Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Look at the Broader Spectrum of Sustainability

Russell Libby really nailed the organic and sustainable message in his keynote speech at the MOFGA Common Ground Country Fair this past September.  His speech was featured in this quarter's Organic Farmer and Gardener Magazine, which can be read here.  The speech, Putting the Pieces Together - Our Next Food System, gives a comprehensive outlook of the global sustainable movement, highlighting many factors that must be addressed in order to make real lasting change in our environment and in our society.  Libby not only speaks about large-scale global change, but also about what we can do as individuals and groups to address growing sustainability concerns in our communities.  Our Executive Director, Bill Duesing, describes Russell Libby as "one of my heroes", and for all of us here at CT NOFA that really speaks to the value and importance of Libby's message.  Please take a few minutes to read through his speech - I doubt you will be disappointed. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Food Labeling - What the Words Really Mean

On a typical trip to the grocery store, we're bombarded with a flood of catchy slogans and claims about what's in each product, where it comes from, and how buying it will benefit us. When we get to the meat counter, we often see two deceptively similar claims sitting right next to each other - the terms "certified organic" and "all natural".  The package with the all natural logo is usually cheaper, and since it sounds so similar to organic, we should opt for the cheaper one, right?  Unfortunately, like most things, you do in fact get what you pay for.

Certified USDA Organic foods are required to pass a rigorous federally mandated verification program before they can be considered organic.  This process is governed by well established regulations and enforced by the US government.  Animals that are raised organically must never be treated with antibiotics, and must only be fed organic, non-genetically modified food.  Livestock raised under such strict regulations is often much more expensive than its factory farmed brethren, so buying the cheaper "natural" version might seem like a great deal.

However, foods labeled "natural" are cheaper for a reason.  In truth, the natural label doesn't really tell us anything about the food.  In the case of meat, the common assumption that all natural livestock was raised under better, more wholesome conditions than animals without the natural label is wholly incorrect.  The natural label only means that the meat was minimally processed without artificial ingredients, which has nothing to do with how the animal lived before it reached the slaughterhouse.

According to an article for KNVO news, the USDA has been working to clarify this confusing labeling system, but for now they have had little success.  For consumers, the best course of action for now is to know what different labels mean.  I had posted a great resource from the Natural Resources Defense Council a while back as an addition to another topic, but I felt that I didn't give it enough direct attention at the time, so here it is again.  This is a comprehensive list of labels rated on reliability, with full explanations about what each label really means.  If we arm ourselves with the knowledge that's out there, we will ultimately be doing ourselves, our economy, and our food policy a huge favor.

Wishing you a pleasant shopping experience,

Monday, November 28, 2011

Farmer Dan and Maine Food Sovereignty

Food sovereignty has been a steadily growing movement in the state of Maine, with many towns adopting ordinances that legalize small scale food production and sales without the need for costly and time-consuming state and federal permits.  As could be expected, the state is none too happy with these recent developments, and along with the FDA, has spearheaded a recent effort to push back against the rising food sovereignty movement. 

Farmer Dan Brown is a resident of Blue Hill, Maine, who owns a single dairy cow.  Dan uses much of what the cow produces to feed himself and his family, but also has an on-farm farm stand where locals go to buy bottles of the surplus milk.  Dan isn't a food distributor, and the notion of getting permits and facilities to be in line with state law is nonsensical in his case, but the state is cracking down on his operation nonetheless. According to the state and the FDA, his farm is breaking the law by selling supposedly dangerous unpasteurized milk to consumers without getting necessary inspections and permits.  Dan, his family, and his purchasers have never had health problems with his milk, while legalized large-scale factory milk producers have had countless issues over the years with their product, but this irony seems lost on state officials who want to see Dan's farm closed to consumers.  In response to Dan's refusal to shut down his operation, the state of Maine is filing suit against him.  It is up to the community and those of us who care about local small-scale food production to convince the state to drop the lawsuit against Dan Brown and respect the authority of Blue Hill's local food sovereignty laws.

Food Renegade recently wrote up a nicely articulated post on farmer Dan's plight that includes two informative videos on the subject, the more concise of which can be found here.  If you'd like to read the full post, check here.  The post also contains information on how you can do your part to end the lawsuit against Dan Brown and support the hard work of small-scale local farmers.

Hoping your Thanksgiving was a good one,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Message from our Executive Director, Bill Duesing

Hey Everyone,
While we're on the theme of giving thanks - think about how you value access to organic, local foods and Connecticut Grown produce, and please read through this letter from Bill Duesing outlining all that CT NOFA has done this year.  We are so thankful for your support, but we still need more help!
Happy Thanksgiving,

From Bill Duesing
Beginning women farmers workshop
Executive Director

Next year will mark 30 years that CT NOFA has been Connecticut's strongest voice advocating and educating for a local and organic food system and organic care of the land.

CT NOFA needs your help to set a firm foundation for the next 30 years.

A vigorous and productive local and organic food system and
Canning workshop at Common Ground
a healthy relationship to the natural world are necessary elements for a sustainable and joyful future.  
If you understand CT NOFA's important role in providing a better future, you can support us right now. See below. 

If you would like to know more about the importance of organic agriculture, its ability to feed the world and CT NOFA's work, please read on.  You'll find fascinating information, clickable links, details on CT NOFA's plans, income and expenses, and pictures of our events.
To support CT NOFA now, please:
Visit our website or call us at 203.888.5146 to donate or join. 
Mail donations to:

PO Box 164
Stevenson, CT 06491
You can also support us by:  
In 2011, we:
CT NOFA staff from September 2011
  • Educated nearly 1,000 people in organic farming, gardening and land care through our conferences, courses and workshops.
  • Participated in the Working Lands Alliance and the Farms, Food and Jobs working group to advance farmland protection and farm viability in Connecticut.
  • Received notice of funding for three years work training and networking beginning farmers.
  • Received notice of funding for two years work promoting Community Supported Agriculture and connecting farmers with consumers through CSA fairs.

     Worked to limit the damage from Genetically Modified Organisms.
  • Sued Monsanto by joining with Organic Seed Producers, Farmers and Farmers' Organizations in a suit brought by the Public Patent Foundation to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose crops are contaminated buy its transgenic genes.
  • Partnered with the Just Label It Campaign to advocate for mandatory GMO-labeling laws and laid the groundwork to work with state legislators who will introduce a labeling law for Connecticut.
  • Hired four talented and enthusiastic new staff members: Debbie Semonich, CT NOFA's Administrative Assistant; Kristiane Huber, the Events and Outreach Coordinator for CT NOFA and NOFA OLC; Jenna Messier, the Program Director of OLC; and Melissa Gabso, our Public Ally, working on volunteer coordination, graphic design and event planning.
  • Reinvigorated the NOFA Organic Land Care Program, firmly  based in CT NOFA, with a strong partnership with NOFA/Mass and a nearly national reach.
  • Received notice that the NOFA Standards for OrganicLand Care were accepted by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements into the IFOAM Family of Standards signifying that our
     standards are equivalent to the highest international organic standards.  
  • Published the Introduction to Organic Lawns and Yards booklet. It has been well received and has been ordered by towns, libraries, homeowners, and land care professionals as a resource for their clients. Order one or more copies here.
  • Participated with the other NOFA chapters in national policy initiatives to strengthen organic agriculture and support small farms. 
  • Graduated the second class of Beginning Women Farmers Whole Farm Planning Course and accepted 16 new students into the third year of the course.
In 2011 we laid a strong foundation for the future:

Check out our 2012 Winter Conference!
Our 30th Annual Winter Conference will be held on March 3, 2012 at Manchester Community College with Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, a best seller about the dangers of GMOs, as keynote speaker and over 40 great workshops.

We completed the first year of our Winter Food Project and will finish that work in 2012.

We have lined up exciting partnerships:
  • A People's Garden Project with Knox Parks in Hartford
  • A Community Education series at Common Ground High School in New Haven,
  • An Urban Agriculture project with the Green Village Initiative in Bridgeport.  
CT NOFA makes efficient use of its funds.

Why Food, Why Organic and Why Local?
  • Food is our most important energy source.  
  • Food is the way we take stored solar energy, roughly equivalent to the energy contained in a cup of gasoline each day, into our bodies to power them.   
  • According to the FDA, over two thirds of the fruits and vegetables consumed in this country are imported. Food is largely (over 95 percent) made up of elements derived from air and water with only a small percentage derived from the soil.  So when, for example, we import garlic from China, we are transporting water, air and sunshine from China at a great fossil fuel cost. It is time to reform this disorganized, inefficient food system, and it can be done.
    Help CT NOFA support local food!
  • Growing more nutrient rich fruits, vegetables, and grains, and finding ways to get that food efficiently to everyone in our state will directly address many major health problems including the lifestyle diseases of diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.
  • Organic agriculture directly addresses the three most serious problems with the global environment: climate change, excess nitrogen flow and loss of biodiversity. 
  • Organic techniques are among the most effective ways to both mitigate climate change and to adapt to the changes that are already here.
    Invasive removal students 2011
  • Local food production in gardens, communities and farms builds local knowledge, saves fossil fuel and builds resilience.
  • Organic agriculture is superior to conventional. Just this year the Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial released its report on 30 years of research that shows that organic agriculture is more resilient to drought, improves soil quality, uses less energy, produces fewer greenhouse gases and is more profitable when compared to conventional agriculture. Meanwhile a Report to theUnited Nations Human Rights Council from theSpecial Rapporteur on the Right to Food
    Beginning Women Farmers
    demonstrated that agro-ecology, if adequately supported, can double food production in whole regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty. Agro-ecological agriculture is very close to organic and includes gardens, community production, small farms and sustainable family farms. 
Thank you for your interest in and support for local and organic food. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at one of our events.
Bill Duesing
Executive Director, CT NOFA 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Demonstration to Promote Agroforestry

Gloria Flora walks through her forest garden.
In keeping with this year's United Nations designation as "The International Year of Forests", the New York Times reported recently on "the quiet push for agroforestry", highlighting a farm in Helena, MT that operates under a canopy of pine and spruce.  Gloria Flora's forest farm boasts over 300 smaller fruit trees - apple, pear, black walnut, and chestnut to name a few - nestled amongst the larger forest trees, as well as crops like raspberries, grapes, and medicinal plants, and turkeys and chickens.  The idea of producing food near or beneath a forest canopy may sound strange as we have been brought up under the assumption that farms need wide open spaces in order to flourish, but the truth of the matter is that a buffer of trees amongst crops serves many beneficial purposes.

Agroforestry, the science of incorporating trees into traditional agriculture, is not the same as converting farmland to forest.  Agroforestry represents a collaborative attempt on the part of the farmer to harness the ecological services that trees provide and incorporate them into a farm.  The Times writes, "Depending on the species, trees make all sorts of contributions to agriculture, experts say. Trees in a shelter belt reduce wind and water erosion. Some trees serve as fertilizers - they take in nitrogen from the atmosphere, or pump it from deep underground and, when they drop their leaves, make it available upon decomposition.  Trees planted along streams can take up and scrub out polluted farm runoff. They increase species diversity by providing habitat, and some of those species are friendly to farmers - bees and butterflies that help pollinate crops, for example. (One study showed that 66 species of birds benefit from windbreaks on farms.) Trees can keep a field cooler and more moist."

Not to mention that trees in general help to offset the negative impacts of conventional agriculture by absorbing greenhouse gases and cleaning up polluted water. 

This forward-thinking approach to agriculture, however, faces a difficult opposition.  Conventional thinking about trees - that farmers should first remove all surrounding trees before planting and then prevent them from growing as the farm operates - has been ingrained in our collective minds for generations.  The truth - that trees can be used to benefit agriculture if planted with thought and planning - may be a tough one to swallow initially, but it looks like it's starting to catch on.

Read the full article here.

Want to learn more about trees in the landscape?  Register for our 2011 Organic Land Care Annual Gathering on December 6th at UConn, Storrs, CT.  This year's focus is Trees: Landscaping for Future Generations, and will feature Keynote Tom Wessels, as well as a host of other exciting speakers.  Click on the link above to learn more!

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Create a Slow Food Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving only 3 days away, cooking and celebrating is on everyone's mind, and for those of us who are spearheading the cooking this year, the task may seem a bit overwhelming.  But fear not, holiday kitchen crusaders, for there are resources you can use to make your holiday run smoother and be more eco-friendly.  The folks at Slow Food have developed a guide complete with recipes, information, and helpful tips that will help you have a more delicious, less time consuming, and more sustainable Thanksgiving.  Check out these tips for saving time and money while boosting the nutritional content, flavor, and appearance of your cooking.  And the list of recipes is very comprehensive, taking into account both vegetarian needs and what to do with the leftovers after the big day.  The guide also delves into the history behind the holiday, avoiding the sugar coated story often taught to us through advertising and the school system. 

A couple weeks ago, I posted about the advantages in buying a local, organic, sustainable, or heritage turkey.  Slow Food's guide also has information and resources about sustainable and heritage turkeys, and in my opinion elegantly describes why it's ultimately in your best interest as a consumer to go this route.

Thanksgiving is, as a modern holiday, a time to celebrate the bounty and joy of life with family and friends.  We live in a fast-paced technologically advanced society, but that doesn't need to overwhelm us this holiday season.  Finding the time to relax and enjoy your local harvest is not only good for the economy and the environment, but good for you as well.

Wishing you the best of luck in your pre-holiday preparation,

Friday, November 18, 2011

Urban Roots

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the documentary Urban Roots at a Community Potluck and Film Screening hosted by The New Haven Bioregional Group and co-sponsored by a number of organizations including CT NOFA
The documentary was a wonderful testament to the power of gardens and farms in urban areas.  Detroit is a powerful symbol of our society's assumptions that industry can support an economy, that an economy can grow forever and that a booming economy can replace a well-planned infrastructure and society.  In the documentary, Detroit residents complain that they live in a food desert - where they must travel at least twice the distance to a grocery store with "real" food as they would travel to a convenience store or fast food restaurant.
photo credit:

Residents started growing food in their yards, and then expanded to abandoned land around the city (there is plenty of it).  They have no real right to the land - but with a city that has lost over half it's population since the middle of the 20th century - there isn't much competition for land.  Some people are putting chickens and bees in abandoned housing, or taking over multiple plots on their block to create urban farms.  The soil is tested and if it is contaminated, farmers must create soil by farming non-edible crops for a couple years and building up the soil with compost collected from near-by restaurants, breweries and homes.  Community gardens give people who are unemployed or under-employed, a job to do in their free time, and access to the food that they would like to harvest. The city government seems to be hesitant about encouraging this guerrilla gardening, since they might want to encourage housing developments (thought this seems unlikely given all of the abandoned, already standing houses), but farmers and gardeners are going ahead filling this food desert with urban farms producing healthy foods for Detroit residents. 

So if one of the most depressed run-down cities in the country can do it . . . why can't we do it in New England cities and suburbs?  Even if you don't live in a food desert - wouldn't it be better to live in the equivalent to a food rainforest? Where there is food growing everywhere, on every block, incredible biodiversity and high access, for anyone, to the food they need to eat to be healthy and happy?

One of the main themes in the movie was of self-determination.  The right to self-determination is a very powerful concept in international human rights law. According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.  Many people interviewed in the movie, reasoned that one of the best ways of self-determination, was to rely on themselves for food and for neighborhoods and communities to have food independence.  It's pretty empowering - no matter what happens in your life, you can still provide, the only thing you really need to live - food.  

This film clearly gets you thinking - I highly recommend it.

Have a great weekend,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sustainable Yards Simplified

Native Landscape
The Santa Monica, CA Office of Sustainability and the Environment recently finished installing Garden-Garden, a demonstration landscape that provides a side by side comparison of two landscape strategies, the sustainable approach and the traditional non-native approach.  The project compares two adjacent yards in terms of aesthetic appearance, water usage, yard waste, and maintenance hours, and draws a concise and clear conclusion about which option is easier, cheaper in the long run, and better for the local ecosystem.

In this case, the numbers say it all. 
  • The native garden cost $16,700 to install compared $12,400 for the traditional garden. Despite its higher initial cost, the native garden’s lower maintenance requirements translate into $2,200 per year in cost savings.
  • The native garden uses 77 percent less water, produces 66 percent less waste, and requires 68 percent less labor than the traditional garden. 
Not to mention that the native garden looks beautiful and provides native habitat for indigenous fauna like butterflies and ladybugs.

Traditional "Mow and Blow" Landscape
Santa Monica currently imports over 90% of its water from Northern California and the Colorado River, and as these water sources are more than 400 miles away, their continued use in Santa Monica  can hardly be considered sustainable.  Traditional gardens in the area utilize exotic plants from wetter climates, and employ the use of standard sprinkler irrigation systems that distribute water over all plants regardless of need.  This translates into an incredible water demand that has already put regional ecosystems and communities under increased stress.

Additionally, traditional gardens require frequent applications of fertilizer and pesticides that leech into the city's water supply during rainstorms, causing pollution and aquatic habitat disruption.  When considered on a large scale, this is a huge problem as the average home gardener uses 10 times more toxic chemicals than a farmer.

Overall, the choice is a no-brainer.  Native gardens are an all-around amazing solution to Southern California's water shortages, as well as a sustainable alternative to landscapes steeped in exotics and pesticides.  In my opinion, education is the logical next step, so spread the word about what sustainable landscaping can do for you and your community!  Check out the full report here and tell your friends!

Wishing you all the best,

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Organic Land Care Program's Annual Gathering is for Everyone

In the aftermath of Winter Storm Albert, the piles of dead trees and tree limbs are accumulating along town roads.  While Albert was a pretty unusual storm, it highlighted the importance of healthy, strong trees that are located in residential areas.  Old trees aren't a liability if they are cared for properly - and I know the trees in my yard are an ecological staple, providing shade for shade gardens, cooling my house in the summer, habitat for my favorite birds and very entertaining squirrels, leaves that I use to mulch our gardens, kindling for my fireplace, and some less personal (but still vital) benefits like oxygen, erosion control, and flood control (woodland has been found to be 60 times more effective at absorbing water than grazed land and lawns). 

Given all of these ecological services, trees are a central part of organic landscaping, and they are being celebrated as such in the 2011 NOFA Organic Land Care Annual GatheringEarly bird registration has been extended until November 22 and arborists, landscapers, naturalists and all kinds of tree-enthusiasts are welcome to attend.

The line up:
Keynote: Tom Wessels
"Foundational Principles of Sustainability"
For 3.5 billion years life has not only sustained itself, but has thrived on this planet.  To create sustainable systems we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we only need to embrace the foundational scientific principles that govern sustainability in all living systems. This presentation covers three of these foundational principles: the law of limits to growth, the second law of thermodynamics and its relationship to entropy, and the law of self-organization. Examples of how these laws work in the natural world will be used to show how they can be applied to human systems like a community or an economy.
Tom Wessels is an ecologist and founding director of the master’s degree program in Conservation Biology at Antioch University New England. He is the current chair of The Center for Whole Communities that fosters inclusive communities that are strongly rooted in place and where all people have access to and a healthy relationship with land. He is former chair of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation that fosters environmental leadership through graduate fellowships and organizational grants. He served as an ecological consultant to the Rain Forest Alliance’s SmartWood Green Certification Program. Tom has conducted landscape level workshops throughout the United States for over 30 years. His books include: Reading the Forested Landscape, The Granite Landscape, Untamed Vermont, The Myth of Progress, and Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape.

"Tree protection and Defense for Long-Term Landscapes"
Kevin Smith, Ph.D. leads a research team at the Northern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service working to determine the role of disease and environmental stress on forest health and productivity as well as the role of forest fungi to maintain forest fertility and biodiversity. Kevin has published more than 90 articles in scientific journals, trade magazines, and book chapters. Kevin is an honorary lifetime member of the New Hampshire Arborist Association and in 2010 received the Award for Excellence in Education from the Western Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

"Pioneering the Organic Tree Care Trend When Nobody was Listening" 

Peter Wild is the founder and CEO of Arborjet Inc., a manufacturer of tree injection systems and medicaments.  Wild is also the president and owner of Boston Tree Preservation, an organic-based, proactive tree-care business founded in 1977. Wild developed Soil Solutions, the first completely organic lawn-care program in the Boston area.
Todd Harrington is a true pioneer in organic lawn care having made it his business since 1987. Todd has proven that organic lawn, tree, and shrub care works and operates a profitable business near Hartford, Connecticut called “Harrington’s Organic Land Care.” He is an international consultant and national organic speaker and trainer who has written numerous published papers — of which some have been employed as the basis for legislation.

"Designing with Trees: Grouping, Natives and Sustainable Choices"
Diane Devore is a registered Landscape Architect and principal of Devore Associates, a landscape architectural firm located in Fairfield, Connecticut. Ms. Devore received her undergraduate degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Delaware Valley College and her graduate degree in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. Devore Associates, now a mid-sized firm with projects throughout the Northeast, was selected as the award recipient for residential design by the Connecticut Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects eight times.

"Tree Whispering and Cooperative BioBalance- Paradigm Shifting to Restore Balance in Nature" 
Dr. Jim Conroy or the Tree Whisperer®, earned his doctorate in Plant Pathology from Purdue University and spent 25 years as an executive in top ag-chem companies. Now, he is an authority on Nature-based communication and a global expert who holistically heals stressed trees, plants, and ecosystems with his own bioenergy-healing approach. As creator of Tree Whispering®–a holistic, hands-on, earth-friendly, no-product, and sustainable solution–he shows people how to restore tree and plant health by healing internal functionality.
Basia Alexander, The Chief Listener, is a catalyst for positive change and a leader in the new field of Conscious Co-Creativity. As an expert Nature communicator, Basia leads workshops and produces innovative curriculum.  Both Dr. Conroy and Basia are on faculty at Omega Institute and are co-founders of the Institute for Cooperative BioBalance.

"Assess Internal Decay in Trees Nondestructively Using Tomography"
 Dr. Marra has expertise in mycology, fungal genetics, population biology, evolution, and molecular biology.  While his research program's focus on forest pathology, he studies a range of plant pathogens from the perspectives of population biology, ecology, and mating system evolution.   He has been a key participant in efforts to prevent the accidental introduction of the Sudden Oak Death pathogen, from western states.  He was instrumental in designing and running the department’s Molecular Plant Diagnostics Laboratory.
"Emerald Ash Borer Update"

Dr. Claire Rutledge's research specialty is wood-boring insects.  She specializes in understanding the mechanisms by which these insects locate their host trees and what determines the range of acceptable hosts.  Her research has focused on understanding the interactions between plants, their herbivores and the natural enemies which attack the herbivores.

We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Local Farms Make $5 Billion in Revenue

A new article from NPR's food blog, The Salt, sheds light on the truth behind the profitability of local food.  According to the news giant, "It's easy to think of local food as a diversion for people with plenty of time and money — something that could never be a major source of food in a globalized world. But the number $5 billion might change that perception."  According to a new analysis by the US Department of Agriculture, farmers are selling $4.8 billion a year in fruits and vegetables, mainly to restaurants and supermarket chains.  This is the first time the USDA has included sales to those markets in their analysis, and it shows that there is a lot of room to increase demand further.  In fact, the USDA's study didn't include two key markets, schools and prisons, that have become increasingly popular among local food growers, and that have the potential to greatly increase their overall revenue. 

Ultimately, the number 5 billion is small potatoes (about 2 percent) compared to the much larger sale of commodity crops like soybeans and corn, but the numbers show that local food is a growing industry that has the demand to not only remain sustainable but also become increasingly popular over time.  You can read NPR's full article here.

The best thing any of us can do when shopping for food is to buy local.  Purchasing locally produced crops is great for your health, supports your local economy, and helps make our local economies less dependent on large commodity crops.  Do yourself and your community a favor and buy local, or even start your own garden for the freshest food possible.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Great Recipe from Mindy Kannon, Prepared by One of Our Members

Nutritionist Mindy Kannon offers a variety of great recipes on her website. The following recipe was given to me by a CT NOFA member who made it for our Annual Meeting potluck lunch, but was unable to attend the event because of the snow.

Sweet Potato, Walnut and Green Bean Salad on Baby Arugula
Serves 8. Active time 35 minutes, plus 20 minutes for roasting potatoes.

Tangy Yogurt Dressing:
½ cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp dijon mustard
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
8 cup of baby arugula
sea salt and pepper to taste

2 Lbs of sweet potatoes
1 tbsp rosemary
2 cloves garlic
2 cups trimmed and halved green beans
1 cup coarsely-chopped walnuts
¼ cup fresh parsley

Mix the dressing ingredients in the blender until smooth. Set aside.
Scrub sweet potatoes with a vegetable brush. With skins on, dice into ½" cubes.
Toss with olive oil, rosemary and fresh garlic. Put potatoes on a cooking sheet or pizza stone. Place in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Periodically check the potatoes and flip with a spatula. Remove when golden brown. Cool.
Steam green beans until tender. Immediately rinse under cold water to stop cooking so they remain crisp. Let dry.
In a bowl, toss potatoes, beans, walnuts, and parsley with dressing.
Arrange over baby arugula. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper to taste.

This delicious and easy salad supplies you with an incredible array of nutrients. Walnuts are high in anti-oxidants and are the richest source of omega-3s. Arugula is a great source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, calcium and vitamin K. Parsley contributes iron, potassium and vitamin C.

Our Annual Meeting was a great event! If you missed it because of the weather, or for any other reason, or if you made it and want to attend more of our events, check out the CT NOFA website, or the Organic Land Care website to learn more about upcoming events, including our OLC Annual Gathering, OLC Accreditation Course, and CT NOFA Winter Conference.

Have a great week!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Demand for Beginning Farmers

The National Young Farmer's Coalition released a study yesterday identifying and analyzing the barrier that new farmers face in making food production their full time career. The Report, Building a Future With Farmers: Challenges Faced by Young American Farmers and a National Strategy to Help Them Succeed surveryed over 1000 beginning farmers and identified the main obstacles, which are no surprise really:

  • Capital: Farmers need better access to capital, credit and small operating loans for start-up costs to start a farm business
  • Land: Farm land is scarce, it is unaffordable and it is difficult to convince landowners to make long-term lease agreements so that farmers can secure land that they can really invest in
  • Health Care: it is vital and unaffordable for beginning farmers
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack is calling for hundreds of thousands of new farmers  nationwide.  For every single farmer under 35 there are 6 over the age of 65 and the average age of a farmer is 58.  This measn that about 1/4 of our nation's farmers are expected to retire in the next 20 years.  In order to replace these farmers, the US needs 500,000 new farmers - that's 10,000 farmers per state!  And as we have seen this year, farming is a risky business, so all farmers, (but especially less experienced, less financially-secure farmers) need a well crafted safety net for their businesses - provided by the US Government 

The 2012 Farm Bill is being written now, and it needs to include or increase funding to a number of initiatives to support beginning farmers:

  • micro-lending programs and loan pre-approval for farmers
  • training for people in the Farm Service Agency to work with beginning farmers more effectively
  • funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Accounts ( Pilot Program
  • tax credits for leasing or selling land to a farmer
  • expand the Transition Incentives Program
  • reinstate funding for the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, a database of farm apprenticeships and internships
  • fully fund the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (which has funded CT NOFA's Beginning Women Farmer program and the regional NOFA's Beginning Farmer Program)
  • restore funding to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to provide cost sharing between farmers and the federal government for farmers to invest in organic and sustainable production
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has advice on how to communicate to your legislators the this farm bill needs to be about the future of farming instead of about the continued profit of unsustainable, large-scale farming.  As we continue to mortgage our future, the farm bill has been scaled back considerably, but there is some hope for the Beginning Farmer Programs:  Much of the decision making has been made (mostly behind closed doors) but it's never too late to let your legislators know that you value investments in new farmers, in rural, suburban and urban areas, and for new farms that maintain the land in a way that respects the environment, the community and future generations.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

CT NOFA's work to protect farmers and consumers from the threats of GMOs

Hey all, here's a press release about CT NOFA's work to educate the public and farmers about the potential threats to consumer rights, the environment and organic farming posed by genetically modified foods.   If you want to take action and demand labeling of GMO Foods please visit our GMO Page!  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Contact: Kristiane Huber
November 10, 2011                                                                   

Dan Ravicher prepares to discuss "Suing Monsanto" at Yale Law School
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA) has launched a campaign to educate consumers about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the environment and food supply. GMO crops pose a great threat to small-scale agriculture, biodiversity, food security and consumer rights.  GMO crops have failed to make agriculture more sustainable or feed the world as the biotechnology industry promised, according to The Global Citizens Report on the State of GMOs, released by Navdanya International and the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture.

In June of 2011, CT NOFA joined the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and over 80 other plaintiffs in suing Monsanto to protect independent or organic farmers from patent infringement charges should their non-GMO crops be contaminated with Monsanto’s patented genes.  “Hopefully this suit will raise awareness here and all over the country about the dangers of GMOs and slow the pollution they are spreading into the seeds which sustain us” explained CT NOFA’s Executive Director, Bill Duesing.  In October, CT NOFA and Yale Law School co-hosted “Suing Monsanto: Intellectual Property, Genetic Contamination and Farmers’ Rights”, a talk by Dan Ravicher, the lawyer representing organic producers in OSGATA et al. v. Monsanto and the Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation.
Representative Roy at CT NOFA's Annual Meeting

CT NOFA has partnered with the Just Label It! Campaign and advocates for the right of consumers to know about genetically engineered ingredients in their food and their right to choose whether to eat it or not. According to the Center for Food Safety, over 85% of soy, cotton and corn are genetically modified and 70% of packaged foods contain a genetically modified material. There is an overwhelming consensus that GMO labeling is an ethical issue related to consumer rights according to polls conducted by MSNBC Health Poll, ABC News and the New York Times.

One of Connecticut’s leading GMO labeling advocates, Representative Richard Roy (D-Milford), Chair of the Connecticut Environmental Committee, was invited to speak at the CT NOFA annual meeting about his efforts to establish Connecticut GMO labeling legislation.  Representative Roy believes that Connecticut can be a leader in GMO labeling in the same way the state led the way in establishing a BPA ban in containers for children.  The first bill that contained a GMO labeling amendment failed to be passed in the House of Representatives, but he plans to introduce another GMO labeling amendment in a House Bill this year. 

Jeffrey Smith, CT NOFA's
Winter Conference Keynote
CT NOFA has also added a GMO workshop track at the CT NOFA Winter Conference on March 3, 2011.  The Winter Conference keynote speaker is Jeffrey Smith, lead spokesperson on the dangers of genetically modified foods, and author of internationally bestselling “Seeds of Deception.” He is also the Executive Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. 

For now, the only foods that are guaranteed to be GMO-free are those labeled as organic.  To avoid GMO foods, consumers are encouraged to buy local, know their farmer and support organic producers.  For more information about our past programs, the Winter Conference or to take action and support GMO labeling laws, please visit CT NOFA’s website: or our GMO information page: