Plant-A-Row for the Hungry
This year, gardeners across Maine are invited to join the fight to end hunger in Maine. Begun in 1995, the Plant-A-Row for the Hungry program is a nationwide effort that encourages gardeners to dedicate a row of their vegetable gardens and donate the harvest to local soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries and neighbors in need.
In Maine, Master Gardeners are spearheading the Plant-A-Row effort. However, anyone can participate. If gardening isnít for you, help is often needed in weighing or delivering produce, lending land, even taking photos of gardeners at work. Commercial farmers are also welcome to participate by donating excess produce to the cause.
In 1999, a small but significant number of Maine gardeners donated 2,354 pounds of vegetables. In 2000, with Master gardeners and local growers involved statewide, our goal is to donate 100,000 pounds of fresh, high quality produce to those in need.
For more information or to learn how to participate in the Plant-A-Row for the Hungry program in your area, please contact Rick Kersbergen in Waldo County at 1-800-287-1426. Or, for statewide information, please contact Barbara Murphy, Oxford County Cooperative Extension, 9 Olson Road, South Paris, ME 04281 (1-800-287-1482)
MOFGA Board Approves Revised Standard for Certified Organic Honey
At its April meeting, the MOFGA Board approved a major revision to the certification standards for organic honey and related products. Developed by a subcommittee of the Certification Committee, the revised standard, which goes into effect in 2001, provides specific requirements for hive management and apiary location, updates and expands the requirements for disease control, and adds sections for transitional and parallel operations. These changes are intended to ensure that organic beekeepers start with and maintain uncontaminated equipment, use organic supplemental feed and disease control techniques, and that bee yards are isolated from known users of prohibited substances. The bees themselves may be obtained from conventional sources.
The revision will be included in the 2001 Organic Certification Standards to be issued this fall. Beekeepers who are considering organic honey production may obtain an advance copy from the MOFGA office.
Carbonating Cow Manure Stunts E. coli Growth
A harmless ingredient found in soft drinks and some tooth pastes suppresses the growth of Escherichia coli in cow manure, report U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University scientists.
"Some cattle harbor E. coli O157:H7 and other disease-causing bacteria, and these pathogens can persist in manure for long periods of time," said Agricultural Research Service microbiologist James B. Russell. "But in lab studies, adding sodium carbonate kills many of these harmful microbes."
Russell works at the USDA-ARS U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory in Ithaca, N.Y., and is affiliated with the Nutrient Conservation and Metabolism Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland. Russell collaborated with postdoctoral fellows Francisco Diez-Gonzalez and Graeme Jarvis, and with undergraduate student David Adamovich in Cornell's Department of Microbiology on the research. The team had been looking for a practical and inexpensive method for treating dairy cattle manure to decrease E. coli O157:H7 and other potential pathogens.
"Bacteria can be killed by chlorination, but chlorinating manure is not practical," Russell said. "Laboratory tests indicated that E. coli was resistant to alkaline pH and ammonia, but it was very sensitive to carbonate if the pH was alkaline."
Carbonate can be derived from urine. "When urease--an enzyme in feces-- breaks down urinary urea, some carbon dioxide is trapped as carbonate. Urinary carbonate alone can kill E. coli, but cows don't make enough urine to kill all the E. coli," Russell said. The ARS-Cornell team made its discovery by mixing manure and urine. When the ratio was 1-to-1, virtually all of the E. coli were killed. However, dairy cows typically excrete 2.2 times as much feces as urine, and E. coli persisted at that ratio.
"If cow manure samples are spiked with sodium carbonate in the laboratory, E. coli do not persist," Russell said. Some sodium hydroxide is also added to make sure that the pH is at least 8.5, but "the estimated cost of this treatment would be only $10 per dairy cow per year," he said.
Russell indicated that "after only five days, the E. coli count was less than 10 cells per gram." Because the manure samples originally had from 100,000 to 100,000,000 counts per gram, "carbonate appears to be an extremely effective antibacterial agent," Russell added.
Cattle manure is often stored outdoors in large tanks or ponds prior to spreading on fields, but "a threefold dilution with water did not diminish the effectiveness of carbonate treatment," Russell said.
While this process looks very promising in the laboratory, "pilot and farm-scale testing will be needed before the technology can be recommended to the livestock industry," he added.
Laboratory experiments also indicated that carbonate killed other bacterial pathogens, such as Salmonella typhimurium, Streptococcus pyogenes, Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus. This research was reported in volume 34, issue 7 of Environmental Science and Technology.
Source: Hank Becker, (301) 504-1624, ARS News Service, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD 20705- 5128, (301) 504-1617, fax 504-1648; Scientific contact: James B. Russell, U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory, Ithaca, N.Y., phone (607) 255-4508, fax (607) 255-3904.
Soy Soothes the Circuits in Body CellsHuman body cells are constantly barraged with chemical signals that pester them to respond. Miraculously, they do a pretty good job of filtering out the "noise" and staying focused on their purpose. But some cells lose the ability to regulate these signals, and they react before they should. Researchers now believe this loss contributes to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
Foods play an important role in filtering out this chemical noise. Test tube studies more than a decade ago showed that a phytonutrient in soy foods--genistein--dampens communication from the cell's surface to its interior. Now, an Agricultural Research Service study gives the first evidence of this dampening effect in an animal.
For four weeks, chemist Norberta Schoene, based at the ARS Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., fed young rats diets containing soy protein with high or low levels of genistein. Then she measured how the animals' blood platelets responded. Platelets are quite sensitive to outside signals and so are a good model for studying cell signaling. In three different tests, the platelets from the animals receiving the high-genistein diet showed less response to such signals.
Schoene's hypothesis: Isoflavones may reduce over-responsive signaling that produces chronic disease. For example, if an order to divide gets "heard" by too many cells, it could lead to unrestrained growth as in cancer or an overactive immune system.
Japanese diets on average contain about 10 times more soy than North American diets, and the Japanese have a lower incidence of cancer and heart disease. The genistein-rich diets in this study had the equivalent of twice the average Japanese genistein intake. The genistein-poor diet contained the equivalent of the U.S. intake of soy. Tofu, tempeh and miso are some soy foods rich in genistein and other isoflavones. (Editorís note: Be sure to look for organic soy to avoid genetically engineered soy.)
Source: ARS News Service, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Judy McBride, (301) 504-1628, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD 20705-5128, (301) 504- 1617, fax 504-1648; Scientific contact: Norberta W. Schoene, ARS Nutrient Requirements and Functions Laboratory, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-8388, fax (301) 504-9062..
Maine Ag in the Classroom Summer Institute -- June 28 - 30, 2000
Maine Ag in the Classroom is sponsoring a three-day Summer Institute from June 28 - 30, 2000. The Institute will be held at the University of Southern Maine, Gorham campus, and will feature farm tours, talks and lesson plans about Maine agriculture. Participants will receive training and the curriculum for Project Food, Land and People. This curriculum has been aligned with the Maine Learning Results, and CEU information will be available at the Institute. There is a $175 fee for the Institute, and scholarships are available. For more information or to pre-register, please contact Kathy Savoie at 1-800-287-1471 or e-mail email@example.com or Willie Grenier at firstname.lastname@example.org
New Air Cleaning Device Cuts Salmonella in Poultry Houses
A new electrostatic air cleaning system reduced airborne Salmonella by 94 percent in a commercial hatchery in Georgia recently, according to Agricultural Research Service scientists who developed the system.
Once it's incorporated into commercial poultry operations, the system promises to improve food safety by reducing Salmonella in hatching cabinets--a primary source of Salmonella contamination for broiler chickens. Strong air currents can spread Salmonella from a single infected chick to all of the chicks in a hatching cabinet.
The new system, developed by ARS scientist Bailey W. Mitchell at the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga., captures dust that harbors hitchhiking organisms such as Salmonella. Dust is electrostatically charged and captured on special plates that are automatically washed clean at prescribed intervals. The system has been tested in hatching cabinets of two large poultry integrators as well as in experimental caged layer rooms.
Results of the most recent commercial experiments showed an average reduction of 77 percent in dust levels and 94 percent less enterobacteriaceae (commonly encountered bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli that frequently cause disease) than a cabinet treated with hydrogen peroxide disinfectant. The system has also been shown to reduce airborne Salmonella enteritidis in a caged layer room by 95 percent and to have a strong killing effect on Salmonella at close range.
Researchers applied for a patent in July 1998, and two companies have licensed the technology. A commercial version of the system, called "Clean Chick," has been developed by BioIon, a newly formed company in Watkinsville, Ga., and it is being distributed by Surepip, Inc., of Dallas, Georgia.
Major poultry companies around the world, including the United States, Mexico, South America, Japan, Korea, Israel and Holland, also have expressed interest in the system as a food safety intervention approach.
Source: ARS News Service, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Sharon Durham, (301) 504-1611, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD 20705-5128, (301) 504- 1617, fax 504-1648; Scientific contact: Bailey Mitchell, ARS Southeast Poultry Laboratory, phone (706) 546-3443 .
Adding Microbes to Transplant Mix Helps Increase Crop Yields
Tomato and pepper farmers can now add microbes along with their transplant mix to the arsenal of production practices used to reduce yield losses caused by soilborne pathogens--including root-knot nematodes.
The microbe-amended transplant mix is being developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Fla., led by Nancy K. Burelle, in cooperation with Gustafson LLC of Plano, Texas. The transplant mix, called BioYield 213, is amended with two naturally occurring soil microorganisms--Paenobacillus macerans and Bacillus amyloliquefacien.
The mix provides the microorganisms with the environment they need to grow on the root surface of seedlings. Once this occurs, the microbes then stimulate vigorous growth and improve the health of the transplanted seedling by triggering the plant's resistance mechanisms. This research is part of an ongoing ARS effort to provide farmers with alternatives to the use of methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting soil fumigant being phased out by 2005.
Benefits continue to be observed in seedlings in the field. Greenhouse producers can expect to grow seedlings in a shorter time, and farmers can anticipate 5 to 20 percent yield increases in tomatoes, bell peppers and even strawberries. The mix will be made commercially available to transplant producers in the fall after trials by growers are concluded.
Source: Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Jesus Garcia, (301) 504-1627, 5601 Sunnyside Ave., Room 1-2251, Beltsville MD 20705-5128, (301) 504- 1617, fax 504-1648; Scientific contact: Nancy K. Burelle, ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, Fort Pierce, Fla., phone (561) 462-5861, fax (561) 462-5986, 5601
2000 Maine Wool Pool
Attention wool producers! Nanney Kennedy will again be purchasing this yearís Wool Pool for use in The Maine Blanket. Not only will producers receive a premium price for their wool, but they will also be able to take pride in knowing that their wool will go into the making of an heirloom textile that will further Maineís reputation as the home of quality.
To participate in the Wool Pool, bring your skirted fleeces to the Maine Department of Agriculture Warehouse (Cony Building) on Cony Road in Augusta on June 17 between 8:30 AM and 3:00 PM.
Wool quality and cleanliness, as determined by an independent warehouse grader, will determine pricing. Although prices to be offered have not been finalized, producers could expect to receive approximately the following per pound of wool:
All fleeces are expected to be well skirted and packaged separately from bellies, caps and wool of less than 2-inch fiber length. Whiteface wool should be bagged separately from colored wool. The Wool Pool will not accept:
Please know that the Wool Pool is a first come, first served event and highly dependent on volunteer labor. All producers will be expected to contribute some working time bagging their wool after grading. If you have questions, please contact the Wool Pool Coordinator, Scott Gardner, at 786-4688 or email@example.com.
A conference of people who work with natural materials is being held on July 17, 18 and 19 in Pownal, Maine. The event is designed for people who use the generosity of the woodlands to nourish and support themselves. Spearheaded by Daniel Mack, artist-teacher-author and well known rustic furniture maker, this is a chance to meet each other, share information, and discuss economic, political and spiritual directions.
A variety of events, including 18 workshops, seminars and demonstrations of tools and techniques, will take place over the three-day period. The cost is $165. For an application and brochure, contact Alan Bradstreet at 207-688-4728, Dirk Leach at 207-929-5767, or Dan Mack at 914-986-7293, or visit Danís website at www.danielmack.com.
Hancock County Planning Commission Receives National Award
The Hancock County Planning Commissionís (HCPC) locally grown foods and low impact forestry program has received the American Planning Associationís (APA) 2000 Outstanding Planning Award for a Project/Program/Tool.
"This is a real honor for the agency, area farmers and woodlot owners and, above all, senior planner Ron Poitras, who developed this project," stressed HCPC executive director Tom Martin. Facing declines in employment in the forestry and farming sectors, the Commission has created a multi-pronged program that uses area farms and forest lands to help expand the local economy. "This program complements efforts underway to recruit new employers and entrepreneurs to the area," Martin continued. "It is equally important to create job opportunities through small-scale, natural resource-based operations. These businesses buy local and are generally owned by people who have a long-term stake in the community. Through a combination of expanded employment in traditional sectors and jobs from new employers moving to the area, we can have a truly diverse economy."
"Hancock County shows how effective planning can help improve the economic in addition to the physical well being of a community," said Dennis Gordon, chair of APAís Awards Committee. "Planning addresses a far broader range of topics than simply land use regulations and building requirements," he said.
More than 20 restaurants in the county are participating in the locally grown foods program, which began in 1995. Two years later, the county started its low-impact forestry program. "Our project demonstrates that it is possible to adapt traditional ways of working the land to create niche markets and help revitalize declining industries," said Ron Poitras. "Through the program, we have increased the local sales of locally grown foods and helped develop value-added markets for wood products. This is helping the county keep more dollars circulating within the local economy."
State Planning Office Director Evan Richert pointed out that Hancockís program provides a reason for property owners to not develop agricultural and forest land. "If we are to avoid sprawl and provide open space, land owners need to have an incentive to keep their land in production in an environmentally responsible way," he said. "This initiative provides that kind of incentive."
The Agricultural Council of Maine has recommended that given the success of Hancock Countyís locally grown food project, it should be replicated elsewhere in the state. In addition, the countyís initiative prompted the Maine legislature to direct additional state resources to regional agricultural needs and for more direct marketing initiatives.
For more information on APA and its National Awards Program, contact Denny Johnson at 202-872-0611 or visit APAís website at www.planning.org.
Hampden Farmersí Market Open
On Saturday, May 13, the new Hampden Farmersí Market opened in front of the Barco Credit Union on Route 9, across from the Hampden town offices. Ten farms are offering a variety of fresh, locally produced goods to area customers, with a strong showing of MOFGA-certified organic farms among them. Products include organic produce, herbs, seedlings, flowers, annuals, perennials, berries, baked goods, cheese, cider, free-range chicken, llama wool products, turkeys, maple syrup, honey and beeswax products. Parking is ample. The market is open from 8 to 12 every Saturday from May through October, rain or shine. For more information, contact Ken Nagle at 862-3079.
Intensive Scythe Workshop--Peter Vido, who has written about scythes for ***The MOF&G*** recently, will hold an intensive workshop on scythes and scything from June 26 to 28, 2000. For more information, contact Peter at 1636 Kintore Rd., Lower Kintore (Perth), NB Canada E7H 2L4
Farmersí Guide to Marketing Meat
Small- and medium-size farmers in Maine no longer have to operate without an effective information resource to help them get their cattle, sheep and pigs to market. Kelmscott Farm, with partial funding provided by a grant from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, has created a free guide titled "Farmers-to-Market Resource Guide."
The guide--available at www.Kelmscott.org/farmanimals/newSARE--offers one central place where farmers can find out about prices, hours, capabilities, packaging, delivery and operating procedures of all USDA meat-processing facilities in Maine. Kelmscott Farm owner Robyn Metcalfe came up with the idea of creating the guide to help market her farmís rare breeds of Kerry cattle, Cotswold sheep and Gloucestershire Old Spots pigs. For more information, contact Linda McGrath at 763-4088 or at Learning@Kelmscott.org. Some Vermiculite May Contain Asbestos
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, consumers should not handle Zonolite Chemical Packaging Vermiculite because EPA tests show that it contains up to 80 times the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard of asbestos. The EPA added that all garden products containing vermiculite should be treated as though they are contaminated with asbestos. (Many potting mixes contain vermiculite.) The agency is doing comprehensive, nationwide testing of vermiculite products now and will release its findings when this testing is done. In the meantime, EPA recommends the following:
If you have Zonolite Chemical Packaging Vermiculite:
Inhaling asbestos fibers can cause various lung diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lining of the lungs. No level of asbestos is known to be safe, but the risk of disease increases with increasing exposure, and symptoms may take decades to appear.
W.R. Grace & Co. stopped making Zonolite Chemical Packaging eight years ago, but the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that it was able to find bags still for sale in garden and hardware stores in the Puget Sound area. The vermiculite in Zonolite came from a mine in Libby, Montana, where hundreds of workers and their families have died of asbestos-related diseases. The mine is now closed. (For an expose of the asbestos problem in Libby, see the May-June issue of Mother Jones magazine.)
For more information about asbestos in gardening products, contact the EPA at 1-800-424-4372.
Source: "EPA Warns Against Using Soil Products--Leave Vermiculite-Contaminated Zonolite Gardening Product Alone," by Carol Smith and Andrew Schneider, ***Seattle Post-Intelligencer,*** April 1, 2000.
Apple Saturdays at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village
The Shaker Museumís Apple Saturdays will be held on Sept. 23, 30 and Oct. 7 at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, Route 26, New Gloucester, Maine. These days include tours of the 40-acre Shaker orchards, a special orchard exhibit, apple pie and cider sale and apple doll making. For more details, call the Shaker Museum at 926-4597.