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Organic Broadcaster Online Issue 19.6 November/December 2011
Table of Contents
- An Introduction to Animal Health Tools and Strategies for Organic Producers
- Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative
- News From MOSES
- MOSES 2011 Organic Field Events Successful
- Inside Organics Finding Balance in the Organic Grain Marketplace
- Community Comment: Organic Commodity Futures Trading is a Step Backwards
- Book Review Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual
- Rodale Farming Systems Trial Celebrates 30 Years
- Bacillus Thuringiensis, Bugs, and Humans
- Free Grants Advising Services Available
- MOSES Organic University
- OFRF Releases Organic Farming for Health & Prosperity Report
- Call for Participants: MOSES 2012 Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program
- Upper Midwest Organic Grains and Feedstuffs Report
- MOSES Receives Grant to Support Young Farmers
- News Briefs
An Introduction to Animal Health Tools and Strategies for Organic Producers
by Joe Pedretti
Most organic livestock producers will say that the health of their animals greatly increased once they started on all organic feed and changed the living conditions of their animals. Organic farming is a systems-based approach, and when the system is functioning properly, it can be a beautiful thing. This is not to say that there is no hard work or challenges in organic management, but the farm is in balance when the animals can express their natural behavior and are provided with rations and living conditions that promote health and lessen stress.
Understanding alternative animal health management is one of the biggest learning curves for new organic producers. In the conventional world, the choices are fairly simple: vaccines for prevention, antibiotics and antihelmintics (parasiticides) for treatment. Once organic, producers cannot use antibiotics or most parasiticides. Vaccines are allowed as preventative care. Truthfully, organic producers have many more tools available to them than conventional producers. The trick is learning which ones are effective and how and when to use them. It also takes a different management strategy based on prevention rather than reactionary treatment. It is no coincidence that the National Organic Standards for livestock health care are written as they are. To be successful as an organic livestock producer, you have to consider species, breed, site conditions, nutrition, housing, behavior, and husbandry before you reach for the tool box- prevention is the key.
Conventional veterinary care tends to focus on treating the disease or symptoms of the disease without addressing the underlying cause of the problem. Frequently, a change in management can prevent many problems from ever occurring. Organic crop producers use a combination of cultural and biological techniques to prevent disease and other pest problems- only using restricted organic pesticides when other techniques have failed. Organic livestock producers need to think the same way and employ as many preventative techniques as possible. Simply trying to substitute organic inputs for the old conventional ones is a recipe for disaster. Substitution alone does not work. The only long-term solution to effective organic livestock health is preventative care combined with a diverse tool box of approved inputs that you know how to use appropriately.
§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard
(c) The producer of an organic livestock operation must not:
(7) Withhold medical treatment from a sick animal in an effort to preserve its organic status. All appropriate medications must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production fail. Livestock treated with a prohibited substance must be clearly identified and shall not be sold, labeled, or represented as organically produced. (National Organic Standards)
Important Certification Notes
Simply put, it is a violation of the National Organic Standards to not treat an animal with an antibiotic or other conventional medicine if that is what is required to bring the animal back to health. Always seek veterinary help when needed and follow their advice in this matter. Any animal treated with a prohibited substance will have to be removed or clearly identified from the organic herd/flock. Although it is difficult to lose the organic status of a prized animal, it is worse to ignore this animal's welfare.
All of your livestock health inputs must be approved by, and listed with, your certification agency (Livestock Inputs). Call them before you try any new product. Your certifier will have a database of inputs that they have reviewed, and with a little notice, can review any new products for you. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) has a nice search engine that is useful to determine which products have been approved for organic use, but be aware that OMRI has not reviewed all options available for use: www.omri.org.
§ 205.238 Livestock health care practice standard
(a) The producer must establish and maintain preventative livestock health care practices, including:
(1) Selection of species and types of livestock with regard to suitability for site-specific conditions and resistance to prevalent diseases and parasites;
(2) Provision of a feed ration sufficient to meet nutritional requirements, including vitamins, minerals, protein and/or amino acids, energy sources, and fiber (ruminants);
(3) Establishment of appropriate housing, pasture conditions, and sanitation practices to minimize the occurrence and spread of diseases and parasites;
(4) Provision of conditions which allow for exercise, freedom of movement, and reduction of stress appropriate to the species;
(5) Performance of physical alterations as needed to promote the animal's welfare and in manner that minimizes pain and stress; and
(6) Administration of vaccines and veterinary biologics. (National Organic Standards)
Preventative Livestock Health Care
Animals are no different than humans when it comes to disease. Just as we are more susceptible to illness when we are rundown or eating poorly, animals are more likely to become ill when their living conditions are not optimal. Stress lowers an animal's natural immunity and defense systems. Stress can take many forms: poor nutrition, adverse environmental conditions, animal/human interaction, animal/animal interaction, poorly designed facilities, high pest pressure and many others. You can prevent many problems through proper management of these potential stress points. Your choice of livestock breed is also critical. Simply choosing a breed known for disease resistance, or for performance in a specific climate or system, can reduce stress and minimize the need for inputs.
The easiest health circumstance to address is proper nutrition. Use only high-quality, organic feeds. A properly mineral-balanced feed with high Brix levels should be your top priority. You have heard this many times by now, but health truly all starts with your soil. Test your soils and amend them per recommendations. Get professional advice if needed. This may take time, but it is worth the money and will return your investment in better yields of higher quality crops. Higher quality crops will result in healthier animals. It is very common for experienced organic livestock producers to call a veterinarian only for injuries or complications during birth, but you have to earn this peace of mind and you cannot skimp on soils to get there.
Be sure to feed your animals the right types and proportions of feed. Ruminants are supposed to eat mainly grass. The more grain you feed, the more production you may get, but there is a cost in increased stress on your animals. Trying to force an animal to eat a diet outside of the normal will eventually cause problems. Many common health issues in conventional ruminant production (acidosis, mastitis) are partially due to the push for higher levels of production, feeding unnatural diets and ignoring the animals' natural behavioral needs. Attention to the nutritional needs of the animals may mean adjusting rations based on the nutritional profile of the feed you have on hand. If rations are being changed, for instance to lessen grain inputs, this should be done over time and not all at once.
Vitamins, Antioxidants, Trace Minerals
Even with your best efforts, there is no such thing as a perfect soil, and a perfect season for crops only happens occasionally, if ever. And so, always offer your animals a trace mineral mix, either mixed into the ration or as a free choice supplement. A combination of mineral, salt, and dried kelp can provide your animals with the correct balance of nutrients throughout the year. Kelp is expensive, but its benefits are well known, as it contains a full complement of micronutrients.
Vitamins can help prevent disease by insuring that the animal's systems are functioning properly. Vitamins and antioxidants can also help with cleansing and tissue repair after illness. Vitamin C and Vitamin E have strong antioxidant properties. Vitamins can be added to your ration along with a mineral premix or given to animals by injection when necessary.
Husbandry and the Environment
You cannot control the weather, but you can minimize its negative effects on your animals. The most dangerous situations for any animal are cold and wet, and extremes in cold and heat. Pay attention to the forecast and be prepared to act accordingly. Proper shelter, shade, and heat can protect them against these stresses, but only if they are accessible when needed.
Well designed facilities can also reduce stress. Dr. Temple Grandin is renowned for her skill in designing animal barns, holding areas and other facilities to minimize stress on animals. Her skills are in great demand because facility improvements that reduce stress reduce losses and increase the bottom line. If your calves constantly get sick in one pen but not another, ask yourself: What conditions exist that could be creating stress? Older barns can be problematic if they do not have good air movement, are too damp, or are too small for modern breeds of animals. Stray current can be a problem in older farm buildings, poorly designed ones, or when buildings are built where current naturally travels through the ground. Stray current can be a difficult problem to recognize. Seek out the advice of a trained professional to assess and cure stray current problems.
Stress can also come from animal-to-animal and human-to-animal interactions. Employees or owners that mistreat animals, or simply practice poor management, through inexperience, choice or neglect are in the wrong business. Be sure to train your help well and always be the best example on your own farm. Also recognize that animals can be very cruel to each other. They will use their size and strength to intimidate and bully other members of their own herd/flock. Watch for this behavior and intervene to protect individuals when necessary. Providing enough space to allow animals someplace to get away from others is important for the overall health of all the animals present.
Vaccines are approved synthetic inputs for organic production. All are allowed as long as they are not genetically engineered (which most are not). It is wise (and often required by law) to vaccinate your animals according to state and local recommendations. Your local vet can tell you what is required and what is recommended for your area. Your state Department of Agriculture can also assist. You should consider vaccinating for specific problems you have dealt with in the past, or those problems that are common in your area. Examples of optional, but potentially useful vaccinations for ruminants are those for pneumonia, pink eye, and mastitis.
Prevention is again the most important strategy an organic producer can employ. Vaccines should be part of your organic tool box.
Homeopathy has been practiced for hundreds of years since it was first described and created by a physician, Dr. Samual Hahnemann, in 1796. Homeopathy was a common health tool used by physicians and veterinarians before the advent of modern pharmaceuticals. Homeopathy is treatment by a system of "let like be cured by like." The idea is that by stimulating the body's immune system with remedies that cause a specific reaction, the body will react and counteract that reaction. For example, the homeopathic remedy Apis mel is made from the venom of the honey bee. Honey bee venom causes swelling, but when made into a homeopathic preparation it actually helps to relieve swelling.
Homeopathic remedies are made by diluting the active ingredient several times until very little or none of the original material is left. The dilution, called a preparation, is then added to lactose or other sugar to form pills for ease of application. The pills are typically given under the tongue.
Nosodes are homeopathic remedies that are made from disease-causing organisms, products of those organisms, or diseased tissues from animals. Nosodes may also be made from vaccines. Nosodes are prepared by dilution like other homeopathic medicines. Animals cannot become infected from nosodes because the process of dilution and preparation kills any viable disease causing organisms. Nosodes stimulate the animal's immune system, helping to prevent the onset of disease. They are only effective for a relatively short period of time and should be given just before or just after exposure to a disease organism. They are useful as short term defensive tools when you are faced with known diseases.
While many organic farmers use homeopathic remedies and nosodes with reported success, it is important to note that the efficacy of homeopathy is highly disputed. Many American scientific studies and reviews have not shown homeopathy to be effective, although some European research has found statistically relevant positive results. More research is needed and until more is known, you should plan to combine homeopathy with other tools or simply focus on other options.
Made from plants, herbal medicines have diverse and specific effects on animals' systems. For most of human history, herbal remedies have been part of our livestock health care tool box. Even today, the majority of the human population still relies on herbs for their primary health care needs as both a preventative and as a treatment for disease. Botanicals are often given raw, with minimal preparation other than perhaps preservation, usually in a dried form. Tinctures are extracts of these same botanicals, usually in alcohol, but sometimes in oils or vinegar. Tinctures allow for longer storage and greater control over the strength of the final product. When the active ingredient of the herb is dissolved in alcohol, it is quick to pass through the membranes of the mouth into the bloodstream for quick action on the treated animal.
Many of the active ingredients used in modern medicine were originally derived from botanical sources and are used in much the same fashion as the original herbal medicines. The science behind the effect of medicinal herbs is strong, but there are many variables that can affect the end result, so it makes sense to seek out reputable and experienced sources before you purchase.
There are 35 molecules in garlic that have antibiotic properties- the primary one being allicin. Used for millennium to treat disease, this is one of the very first medicines discovered by humans. Garlic should be in every organic livestock producer's tool chest and used as your primary organic antibiotic. Garlic is usually sold in capsule (bolus) form, but you will find it in powdered or tinctured form too. Be careful if you are a dairy producer. Garlic that has not been deodorized can leave an undesired taste and smell in the milk from treated animals.
Aloe vera is an immune stimulant. Give this to livestock when they are under stress to aid their own defenses. It will also help sick animals recover more quickly. Aloe is sold either in liquid form, which can be used as a drench, or as pellets which can be fed to your animals. Along with garlic, aloe should be in every organic producer's tool box.
Echinacea is also an immune system stimulant. It is usually available in tinctured form.
St. Johnswort and willow bark are natural pain killers. Use these tinctures to help reduce stress during dehorning, castration or other situations with short-term pain. Dr. Paul Dettloff has a product called "Dull It," which is a combination of natural pain killers. Research at the California State University- Chico found "Dull It" to reduce stress hormones in calves as well as conventional pain killers. Aspirin is also an allowed synthetic livestock health input as an inflammation reducer.
This is a very short list of some of the useful botanicals you should consider in your tool kit. For a more complete list, and strategies on how to best incorporate these into your health care program, you can reference the books and resources noted below:
Comfrey- known as the bone-knitting herb.
Arnica- helps heal bruises and soft-tissue injuries.
Caulophyllum- stimulates uterine contractions.
Mullein Leaf- lung expectorant.
Walnut Leaf- intestinal wormer.
Elcampane Root- intestinal wormer.
Many immunity factors are transferred from the mother to the baby through colostrum. Whey products use this principle to transfer immunity factors to the treated animal. Adult cows are exposed to specific disease organisms and allowed to develop antibodies and other defenses to that disease which are collected in the whey from their colostrum. This whey is then processed into a treatment that can be fed to, or injected into, other animals to stimulate the immune system.
Essential oils are concentrated aromatic oils from plants. Some essential oils are anti-bacterial (maleluca and eucalyptus) and anti-fungal. Others have specific actions, like peppermint oil, which dilates capillaries and stimulates blood flow and is commonly used in udder liniments. Essential oils are often the active ingredient used to repel flies in insect repellents. Essential oils are currently undergoing a great deal of research and experimentation, and have great potential as natural livestock health products. Dr. Sarah Slaby has developed a number of essential oil products for dairy producers under the brand name "Dr. Sarah's Essentials."
Joe Pedretti is a MOSES organic specialist.He can be reached at email@example.com
Resources on Animal Health:
Treating Dairy Cows Naturally by Hubert J. Karreman, VMD, ACRES USA**
Alternative Treatments for Ruminant Animals by Paul Dettloff, DVM, ACRES USA**
Homeopathy in Organic Livestock Production by Glen DuPree, DVM, ACRES USA**
Homeopathy for the Herd by C. Edgar Sheaffer, VMD, ACRES USA**
Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Baïracli Levy, Faber and Faber
Alternative and Herbal Livestock Health Sourcebook by University of Connecticut
Raising Organic Livestock in Maine: MOFGA Accepted Health Practices, Products and Ingredients by MOFGA
Livestock Health Supply Manufacturers (see "MOSES Organic Resource Directory" for a Complete List)
Crystal Creek (full line of health care products), 1-888-376-6777
Dr. Paul's Lab (tinctures and herbal products), sold through several companies:
-- DairySS.com, 218-564-4958
-- Lancaster Ag ,717-687-9222
Agri-Dynamics (full line of animal health products), 1-877-393-4484
Dr. Sarah's Essentials (essential oil products), (608) 323-3005
Impro (whey and other health products), 1-800-626-5536
Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative: Participatory Breeding and Variety Trialing
by Erin Silva
The selection of the right vegetable varieties for your farm can provide great advantages in the successful production and marketing of your crops. Choosing the best variety for your farm can be overwhelming – depending on the crop, listings of in seed catalogs are often numerous but accompanied by vague descriptions that may not provide much insight into crop performance. Meeting the requirement of using organically produced seed can present an additional challenge to organic producers planning their seed orders each year.
A new partnership between farmers and researchers is beginning to address these challenges. The Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture Organic Research and Education Initiative and the Ceres Trust, brings together plant breeders and researchers from the Organic Seed Alliance, the University of Wisconsin, Oregon State University, and Cornell University. Working with farmer collaborators, the project not only seeks to identify which vegetable varieties currently available on the market are best suited for organic farming, but also aims to develop new varieties bred specifically for organic systems.
The project is uniquely structured in that organic vegetable farmers are an integral part of the project, both as breeders and trialing sites. Variety trialing not only occurs on certified organic land at University Agricultural Research Stations, but also on working organic farms. Farmers work side by side with the university breeders to select plants within the breeding populations that perform best in their production systems and markets. Each year, the project solicits advice from organic farmers as to which varieties should be included in the trial for evaluation. This participatory model ensures that the project responds to the needs of organic vegetable producers. During the project's first two years, thirty-seven farms have been involved in the project with twelve of these farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The variety trial effort in the upper Midwest region focuses on six crops: sweet corn, broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, winter squash, and cabbage. Each of these crops has specific goals targeted for the project: the identification of broccoli cultivars that can be harvested in early to mid summer with no heat stress; the identification of a high quality, fresh market, Nantes-type carrot with strong, vigorous tops that can compete with weeds; the identification of disease resistant, good tasting, heat tolerant stringless snap pea for the fall market; the identification of sweet corn cultivars that can emerge in cold soils for an early market; the identification of butternut winter squash varieties with good post-harvest quality and longevity; and the identification of cabbage varieties that are thrips and black rot resistant with good field and storage holding capacity. Data describing characteristics of interest to organic growers, such as disease and insect resistance, % stand establishment, weed competitiveness, and quality attributes such as flavor and appearance, are collected throughout the growing season at both the Agricultural Research Station and participating farms.
At the University of Wisconsin, we are completing our second year of data collection on each of the six crops. Data for the snap peas, cabbage, carrots, and winter squash continues to be collected through October and the early storage season. For two of these six crops, broccoli and sweet corn, data are collected and analyzed and the results summarized.
Broccoli and Sweet Corn Results
Varieties of broccoli and sweet corn were selected with input from organic farmers and plant breeders. Seed was purchased from a variety of sources, with organic seed purchased if available (see Table 1 for seed sources). Production methods at the UW Agricultural Research Station were chosen to represent common production practices on organic farms in the upper Midwest.
Broccoli transplants were started in the greenhouse in mid-April using organic production methods. Six-week old transplants were set out in the field following an oat cover crop that had been incorporated six weeks prior. A custom fertilizer blend including composted chicken manure and feather meal was applied to the field to meet the fertility requirements recommended by the University of Wisconsin for fresh market vegetables as determined by soil testing. Transplants were placed 12 inches apart on 30 inch rows. Heads were harvested during the first and second weeks of July.
A summary of a subset of the broccoli data is shown in Table 2. Eleven varieties were tested in 2010 and 2011. These included varieties currently available to organic farmers ('Arcadia', 'Belstar', 'Green Goliath', 'Gypsy', 'Windsor', and 'Oregon Longneck'); other varieties are products of university breeding programs ('East Coast population', 'JM population') or farmer-breeder projects ('JS population'; 'JP population'; 'CCF'). Varieties included differ between the 2010 and 2011 growing seasons as evaluations showed some varieties with unacceptable performance and new varieties became available.
Table 2. Results of broccoli variety trials at the University of Wisconsin West Madison Agricultural Research Station, 2010 and 2011
1Head color: Rating scale of 1 – 5 where 1 is light green and 5 is dark blue-green/purple.
2Head firmness: Scale of 1 – 5 where 1 = very loose, 2 = soft,3= intermediate, 4 = medium hard, 5 = very firm.
3Bead size: rated on a 1 – 5 scale where 1 is very fine, 2 is fine, 3 is medium, 4 is medium coarse, and 5 is coarse.
4Heat stress: scale of 1 - 5 where 1 = unmarketable, 2 = severe, 3 = noticeable, 4 = low, 5 = none.
Data over the two years detected differences in performance with respect to the goal of identifying heat-tolerant broccoli for the early summer market. 'Gypsy' and 'Windsor', despite their later maturity, showed good heat tolerance across both years of the trial. Other varieties such as 'Belstar' did not show good heat tolerance, particularly in the hotter conditions experienced in 2011.
Sweet corn was planted during the second or third week of May. Ideally, for the purpose of evaluating the cold soil emergence of the crop, sweet corn should be planted before the soil temperature reaches 60 F. With the warmer spring of 2010, these conditions were not met; however, these conditions were met in 2011, thus challenging the cold soil emergence of each of the corn cultivars. Seed was planted 1-1 ½ inches deep at 9" spacing on 30" rows. As with the broccoli, a custom fertilizer blend including composted chicken manure and feather meal was applied to the field the meet the fertility requirements recommended by the University of Wisconsin for fresh market vegetables.
Over the past two years of the study, twelve varieties of sugary-enhanced (se) sweet corn have been tested. Similar to the broccoli, we have included sweet corn varieties currently available to organic growers ('Brocade', 'Bodacious', 'Luscious', 'Hookers', 'Spring Treat', 'Sugar Buns', 'Fishers Earliest', and 'Temptation') as well as those included in both university and farmer-led breeding programs ('MDse'-E, 'MDse-L', 'Frank's Red', 'Top Hat').
Sweet corn data is summarized in Table 3. Significant differences were seen in the ability of these corn cultivars to emerge in cold soil temperatures. 'Temptation' exhibited the best stand establishment both in 2010 and 2011 at both the research station site and the farmer participant sites. Other varieties, such as 'Luscious' and 'Sugar Buns', exhibited poor stand establishment across years and sites. 'Spring Treat', one of the earliest varieties to be harvest, received the highest scores with respect to flavor.
Table 3. Results of Sweet Corn variety Trials at University of Wisconsin West Madison Agricultural research Station (WM) and Participating Farms, 2010 and 2011.
1 Flavor: 5 = Excellent, sweet and good corn flavor; 4= Pleasant; 3=Acceptable; 2= Little sweetness; 1= Objectionable
2 Data not collected at WM due to poor emergence
As the data sets expand, variety trial results from each of the regions represented by the project (Northeast, Northwest, and Upper Midwest) will be available on the project website that will be developed. It is expected that this website will be linked through eOrganic. On this website, farmers will have the ability to view on-farm and research station trial results as well as enter their own experiences with varieties in each crop category. Although the website is not yet available, it is expected to become live during 2012.
An additional goal of the project is the release of the varieties that are part of the university/farmer participatory breeding process. Although variety release is a longer-term goal, several of the varieties included in the trial are making significant progress to becoming stable, high-performing open-pollinated cultivars.
Farmers are welcome to view the variety trials at the University West Madison Agricultural Research Station. In addition, the University of Wisconsin hosts an annual field day with tours of trial fields and presentations outlining the summarized data. We are always looking for more farmers to become involved in our participatory trial network. Please contact Erin Silva, University of Wisconsin Organic Production Scientist, for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org; 608-890-1593).
Erin Silva is the University of Wisconsin Organic Production Scientist. She will be presenting this and other research at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference in February. Contact her at email@example.com; 608-890-1593.
News from MOSES
by Jody Padgham
Farmers are still busy out in the fields this week, as silos are being filled and corn stalk bedding is being made. Hopefully you've had time to pull in the hoses and do other end of the season chores as we wait for that first white stuff to fall.
At MOSES we've been wrapping up our summer activities and preparing for the exciting learning and sharing of winter. You can read below about another successful field days season. If you missed these great on-farm events this summer, don't worry, there will be many more offered next year.
Courses for the Organic University in La Crosse are all set, you can be tantalized by the descriptions on page 13- we hope you can join us this year. The 23rd annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference will be Thursday, February 23 through Saturday February 25- it's not too soon to get a hotel room and start looking for help so you can leave the farm to join us. We have lots of great workshops and other activities planned. Look for the conference flyer in your mailbox in early December. You can get an early peek of our plans soon on the MOSES website. Online registration opens December 1st.
As a pastured turkey producer, this is always a bittersweet time of year, as those robust birds with big personalities take that last big truck ride. This year the turkeys have become quite bonded to the sheep, they make quite a picture as they intermingle and wander throughout the pasture. A call will bring everyone running, I can only laugh at the diverse waddles as both two and four legged beasts chase toward me in high anticipation. The rams will go in about the same time that the turkeys leave, so I expect that the sheep will be distracted enough to not miss the big birds too much.
Have a great end to the harvest, and a peaceful and fun-filled holiday season.
Jody Padgham, Organic Broadcaster Editor
MOSES staff attended approximately 36 events in 2011, including field days, conferences, and trade shows throughout the Midwest and beyond.
The highlight of 2011 was the jump in attendance at our field days. Two of our best attended field days were "Organic Row Crops, Grains and Forages" at Jack Erisman's farm in Pana, Illinois and "Scaling Up Your Vegetable Production" at Peg & Matt Schaeffer's farm in Grayslake, Illinois, both with attendance close to 100.
The "Integrated Pest Management for the Organic Orchard" training at Hoch Orchard and Gardens in La Crescent, MN had nearly 60 participants in the all-day class. At least two other farm field days had over 50 participants: the "Organic Dairy Pasture Walk" at the James Yoder farm in Spencer, WI and the "Organic Dairy- Calf & Milk Quality Management" field day at the Kevin & Mary Jahnke farm in Lancaster, Wisconsin. Other events averaged 25-45 attendees.
Lisa Kivirist hosted five workshops through the Rural Women's Project - In Her Boots: Sustainable Farming for Women, By Women program. These workshops were well received with an average attendance of 25-30 at each event.
Thank you to everyone who hosted, attended, assisted with, or sponsored our field days in 2011. We look forward to seeing you again in 2012!
Additional 2011 MOSES Field Days:
Getting Started in Market Gardening- Organic Field School at Gardens of Eagan, Farmington, MN
Organic Strawberry Production- Wilson's Organic Strawberries. Alexandria, MN
Organic Dairy Pasture Walk- Kruse Organic Dairy Farm, Lansing, IA
High and Low Tunnels for Extended Season Vegetables- Organic Field School at Gardens of Eagan, Farmington, MN
Organic Dairy Pasture Walk- Weimer Family Organic Dairy Farm, Arcadia, WI
2011 Conferences and Trade Shows:
MN Organic Conference
Midwest Value-Added Conference, WI
Immigrant and Minority Farming Conference, MN
Midwest Rural Assembly, MN
USDA Organic Research Conference, Washington, DC
Farm Technology Days, WI
Farm Progress Show, IL
Midwestern Bio-Ag Field Day, WI
Kickapoo Country Fair, WI
WI State FFA Career Expo
Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators Annual Conference
IA Organic Farming Conference- November 20 and 21st in Ames, IA
Fearless Farm Finances Training, December 9 and 10th, La Crosse, WI
Inside Organics: Finding Balance in the Organic Grain Marketplace
by Harriet Behar
If you produce corn and soy beans, you probably are very happy with this year's prices. If you buy these commodities, you are probably figuring out ways to lessen your purchases, scale back your operation, or you're suffering a hit to your own financial stability.
Last year the price of Midwestern organic corn in early October averaged $5.46 per bushel, this year it is $11.33 (and for September 2011 it averaged $13!) Other grain commodities have also seen a large increase in price in the past six months. While this increase might seem good for organic cash grain producers, it is very difficult for their buyers: organic consumers and producers of organic livestock products.
The marketplace can be seen as either a place where buyers and sellers come together to exchange commodities fairly, or it can be seen as a place where each individual seeks to get the best price according to their own short term benefit. But it is also important to remember another basic requirement of the marketplace….to pay attention to the needs of your customers.
The last time we had historically high organic grain prices organic livestock producers decided to lessen their milk production, and other livestock producers held back on increasing their livestock numbers. When this happens, we shrink rather than grow the availability of organic foods in the marketplace, which then drives up prices to the consumer and shrinks the numbers of consumers who can purchase our products. This instability hurts our organic market, and encourages the importation of sometimes cheaper foreign organic commodities, which further cuts into the market for our organic domestic production.
Are You Tired of Rollercoaster Grain Prices?
This boom and bust cycle is not a problem that is easy to solve, but that does not mean we should not try. As a start, grain producers who sell direct to other farmers can discuss pricing with their buyers. Producers need to discuss longer term interactions that are based on a fair price for both sides. Pricing between farmers need not solely be linked to what the volatile marketplace dictates. Agreements could be made so that when the prices in the marketplace are low for grain, the livestock producer may pay a little more, and when they are high, the grain producer would need to take a little less. The benefit of stability and developing the marketplace as a partnership rather than an "I win and you lose" activity has many long term benefits. Both buyers and sellers need to recognize their reliance on the other, and seek to interact in the marketplace fairly and responsibly. Each region is going to have its own cost of production, with the folks in the Northeast U.S. needing to pay somewhat higher prices for grains than producers in the Midwest.
Organizations such as OFARM, (Organic Farmers Association for Relationship Marketing), have discussed this issue, but there has been no solution found to this obvious problem. Buyers and brokers of grain need to be discussing fair pricing with their providers, and all sides need to take more control of this organic marketplace. Price stability is beneficial to all. I believe this can be developed with flexibility that considers both the effects of weather and commodity volumes.
Price Stability Has Benefits
The organic dairy industry, with leadership from CROPP (Organic Valley is their brand name), has viewed pricing not only from the viewpoint of the "free market" but from a vantage point of what is "fair" for the producers. In the early days of CROPP a fair price was decided based on cost of production (including a living "wage"). Setting selling prices so they were fair for both the seller and the buyer was a radical concept. The success of organic dairy today is tied to the stable price farmers can rely on for at least 12 months, or the length of their contract. Conventional dairy prices still move up and down month by month, pushing smaller farmers out of the business, particularly in times of lower prices. Conventional dairy farmers have no idea how much they will get for their milk when the milk truck leaves the farm. The organic dairy farmer does know their price, and can literally take this information to the bank to fund their investments in buildings, land, and livestock.
Organic certification agencies and others have told me that the type of farmers that move in and out of organic most readily are organic cash grain producers. It is difficult to weather these dramatic price fluctuations, and grain producers leave organics and return to conventional when organic prices drop below the cost of production. This leaves organic buyers with less product and higher costs. As a result, the previous year's low prices become a short term benefit at the expense of a long term stable supply at a fair price. We have seen boom and bust cycles in farm country continually, and anyone who thinks the current high conventional and organic grain prices will remain or increase has a very short memory. Financial speculators who in the past fueled the technology bubble and the housing bubble are now putting their dollars into American farmland and farm commodities. This is not a recipe for either price stability nor for family farm sustainability.
The organic community has gotten to where they are today by challenging the conventional "wisdom" in a variety of ways. Our methods of farming are different in seeking to produce food and fiber while at the same time protecting and improving our soils and the greater environment. In order to have a strong organic marketplace we need to develop a system that provides sustainable prices for both the growers of grain and the buyers of grain. The boom and bust of conventional commodity prices has been leveled somewhat by a very expensive government safety net of price supports, and this is not the roadmap that organics should follow.
At this point organic dairy marketers are actively seeking to transition more farmers to organic milk production. The success of this transition is based on having a good supply of fairly priced organic commodities. The growth of organic agriculture in the U.S. is dependent on developing this fair partnership between suppliers and buyers of commodities. The organic community has met many challenges in the past 20 years. Now is time to take on this difficult challenge.
Harriet Behar is a MOSES organic specialist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Comment: Organic Commodity Futures Trading is a Step Backwards
by Oren Holle, OFARM President
I have recently been involved in discussions that could lead to organic commodity futures trading. The more I think about it, the more I think this would be a step backwards for organic farmers. There are better ways to achieve the goals of fair and stable organic prices at the farm level.
The organic food system thrives as an alternative to, not a junior version of, the conventional industrial model. Farmers, not speculators, are where pricing of organic products must begin. Only in this way will prices reflect every aspect of the food system beginning with the seed being planted in the soil.
The alternative is a futures market where pricing begins not with farmers at the local level, but with the actions of global conglomerates betting on world economies and global events. We cannot expect that jumping into that game will make prices more stable, especially when we consider how "thin" most organic markets are. In fact, our recent experience with corn and oil tells us that prices may become even more volatile if we invite traders from around the world to get involved in pricing our products.
We also have to be concerned about the integrity of global futures markets. History tells us that regulation of price discovery mechanisms, such as the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, are only as good as the political will of the people in charge.
We must also not forget how easily futures markets can turn to derivatives and the horror stories they have brought for producers. Any farmer-oriented market mechanism should require the buyer to take physical delivery of the product and the seller to actually sell it. But this is exactly the reasonable behavior that futures markets put in jeopardy.
In raising concerns about futures markets for organics, I do not say we can't do more to provide fair and stable prices for organic farmers. We can, and we should.
For the past decade, Organic Farmers Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) has worked through its system of member cooperatives to jointly determine farm-level target prices. In determining those target prices, we recognize that we must include a reasonable return for labor, management and financial investment. We further recognize that this value must reflect the costs inherent in maintaining the social and environmental infrastructures of our total food production system for succeeding generations.
At OFARM, we also recognize that inventory discipline on the part of both producers and the industry will be a key to both lessening price fluctuations and guaranteeing long term, reliable sources of product for every sector in the commerce equation.
Yes, there is more that we must do if we are to have the right model for pricing organic farm products. The road to that important goal is one of farmers resolving to unite and stand together for economic justice in the market place, not one of turning our future over to the whims of global speculators.
Oren Holle owns and operates a diversified organic grain and livestock operation in Bremen, Kansas. He is OFARM president and also serves as Kansas Organic Producers Association president, an OFARM member organization. He can be reached at 785-337-2442 or email@example.com. OFARM (www.ofarm.coop) is an organic farmer cooperative incorporated in the State of Minnesota as a marketing-agency-in-common.
Book Review: "Crop Rotation on Organic Farms: A Planning Manual " Edited by Charles Mohler and Sue Ellen Johnson
Reviewed by Jody Padgham
Anyone interested in organic crop production has heard about the importance of crop rotation. Farmer Don Kretschmann nicely summarizes the benefits of a good rotation system in the quote above. What may be a surprise is how complex and management-intensive crop rotation is, or should be.
"Crop Rotation on Organic Farms- A Planning Manual" is a comprehensive 156-page manual that covers all aspects of crop rotation for many types of crop farms- from corn and soybeans to mixed vegetables. One hundred pages of text do an excellent job of outlining the benefits and complexities, followed by 55 pages of tables offering information helpful in setting up a good rotation system.
Spearheaded by Charles Mohler, senior research associate at the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and Cornell University, a diverse team of specialists from Cornell and other states contributed their expertise to the book. Mohler points out in the introduction "The purpose of this book is to help growers and farm advisors understand the management of crop rotations; avoid crop rotation problems; and use crop rotation to build better soil, control pests, and develop profitable farms that support satisfied families." The book certainly offers enough information and wisdom for readers to accomplish the goals that Mohler outlines.
Mohler points out that although a good crop rotation requires advance planning, there are too many variables involved to allow you to effectively plan a long rotation years in advance. Weather, markets, labor supply, and other factors will all affect a crop choice. However, he also notes that a faulty rotation can cause years of serious problems, including soil imbalances or the buildup of a soil borne disease. And, compounding the challenges, problems may take several years to show up and several more to correct. The book was developed to help farmers understand the science and practice of crop rotation well enough so they can be prepared to make decisions on which crops to rotate at what times. Mohler summarizes that "the intent of the manual is not to provide a rigid list of does and don'ts. Rather, the intent is to provide perspectives on how to approach the challenge of planning effective crop rotations and to provide current information on which to base decisions."
Several farmers contribute their knowledge and best practices throughout the book. Sidebars feature farmer comments, and a large color chart shows real rotations from 16 diverse farms (primarily with vegetable crops).
The book, published in 2009 by Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service (NRAES) with funding from Sustainable Research and Education (SARE), offers a goodbalance of science and practical experience in covering the topic.
Beginning with a description of why crop rotations are important and how a basic rotation works and can be set up, the book moves into identifying the various complexities of both the crops themselves and the effects they have. Discussions include the types of diseases and insect pressures that can be managed by crop rotation, those that can't, and how crop rotation can be used for weed management.
The middle section of the book outlines successful crop rotation strategies from a diversity of farms. It then provides a step-by-step sequence to plan an effective crop rotation. The book offers a series of worksheets with detailed instructions on filling them in, including real farm examples.
A chapter is dedicated to intercropping, in which two or more crops are grown together, or in close proximity. This includes a discussion of cover crops, and using crops to trap pests or host beneficial insects.
Appendices include: Characteristics of Crops Commonly Found in the Northeasern U.S. (listing crop name, family, what part is harvested, the average yield, the amount of N, P and K the crop removes, its cold tolerance, weed competitiveness and seedbed required), Crop Sequence Problems and Opportunities, Sources of Inoculum for Crop Diseases in the Northeasern U.S., Characteristics of Common Agricultural Weeds Relevant to Crop Rotations, and Crop Disease Pathogens Hosted by Common Agricultural Weeds.
Although the book was written with a Northeasern U.S. focus, it will certainly be relevant to growers in most parts of the country. The charts are very extensive, and include most crops anyone would think of growing. On first glance it appears that the focus is on vegetable rotations, but I think this is only because of the wide diversity of vegetable rotations possible. There certainly is plenty of fantastic information for row crop farmers not planning to grow vegetables.
If you are looking for a good winter read to increase your farming success, I could certainly recommend Crop Rotation on Organic Farms. A great depth and breadth of information is presented in understandable sequence using everyday language. I think every crop farmer will get a lot out of reading this book. My only complaint, a common one I make, is that the book is not indexed, and so though the authors suggest that you can use it as a reference, it may take a bit of time to find exactly the topic you want. However, the book is well laid out, with large paragraph headings that are easy to find.
Crop Rotation on Organic Farms is available from the MOSES books store for $29.00. Contact MOSES at www.mosesorganic.org or 715-778-5775.
Don't forget to put a book or two on organic farming on your holiday gift giving list!
Rodale Farming Systems Trial Celebrates 30 Years
The Rodale Institute has recently released a report detailing the results of its 30-year Farming Systems Trail comparing organic and conventional farming sytems. Below is a a short synopsis of some of the report's conclusions.
The Farming Systems Trial (FST)® at Rodale Institute is America's longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture. Started in 1981 ,to study what happens during the transition from chemical to organic agriculture, the FST surprised a food community that still scoffed at organic practices. After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system.
Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.
We selected corn and soybean production as our research focus because large tracts of land, particularly in our region and the Midwest, are devoted to the production of these crops. Corn and soybean acreage comprised 49% of the total cropland in the U.S. in 2007. Other grains made up 21%, forages 22% and vegetables just 1.5%.
Throughout its long history, the FST has contained three core farming systems, each of which features diverse management practices: a manure-based organic system, a legume-based organic system, and a synthetic input-based conventional system. In the past three years of the trial, genetically modified (GM) crops and no-till treatments were incorporated to better represent farming in America today. Results and comparisons are noted accordingly to reflect this shift.
The Different Systems
Organic Manure: This system represents an organic dairy or beef operation. It features a long rotation including both annual feed grain crops and perennial forage crops. The system's fertility is provided by leguminous cover crops and periodic applications of manure or composted manure. This diverse rotation is also the primary line of defense against pests.
Organic Legume: This system represents an organic cash grain system. It features a mid-length rotation consisting of annual grain crops and cover crops. The system's sole source of fertility is leguminous cover crops and the rotation provides the primary line of defense against pests.
Conventional Synthetic: This system represents the majority of grain farms in the U.S. It relies on synthetic nitrogen for fertility, and weeds are controlled by synthetic herbicides selected by and applied at rates recommended by Penn State University Cooperative Extension. In 2008, genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans were added to this system.
No-Till Systems: Each of the major systems was divided into two in 2008 to compare traditional tillage with no-till practices. The organic systems utilize our innovative no-till roller/crimper, and the no-till conventional system relies on current, widespread practices of herbicide applications and no-till specific equipment.
The crop rotations in the organic systems are more diverse than in the conventional systems, including up to seven crops in eight years (compared to two conventional crops in two years). While this means that conventional systems produce more corn or soybeans because they occur more often in the rotation, organic systems produce a more diverse array of food and nutrients and are better positioned to produce yields, even in adverse conditions.
- Soil health in the organic systems has increased over time while the conventional systems remain essentially unchanged.
- One measure of soil health is the amount of carbon contained in the soil. Carbon performs many crucial functions such as acting as a reservoir of plant nutrients, binding soil particles together, maintaining soil temperature, providing a food source for microbes, binding heavy metals and pesticides, influencing water holding capacity and aeration, and more. Carbon increase was highest in the organic manure system, followed by the organic legume system. The conventional system has shown a loss in carbon in recent years.
- Organic fields increased groundwater recharge and reduced runoff. Water volumes percolating through soil were 15-20% higher in the organic systems than the conventional system. Rather than running off the surface and taking soil with it, rainwater recharges our groundwater reserves in the organic systems.
- Soils of the organic systems are better equipped to store and use water efficiently. This means that plants have what they need "in storage" and can better access those stores.
Organic corn out performs in years of moderate drought
- Over the 30 years of the trial, organic corn and soybean yields were equivalent to conventional yields in the tilled systems.
- Wheat yields were the same for organic and conventional systems. (Wheat was only added to the conventional system in 2004).
- Organic corn yields were 31% higher than conventional in years of drought. These drought yields are remarkable when compared to genetically engineered "drought tolerant" varieties which saw increases of only 6.7% to 13.3% over conventional (non-drought resistant) varieties.
- Corn and soybean crops in the organic systems tolerated much higher levels of weed competition than their conventional counterparts, while producing equivalent yields. This is especially significant given the rise of herbicide-resistant weeds in conventional systems, and speaks to the increased health and productivity of the organic soil (supporting both weeds and crop yields).
- The organic systems were nearly three times more profitable than the conventional systems. The average net return for the organic systems was $558/ acre/year versus just $190/acre/year for the conventional systems.
- Even without a price premium, the organic systems are competitive with the conventional systems. Marginally lower input costs make the organic systems economically competitive with the conventional system, even at conventional pricing.
- The most profitable grain crop was the organically grown wheat netting $835/acre/year.
- No-till conventional corn was the least profitable crop netting just $27/acre/year.
- The organic systems used 45% less energy than the conventional systems.
- Diesel fuel was the single greatest energy input in the organic systems.
- Nitrogen fertilizer was the single greatest energy input in the conventional systems representing 41% of the total energy.
- Production efficiency was 28% higher in the organic systems than in the conventional systems, with the conventional no-till system being the least efficient in terms of energy usage.
Pestidices and Human Health
- Water leaching from the conventional system more frequently exceeded the legal limit of 10 parts per million for nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in drinking water compared to the organic systems.
- Atrazine leaching in the conventional system sometimes exceeded the maximum contaminate level set by the EPA for drinking water. And concentrations in all conventional samples exceeded 0.1 parts per billion, a concentration that has been shown to produce deformities in frogs.
The Big Picture
After thirty years of a rigorous side-by-side comparison, the Rodale Institute confidently concludes organic methods are improving the quality of our food, improving the health of our soils and water, and improving our nation's rural areas. Organic agriculture is creating more jobs, providing a livable income for farmers, and restoring America's confidence in our farming community and food system.
What do the next 30 years hold? We will continue to study the nuances of organic agriculture as they compare to those of the current chemical-reliant system. And we will continue to evaluate yield, economic viability, energy usage along the way as all these are indicators of a healthy, diverse and truly sustainable system. However, a change may be on the horizon. One which may see us exploring different crops or reaching beyond matters of yield and economics to consider nutrition and human health in more depth. We have shown that organic can feed the world. Now it is time to take on the matter of feeding the world well.
You can read the entire FST 30-year report on their website.
Bacillus Thuringiensis, Bugs, and Humans
This report was posted by the Michael Fields Agriculture Institute, www.michaelfields.org.
Insects are building resistance to genetically-modified crops, and bio-pesticides are found in the human bloodstream.
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that lives in soil and is deadly to insects. When ingested, Bt produces a crystalline protein that kills cells and dissolves holes in an insect's gut. It has been used as a pesticide for decades and is approved for organic production, due to the fact that it occurs naturally in the soil and doesn't persist in the environment long after spraying.
Field corn, cotton, potatoes, and sweet corn are now genetically-modified with Bt genes. When a plant produces the Bt toxin, it's referred to as a plant-incorporated protectant or a bio-pesticide. During its growth period, the entire plant – leaves, stems, roots, seeds, etc. – manufactures the Bt toxin. So when certain insects eat any part of the plant they consume the Bt toxin and die. Compared to a spray application of Bacillus thuringiensis, a genetically- modified crop produces Bt at concentrations thousands of times higher. After Bt is sprayed, it breaks down fairly soon. With a genetically-modified crop, the Bt survives in the plant tissue long after harvest and winds up in the soil and waterways. Nobody knows the effects of inundating ecosystems with massive quantities of the bacterium.
Selection pressure increases when insects are bombarded with pesticides or bio-pesticides, and insects evolve to resist the pesticide more quickly than they otherwise would (if they would at all). So an invaluable pest management tool can be rendered useless if the target pest population is over-exposed to it. Bt corn was released in 1996 and pests are already becoming resistant to it. Since 2009, farmers in Iowa growing genetically-modified crops have found Bt-resistant corn rootworms. Bt-resistant fall armyworm populations have shown up in Florida and Puerto Rico. Mississippi and Arkansas now have a Bt cotton-resistant bollworm. These resistant populations will undoubtedly spread to other parts of the country. Farmers are having the same problem with weed management. There are now 21 weed species resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. Genetically-modified Roundup-Ready (or glyphosate-tolerant) crops are engineered to be utilized with herbicide. Over eleven million acres of farmland are infested with these "super- weeds".
Since the release of Bt crops, farmers have been required to plant refuge zones. If a farmer is planting Bt corn, anywhere from 5 – 20% of the crop planted cannot be genetically-modified. This strategy was put in place to "forestall" insect resistance to Bt. Ignoring the evolutionary capabilities of insects, seed companies blame farmers for non-compliance with refuge zone requirements.
In the past, Bt corn had one gene inserted into its DNA to target a specific pest (e.g. European corn borers or corn rootworms). Now the makers of this seed are stacking up to six different genes – Bt genes and glyphosate-tolerant genes – into one corn plant. This seed comes with a requisite 5% refuge. Rather than forestalling insect resistance, this approach will probably accelerate it. The EPA recently granted approval for Syngenta's Agrisure 3122, corn seed stacked with multiple genetically-modified traits. According to the USDA, seed corn prices rose 146% from 1999-2011.
In the U.S., genetically-modified corn accounts for about 86% of the nation's crop. The Center for Food Safety estimates that 70% of processed foods contain genetically-modified organisms. The public knows very little about the health effects of eating food with Bt genes. Short term studies have shown signs of toxicity with kidney and liver damage in mammals. A 2009 study in the International Journal of Biological Sciences found a "clear negative impact on the function of these organs in rats consuming GM maize varieties for just ninety days". What happens when humans and livestock eat food with Bt for fifteen years?
When it was released, regulators claimed that Bt corn was safe because the Bt was degraded in the intestinal tract. Now the Bt toxin is showing up in the bloodstream of humans. Researchers in Canada looked for signs of the bio-pesticide in the blood of pregnant and non-pregnant women. A study published in Reproductive Toxicology in February 2011 found the Bt toxin in 93% of maternal blood samples, 80% of fetal blood samples, and 69% of non-pregnant women blood samples.
With their diminishing effectiveness and new health concerns, it's time to re-examine whether planting genetically-modified crops is a good idea. Farmers should be encouraged to adopt more sustainable practices for long-term productivity and food safety.
Free Grants Advising Services Available
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute is providing Free grants advising services to Midwest farmers.
Who are These Services Directed to?
- Socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in the Midwest as defined by the USDA's Risk Management Agency, which is basically minority farmers or women farmers.
- Rural Wisconsin producers and new or existing agriculture-related businesses in rural Wisconsin. "Agriculture" also includes forestry and fisheries.
What is Grants Advising?
MFAI's grants advisor can help you apply to grant and cost-share programs of state or federal sources that could help you start or expand your agricultural, forestry or related business. These can be programs of any federal or state agency, not just the USDA. We will assist individual producers, associations of farmers, and agricultural, fishery, and forestry-related businesses to both search for and apply to programs for which they are eligible.
Our grants advisor helps you decide whether a grant would be the best way to achieve your goals. If so, she will help you identify a grant program that best fits your goals and help you outline a plan of work for you to follow to meet the application deadline and all application requirements. She can also suggest other resource options if grants do not seem appropriate. These might be federal, state, or local loan programs, loan guarantees, or resource information and resource persons.
The advisor can assist you in preparing the proposal to ensure timely submission with necessary forms, attachments, and letters of support.
It is best to start working now with the grants advisor for grant program deadlines this winter. For more information please contact the grants advisor, Deirdre Birmingham, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 219-4279.
MOSES Organic University: Full-day courses Thursday, February 23, 2012
Pre-Conference, Full-Day In-Depth Courses
Thursday, February 23, 2012, La Crosse, WI
10:00am - 5:30pm, at the La Crosse Center
The Organic University's full day of learning provides attendees the opportunity to delve deeper into a topic than the shorter workshop offerings at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. The small classes, led by experienced farmers and expert presenters, provide ample time for questions and discussion. Each course's resource book provides materials used on the day of the class plus additional information for further reference.
You can register for these courses by mailing in the registration form from the conference flyer (mailed in early December) or by going online. Online registration will open December 1st.
1. Balancing Soil Fertility for Top Quality
Both top yields and top quality are needed and possible in organic food and feed production. When grown organically, higher yields indicate higher, not lower, nutritional value. Join renowned soils expert and writer Neal Kinsey as he shares his knowledge of balancing soil fertility.
2. Livestock Health Care Management
Organic livestock husbandry requires unique tools and techniques to prevent and to treat illness. Join Dr. Susan Beal, Agricultural Science Adviser at PASA in Pennsylvania and Organic Valley Staff Veterinarian Dr. Paul Dettloff as they share their considerable experience. Homeopathy, tinctures, herbal remedies and other alternative health care strategies will be discussed in depth.
3. Advanced Agronomics for Row Crops
Klaas and Mary-Howell Martens of Lakeview Organic Grain and Dave Campbell of Lily Lake Organic Farm in Illinois offer a detailed look at advanced agronomic techniques and strategies for producing high quality grains. See how weed control, soil fertility, cover crops, crop rotations, tillage techniques, cultivation, harvesting and storage can be combined into an efficient system that produces consistent, high quality crops.
4. Quality Forage Production for Dairy and Beef
Midwestern Bio-Ag dairy consultant Bob Yanda and organic dairy producer Gerry Klinkner will discuss pasture management, forage crop production, animal genetics and other management strategies to increase yield and nutritional quality of forages for an improved bottom line.
5. Organic Pastured Poultry A-Z
Join Tim Koegel of Windy Ridge Natural Farms in New York will explore production considerations and the business aspects of organic pastured poultry production including regulations, determining costs, locating funding, working with Excel spreadsheets, finding markets, creating marketing materials, educating your clientele, and "making the sale."
6. Growing Dollars in Your High Tunnel
Whether you are considering putting up a high tunnel or are currently doing season extension on your farm, experienced growers Adam Montri of Michigan State and Mike Bollinger of Four Season Tools can help you develop strategies that make a high tunnel investment worthwhile. From choosing the type of structure you need, to fertility, irrigation, crop choices, seed varieties and planting options, this class will provide numerous ideas for using the "high value real estate" inside your high tunnel.
7. Producing Organic Beer Ingredients
The growing consumer demand for organic beer and ideal Midwestern growing conditions offer a great opportunity for farmers who want to grow these specialized crops as their main business or as an added enterprise to their existing operation. James Altwies of Gorst Valley Hops and Bo Belanger of South Shore Brewery will share their years of experience growing these crops and interacting with this niche market.
8. Intro to Organic Farming Systems
This class offers a basic overview of the National Organic Program rules and in depth descriptions of the diverse practices used to produce high quality organic crops and livestock products. Ag professionals as well as operators who are considering organic production will find a wealth of information provided by Atina Diffley of Organic Farming Works LLC and Jim Riddle, University of MN organic outreach coordinator.
9. Scaling Up Your Vegetable Operation
Learn how to increase your productivity through the experiences of two expert farmers, Matt Sheaffer of Sandhill Organics and Mike Lind of Driftless Organics. From increasing the number of families served through your CSA or farmers market outlets to producing large volumes lucratively for the wholesale market, our presenters will share the successes and challenges during their years of growth. Choosing scale appropriate equipment, crops and varieties, pest, disease and weed management, successful crop rotations as well as planning purchases and sales outlets will all be discussed.
10. Overcoming Your Fear of Farm Financials
What is the most important tool on your farm? Your financial recordkeeping system! Many false starts and failed enterprises can be avoided if basic financial management is understood and practiced. Join two engaging and dynamic speakers, Paul Dietmann of the WI Farm Center and Craig Chase of IA State University, as they take you through the exciting (yes, exciting) world of number organization and analysis. The basics of financial management will be presented in an easy to understand format with a wide variety of real life scenarios to help you successfully and painlessly manage the financial aspects of your own operation. The newly published MOSES book, "Fearless Farm Finances," will be given to each attendee of this course.
We hope to see you in La Crosse in February!
OFRF Releases Organic Farming for Health & Prosperity Report
Organic farming is a rapidly expanding economic sector and makes an important contribution to human health, the health of the economy, and the health of the planet. The evidence is clear about the success of organic farming in terms of human health, prosperity, the benefits to soil and water, to birds and bees, and the ability of organic farming to mitigate damage from global climate change.
Because of the many benefits of organic farming, public policies should support investing in the expanding organic sector. The Farm Bill is due to be re-configured and re-authorized before the end of 2012 and, as the primary instrument of agricultural policy, the Farm Bill is a likely vehicle for investment in organic agriculture. Currently, agricultural policy does very little to support organic farmers and, in some cases, works against the interests of organic farmers.
The Organic Farming for Health & Prosperity Report, produced by the Organic Farming Research Foundation, is a review of the American scientific literature concerning organic farming in the United States, designed to examine the many benefits of American organic agriculture and identify the key ways in which agriculture policy could best be supportive of organic farmers.
Currently there are 14,500 certified organic farmers in the United States and demand for organic foods is growing. By 2015, the number of organic farmers required to meet projected market demand must triple to at least 42,000 organic farmers.2 We can, and should, see the next generation enjoying easily accessed healthy food that ensures the protection of a thriving environment.
This review of the scientific literature concerning organic farming in the United States is derived from articles reporting organic research in the United States and Canada, published from 2000 onward.3 The literature review takes as its primary sources research papers published in peer-reviewed academic journals. Additional rigorous sources, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organizations associated with the United Nations, Rodale Institute, the Organic Trade Association, and the Organic Center, are cited when the peer-reviewed literature on a given topic is non-existent or difficult to find. This report concludes with a set of actionable policy recommendations.
When the body of scientific literature is reviewed as a whole, it is easy to see that organic farming practices are good for people, the economy, agriculture, soil and water quality, and biodiversity. Organic farming practices will help mitigate climate change. (Please see Table 1 for a summary of select key organic farming practices and their benefits.)
It is time that the many benefits of organic agriculture are acknowledged by more policymakers and supported with a new unified policy to support organic farmers and the organic food industry. Over the past decade, modest public resources have been directed toward organic farming in the form of funding for research and data collection, funding to offset a small amount of certification costs, enforcement of the organic standards, and an initiative to ensure fair access to conservation programs for farmers. The resources allocated to date, however, are still far disproportionate to the investment needed to realize the great potential of organic farming.
Download (pdf) the Executive Summary of the report.
1 L Jackson., M. van Noordwijk, J. Bengtsson, W. Foster, L. Lipper, M. Pulleman, M. Said, J. Snaddon, and R. Vodohe. 2010.
Biodiversity and agricultural sustainability: from assessment to adaptive management. Current Opinion in Env. Sust. 2:8087.
2 Based on research from the Department of Agriculture and the Organic Trade Association.
3 For the purposes of this study, we have not examined the large body of organic research focused internationally. In cases where there are gaps in the literature, the review extends back into the 1990s.
Call for Participants: MOSES Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program 2012
Have you just finished your first or second year of farming, or are you switching from conventional to organic production? The MOSES Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program just may be the perfect vehicle to help you prioritize your activities, meet your production challenges and improve your financial security! Our program, now in its fifth year, pairs mentees with mentors according to the type of farming (dairy, crops, vegetables etc.) as well as geographic location. Mentors bring their years of experience to the program; discussing farm issues with the mentee and helping them navigate problems and opportunities in their farm. Each mentor visits the mentee's farm, reviewing both fields and infrastructure. They are also available throughout the year via email or phone for questions or conversation. Participants in this program have built long term relationships and improved their farm's production capabilities as well as their economic viability.
Mentees and mentors attend the Organic Farming Conference as part of the program, with the mentors receiving an annual stipend and the mentees paying a small fee to be in the program. Applications from both mentors and mentees will be taken until early December for our 2012 program. See our website or call our toll free organic info line to get further information 888-551-4769.
Upper Midwest Organic Grains and Feedstuffs Report
MOSES Receives Grant to Support Young Farmers
October 3, 2011. MOSES is pleased to announce that it has received a $231,000 USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant. We will use the funds to support the needs of young organic farmers with dedicated training – both classroom and on-farm – and networking opportunities.
The MOSES grant was one of 36 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grants totaling $18 million awarded in early October by the USDA. The USDA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program earmarks funds to organizations that provide training, resources and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them run successful and sustainable farms.
Beginning and young farmers interested in organic and sustainable farming face unique challenges. Traditional agriculture education programs rarely feature training in organic and sustainable practices. In addition, youth can feel isolated and disconnected from others with similar thinking, and hunger for a feeling of support and connection. There is a real demand from young ag students for on-farm internships and classroom learning to improve skills and knowledge of organic and sustainable systems. This BFRDP grant will enable MOSES to provide comprehensive learning and communication resources for beginning and young farmers to help them understand and successfully use these practices.
Working in partnership with the Organic Field School at the Minnesota-based Gardens of Eagan farm and Renewing the Countryside, over the next three years MOSES will add two beginning farmer focused courses to the in-classroom Organic University; create two on-farm Organic University courses for beginning and young farmers to participate in hands-on training; develop an ongoing Young Organic Stewards track at the Organic Farming Conference; provide financial support for beginning and young farmers to participate in training; and create a social and learning online network.
You can keep up with the activites of this project on our website.
NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant
Farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region are invited to submit grant proposals to explore sustainable agriculture solutions to problems on the farm or ranch. There are now three types of competitive grants: individual grants ($7,500 maximum), partner grants for two farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($15,000 maximum), and group grants for three or more farmers/ranchers from separate operations who are working together ($22,500 maximum). Learn more at http://www.northcentralsare.org. Proposals are due December 2, 2011.
MN Research Compares Profitability of Organic and Conventional Cropping Systems
University of Minnesota researchers have released a paper titled A Whole-Farm Profitability Analysis of Organic and Conventional Cropping Systems. Rather than looking solely at per-acre returns, this study carefully considers the effects of farm size and machinery complement on total farm costs. The study concludes that with current organic price premiums, small conventionally managed farms may be able to earn greater net returns if transitioned to organic production. The 48-page report contains whole-farm financial summaries as well as data on individual crops and dairy. The report can be found online.
Online Courses for Farmers
The Northeast Beginning Farmer Project offers online education sessions for beginning farmers. Most of the fall courses are filled, but winter course registration will be open soon, with some spots saved for farmers outside the NE US region. Courses are taught by experienced Cooperative Extension educators, farmers, and other specialists, are usually 6 weeks long, cost $175 unless otherwise noted, and include both real-time meetings (online webinars) and on-your-own time reading and activities. Academic credit is not earned, but those who successfully complete a course will receive a certificate and are also eligible for Farm Service Agency (FSA) borrower training credit, which can improve your eligibility to receive a low-interest FSA loan. To learn more about each course, visit http://nebeginningfarmers.org/online-courses.
Call for Grant Proposals- OFRF
Organic Farming Research Foundation offers grant awards to support organic research, education, and policy development. The next bi-annual deadline is November 15, 2011. Both the Research and the Education/Outreach programs consider projects on any agricultural production, social, economic, or policy-related topic of concern to organic farmers or ranchers. OFRF particularly encourages applications from farmers, ranchers, researchers, and Extension personnel, but others are eligible as well. The maximum award is $15,000. More at http://ofrf.org/.
Annie's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarships
Annie's offers $75,000 in funds to students studying sustainable agriculture. Annie's Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship Program is open to full time undergraduate and graduate students beginning or returning to an accredited 2 or 4 year college program, or graduate school in the U.S. for the 2012/2013 school year. http://www.annies.com/doing-good Applications due December 15.
Technology Could Certify Organic Crops from Satellites
The European Space Agency (ESA) is helping to develop the use of satellite images for certifying crops as organic, reports SpaceRef. Multi- and hyperspectral satellite imagery were used to derive several indicators based on biophysical justification and crop management practices to differentiate between conventional and organic methods.
MarketMaker Connects Farms and Consumers
MarketMaker, at www.foodmarketmaker.com, is an online marketing resource developed to assist and educate livestock farmers on marketing strategies for value-added meat products. The site has expanded into a tool that can benefit everyone in the food supply chain, from farmers, to processors, distributors, retailers, and the consumer looking for unique food products. The site includes profiles for over 500,000 producers and other food-related businesses from dozens of states. Each state has its own unique site, but all sites access a common database allowing multi-state searches, including a mapping locator.
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Seeks More Educational Farm Sites
GrassWorks, Inc. is actively seeking new educational farms to host enthusiastic next-generation graziers in its Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. The innovative program, which combines on-farm training under the guidance of an established grazier with formal instruction, was developed by GrassWorks in collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Any Wisconsin grazier who wants to help shape the future of dairy by transferring his or her knowledge and who meets the criteria of five years of grazing experience can apply to become a Master Dairy Grazier. To find out more contact Joseph Tomandl, III: 715-560-0389 or email@example.com. Applications for both Dairy Grazing Apprentices and Master Dairy Graziers can be found at www.grassworks.org.
Look Who's Knockin' Drama Focuses on Retiring Farmers' Dilemma
Look Who's Knockin', a one-act performance on the future of family farming, is coming to four western Wisconsin venues in November. Produced by the Land Stewardship Project (LSP), the play explores the moral dilemma faced by long-time conservation farmers and includes a community discussion afterwards. Tickets are $5 and available at the door. For more information or to reserve a seat, contact the Land Stewardship Project at 507-523-3366 or e-mail.
Do you have something to buy or sell? Your classified ad will reach over 8,000 households in the print edition, and be available in both the pdf and html version available online. Go to the Organic Broadcaster website to submit an ad electronically.
For Sale: NEXTAFLEX 6'6" closed, 24'6" open, 18" wide, $500. Very good condition. Excellent for CSA sorting. Milw WI. 414-444-8638.
For Sale: JD AT40 4-row front mount cultivator. JD 4-row rear spade cultivator. Lilliston 4-row 3-pt. cultivator. 641-752-8407 or 641-750-5941.
For Sale: Hinker roller mill with new paddles, rollers, bearings, and its own elevator. Kovor 60 ft. tine weeder. 715-568-3758.
For Sale: Certified organic pasture-fed turkeys: ready for Thanksgiving. Jonas M. Schmucker, S501 Dell Rd, Cashton, WI, 54619.
For Sale: OCIA certified Angus calves, grass finished, genetics (reference available). Approx 50 head. Must be sold by Jan. 1 (earlier depending on weather). Northcentral South Dakota. Bill or Julie Rosin. 605-649-7224.
For Sale: Organic dairy herd, 52 Jersey milk cows. Hillsboro, WI. 608-489-3978.
For Sale: Certified organic young crossbred dairy cows. 952-212-9506
For Sale: Certified organic alfalfa clover baleage, 4x5 bales. G & G Farms, Pittsville, Wisconsin. 715-421-9956.
For Sale: 660 6-ft. square wrapped hay bales – first cutting. 285 dry square bales – second cutting. 135 dry square bales – third cutting. MOSA certified. Call Dan. 608-348-3691.
For Sale: Organic feed, wrapped and dry hay big bales, oats, straw, corn. Can deliver. 608-574-2160
For Sale: Certified organic alfalfa and alfalfa/grass hay. 3x3x8 bales. Good test results. Located in Linton, North Dakota. Dave Silbernagel. 208-867-9939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Sale: 220 tons certified hay (NO RAIN) 5 RFQ lots. Alfalfa/fescue/timothy/clovers & low potassium hay. 400 bu. hulless oats and 35 tons oat straw. 715-473-2154.
For Sale: Grass/alfalfa mix and grass hay for sale. Analysis available. Certified organic. Call Randy. 612-669-6892.
For Sale: Organic hay, straw and oats. Dry & silage bales. Sno-Pac Farms – delivery available. 507-725-5281.
For Sale: OCIA certified organic alfalfa hay in 3X3X8 big squares. Protein 19-23. RFV/RFQ 110-180/per 2nd & 3rd cutting. Grown in northwest MN. 218-686-2946.
For Sale: Balage, large squares, alfalfa/grass mix. 60 available. We load, you haul. Westby, WI. Charley 608-634-3860 or Tom 608-634-2118.
For Sale: Custom grain and seed cleaning for seed. Feed and feed grade, small or big quantities. MOSA certified. Kevin Nuttleman, Bangor, Wisconsin. 608-633-1132.
For Sale: Certified organic oats. 39# test weight. Dave Silbernagel. Linton, North Dakota. 208-867-9939 or email@example.com.
For Sale: Passive solar home on 80 acres in Rusk Co. Organic garden, fruit trees, sugarbush, stream, garage/shop, fields, wood heat, root cellar. $185,000. 715-322-4349.
For Rent: Southern Minnesota dairy processor has excess space to rent for small-scale dairy processing operations. Call Mike. 952-758-6886.
Help Wanted: Dairy Farm Manager. Unique growth opportunity for a select individual to play a critical role in a grass-based, organic dairy farm. We need someone who enjoys cows and is willing to work in all aspects of dairy farming. Opportunity to purchase livestock and equipment. Compensation based on revenue and profit. Cedar Summit Farm. Call Dave 952-212-9506.
Opportunity: We are a certified organic, grass-based dairy and beef farm in southeast Wisconsin, looking for a sharemilking couple starting in February 2012. You will have the opportunity to run your own dairy business within our farm, building equity and management skills, while being mentored by an experienced farmer. Our goal is to get you started as an organic dairy farmer, so interest in Organics and Grazing is a must. We do require two years prior dairy experience and a minimum of six months employment with us before engaging in the 3-year sharemilking agreement. Call or email for more information. Altfrid and Sue Krusenbaum. 262-642-7312 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For Sale: Garlic tincture, 8 oz. $20.00, 16 oz. $35.00, 32 oz. $55.00. Postage paid. Israel Swarey, N83 Hall Drive, Stetsonville, WI 54480.
For Sale: Organic fall cover crop triticale and rye. Ready to plant. Delivery available. Floyd Hardy 218-764-3122.