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MOF&G Cover Summer 1997


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerSummer 1997News - Summer 1997   
 News & Events – Summer 1997 Minimize

What’s Wrong With those Big, California Strawberries?
Chefs Affirm Principles of Sustainable Cuisine
Organic Milk Sales Growing Rapidly
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Meeting in Vermont
Solar Cooker Campaign Saves Trees
World Seed Fund Feeds for a Lifetime
Two Trees Forestry Certified Green
Urban Forest Conference Coming to Atlanta
New Farm Editors Launch Website

What’s Wrong With those Big, California Strawberries?

In September 1996, over 7,000 strawberry workers and their supporters marched through the streets of Watsonville, California, in support of the United Farm Workers (UFW). The union is organizing the estimated 12,000 workers in the Watsonville-Salinas area, where two-thirds of the strawberries in California are grown. The march and rally, led by UFW president Arturo Rodriquez and union co-founder Dolores Huerta, was also the kickoff of a nationwide effort to win public support for farmworkers. As part of the campaign, union supporters in over 50 U.S. cities will ask supermarket managers to tell the California strawberry industry that they support better conditions for workers.

For approximately 20,000 strawberry workers in California, the average wage is about $8,000 a year, and most have not received a significant raise in the past 10 years. Low pay means that workers must crowd into small, expensive apartments or live in cars, shacks and sometimes even caves or fields.

The work is extremely hard. Pickers work as many as 12 hours a day, bending and stooping and often getting chronic back injuries. The work is too difficult for most older workers – 80% of the workers are under 30 years of age. The fields are heavily treated with pesticides, resulting in many incidents of skin rashes, nausea and other symptoms of pesticide poisoning. Child labor is not unusual, and many women workers are sexually harassed.

Seven years ago, B&J Farms, a large grower near Watsonville, promised workers and the government that it would pay $500,000 in back wages. To date, B&J still owes workers nearly half that sum, despite a court order. In April 1996, the company was cited for child labor law violations. In addition, workers have reported being denied drinking water for as long as five hours at a time and have stated that they were forced to eat green, unripe strawberries that they had picked by mistake. Recently, more than a dozen workers were fired for complaining when their paychecks bounced.

Strawberry workers have voted for UFW representation in state-held secret ballot elections, most recently in 1989, 1994 and 1995. Companies have responded by firing pickers, plowing under strawberries and selectively shutting down farming operations. In August 1995, 87% of the more than 400 strawberry workers at VCNM Farms in Salinas voted for the UFW. The next week, VCNM plowed up a quarter of its strawberries. The next month, the company shut down and abandoned the workers.

If working conditions don’t convince you that there’s something wrong with this crop, consider pesticide use: strawberries have the highest pesticide use per acre of any food crop grown in California. In 1994, approximately 302 pounds of pesticides per acre were used. Almost all commercial strawberry production in California has been on soils fumigated with methyl bromide – a highly toxic fumigant that is also an ozone depleter. California strawberries are one of the largest single crop users of methyl bromide in the United States and around the world, accounting for nearly 25% of the state’s use of this pesticide.

Source: “UFW Organizes California Strawberry Workers,” Global Pesticide Campaigner, Dec., 1996, a publication of Pesticide Action Network, North America Regional Center, 116 New Montgomery St., #810, San Francisco, CA 94150; original sources: The New York Times, July 3, 1996; San Jose Mercury News, Sept. 16, 1996; Santa Cruz Sentinel, Aug. 15, 1996; Contact: UFW of America, AFL-CIO, La Paz, Keene, CA 93531, Tel. 805-822-5571.


Chefs Affirm Principles of Sustainable Cuisine

Chefs Collaborative 2000 is an association of approximately 1,000 of the leading chefs in the United States who are dedicated to the promotion of sustainable food choices. The organization’s charter affirms the following principles of sustainable cuisine:

Food is fundamental to life. It nourishes us in body and soul, and the sharing of food immeasurably enriches our sense of community.

Good, safe, wholesome food is a basic human right.

Society has the obligation to make good, pure food affordable and accessible to all.

Good food begins with unpolluted air, land and water, environmentally sustainable farming and fishing, and humane animal husbandry.

Sound food choices emphasize locally grown, seasonally fresh and whole or minimally processed ingredients.

Cultural and biological diversity is essential for the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Preserving and revitalizing sustainable food and agricultural traditions strengthen that diversity.

The healthy, traditional diets of many cultures offer abundant evidence that fruits, vegetables, beans, breads and grains are the foundation of good diets.

As part of their education, our children deserve to be taught basic cooking skills and to learn the impact of their food choices on themselves, on their culture, and on the environment.

Source: www.earthpledge.org/progress/cuiartl.html. Thanks to Anne Johnson for sending this to The MOF&G.


Organic Milk Sales Growing Rapidly

Sales of organic milk, once too minimal to tally, now total about $30 million annually and are “growing rapidly,” according to an article in The New York Times (Oct. 30, 1996). “Some people began turning to organic milk about five years ago, when there were revelations of antibiotic residues in milk,” writes author Marian Burrows. “In 1993, when the government approved the use of [r]BGH to increase milk production, despite many questions about its safety for both cows and humans, others became interested in milk produced the old-fashioned way.” For milk to be organic, the cows’ pasture land must be free of all chemical compounds, such as herbicides, and the cows cannot have been injected with growth hormones. “The increased interest in organic milk joins the boom in organic foods, which have increased in sales by 20 percent for each of the last two years,” according to the article.

Source: Alternative Agriculture News, Dec. 1996.


American Livestock Breeds Conservancy Meeting in Vermont

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) will celebrate two decades of rare breed conservation at its 1997 Conference and Members Meeting, to be held June 6-8 at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vermont.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy was founded in Montpelier, Vermont, in 1977 to protect rare breeds of cattle, horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry from extinction. ALBC studies the status and characteristics of rare breeds, educates the public about their importance, and provides technical support to breeders and breed associations. ALBC is the only national livestock conservation organization in the United States and is part of an international network conserving genetic diversity in domestic animals.

The ALBC conference will include presentations about sustainable agriculture, historic livestock of New England, public education, and farm parks. Saturday afternoon will feature tours of Shelburne Farms’ grass-based dairy projects, including the famous Brown Swiss cattle herd, milking parlor, and cheese factory. An optional side trip will take attendees to Shelburne Museum to see the carriage collection. ALBC’s twentieth anniversary celebration will be held Saturday night, with an auction to benefit rare breed conservation.

On Sunday, the conference will feature a sheep workshop, “Who Needs Clones? Sheep Diversity for Opportunities Today and Tomorrow.” Presentations on sheep and wool production, sustainable sheep management, an exhibit of twelve rare breeds of sheep, and a wool craft festival will entertain both the novice and experienced shepherd. As a bonus, there will also be a demonstration of working oxen, horses and donkeys.

The conference and sheep workshop are open to the public. The conference fee (including the workshop) is $120; the workshop alone costs $40. Fees include admission to Shelburne Farms. Pre-registration is required. To register, contact ALBC, P.O. Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312, phone (919) 542-5704, or fax (919) 545-0022.


Solar Cooker Campaign Saves Trees

In the developing world most of the human population depends on wood for fuel in cooking and heating. This fuel wood is often cut much faster than it is being replaced, and fuel wood consumption is considered to be a significant factor in the depletion of the world’s forests.

The New Forests Project (NFP) has been actively promoting agroforestry programs throughout the world. Recently it has initiated a solar cooker campaign in southwestern Guatemala, where most of the land has been cleared for agriculture. The inhabitants of this area get fuel wood by cutting it from their land, by scavenging it from other areas, and by purchasing it at markets.

The solar cookers or sunstoves are an alternative to fuel wood consumption. They have public health benefits as well by reducing respiratory problems associated with wood smoke. They are made primarily from recycled materials and are being offered to rural dwellers who purchase them through a revolving loan fund designed to make the solar cookers affordable to low-income families. Monthly payments to this fund allow NFP to purchase more solar cookers for other Guatemalans. NPF’s goal is to expand the solar cooker campaign to other Central American countries and to Haiti.

For further information about NFP and its solar cooker campaign and information about membership, write to NFP at 731 Eighth St., S.E., Washington, DC 20003.

– Paul M. Brown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


World Seed Fund Feeds for a Lifetime

The World Seed Fund is a project of Abundant Life Seed Foundation that was established in 1985 to address some of the world’s hunger and environmental issues. Abundant Life sends free seeds to people in need around the world. With many hungry people in the world, the solution to their hunger problems has been to export surplus food or to sell hybrid seeds with supposedly remarkable yields, yet these are often inappropriate for many cultures. Neither solution addresses the environmental issues of the planet or the health and sustainability issues of the recipients.

Abundant Life sends open-pollinated seeds to people in need so that they can feed themselves for a lifetime. Open-pollinated seeds can be grown out and saved, then replanted with the assurance of the same yields and the same crops, only better adapted to the same garden year after year – in contrast with hybrid seeds, which must be purchased annually and which create a dependence on seed companies and on a monetary income.

Abundant Life sends seeds to developing countries as well as to many groups in the United States and Canada, including organizations that have created gardens in inner cities, prisons, daycares and schools. Clear seed saving instructions are included, and recipients are encouraged to save some seeds from their garden, perhaps to trade or share with neighbors. Some projects make seed saving the purpose of their garden. One children’s garden project even chose to save seeds and donate them back to the World Seed Fund to donate to children in other parts of the world.

These seed gifts are supported by donations from people who believe in sustainable agriculture and the potential of a seed. For every dollar donated, Abundant Life can send two packets of seeds. A family of five could eat for a year from a $30 donation, and for a lifetime if they save their seeds. For more information, contact Abundant Life at 930 Lawrence St., P.O. Box 772, Port Townsend, WA 98368; Tel. 360-385-5660; Fax 360-385-7455.


Two Trees Forestry Certified Green

The Northeast Natural Resource Center of the National Wildlife Federation and the SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance have completed the first SmartWood forest certification in Maine for Two Trees Forestry (TTF), a forest management company, located in Coopers Mills. The NWF/SmartWood program goal is to reduce the negative environmental impact of logging and ensure sustainable forest management.

Certification requires that forestry operations protect local biodiversity and watersheds, minimize damage to remaining forests, prevent over cutting of forests, develop positive relationships with local communities, and conduct forest restoration activities on degraded land, among other criteria. A growing voluntary initiative, independent certification of U.S. forest land has topped 2 million acres, consisting primarily of large, non-industrial forest owners. TTF is one of only three resource managers certified to date in the United States offering certified forestry services to small and mid-sized forest landowners on parcels generally less than 1,000 acres in size.

The certification was conducted by the National Wildlife Federation, whose regional field office, the Northeast Natural Resource Center, is collaborating with the SmartWood program to make certification available across the northeast region. Forest management certification has been formally recognized as a valuable tool for improving the condition of forests worldwide by such diverse organizations as the International Tropical Timber Organization, the United Nations, the President’s Council on Sustainable Development and, in the northeast region, by the former Northern Forest Lands Council.

Operations that meet certification requirements, as well as companies that process and sell products made of wood from these sources, can use the SmartWood “seal of approval” on their products. This certification mark provides special recognition in the marketplace for wood products that come from sustainably managed forest lands. Certification contracts are renewed on a five-year basis and involve annual compliance audits by the NWF/SmartWood program.

TTF President and MOFGA member Mark Miller led his company’s initiative to become certified. His company currently manages approximately 200 properties encompassing roughly 22,000 acres of forest land in central and midcoast Maine. The initial pool of lands certified represents approximately 9,000 acres or 41% of the lands that they manage by acreage and 20% of the landowner clients. TTF will bring additional acres of forest land into the certification program in the future.

“We are pleased to receive independent forest certification that our forest management practices are environmentally responsible. It substantiates our philosophy that good stewardship and profitable forestry can go hand in hand,” said Two Trees President Mark Miller.

Under the NWF/SmartWood program, TTF underwent a comprehensive evaluation of company policies that included three days of field work in the forest by a three-person team of regionally-based professionals with experience in forest and wildlife ecology, logging systems, and forest economics. As the basis for the certification of TTF as a “Well-Managed Source” under the NWF/SmartWood program, the independent team prepared a comprehensive report containing critical wildlife habitat, forest regeneration, diversity of tree species, logging road construction, inventories of growing stock, management planning systems, and forest products utilization.

“Within the contested forest policy environment in Maine, Two Trees Forestry is providing practical leadership and on-the-ground experience toward sustainable forestry,” said Eric Palola, NWF Resource Economist. “While a variety of programs exist to encourage better forest management, NWF believes that independent forest certification is one of the best tools for linking environmentally-responsible forestry to the market in a way that can create a more positive story for the working forests of New England,” Palola added.

The SmartWood program of the Rainforest Alliance, which was the first forestry certification program in existence, is accredited for the certification of natural forest management by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is the internationally recognized monitoring organization for independent forest products certification with headquarters in Mexico. The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit conservation organization. Its mission is to develop and promote economically viable and socially desirable alternatives to the destruction of tropical forests and endangered, biologically diverse natural resources.

The National Wildlife Federation, as the nation’s largest member-supported conservation group, unites people from all walks of life to protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share. NWF has educated and inspired families to uphold America’s conservation tradition since 1936. Its common-sense approach to environmental protection brings individuals, organizations and governments together to ensure a brighter future for people and wildlife.

The Northeast Natural Resource Center of NWF, which is based in Montpelier, Vermont, works on a variety of conservation issues in forest, water and economic policy within the northeast region. NWF’s regional office is part of a growing network of non-profit, regionally-based, international organizations that provide independent forest certification as participants in the SmartWood certification network.


Urban Forest Conference Coming to Atlanta

Cities By Nature’s Design, a four day conference on building liveable, ecologically healthy cities, examines the role of natural resources in the future of urban areas. The conference will bring together planners, citizen activists, urban foresters, and others who are working to build sustainable, people-friendly communities. Participants will examine environmental, human, economic, and public policy issues and how to build them into an action program greater than the sum of the parts. Session themes include understanding the elements, building the components, and working toward more sustainable communities. Working tours and pre-conference workshops offer diverse and in-depth learning opportunities.

The conference is September 17-20, 1997 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia and is organized by American Forests in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, the Southern Group of State Foresters, a national program committee, and dozens of local organizations. Early registration discounts are available until July 15.

For a free preliminary program and registration form, contact American Forests, 8th National Urban Forest Conference – phone: 800/368-5748; write: P.O. Box 2000, Washington, DC 20013-2000; or register on-line at the American Forests’ homepage: www.americanforests.org/


New Farm Editors Launch Website

Two former editors of The New Farm magazine have launched Sustainable Farming Connection, an interactive World Wide Web site where farmers and others forging more sustainable food systems can find and share valuable information.

“Our site offers innovative production and marketing stories to help you cut costs, improve soil, protect the environment and add value to healthy food,” says site author Craig Cramer. The SPC webpages include commentary by rural writers such as Gene Logsdon, timely news and action alerts, archived material and links to other key sites. Discussion groups also provide a forum for farmers to ask questions, exchange tips and “talk” with others about topics of importance to them.

Rural Internet access has soared in recent months, noted Cramer. “With a Website, we can reach more farmers and bring them even more of the practical information they want than we could in print. Instead of getting an issue every couple of months, readers will want to check in daily to see what’s new.

“We’re calling on farmers and other ag professionals with Internet access to serve as information ‘hubs’ to help spread the word to others,” he adds.

SunSITE at University of North Carolina has volunteered to host Sustainable Farming Connection. Support from the Wallace Genetic Foundation and the encouragement of many well-known organizations, including the Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, also have played key roles in the site debut, notes fellow editor Christopher Shirley. “Your ‘on-site’ comments will help ensure we meet your needs,” he says.

Stop in for a visit (it’s free!) or learn more about being a site sponsor or advertiser by going to: sunsite.unc.edu/farming-connection or by contacting Christopher Shirley, Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, 609 S. Front St., Allentown, PA 18103, (610) 791-9683, cdshirley@aol.com.



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