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Organic Broadcaster Online Issue 20.3 May/June 2012
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Table of Contents
- Pollinator Conservation in an Unstable World
- Innovations in Organic Dairy: The Fly Barrel
- News From MOSES
- Inside Organics What About Our Right to Farm?
- Poetry My Farm on the Hill
- Book Review Turn Here Sweet Corn
- Organic History Project
- Winning Wisdom From a MOSES Farmer of the Year
- Proof Positive: Alternatives to Plastic Mulch
- MOSES Field Days
- Young Organic Stewards Project Update
- Upper Midwest Organic Grains and Feedstuffs Report
- News Briefs
Pollinator Conservation in an Unstable World
By Eric Mader
This year’s alarmingly warm March had a lot of people noticing their fruit trees blooming way too early, as well as bees and other insects on the move at least a month before they typically appear. In fact, during a late winter heat wave of 70 and 80 degree days, I received a small flood of emails and phone calls from farmers across the Midwest asking what they could do for all the bumble bees they saw emerging.
While it has been a little disheartening to tell people that there isn’t much they can do for those early emerging bees, it’s also pretty amazing to see so many farmers engaged and interested in protecting pollinators. This interest in pollinator conservation has been building in the Upper Midwest during recent years, paralleling both our renaissance in sustainable and organic farming, as well as the increased acreage of regional bee-pollinated crops like fruits, vegetables, oilseed (e.g. sunflower and canola), and forage legumes. This local increase in pollinator-dependent crops is, in fact, part of a 300% increase in bee-pollinated cropland globally since the mid 1960s.
Despite this, the decline of honey bees and native pollinators continues to make headlines. In recent weeks there has again been a spate of news stories linking honey bee losses to certain pesticides. Although the methodology behind that research is being criticized (even by staunchly anti-pesticide scientists) it does remind us that our bees are still in trouble.
Similarly, scientists are also continuing to note that while honey bee losses continue to capture the public’s imagination, our native pollinators in some cases continue to fare even worse. For example, researchers have documented the widespread decline of the rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), once among the most common bumble bees in the Upper Midwest, it now may be teetering on the brink of extinction. In the case of the rusty-patched bee, it is not pesticides that have been implicated in its decline, but rather the spread of bumble bee diseases through human attempts to domesticate bumble bees for crop pollination.
Unseasonably warm weather, pesticides, diseases—and, widely overlooked, the loss of wildflower habitat—these are all indeed contributing to unstable times for bees. Fortunately, there are simple steps that any farm can take to have a positive impact on pollinator numbers. Extensive work by the Xerces Society and research partners at UC Berkeley, Rutgers, Michigan State University and others, is now clearly demonstrating that providing natural habitat is the most effective single step farmers can take to sustain pollinators. In fact, when enough natural habitat is present on a farm, healthy wild bee populations supported by that habitat can fulfill all of the farm’s pollination needs.
Pollinators have two basic habitat needs: a diversity of flowering plants (preferably native), and nesting sites. In addition, farmers can take an active role in reducing pollinator mortality. While insecticides are an obvious threat, other farm operations such as burning, grazing, and tillage (which impacts ground-nesting bees) also can be lethal to pollinators.
Simple farm strategies for pollinator conservation include:
1. Plant flowers. bee balm, New England aster, wild hyssop, purple coneflower, cupplant, and milkweeds are all excellent native wildflower choices that attract many wild bees and are common across the Midwest.
Non-native (and non-invasive) annuals such as lacy phacelia, cosmos, and buckwheat can also be planted as low-cost insectary field borders and cover crops to attract bees and other beneficial insects.
2. Minimize pesticide use. While conventional insecticides and fungicides are often linked to bee mortality, some organic-approved products also can pose a risk. Pyrethrins and Spinosad, two common organic options are dangerous for bees, and should not be used on blooming plants or near areas where bees are nesting. Insecticidal soaps and oils are generally safer choices, as long as they are not applied to flowers that bees are actively visiting.
Simple strategies like spraying in the evening and calibrating spray equipment (to avoid over-application) also can reduce harm to pollinators. Many alternatives to pesticides also are available for specific crops, such as floating row covers, kaolin clay pest barriers (like the product Surround), pheromone traps for specific pests, and crop rotation and diversity to avoid pest outbreaks.
Finally, remember that the same conservation strategies that support native bees also enhance populations of other beneficial insects, including those that prey upon or parasitize crop pests. Thus, conserving pollinators can help further reduce the need for insecticides.
3. Maintain conservation buffers. Hedgerows, windbreaks, and shelterbelts can provide multiple farm benefits. These “living fences” obviously help reduce erosion and provide visual screening for the farm, but they also provide nesting and over-wintering refuge for pollinators. To further support pollinators, these conservation buffers can include native flowering trees and shrubs such as New Jersey tea, willow, hawthorn, serviceberry, and spirea.
Conversely, buffers of tall evergreen trees can help reduce pesticide drift from neighboring farms, protecting your resident pollinator populations. Tall evergreen buffers may also help reduce gene flow from neighboring GMO and non-organic crop varieties by reducing windborne pollen and discouraging bees from moving between distant crop fields.
Financial and Technical Support for Pollinator Conservation
To help farmers create pollinator habitat, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) now offers technical and financial assistance for conservation practices like hedgerow planting and establishing wildflower meadows. Specific programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and others offer various opportunities to help meet your conservation goals.
The NRCS also has made organic producers a priority demographic for assistance through the agency’s nationwide Organic Initiative. Generally as a first step in this process, the agency works with you to develop a whole farm conservation plan. More information, including contact information for your local NRCS office is available at: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov.
Habitat Restoration Using Organic Practices
While tremendous advances in the science of pollinator conservation are being made, critical issues remain. This is especially true for organic farmers.
For example, since USDA grants became available for pollinator habitat conservation through the current Farm Bill, organic producers have been among the largest client groups to request that funding. In most cases however, USDA guidelines recommend the use of conventional herbicides (such as glyphosate) as a first step in preparing an area for wildflower restoration. Indeed, USDA technical advice for establishing diverse wildflower plantings using organic methods is usually either lacking or entirely non-existent. This knowledge-gap stems from the larger native plant restoration community, which has developed standards dependent on chemical herbicides.
To address this need, the Xerces Society, the USDA-NRCS, and the Organic Tree Fruit Association have partnered to conduct a first-of-its-kind field trial on organic practices for large-scale wildflower restoration.
This project, beginning in 2012 in six states, will test organic site-preparation techniques such as solarization, smother cropping, and the use of horticultural vinegar to understand which strategies are most effective at preparing weedy field borders for wildflower planting. Along with initial weed suppression, project costs and labor hours will be documented. From the results of this research, Xerces will develop how-to publications and provide training to organic farmers nationwide. More information will be available soon on the Xerces Society website (www.xerces.org).
Special Support for Organic Seed Producers
The need to develop organic guidelines for habitat restoration is especially critical to organic seed producers. Recent debates around the threat of genetically modified (GM) crops to organic seed varieties have made pollinator management a central concern for seed producers.
Indeed the extent to which GM pollen is transferred via pollinators to organic seed crops is uncertain. However, differences between honey bees and native bees may play a role in determining the level of risk.
For example, a single honey bee can easily forage over 50 square miles, making it likely to encounter crops on neighboring farms.
In contrast, native bees typically forage over much shorter distances, often less than a mile away from their nest site. Thus where native bees are the primary pollinators, their shorter foraging range could provide a natural limitation against out-crossing from nearby GM and non-organic crops.
Similarly, the tremendous diversity of organic crop varieties necessitates a wide range of pollinator species. Honey bees are valuable generalist pollinators that can be supplied in large numbers. On a bee-for-bee basis, however, specialist native bees, such as squash bees in cucurbits and bumble bees in heirloom tomatoes, have been documented to significantly increase seed yield.
To support organic seed producers, the Xerces Society, with support from the Organic Farming Research Foundation and Organic Valley, is developing a new publication and classroom training titled Pollinator Conservation Strategies for Organic Seed Producers. The program will be available in late 2012, and will provide seed producers with conservation strategies for specific pollinators of various seed crops—as well as risk reduction guidelines for protecting against out-crossing from nearby GM varieties. More information will be available to Broadcaster readers soon!
For More Information
The Xerces Society maintains an online database of pollinator conservation information including USDA and Extension fact sheets, downloadable Xerces publications like Farming for Bees, wildflower restoration guidelines, pesticide information and bulletins for organic farmers, and links to native wildflower nurseries through the Pollinator Conservation Resource Center: www.xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center.
The Xerces Society’s new book, Attracting Native Pollinators, provides an additional resource for farmers with extensive background information and an identification guide to common native bees of North America, along with chapters on native bee nest construction, habitat restoration, and managing threats to pollinators. The book is on sale everywhere, including through the Xerces Society website.
Epilogue: The Warmest March Ever
After I’d completed this article, a friend sent me the latest newsletter of the Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Association, a group of butterfly enthusiasts who observe and record trends in our native butterfly populations. Not only did the Association note that this past March had the longest and warmest weather period ever recorded, they also listed 303 butterfly sightings by Association members (composed of 16 different species!) for the month. For comparison, in March 2005 and 2008 Association members observed only 1 and 3 individual butterflies respectively.
Although wild bees don’t have the same sort of committed citizen naturalists tracking them as butterflies do, you can bet that the trend for early bee emergence was similar. Waking up into a world of confused phenology and out of synch with wildflower resources will no doubt take a huge toll on many of those bees, reducing their reproduction and survival.
I am not a climatologist. I don’t have answers for why this last winter was so warm, or what we can do to mitigate the effects of climate change. As an agro-ecologist however, I would bet that, in an unstable world, the most diverse farm systems - those with native prairie wildflowers and grasses growing alongside crops and in pastures - will be the most resilient in the long run.
Eric Mader is Assistant Pollinator Program Director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and Extension Professor of Entomology at the University of Minnesota. His previous work includes commercial beekeeping and crop consulting for the native seed industry. He is the author of several books, including Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies by Storey Publishing. Eric can be contacted at: email@example.com
The Xerces Society is an international organization dedicated to preserving invertebrate wildlife. Founded in 1971 and named after the extinct Xerces blue butterfly, (Glaucopsyche xerces), the organization has won legal protection for endangered species, stopped pesticide use on millions of acres of public land, produced ground-breaking publications, and worked one-on-one with thousands of scientists, farmers, backyard gardeners, and land managers to protect and manage wildlife habitat. More information about the organization is available at www.xerces.org.
Innovations in Organic Dairy: The Fly Barrel
By Jody Padgham (photos courtesy Harriet Behar)
Over the past several years a great new resource has cropped up on the web: eOrganic, eExtension’s “organic agriculture community of practice” found at http://www.extension.org/organic_production. eOrganic houses a useful collection of papers, presentations, and videos that detail proven organic production practices and research. New materials are added regularly, and so frequent visits to the site are worthwhile.
MOSES organic specialist Harriet Behar has been working with a team of educators from around the country for the past few years to help plan and design the offerings and structure of several parts of the eOrganic site. Recently she has been working on a video series highlighting innovative organic practices.
Harriet’s first video features certified organic seasonal dairy farmer Kevin Jahnke of Lancaster, WI and his fly trap barrels. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zuaDl7cR2g) This 6.3 minute video shows how to set up novel fly attractants. These fly barrels are so simple and useful that everyone should have a few on their dairy or other livestock operation.
Kevin explains that his fly barrel idea is based on the concepts used in the one-gallon scented fly traps common on many farms. Flies are attracted into a smelly environment and can’t escape. But here’s the twist: Kevin has created his traps using 55-gallon barrels. He cuts a rectangular hole in the top of each barrel, and screws on a piece of clear plexiglass to allow sunlight to penetrate the barrel. Around the perimeter of the barrel, about halfway up on four sides, he cuts holes and inserts lengths of PVC pipe with 90 degree elbows facing the bottom of the barrel. In the bottom of the barrel is 8 to 10 inches of water. Kevin “starts” the barrel by hanging something good and smelly (rotting food works well) inside the barrel.
The flies are attracted to the rotting smells, find their way into the barrel through the PVC tubes, and once inside are attracted to the light of the window in the top. They congregate at the top, and die as they can’t figure out how to get out. The carcasses fall to the bottom, and decompose, further generating their own “bait” in the smelly soup.
Kevin has four of these barrels around his rotational grazing pastures. He sets the barrels near where the cows congregate - three are set next to his pasture waterers. Kevin has noticed that the flies tend to collect on dark surfaces, and so he not only uses darker barrels, but also makes sure that he sets a dark-colored post next to each trap. He has noticed that the flies are attracted first to the post, and move from there into the trap. The darker barrel also heats up, “cooking” the soup inside, making it that much more attractive to the flies.
Kevin moves a fourth barrel with the cows as they move through his intensively grazed pastures. He tries not to move the cows into pastures that are next to each other, as he’s found that the flies tend to stay in the pastures more than they move with the cows. If the cows move farther, fewer flies find them.
Pulling a small drag on his mower during hot weather when he has to clip pastures breaks up manure patties, helping to further reduce fly breeding areas and populations.
Once started, Kevin has found that the barrels are pretty much self- sustaining and maintenance-free. However, he does like to clean them out occasionally - weekly when the weather is hot. He uses a small fish dip net to scoop the dead flies from each barrel. Asked how many flies he thinks he traps, Kevin replied that, at the peak of the summer, a weekly collection of flies from his four barrels generated about 5 gallons of flies, an estimated 1,000,000 of the flying critters! That is a lot of eased comfort from pesky fly bites for his peaceful organic grazing herd.
Jody Padgham is the editor of the Organic Broadcaster.
News from MOSES
It looks like this will be one of those years with a lot of dynamic conversations in coffee shops and busy phone lines at Extension offices. “Are you thinking of plowing this week, it’s pretty early.” “Maybe, ground sure seems warm. Might give it a try.”
I’ve been debating with friends if the warm spring is having an impact on the lambing dates of my ewes - though not due for two weeks, some sure seem bagged up. I’ve never heard that weather could speed up births, but since I will be out of town all week, won’t you bet that there will be lambs when I get back?
I will be leaving the farm at this awkward time to take advantage of a rare opportunity. A friend has one of the only farms on the island nation of Bermuda, a 21-square mile island way out in the Atlantic off the coast of the Eastern U.S. Tom asked my help in setting up enterprise analyses for the diverse activities on his farm. Wadson’s Farm produces Ossabaw pigs, pastured poultry, dorper sheep, and offers vegetables through a CSA and farm store. The organic meat and produce provide great food to the 60,000+ inhabitants of the island, but Bermuda isn’t an easy place to farm. Ocean storms (none while I’m there, I hope) and lack of local supplies of feed and other agricultural necessities add challenges us “statesiders” can only wonder about. I look forward to seeing this beautiful island, exploring the farm, and helping to assess the financial details. I’ll bring back a report, and plenty of pictures!
The MOSES organic specialists have worked hard to pin down details of our extensive field day, farm show, and training schedule so we could share the schedule with you in this issue. See the details in the article starting on page 8. We hope that one of the events we’ve planned will make it onto your schedule this summer. Learning the “tricks of the trade” from an established farmer, on his or her own farm, in the company of a crowd of interested peers, is an incredible experience. I hope you can take advantage of it this year.
Jody Padgham, Organic Broadcaster Editor
Did you make it to the 2012 MOSES Organic Farming Conference (OFC) at the end of February in La Crosse, WI?
Once again we had a great time learning, listening, talking, laughing, eating, dancing… and more! Although it is hard to capture all that went on, here are a few statistics to give you an overview:
3,133 people walked in the door of the La Crosse Center to participate in the OFC. They attended 70 workshops put on by 112 presenters. An estimated 320 people were in the largest workshop, 22 in the smallest. 107 volunteers helped out, and 2,022 meals were served. 375 scholarships were given out, for a value of $60,455. Daycare housed 67 children. 160 Exhibitors manned 175 booths. 60 organizations and businesses provided sponsorship support for the event. 548 people attended 10 day-long Organic University courses, which were put on by 18 presenters. 4 workshops were designated for youth, and presented by 6 presenters.
Keynote presentations were made by Francis and Susan Thicke, MOSES 2012 Farmers of the Year, Margaret Krome, Policy Program Director at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, and Curt Ellis, filmmaker and producer of the documentary King Corn.
We danced to the Bad Axe Blues Band, and applauded poetry read by more than 10 poets at our second annual Poetry Slam. Hundreds of people viewed 11 movies in the film screening room.
All in all, a fine time was had by all. We invite you to join us next year, February 21-23, 2013, at the La Crosse Convention Center in La Crosse, WI.
Thanks to everyone who joined us in making this the best conference ever!
Inside Organics: What About Our Right to Farm?
By Harriet Behar
Here in the Upper Midwest organic farmers are in the tough position of being surrounded by conventional agriculture, where drift of conventional sprays and GMO pollen can cause damage to our crops, our financial livelihood, and our emotional well-being.
Long-time organic farmers will tell you how connected they are to the health of the soils as well as the overall ecosystems of their farms. They put a lot of thought, dollars, and physical work into improving their cropping abilities, building each year for the future. One negligent or accidental herbicide application can put their fields back to square one in transitioning to organic. This can cause frustration and heartache as the realization hits that the fields will need to recover from these unwanted conventional product applications.
There is hope, however. As organic agriculture continues to expand, there is increasing recognition that we have the right to farm organically, and should have legal protections for this right.
More Conventional Crops Require More Organic Buffer Zones
With the attractive price of conventional commodities, many acres that had not been in row crops (such as Conservation Reserve Program – CRP, grassy hay, or pastures), are now being torn out of sod and planted fence-row to fencerow. Here in the Midwest this is planted mostly to GMO corn.
This spring, besides greasing machinery, receiving seed, and finalizing cropping plans, organic farmers need to take one extra step and review their existing buffer zones. If a neighbor’s practices have changed, you may need to add new buffers, or widen what you already have in place.
Our organic law makes it the responsibility of organic farmers to have a buffer zone in place for the protection of the organic crop from the “unintended contact by prohibited substances” or drift. Even with buffers in place, organic farmers suffer from applications of prohibited materials applied by neighbors who are negligent in their activities. Most states have laws that specifically prohibit drift of herbicides and insecticides onto someone else’s land; our organic law puts the responsibility on organic farmers to protect their crop from this illegal drift. Organic farmers have the further consequence of having to take contaminated land out of organic production and go through a three-year transition.
Organic Farms Suffer From Drift
In the past year or two, I have received an increasing number of calls from farmers who have experienced a crop loss due to drift or accidental direct application. These organic farmers have spent countless hours and experienced high levels of stress trying to obtain a fair settlement for their losses.
Most states have regulations on the books regarding the application of herbicides and pesticides. Applicators must be trained and licensed, various types of spraying should not occur when winds are higher than a certain speed, and care must be taken not to drift beyond the fields where permission to apply has been given. Unfortunately, these regulations are not always followed, and the organic farmer is left dealing with lawyers, insurance companies, and their “adjusters” when their fields have suffered a prohibited application.
Due to these strict applicator rules, many farmers choose to hire custom operators to apply their sprays. These custom sprayers do not always know the borders of the fields, or even which fields they are supposed to spray. Organic fields have been sprayed “accidently” by applicators who either thought they were reading the directions correctly and were at the right field, or were reading the map upside down and were confused about where the fields were located. At times, applicators are in a hurry to spray fields for a variety of reasons: challenges with weather, many acres to cover before nightfall, or a desire to get the job done quickly. Critically important wind speeds may not be taken into account. Extra time may not be taken to find out if neighbors are growing a crop that would be harmed by their sprays.
Since the use of synthetic sprays on crops s the norm and not the exception in the United States, taking the time to figure out if any overspray event might cause a problem may not be on the minds of operators applying these sprays. I have even heard of applicators telling an organic farmer, “We accidently sprayed your field with an herbicide, but don’t worry, we won’t charge you for that service!” Needless to say, the organic farmer had some choice words on that topic.
Protecting Organic Land
So, what is an organic farmer to do? Putting up no-spray signs is a good start (see Resources), but there is no guarantee that they would be seen or adhered to by an applicator. Talking to your neighbors and telling them that your crops are organic, and therefore very sensitive to conventional sprays, also is helpful. However, many times the landowner you contact might not be the operating farmer. Even if you find the farmer, he or she might not be the applicator Getting to the right person can be very difficult. There is a helpful website titled Driftwatch (see Resources), where Midwestern farmers can list their organic or specialty crop fields, but applicators must be proactive in visiting the website in order to get the posted information.
Every organic farmer should educate themselves on the pesticide-enforcement laws in their state, and keep the phone number handy for the agency that oversees these laws (see Resources). I am most familiar with WI, but know that MN and IA are similar. If you see or are concerned that your fields have had pesticide drift, you can call a number and ask that a pesticide enforcement officer come to your farm. If you can smell the product while standing on your land, then it has drifted onto your land. This visit and documentation must occur no later than 24-48 hours after the occurrence. The sooner the officer gets there, the better the chance will be to find residues on plants, soil, or even on the hood of your pickup truck. You should take photos, note wind speed, pesticide odors, or any other item of relevance. If the officer believes the applicator was negligent, then the applicator could be fined.
This determination of negligence can be useful in convincing the applicator’s lawyers and insurance company that you deserve full compensation for whatever organic crops or organic premiums on crops that you might have lost.
Fighting for Compensation
Many times insurance companies will recognize that there has been damage to your organic crops but are not willing to pay for the full organic premium lost. They are especially unwilling when the organic certification agency decides the drift was significant enough to remove the field from organic production for three years, and that the crop must be sold conventionally. $7 conventional corn seems like a very high price to the insurance companies, but when the organic producer tells them that the organic corn is worth $12 or $13 per bushel, there is usually a lot of pushback. If you grow any type of organic specialty crop like fruits or vegetables, your usual dollar returns per acre are even higher than insurers might ever imagine possible.
I have spoken with insurance adjusters that have used a little known “judicial instruction,” stating that victims asking for monetary compensation must “mitigate” the amount of dollars they are requesting. In other words, if the organic farmer’s rotation might have been corn, beans, corn in the affected field for the three years that he is now re-transitioning to organic after the drift occurrence, the organic farmer should figure his reimbursement on a lower cost crop rotation. For instance, the organic farmer should only charge the insurance company the difference in price between organic and non-organic hay, rather than the difference in price between organic corn/beans and non-organic corn/beans. Since I am not a lawyer, I am not sure how many times this “mitigation” mandate is brought into litigation. However, it seems to me that if my Hummer was damaged through no fault of my own, the insurance company should not be able to tell me I should replace it with a Ford Fiesta.
Even though all parties involved (farmers, pesticide applicators, regulatory agencies and insurance agencies) recognize there has been damage, the organic farmer most of the time must hire a lawyer to handle his claim. Wrangling can go on for months - even years. Monetary damages do not take into account the organic farmer’s “pain and suffering,” nor the time the organic farmer spent dealing with the issue, or the cost of the lawyer. This results in even fewer dollars returned to the organic farmer, even though he did nothing to cause this problem.
The most recent Office of the Inspector General “National Organic Program-Organic Milk Report” made a very strong point that there is no testing and therefore no guarantee that organic livestock feeds are free of GMOs. While I agree that GMOs have no place in organic foods, I am concerned that once again, the organic farmers will be victimized in response to this report. Who will pay for GMO testing? Organic farmers. Who will lose their markets for contaminated organic crops? Organic farmers who are doing the best jobs they can, with their pioneering activities that steward their land through organic methods, even though they are located in a sea of GMOs. Where will this lead? Will organic livestock producers be left no other choice than to buy certified organic crops from international sources, where GMOs are not grown? What will that do to the cost of organic livestock production, as well as the cost of organic foods in the supermarket?
Right now the USDA has a citizen committee, made up of many pro-biotech entities as well as a few organic and nonGMO organizations, discussing “compensation” for damages caused by GMO drift. It seems to me that until this sticky issue is solved to the satisfaction of all involved, no further new GMO seeds should be allowed into the marketplace. In addition, the patent owners of the promiscuous GMO technology should be held accountable for these damages, not the US taxpayer through a mechanism such as USDA-subsidized crop insurance, or the conventional or organic farmer.
Organic farmers and all landowners have the right to demand that the crops and food they produce is not tainted by unwanted applications of materials, either conventional sprays or GMOs. Our regulations and legal system need to be strengthened so those using these materials are more careful to keep them on their side of the fence. Organic producers should be able to farm without fear of losing their certification, their markets or the health of the ecosystem they work so hard to enhance and protect.
Pesticide and GMO Drift Resources
Minnesota Dept of Agriculture offers metal “Organic Farm – Please Do Not Spray” signs. http://www.mda.state.mn.us
MOSES offers Toxic Spray Prohibited signs online.
To file a pesticide drift complaint:
Wisconsin 608-224-4500 or 608-224-4530 http://datcp.wi.gov/Plants/Pesticides/Pesticide_Complaint/index.aspx
Minnesota 800-967-2474 or 651-201-6333 http://www.mda.state.mn.us/en/chemicals/pesticides/complaints.aspx
Iowa 515-281-5321 http://www.iowaagriculture.gov/pesticides.asp
National Pesticide Information Center: Contact information for all State Pesticide Regulatory Agencies http://npic.orst.edu/reg/state_agencies.html
Harriet Behar is the MOSES Organic Outreach Specialist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Farm on the Hill
By Stan Szymanski
You can have your mansion on the hill,
As long as I can farm, it’s my will.
My fields are full of Mother Nature’s life--
Tons and tons of soil life.
My woods of maple and yellow birch,
It welcomes me, it’s nature’s church.
The church bells, across the section are ringing,
While the song birds do the singing.
I went to the university to learn to farm.
I’m so lucky, I heard nature’s alarm.
What the professors were telling me
Wasn’t working, I could see.
What the professors lacked was a farm of their own
To watch their soil yet hard as a stone.
Over fertilizing and pesticides,
Leaves the land sterilized.
I was turning my farm into a parking lot.
No help from nature, UW’s plot.
I caught on and went back to the books.
You should see how good my crop looks.
I’ve been sustainable for thirty years.
Now nature grows my crops without fears.
Now that I’ve reached retirement age,
Most guys would gladly step off the stage.
I’ve been asked to sell for the Ag. academy.
That’s for someone else, not me.
I’ll be darn they take my organic farm,
And plant it with Monsanto’s harm.
This all goes against my principles, my love of nature and the land.
We who know must take a stand.
The way our nation farms today
Is why the water no longer is soaking away.
The precious water the farmer needs
Is flooding our neighbors downstream.
Some farmers think they are rotating.
But, they’re just lucky if they are alternating.
The BT corn is no longer working.
The Frankenstein bugs are smirking.
So thanks to MOSES and ACRES you see,
We’ll teach ‘em, you and me.
Enjoy the sunsets!
P.S. The best crop you can grow is kids!
© Copyright 2012 Stan Szymanski
Permission to reprint granted to MOSES.
Book Review:Turn Here Sweet Corn
By Atina Diffley
Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson
Author Diffley isn’t just an author or an organic farmer; she certainly isn’t just a community-wired advocate for farmer’s rights and she sure isn’t just a grandma—she’s all of these things and a whole bushel-full more.
I think perhaps the best way to describe Turn Here Sweet Corn is to consider it in terms of a wind - a wind with all the power to knock you over and, at the same time, caress you with warmth. Everyone should experience this book; the writing will blow you away.
Atina changed her name after caring for an amazing woman who played a crucial role in the force that’s Atina Diffley. Though now passed away, Atina learned from her aged companion how to find strength in even the toughest times.
Author Diffley struggled through a difficult marriage but evolved into a loving partnership with one of the first people to actually see her: Martin Diffley. Through their relationship with not only the land, but all that it can provide, they created a world around a single belief: Grow it and they will come. Welcome to Garden’s of Eagan.
Like all gardens there are weeds - weeds with clever roots that can take over in a single season. But if you create a plan and embrace the weeds, anything is possible. Everything. Turn Here Sweet Corn is not just a memoir, it’s a thriller, it’s a romance, and boy is it packed with mystery. And near the end, which is really the beginning, there’s a twist that will give you something we all yearn for: hope.
“In the morning, when I awake, my first thought is: You can soar. Always remember this.”
One of the many messages woven throughout Turn Here Sweet Corn is that organic farming is work. Endless, exhausting, consuming work. Yet, as each season brings new challenges and endless headaches, not to mention threats of hail, bulldozers and a possible pipeline Diffley faces them all with a courage that will surprise you. It’s her core belief that in the end, after all the crops are in and the harvest is done, it’s the land that should always have the final say.
“Someday our businesses and enterprises will cease to exist. They do not need to live eternally. But the land does. The land and nature are forever.”
It’s a rare combination when an author sets out to share her life through words that the words themselves become something else all together. When a story like this becomes a force that can carry you away, you know you’ve discovered something important.
And then there’s kale. Whenever things got a little whacky and Diffley felt her world was coming undone, (and it did many times) she went to the fields filled with kale and found the energy to move ahead. She’s discovered a new place to grow her truth, a new earth to care for and you’re invited. Turn Here Sweet Corn will whisk you away in a wind you’ll never forget.
- This book is available through the MOSES Bookstore at www.mosesorganic.org.
- The book also can be accessed through the Western WI MORE Library system
- Feel free to contact me at email@example.com
- This will make a great movie!
Jay Gilbertson is the author of The Madeline Island Series. (www.jaygilbertson.com) Jay and his partner produce the nation’s first organic pumpkin seed oil. (www.hayriver.net) They chase chickens, chop wood and happily thrive on an 80-acre farm south of Prairie Farm, Wisconsin.
Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Collecting Project
Wisconsin Historical Society
The Wisconsin Historical Society has initiated an effort to acquire, manage and provide access to personal papers, organization records, and other materials of an archival nature that documents the growth and significance of the organic and sustainable agriculture movement in the United States. Wisconsin farmers and organizations have been leaders in organic agriculture for many years and the Society’s goal is to act as the premier national archival repository that preserves and provides access to the records of this important social movement.
The Historical Society’s Library-Archives has been a leader in collecting materials documenting social change movements in the United States as well as agricultural policy, farm implements, cooperatives, and other aspects of agriculture in Wisconsin and the United States. Collecting materials documenting the organic and sustainable agriculture movement is a natural outgrowth of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s previous collecting efforts.
The Ceres Trust, a Midwest-based private charitable trust that supports and promotes organic agriculture, has allocated funding to support the start of the Society’s new organic and sustainable agriculture collecting focus. Roger Blobaum, an advocate for organic and sustainable agriculture since the early 1970s, will identify key individuals and organizations as a starting point and these will be the initial collecting focus.
Materials of interest may include paper records, photographs, audio-visual materials, and electronic files. The actual selection, acquisition, accessioning, access, and on-going preservation of the identified organic and sustainable agriculture collections will be the responsibility of Wisconsin Historical Society Library-Archives personnel using recognized professional practices and society policies and procedures.
Key collecting areas within organic and sustainable agriculture that the Society will attempt to document through this initiative include leaders and pioneers in the organic and sustainable agriculture movement; pioneering national organic agriculture organizations and development of the organic agriculture infrastructure; organizations that promote and assist organic agriculture; organic certification organizations and the standards development process; companies that develop, sell, and distribute seeds, organic fertilizer, and other organic agriculture production inputs; organic agriculture farmers and farm cooperatives; organic agriculture sales and marketing enterprises including restaurants using and promoting organic and locally-sourced ingredients, and local and alternative agricultural distribution including direct sales, CSAs, farmers markets, urban farming, and food cooperatives and warehouses.
MOSES will provide updates on this project as it progresses. If you are interested in participating, contact Roger Blobaum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From a MOSES Farmer of the Year
In recognition of the wealth of knowledge among the MOSES Farmer of the Year awardees, we have initiated a new column in which recipients of the award share some of their farming wisdom. In this issue we highlight thoughts from Francis Thicke, the 2012 MOSES Farmer of the Year.
Organic farmers have a long tradition of being innovative, and often are ahead of university researchers in developing successful organic methods. Formal research trials—with replication and randomization to give scientific validity—can lead to new farming methods. But, as farmers, we also can learn a lot by causal observation over time and by trying out new practices in ways that help us better observe their effects.
For example, if you want to try out a new tillage or cropping practice or a soil amendment, instead of applying the new system to a whole field, it may be easier for you to observe differences if you apply the system or amendment in strips alternated with untreated strips. Even without formal yield measurements, you are more likely to be able to observe the differences across multiple strips than if you had applied comparison systems on whole fields, which may have different soils and cropping histories.
One advantage we farmers have over researchers is time. Most formal research funding lasts just a few years at best. We can observe the effects of our practices over decades, which can provide us with important insights, even though our observations are qualitative rather than quantitative.
For example, about 10 years ago I took out fences between several adjoining paddocks and tilled them up to get rid of invasive endophyte-infected tall fescue. I planted the area to barley underseeded with a mixture of grasses and clovers to re-establish pasture. To my surprise, much of the area became incredibly infested with Canadian thistle, even though there had been no Canadian thistle present before tilling. To make matters worse, I did not get around to mowing them that year, and the thistles all went to seed. I was very discouraged and thought I was in for a lifetime of Canadian thistle infestation. In the following years, I mowed the thistles a couple times per year (not nearly enough to kill them) and interseeded more grasses and clovers to keep a thick forage stand. Each year the patches of Canadian thistles got smaller. Today the thistles are gone from those paddocks. From my observations of the thistle patches over the years I came to the conclusion that maintaining dense stands of grasses and clovers was key to reducing stands of thistles.
In that experience and other long-term observations, I have also learned several things about getting rid of tall fescue: 1) Tillage implements like a disk will not kill tall fescue—it will multiply it. The best tillage implement is a rotovator, which will undercut and chop up the plants’ crowns. 2) Plant an annual crop the first year after tilling to allow the fescue seed bank to become depleted. 3) When you do plant your perennial pasture mix, make a good seed bed and plant it thick so the desired forages develop a fast canopy so fescue plants are less likely to get established.
Conducting a controlled research project on your farm can be interesting and useful, but causal and regular observation of how things are working on your farm also can be very helpful.
Francis Thicke farms with his wife Susan outside of Fairfield, Iowa.
Developing a Biodegradable Alternative to Plastic Mulch Film
Research team: Mark Ingman (Water Resources Policy & Management), Kara DiFrancesco (Water Resources Engineering), Alison Doniger (Water Resources Science), Tucker Selko (Water Resources Policy & Management), Courtney Holley (Biological and Ecological Engineering), Dustin Degeorge (Biological and Ecological Engineering), Isaiah Miller (Biological and Ecological Engineering), Michelle Anderson (Crop and Soil Science), Oregon State University.
The following research was presented in a poster presentation at the 2012 Organic Research Forum as part of the MOSES Organic Farming Conference. The poster won the first place prize for the Research Poster presentations.
Description and Objectives of Research
1. Phase I Project Description
Every year farmers around the globe lay plastic mulch on over 300 million acres of fields. Due to limited disposal and recycling options, this plastic accumulates in landfills or is burned, releasing pollutants into the air. Unrecovered debris pollutes the landscape and can endanger livestock and aquatic organisms. In addition to the pollution generated by the use of plastic mulch, its manufacture consumes energy and materials while providing only short-term utility—usually less than a year. Currently available alternatives to plastic mulch have not gained widespread acceptance due to their high cost, uncertain performance, and low availability. Despite these serious consequences, the widespread usage of plastic in agriculture (hereafter referred to as “plasticulture”) has been largely overlooked by the public.
The Phase I portion of our project aimed to raise awareness of pollution associated with the production, use and disposal of plastic films/sheeting used as mulch, test promising alternative materials that are already on the market, and to work with farmers and industry partners to begin development of a biodegradable, sustainable alternative to plastic mulch. These objectives are described in more detail below. Our interdisciplinary team of graduate students and undergraduates worked collaboratively on all aspects of the project.
Goal 1 – Raise awareness of plasticulture
In order to raise awareness of the environmental and human health implications of plasticulture, we produced a 15 minute documentary video on the problems associated with plastic use in agriculture. By including in the video interviews with farmers, academics, and plastic waste handlers, along with footage of plastic use and disposal in the U.S. and China, we provided a diverse, but unified, perspective on the problems associated with plasticulture as well as the current and future alternatives. The video is currently available on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rppXd0NOi8E).
Goal 2 – Initiate efforts to develop a biodegradable, plastic mulch alternative
Our initial P3 team worked in partnership with members of the OSU Department of Design and Human Environment to develop a mulch alternative which met farmers’ needs. To this end, we modified and tested a flax-wool felted material developed by Dr. Hsiou-Lien Chen. This product utilizes only two raw products, waste wool and flax stems, both of which are widely available and considered to be agriculture “waste” with little to no market value. We evaluated different flax-to-wool ratios and methods to develop and apply the material in situ, so as to best meet farmers’ needs and allow them to customize its application. The flax-wool material was used in several performance tests.
Goal 3 – Provide an assessment of mulch biodegradability and performance
We conducted performance and biodegradability testing of plastic mulch, four commercially available plastic mulch alternatives advertised as “biodegradable,” and a prototype flax-wool material. This included testing of the following performance measures, identified by farmers as important mulch features: soil water retention, heat retention, tensile strength, aerobic degradability, and anaerobic biodegradability.
One of the tables from the poster pesentation
The results of our first objective, to raise awareness of the use of plastic in agriculture, are largely qualitative. The film has only been on youtube.com since mid-March, so we have yet to see how many views it will receive (this would have been our only quantitative measurement). Showing the documentary and presenting our research poster at two conferences gave us invaluable insight into what farmers are looking for with a mulch product and what their feelings are on the use of plastic on their farms in general.
Many small organic growers told us that they would absolutely rather use a biodegradable alternative to plastic as it is more in keeping with their values as organic growers, and many did not mind the higher cost. These farmers were largely concerned with convenience (e.g. being able to till the mulch into the soil instead of retrieving it from the field is beneficial) and suitability of the particular mulch type to the crop of interest. The wide variety of plastic mulch types available covers all possible permutations of what farmers might need. The market is very open for biodegradable and soil enhancing mulches that decompose at different rates and are particularly suited for different climates and crop types.
Our second and third objectives, to test alternative materials and a pilot material in the field, are largely qualitative, and the bulk of our Phase I section of the report is devoted to summarizing these results. We tested six materials in the field and the lab for qualities such as moisture retention, heat retention, aerobic and anaerobic decomposition, and tensile strength. All mulches and our flax-wool prototype performed well for moisture and heat retention as compared to bare soil.
The plastic-based mulches showed limited ability to biodegrade (even the ones touting their biodegradability) over the course of our study. The paper based mulches and the flax-wool material did biodegrade significantly. Tensile strength is a useful parameter because it tells the farmer if the mulch will rip easily after being in the field. Plastic-based mulches were more likely to retain their tensile strength, while paper-based mulches lost their strength due to weathering effects.
From our research for the documentary, we found that the public is largely unaware that plastic plays such a huge role in food production. There is also a lack of awareness of the pollution and social issues caused by excessive plastic usage. Small farmers are very aware of the problem, and many are happy to try new technologies and even pay a higher premium to avoid using plastic.
Alternative mulches generally performed just as well as plastic-based mulches in our field trials for water and heat retention, and have the added benefit of being more biodegradable than their plastic and plastic-based counterparts. The flax-wool prototype also performed well in moisture and heat retention trials, making it a promising material for an alternative mulch. The flax-wool should be further studied and tested in Phase II.
MOSES Field Days
2012 MOSES Summer Field Day & Event Season has arrived!
MOSES has over 20 field days, farm shows and trainings planned for the 2012 season. Everything from organic dairy & crop field days and all-day Young Organic Stewards program trainings to workshops geared toward women with our In Her Boots series.
We will be partnering with several organizations to bring events highlighting a variety of topics, and filled with the latest information you will need to successfully farm organically.
Below is a list of our upcoming events. Please be sure to check the Organic Broadcaster, the MOSES eNews, the MOSES facebook page and the MOSES website, as we will be adding dates, times and details on these and even more opportunities to learn about organic farming.
For details, directions and to register for MOSES field days, please visit our website, www.mosesorganic.org. If you do not have access to the internet, please call the office at 715-778-5775 to register.
We hope to see you at these great MOSES events this summer!
Monday, June 11 Solar Electric Production, High Tunnel and Solar Greenhouse Open House, Sweet Earth Farm – Harriet Behar & Aaron Brin, Gays Mills, Wisconsin, 1:00-5:00 Free Event. With the help of a variety of grants, a solar electric array was installed that powers the various farm activities on this organic vegetable farm with small scale honey and egg production. Come learn about accessing these types of grants, as well as the production of solar electricity tied to the electric grid. In addition, an energy efficient solar earth-bermed greenhouse and NRCS funded plastic high tunnel will be toured. (Sponsored by Organic Valley).
Tuesday, June 19 Organic Sheep Production , Pine Knob Farm – Bonnie Wideman, Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, 1:00-4:00, Free Event. Raising organic sheep can be a challenge. Bonnie will be sharing what she has learned over the years to produce high quality organic lamb, wool and sheepskins. Jean Stramel, NRCS grazing specialist will lead a discussion on how to evaluate and improve pasture quality as we walk the pastures. Keeping the sheep healthy through all stages of life, along with parasite management will be covered.
Saturday, June 30 Beginning Market Farming – Young Organic Stewards Program, Radical Root Farm, Grayslake, Illinois, 9:30-4:30. Cost: $40.00 Registration is required and attendance is limited! Perfect for beginners and intermediate growers. Topics include selecting a business structure; capital and farm financing; planning your year; soil building and equipment selection, plus aspects of production and marketing. The training will be part classroom and part farm tour. Speakers include Alex Needham and Alison Parker of Radical Root Farm, participants of the incubator program at Prairie Crossing Learning Center. They have a CSA, sell at farmers markets and also direct market their vegetables.
Sunday, July 1 Scaling Up Your Vegetable Operation, Radical Root Farm, Grayslake, Illinois, 12:00-4:00, Free Event As the demand for fresh organic produce continues to grow, there is a great opportunity to increase your volume of a few or many kinds of vegetables. Wholesale distributors, retail stores, restaurants, and even expanding your farmers market or CSA numbers are all excellent opportunities for market growers. Alex Needham and Alison Parker will be touring the fields, reviewing their equipment and providing production tips for larger scale production. A short presentation entitled “selling to wholesale accounts” will be given by Harriet Behar of MOSES.
Sunday, July 15 Saving Labor on the Market Farm – In partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, Rock Spring Farm – Chris Blanchard, Decorah, Iowa, 1:00-5:00. Free Event. Market farming is all about moving stuff around, whether you’re moving vegetables from the soil to the packing house, water from the well to your transplants, or seeds from their packet to the soil. Join Rock Spring Farm for a tour of the systems they use to make moving stuff easy.
Thursday, July 19 Organic Dairy Farm Tour – In partnership with CROPP Cooperative, Flavor Ridge Farm – Laverne, Arlene, Ross & Tiffany Nelson, Altura, Minnesota. 1:00-4:00. Free Event. Join us in a unique opportunity to see a successful multi-generational organic dairy farm in detail. Learn how the Nelsons have expanded their operation to allow the next generation to join their operation and how they have successfully expanded their infrastructure, cropland and pastures to accommodate this growth.
Saturday, July 21 Organic Livestock Production for Beginners – Young Organic Stewards Program, Castle Rock Farm & Creamery – Will Winter, DVM, Osseo, Wisconsin. 9:30-4:30. Cost: $40.00 Registration is required and attendance is limited! Join Will Winter, DVM and Wayne, Karla and Jake Kostka of Castle Rock Organic Farms for a day long intensive training designed for beginning farmers. Learn what it takes to produce high quality organic livestock and livestock products. Poultry, hogs, sheep, cattle and goat production will all be covered in detail. The training will consist of a morning/early afternoon classroom session, followed by a lunch featuring local and organic foods, and then a tour of the farm and processing facilities.
Wednesday, July 25 Organic Crop Production – In partnership with CROPP Cooperative, Wilson Organic Farms - Keith Wilson, Cuba City, Wisconsin. 10:00-3:00. Free Event. Join veteran organic crop and dairy farmer Keith Wilson for an in depth look at best organic crop production practices with a special emphasis on soil fertility, soil amendments, feed quality, milk production and profitability over a 3-5 year period.
Saturday, August 4 Improving Dairy Profitability through Better Grazing,- In partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, Jeremy & Jody Peake Organic Dairy Farm, Waukon, Iowa, 1:00-4:00, Free Event, The Peakes will talk about their grass-based organic dairy farm and how they are seeking to improve profitability through reducing their reliance on purchased inputs such as hay and grain. They hope to achieve this mainly by improving grass and hay quality on their farm.
Saturday, August 11 In Her Boots: Sustainable Agriculture for Women, By Women, Hilltop Community Farm – Erin Schneider, La Valle, Wisconsin, 10:00-4:00, Cost: $25.00. Hosted by Erin Schneider of Hilltop Community Farm along with Laura Mortimore of Orange Cat Community Farm and Donna Neuwirth of the Wormfarm Institute. Includes farm tourand lunch (sponsored by Organic Valley). The first 15 registrants receive a free copy of the book Renewing the Countryside-Wisconsin. Key topics include: Beginning an orchard, selling value-added under the WI Pickle Bill, small-scale CSA start-up, farming as a single woman, starting a non-profit, and farmstays.
Thursday, August 16 Organic ‘Blue Fruits’ Production, Blue Fruit Farm – Jim Riddle & Joyce Ford. Winona, Minnesota, 1:00-4:00, Free Event. Spend an afternoon learning about the organic growing requirements of highly nutritious perennial fruits, including soil fertility, planting distances, weed, insect, and bird control. See solar-powered rain water collection and irrigation system. Jim and Joyce are knowledgeable organic producers and will share how they planned and implemented this new multi-acre venture on their farm. Also available - tour of native prairie plantings.
Friday, August 17 In Her Boots: Sustainable Agriculture for Women, By Women. The Bridge-Between Retreat Center. Denmark, Wisconsin, 10:00-4:00, Cost $25.00. Hosted by the women running The Bridge-Between Retreat Center, a farm and retreat center. Includes farm tour, lunch (sponsored by Organic Valley). The first 15 registrants receive a free copy of the book Renewing the Countryside-Wisconsin. Key topics include: Retreat and workshop operations, non-profit, outbuilding retrofits and green design, developing a farm vision, growing in hoop houses, and agritourism.
Date TBD Organic Crops Field Day, Northern, Illinois (farm to be determined) 1:00-4:00, Free Event. Check back on the MOSES website, www.mosesorganic.org for details as they become available.
Remember to check out MOSES’ other farmer-friendly resources, such as:
Guidebook for Organic Certification. This comprehensive online and printed booklet helps answer a broad spectrum of questions about organic certification.
Organic Broadcaster Newspaper. The MOSES newspaper is published bi-monthly, and distributed free to those who participate in MOSES programs. The Organic Broadcaster keeps the organic community up to date, offering timely production information, policy developments, organic farming research, and educational opportunities.
Toll-free Hotline. On staff organic specialists offer free support to all farmers, educators, and the community at large with questions about organic production and certification. Over 1750 requests for information are annually by MOSES staff.
Organic Resource Directory. This comprehensive online reference lists organic educational resources, certification agencies, government agencies, consultants, buyers, suppliers and other resources that serve the organic community. Print copies are also available and given out for free at all MOSES events. We will not be reprinting the Directory for 2012 as we have sufficient copies to use until the summer of 2013.
Fact Sheets. MOSES has recently added three new fact sheets:
“The Facts About Organic Agriculture”
“Organic Farming Can Feed the World”
“What You Should Be Saying About Organic Agriculture”
These join over 20 additional fact sheets, offering key information on a diversity of topics.
Feel free to contact the MOSES office to request a free copy of any of the above resources. Our fact sheets are available for download and distribution from our website, www.mosesorganic.org.
MOSES will also be participating in many farm shows and conferences throughout the Midwest this summer. These events are prime opportunities for MOSES to interface with farmers and the greater farming community about the opportunities offered by the rapid growth of the organic industry. Come by the MOSES booth and talk to one of our organic specialists!
- Farm Shows and Field Days Planned for 2012
- WI FFA State Convention - June 13, Madison, Wisconsin
- Farm Technology Days (WI) – July 17, 18 & 19, New London, Wisconsin
- Kickapoo Country Fair – July 28, La Farge, Wisconsin
- FarmFest (MN) – August 7, 8 & 9, Redwood County, Minnesota
- Midwest Bio-Ag Field Day - August 21, Blue Mounds, Wisconsin
- Farm Progress (IA) – August 28, 29 & 30, Boone, Iowa
Be sure to check our MOSES Events Calendar for updates on MOSES events and many other sustainable agriculture events around the region. www.mosesorganic.org
Young Organic Stewards Project Update
By Angie Sullivan
The Young Organic Stewards Program is in the first year of a three-year project developed by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and supported by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program.
MOSES and project partner Renewing the Countryside kicked off the year with a Young Organic Stewards track at the Organic Farming Conference on February 23-25, 2012. The track began with two day-long Organic University courses geared toward the young farmers: Scaling Up Vegetable Production and Livestock Herd Health. Feedback from the young farmers were very positive, and they are looking forward to expanding on their experience with MOSES’ upcoming field days.
Over 175 individuals self-identified and registered as Young Organic Stewards for the conference. In addition, we estimate there were upwards of 30-40 more youth who showed up to participate in pre-planned activities for the group. Over 65 scholarships were awarded specifically to young farmers to attend the Organic Farming Conference, for a total value of over $11,000.
In addition to the Organic University courses, we offered four workshops targeted to the young farmer group. The four workshops were:
-Farm Town in Real Life, presented by Kat Becker and Tony Schultz of Stoney Acres Farm
-Show Me the Money, presented by Paul Dietmann of Badgerland Financial
-How Much For Just One Egg?, presented by Craig Chase from Iowa State University
-Telling Your Farm Story, presented by Emily and Tim Zweber of Zweber Farms
Attendance by Young Organic Stewards at these workshops averaged 145 per workshop, with very positive comments coming from the evaluations.
Three social events also were offered for the YOS group. These events included an Open-Mic Night at the Root Note Café on Thursday, Friday night Movie Night including a film panel of Daniel Klein & Mira Fine from the Perennial Plate, and Severine von Tscharner Fleming from The Greenhorns, and finally, a Saturday lunch with Wes Hannah from The National Young Farmers’ Coalition. Wes presented a talk on “Overcoming Obstacles for Young Farmers – a Farm Bill for the next generation.” All three of these events were well attended and enjoyed by all.
Comments from participants include:
“Since going to the conference, I feel a step closer to realizing my dreams as a young, aspiring farmer. It’s challenging at times to continue to pursue these goals, but I can honestly say that attending the conference has given me the tools and inspiration to continue down this path. Being in a classroom setting with working farmers and learning directly from them is in my opinion, the best way to learn.” – Jessica Permen
“The conference was truly a unique experience where the excitement and passion of growing organic produce and livestock was unparalleled to anything I have ever seen. It is such an inspirational feeling to meet so many others with the same interests as myself with similar passions from all over the country joining together. The conference provided me with the opportunity to meet so many other unique individuals who were a wealth or knowledge and in general overall great people.” – Logan Beausoleil, Prairie Crossing Learning Farm
This summer, there will be two Young Organic Stewards trainings to follow up on the Organic University courses offered at the conference:
-Beginning Market Gardening, Radical Root Farm, Grayslake, Illinois with Alex Needham and Alison Parker on June 30.
-Natural and Organic Livestock Production for Beginners, Castle Rock Farm & Creamery, Osseo, Wisconsin, with Will Winter, DVM and Wayne, Karla and Jake Kostka on July 21.
These will be all-day trainings that will include both classroom and hands-on opportunities at the farms.
MOSES is encouraged by the enthusiasm of this group of young farmers. In partnership with Renewing the Countryside, MOSES has many ideas and plans to continue on this momentum and bring further opportunities for the next two years of this grant. For more information about the program and future offerings, visit http://www.mosesorganic.org/youngorganicstewards.html.
Lindsay Rebhan, Renewing the Countryside, contributed to the information in this article. Angie Sullivan is the MOSES organic resource specialist. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Upper Midwest Organic Grains and Feedstuffs Report
Organic Farming Research Foundation Education & Outreach Grants
The Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has grant funds available for development of educational opportunities or materials on any agricultural production, social, economic, or policy-related topic of concern to organic and transitioning producers. Special funding is available for projects focusing on organic seed quality or crop breeding. The application deadline is May 15, 2012. Details at http://ofrf.org/grants/apply_education&outreach.html.
Judge Rules Against Organic Farmers in Monsanto Lawsuit
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers who said their industry is at risk from Monsanto’s growing market strength. U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald, for the Southern District of New York, threw out the case brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations challenging the agricultural giant’s patents on its genetically modified seeds. More at http://planetark.org/wen/64807.
United States and European Union Announce Organic Trade Agreement
As of June 1, 2012, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region. An upgrade from the previously required seperate certifications to two standards, producers and processors will save a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. Read the USDA press release at http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2012/02/0051.xml.
Videos Demonstrate How Farmers Reduce Fossil Fuel Use
The Iowa Farm Energy Working Group has produced three videos of Iowa farmers telling how they use energy efficiency, conservation, or renewable energy successfully on their farms. Each video is about four minutes in length. Videos feature: High Hopes Gardens, Mark Runquist and Linda Barnes, Melbourne, Pheasant Run Farms, Eric and Ann Franzenberg, Van Horne , and Frantzen Farms, Tom and Irene Frantzen, New Hampton. To read these farmer success stories and view the videos, visit http://www.ceee.uni.edu/farmenergy.aspx.
Michigan Association Certifies 29 Farmers Market Managers
The Michigan Farmers Markets Association (MIFMA) recently certified 29 farmers market managers from across the state after managers completed MIFMA’s second Market Manager Certificate Program, training them in topics essential to market management. Michigan is the only state in the country that currently has a program to certify farmers market managers. To learn more, visit www.mifma.org or contact Maggie Smith at (517) 432-3381.
Driftwatch Sensitive Crops Registry
In an effort to reduce the risk of crop damage from pesticides and fertilizers that are applied nearby, Purdue University and several Midwestern states have made the Driftwatch™ voluntary sensitive crops registry available to certified organic growers. The program is available in MN, WI, MI, IN, and IL. Farmers use Google Maps® to identify the locations of their certified organic fields and pastures. Commercial fertilizer and pesticide applicators can check the database and take special care to avoid affecting the certified organic land. Certified organic farmers, commercial fruit (including grapes), vegetable, and Christmas tree growers are eligible to register their land on Driftwatch™. Participants must have at least 1/2 acre of a certified organic or other qualifying crop in commercial production. The Driftwatch™ registry is available to growers and applicators at www.driftwatch.org.
Start2farm.gov Online Portal Introduced
The U.S. Department of Agriculture introduces Start2farm.gov a new website with resources for beginning farmers and ranchers. The portal includes links to training, financing, technical assistance, and other support services, as well as case studies.
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Releases Farm Bill Policy Platform
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has released its 2012 Farm Bill policy platform, Farming for the Future: A Sustainable Agriculture Agenda for the 2012 Food & Farm Bill. This is the culmination of two years of policy work with a broad, diverse coalition of over 90 grassroots organizations from across the country, including MOSES leaders. View it online at http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/.
USDA List of Certified Organic Operations Updated
The National Organic Program has updated its searchable online list of certified organic operators. As of the end of 2011 there were 17,673 organic farms and processing facilities in the United States certified to the USDA organic standards. Read the announcement at http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop and click on “List of Certified Operations.”
FSA Access Online
A new package of technology enhancements from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) includes Web access for handheld and smartphone users. The technology improvements allow access to loan deficiency payment (LDP) rates, posted county prices (PCP), FSA news releases and AskFSA, the agency’s online self-help knowledge base. In addition to the mobile website, FSA also offers access to info such as eligibility requirements, deadlines, and related information through an electronic news service hosted by GovDelivery. To access FSA’s mobile website visit www.fsa.usda.gov/mobile. To sign up for FSA’s GovDelivery electronic news service, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/subscribe.
Ramaswamy New Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy has been appointed Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Ramaswamy has recently served as the Dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University. NIFA is part of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics Mission Area, which includes the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the Economic Research Service (ERS), the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and the National Agriculture Library and National Arboretum.
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass
The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is an online multi-media narrative including stories, pictures and video about USDA’s support for local and regional food systems. It also features an interactive map of USDA-supported local and regional food activities in all 50 states. See it at http://www.usda.gov/KYFCompass.
Mentor-Intern Handbook for Dairy and Livestock Farmers Released
The Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems has released the booklet Passing Along Farm Knowledge: A Mentor-Intern Handbook for Dairy and Livestock Farmers. This handbook includes practical information on making a match, goal setting and evaluation, teaching and learning guidelines, things to watch out for, communication and conflict resolution, and ending the internship. The pdf file is available at http://www.cias.wisc.edu/education-and-training/passing-along-farm-knowledge/ .
Wisconsin Dairy Grants Available
Wisconsin offers a new dairy promotion program which provides grants up to $5,000 for dairy farmers to improve their profitability and/or plan for changes such as expansion, farm succession, or transition to organic or grazing. For more information, contact Laura Paine at 608-224-5120, firstname.lastname@example.org, call the hotline (855-943-2479), or email GrowWisconsinDairy@wi.gov. Resources and services for dairy farmers are available online at GrowWisconsinDairy.wi.gov.
Scholarships Available to Transitioning and Recently Certified MN Organic Farmers
The “Tools for Transition” program, led by the University of MN, MN Department of Agriculture and other partners, provides farm business management scholarships of up to 90% to qualifying farmers. Now in its second year, Tools for Transition is aimed at helping clarify the cost of transitioning to organic. MN field crop or dairy farmers who have any acres in transition or who have been certified fewer than three years are eligible to apply. Farmers work directly with a farm business management instructor to help them understand and better manage their own cost of production, profitability, and other financial measures. To learn more about the scholarships, call administrator Meg Moynihan, at 651-201-6616.
MASAC Changes Name to FairShare
The Madison Area CSA Coalition (previously known as MACSAC) has a fresh, new name: FairShare CSA Coalition. The name FairShare reflects the group’s role as an organization of growers and consumers dedicated to the ongoing promotion and creation of fair, fresh, clean food from local farms in the Madison, WI region. http://www.csacoalition.org.
Host Farmers Needed
International exchange program sponsors are now looking for organic farmers to share their valuable knowledge, green practices, and techniques with young professionals from all over the world. All potential trainees have agricultural education, 3-5 years of previous experience, and basic to very good English language skills. No enrollment fees. Very straight-forward program, trainees pay for housing. Over 600 trainees have been placed in the USA. Many have become successful farmers, farm managers, and even major agricultural corporation directors in their home countries. For more information, contact Elite Service, LLC IL 60047, USA Phone: 847-271-4381 email: email@example.com.
GrassWorks Welcomes Jill Hapner as Executive Director
GrassWorks, Inc. is pleased to welcome Jill Hapner to the position of Executive Director of the statewide Wisconsin based organization. Hapner is a highly skilled professional with a multi-disciplinary background in environmental science, business management, and non-profit development and organization. GrassWorks, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that promotes managed grazing and connects farmers with the resources they need to be successful graziers. To find out more, visit www.grassworks.org.
2012 Farm Bill Work Begins
Many senators across the country will be hosting listening sessions to hear farmer opinions on farm bill issues. Important programs for organic farmers include the Organic Certification Cost Share Program, the Organic Data Initiative (collect data on prices and overall organic farm statistics), Organic Research and Education Initiative (research on organic no-till, high tunnels, organic seed breeding, pest management and more), National Organic Program funding, which includes enforcement that protects the organic label from fraud, and improving access to fairly priced and administered crop insurance. These are just some of the programs to mention when visiting with your Senators or their legislative assistants. Conservation programs, as well as those that provide assistance to beginning farmers and value added producers promote a healthy and thriving rural community. Make your voice heard….YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Your Senator’s contact information is at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm. More information on the MOSES action alert page: http://www.mosesorganic.org/actionalerts.html.
Midwest Energy Fair
Mark your calendar for the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s (MREA) 23rd Annual Energy Fair, June 15-17th in Custer, WI. With hundreds of exhibitors, over 200 renewable energy and sustainable living workshops, a live auction, inspirational keynotes, great food and entertainment, where else would you want to be? Celebrating MREA’s new Renewable Energy and Sustainable Agriculture (RESA) program, the Fair will host a variety of RESA activities. From small-scale anaerobic digesters to keeping bees, the green tent will be buzzing with agricultural related workshops. To learn more visit www.midwestrenew.org, or call (715) 592-6595.
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: John Deere 4030 tractor: very good condition, very good tires, 7900 hours, 1700 hours on overhaul, new parts, batteries, Farmhand F235 loader, well cared for, $13,000. Mower, 6-foot pull-behind King Cutter, $350. Blade, 8-foot, 3-point King Cutter, $300. Sioux Bulk Bin, 2.7 ton on legs, $475. Chicken crates x 30, $10 each. Sunset Bulk Tank, 150 gallon, $150. Semen Tank with accessories, very good, $100. Call 715-232-8785.
For Sale: Buffalo farm equipment and parts, new and used/reconditioned. Check our prices and service. Hansgen Sales & Service, St. Charles, MN. 507-932-4219.
For Sale: Buffalo Cultivators and Rolling Stalk Choppers. 320-221-2266.
For Sale: Used draft harnesses in very good condition. Also 2, 3, 4-horse eveners and neck yokes. Call 262-473-5375 or firstname.lastname@example.org Whitewater, WI.
For Sale: Eliminate hoeing! Two new Reggie-type single row eco-weeders. Require category I, 3-point, 2-person (tractor operator and weeder operator). $2,700 each or $5,000 for both. 712-830-5245.
For Sale: Bourquin 6-row weed puller, 30” spacing, 4 hydraulic motors, 3-point mount. Call for more details. NE Kansas. 785-313-1717.
For Sale: Brillion 6-row cultivator (like new). 60X8 grain auger. Hein Farms. 608-792-8184.
For Sale: For beekeeping - Dadant’s water-jacketed, mini wax melter with two thermostatically controlled heaters. Used one season. $750. Call 507-696-7922.
For Sale: Holland transplanter, 1-row, 3-point, newly painted and reconditioned. $695. Call 920-251-5303
For Sale: JD 6600 combine with 13-foot flex soybean head, unloading auger and grain elevators have screens for weed seed removal, hydro transmission, 404 diesel engine, 3014 hours. Call 920-887-7491.
For Sale: Twenty black Black Baldy yearlings, grass fed. Twenty 2011 calves, just weaned. David Williams. 712-299-5120.
For Sale: Forage developed Angus Bulls. Medium and smaller framed. Easy fleshing. OCC and PCC genetics. 1-year-olds and 2-year-olds. Tested. Tschanz Farms, Blair, WI. 608-989-2223.
For Sale: Fifteen 1-year-old (born last spring) organic Jersey and Jersey-cross steers. East central WI. 920-894-4201.
For Sale: Two registered Boelingo beef bulls, 20 months old, perfect belts, one red and white, one black and white. 715-443-2662.
For Sale: Around the first of May, 10-20 dairy cows and/or heifers for sale. Holstein, New Zealand Friesians, Scandinavian Reds, Shorthorns, Belts, etc. Most will calve soon. Vaccinated, magnets, Johne’s tested. Also some open ones. Don Austin, 608-348-7043.
For Sale: Organic feed. Wrapped and dry hay, big bales. Straw, big bales. Can deliver. 608-574-2160.
For Sale: Dry hay, organic round bales, no rain, tested. We can deliver. Call 920-284-2177. Wausau area.
For Sale: First crop round hay bales, grass/grass-clover mix, feed test available. Second crop small square bales. Call 715-627-7888.
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: Open pollinated seed corn, MOSA certified. Wapsie Valley 85 day, MN 13 88 day, “J” Reids 90 day. 50 lb. bags. $89/bag. Rich Holman. 715-684-2488.
For Sale: Soybeans, cleaned and bagged. 85 day, conventional Wisconsin. 715-443-2662.
For Sale: Certified organic feed. MOFC’s branded “Dr. Dave’s” feed is formulated by veterinarian and livestock specialist David Bane. Locally sourced and produced by our own co-op members at our feed mill in Fairbury, IL. Call Paul at 417-848-4005, David at 217-722-2188, or Josh at 815-383-8815 for information. Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, 618-783-4601.
For Sale: Certifiable organic farm 35 minutes west of Madison. Approximately 60 acres. Includes house, outbuildings, gardens, fenced pasture and hayfields. Call 608-753-2687.
For Sale: Custom grazing of organic dairy heifers and steers in north central WI. 280 acres of managed pasture, 240 of which are open, tillable land. Biosecurity and volume discounts are a possibility. Michael Haugen. 715-623-0404.
For Sale: Mulch/bedding - certified organic, light, easy to spread, breaks down well, builds soil, holds moisture, great poultry bedding. Call 608-516-6716.
For Sale: Surplus insulated glass – perfect for greenhouses, solar homes, sunrooms or ag buildings. Also hardwood butcherblock 30”X100”X1-1/8” for sustainable countertops or bar tops. Oak, ash, cherry, maple, mahogany from $129. www.kissourglass.com or 715-639-3762 before 9 pm. Joe Bacon. Arctic Glass since 1979!