Issuu on Google+

Quarterly Newsletter • Winter 2017

Cover Crop Research at PCO-Certified Charvin Organic Farms page 2 Organic Farming Exhibits Featured at 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show page 3 Organic Dairy Performance page 4

Winter on the farm — Stark, soft, silent and poetic

Spring Fever By Jonas K. Stoltzfus It’s one of the rare, soft, warm winter days, The kind that just takes your cares away. Blue sky overhead, snow’s on the melt; Caressing my face, the afternoon sun is felt. Winter birds, they are rejoicing, too, Cavortin’ in circles and chirping yahoo. In the barnyard an ole cow, moos for her calf, She knows winter’s not over, only ‘bout half. A look in the haymow, yep, there’s enough To keep those animals all firmly stuffed, At least until spring, ‘til the grass starts to pop. Meanwhile there’s apple trees I’ve got to top, Raspberries to cut back and tie up the shoots, Grapevines to prune, seed orderin’ to boot, Calves to ear tag, PCO records to keep, Like the old poet said, “Miles to go before I sleep.” But this afternoon, I’ll take a short break, Up to the back forty, a little walk I’ll take, Just soak up a bit of those afternoon rays That are workin’ at keepin’ my winter blues away. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Longtime PCO member Jonas Stoltzfus wrote and performed this lovely winter poem for PCO’s 5th annual meeting in December 2002, the same year the National Organic Rule went into effect. A lot has changed in the 15 years since Jonas graced us with these insightful and inspiring words, and a lot has stayed the same. We still have “PCO records to keep” on long winter evenings. With 20 certification seasons under its belt, PCO has grown older, hopefully wiser, and serves ten times as many members.

Organic Matters

Winter 2017

Above: PCO Staff display still life paintings they made over lunch during the 2016 Staff Retreat. We have some talented artists in our group! Inset: Mary Barbercheck (left), Penn State, and Leslie Zuck, PCO, were part of an organic delegation to Argentina, which also included Rick Carr of PCO-certified Rodale Institute, and Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Ringing in the new In 2016, PCO experienced tremendous growth and maturity. Our membership, staff and inspections team doubled in 2 years while the number of operations certified by PCO increased at a rate of more than 30 percent for the 3rd year in a row. Organic production and sales continue to grow at rapid rates throughout our country and world as more people appreciate the health and environmental benefits of supporting sustainable and regenerative food production systems. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve the growing community of organic farmers and food producers that every year I have the same New Year’s resolution: Lead PCO in providing the highest quality, affordable, and easily accessible education and certification services; and help people, businesses, communities and organizations further organic and ecologically produced food and farming to their fullest extent. I obviously cannot achieve this goal by myself and I have the honor to work with amazing, diverse, smart and creative people at PCO. Together we can make a difference

PCO out and about Look for us at the Pennsylvania Farm Show “Know Your Farmer” pavilion in Harrisburg, January 7–14, and Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference in State College, February 1–4, 2017. We love meeting and visiting with members and invite those of you so inclined, to volunteer at our exhibit tables for events in your area. Your voice counts PCO members get to decide who will represent you on our Managing and Advisory boards. Ballots are sent to members in December and are due February 1, 2017. Our bylaws require that at least 10 percent of our members vote, so we highly encourage you to participate in the election to help meet that requirement. Have a question? Suggestion? Complaint? Please call, text or email me, anytime. Organically yours, Leslie cell / text: 814-404-6567

Organic Matters Winter 2017


stories 3 Local, Organic Farming Exhibits Featured at PA Farm Show Exhibit highlights include a farmers market, high tunnel, aquaculture tour, and more

2 Research at PCO-Certified Charvin Organic Farms Penn State research teams partner with organic farmers to enhance on-farm cover crop utilization

11 Well-managed Pastures Improve the Environment and Your Bottom Line Lessons learned from grazing, soil health and pasture field day

14 President’s Message 15 Transitions 20 Organic Updates Certification Materials Standards & Policy New Faces 25 Dear Aggy 26 New Members 27 Calendar Organic Marketplace

4 Organic Dairy Performance Organic dairy farms in PA, NY vary in profitability 7 Organic Stakeholders Weigh in on NRCS Funding Programs Removing financial barriers, clearing misconceptions around program priorities, and more


28 PCO Membership/ Certification Order Form 9 NODPA Field Days Deliver Info, Innovations, Ice Cream Northeast Organic Dairy Farmers remain represented and engaged 13 Organic Outreach Opportunity PCO seeks ag educators for reduced tillage training program Cover photo credit: Sabine Carey

Tony Ricci Green Heron Farm

Heather Donald Senior Certification Specialist

Michael Spangler Global Natural, LLC

Justine Cook Certification Specialist


Ashley Green Certification Specialist


Tim Joseph Maple Hill Creamery

Leslie Zuck Executive Director

Stephen Hobaugh Certification Specialist


Leanne Lenz Executive Assistant

Cathy Jackson Certification Specialist



Chelsea Johnson Certification Specialist

Liz Amos Inspections Manager

Emily Newman Certification Specialist



Clifford Hawbaker Hamilton Heights Dairy Farm & Emerald Valley Farm

Mail: 106 School Street, Suite 201 Spring Mills, PA 16875 Phone: 814-422-0251 Fax: 814-422-0255 Email: Web:

Tina Ellor Phillips Mushroom Farms TREASURER

Dave Hartman Penn State Extension

Diana Underwood Director of Operations


Elizabeth Leah Accounting Manager

Bob Eberly ADVISORY BOARD Christie Badger Independent Organic Inspector OUR MISSION: To ensure the integrity of organic products

and provide education, inspection, and certification services that meet the needs of our members. PCO provides services to operations based in Pennsylvania, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Beth Gugino Penn State Extension Ron Hoover Penn State Extension Luke Howard Homestead Farms, Inc. Michael Ranck Charvin Organic Farms

Shawnee Matis Staff Accountant Lia Sandoval Administrative Assistant Sandy Vandeven Human Resources Manager CERTIFICATION TEAM

Kyla Smith Certification Director

Colleen Scott Certification Specialist Tess Weigand Certification Specialist Reva Baylets Programs Coordinator Aleisha Schreffler Program Assistant Kristin Shade Program Assistant


Katie Taylor Director of Marketing & Development Nicole Lawrence McNeil Membership & Development Specialist April Fix Public Relations Coordinator

Jennifer Berkebile Materials Program Manager Sabine Carey Materials Specialist Adam Dalo Materials Specialist QUALITY TEAM

Angela Morgan Quality Systems & IT Manager Garrick McCullough IT Specialist

Marissa Pyle Certification Program Manager

Organic Matters


Winter 2017


On-Farm Cover Crop Research at PCO-Certified Charvin Organic Farms Penn State research teams partner with organic farmers to enhance on-farm cover crop utilization Liz Bosak, Ph.D. Penn State Extension Educator, Dauphin and Perry Counties

Cover crops are not a new fad to the organic farming community but an integral part of the farming system. However, there are still advances that can be made in how cover crops are used on the farm. Two research teams at Penn State have partnered with the Ranck family, at PCOCertified Charvin Organic Farms, to test some new ideas. On October 6, 2016, the Ranck family and Penn State Extension hosted a field day to highlight both onfarm research projects). Forty seven participants gathered on a foggy morning at the first of two project sites located in Mifflin, Juniata County. Penn State’s John Wallace and Ron Hoover discussed the Reduced-tillage Organic Systems Experiment (ROSE), which is evaluating an inter-seeded mix of radish (3 lb/acre), annual ryegrass (10 lb/acre), and orchardgrass (10 lb/acre) into knee-high tall corn, v4 to v6 stage, at Charvin Farm and two other PA organic farms. The three treatments are no cover crop mix, interseeding, and broadcasting the cover crop mix after the last inter-row cultivation pass. In the 2015 growing season, the cover crop biomass was the same in the interseeded and broadcasted treatments. However, the final mix that became established was different between seeding methods. Radish dominated in the interseeded plots compared to orchardgrass which preferred broadcasting. Corn grain yield was similar across the cover crop treatments except for the Union County location with slightly lower yields in the cover crop plots. The decreased yield most likely occurred because a more open corn canopy allowed for greater cover crop growth and competition during grain fill. For 2016, at Charvin Organic Farms, drought condi-


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

Standard Mix: Standard cover crop mix at Charvin Farm, October 2016. Photo credit: Liz Bosak, Penn State Extension.

tions during the summer dramatically reduced the cover crop stand (photo 1). The Finding the Right Mix: Multifunctional Cover Crop Cocktails for Organic Systems project seeks to design cover crop mixtures based on farmer goals for weed, nutrient, and insect management in an organic corn-soy-small grains rotation. Penn State’s Ebony Murrell, Mitch Hunter, Mary Barbercheck, and Jason Kaye demonstrated how to customize a cover crop mix based on the project’s findings thus far. At four PA organic farms, three cover crop mixes, or cocktails, were seeded after the small grain was harvested this July. The standard mix was the same across all farm locations and included crimson clover (7.5 lb/acre), canola (2.5 lb/acre), triticale (22.5 lb/acre), Austrian winter pea (14.5 lb/acre), and red clover (3 lb/acre). The next mix was customized to each farm depending on whether the farmer wanted to emphasize nutrient retention and weed suppression or another combination of functions. For

Charvin Organic Farms, the custom mix included crimson clover (10 lb/acre), canola (0.5 lb/acre), triticale (35 lb/acre), Austrian winter pea (18.5 lb/acre), and red clover (1 lb/acre). The species are the same for the standard and custom mixes but the seeding rates vary. The third cover crop mix was the blend that the Rancks typically use on their farm: crimson clover (8 lb/acre), radish (1 lb/acre, annual ryegrass (5 lb/acre), and oats (50 lb/acre). By October, the cover crop mixes were full and healthy, likely due to increased precipitation in September. Cover crop biomass and the subsequent crop’s yield will be measured. As the projects continue and additional findings are collected and evaluated, PCO will share relevant information with members for potential incorporation on their farms. For more information, please access the resources listed on page 10. Funding for the projects is from the USDA’s Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative (OREI). continued on page 10

Local, Organic Farming Exhibits Featured at 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show Exhibit highlights include a farmers market, high tunnel greenhouse, aquaculture tour, interactive mobile farm and more! Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

If you attend the 2017 Culinary Connection at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, you will probably notice some changes and additions. In keeping with the spirit of the Know Your Farmer exhibit, which was launched by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in 2016, the Culinary Connection will add special programming that supports this concept. The goal of this year’s Culinary Connection is to demonstrate how a true farm-to-fork experience can evolve — with food traveling from the field, from the farmer to the chef, then on to the consumer’s plate. This same process will be demonstrated as local farmers join celebrity chefs on stage at the Culinary Connection booth to discuss how they work together to create recipes using fresh, local, and seasonal products. The Know Your Farmer exhibit seeks to educate the public about the mutual benefits of direct sales for our communities, the environment, and the economy. This section will feature a variety of booths geared toward doing exactly that.

If you walk through the Know Your Farmer exhibit, you will visit a small farmers market, browse through a high tunnel greenhouse, and speak with the farmers who grow food in Pennsylvania every day. You can learn about the Farm-to-School programs that have sprouted up across the Commonwealth, tour an aquaculture exhibit, explore an interactive mobile farm, and check out the grazing resource center. The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Tourism Bureau will show off their newest tourism campaign which features many local farms and agritourism destinations. Another new feature this year will be the Organic History Wall which resides in the Rodale Institute Organic Research & Education Station, educating visitors on Pennsylvania being the birthplace of US organic agriculture and the remarkable growth of this industry in our Commonwealth. Rodale will be joined by PCO in educating visitors on organic agriculture, as well as what organic certification means to farmers, consumers and the environment. The “Hemp from the Past to the Future” display will round out the Know

Your Farmer exhibit. Did you know that hemp was one of the four staples of trade in Pennsylvania and was used as a currency from the late 1600s until the early 1800s? Learn more interesting facts about hemp from this historical display, which will feature the “old” — a hemp mill stone and hemp break — and the “new” — a BMW car with parts made from hemp. Other hemp products will be displayed, along with a long board to showcase what can be done in the future. Finally, don’t forget to check out the PA Preferred™ Marketplace, where you can try and buy goodies such as pickles, hot sauces, cheeses and more, which are grown and processed in Pennsylvania! Make plans now to visit us in the West Corridor of the Pennsylvania Farm Show, just inside the Maclay Street Lobby. Pennsylvania Farm Show January 7–14 2300 N Cameron St, Harrisburg, PA 17110 Hannah Smith-Brubaker serves as Deputy Secretary with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. She also farms with her family on an organic produce and pastured livestock farm in Juniata County. Contact her at or 717 -787-4626.

There will be plenty of hands-on educational activities for attendees of all ages at the 2017 Pennsylvania Farm Show’s Know Your Farmer exhibit, ranging from vermicompost bin exploration to high tunnel production tours. Photos: Hannah Smith-Brubaker

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


Organic Dairy Performance Organic dairy farms in Pa, NY vary in profitability Dr. Larry Tranel, Dairy Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, NE/SE Iowa

Organic dairying in 2015 proved to be a pretty profitable method to produce milk that is very competitive with the best of dairy systems. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach teamed up with CROPP Cooperative/Organic Valley to analyze the 2015 profits on 44 organic dairy farms. The team deciphered the profit data in several ways, including a “states” perspective analysis with a division of the farms into four groups representing: • • • •

Eastern Iowa SW Wisconsin, NW Illinois Pennsylvania / New York Ohio

Each group has a publication detailing the financial data and analyzing the results, which can be accessed at: For a paper copy, please contact the PCO Office. This article focuses on the Pennsylvania and New York data. Profitability was determined based on a combination of the following measures: • Rate of Return on Assets • Cost of milk production per cwt. equivalent • Return to Unpaid Labor per hour Please see the Table 1 on the adjacent page for detailed profitability data on the 11 Pennsylvania and New York farms studied.

Pennsylvania and NY Profit Highlights (11 farms) The Higher Profit and Lower Profit groups in this data set had similar crop acres per cow but the Lower Profit group had $905 higher feed purchases per cow pointing that crop production efficiency (quality and/or quantity) was considerably lower due to lower quality land or less intense land resource or crop input management. The labor efficiency differences were somewhat significant between the Higher Profit and the Lower Profit groups in this data set as well.


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

It is the suspicion of this author that the combination of feed costs per cwt. equivalent of milk and labor efficiency account for the major profit difference. Bottom line is the High Profit group had almost double the returns per labor hour ($34.93 vs. $17.71) and almost triple the returns to assets (16.31% versus 6.44%). On top of that, the Higher Profit farms milk 57.5% more cows (63 vs. 40) leading to the belief there was a substantial economy of scale impact on profits as well. A Compilation of All the Farms in 2015 Forty-four farms were analyzed in 2015 and deemed good models for organic dairy producers. These 44 producers were analyzed in the following four ways: • The Average of 41 not selling to “Grass” Market • The Average of 20 “Higher Profit” Farms • The Average of 21 “Lower Profit” Farms • The Average of 3 “Grass Milk® Market” Farms

The Average Organic Farm (41) The organic farms in the study, less the three farms that produced for a Grass Milk® market, averaged 69 cows and 246 productive acres. They received an average milk price of $36.16; had a total production cost of $31.46 for a net income per cwt. equivalent of $4.71. The average organic dairy earned $25.09 per hour of unpaid labor with a return on assets of 8.7%. Average milk production was 14,598 per cow annually, very similar in both the “Higher Profit” and “Lower Profit groups. The Average of the Higher Profit Farms (20) The Higher Profit farms milked 78 cows and operated 258 acres on average. They received an average milk price of $36.30 with a total production cost of $29.29 for a net income per cwt. equivalent of $7.01. This group averaged $32.45

per hour of unpaid labor with a return on assets of 11.5%. Though they produced very similar milk yields per cow, they sold 15% more milk per labor unit (FTE) than the Lower Profit group. Net farm income per crop acre was 40% higher for the Higher Profit group with similar purchased feed costs per cow and even less productive crop acres per cow hinting that this group had better crop production and/or management (better yields and quality and/or less feed wastage). The Higher Profit group tended to milk in a TRANS Iowa Low Cost Parlor or very similar type with 8% less labor costs per cow. This author estimates a 15%–20% increase in total labor efficiency on farms with a well designed Trans Iowa Low Cost Parlor relative to stall barns and outdated parlors. A 100% increase simply in milking labor efficiency can often be attained relative to many common milking systems. The Higher Profit farms also benefited by better capital efficiency with 17% less capital invested per cow and 8% less fixed costs per cow. The Average of 3 Iowa Grass Milk® Market Farms Even though it may not be the most profitable method to milk cows, a few producers are proving it can be done, and pretty profitably. Three Grass Milk® Market farms receiving a $5 per cwt. milk price premium were analyzed and compared with the other groups. They received an average milk price in 2015 of $41.11 with total production costs of $32.85 for a net income per cwt. equivalent of $8.25. Unpaid labor earnings were $29.40 per hour with returns to assets of 9.02%. All three of these farms made the Higher Profit group in the Iowa organic dairy study and would have also earned that ranking in the study of the 44 farms analyzed nationally. continued on page 6


Organic Matters


Winter 2017


continued from page 4

The average Grass Milk® Market farms milked the same number of cows on 13 fewer acres producing 57% of the milk per cow as the Higher Profit group. They milked 37% more cows per FTE with 69% of the labor costs per cow. Capital cost per cow was 20% less compared to the Higher Profit group and fixed costs were 25% lower. Net farm income per crop acre was 30% lower ($1,110 vs. $782). Milk produced per acre was 36% lower for the Grass Milk® Market farms. All three Grass Milk® Market farms were located in Iowa with average to good quality soils on lower priced land for the state. These producers milked a pretty even mix of Jerseys, Holsteins and Crossbreds. There were several other “grass milk®” farms that were not feeding any grain and were not getting any special milk price premium for doing so. These farms ranked in the Lower Profit group. But, around the country, including a small number of producers in this data set, there are organic dairy producers experimenting with lower levels of grain feeding (2–8 pounds per cow per day) with mixed but somewhat promising


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

results. In areas with high grain prices, simple laws of marginal returns would dictate lower levels of grain feeding dependent on the milk price versus grain price relationship. There are also producers experimenting with once-a-day milking with Jerseys and no grain feeding with mixed and questionable results in a system that needs more study. It is a lifestyle decision more than a profit desire. Summary Overall, organic dairying can be as profitable as more conventional grazing and confinement systems as even the Lower Profit group shows pretty decent profits in 2015. Remember, cash expense data does not include interest expense which also impacts cash related ratios and calculations. The small numbers of farms represented in each of the “states” data sets might not give fair results comparatively both within the state and relative to the other states. Also, this study may or may not be representative of organic dairy farms across the U.S. as these farms were selected as being “good” producers. However, when the Grass Milk® Market farms

were separated into their own group, both the Higher Profit and the Lower Profit farms seemed to have somewhat similar production, efficiencies and profit characteristics that it gives confidence that this study represents the “above average” organic producers. It is hoped this study will assist current and aspiring organic dairy producers to benchmark their dairy operations to better plan for future profits. Note: The “average” is calculated as the sum of the individual farms for each item, not a previous item’s sum divided by another item’s sum, which yields slightly different results. Thanks to the many dairy producers who so graciously shared their financial data for others to learn from. Thanks also to Wade Miller, Joe Klein and Organic Valley Cooperative for their review and assistance in soliciting farmer participation and funding costs of collecting and analyzing data. Note, not all of the organic farms were Organic Valley producers. For more information visit the ISU Dairy Team at: (800) 262-3804

Organic Stakeholders Weigh In On NRCS Funding Programs for Organic Growers Issues addressed include removing barriers to financial assistance for organic and transitioning farmers, clearing misconceptions around program priorities and initiatives, and more Hannah Smith-Brubaker, Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

As part of an overall effort to improve their Organic Initiative, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began to convene meetings of its Organic Stakeholders last spring. The group agreed to explore and refine the relevance and accessibility of NRCS services and funding programs for organic growers. It has been my pleasure to represent the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in this capacity, as I find the discussion to be both substantive and informative. The meetings generally include a diverse set of stakeholders: state and federal NRCS staff, other USDA staff, state departments of agriculture, organic certifiers, organic farmers, sustainable agriculture and organic businesses, organizations and associations. Some of the topics discussed by the NRCS Organic Stakeholders include: • Removing barriers to financial assistance for organic farmers; • How conservation and organic agriculture can better intersect; • How to better utilize the NRCS Organic Farming Handbook; • How to increase financial assistance for transitioning farmers through USDA’s NRCS Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) — Organic Initiative; and, • Seeking and cultivating ways to increase capacity for organic agriculture at the field level.

NRCS recently invited each state to identify an “Organic Champion,” who is an NRCS field specialist with experience in organic farming. (I should note here that the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) has a similar effort underway.) While Pennsylvania has not yet formally

identified its Organic Champion, our state’s point of contact for related issues is Gwendolyn Crews. I had an opportunity to connect with Gwendolyn recently who provided this guidance, should organic growers have questions or run into issues: Start with your local NRCS field office. Ultimately, growers will be working closely with local NRCS staff through the development of the conservation plan and implementation of the EQIP Organic Initiative contract. It is important to build a relationship at the local level. Local Field Offices can be located at or by calling the Harrisburg Office at: 717237-2218. If you run into issues with your local NRCS field office, contact Gwendolyn. In many cases, problems stem from miscommunication or other misunderstandings. Since Gwendolyn is the state organic technical contact, she works closely with local offices to improve understanding of organic agriculture and resolve organicrelated issues. She can be reached at gwendolyn. or 717-237-2218. The Organic Stakeholder group also serves as a clearinghouse for misperceptions around NRCS program priorities and initiatives. Recently, it has come to my attention that some organic farmers have perceived NRCS services to be

unavailable to them because they do not practice no-till. While NRCS clearly is a champion of no-till and low-impact tillage practices that reduce soil erosion, there is no requirement that a farmer practice no-till in order to be eligible for financial assistance. Pennsylvania state regulations require that all farmers must “meet T.” NRCS defines “T” as “the soil loss tolerance rate (T) which is the maximum rate of annual soil loss that will permit crop productivity to be sustained economically and indefinitely on a given soil. Erosion is considered to be greater than T if either the water (sheet and rill) erosion or the wind erosion rate exceeds the soil loss tolerance rate.” ( NRCS requires that soil loss rates do not exceed Tx2 in order to access EQIP funding. We know that, particularly for vegetable farmers, organic no-till is in its infancy and may or may not be achievable in successive plantings, primarily due to perennial weed control issues. We also know that as part of the Organic Systems Plan and, more importantly, as part of our commitment to ecologically based farming, controlling soil erosion is a top priority. NRCS understands these limitations, and recognizes the ongoing conservation efforts by organic growers. continued on page 8

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


continued from page 7

NRCS began a soil health initiative a few years ago. This initiative focuses on a variety of farming approaches, including diverse cover crops, perennial forages, grazing management, and diversified crop rotations, to improve the health and function of the soil. These practices, commonly utilized by organic operations, help to reduce soil loss while also improving soil microbiology and nutrient efficiency, decreasing pest pressure, and potentially improving pollination. While reduced tillage can improve soil health, implementing a soil health management system can result in more benefits than altering tillage alone. Another concern expressed by organic farmers, particularly those growing vegetables, is that NRCS planners and Technical Service Providers may have difficulty using RUSLE2 (the NRCS soil erosion calculator) to accurately describe complex vegetable crop rotations. While this is true, new guidance has been provided to planners on calculating tillage on diversified farms, farms with high tunnels, and


Organic Matters


Winter 2017

those incorporating cover crops, manure and other soil amendments. One of the challenges in using a modeling tool to calculate erosion estimates is the need for detailed crop rotation information. In many cases this information is similar to the crop rotation information required by the Organic System Plan: planting crop types and locations, planting and harvesting dates, tillage types and dates, nutrient application rates and dates. NRCS requires this information when developing a conservation plan or provid-

ing financial assistance to any cropping operation. However, due to the complexity of many vegetable operations, the data collection process for these operations tends to be lengthier. The new NRCS guidance document was designed to help planners develop crop rotations on diverse operations in a more effective and efficient manner. Finally, USDA has recognized that there are many programs, services, and educational materials available for organic farmers, and it understands that information about these resources has been difficult to find and navigate. To address this problem, USDA developed a website, This website offers information about organic certification, technical training, and financial resources, as well as a selection of current organic data and research. I hope this has been helpful and, as always, please feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns. Phone: 717.787.4626 Fax: 717.705.8402 Email:

NODPA Field Days Deliver Info, Innovation, Ice Cream Northeast Organic Dairy Farmers remain well represented and engaged Jim Pierce, Special Projects Manager

Attendees of the 16th annual Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA) Field Days were promised motivating talks, interesting tours, up to the minute policy updates and good food and fellowship. We were not disappointed, and left the two-day event smarter, better informed, excited to share what we learned, and with new friends. PCO-Certified Trickling Springs Creamery opened its doors for a behind-thescenes plant tour. Advancing Eco Agriculture founder John Kempf challenged farmers’ paradigm on the mystery and benefits of regenerative agriculture. PCO Board President Cliff Hawbaker described his transition to life on a modern organic grass-based dairy as he hosted and toured us through his farm. The annual NODPA Field Days event has become an important gathering place for idea exchange as well as policy and technology updates. Held this year on September 29 and 30 at the Chambersburg Mennonite Church, the gathering attracted about 80 farmers, educators, trade representatives, including PCO, from as far away as Maine. NODPA con-

tinues to stay true to its mission; focusing education and advocacy efforts on family organic dairy farmers. Due to the absence of NODPA president Ed Maltby, policy updates were accurately and objectively presented by Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch. Animal welfare, origin of livestock, temporary variances from pasture requirements in drought, uniform grass fed standards, NOSB’s agenda, and hydroponics were discussed. Headlining a strong list of panel discussions and speaker presentations was John Kempf, founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, an expert in the field of biological and regenerative farming. John has an energetic, interactive style that challenges listeners to examine not only what they believe, but why. He then builds his case for approaching soil, plant and livestock health with scienc-based information supported by testimonial. In his keynote address: Decision Making Principles of Exceptional Farm Managers, among the key premises that John tested and taught us was the statement that the “Fear of loss is greater than the hope of gain” explaining how successful farmers weigh cost and risk separately from emotion, often resulting in seem-

ingly radical management decisions that pay significant dividends over time. Another paradigm shattering statement was that “No farmer has ever done anything to improve yield, only to reduce crop loss”. He encouraged organic farmers to manage from this new angle in order to avoid conventional fear-based chemical tools, and embrace longer-term holistic regenerative practices. In his earlier lecture Managing for Milk Production per Acre, John showed us how to grow high fat content, high energy forages, illustrating the successes of several grass-based dairies who improved forage quality and therefore herd health and milk production. The second day focused on the economic, operational and spiritual transition of Cliff and Maggie Hawbakers’ Hamilton Heights and Emerald Valley Farms. The inspirational success story of values, innovation and working with nature began with Cliff telling us about the transformation of a typical conventional dairy (milking three to FOUR times a day) to the organic, grass-based, multi-generational-owner business where cows are milked once a day. Each of their farms has a mission statecontinued on page 10

Cliff Hawbaker provides insight and testimonial during the 16th Annual NODPA Field Days: “A solar water heater is a gadget, every part of this farm is a solar collector.”

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


NODPA Field Days

Charvin Organic Farms

continued from page 9

continued from page 2 ROSE project website:

ment which was elaborated to us, especially Cliff’s definition of wealth versus profit. “Wealth is the product of life; land, livestock, and grasses, all of which reproduce. Money is a form of wealth but is only a token for the exchange of wealth. Profits normally are associated with money. As a company or business, profits are essential, like blood is to the body. Wealth associated only with money is not sustainable. Life assets are a form of wealth that accumulates from within itself and is a gift from, and of, God.” Touring the Hamilton Heights facility Cliff reminded us that the heart of what they are doing is collecting, and packaging, solar power. We saw solar “gadgets” like water heaters and ventilation but more importantly we saw the fruit of nearly 18 years of trial-and-error innovation: beautiful diverse forage, happy cows and healthy calves. The tour ended with fine fellowship and networking at a machine shed picnic lunch and ice cream sundae bar sponsored by Trickling Springs Creamery.


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

Cover Crop Cocktails project website: For a mailed paper copy of the project newsletters, call Liz at the Perry County Extension Office, 717-582-5150.

A special thanks to PCO-Certified farmers who are participating in the projects to further organic farming resources: Cover Crop Cocktails: Michael and Elvin Ranck, Mifflin PA Glenn Rex, Slatington PA Bucky Ziegler, Milton PA Steve Misera, Butler PA Bob Keller, Lititz PA Gary Hoover, Coatesville PA ROSE: Michael and Elvin Ranck, Mifflin, PA Wade Esbenshade, New Holland, PA Harvey Hoover, Hartleton, PA

Well-managed Pastures Improve the Environment and Your Bottom Line Lessons learned from grazing, soil health, and pasture walk field day at PCO-Certified Lakeview Farm Sally Barnes, Soil Conservation Technician USDA-NRCS

A sound intensive grazing system is vital to a profitable organic dairy operation. Vital to meet the nutritional needs of the dairy cattle. Vital to optimize forage yields and productivity. As managers, it is so easy to focus on the above ground production in pastures, while paying little attention to what happens below ground. Being organic can present some challenges in the installation of Best Management Practices, such as fencing and watering systems. However, there are many opportunities to be taken advantage of as well, such as increasing plant diversity and rotational grazing. Typically, we associate an organic operation as being heavily reliant on tillage, but this is not always the case. Lakeview Farm, in Kirkwood, Pennsylvania, is owned and operated by Jeff B. Stoltzfus Jr. and his family. They have about 125 acres in southern Lancaster County and their cattle provide milk to Natural by Nature, a Newark, Delaware, dairy that operates in an ever-growing niche market, that of organic, grass-fed products. Through an intensively managed system, Jeff is very conscientious of minimizing soil disturbance, keeping the soil covered, maximizing the living roots and increasing diversity. His healthy pastures are a testament to his skill and management strategy. The Stoltzfus family has worked closely with the United States Department of Agriculture — Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA–NRCS) for many years and they were kind enough to open their farm up to the public on October 5th for a grazing, soil health, pasture walk field day learning experience. There are so many partners that are knitted in to the success story of the Stoltzfus’ farming operation and so many of them were rep-

Rainfall Simulator: Titus Martin and Mark Myers of NRCS use a rainfall simulator to demonstrate infiltration and runoff on four different pastures from four different regions. This demonstration showed that the pasture with long grass with mirrored deep roots infiltrated the most water and kept the most water from running off. This shortest grass with the shortest roots system had incredibly compacted soils, where the water ran off, collecting manure, soil particles and fertilizers with it.

resented at the field day. PCO was joined by Natural by Nature, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Lancaster Farmland Trust, the Lancaster County Conservation District, and the Penn State Dairy Extension team, as well as USDANRCS. The soil is a very dynamic resource. It’s a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans, and throughout the day participants saw firsthand how good pasture management leads to good soil health. Jeff has a milking herd of approximately 80 cows and, if managed efficiently within a grazing system, they can be used to improve soil health. Jeff employs an intensive rotational grazing system which leads to maximum forage production, allows fairly high stocking rates and offers the most

even distribution of manure, weed and brush control. In addition, the cattle require little (or in Jeff’s case, no) additional feed. However, like anything, there are drawbacks. The system requires careful monitoring of forage supply and a highly intensive level of management. Although there are some significant benefits to a continuous grazing system such as low start up costs and the fact that it requires less management, livestock that rely on this type of system often over and under graze a pasture. When cows are allowed to graze freely they eat the most palatable forages first. Of course they do! Wouldn’t you? As a result, plants don’t get a chance to recover and regrow. They die and then weeds can take over. In a rotational system the forages get a chance to rest between grazings and they can continued on page 12

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


continued from page 11

grow back more quickly. The take home message here is that the more numerous the paddocks and the more frequent the rotation, the healthier the pasture. A good rule is to remove the livestock before the forage gets below 3” tall and generally, pastures need 20–30 days of rest during rapid growth periods, 40 or more during slow growth periods. In addition to management strategies, there are many factors that contribute to the productivity of a grazing system. One of the most important is water; more specifically, available soil moisture. At the conclusion of the pasture walk, attendees were treated to a real “seeing is believing” demonstration of the NRCS rainfall simulator. This tool aids in the visualization of the potential for greater rainfall infiltration on pastures with a high level of grazing management. Through the comparison of different pasture samples put under the same high intensity/short duration rainfall, it was very clear to see that pasture condition and soil health determine how much rainfall is captured for forage use versus how much runs off as


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

a lost resource. Which, in a way, leads us right back to management! Grasses grazed at the proper heights have a more vigorous root systems, maintaining better soil structure, thereby increasing water availability for plant growth. Focused management above ground carries healthy benefits in to the soil below! To participate in USDA conservation programs, applicants should be farmers or farm or forest landowners and must meet eligibility criteria. To take advantage of NRCS technical assistance and expertise or federally funded conservation on your farm or land, please contact your local USDA NRCS Field Offices can be found at Additional information is available online at or by contacting the area NRCS offices: Soil Clump: During the pasture walk, Titus Martin and Suzette Truax, Grazing Specialists at the NRCS, dig up a large clump of soil to demonstrate how good pasture management can lead to incredible soil health. Jeff B. Stoltzfus Jr.’s Chester soil, a silt loam, has amazing soil structure, with deep fibrous roots and very low compaction, even with 80 cows walking on it all day!

• Harrisburg .................. 717-237-2218 • Bloomsburg ................ 570-784-4401 x 6 • Clarion ........................ 814-226-8160 x 4 • Lebanon ...................... 717-274-2597 x 5 • Somerset .................... 814-445-8979 x 6

Organic Outreach Opportunity PCO seeks ag educators for training program focused on reduced tillage in organic systems Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program recently awarded PCO a professional development grant to train agricultural educators on reduced-tillage crop and forage production systems. The project, Training a Network of Educators for Outreach on Reduced-Tillage Organic Feed and Forage Systems, focuses on helping organic and transitioning farmers improve their nutrient and weed management systems through various approaches that require less tillage. PCO has partnered with researchers and educators at Penn State and Cornell University, Organic Valley, Perdue, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and others, to create technical support curricula for agricultural service providers who work with transitioning or certified organic farmers. Topics include reduced tillage, diverse cover crop selection, inter-cropping, rotations and organic certification. Trainings will take place at one classroom style workshop and two field days per year beginning in March 2017 (see ad below for more details on upcoming workshop).

The goal is for these newly trained Ag service providers to in turn lead farmer education events including workshops, field days/on-farm demonstrations, meetings or webinars, and individual consultations. Each year of the three-year project we expect to “graduate” at least 20 new organic educators who will then reach out to at least 250 organic farmers managing a total of 20,000 acres of grain crops. This proposal was built on the premise that the domestic organic feed grain market is wide open, and US farmers are being encouraged to transition to organic production in order to satisfy the chronically short domestic organic feed market. The demand for organic feed presents unparalleled opportunities for organic farmers in the Northeast. Transitioning to organic production provides a stable market to producers, and increases financial viability while sustaining natural processes and cycles on which agriculture depends. In addition to organic transition and certification training provided by PCO staff, technical curricula provided by Penn State will be based on the Penn State Reduced-Tillage Organic Systems Experiment (ROSE) and will explore

methodologies to incorporate approaches to reducing tillage in organic feed production systems, including no-till planting into rolled cover crop mulch and other alternative reduced-tillage strategies such as relay planting (interseeding) of cover crops into standing row crops, no-till drill-seeding or broadcasting of cover crops into a cereal grain in late winter, and manure injection using subsurface banding technology, enabling no-till cash crop management. Trainings will use the Penn State Organic Crop Production Guide as the primary text, supplemented with PCO, ATTRA and NOP guidance documents. The Project Management Team is in place, planning the spring 2017 agriculture service providers workshop as well as subsequent field days for trainers and farmers. The training program is offered at no charge to educators and some travel reimbursement is available to qualified applicants. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. Contact Nicole McNeil, 814-422-0251 x213, nicole@paorganic .org, to be added to our contact list as soon as possible and watch the PCO website and E-news for news and updates.

Organic Cropping Systems for Agriculture Professionals A Professional Development Course March 15, 2017 • 8:30am–4pm What: PCO, in collaboration with Penn State researchers and Extension, will conduct a workshop on approaches to reducing tillage in organic grain and forage systems, based on results from research conducted in the Mid-Atlantic. Who should attend: This training is designed for extension, government agency, and public or private sector professionals who work with grain and forage farmers who are transitioning, certified organic, or conventional and considering transition.

Location and logistics: The workshop will be held in the State College, PA area. Exact location to be determined. Registrations is free by you must apply since space and funds are limited. Lunch will be provided. CCA/pesticide credits and reimbursement for mileage will be available.

Register Soon! Contact Nicole McNeil, 814-422-0251 x213,,

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE As I’m thinking of the year coming to a close, 2016 has brought a lot of opportunities within the organic industry. In some areas there has been growth and the usual challenge of balancing supply and demand. To all of our passion of producing and making organic products available, we owe a great thank you to the customers that support us by purchasing organic products. As we look into the coming year, I would like to focus on what is in organic food and not concentrate on what is not in our food. So often when questions and comments are made, the normal response is that crops are grown without using chemical herbicides and insecticides. I would rather focus on what is in the food products and how they are produced and handled. For example, in organic we have a standard for animal welfare that we follow that emphasizes the animals’ wellbeing in every aspect of production from birth and weaning to slaughter and processing. Cliff Hawbaker, Owner/Operator of Hamilton We do care and handle animals in environmentally friendly conditions, Heights Dairy Farm and Emerald Valley Farm, and these sentiments and actions find their way into the final products. serves as PCO’s Advisory Board President. Crops that are grown organically are coming from soil that has health from organic matter, green cover crops, and a rotation of crops. All these practices enhance the soil life and in turn gives a high quality food that has natural vitamins and minerals and food composition that comes from the organic way of cropping. All of us can be proud of the effort that we put into our organically grown food and I challenge you to do even better in the coming year.

Cliff Hawbaker PCO Advisory Board President

Box 361, 119 Hamilton Place Penn Yan, NY 14527 315-531-1038 Certified Organic Feed, Seed & Livestock Products from Northeast organic farmers for Northeast organic farmers ❖


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

Transitions Welcome to Transitions, a new section of Organic Matters dedicated to supporting transitioning farmers with a combination of technical resources, tips from farmers and member interview insights.

Steve Williams, Farmer Communications Coordinator CROPP Cooperative, Organic Valley, Organic Prairie

For a farmer, three straight years of reduced crop yields and lower-than-average milk production usually signals the end. But for small farmers transitioning from conventional to organic milk production, those same trends mark a new start. This month we hear from two transitioning farmers, along with Organic Valley/CROPP’s Transitioning and Support Coordinator Daryl Hinderman, about the challenges farmers face getting on the organic truck. While transition to organic may take a toll on income, and imposes a steep learning curve, those who embark on the threeyear journey have a lot to look forward to. For Robert Hinsch of Goodhue, Minnesota, organic offers the opportunity to continue in the style of farming he’s known all his working life. “We saw that commercial dairying is going to more consolidation. I like the small dairy life. I like the variety it represents, and the ability to do a little of everything. I didn’t want to be a farm manager, I want to be a farmer.” Hinsch said he enjoys the puzzle his new way of farming presents every day. While control of the weeds in his hay and corn fields — a major hurdle for most — is “pretty much squared away,” he said, working his herd into a day-to-day pasture rotation presents a bigger challenge. Meeting the National Organic Program’s strict pasture requirements — cows must be on pasture for 120 days each season — is a work in progress. “We mix feed at four o’clock in the morning, and we try to guess whether they’re going outside today based on the weather forecast. Sometimes there’s a 60percent chance of rain in the forecast and it doesn’t rain. You send them out and

you got all this feed in the bunker. We always feed once a day, we feed them in the morning, so we’re always guessing what the weather is going to be that day. Some days it’s right, some days we’re wrong.” That’s a saying you could post over your kitchen door, especially for those beginning their transition. Sabrina Boettcher is in her first year on her family’s 200-acre farm in the Northwest Wisconsin town of Luck. Unlike Hinsch, she plans to purchase an organic herd in a year and start from scratch rather than transition her current herd of 30 cows. That’s a potentially good way to go, said CROPP Transition and Support Coordinator Daryl Hinderman. “Now that corn prices are down, you can go ahead and seed everything in alfalfa and then you don’t have to deal with the weeds you do when you’re in corn.” But, he warns, there are no shortcuts to establishing a healthy, sustainable organic farm. “The other way to go is with your current crop and pasture rotation, learn weed control techniques and carry on. Then your cows are cleansing themselves right along with the soil.” Sabrina’s immediate challenge is weeds. It’s a new world without herbicides. “We’re trying to figure out the

weeds, how to get rid of the weeds. Cultivating, when to cultivate, things like that. I’m trying to figure out how not to run over the corn.” She said she also has a hard time finding suitable National Organic Program-allowable products to use on her farm, given her relatively remote location midway between Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota. The key to weed control without pesticides — along with owning a rotary hoe cultivator — is persistence, and knowing when to cultivate, Daryl said. “People don’t really know what they’re getting into when they say they aren’t going to spray. You have to be able to recognize when seeds germinate and hit them at just the right time.” A rotary hoe knocks tiny weeds out of the ground with little damage to just-planted seeds if done correctly. “You got to get the timing right. You can go out three to five days after planting, and if you get the right movement of the dirt you can really do a job on those weeds.” For those who can afford it, hiring a crew to pull weeds by hand is another option. Additionally, there are a range of machines — from propane-powered flame weeders to rigs that pluck weed stems out of the ground between small continued on page 16

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


continued from page 15

rubber discs — that you can utilize to help with weed management. As always though, make sure you check with your organic certifier before using any weedcontrol product. Daryl said the third year of transition is usually the hardest, although not necessarily from an agricultural point of view. The final months of transition can be tough psychologically. “The last year is the toughest year. Making it all the way to the end. By then, the anticipation has taken over. It’s been a long 36 months, and staying in touch and staying positive is important. It’s all about attitude. You are so ready for your milk to get picked up and to get that first check.” Daryl listed three keys to a successful transition to organic. The first, focus: “You get pulled in so many directions.” He said libraries of information are available, and farmers have to sort a ton of information to get to a useable individual approach.

Next, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s out there, and available. Resources for transitioning farmers include national workshops, field days, webinars, guidance documents, conversations with seasoned farmers, etc. Your most trusted resource though, should come in the form of a good, working relationship with your future certifier. With this in mind PCO developed its Transition Program, a membership designed to guide farmers through their 1–3 year transition period. The Transition Program provides the tools, education, and support farmers need to complete organic transition with a successful plan, and no compliance issues. If you are interested in learning more about the program please contact the PCO office at 814-422-0251. His third top tip? Good record keeping. “You can’t improve unless you keep track of what you’re doing. You’ve got to be diligent with records. Then you won’t get backed into a corner when it’s time for your certification inspection. Keep track

of the date you rotate pastures, and when you buy seed…you got to have the sale slips and the invoices with lot numbers. I get guys to text themselves every bit of information, what they bought, what they did that day.” Organic certifiers like PCO should be your go-to resources for record keeping. Most will help steer your transition by providing lists of approved products and tools for accurate, timely recording of activities. “That certifier is your lifeline to getting a certificate…year one and two, you don’t work with them much other than getting a list of approved products. Communications are important.” Governmental organizations also provide valuable help for those entering the organic world. The USDA’s Organic Transitions Program supports organic livestock and crop research, and curates a large online resource at this address —

Organic Transition Story Lil’ Ponderosa Abbattoir sought organic certification to partner with local farm to table restaurant Can you tell us a bit about your operation?

Lil’ Ponderosa Abattoir and Butcher Shoppe (LPA) is located at 1711 Gabler Road, Chambersburg, PA 17201. The parent company is Lil’ Ponderosa Enterprises, LLC —- owned by Sean Cavanaugh and Mike Carson, who also own John J Jeffries Restaurant at 300 Harrisburg Ave, Lancaster, PA 17603. Additional partners are Robert Boyce a grass farmer operating Lil’ Ponderosa Beef, at 44 Ponderosa Road in Carlisle, PA and Joe Melius, the Lil’ Ponderosa Abattoir Plant Manager. The history?

Rosenberry’s Abattoir had been in business since the late ‘50s. It was started by Mr. Ron Rosenberry’s father as a side line to do deer and pork processing. Over the ensuing years it grew to become a


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

USDA inspected facility —- processing beef, bison, swine, stag, goats and sheep. — and offering deli and fresh meat in a retail butcher shop. Robert Boyce, better known as Uncle Bob to his friends, has raised grass fed beef on the Lil’ Ponderosa Ranch since the late 1980’s. His breeding stock is from a closed herd of pure breed black Angus cattle. Because of the high quality of his product, he was selected by John J Jeffries as the primary supplier of beef for their farm to table food menu. Due to the volume of business and the desire to control the quality of the processing, Uncle Bob and the John J Jeffries folks formed a partnership and purchased Rosenberry’s Abattoir and retail business when it came up for sale. The new owners took possession on March 8th, 2016. Their primary goal is to preserve for the local community, slaughter and processing services which —-

Bob and Kate Boyce

according to a Penn State study —- found community abattoir establishments are declining at the rate of 4–5% per year. In addition, they wish to promote the concept of farm to fork, as advocated by a food movement where-in consumers are seeking sources of: local, fresh, natural, grass fed and finished animal products. What inspired you to become certified organic?

In the pursuit of offering value added services, Lil’ Ponderosa Abattoir (LPA) and Butcher Shoppe has sought and

received the PCO Certification as an organic operation. This distinction is very important to farmers who wish to offer their products on the wholesale market…where they can be resold at retail and used by restaurants. There are very few abattoir establishments that can offer both USDA Inspection and organic processing certification to their customers.

confidence in products produced by certified suppliers and processors. It is also becoming an important aspect of Food Safety and Inspections at both the state and federal levels. Take time to evaluate the benefits your business may derive from becoming certified. Try to determine…when doing your business case… if the benefits to be derived outweigh the costs in time and resources.

What was the biggest stumbling block to certification and how did you overcome it?

As with any new venture, it is necessary to handle the bureaucratic issues. The applications, forms, funding, and inspection requirements can be onerous. Fortunately, we were able to receive valued support from a local PCO certified organic farmer, Mr. Cliff Hawbaker. He operates a large dairy approximately one mile from the LPA establishment. He answered questions and rendered advice on various items. Probably the hardest part was…getting started. We didn’t

know what to expect…and the certification process took longer then we anticipated, but we persevered and are up and running! What advice would you give another farmer considering transitioning to organic?

In today’s marketplace, much is said about the value of becoming certified. Organic certification can be a beneficial marketing tool. Customers place more

We all know that farming is extremely hard work, often requiring long days in difficult conditions. What motivates you to get up each day and keep going?

There is nothing more satisfying than knowing we are serving our fellow man. By offering a quality product and service —- we can make a difference in our community. We are offering them a healthy choice. Our local product is beneficial to the customer and the community. Being continued on page 28

Organic Matters

Winter 2017



JOIN US FOR intensive full & half day programming with in-depth training on focused topics and over 100 workshops, Q&As, and discussion sessions, a kids program, networking with Trade Show vendors and fellow attendees, and so much more! Thank you to our leading sponsors!

Janisse Ray Friday Keynoter

Gabe Brown Saturday Keynoter

Other Featured Speakers

Gianaclis Caldwell

Heather Darby

Sarah Flack

Ben Hartman

Dan Kittredge

Lee Reich

For more info and to register: ~ 814-349-9856 Brochures available by request. 18

Organic Matters


Winter 2017

Organic Matters


Winter 2017


Organic Updates

Certification Update Marissa Pyle, Certification Program Manager Can you believe how quickly these past few months have gone? I really feel like we were only just working with a majority of you to get your annual updates turned in! And now, here we are in December! I’m sure by now most of you will have already had your 2016 inspection. We had a lot of growth this year that affected us a bit in terms of getting all the inspections completed by our end of October goal. We have, however, obtained more qualified inspectors, and in the future will continue striving toward the goal of completing annual inspections by the end of October. Although I’m sure the work is never done, hopefully right now things have calmed down a bit on your farms/businesses. We at PCO are currently working to finish up our certification reports for you. Our goal is to complete them by the end of January for the 2016 inspections. If you have questions after receiving your certification report please reach out to your certification specialist. They are there to help and can easily access additional information on any issues you may have that you’d like to discuss further. The last thing I’ll mention is that we are thinking ahead for 2017. Your annual updates will be sent to you within the next few weeks. We are hoping all the work you put into your paperwork in 2016 will equate to a much easier & simpler process for the following years (including the 2017 year). Please feel free to let us know if the paperwork process this upcoming year has saved you time — because that’s our goal!


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

Materials Update Jennifer Berkebile, Materials Program Manager

Material Review Status Changes Status changes: Please note the following status changes for materials reviewed by PCO for use by certified operations. n ALLOWED — Contact PCO with any questions about the use or restrictions for these products. Crop Materials • Crop Manna (Agri-Dynamics Consulting) allowed as a fertilizer/soil amendment Livestock Materials • Manage (Best Veterinary Solutions, Inc. (BVS)) allowed as a livestock production aid • ProBiostatin (GLC Direct LLC) allowed as a livestock feed additive/supplement • Xcite 1-0-1 (Advancing Eco-Agriculture) allowed as a livestock feed additive/supplement n PROHIBITED — Operators must immediately discontinue use of these products unless otherwise indicated. Crop Materials • Isomate GMB Plus (Pacific BioControl Corporation) prohibited as invertebrate pest control

Organic Updates

Livestock Materials • Ruminant MBO (Animal Medic Inc.) prohibited as a livestock feed additive/supplement • Dairy Pro Endure Teat Dip (WestfaliaSurge / GEA Farm Tech) prohibited as a livestock medical treatment • Skin Joy Lotion (Fertrell) prohibited as a livestock medical treatment • Skin Joy Lotion (Ralco-Mix Products, Inc.) prohibited as a livestock medical treatment • Uddermint (EcoLab, Inc. Tiesen Products) prohibited as a livestock medical treatment

– – – –

CoraVol 1982 (EcoLab, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical GCS 5115 (Guardian CSC) prohibited as a boiler chemical GSC 5378 (Guardian CSC) prohibited as a boiler chemical GCS 5708 (Guardian CSC) prohibited as a boiler chemical

• Lipase Powder 600 (Dairy Connection, Inc. / Danisco) prohibited as a non-organic ingredient Facility Materials • Joy Ultra Dishwashing Liquid and Antibacterial Hand Soap (Procter & Gamble) prohibited as an equipment cleaner and sanitizer

Processing Materials • AFCO 9573 (Alex C. Fergusson, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical • B 201 A (Water Treat USA, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical • Chem Aqua 18630 (Chem Aqua, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical • ChemTreat BL 1544 (ChemTreat, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical • Confidence 10 C (DiverseyLever, Inc.) prohibited as a boiler chemical

Support PCO while you shop online with AmazonSmile! The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to PCO at no additional cost to you. To shop at AmazonSmile go to then select "Pennsylvania Certified Organic".

Organic Matters

Winter 2017


Organic Updates Standards & Policy Update

FALL 2016 National Organic Standards Board OTA’s SUMMARY REPORT On November 16–18, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held its biannual public meeting in St. Louis, MO. Over the course of three days, NOSB, under the leadership of NOSB Chair Tracy Favre, voted or took action on 19 proposals and 15 Sunset 2018 inputs and evaluated 8 discussion documents or reports. NOSB received 2,789 written comments prior to the meeting and listened to oral testimony from approximately 200 commenters (over 13 hours of oral comments) on a wide range of issues.

The hot topic from this meeting included whether hydroponically grown crops align with organic production principles. NOSB decided to continue work on a proposal regarding these systems, but affirmed that they stand by the 2010 NOSB recommendation, which recommended prohibiting operations using entirely water-based substrates. NOSB also considered whether non-organic carrageenan should continue to be allowed in certified organic processed products and whether new GMO technologies such as gene editing and synthetic biology should

be allowed in organic. Below are the results of the meeting including an at-aglance summary of the major outcomes and charts detailing the vote of each decision. More Resources? Live coverage of the meeting is provided on OTA’s Twitter Account: For additional background, read OTA’s Summary of all Proposals and Discussion Documents or download OTA’s comprehensive Resource Booklet at

At-A-Glance Meeting Highlights: • PETITIONS: Consistent with the no-growth trend to the National List since 2008, NOSB denied 9 petitions to add new inputs to the National List due to lack of necessity or potential harm to the agro-ecosystem. • SUNSET 2018: NOSB voted to relist all Sunset inputs with the exception of CARRAGEENAN. NOSB voted 11 yes, 3 no (1 absent) to remove Carrageenan as an allowed ingredient in organic food due to the availability of alternatives. • BIOPONICS: The proposal to allow BIOPONICS (hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics) as consistent with organic production was sent back to subcommittee to refine definitions of these systems and consider them individually (10 yes, 3 no, 1 abstain, 1 absent). NOSB also passed a resolution (12 yes, 2 no, 1 absent) indicating their alignment with NOSB’s prior 2010 recommendation on hydroponics. The resolution states that it is the majority of the current NOSB members’ opinion to prohibit production systems that have entirely water-based substrate. • CONTAINER & GREENHOUSE PRODUCTION: NOSB will continue to develop a proposal on standards for container and greenhouse production. • IVERMECTIN: NOSB voted unanimously to remove Ivermectin from the National List due to the availability of alternatives and negative impact on dung beetles. Ivermectin is allowed only as an emergency use parasiticide in organic livestock production.


Organic Matters

Winter 2017

• EXCLUDED METHODS: NOSB voted unanimously to pass a recommendation on guidance that helps to clarify the technologies that are prohibited under the existing regulatory definition of excluded methods (GMOs). The recommendation includes definitions, principles and and a terminology chart that may be revised as needed over time. • PROPOSALS on 2016 Research Priorities, Sunset Reorganization, and updates to the Policy and Procedures Manual (PPM) all passed unanimously. Proposals on Chlorine Dioxide Gas (petition) and Tocopherols were sent back to subcommittee for more work. • DISCUSSION DOCUMENTS: Strengthening Organic Seed Usage, Excluded Methods Terminology and Marine Algae Listings were added to NOSB’s spring 2017 work plan for proposal development • NOSB OFFICER ELECTIONS: Tom Chapman, Chair; Ashley Swaffar, Vice-Chair; Jesse Buie, Secretary • NEW NOSB APPOINTMENTS: Joelle Mosso (Handler, CA); Sue Baird (Consumer Rep, MO); Asa Bradman (Environmentalist, CA); Steve Ela (Producer, CO); David Mortensen (Scientist, PA) • SPRING 2017 NOSB MEETING: Denver, CO from April 19-21

Organic Updates

* NOSB Resolution on Bioponics: NOSB respects the efforts of the former NOSB that led to their 2010 recommendation on terrestrial plants in greenhouses. The NOSB recognizes that the foundation of organic agriculture is based upon a systems approach to producing food in the natural environment, which respects the complex dynamic interaction between soil, water, air, sunlight and animals needed to produce a thriving agro-ecosystem. At the heart of the organic philosophy is the belief that our responsibilities of good stewardship go beyond production of healthy food and include protection of natural resources, biodiversity and the ecosystem services upon which we all depend. We encourage future NOSB to consider this wider perspective as the board undertakes the challenges of assess-

ing and defining innovations in agriculture that may be compatible in a system of organic production. In the case of the hydroponic/aquaponic issue, it is the majority of the current members of the NOSB to prohibit hydroponic systems that have an entirely water based substrate. Although that was the original intent of the proposal before us today, the current proposal as structured does not achieve this objective. While the majority of NOSB does not believe that the liquid substrate systems should be sold under the USDA organic label, these growers deserve the chance to promote their very commendable qualities and objectives in their own right. Reprinted with permission from the Organic Trade Association. default/files/indexed_files/NOSBSummaryReport_Fall2016.pdf

The PCO team is expanding to better serve our growing membership base! Please joins us in extending a warm welcome to our newest employees. From left: Cathy Jackson, Katie Taylor, Shawnee Matis.

New Faces Cathy Jackson Certification Specialist Cathy joined PCO as a Certification Specialist in November of 2016. She attended Ohio University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. She also earned an associate’s degree in Eco-Tourism and Adventure Travel from Hocking College. She has several years of experience working on organic produce farms and now has a small mixed vegetable operation in her hometown of Athens, Ohio. Before joining PCO, Cathy worked as a Certification Specialist at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. In her free time she enjoys hiking, traveling, kayaking, sewing, and spending time with her daughter, Ruby. Shawnee Matis Staff Accountant Shawnee joined the PCO Team as a Staff Accountant in November of 2016. Shawnee was born and raised in Pleasant Gap, PA, and currently resides in Clarence with her husband, Andy. Shawnee received her degree in Accounting from South Hills School of Business

and Technology. Shawnee enjoys traveling the Caribbean with her husband, spending time with family and friends, riding her motorcycle, and going for walks in the mountain with her dogs, Nyla and Zara. Katie Taylor Director of Marketing and Development Katie joined PCO as the Director of Marketing and Development in November 2016. Katie’s earned her Master’s in Community Psychology and Social Change from Penn State with a concen-

tration in Environmental Justice. She has an extensive background in a variety of ecojustice initiatives including gleaning efforts, food justice, and anti-nuclear activism and research. Additionally, Katie has fifteen year’s experience in the sexual and domestic violence movements and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movements. She is an adjunct professor in Women and Gender Studies. Katie and her partner, Leigh, have five senior dogs and one cat and they enjoy reading, photography, gardening, canning/preserving food and volunteering.

Organic Matters

Winter 2016


continued on page 4


My milk company has informed me that I should be switching to teat dips and other milk house products that are NPE free. Why is this a problem all of a sudden? — Me going NPE–free Hello Going NPE-Free, Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs) are surfactants commonly used in iodine teat dip formulations to improve iodine’s solubility and keep it in suspension. NPE’s have historically been allowed in organic production as part of Iodine formulations at 205.603(a) and (b). The use of NPE has recently been banned or more heavily regulated in China, Europe, Canada and Japan due to health and environmental concerns even at very low exposure levels. Several milk companies nationwide are currently asking their producer members to stop using


products containing NPEs and to remove NPE residues from their farms to comply with international bans on NPEs. Although its use is not presently restricted in the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has initiated an action plan to review and eventually restrict the use of NPEs. What milkhouse products might contain NPEs? • Teat Dips • Udder Washes • Footbath solutions • Detergents and cleaners How do I go NPE free? Removing all traces of NPEs can take months. If your dairy is required to be NPE-free, it is good to be proactive and to begin the process well in advance. The main source of NPEs on dairy farms is iodine teat dips. Check to make sure that your teat dips are NPE free. Call Jen at PCO at 814-422-0251 if you are unsure. Check all components of the Teat Dip Delivery system. Anything that came into contact with a teat dip containing NPEs should be replaced. Examples include




NPE Phaseout in Dairy Production Dear Aggy,



DEAR AGGY — Readers’Letters

1 6 87

hand pumps on teat dip, tubing, smaller containers used transport teat dip, teat dip cups, totes, poly tanks, drums, and cloth towels. Make sure that other products listed above, such as udder washes, footbath solutions, laundry detergents, and surface cleaners are NPE free. PCO certified dairies — check with your milk company to see if you are required to become NPE free, and if there is a timeline and guidance available. Contact PCO if switching milkhouse products to make sure they are in organic compliance.

Got a question for Aggy? • Email to: • Fax to: 814-422-0255

Advertise in Organic Matters Organic Matters is the quarterly newsletter of Pennsylvania Certified Organic, a non-profit organization serving growers, processors and handlers of organic products. Issues contain articles on the latest news and research in the organic industry, often highlighting our certified members. Approximately 1,500 copies of each publication are distributed directly to members and those requesting information about organic agriculture, and made available to the public at conferences, exhibits and educational programs in the Mid-Atlantic region.


Ad size


4 Issue Sub.*

Dimensions (in)



Full Page



Half Page



7 µ 4.5 (horizontal) 3.25 µ 8.75 (vertical)

Quarter Page



3.25 µ 4.5 (vertical)



3.25 µ 2.25 (horizontal)

Back cover (in color)

Eighth Page

8.5 µ 9 8 µ 10

* Includes a complimentary full-color calendar ad. The above rates refer to a single-issue ad placement and a subscription for ad placement in four consecutive issues. A 15% discount is granted for the purchase of the 4-issue subscription. For more information, please contact or call the PCO Office at 814-422-0251.

Organic Matters

Winter 2016


PCO Welcomes 4th Quarter New Members! NEWLY CERTIFIED MEMBERS 4-Woods Poultry Topeka, IN

Bontrager Pullets

Grobelny Family Farms

Mast Pullets

Rooster Run Dairy

Winding Creek

Moravia, NY

Topeka, IN

Somerset, PA

Middlebury, IN

Henry S. Byler

Meeks Farms & Sons

Roundhouse Farm

Windy Acres

Port Royal, PA

Evans Mills, NY

Sugarcreek, OH

Mechanicsville, MD

Zehr Family Farm

James Stoltzfus

Mike Kurtz Farm

Rudy A. Byler

Myerstown, PA

McClure, PA

Falconer, NY

JDM Family Farm

Miller Pullets

Rudy Yoder

Shipshewana, IN

West Edmeston, NY

Mose S. Yoder

Schlabach Farm

Turbotville, PA

Shipshewana, IN

Topeka, IN

Bainbridge, NY


Burrows Rocky Acres Farm Cuyler, NY

Carnright Farm

Topeka, IN

Mansfield, PA

Jelliff Family Farms Craig Frey

Columbia Cross Roads, PA

Conestoga, PA

Joe Miller Dan & Ruth Schwartz

Lewisburg, PA

Waterloo, NY Loganton, PA

South Williamsport, PA

Raymond Beachy Burke, NY

Mulberry Farm

Schwartz Farm

LaGrange, IN

Shipshewana, IN

F&B Dairy Farm, LLC Madison, NY

John Fisher Danneker Farms


Nature’s Salads

State Road Pullets

Kirkwood, PA

Middlebury, IN

Four Leaf Clover Farm

Doug Piskac

Jonathan and Alta Waltz

Pioneer Poultry

Therapy Lane

Sugarcreek, OH

Cincinnatus, NY

Altoona, PA

LaGrange, IN

Elam Horning

L&M Layers

Preston Boop

Whispering Pines

Todd Bayle

Leola, PA

Topeka, IN

Mifflinburg, PA

LaGrange, IN

Clymer, NY

Great Circle Coffee

Leon J. Zook

Rick Breneman Farm

Windhill Farm

Triple M Dairy

Miami, FL

Dornsife, PA

Smithville, OH

Millington, MD

Nichols, NY

Fall 2016

Running Wild Farm Gordonville, PA

Blackthorn Spring

Mifflinburg, PA

Organic Matters

Catawissa, PA

Green Grass Dairy

Sunny Ridge Farms

LaGrange, IN


Glenn Eshbach


Oak Ridge Farms

Baltic, OH

Elizabethtown, PA

Quakertown, PA

Angelica, NY

Jonas E Raber Doug Hottenstein

Ertoba Farm

Otego, NY

James R. Slicer Jefferson, NY

Troutville, VA

Kenneth Hurst Hammondsport, NY


January JANUARY 7–14 Pennsylvania Farm Show Harrisburg, PA 717-787-5373 JANUARY 26, 9AM–3PM Fertrell Dairy Meeting Rebersburg, PA 800-347-1566 JANUARY 27, 9AM–3PM Fertrell Dairy Meeting Belleville, PA 800-347-1566 JANUARY 31, 9AM–3PM Fertrell Dairy Meeting Miller’s Natural Foods Bird-in-Hand, PA 800-347-1566 JANUARY 31–FEBRUARY 2 Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention 717-694-3596


Organic Marketplace

FEBRUARY 16 Delmarva Dairy Day Hartly Fire Hall Hartly, DE 443-359-3700 FEBRUARY 17–18 Lancaster Real Health Conference Lancaster Ag Products Ronks, PA 717-687-9222

March MARCH 1 PCO Annual Updates due 814-422-0251 MARCH 15, 8:30AM–4PM Organic Cropping Systems for Agriculture Professionals: A Professional Development Course State College, PA 814-422-0251 See ad page 13

FEBRUARY 1–4 PASA’s 26th Annual Farming for the Future Conference: Hope, Farm, Heal 814-349-9856

Stay connected, visit:

CROPS Non-GMO hogs for sale. Soy free. Sold by the head. Will be ready for December. Contact Merlin Martin at 717-275-6988. Perry County. Dairy quality Organic baleage, corn & Organic soybeans. OEFFA Certified. Forage test results available, we can do local deliveries. We custom dry and store Organic grain. 570-412-1392. Union County. New crop; oatlage, sudangrass, baleage, dry hay in round bails, & cleaned organic cover crop rye in bags, totes, or bulk — $15 bushel. Delivery available. Contact Ned Fogleman 717-994-4630 Organic hay. 3x3x8 square bales. Contact Richard Kauffman for pricing and delivery: 570.367. 6509. Bradford County.

SERVICES Manure management plans, Ag erosion and settlement plans, manure brokering, and nutrient management planning. GovernOctober 25 ment certified. Contact Ned Fogleman 717-994-4630.

Annville, PA

Ag plastic recycling — I can use black and white bunker covers, bale wrap, plastic twine, clear stretch film, greenhouse covers, flats, and pots. Call for details. 717-658-9660. Franklin County, PA.

WANTED Organic Raw Milk. ACF Organics, LLC, d/b/a Amish Country Farms located in Totowa, NJ is looking to procure certified organic raw milk from farmers in PA. Ken Tensen: 800-990-3447 x202.

Organic Transition Story continued from page 17

perceived as a valued member of the community a.k.a., a good neighbor —- is fulfilling what we believe is God’s purpose for our lives.

PA Organic FarmFest 2017 July 28 & 29 Grange Fairgrounds Centre Hall, PA 814-422-0251

PCO Annual Meeting at FarmFest July 28 Grange Fairgrounds Centre Hall, PA 814-422-0251

Are there any fundamental farming “lessons” that you have learned in your farming career that you would like to share?

It is much cheaper to fail on paper… before starting an enterprise —- than after you sign the loan documents. Therefore, we recommend and practice the Plan, Implement and Measure ( PIM) approach to farming and running our business. About Planning: Those who fail to plan…plan to fail! Prepare a business plan…write it down! You don’t have to jump in with both feet…develop a controlled “pilot project” to test your concepts. About Implementation: If you don’t get started you’ll never finish! 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration is about

right! Some of our best ideas appear when our head is on a pillow. In the light of day, we need to put them into practice. About Measuring: If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it! There are very few over night successes. Progress is sometimes slow. Taking frequent snapshots along the way will provide guidance and prevent major derailments. Can you tell us what you consider to be the most valuable assistance PCO provided during your transition process?

PCO is an enabler. Receiving “Organic Certification” gave us another valuable marketing tool. As a small business owner it is rewarding and much appreciated to receive the attention and cooperation PCO provided. Starting a new business in the current economic climate is more difficult than usual. Therefore, when assistance is proffered — it is much appreciated. The entire PCO staff and inspectors have been supportive and very professional. We thank you for all the efforts on our behalf.

Organic Matters

Winter 2016


Membership/Certification Order Form Contact Information Name





Use postal mail for:



Organic Matters



Use my email for:




Organic Matters


Transitioning Farmer ....................................... $200*

Advocate Member ............................................... $40

Receive Sustainer Membership benefits plus: phone access to certification specialist to answer all your transition questions, application and paperwork review, materials lists and guidance, and more. * Farm visit available upon request at additional cost.

Receives Organic Matters newsletter, workshop notices, discounts on PCO materials, invitations to meetings, and one free 30-word classified in Organic Matters per issue.

New Applicant .................................................. $75 ** New applicants will receive the following: PCO Certification Manual, NOP Standards Manual, PCO Materials List, and OMRI Materials List. ** $75 new applicant fee plus $695 basic certification fee due prior to processing. Please send me applications for the following categories (free): PCO 100% Grassfed Certification

Crops/Produce Dairy/Livestock

PCO Forest Grown Verification

Poultry Mushrooms

Sustainer Member ............................................... $75 Same benefits as the Advocate Member, plus you may request a free copy of the PCO Certification Manual, NOP Standards Manual, PCO Materials List, OMRI Materials List, and Record Keeping Systems. In addition, you may vote on PCO standards and policies. If you decide to apply for certification during your membership year, the $75 New Applicant Fee is waived.

Business Member ............................................... $150 Receives the same benefits as a Sustainer Member, plus a 10% discount on ads in Organic Matters.

Checks: Payable to PCO Pay Online: /orderform Pay via Phone: (814)-422-0251

Gluten Free

Maple Products

Kosher Card No.

On-Farm Processing/ Handling




CVV Code

Exp. Date

Billing ZIP Code

Cardholder Name



2017 PCO Calendar Photo Contest! 2018 PCO would like to showcase your organic farm, and photography skills in our 2018 2017 calendar. We are looking for pictures of your family and farm workers on your organic farm or handling operation, at work or at rest, throughout the seasons. We’ll display all submitted photos at FarmFest for in person voting and prizes. We will accept high-resolution photos via submission on our website, by email, or on a CD. Please submit your entries for the photo contest by July 15, 15 to: 2017 to: Pennsylvania Certified Organic 2017 Calendar Coordinator 2018 106 School Street, Suite 201 • Spring Mills, PA 16875 •


Organic Matters

Winter 2016


106 School Street, Suite 201 Spring Mills, PA 16875

Winter 2017 Organic Matters