Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Congratulations Rhonda Clark!

Our longtime friend Rhonda Clark, Community Food Inititatives Executive Director, recently received a national award for her work on food security in Appalachian Ohio. Below is a copy of the press release. If you see Rhonda about, thank her for all the hard work she has accomplished for our regions food system.

Gardener’s Supply Company, an employee-owned national catalog gardening company based in Vermont, is honoring Ronda Clark, Executive Director of Athens, Ohio-based nonprofit Community Food Initiatives, with a 2009 Garden Crusader Award. Clark won first place in the “Feeding The Hungry” category for her work on behalf of food security in Appalachian Ohio.

Since 2001, Gardener’s Supply Company annually recognizes Garden Crusaders for “improving the world through gardening” and using their love of gardening to make a difference in their communities. The company’s website currently devotes a web page to Clark’s Garden Crusader Award: www.gardeners.com/2009-Garden-Crusader-Ronda-Clark/7152,default,pg.html.

Garden Crusader Awards celebrate enthusiastic individuals who “garden beyond their own backyards to grow food for the hungry, beautify their communities and help friends and neighbors discover the rewards of gardening,” thereby “creating a new green space, feeding the hungry with their produce, restoring a piece of land or teaching about gardening and the environment.”

“Many local folks participate in CFI’s efforts to feed the hungry,” says Clark, who receives a $1000 GSC gift certificate. “We are pleased to see our group effort recognized on a national level, and hope other communities will emulate CFI programs and activities.”

"The judges were very impressed with Ronda's work at CFI,” says Sue Chayer, Garden Crusader Coordinator. “Not only does her organization encourage healthy eating among community residents, but CFI also teaches people how to garden, and provides thousands of pounds of fresh produce to people in need. Community gardeners are required to donate 10 percent of their produce to food shelves. Gardener's Supply is proud to acknowledge gardeners like Ronda who are making a difference in their communities through the simple act of gardening."

CFI supporters are pleased to see their Director’s efforts recognized by this prestigious national award. “I can't imagine a more fitting title for Ronda Clark than `Garden Crusader,’” says Board Member Mark Hyatt. “She works tirelessly on behalf of this community to raise our level of food security, and she's a relentless advocate for the needy in our midst. She's an inspiration to all of us who care about the local food movement. We're lucky to have her!”

CFI promotes self-sufficiency with regard to the Athens region’s food supplies. Besides community gardens, the group provides Edible Schoolyard programming and curricula for regional schools, works with the City of Athens and other partners on composting arrangements, hosts community workshops and highlights the importance of Seed Saving and other educational projects. CFI receives project funding from the Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund of Parkersburg WV, the USDA Community Food Project and Farmers Market Promotion Program, the City of Athens, Athens Foundation, United Appeal of Athens, Kramer Foundation and membership donations. For more about CFI's work, contact Ronda Clark at 740-593-5971, cfi@frognet.net or visit www.communityfoodinitiatives.com.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Facts on Issue 2

Issue 2 is a proposed Constitutional Amendment to Create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. It is proposed by a Joint Resolution of the General Assembly of Ohio. It would enact Section 1 of Article XIV of the Ohio Constitution. A yes vote means approval of the Amendment, a no vote means disapproval of the amendment. A majority yes vote is required for the amendment to be adopted. If approved this amendment would go into effect immediately.

This amendment would create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board for the purpose of establishing standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio. This bipartisan board would consist of 13 members.
1. The Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
2. One member representing family farms.
3. Two members representing Statewide organizations that represent farmers.
4. One Veterinarian.
5. The Veterinarian from the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
6. The dean of the agriculture department of a college or university in Ohio.
7. Two members of the public representing Ohio consumers.
8. One member representing a county humane society.
9. One family farmer appointed by the Speaker of the House.
10. One family farmer appointed by the President of the Senate.
This Board would have the authority to establish standards governing the care and well-being of livestock and poultry in Ohio, and would subject only to the authority of the General Assembly.

Proponents of the amendment argue that the board represents a balance of interests, would establish standards of livestock care, and that Ohioans could have greater confidence in the safety of local foods.

Opponents of the amendment counter that this board should be created by statute as opposed to constitutional amendment, creating another regulatory board wastes revenue, and that the amendment could prevent animal care reform.
(Above excerpted from the Ohio League of Women Voters.

Ohiofoodshed.org is a program of Rural Action, a membership based non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable development. (www.ruralaction.org). As the Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator I do not feel that I can take an official stand on this issue. We do however look forward to serving as a forum for a discussion of its merits on our social networking site. For more information go to the following sites:

For www.ofbf.org
www.safelocal ohiofood.org

Against www.ohioact.org

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Begin Farming Ohio Website Launched to Assist Beginning Farmers

For the first time Ohio's new and beginning farmers have an entire website dedicated to their unique information needs and designed to make it easier for them to find the services and resources they seek. The website URL is www.beginfarmingohio.org

The website represents the collaborative efforts of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy; Ohio Department of Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture; Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA); the Organic Food and Farming Education & Research Program of the OSU Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center; and the Ohio State University Extension. These entities, working together as Begin Farming Ohio, aim to build Ohio's capacity to provide, expand, enhance, and sustain services to beginning farmers.

The new website was developed with an affiliated partner, Innovative Farmers of Ohio (IFO). IFO allocated funds awarded by the national outreach office of the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to enhance the website development process. IFO provided case studies and resource referral information first published in 2008, one output of Wisdom in the Land, a mentor-based pilot program for beginning farmers in central Ohio that IFO operated from 2006-2008.

The website will also provide listings of events of special interest to Ohio's beginning farmers, and facilitate searches for educational and funding resources to assist beginning farmers with challenges related to production, marketing, and business management.

"In order to help sustain the future of agriculture, it is important to support beginning farmers," said Ohio Agriculture Director Robert Boggs. "The department is excited to be part of this collaborative effort, which will assist these farmers with less than 10 years experience.” The USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture reports that 21% of U.S. family farms were beginning farms, and in contrast to established farms, beginning farms were more likely to be small farms.

About Begin Farming Ohio:
Begin Farming Ohio was formed in 2008 as a collaboration of higher education, state government, and the non-profit sector to better serve Ohio's beginning farmers. Each of the five founder organizations provides education, training, and other services to farmers and has an employee pool of professionals who are experts in both sustainable agriculture production and farm business management. Additional affiliated partners provide resources that complement the services of the collaborators. See Begin Farming Ohio for a complete list of collaborators and affiliates.

Distributed by SARE Outreach for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), USDA. SARE's mission is to advance - to the whole of American agriculture - innovations that improve profitability, stewardship and quality of life by investing in groundbreaking research and education. SARE Outreach operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Maryland and the University of Vermont to develop and disseminate information about sustainable agriculture. Visit www.sare.org for more information.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bodacious Berries Workshop provides a template for Success

In 2005 Rod Nippert wanted an agricultural hobby that would provide him the exercise and fresh air he felt he needed. Rod had transitioned from years of carpentry into less physical stained glass work. In thinking back to his youth growing up on a farm near Dayton he decided on raspberries. When hearing the story you realize that it was more than his body that Rod had decided to exercise. He started by doing his homework and hasn't stopped since.

On August 25th, nearly 100 people from as far away as New Philadelphia gathered to hear Rod speak on his experiences with organic raspberry production. They observed his clean healthy and ergonomically friendly 800' planting of mostly heritage raspberries. They learned about his successes and struggles and most did there best to avoid popping the tantalizing red fruits into there mouths. Expert technical information was also provided by Maurus Brown Extension Horticulturist from the OSU South Centers in Piketon.

When Rod started his patch he did two things that helped lead to his success. He called Athens County OSU Extension Educator Rory Lewandowski, and he didn't rush. His first growing season was spent on site preparation considered crucial in any horticultural endeavor yet often ignored. He tested the drainage of the site, since raspberries hate “wet feet”, bush hogged, plowed, disked, and manured and then used buckwheat as a fall cover crop. The next season he planted his first 400’ of berries after researching the variety and source of the plants he wanted to grow.

Although not certified organic Rod uses completely organic methods and inputs and the planting is on ground that was long fallow. He fertilizes yearly with well rotted horse manure uses dripline irrigation with careful timing and scouts aggressively for insects and disease. He also selected the variety that he uses with a strong consideration to disease and insect resistance. He developed his methods by extensive reading and consulting with Extension Educators including Shawn Wright and Maurus Brown of OSU South Centers in Piketon. The internet has also been a big source of information for Rod. This winter he plans to top dress his rows with gypsum to increase the level of calcium in his soil in an effort to control the fungal disease Phytophora which is one of the major threats to raspberries. Rod learned about this relatively new method of control through computer links to Cornell University in New York.

With the economic downturn reducing the call for stained glass Rod now looks to his raspberry planting named “Bodacious Berries” as an income source. He added another 400’ of heritage plants this year. His berries are marketed through word of mouth and sell for $7 dollars a quart. Rod delivers to businesses and residences and has been known to put the berries right into your refrigerator! Demand remains high and Rod currently sells all he can grow. He pays as close attention to the economic side of the berries as he does to the horticulture. Rod keeps a meticulous log of his time, expenses, and inputs. He is currently netting an eye opening $14 an hour for his efforts.

For more information on raspberry production, and small fruit production in general contact your county OSU Extension Educator or the South Centers in Piketon at 740-289-2071.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sustainable Ag Gurus Present 50 Year Farm Bill to the White House

Heros of the Sustainable Agriculture movement, Wes Jackson, Wendell Berry and Fred Kirschenmann, recently traveled to Washington to propose a 50 year Farm Bill which would transform American farming. The three met with Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, and several members of the Kansas congressional delegation to discuss their plan, which details the importance of perennial crops to reduce soil erosion, increase drought resistance and reduce energy use. The plan calls for $50 million a year to fund research that would help make possible, the transition from annual to perennial crops. The presentation included a giant photographic banner showing the immense, nearly 20 feet long root systems of perennials grasses.

The group emphasized that a system that values not only yields but local ecosystems, healthy food and rural communities, was the way to revolutionize American agriculture. Fred Kirschenmann, a fellow at the Leopold Center, expressed concern in a universal solution to hunger that involves industrial agriculture and genetically modified crops and stressed the importance of appropriate technologies.

Wes Jackson described the reception as positive.

"They were all impressed by the roots," he said. "I just handed them the farm bill. I didn't get what you would call a solid commitment." During their stay, the team toured the White House and its gardens and Jackson left two sacks of The Land Institute's perennial Kernza wheat flour with the White House chef.

Members of Rural Action and the community were fortunate to have the founder of The Land Institute and acclaimed author Wes Jackson present on his work with perennial grains at this year’s Annual Meeting. He had his impressive photos of perennial root systems on display for us as well as a detailed presentation of his work in Salinas, Kansas. More information about the Land Institute’s work can be found at their website: www.landinstitute.org

Click here to read a full copy of the 50 Year Farm Bill presented by the trio.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Weeds, Beans, and Tubers, Oh My!

A few Tuesdays ago, I spent the entire day outside on in the gorgeous weather that we had, surrounded by some of the most picturesque rural Appalachian hilltop vistas and gorgeous agrarian scenery one could imagine…. staring at a bunch of weeds. It’s true, and I had absolutely no problem doing it. The clouds were majestic, the grass was green, the air was warm with a nice cool breeze, and I was sitting in the dirt searching for bush beans and potato plants amidst a sea of weeds.

Don’t get the wrong impression - I had an awesome day weeding. There’s nothing to stop one from looking up to admire the scenery every now and again while weeding, or feeling a nice breeze whisk the sweat off one’s back. On top of that, there’s just something very rewarding about looking back at a nice tidily planted row of beans or potatoes, knowing that less than an hour ago it looked like nothing so much as a field of weeds that would choke out any possibility of growing food for the year.

Amidst all the nice weather and beautiful views was my grandpa Tom, sitting across from me doing more or less the same thing as I was (though I’m sure he did it better, having done it his entire life). My grandpa raises cattle, but he also plants a rather large garden every year, and I was helping him out for the day. I spent all morning and afternoon weeding the crops while he went back and forth between cutting hay with the neighbor and joining me in the garden. Aspiring to become a farmer myself, it wasn’t long before he and I got to talking about what he was growing this year. The row of beans I first weeded turned out to be “Blue Lake” green beans, a delicious stringless variety that Grandpa recommends best for canning. Among many other green bean varieties he’s planted throughout the years, each with their own benefits and shortcomings depending on the growing conditions and what you’re looking to get out of the crop, his next all-around favorite was “Top Crop” which he told me has consistently given him the biggest and longest-lasting harvest of green beans he’s ever had. There are lots of different varieties of green beans out there. I recommend trying them out to see what kinds of beans you think work best for you and your garden (and your taste buds!).

Having been raised on potatoes as a child, and loving them in all the multitude of ways they could be prepared and eaten, you’ll have to forgive me if I go too in-depth with the next crop, but I will. Potatoes have been a favorite of mine for a long while, and only recently had I learned about all the different colors they come in. That’s right, colors! The skins can range from deep bright red to dark purple to yellows to whites and browns, and the flesh is much the same but even brighter. Just take a look at a “Purple Peruvian” fingerling sliced in half, or the earthy mottled-red look of a plump “Huckleberry” potato. Though I haven’t yet tried one (I’m growing them this year), the bright golden-yellow inside of a “German Butterball” looks so tasty I’m tempted to be impatient and dig one up right now. My grandpa wasn’t very familiar with any of these more exotic-sounding varieties, but he did have a particular favorite that actually I hadn’t ever heard of until we talked about them earlier this year. It’s an old but fairly reliable variety of white potato called the “Irish Cobbler.” Grandpa used to plant several hundred pounds of them every year as a child, and was quite fond of them. The potatoes sold in supermarkets anymore are probably all guaranteed to be the one of the standard white potato varieties “Idaho” and “Kennebec,” which both he and I agree are a little too mealy for our tastes. On top of that, most people aren’t aware of how much of a potato’s nutrition lies in the skin, which is generally a bad idea to eat when dealing with “conventionally-grown” potatoes, meaning they’re grown with excessive amounts of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and who knows what else. All of those chemicals are absorbed right into the soil where – you guessed it – the potatoes are growing, and soaking up all of that grossness right into their skins. Some pesticides now banned by the United States government can still persist in soils today from when they were first outlawed decades ago!

These varieties are just a small sample of the thousands of heirloom potato varieties that were bred and grown by the ancient Native American cultures of the Andes Mountains, where potatoes were first domesticated. Many of the ancient Andean varieties have since been lost to civilization, but many still survive today, and have become increasingly easier to find and grow through the revolution of the internet, along with heirloom variety preserving organizations such as Seed Savers Exchange and others.

Not only are there lots of heirloom varieties out there to experiment with growing, but you can also breed your own NEW varieties of potatoes (and just about any other vegetable for that matter) with their own new sets of characteristics, flavors, resistances, etc. Even though the potatoes we eat are tubers (a type of modified underground stem for storing nutrients), potato plants flower and produce fruit just like all other angiosperms (flowering plants).

Though the potato fruits might look just like miniature tomatoes (which happen to be a close relative of potatoes), potato fruits are extremely toxic and should never, under any circumstances, be eaten.

After a potato has bloomed and been pollinated, a fruit will begin to grow where each flower was. Once these fruits feel tender and ripe like a tomato would when it is ready to be picked, pick them and toss them in a blender with some water for just long enough to get the seeds separated from the rest of the fruit. If you let this mixture sit still for a day in a bit more water, the potato seeds should sink to the bottom while the rest of the fruit matter floats to the top. After separating the seeds and washing them a few times, you will have clean potato seeds. Let these dry on a paper towel and then store them in an airtight container for planting in future years. They should keep for several years.

That’s basically all you need to start growing your very own new varieties of potatoes. Each of those seeds in the potato fruit is genetically unique from any other potato, and from any other seed (even from the same fruit!). With selective harvesting and continued breeding of the most successful (or tasty, disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, huge, etc.) plants, you can successfully breed your very own new and improved potato varieties that have all the qualities you want them to. When you do find that potato that seems to be just the one you’re looking for, you can save some of the tubers from that one to plant next year and grow more and more of that favorite spud. Check out this link for a more in-depth description of how to breed potatoes.

While this description of “vegetable husbandry” was specifically geared towards potatoes, the same general principles apply to many other crops as well. Selective breeding is exactly how we’ve acquired such a vast array of delicious varieties of crops to choose from. Don’t think you need a PhD in crop science and a nice white lab coat to breed new vegetable varieties. Everyday farmers and gardeners have traditionally done it since humans first domesticated plants over 12,000 years ago. Have at it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Trillium Spring Newsletter: Locavores, CSA, more!

Below is a link to the Trillium spring newsletter, featuring a brief review of Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, as well as articles about community supported agriculture (CSA), what it means to be a "locavore," and other useful information.

Check it out here!


Friday, June 19, 2009

Wild Edible Plants Walk

The Monday Creek Watershed Daycamp this past week was a great success. As a special presentation, I took the campers on a walk around Tecumseh Lake to teach them about wild edible plants. To be honest, I was quite surprised at how attentive they all were throughout the whole presentation. Also, the kids were surprised as well to see how many different plants there were all around them that were edible. When you think about it though, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Afterall every plant that we’ve ever domesticated was once just a wild edible like these.

We began our walk on the east side of the lake and continued around to the west side, stopping to talk about every wild edible plant that we found on the way. In fact, we found so many wild edibles just on the walk around the lake that we didn’t even manage to get into the woods to look at more wild edibles in the forest before we ran out of time!

Simply standing in the mowed grassy area around Tecumseh lake, we found several wild edibles right beneath our feet (though we didn’t try any of course, since they were stepped on and goose droppings were all around). Species we found here included red, white, and hop clovers, wood sorrel (aka “sourgrass”), greater and lance-leaf plantain (not to be confused with the tropical banana-like fruit), dandelions, and wild carrot.

We also found many other species among the brush just past the mowed areas. Flowers such as ox-eye daisy, honeysuckle vines (an unfriendly invasive species, unfortunately), and yellow sweet clover were quite common in these areas. Another flower common to this habitat (which is one of my personal favorites) is yarrow, a strong-flavored flower with many valuable medicinal uses. I like to chew on it to help relieve a sore throat. Of these, honeysuckle was by far the children’s favorite. Most of them already knew how to pick off flowers and pull the stigma out the bottom to get a delicious drop of nectar, but were surprised to hear that the whole flower was edible, making it a great edible decoration for many dishes. It should be noted that while the flower is edible, honeysuckle berries are mildly poisonous and should not be eaten.

Some of the woodier species of edibles we found included wild grapevines, blackberries, black raspberries, sumac, sassafras trees, white pine, and white oak. Another easily-identifiable favorite of the kids were the cattails we found in some of the more damp areas around the lake. Cattails are an especially good wild edible to know because when they grow, they tend to grow in large groups. This coupled with the fact that almost all parts of the plant are nutrient-rich and can be eaten at one point or another in its development makes cattail an excellent survival food.

With only a limited amount of time, we weren’t able to go much further and explore the wild edibles of the forest. Ironically, we had to stop for lunch. After a quick glance though, here’s a small sample list of what tasty treats I saw in the woods: American hazelnut, spicebush, stinging nettle, wood nettle, hog peanut, wild violets, mayapple, wild ginger, greenbrier, pawpaw, hickory, and more!

Click on each of the edible species listed in this article to find out how it can be prepared and eaten.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

2009 Ohio Farm Tour Series

The 2009 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour Series is set to start June 20th. This yearly opportunity to get a view of some of the best that Ohio Agriculture has to offer is sponsored by Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Forage and Grasslands Council, Ohio State University Organic Food and Farming Education and Research Program, O.S.U. Sustainable Agriculture Team, and the USDA SARE Program.

As always this years tour series features a wide range of agricultural operations from an organic vineyard, to organic field crops, to direct marketed hogs and poultry, to sustainable forestry practices. For a complete list of the 2009 tours see the 2009 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tours Brochure.

This years farm tours will feature two Athens County farms. Both stalwarts of the Southeast Ohio Sustainable Agricultural movement.

On Saturday July 18th, Kip and Becky Rondy of Green Edge Organic Gardens near Amesville will host a tour of their 120 acre organic vegetable operation. This is an opportunity to see one of the premier organic farms in our region. Kip and Becky have successfully utilized the natural assets of their property to produce 30 organic specialty crops, including mushrooms. This is a year round business that utilizes five greenhouses, as well as production fields. Green Edge markets its produce through a CSA, natural food stores and restaurants in Athens and Columbus, and at the Athens Farmers Market.

Green Edge tour participants are encouraged to start the day off with a visit to the Athens Farmers Market, known by many as the best farmers in Ohio, and one of the best in the Country. The market runs from 10:00am to 1:00 pm, featuring a wide variety of local food, entertainment, and good old fashioned community interaction. Anyone interested in taking the opportunity to spend the weekend in the area should check out the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau, for a list of lodging and area events.

J.B. and Charlene King of Albany will open the doors to King Family Farm on Sunday September 20th. J.B. and Charlene have a life time of farming experience to share. They produce superior quality hogs and poultry on their 200 acre Athens County farm. They market their products throughout Southeastern, and Central Ohio.

The Kings have developed systems for reducing animal stress, and growing and mixing their own feeds, that result in some of the best pork and chicken you will ever taste. King Family Farm products are also available at the Athens Farmers Market.

This years Farm Tour series offers something for everyone interested in farming or consuming quality food, while conserving our environment. Check out the tour opportunities on-line, and contact info@ohiofoodshed.org or any of the sponsoring organizations if you have any questions.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Chesterhill Produce Auction Opening Day Thursday May 14th

Join us on Thursday May 14th for the opening day festivities of the Chesterhill Produce Auction. An open house with refreshments will begin at 3:00pm, and the inaugural 2009 auction will start at 4:00pm. 2009 marks the fifth anniversary of this culturally unique aspect of our local food system. The growers, volunteers, community leaders, and owners Jean and Marvin Konkle, who have all worked together to make this growing local food business look forward to welcoming everyone!.

New for 2009 we will have an in house retail store. Sarah Tucker of Sarah’s Treats, promises to have this new shopping opportunity stocked with her delicious home made candies and peanut brittle. Local honey and maple syrup will also be available, with more good things to come as the year progresses.

If your looking for tomato stakes for those prized tomatoes you’ve just planted, the auction is the place for you. The opening auction promises to feature long lasting stakes produced locally from oak and other hardwoods. Local crafts including the famous Chesterhill rag rugs, should also be available. We like to stock up on these for that perfect spur of the moment gift option, always a great addition to any kitchen.

We’re also looking forward to supplies of vegetable starts, flowers, and of course fresh local food! Asparagus, that favorite spring time delicacy will be available, but it always goes fast, so be the bidder! Large brown eggs (kept ice cold from farm to auction) will be in good supply so this could be a great chance to stock up for your Memorial Day baking needs. Look for other spring vegetables including green onions, radishes and spinach.

If this is your first visit to a produce auction follow these simple steps: 1) Go to the office (on the north side of the building, through the new retail store), and request a buyers number. This is a permanent number and you will be able to use it every time you go to the Auction. Remember to bring your photo ID if you wish to pay by check.

2) When the auction starts pay attention and speak up when you wish to make a bid. Remember, this is a wholesale auction and often the price your bidding is multiplied by the number of items, for example eggs are bid at a one dozen price, and then multiplied by the number of dozen eggs you are buying. If you aren’t clear speak up or ask your neighbor.

3) The one person to avoid asking questions of is the “auction clerk,” this is the man or woman who sits in a chair near the auctioneer, and records all transactions. This is a job that requires concentration, so let them focus on writing down the sales! Please feel free to ask anyone else however, we want to make this a fun experience.

4) At the end of the auction go to the office (where you got your number) and pay for your tickets, which will represent each successful bid you made. These will be added up and that will be your bill. Keep your tickets as they will serve as your receipt. Please remember non food items require sales tax, and all sales are final. Please let us know if you see a mistake. Our sales clerks are often community volunteers trying to build a local food system, and are also human, hence prone to making a mistake. Let us know we’ll work it out! We promise!

See you on Thursday!

Tom Redfern

Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator

Rural Action (and sometime struggling sales clerk)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Thoughts that keep me up at Night

Last month, I traveled to a farm in search of a water tank. An older farmer who inherited the family farm many years ago owned the farm. A couple at the farm buying hay asked the owner, “What inspiration could an older farmer,” a farmer who has worked the land since his father taught him as his father’s father before him, “lend to our young 22 year old son just getting into farming?” The farmer replied with a weathered smirk, “Your son better not expect to be rich.” My ears perked up with anticipation of what would be said next. He wiped his brow on this very warm March afternoon as he broke it all down. First and foremost, the farmer discussed the price of the land. Fifty acres with a house was set as the average for a small farmer. The average person can maintain about an acre without machinery. Based on this, a need for tractor and other implements is created. The equipment then has a requirement to be maintained along with a constant supply of fuel. From the initial start, this adventurous lad would be in debt about $250,000. He has not even paid for insurance: vehicle, farm, mortgage, liability, life and health if he is lucky. Let alone seed and fertilizer bills. It seems already that this is going to be an uphill battle.

I started to think about other farmers that I know similar to the man in this encounter. Most of this breed is usually older and the farm has been in the family for generations. Those that are middle-aged farmers are unsure if the next generation will even have the ambition to continue. One thing is also true for every seasoned farmer, they know how to take their time. They understand that it is not the notion of coming in first, but that they finish the race. Planting itches are a constant characteristic the wife’s always bring up every spring.

I have heard farmers telling their children to go to school so you can do something better than this, but if farming is in the blood it is in the blood. One of my favorite memories as a child was sitting on the heater with my dad in his old Gleaner combine. I would always fall asleep, as he would harvest soybeans burning the midnight oil. I would only wake if the heater would burn my bottom or we would hit a hole and my head would whack the windshield. There was just something mesmerizing about the reels going around pulling the soybeans in. Having these memories convinces me that most of the startup costs that the old farmer was talking about could be eliminated if your previous generations were farmers.

I have seen a total renovation in the style of the common American farmer in my lifetime. The farmer is looking for improved methods to produce more crop while using less fuel and time. In walks Monsanto. Now the farmer can buy all their seed from one company, but they can never keep their harvested seed for the next year. At planting time inoculants, most harmful to humans, and fertilizers, made from excess bomb compounds, are applied. Now instead of cultivating for weeds you can simply spray to kill them. Amazingly enough the “roundup ready” plants live. What happens to the ground water after the spray is applied? How long will it take for the weeds to adapt to the spray and become immune? The process of making GMO seed is very scary. The cheap commodity crops are processed into millions of different items; some are fed to animals and some we directly eat, which in turn can be found in the aisles of supermarkets across the land and are found in every soft drink out there.

The only word that I would say to a person getting into farming right now is sustainable. You are a steward of the land. You must protect the ecosystem of the soil because the soil is the most important tool on the farm. Let other people struggle to put in commodity crops. Find a market for a specialty crop of yours before you break ground. Use all of the resources of the land to create for your own needs. And then once you get comfortable on your land, go into politics! There is only one farmer in Congress today. We need to stop allowing members of major agricultural corporations to jump back and forth from government positions regulating the small farmer before there ceases to be a small farmer.

About the Author

Matt and Angie Starline grow 7 acres of certified organic produce on their 50 acre farm near Guysville, in Athens County. Matt grew up on a Farm in Adams County, where he spent his High School years growing and selling his own acre of peppers. He is on his fourth year with his own operation. Matt spent five years working at Shade River Farm before starting his own operation.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Athens area organic farmer Stewardship Award winner

Rich Tomsu of Rich Gardens Organic Farm—a certified organic farm in Athens County--is the winner of the 2009 Stewardship Award from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA). This award is given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the sustainable agriculture community and was presented at the 30th annual OEFFA conference.

During his characteristically passionate acceptance speech, Rich recognized Mick Luber, a previous OEFFA Stewardship award winner for introducing Rich and other Athens area growers to the organic movement. Rich harkened back to 1975 when he and his wife Ann Fugate made the “life-changing decision” to buy their farm near Shade, Ohio in southern Athens County. Ann related that the move to the farm was a political decision coming from their desire to feed themselves and others, in reaction to their distrust of the political system at the time.

While accepting his award, Rich framed his work in organic farming as being a part of a “revolution,” that is increasingly becoming a mainstream movement. Rich and Ann trace their farming methods back to the Victory Gardens of World War II. “We never knew any other way to farm but organic,” said Ann.

Rich has been a vendor at the Athens Farmers market since the early 80s and, along with his wife—who is the Athens Farmers Market Association President—has been instrumental in its growth and recognition as one of the top 10 farmers markets in the country (Audubon Magazine, 2006).

Sarah Conley, Athens Farmers Market Manager calls Rich “one of the most impactful farmers on me personally.” From 2002-2003 Sarah worked at his farm, and recalls it as a turning point in her life. “Working for Rich gave me a deep appreciation of organic agriculture. Rich is an asset to the community,” said Conley.

She is one of many Athens area residents who have gained insights into organic agriculture through Rich’s openness and mentoring. Athens OEFFA chapter president Ed Perkins remarked on Rich’s dedication to the organic movement: “Rich has always put his time in to building OEFFA, and to organic agriculture, he shares his knowledge every chance he gets.”

The annual OEFFA conference is the largest gathering of organic farmers, gardeners, agriculture educators, retailers and consumers in the state. More than 700 people attended this year’s conference, The Changing Climate of Agriculture, held February 21 & 22 in Granville, and featured nationally recognized keynote speakers Melinda Hemmelgarn and Fred Kirschenmann, more than 50 workshops, a pre-conference workshop on soil fertility, a kids’ conference, on-site childcare, and Saturday evening entertainment.

OEFFA was formed in 1979 and is a membership-based, grassroots organization dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chesterhill Produce Auction Buyers and Sellers Orientation

On Thursday April 16 at 1:00 pm, the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) will be hosting a Buyer/Sellers Orientation. Anyone interested in participating in the auction this year is invited to attend.

2009 marks the 5th anniversary of the CPA, and after the success of last year, excitement is growing. The steering committee has been meeting regularly this winter to streamline the event, and several changes and improvements will be unveiled.

In response to requests from our larger buyers, this years sales will feature larger lots, that is five or more cases, going to auction first. This will allow us to better serve the buyers who are often coming from the furthest distance, and will hopefully increase volume sales for our growers.

For buyers interested in retail purchases, our new on site “store” will be unveiled. With the help of steering committee member Warren Fussner and several other community members, an actual walk in store was constructed inside the auction, allowing for increased shopping convenience. This structure was constructed from locally milled woods, much of it also donated.

Food safety expert Hal Kneen, OSU Extension Educator from Meigs County, will be on hand to discuss food safety issues, relevant to both the buyers and sellers. With food safety very much in the news this winter we are all reminded of the important role that Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP plays in the protection of our food system.

May 14th is the opening day for this years Produce Auction, and as always all Auctions will be at 4:00 pm. CPA founders Jean and Marvin Konkle are expecting another straight year of growth, and along with the steering committee invite everyone to participate in what is rapidly becoming a Morgan County Landmark.

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