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MOF&G Cover Winter 1999-2000

 


  You are here:  PublicationsMaine Organic Farmer & GardenerWinter 1999-2000News   
 News & Events – Winter 1999 Minimize


Organic Farmers to Present Seminar
Blueberries May Restore Some Memory, Coordination and Balance Lost with Age
New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Conference
State to Assist with Manure Management Plans
Ecological Farming Conference
Heavyweight Organic Supporters
Everybody Eats: Canaries Teach-In 2000 Addresses Food Issues
Future of Farming Conference – Growing More Food on Less Land
Wildgathering! to Fill a Weekend in May
Spring Growth – 2000
New Sustainable Ag Faculty at U Maine
Farmers Sell Produce to Schools
Schools Turn Soft on Nutrition


Organic Farmers to Present Seminar

The Regional Farm & Food Project is offering a rare opportunity to learn from among the best! In their first visit to the Northeast, three premier organic vegetable farmers from Wisconsin and Minnesota will share the methods and strategies that support their successful organic enterprises in a 3-day advanced workshop, January 14-16 at the Saratoga 4-H Training Center near Saratoga Springs, New York.

Workshop leaders Richard de Wilde, David Washburn and Steve Pincus are noted for their education and leadership, having led workshops at the Upper Midwest Organic Conference, University of Wisconsin Agricultural Training Program, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and the University of Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Gardeners. Richard DeWilde runs Harmony Hill Farm in Varoquoa, Wisconsin, a 50-acre fruit and vegetable operation. David Washburn operates Red Cardinal Farm in Stillwater, Minnesota. With 13 acres in production, this certified organic vegetable, small fruit and flower operation generates approximately $275,000 in sales. Steve Pincus produces 25 acres of vegetables at Tipi Produce near Madison, Wisconsin.

This in-depth workshop is especially relevant to commercial farmers who want more information on successful production, management and marketing systems. The instructors also will help participants identify ways to create a more ecologically sound and satisfying business. Topics to be covered include soil fertility management, cover cropping, beneficial insect habitat, and cultivation, as well as labor, crop planning, and record keeping and analysis for decision making. Instructors will be drawing on personal experience and their own successful businesses to outline particularly effective strategies. The program will allow ample time for informal interaction with the presenters and other participants.

The registration fee of $90 200 (sliding scale, depending on what is within your means) includes catered natural food lunches and dinners. The program begins at 10 a.m. Friday and runs through 3 p.m. Sunday. Attendance is limited to 60, so register early! Low cost overnight accommodations are available.

For the workshop brochure or additional information, please contact the Regional Farm & Food Project, 148 Central Avenue, Albany, NY 12206; (518) 427-6537. This event, sponsored by the Regional Farm & Food Project, is part of a year-long Whole-Farm Entrepreneurship series made possible under a grant from the USDA’s Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. The Regional Farm & Food Project is a membership organization of farmers and consumers creating greater opportunities for sustainable family scale agriculture through education and community development activities.

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Blueberries May Restore Some Memory, Coordination and Balance Lost with Age

A diet rich in blueberry extract reversed some loss of balance and coordination and improved short-term memory in aging rats, according to a USDA study published in the Sept. 15 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. “If this finding holds for humans, it should further encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants to help fight the effects of aging,” said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

Daily for eight weeks, researchers fed extracts of blueberry, strawberry or spinach to 19-month-old rats, who would be equivalent in age to 65or 70-year-old humans. All three extracts improved short-term memory. Only the blueberry extract improved balance and coordination.

This is the first study that shows fruits and vegetables actually reversing dysfunction in behavior and in nerve cells. Earlier, the same researchers, led by neuroscientist James A. Joseph of the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, reported that fruits and vegetables with high concentrations of antioxidants prevented some loss of function in aging rats.

Blueberries, strawberries and spinach test high in their ability to subdue oxygen free radicals. These oxygen radicals, which can damage cell membranes, DNA and other delicate internal machinery, are blamed for many of the dysfunctions and diseases associated with aging.

“Motor behavior is one of the first things to go as you age,” said Joseph. “The improvements we saw in coordination and balance are really significant. In other studies, little else has reversed these deficits in motor function.”

A decline in motor skills starts at about 12 months for rats. By 19 months, the length of time rats can walk a narrow rod before losing balance normally drops from 13 to 5 seconds. After eating blueberry extract, the rats stayed on the rod for 11 seconds, on average.

Joseph and psychologist Barbara Shukitt-Hale were joined in the study by Natalia Denisova, Donna Bielinski, Antonio Martin and John McEwen, all at the USDA center in Boston, and Paula Bickford at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver.

Source: Agricultural Research Service News Service, USDA, Judy McBride, (301) 5041628. Scientific contact: James A. Joseph and Barbara Shukitt-Hale, USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, phone (617) 556-3178 [Joseph], (617) 5663118, [Shukitt-Hale].

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New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Conference

The New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Conference, www.newenglandvfc.org/, held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, Mass., is the largest and most comprehensive event of its kind in the region. "It should not be missed by anyone with an interest in commercial production of small fruit and vegetables," says Univ. of Maine Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist David Handley. This year the conference takes place on December 14-16.

Four concurrent sessions will be offered each morning and afternoon for a total of 120 educational presentations. Sessions will include farmers, extension educators, researchers and industry personnel addressing the how-to of production and marketing of such crops as strawberries, blueberries, brambles, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and greens, sweet corn, potatoes, pumpkins, herbs, flowers and ornamentals. Other sessions will address such issues as managing weeds, marketing, reduced tillage systems, farm safety, season extenders and computer technology for the farm.

A trade show of over 80 exhibitors will display the latest in seeds, plants, irrigation and cultivation equipment, packaging, pest control, fertilizers, books and more.

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State to Assist with Manure Management Plans

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is offering assistance to Maine farmers with their manure management plans. Any farmer who has more than 50,000 pounds of livestock or brings more than 100 tons of manure per year onto their farm, or has had a verified complaint about manure handling, must file a plan by Jan. 2, 2001, and implement it by Oct. 1, 2005. These plans should improve crop yields and reduce fertilizer costs and runoff. For more information, contact your local extension office.

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Ecological Farming Conference

The 20th Annual Ecological Farming Conference will be held from Jan. 19 to 22, 2000, at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. This annual celebration of farmers, marketers, consumers and activists explores who we are, where we are, why we’re growing/selling/eating healthy food, and what may blossom in the future. The theme for the conference this year is: Riding the Organic Wave: Twenty Years on the Crest of Eco-Agriculture.

This conference features over 50 workshops on everything from Alternative Agriculture to Zinc for Zucchini; delectable meals featuring the finest in organic and natural foods; a day-long bus tour of organic farms; an organic wine tasting; business displays; and “Steward of Sustainable Agriculture” awards (Susties). The conference is co-sponsored by the Committee for Sustainable Agriculture and by many businesses in the sustainable agriculture community.

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Heavyweight Organic Supporters

On May 25, 1999, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura signed the Organic Agriculture Promotion and Education Act, the first legislation in the United States to authorize an organic certification cost-share program. Designed to encourage organic agriculture in the state, the law provides $35,000 annually to reimburse farmers for a portion of the costs associated with organic farm certification, and $15,000 for market development and implementation.

The schools in Berkeley, California, also are supporting organic agriculture. On August 18, Berkeley’s school board approved a policy directing all schools in the district to have organic gardens and incorporate organic food in their cafeterias.

Source: “What’s New in Organic?’’ The Organic Trade Assoc, Sept/Oct. 1999.

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Everybody Eats: Canaries Teach-In 2000 Addresses Food Issues

How can you be sure that the food you’re eating isn’t contaminated with pathogenic bacteria? What legislative efforts are occurring regarding pesticides and genetic engineering? How can we support a thriving, local agriculture? These are just a few topics to be covered at a March 25 workshop in Camden.

Save the Canaries, a group of Midcoast residents, will present its third teach-in on March 25, from 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., at the Congregational Church in Camden. The workshop, entitled “Everybody Eats,” will address food systems and health and will cover food-borne pathogens, pesticide residues, genetic engineering problems, food irradiation, global marketing and the politics of agribusiness versus local marketing and the politics of community building.

Speakers will include Nicols Fox, author of Spoiled, who will talk about food-borne pathogens and how to avoid them; Russ Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA), who will speak about the value of local and regional farming systems as opposed to the negative impacts of global systems; and Sharon Tisher, president of MOFGA, speaking about legislation relating to the use of pesticides and genetic engineering. Paul Tukey, editor and publisher of People, Places and Plants, will show slides of beautiful gardens and talk about their productivity. Organic grower and CSA marketer Bambi Jones and activist and gardener Beedy Parker will discuss ways to support local food supplies, such as eating with the seasons, buying from farmers’ markets and coops, subscribing to community supported agriculture farms, marketing over the Internet and marketing to Iocal restaurants. A delicious lunch made from locally-available (even in March!), healthful, whole foods will be served by renowned caterer Susan Hamill. The information supplied by speakers will be supplemented by tables of books and resources.

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Future of Farming Conference – Growing More Food on Less Land

Due to water and wind erosion caused by current agricultural practices, an estimated 45 to 90 years of farmable soil remains on the planet. Instead of sitting idly by and accepting this shocking reality, farmers around the world are doing something about it. They have adopted a progressive farming approach that not only yields more food than conventional farming, but does it on a fraction of the land.

This progressive agricultural approach is the focus of Soil, Food and People: A Biointensive Model for the New Century, an international conference on March 27-29, 2000, at the University of California, Davis. Presented by Ecology Action and University Extension, UC Davis, this one-of-a-kind event explores the current state of agriculture, new perspectives for scientific agricultural approaches and practices, and Biointensive agriculture as the solution for a fully-sustainable agricultural future.

The conference will draw upon nearly 30 leading experts from around the world to share their research and experiences using sustainable agricultural methods. Topics range from germplasm preservation and Biosphere II to Biointensive applications in Mexico, The Philippines, Russia Kenya and Argentina. The three-day conference incorporates presentations, panel discussions, a poster session and a small group breakout session on the final day. In addition, a free tour of the University of California, Davis, Sustainable Soil Fertility Program test sites is scheduled on March 26, 2000.

The food for the conference will be organic, prepared under the guidance of Alice Waters, internationally renowned author, chef and owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. The conference is co-sponsored by UNICEF, Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, CARE International, Columbia Foundation, Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, The Hearst Corporation and Alice Waters.

“The goal of the conference is to teach policy makers, researchers, farmers and the public about the global significance of Biointensive agriculture and the critical role it can play in the future of food security,” said John Jeavons, director of Ecology Action and the world authority on Biointensive agriculture, who will be speaking at the conference on March 27 at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Biointensive agriculture can produce food using 67 to 88 percent less water, 99 percent less energy and 50 to 100 percent less fertilizer per pound of food produced compared with conventional farming methods. In addition, it has the potential to produce two to four times the yield per unit of area, and Biointensive agriculture actually builds topsoil. Six inches of topsoil are needed to grow good crops. It takes approximately 3,000 years for nature to produce 6 inches of topsoil. Every 28 years, 1 inch of topsoil is lost as a result of current farming practices. Biointensive agriculture has the potential to produce six inches of topsoil in as little as 50 years – 60 times faster than the rate in nature.

For more information about Soil, Food and People: A Biointensive Model for the New Century, or to enroll, call (800) 752-0881 or visit the Web site at www.universityextension.ucdavis.edu.

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Wildgathering! to Fill a Weekend in May

The fourth annual Wildgathering! will be a weekend-long event this year, from May 19-21 at the Athens Fairgrounds in Athens, Maine. This intensive event is a celebration of the wild earth, focusing on the importance of rare, threatened and endangered plant and animal species. The keynote speaker on Friday night will be the well-known herbalist Susun Weed, who also will offer a four-hour intensive workshop during the weekend. Other experts will offer lectures and workshops throughout the weekend. Camping is available. Vendors who would like to apply for space, indoors or outdoors, at the Marketplace should contact Gail Edwards, Box 4073B, Athens 04912; 654-2879. Proceeds from Wildgathering! support programs that help young children become loving caretakers of the earth.

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Spring Growth – 2000

Following on the heels of last year’s Spring Growth conference in Unity, we’re hoping that many of you will want to hold the date – March 18 – for our 2000 version: “The Underground Farm – Building the Life of the Soil.” The keynote will be Dr. Elaine Ingham of Oregon State, who has been developing ways for farmers to assess the health of their soil. She’ll be talking about “Understanding Soil and Foliar Health: What the little critters do for your plants.”

In a recent note, she observed, “The work we’ve been doing with compost tea this last year is showing that the foliage has a foodweb just like soil, and in order to prevent foliar diseases, you have to get the foodweb going on leaf surfaces as well as in the soil. The level of pollution in the atmosphere appears to be a serious limitation of foliar health, and so it has to be replaced as it is destroyed. Soil health is easier to maintain once you get it right.”

Like last year, when the focus was on winter vegetable systems, the day will include a mix of farmer experts and scientists, so we hope you’ll hold the date. Registration information will be available in January.

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New Sustainable Ag Faculty at U Maine

Marianne Sarrontonio will be joining the University of Maine faculty next month, filling the Sustainable Agriculture position held by Mary Wiedenhoeft before she left for Iowa State. Sarrontonio comes to Orono after teaching at Wilson College in Pennsylvania. Before that, Marianne was a researcher with the Rodale Institute.

One of her major areas of expertise is cover crops. While at Rodale, she wrote the Northeast Cover Crop Handbook, a complete guide to both strategies and species that are useful for cover cropping in our region. Eric Sideman has a well-worn copy sitting on his desk.

This is the first of two Sustainable Ag positions to be refilled at the University of Maine this year. MOFGA looks forward to many years of work with Marianne.

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Farmers Sell Produce to Schools

Glyen Holmes, an outreach coordinator for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), found a new market for produce grown by small farmers in Florida’s Panhandle Region – school districts.

The National School Lunch Program (NSLP), administered by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), reaches 26 million school children in 95,000 U.S. public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions every school day. Since most school districts are set up to buy from cooperatives rather than from individual fanners, Holmes founded the New North Florida Cooperative (NNFC). Sixteen limited-resource growers now sell produce directly to several school districts.

“The school lunch market is ideally suited for small farmers with 10 or fewer acres,” says Holmes. “Farmers can move from traditional to specialty crops on smaller acreage, make a better return, and take less risk. Many cooperatives can deliver specialty niche produce like berries and greens cheaper” than regular vendors but can’t compete with big vendors of traditional foods supplied to schools.”

Every school system is different, each market will have its own obstacles, and working with a farmerfriendly school system is critical. Cafeteria managers and school food service directors can explain their food and produce cut requirements. Local health departments can explain delivery requirements, and state agriculture departments can identify regulations.

The USDA Agriculture Marketing System (AMS) funded the Cooperative’s pilot phase. Dan Schofer of AMS provided technical assistance. J’Amy Peterson, R.D., M.S., director of school food services for Florida’s Gadsden County School District, worked crops grown by small farmers into her breakfast and lunch menus. Vonda Richardson from Florida A&M University identified local farmers to participate, held record keeping courses for farmers, researched possible crops, recruited farm management advisors, and became project coordinator. Florida A&M University worked closely with the West Florida Resource Conservation and Development Council. Local banks made loans for start-up costs.

The NSLP also has a partnership with the Department of Defense in its Fresh Produce Program. “Farmer cooperatives need to expand their marketing to nontraditional customers like military, nursing home, prison and hospital institutional food services,” says Holmes.

Source: Small Farm Digest, Spring/Summer 1999, USDA, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington DC 20250-2220. For more information about the National School Lunch Program, see the USDA website at www.pis.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/Default. htm, or call USDA/FNS Public Information at 703-305-2286. The Department of Defense can be contacted at the DOD Defense Supply Center, 2800 South 20th St., Philadelphia, PA 19145, or by calling Doug Steinmetz, Chief, Field Buying Branch, at 215-737-5996, or Jerry German, Senior Buying Specialist, Produce Office, Wicomico, VA, at 804-642-1809.

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Schools Turn Soft on Nutrition

Financially-strapped school districts across the nation are increasingly taking big bucks from soft drink manufacturers in trade for exclusive sales and distribution rights to soft drink distributors, as ever-growing costs force school boards to explore new revenue sources.

An example cited recently by The New York Times was that of the Kansas City board of education, which receives annual payments of $27 per school child in exchange for giving exclusive rights to a soft drink manufacturer to purvey its products in that city’s schools.

Paying for exclusive distribution rights is a tactic that Coca-Cola and Pepsico have honed to a sharp edge. The tactic was developed initiaUy for a commercial sector: Many restaurants and hotels serve either Coke of Pepsi, but not both, because the drink manufacturers offer incentives for exclusive distribution rights. Now the marketing strategy has been extended to the nation’s schools.

In selling exclusive distribution rights, school systems commit to having one soda company’s vending machines in their buildings. Juices and bottled water are included in these single-source deals. (Coke owns Minute Maid; Pepsi owns Tropicana.)

Exclusive distribution contracts also cover sales of beverages at athletic events. Logos for the “winning” soft drink company tend to decorate the schools, athletic programs and events.

The New York Times article described one consultant, Dan DeRose of DD Marketing of Pueblo, Colorado, who is raking in millions by advising school systems about how to negotiate exclusive contracts. DeRose has negotiated more than 60 exclusive school district contracts with soda manufacturers.

In Kansas City, DeRose states that the school board was receiving only 67 cents per pupil before he negotiated the new $27 per pupil annual fee. DeRose takes 25 to 35% of gross revenues for contracts he negotiates. DeRose explained that soft drink companies want exclusive contracts because they want to imprint brand loyalty in the minds of school children.

Twenty years ago, school children drank twice as much milk as soda. Today that figure is reversed, according to Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy recently issued a fact sheet with the following additional information:

• In 1994, a representative of Chicago’s High School Food Service testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee that participation in school lunch programs “dropped by half” when Coca-Cola distributed free, 20-oz. sodas in the school lunch room;

• The USDA reports that school children may consume between one-third and one-half of their daily nutrients at school;

• Heavy soft drink consumption correlates with low intake of magnesium, calcium, ascorbic acid, riboflavin and vitamin A. Calcium is crucial for teenage females to build their bone mass to reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. By the age of 18, a teenage woman has built 92% of her bone mass;

• Many soft drinks contain caffeine, which increases the excretion of calcium;

• In 1997, consumers in the United States spent $53 million on soft drinks. Thirty-nine billion dollars went to the two industry giants: Coca-Cola and Pepsico.

Source: “Soda Industry Is Gaining Stranglehold on Teen Diets,” Weekly Market Bulletin, N.H. Dept. ofAg., June 30,1999; and “As Soft Drink Money Talks, Milk Walks,” Weekly Market Bulletin, July 21,1999; both articles originally appeared in The Milkweed.

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