radical: we’re skipping the CSA altogether. We tried to skip it last year, then changed our minds, lured by convenience. (And sure, all that good food.) But this year we’re holding firm. Why? So we can shop the markets, one farm and farmer at a time, picking just what we want and learning from the choices along the way. Times change, so we’ve found new ways to get our farm fix. We grow a little at home. We pick a lot at local farms. We’ve continued shopping the markets to supplement our CSA. But now I want to slow it down and make each purchase a deliberate act. My daughter is young enough to love shopping by my side, old enough to be shaped by the experience. The salad days aren’t over yet.
Christina Le Beau lives in Rochester. She blogs at Spoonfed: Raising kids to think about the food they eat (spoonfedblog.net).
COLUMNS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
Food Advocacy D
o the slogans Got Milk?, Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner, or Pork. The Other White Meat sound familiar? These promotions are part of National Research and Promotion Programs, also known as commodity checkoff programs. These programs overseen by the USDA collect funds (called checkoff dollars or assessments) from producers, handlers, or processors of a particular agricultural commodity. The goal of these programs is to maintain and expand existing markets, as well as to develop new markets. Some checkoff programs also fund agricultural production research. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has lobbied for such a program to promote the organic industry and distinguish it in the marketplace. The OTA believes that a major challenge for the organic sector is consumer confusion about what organic stands for, and this program would seek to help the consumer understand all that organic delivers through collective resources and coordination. The organic community is split on their support of OTA’s proposal, and NOFA-NY is opposed to the proposed organic checkoff program. The majority of organic dairy farmers are also opposed to the program, due to the following hurdles to implementing it. Currently, 100-percent-organic operations are exempt from any checkoff assessments. The Commodity Promotion, Research, and Information Act of 1996 does not allow for more than one commodity to be part of a checkoff program. Thus, before an organic checkoff program could be created, organic products would have to become a single commodity. OTA’s proposal is to change that Act so that organics could become a single commodity.
Would a “National Checkoff” fit Organic? by Elizabeth Burrichter
Several checkoff programs include a research component. However, because of the breadth of products that would be included in an organic program, the research component would be the weakest link. If all organic products are designated a single commodity, then research dollars for organic production would need to be spread evenly across every different production system, which could include field crops, orchards, vineyards, greenhouse production, and more. This would be extremely expensive. Thus, the funds would be focused on promoting organic products, rather than on research. Creating a conflict of interest is prohibited within the program. This means that all promotion must be generic, and that promotion cannot disparage another agricultural commodity. Funds cannot influence governmental action or policy or “pass through” the program in
order to fund another organization. Checkoff promotions can explain exactly what “organic” entails as a production claim—but any promotion that results from an organic checkoff program cannot promote organic food as better than conventional. Ed Maltby, Executive Director of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), has pointed out potential problems associated with such a program. For example, other organizations already exist that could promote organic agriculture. Maltby has also noted OTA’s lack of involvement with those opposed to the program. The OTA has created a survey to collect feedback from the public. The survey is accessible online for anyone that wants to give feedback, but the format of the survey does not allow one to oppose the program altogether. The OTA may assume that anyone filling out the survey
is supportive of the program, because the survey collects opinions only on how the program should be carried out; the survey does not address whether the program should be initiated in the first place. While an organic checkoff program directed at consumer education sounds like a good idea, in actuality it would be very difficult and costly to attempt. Those involved in organic dairy know that the organic dairy market was not created by a clever media campaign from Madison Avenue. The organic dairy market was created by dairy consumers who demanded an alternative to milk from cows treated with bovine somatotropin (bST), which began in 1994. How best to keep the trust of consumers is something every
organic farmer should invest interest in. If you are an organic dairy farmer, weigh in on the subject by writing to or calling your federal representative or senators. If you want to sign on to an opposition letter, you can do so at yjr NODPA website at nodpa.com/checkoff_opposition.s html. (For more information about the organic checkoff proposal overall, visit the OTA website at ota.com/ORPP.html.) The New York Organic Dairy Task Force has decided that more education on this topic should be directed towards those that would be affected by a checkoff. The Task Force is funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute and is comprised of organic dairy and crop farmers, certifiers, processors, and related support services. The group meets twice a
year and reviews opportunities and barriers to the organic dairy industry in New York. For more information, visit cuaes.cornell.edu/organic and click on the link for Organic Dairy Initiative.
Elizabeth Burrichter is an Organic Dairy Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Cortland County.
COLUMNS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
In the Kitchen D
rying foods is a great way to save some of my favorite garden treats for the winter months and to make use of excess summer produce. Blueberries, tomatoes, ground cherries, and wild mushrooms are some of my favorite items to dry. In addition to drying, my partner Dan and I also freeze, can, and ferment as much as we are able. I especially love to dehydrate foods though, because the process is less laborintensive than canning, the food takes up less space once it’s dry, and it doesn’t take energy to store (or compete for the limited space in our fridge and freezer). If you visit my place at the end of the growing season, you might find one or two electric dehydrators running simultaneously. I like that dehydrated foods store well and don’t require energy for storing, but processing them in an electric dehydrator or oven uses quite a bit of energy. Other drawbacks include the noise and the heat created, often at a time of year I most want my kitchen cool. With the issue of energy use in mind, my dad and I built a solar food dryer last winter. I don’t have a lot of experience using it yet, but most of the foods you would dry in an electric dehydrator can also be processed in a solar food dryer provided you pay attention to the temperature and regulate it as needed. But for busy farmers and gardeners, the best tool for the job is likely the one you don’t have to build or buy during the growing season. So this summer and fall, I recommend using the device you already have for food drying. If you want a winter project, you can find many food dryer designs and plans online, ranging from very inexpensive designs made with cardboard boxes to much more complex models requiring intermediate-level
Home-Dried and Delicious by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg
carpentry skills and power tools. Drying food is like most kitchen endeavors: you can stick with the tried and true with great results, but experimenting with new things can be extremely rewarding. When dehydrating something new, work with small quantities to avoid wasting produce if something doesn’t turn out as expected. Dried apples are a classic for a reason— they store well and are delicious. Ditto dried tomatoes. Some of the more unusual things I’ve dried successfully include ground
cherries, tomatillos, summer squash and zucchini slices, and wild mushrooms. Be sure to slice blueberries and ground cherries in half, or cook them briefly until the skins pop, to help decrease drying time. Fruit leathers can be made with almost any fruit puree. Try making slices or halves of dried tomato, squash, and tomatillo, plain or seasoned with soy sauce, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, cumin, or hot pepper. Keep in mind that seasonings will intensify as an item dries, so be conservative
Sliced tomatoes ready for drying. Cutting slices ¼ inch thick or thicker helps prevent sticking. Photo by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg
slices. Remember that dehydrated items will never have the same texture as fresh even when rehydrated. Some textural issues can be solved by grinding the dried item into a powder or using the finished product in the right formâ€”such as a soup or sauce. Some wild mushrooms get really chewy when dried and rehydrated, but the intense flavors make them excellent seasonings when powdered. Be sure items are fully dry, and store dried foods in wellsealed glass or plastic containers. After a few instances of moldy items, I now err on the These bell peppers were cut in half, seeded, side of overdrying. If an item is and roasted first, then peeled and spread flat too dry to pleasantly snack on for drying. Photo by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg (crispy, crunchy apple rings anyone?), you can put some in a small glass jar, add a splash or two with flavoring. Try watering down of water, screw on the lid, and let soy sauce and dipping thinly sliced veggies in it, then sprinkling on an sit for a day or so. Taste, and repeat the process if needed. herb or spice before drying the
Dried fruits are great on their own, in trail mix, or added to hot cereal or homemade granola. We snack on slices of dried tomato, squash, and tomatillo. Making soup is another easy way to use dehydrated produce, since the cooking process itself rehydrates the veggies. I canâ€™t wait to get started on drying foods this season. I love to dehydrate foods, but even more, I love to eat them!
In the Kitchen
Rebecca Heller-Steinberg gardens, forages, eats, hunts, knits, and meditates in Binghamton with her partner, Dan Livingston. She also coordinates Binghamton Farm Share, a modified CSA targeted to lowerincome and food-insecure individuals and families. You can reach her at email@example.com.
COLUMNS NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
In the Garden A
s a former country girl now living and gardening in a small city, I’ve experimented to see what crops produce best in my urban garden. Here are my favorites, along with some strategies for making the most of growing space. Use space efficiently. Most of my top urban garden picks are “cut-and-come-again” or indeterminate crops that continue to produce food from the same plant over a period of time (as long as you keep harvesting). I’ve had good results with tomatillos, ground cherries, okra, berries, salad greens, kale, collards, chard, herbs, beans, and summer squash. I usually don't plant crops that are picked only once per season, such as cabbage or onions. Grow up. Choose varieties that you can trellis or stake, because growing vertically saves space. Pole beans, melons or squash (large ones need support), cucumbers, and tomatoes are all great climbers. My newest favorite vertical grower is Mexican Sour Gherkin cucumber, which produces tiny, plentiful fruits that look like minuscule watermelons but taste like a sour cucumber. They make great pickles. You can buy commercial trellises or make your own creations using reclaimed materials. Use the space you have. Perfect growing spots can be limited in the city, but you can still produce food in less-than-ideal conditions. In the narrow strip of dirt along the south side of my house, I grow several types of berries. Ramps, ferns, and shiitake mushrooms grow well on the shady north side. Grow herbs, flowers, and leafy greens in semishady spots, and plant shade-tolerant plants in between larger plants for maximum use of space. If your sunniest spots are paved over, try growing in pots or
Small Spaces, Big Results by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg hanging planters. Seek out seed varieties intended for growing in containers, such as patio tomatoes. I’ve had success growing smaller varieties of tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers in pots, as well as herbs, nasturtium, kale, and other greens. One caution: Be sure to test soil in an urban lot before
gardening there, especially in areas near houses that may have been coated with lead paint. Keep planting. When space is limited, don’t leave garden spots empty for long. Once a plant is done producing, pull it out promptly and replant the area. Quick-maturing crops like spinach,
Trellised cucumbers and melons thrive in my front-yard garden, alongside okra and peppers. Photo by Rebecca Heller-Steinberg
salad greens, radishes, and turnips are great for filling space between crops that take longer to mature. Extend your season. As soon as the soil can be worked in spring, plant peas, spinach, arugula, carrots, scallions, radishes, and Asian greens. At the same time, sow seeds indoors, too: broccoli, kale, and leeks, for example. You can move them outdoors in early April. Extend the season even more by using mulch, a cold frame, or row cover to protect plants from colder temperatures in both spring and fall. Prioritize yout choices. No matter how prolific a plant is, itâ€™s not an efficient use of garden space if you donâ€™t like to eat it! As you plan your garden, keep in mind what types of produce you eat most frequently, as well as the availability and cost if you were to purchase them. If you cook with fresh herbs, but they are expensive
and hard to find from local sources, growing herbs is a great use of your garden space. I also like to consider which items I can easily preserve if I have extra. Items such as herbs, kale, and ground cherries are easy to dehydrate, and leafy greens can be blanched and frozen to eat through the winter. Try perennials. Many perennial crops produce more or earlier in the season than annual crops. Another perk of perennials is you can get cuttings or divisions of plants from other gardeners. Productive hand-me-down perennials in my garden include rhubarb, berries, sunchokes, walking onion, lovage, lemon balm, and day lilies. Eat weeds. In a tiny garden, it can be frustrating when weeds compete for space and nutrients with the plants you want to grow. But why fight nature, when you can reap the rewards? Common
weeds such as purslane, chickweed, dandelions, lambâ€™s quarters, and sorrel are delicious and high in nutrients. Be sure to take a class or consult with a knowledgeable friend about wild edibles before consuming them. Use a reliable field guide to confirm plant ID. Most importantly, keep experimenting to see what works best for you and your space! Every garden season brings new discoveries and delights, so start planting today.
In the Garden
Rebecca Heller-Steinberg gardens, forages, eats, hunts, knits, and meditates in Binghamton with her partner, Dan Livingston. She also coordinates Binghamton Farm Share, a modified CSA targeted to lowerincome and food-insecure individuals and families. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Focus on the Farm Bill by Elizabeth Henderson
What the Agricultural Act of 2014 means for New York Stateâ€™s organic farmers.
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
tart. Stop. Hurry up. Wait. That has been the Sfrustrating process of the 2014 Farm Bill, which
started in 2010 and should have come to fruition as the Agricultural Act of 2012. That year, Congress could not come to agreement on a bill and instead passed an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. (The extension left out funding for most organic and sustainable agriculture programs.) Only two years late, both houses of Congress did finally agree on the Agricultural Act of 2014, comprising 959 pages of legislation, an omnibus bill that covers agriculture, conservation, food aid, and nutrition programs. Organic farming and local food systems came out fairly well, although the bill as a whole does little to reform the nagging problems and inequities of industrial agriculture and takes several steps backward as far as struggling low-income Americans and conservation are concerned. Voluminous as the Farm Bill is, other areas of federal legislation are every bit as critical in shaping our food system. Each time Congress allows the President to sign onto another free trade agreement, more family-scale farms go out of business and consolidation of the biggest farms increases. The trade agreements make it easier to import food and for U.S. agribusinesses to move production to countries where labor is cheaper and environmental controls over the use of toxic pesticides more lax. As just one example, since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, imported fruit juice swelled from a third to over half of all the juice consumed in the United States.
Labor laws are also fundamental shapers of agriculture. The decision made in 1935 to exclude farm workers from the protections of the National Labor Relations Act has done more than any Farm Bill to keep food cheap. Unlike workers in other sectors, farmworkers do not have the right to associate freely, to bargain collectively, or to form unions. When they work more than 40 hours in a week, they do not receive time and a half pay for overtime. Combine that with immigration policy, and you start to understand why most people who work on farms earn less than poverty-level wages. And the capacity of the biggest farms to crank out food at low prices keeps the earnings of family-scale farmers unacceptably low because they have to compete with the big boys. But to get back to the 2014 Farm Bill, what are some of the significant features of the legislation? Both houses of Congress were willing to limit payments to farmers with over $750,000 in annual income, yet the conference committee that wrote the final language stripped out that and other limits on payments to the wealthiest farm owners. Shamefully, the bill reduces support for Supplemental Nutrition Assurance Payments (SNAP, aka Food Stamps) by $8 billion at a time when food assistance is needed more than ever. In 2013, over 48 million people turned to SNAP to put food on their tables, and 50 percent of recipients are children.
Bright Spots for Organic On a happier note, the cluster of organic programs that were stranded without funding for over a year are up and running again, with some additional money. Of real importance to small-scale
Where’s the Money? 10-Year Baseline Funding: $973 Billion
Crop Insurance ($84) Conservation ($62) Commodities ($59)
All Others ($4) (Trade, Credit, Rural Development, Research, Forestry, Energy, Horticulture, Miscellaneous) The Farm Bill authorizes close to a trillion dollars in spending over a 10-year period. This chart shows the relative percentage that various programs (“titles”) covered by the bill receive. The largest category of spending is nutrition programs, including SNAP (“food stamps”). Commodities programs include subsidy payments to farmers for crops such as corn and soybeans. Conservation programs include efforts to protect wildlife and prevent soil erosion. Note that funds for organic agriculture and local food system support are part of the "All Others" category— only a tiny slice of the pie.
organic farms in New York, the Organic Cost Share program pays up to $750 or 75 percent for organic certification fees (fees that individual farmers must pay annually in order to use the organic label). In New York State, there is smooth coordination between the NOFA-NY Certification Program and the Department of Agriculture and Markets. For most organic farms, this cost share is the only
federal subsidy available, and it makes a big difference to the budgets of enterprises that gross under $250,000 in annual sales and likely take home only $30,000 for the farm family. The new Farm Bill also renewed funding for organic research and Extension programs ($20 million a year) and the collection of organic production and market data ($5 million over 5 years) at the same level as the 2008 Farm Bill. By 2015, organic farmers who purchase crop insurance will be compensated at organic instead of conventional prices and will no longer have to pay an extra 5 percent premium for the insurance. The bill also includes a provision put in by the Organic Trade Association to exempt organic producers from having to pay into conventional checkoff programs, and to allow the organic sector as a whole to establish an organic checkoff program if so desired. Under USDA checkoff programs, money is taken out of farmers’ monthly receipts from processors and used for industry promotion, paying for campaigns such as “the other white meat” (which supposedly boosts pork sales). Most organic farmers adamantly oppose a checkoff because, historically, those programs have taken money from farmers to pay for promotion that benefits big processors. Another bright light in this Farm Bill is the increase in funding for programs to train beginning farmers, including veterans and “socially disadvantaged” farmers (which means farmers of color and tribal farmers) for a total of $444 million over 10 years, up 154 percent from 2008. Under the leadership of Kate Mendenhall, the seven state chapters of NOFA together with our sister organization in Maine, MOFGA, competed successfully for funding to support a whole range of programs for beginning farmers. NOFA-NY offers mentoring (matching new farmers with experienced ones), lists farm-based education opportunities and available land, gives support to journeyperson farmers who are a few years farther along in their farming careers, provides scholarships to our annual conference, and plans many workshops and field days in essential farming skills. There have also been improvements in the Farm Bill programs on land and credit access for beginning farmers, raising limits to the money they can borrow to purchase land, and providing incentives to retiring farmers who rent or sell to new farmers. The President’s budget request for next year follows up on this with an historic proposed increase for Direct Farm Ownership loans (DFOs), of which about three-quarters go to beginning farmers, often as the loan that helps them buy their first piece of continued next page farmland.
continued from previous page
Insurance for Dairy Farmers One of the most significant changes in this Farm Bill affects dairy farms: the Margin Protection Program. While milk is a simple, translucent farm product, milk pricing is a complex and murky mystery. I have struggled for years to understand how prices are set for milk. The only aspect that is clear to me is that family-scale dairy farmers have no control over the price they receive for their milk. The price goes up and down, rarely covering the entire costs of producing the milk, and sometimes falling so short that yet another group of dairy farmers give up and sell their cows. The largest organic dairy coop, Organic Valley, has been able to keep its payments to farmers more stable, but the high price of organic feed has been eating into the margin between the price farmers are paid for their organic milk and what it costs the farms to produce that milk. With the Margin Protection Program, dairy farmers will pay for insurance that protects their margins, rather than the prices they receive, and is designed to address both catastrophic conditions as well as prolonged periods of low margins. The price of this insurance is graduated—the higher the margin a producer aims to protect, the more the insurance costs per gallon of milk produced. Smaller dairies pay half the rate charged to larger ones. USDA will calculate the “margin” monthly; it is defined as the all-milk price minus the average feed cost. As a result, New York may lose fewer dairies. However, if USDA does not also establish a separate organic milk price, it is hard to see how this will be much help to organic dairies. An article in the New York Times chirped cheerfully that with this Farm Bill, programs supporting local and organic food grew to $3 billion (though how the author tallied more than $2 billion over the next 10 years is not obvious), while traditional commodity subsidies (subsidies on crops such as conventional corn and soybeans) tallied only $23 billion over 10 years. Keep in mind, however, that it has taken the movement for sustainable agriculture 33 years of relentless organizing and pressure to get to this point. At this pace, it will take another century to completely replace policies that maintain cheap food and industrial agriculture. Can we afford to wait that long?
Elizabeth Henderson farmed for Peacework Organic CSA, which is now in its 25th season, and is coauthor of Sharing the Harvest and Whole Farm Planning. She is a member of the NOFA-NY Board of Directors.
For More Information For full reports on all the Farm Bill programs from the perspective of organic and sustainable agriculture, see the website of the National Organic Coalition (tinyurl.com/farmbill14). Or, click on 2014 Farm Bill Drilldown Series on the website of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (sustainableagriculture.net). For more reading on how the food system really works, start with the concise and upbeat No-Nonsense Guide to World Food (New Internationalist, 2013) by Wayne Roberts, and then go on to the more scholarly and sober analysis of Wenonah Hauter’s Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America (The New Press, 2012). Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food by Dale Slongwhite, (University Press of Florida, 2014), is based on oral histories of the Lake Apopka farm workers and analyzes farm worker health problems from exposure to pesticides.
Going Green at the Market
Promoting social and environmental issues at farmers markets reflects the growing trend to “green living.”
by Laura McDonald
troll through your local farmers market, and Syou’ll be surrounded with the season’s bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables, local dairy and meats. It’s easy to become lost in a sea of bright summer berries or mesmerized by huge heads of lettuce still specked with moist soil, a reminder of just how recently that lettuce was growing in a farmer’s field. These days, however, more and more farmers markets are becoming not only showcases where local farmers, fishers, and bakers sell goods but also neighborhood centers of sustainability. GrowNYC’s Greenmarkets are proud pioneers of this movement. GrowNYC has introduced sustainability centers under bright orange tents at many of our 54 New York City Greenmarkets. The centers are run by Greenmarket’s sister program, GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education. At select Greenmarkets, New Yorkers can drop off food scraps for composting; unload old clothing, cell phones, and rechargeable batteries for recycling; and learn about other recycling resources, all while supporting the environmental benefits of purchasing food from regional farms.
Composting: A Natural Fit Farm-fresh produce at a farmers market often comes packaged as nature intended, with skins, husks, leafy tops, and seeds intact. Food-scrap
composting at Greenmarkets has proved a natural fit and huge success with city dwellers who are happy to tote pumpkin guts and coffee grounds alike to their local market in order to feed a garden and starve a landfill. Begun as a pilot program with funding from the New York City Council, GrowNYC’s food waste collection program has demonstrated the potential to divert a significant amount of food scraps from disposal through composting. In partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY), the GrowNYC & DSNY Food Scrap Compost Program launched in April 2012, and today 35 Greenmarket locations collect food scraps 41 times weekly. Our urban composters save their fruit and vegetable scraps, non-greasy food scraps (rice, pasta, bread, and cereal), coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, egg- and nutshells, pits, cut or dried flowers, houseplants, and potting soil. They stockpile the material in reusable containers and paper or plastic bags, store them in their freezers to prevent odors, and bring them to market on buses, trains, or bikes, or even on foot. The food scrap compost crew ensures that the bins of collected materials are then sent to one of several local composting sites to be turned into a rich fertile soil amendment for use on urban farming and gardening projects. Each week the compost crews break records with the amount of food scraps collected, even in the middle of winter. To date the program has diverted more than
two and a half million pounds of food waste from landfills and introduced thousands of New Yorkers to the practice of composting.
Recycling Is in Style Many Greenmarkets also offer a place to drop off textiles such as clothing, shoes, and linens. Items collected at a market tent are sorted for reuse or divided into different grades for recycling into rags, insulation, and fiber for car-door panels. As an added incentive for saving those textiles from the trash can, all donations are tax deductible, and donors can ask for and receive a receipt. Since the program began in 2007, 2.6 million pounds of textiles have been collected for reuse or recycling at 26 Greenmarkets, with more locations planned in the coming year.
Techno Trash In November 2009, GrowNYC expanded its recycling efforts at select Greenmarket locations by adding collection boxes for rechargeable batteries and cell phones. GrowNYC established this recycling program in cooperation with the Rechargeable
Battery Recycling Corporation, a nonprofit public service organization that operates the Call2Recycle program. With technology evolving at a rapid pace, people are replacing their cell phones every few years, thus creating a huge amount of technology waste. Many cities, including New York City, have implemented laws prohibiting rechargeable batteries and certain electronics from being discarded in landfills. Greenmarkets have proven to be convenient locations for unloading these items for recycling.
Learning by Example Beyond just places for people to drop off their food scraps, old t-shirts and cell phones, sustainability centers serve as information hubs where shoppers can get answers to recycling questions and find resources such as collections for electronics and harmful household products, as well as GrowNYC’s hugely popular Stop ‘N’ Swap® community reuse event. Greenmarkets also host one-off programs offering shoppers the opportunity to learn about other ways to live more sustainably. At-market
Dropping off compostables at a Greenmarket is as easy as depositing food scraps in large bins such as these, stacked and ready at the year-round Saturday Grand Army Plaza market in Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of GrowNYC
Tips for a Successful Sustainability Center u Start by contacting your local municipal
waste and recycling centers. They can be a great resource, offering existing programs you can partner with or help in finding facilities that accept particular items for recycling, such as rechargeable batteries. u Look for community groups, churches,
charities, or businesses that might benefit from what you want to collect; they may be willing to provide the infrastructure for the program in exchange for collection materials. u Establish a realistic schedule and stick to it.
Develop a system to quickly communicate any changes to the collection schedule to avoid wasted trips and discouraged recyclers.
local farmers each week. Farmers markets are no longer just places you can find fresh, healthy, local food; they offer ecominded individuals a one-stop shop for gaining the knowledge and tools to help reduce their ecological footprint. Helping the environment while loading up on the fruits of Mother Nature’s bounty—sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.
Laura McDonald is the Communications Specialist for GrowNYC’s Greenmarket, which operates farmers markets across New York City. Grow NYC is an environmental nonprofit that gives New Yorkers the tools and information they need to create a greener city. GrowNYC’s Office of Recycling Outreach and Education (online at grownyc.org/oroe) works alongside DSNY to increase the percentage of recyclables diverted from the waste stream and to promote waste reduction, reuse, and composting efforts through targeted outreach and education.
u Dedicate someone to oversee logistics, such
as monitoring tonnage collected to ensure an ample supply of collection containers and trucks to transport materials. u An adequate and knowledgeable staff is a
must. Train employees and volunteers on what can and cannot be accepted, how to prevent onsite contamination, where materials end up, and who benefits. Encourage them to be vocal and energetic. u Outreach and advertising is very important.
Make your drop-off areas stand out with banners, A-frames, recycling demonstrations, and displays of items accepted. Provide printed postcards and post information online.
tutorials on indoor composting with worm bins have been a pull for those wanting nutrient-rich soil for their own plants and gardens. At “That’s not trash, that’s dinner” demonstrations, shoppers learn how to cook delicious dishes that make use of frequently discarded parts of fruits and vegetables. Some markets also host popular Halloween costume swaps and feature community-based programming, such as eyeglass collections, paper-shredding events, and pop-up repair shops. Greenmarket’s success incorporating programs like food scrap composting and recycling at markets has shown that there is an appetite for the farmers market shopper to connect with more than just their
Farmers Markets for Food Deserts by Sara Milonovich
Farmers markets in needy neighborhoods can offer new opportunities for farmers.
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
t seems almost beyond belief that despite New IYork’s wealth of hardworking and creative farmers
growing a bounty of flavorful, nutrient-packed produce—and many talented fishermen, cooks, and bakers just a short drive away—some New York City neighborhoods are still considered “food deserts,” where residents have few options for healthy eating. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau report, there are nearly 1.7 million city residents with incomes below $18,530 for a family of three— meaning that they often struggle to put food on the table. With the slogan: “We envision a world in which all people are healthy,” Harvest Home Farmer’s Market (Harvest Home) is one tangible step towards closing the “food gap”—the chasm that exists between the food systems available to the poor, and those available to everyone else. In spite of the current attention being given to the health (and taste) benefits of locally produced food, good-quality food still remains a luxury out of reach to many who lack the means to afford it. Harvest Home, a nonprofit organization that operates New York State’s largest network of farmers markets in low-income neighborhoods,
reinforces its market activities with community wellness projects such as cooking demonstrations. Harvest Home vendors and staff regularly witness the real-life circumstances behind the statistic that more than three million New Yorkers live in fooddesert neighborhoods. These neighborhoods have very limited access to good-quality produce. Local bodegas sell only a few vegetables, often wilted, for example. Fast food is prevalent. The result is high concentrations of diet-related health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. And while many people who live in poor areas would be happy to eat healthier meals, they often need clear, practical information about how to shop for and cook fresh produce on limited budgets (such as how to prepare and cook butternut squash and other whole vegetables), and they need to understand that healthy eating does not mean abandoning their ethnic traditions.
Opportunities for Innovation From a farmer’s perspective, working with markets, especially those in low-income communities, presents a unique set of challenges. Lower-income markets cannot always command the same prices as those in more affluent neighborhoods. For some growers, a successful strategy has been keeping prices stable throughout the season, even as prices at supermarkets may
A New Partnership One such result of farmer feedback is a new partnership between Harvest Home and Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. The college’s Continuing Education Department will establish a certificate program that will train residents in the skills necessary to work at farmers markets and farmstands. The program will provide a reliable source of workers to assist market operators and farmers with market duties such as managing markets, staffing tables, and processing payments. With a creative and flexible outlook, farmers and shoppers alike can find a rewarding situation at markets in lower-income neighborhoods. Through Marketgoers enjoy checking out what’s in season at a Harvest Home Farmer’s Market organizations such as Harvest Home at Mt. Eden Malls. Photo courtesy of Harvest Home Farmer’s Market Farmer’s Market, farmers can take advantage of new opportunities to expand their sales into places that fluctuate. This benefits the farmer by creating a otherwise would be inaccessible. Even more loyal, dependable customer base that will return importantly, it allows fresh, local food to become a again and again, and benefits the consumer by staple in the diets of children and families who are allowing them the ability to consistently budget for otherwise denied access to high-quality, nutritious their food purchases. In another instance, a grassfood. Combining access to healthy food with the fed beef producer who brought more-expensive cuts education needed to best use these newly available of meat to farmers markets in lower Manhattan resources allows market patrons to make good tailored offerings for markets in lower-income nutritional choices and enjoy preparing and eating a neighborhoods by diversifying the cuts of meat variety of agricultural products as they come into offered. With an emphasis on more-affordable cuts season. The work of organizations like Harvest that could still feed a family, the meat began Home has made great strides towards bridging the regularly selling out. A vegetable farmer who has “food gap” to make healthy, fresh foods available to attended farmers markets for 15 years increased his those most in need. crop diversity. Certain items like parsley and cilantro If you’d like more information on Harvest Home’s are popular within the ethnic communities regularly work towards a nutritious and sustainable future, shopping at that market, and this farmer was able to including market locations and operating times, or if provide this food. you’re a farmer or vendor who’d like to apply to With a bit of flexibility and an open mind, participate at one of our markets, visit farmers may find that this type of market is an www.harvesthomefm.org, call 212-828-3361, or opportunity to build onto their existing market email email@example.com. schedule (allowing them to expand their sales potential by hitting new markets on the same travel days). New farmers could try a Harvest Home Sara Milonovich is employed with Harvest Home market as a way of testing the waters of selling at Farmer’s Market and is also a freelance musician and a farmers markets. Harvest Home works with each Hudson Valley resident. She lives on a three-acre organic vendor individually to determine the best market CSA and grew up on a Mohawk Valley crop farm. placement based on scheduling and what is being sold and relies on farmer feedback to improve the quality of market experiences.
Vacation Adventure, Farm Style by Sarah Raymond
A vacation on a family farm offers delightful fun for all.
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
o leverage our need for vacation lodging last T summer, my husband and I thought: farm stay.
Spending our vacation mornings, evenings, and nap times on a farm seemed like it would be more fun and adventurous than any run-of-the-mill hotel or motel. We found just what we were looking for at Stone & Thistle Farm, a farm in East Meredith that follows sustainable farming practices. We reached the farm after following our confused GPS down very seasonal-looking roads. Farm owners Denise and Tom Warren and a couple of farm dogs were there to welcome us. They directed us down a dirt drive to our cabin. My two wide-eyed toddlers reminded me of our Labrador when she spots a sizable body of water to thrash in, especially when they saw some of the farm animals that Mommy and Daddy had promised would be part of the scene. The red cedar cabin, built from a tree Tom had cut down on the farm, was a room big enough for two low, loft-style beds arranged in an L-shape against the cabin walls. A desk and a mini-fridge banked the remaining walls. Denise had added a few amenities she thought we might need, including soap,
Juniper, the writerâ€™s daughter, mingles with the Saanen and Alpine goats that supply Stone & Thistle Farmâ€™s creamery. Photo by Sarah Raymond tableware, and towels. Outside the cabin doorway was a porch, an area cleared for a campfire, a sink with a basin below, a hose, and a cedar outhouse. The kids immediately began to investigate with excitement. After visiting the small creek by the cabin, we loaded the kids in a wagon we had brought and headed up the drive. Along the way, we passed a group of pigs huddled under a tree, a barn where a
The writer’s son, Morgan, tests out the tractor during a farm tour at Stone & Thistle Farm. Photo by Sarah Raymond creamery was soon to open, and a chicken coop. We stopped by the farm store, picked up some farmmade sausage, and made arrangements for a tour the next morning with Denise. Our conversation with Denise was the first of many gratifying chats we would enjoy during our stay. The following morning, the kids ran up to the farmhouse to start the tour. They visited with all the animals, including the goats and bunnies they had spied the previous day by the farm store, while Denise talked about the farm and answered all of our questions. She helped the kids interact with the animals and led them in the gathering of eggs from the chicken coop. Every glance at my kids was a notable photo opportunity, with ear-to-ear smiles and vibrant farm backdrops. After our tour, we headed to a beautiful public swimming area that Denise recommended at a nearby lake cozied in a cove coddled with a thick forest. In the days that followed, we attended a bluegrass festival, tasted some local cuisine, and went horseback riding; we even managed a stop to Howe Caverns. My kids still talk about our vacation on the farm. Mind you, not our trip to the music festival, which was what actually inspired our entire vacation. We all enjoyed something different about our stay. For my kids, it was the animals. For me, it was being
surrounded by beauty, and for my husband, it was that delicious sausage cooked up on the fire for our breakfasts. The company that Denise and Tom offered definitely made the time more meaningful and less isolating for all of us. From the farmer’s standpoint, “farm stays provide us with an opportunity to meet people with different lifestyles, tastes, customs, languages,” Denise says. “Because the farm’s schedule doesn’t allow us to travel, farm stays bring the world to us via our guests! A farm stay, especially coupled with our on-farm restaurant, Fable [farm + table], and farm programs such as Farmer For a Day, is an educational adventure revolving around simplicity, healthy and delicious food, and farm life.” The concept of a farm stay was something that we could easily get behind. It supports famers, and in the case of Stone & Thistle farm, farmers with beliefs that my husband and I felt aligned with our own. A farm stay enriches the simplest facets of a vacation: waking up, eating, and just being all feel special in the setting of a rich, beautiful farm landscape. Not to mention, the kids were fully engaged in parent-approved activities nearly the entire time, which allowed Mom and Dad a little refreshing down time. We hope to plan a farm stay this year, too. We’re looking into Stony Creek Farmstead in Walton. continued next page
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New York is bountiful in farm-stay opportunities. Options range from roughin’ it to luxurious living. Like shopping for anything, it’s important to keep in mind what your needs and expectations are as you make your decision about where to stay. We chose to pursue many activities off the farm and didn’t prioritize modern amenities, but there are plenty of farms, including Stone & Thistle, that offer comprehensive options to their guests, including educational activities, farm chores, meals, workshops, and community fun.
Sarah Raymond is Membership & Development Coordinator for NOFA-NY. For more information about farm stays at Stone & Thistle Farm, visit their website at stoneandthistlefarm.com.
Inspired to try out a farm vacation?
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
You may want to consider one of these NOFA-NY member farms:
Apple Pond Farm
80 Hahn Road Callicoon Center, NY 12724 (845) 482-4764 applepondfarm.com
1958 County Route 21 Valatie, NY 12184 (518) 929-3076 firstname.lastname@example.org
Asgaard Farm and Dairy
Lant Hill Farm Bed & Breakfast
74 Asgaard Way Au Sable Forks, NY 12912 (518) 647-5754 email@example.com
RD 1, Lant Hill Farm 687 McEachron Hill Argyle, NY 12809 (518) 638-8003 lanthill.com/index.asp
Handsome Brook Farm 4132 E Handsome Brook Road Franklin, NY 13775 (607) 829-2548 handsomebrookfarm.com
Humble Hill Farm and Lodge 390 Tallow Hill Rd Spencer, NY 14883 (607) 738-6626 or (607) 589-6149 foodmedicinechildren.com
Stony Creek Farmstead 1738 Freer Hollow Road Walton, NY 13856 (607) 865-7965 stonycreekfarm.org
More listings of New York State farms that offer farm stays are available online at farmstayus.com.
OPEN How about field listing here?
Seedtime by Scott Chaskey
In his new book, Seedtime (Rodale, 2014), longtime NOFA-NY member Scott Chaskey—poet and working farmer at Quail Hill farm— considers “the web of biodiversity and resilience at the heart of our cultural inheritance” by weaving together history, politics, botany, literature, mythology, and memoir. In this excerpt, Scott speaks of how the amazing power of seeds inspired him to write Seedtime.
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
are often given wings, to assist their journey Sandeeds to ensure another generation. It took several
hundred million years or more to move from the birth of a single cell to the evolution of seed cones to the formation of seeds, and yet we now take for granted this magnificent dispersal—the language of transport of the plant kingdom—as if it were simply a mechanical inevitability rather than a mysterious gift of time. When the wings of a maple seed take off on the wind, or the cotton wings of a milkweed seed break from the pod to fly for another patch of soil, it is as if a word goes forth, an original phrase but also an echo of an ancient earthly melody. The life force within a seed is equal to the force within a word poised for articulation; it draws the poet inside. Just as the memory held within each seed is activated and responds to light and the changing temperature of the seasons, when I write, I can feel the first breath of a melodic line before it is nourished into expression. The germination of a seed is speech, given substance. One of the smallest seeds we have in our farm larder is also one of the most useful and graceful: clover. Of this vibrant legume, the Buddhist teacher Robert Aitken says: “Clover does not think about responsibility…clover simply puts down roots and puts up leaves and flowers…it comes forth and its response to circumstances is to give nourishment.” Between two patches of garlic (35,000 cloves in all) last autumn, I seeded a mixture of buckwheat, a little rye, and clover that would germinate in the shade of the other grains. The buckwheat took the lead and rose to 3 feet, flowering white and in abundance to attract our bees and other local
pollinators. Then the rye grass stood up in the cool nights it prefers. Unseen, underneath, the tiny clover seeds put out a few leaves and began to spread across the soil. A seed contains an embryo, a miniature plant awaiting the moment of transition. Seed leaves store food within the endosperm—the seed coat—that will nourish the seedling plant when it emerges. As defined in Flora, an encyclopedia of plants, “A seed, in essence, is a tiny plant in suspended animation sealed up in an environmentproof coat.” The beauty of clover is the slow, steady growth that carries the nourishment forward to feed the soil in another season. In my experiment, the buckwheat died off with the first frost, the rye held on over winter, and a sea of clover arrived in late spring. When I mowed the green sea in May, clover rose in measured waves to claim the soil. Several years ago, I traveled to Sand County, Wisconsin, to address a convention of land conservationists in Madison. The writing of the mid-20th-century conservationist Aldo Leopold was inspired and refined by the spare landscape of Sand County, where he came to write his “Land Ethic” not far from the meandering banks of the Wisconsin River. In this Nordic riverine place, Leopold wrote that land is not merely soil, “it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.”
To offer a blessing for the first organic meal served to this annual “rally” of 2,000 conservationists, I turned to the language of Leopold and of the poetess of Wisconsin’s Black Hawk Island, Lorine Niedecker. Quiet and subtle, their words rise and fall with the breath of the land and water they were part of. When Niedecker writes “Sun, turn the earth once more… ,” she is aware, as is Leopold, that “the circuit is not closed…it is a sustained circuit.” Hold a seed between finger and thumb and you are part of the circuit that leads from the soil to the food to the table. After a visit to Aldo’s shack (not yet modernized, luckily), I sat under a stand of trees to write of this resonant place, and a shower of pine needles came down on the wind to cover my words. The harmony created by cranes in the distance and a small leather-bound notebook laced with pine quills became a basis for this book. Now I am also compelled to write in response to the urgent needs of planet Earth and to recover some sense of balance in our understanding and care for the land, in how we choose to manage and distribute seeds and to grow the food that sustains us. Though I am a sower, I also enter the world of seeds through the voices of other writers, “fostered alike by beauty and by fear” (Wordsworth’s phrase). “A strong song tows us,” my former teacher, the poet Basil Bunting, wrote, and “blind we follow, rainslant, sprayflick, to fields we do not know.” As we travel farther into space and crowd the earthly space we have, this is also the time to recognize the beauty in the architecture of our soils and the transformative seed language born of these soils. If we accept our role as “mere citizens” of the biological community, as Leopold defined it, then the genetic wisdom carried in a seed kernel is an invitation to nurture our collective future, not to manipulate ecologies or markets. Miguel Altieri, the noted agroecologist, has written: “The kinds of agriculture with the best chance to endure are those that deviate least from the diversity of the natural plant communities within which they exist.” I listen to the call of a mother wren in beech woods, the crack of a hickory branch in a thunderstorm, the race of a shard of ice from a frozen shelf of sand, and these sounds speak to me of what we have been given and who we are. As a farmer, I am a reader of the natural world, and my response is to listen with a “passionate intensity” (W. B. Yeats) and to give back nourishment. As a writer, I recall Samuel Johnson’s beautiful phrase “Words are the daughters of earth,” and I search for fair seedtime to find word roots that will blossom and reveal some greenery.
NOFA-NY News Growing a Sustainable Food System Making an individual effort to buy local, organic products is no doubt important, but it’s only a beginning. If we want to foster a sustainable food and farming system, we need to provide the resources to help regionally based, organic and sustainable farmers thrive. We need to connect consumers to these farmers. And we need to put in place state and federal policies that support a sustainable food and farming system. No one person can do this alone. It requires a movement of people—farmers, consumers, gardeners, and business owners—coming together to press for change. NOFA-NY is our statewide organization leading this growing movement. When you join NOFA-NY, your membership donation supports programs such as our signature event—our annual Organic Farming & Gardening Conference. Widely regarded as one of the best sustainable agricultural conferences in the East, this annual three-day event brings together hundreds of organic and sustainable farmers, gardeners, and food advocates. It offers attendees an opportunity to deepen their knowledge and learn about new techniques and resources through more than 80 workshops. It provides a much-needed forum for networking and information sharing. Right now, there are only about 1,000 small-scale organic farms in our state to meet the needs of 19.4 million New Yorkers. And the number of New Yorkers who are choosing to buy organic products weekly is already at 5.4 million and growing! The resources and support NOFA-NY provides to individuals who want to farm organically helps us all gain greater access to local, organic food and farm products. When you join NOFA-NY, your membership donation supports our projects that promote local, organic food and farming—projects such as our annual Organic and Local Food and Farm Guide. This is the most comprehensive farm-to-table guide published and distributed in New York State. It educates readers about the value of local, organic food and connects them with more than 700 regionally based, organic and sustainable farmers. When you join NOFA-NY, your membership donation also supports our efforts to advocate policies that promote a sustainable and fair food and farm system. We’ve been working to pass a Farm Bill
that betters serves small and midsize organic farmers. Members from our Policy Committee have traveled to Washington, D.C. on several occasions to fight to keep crucial organic food and farming programs funded. On the state level we’ve been lobbying for passage of state legislation that would require all GMO ingredients and products to be labeled if sold in New York State. Keep buying local, organic farm products whenever you can. And join the growing movement of farmers, consumers, gardeners, and business owners who are working together to promote a sustainable food and farm system in New York State and across the nation. We need YOU!
With your membership donation, you will receive the following: • A one-year subscription to New York Organic News, a one-of-a-kind quarterly 40-page newsmagazine that includes feature stories, columns, and departments on local, organic food and farming. • A one-year subscription to The Natural Farmer, a quarterly publication of NOFA Interstate Council that contains in-depth coverage of a topic relevant to organic farming in every issue. • Our Annual Local and Organic Food and Farm Guide, the most comprehensive listing of organic and sustainable farms in New York State. • Voting rights at our annual meeting, along with other opportunities to guide the direction of the organization.
by Jenn Baumstein
Village Gate Square, 247 North Goodman Street, Rochester NY 14607 (585) 271-3470 • lentorestaurant.com
308 East 78th Street, New York, NY 10075 (212) 288-6569 • orwashers.com
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SPRING 2014
Photo courtesy of Lento Restaurant
When Lento’s chef and owner Arthur Rogers talks about his restaurant as a Slow Food establishment, he is talking about food that is fresh, handmade, and local. Before starting Lento, Rogers and the other chefs at his previous restaurant had access to a diversified four-acre farm. He learned to cook inspired by that access to fresh, delicious food, and he carried that inspiration along when he moved back to his hometown of Rochester. While there isn’t a farm at Lento, Rogers has worked to build a strong network of community-farm connections —a full tab on the restaurant’s website is listed as Local Foods. Rogers buys most of the food for the restaurant from local farms. At last count, the restaurant is working with more than 20 local producers, including Fraser’s Garlic Farm. That’s part of the secret to the restaurant’s great success in the five years since it opened. Lento is a converted factory that can seat 100 people; the meals change seasonally. The blackboard that greets you when you enter features daily food and farm specialties as well as photos of the farmers that the staff works with, as well as their produce/animals. While some people may not love seeing their meat before it’s been processed, the staff at Lento believe that sharing where all of the food served comes from can help influence the choices their customers make. To that point, all the pastas, pickles, breads, and meats are processed in-house and used to make the amazingly fresh meals. On any given day, you can eat an heirloom pumpkin-stuffed ravioli with sage brown butter or a house-made hotdog and bun. For those who are not interested in the housemade charcuterie, there are vegan options as well. Restaurant (dinner) hours: Monday and Wednesday, 5–9 p.m.; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 5–10 p.m.
Although much has changed since Orwasher's Bakery was founded on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 1916, much has remained exactly the same. It was that timelessness that inspired Keith Cohen to take over the historic bakery in 2007 and reawaken some of the regional foodways that were being lost. His journey to learn how to make a traditional baguette is captured on the bakery’s website (spoiler alert: he went to France). The work has certainly paid off. Cohen’s traditional baguette was recently named Best in New York City in a blind taste-tasting of 22 bakeries by the team at Serious Eats. The team that reinvigorated Orwasher’s partners with similarly minded regional craftsmen, growers, and millers, including North Country Farms, Sixpoint Brewery, Channing Daughters Winery, and Red Jacket Orchards. Orwasher’s Ultimate Whole Wheat Bread is made with 100 percent New York State flour. Orwasher’s breads are made with starters from local wines and craft beers. Using New York state flours, grape yeasts, and craft beers in the bread recipes is not only a nod to ancient bread-making traditions, but also a way to support an agricultural economy while appealing to an expanding locavore-minded audience. Orwasher’s breads can be found at farmers markets, gourmet stores, and restaurants throughout the city and suburbs. At the store itself, you’ll also find value-added products from the region. Store hours: Monday-Saturday, 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.
Photo courtesy of Orwasher’s Bakery
Books The Urban Bounty: How to Grow Fresh Food, Anywhere by Allison Houghton and Jessie Banhazl Green City Growers, 2012 Jessie Banhazl founded Green City Growers in 2008 to bring the farm and its bounty into the city. She and her employees have built more than 400 urban gardens for homeowners, schools, businesses, and communities in the Boston area. This book grew out of her vision to help create “a network of sustainable farms, fueling personal and environmental health” in a world “where lawns, rooftops, and vacant lots become common and productive places to grow food—an agricultural revolution for a healthier nation.” This handbook is designed to answer common questions and address common pitfalls such as managing pests and costs and finding the best location for your garden. The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier and Marie Bilodeau New Society Publishers, 2014 This handbook comes to us from the well-known farmers of Les Jardins de la Grelinette, a successful microfarm with a 200-member CSA in eastern Quebec. The farmers follow the principles and practices of both Eliot Coleman and maraichage, a French approach to gardening. They use minimal land, hand tools, and specific methods that lead to high-volume production. This guide is full of tantalizing topics such as the seed room, crop rotation, the two-wheel tractor, flame weeding, and caterpillar tunnels. The authors lead readers through the growing season to reap their own garden bounty. Change Comes to Dinner: How Vertical Farmers, Urban Growers, and Other Innovators are Revolutionizing How America Eats by Katherine Gustafson St. Martin’s Press, 2012 Gustafson reports on a wide variety of farms, businesses, individuals, and institutions that have created access to healthy food for their communities. Each story she tells illustrates what we can do with
intention, creativity, and community support. From Baltimore’s Great Kids Farm created from unused land to the mobile grocery store in a bus in Richmond, Virginia, to the Kansas City farmers markets that give double value for food stamps, the drive for health, service, and change is apparent. A fascinating collection you will enjoy for many reasons.
by Ann Anthony
Websites Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association www.biodynamics.com To get a glimpse of the meaning of biodynamics or to dig deeper into it, try this website’s tab “12 Ways to Learn More about Biodynamics.” The goal of the organization is to help people create a vital, harmonic balance of the physical and spiritual elements of nature on the farm. Information and links here help us understand the broad impact of this approach and learn how to implement it in our farming and gardening lives. Just Food http://justfood.org This rich and delightful website is published by Just Food, a nonprofit that has been connecting communities with local farms and resources for local food since 1995. While the organization and the site focus on the New York City area, they offer information all of us can use. Look under the Food Justice tab for a Food Justice Action Guide that helps us understand the issues and how to tackle them. You’ll also find a monthly update called “Just Food for Thought” that provides news bytes on studies and articles about food policy and action on pesticides, GMOs, fracking, industrial agriculture, and other menaces to our health. The CSA tab leads you to a farm locator, explanations about how a CSA can work for you, and resources for managing a CSA. The website also provides information on the Just Food Farm School, which is designed to help the next generation grow good food well with confidence. There is also a blog with recipes and stories, all intriguing. This website is a collaborative treasure trove of info, insight, and connection for anyone trying to grow and/or eat healthy, farm-fresh, organic food.
t Peace and Carrots Farm, we choose to grow our vegetables in accordance with organic standards and have taken the NOFA-NY Farmersâ€™ Pledge not because of any political or financial motivation, but simply because we love our farm. The four acres Jay and I currently grow on has belonged to my family for four generations. Every time we dig a horseshoe out of the soil, consider the boulders that have been pulled into the hedgerows, and add back a little more diversity back to this farm that had been a commercial dairy operation for the last 50 years, I feel a stronger connection to the people who worked, worried over, and loved this land before me. To honor that agricultural heritage, we strive to treat the land we live and farm on with respect. This is easy to do because the land supports everything that we are and aspire to be by allowing us to utilize the resources it provides naturally. Responsible, sustainable,
Honoring Our Heritage by Laura Nywening, Peace and Carrots Farm
and respectful resource use cannot be carried out while maiming soil organisms and structure or relying on the heavy application of synthetic chemicals. Respect cannot be achieved by buying into unnatural growing practices manufactured by companies with questionable ethics, or by treating living beings without a conscious effort to ensure their good health, safety, and high quality of life. Carrying out these beliefs comes down to a simple formula
NEW YORK ORGANIC NEWS | SUMMER 2014
Why Local Organic
on Peace and Carrots Farm. Our crop rotation plan allows our soils to rest and replenish after a period of intense cultivation. We do not spray any synthetic chemicals on our plants while they are in the field or after we have harvested them. We have committed ourselves to treating the well-being of any animals that come onto our farm (be they fowl, bovine, porcine, human, or other) as a top priority. We spend our free time outside. We plant flowers. We raise heirloom tomatoes and watch people taste them for the first time. We salvage old materials out of the barns. We think about the past a lot. And we love our farm.
Laura Nywening owns Peace and Carrots Farm, a 60-member vegetable CSA entering its second season. She has apprenticed on three farms in the Northeast and enjoys adapting what she learned to work on her own business. Laura looks forward to helping to fortify farming in the Hudson Valley for years to come.
Laura Nywening Photo courtesy of Peace and Carrots Farm
Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, Inc. 249 Highland Avenue • Rochester • New York 14629-3025 www.nofany.org
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PA I D PERMIT NO. 1396 Rochester, NY