Monday, December 30, 2013

GMO Report and our Successes, by Bill Duesing

From CT NOFA's Organic Advocate

GMO Report and our Successes

 By Bill Duesing
Some of the people who got GMO Labeling passed in Connecticut, just after it was announced that the Senate version would be passed in the House and signed by the Governor.




Our organizing work has paid off with the first GMO labeling law in the country, with FDA's admission of problems with the very flawed rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act and with the possibility of the Supreme Court hearing the case against Monsanto brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Traders Association et.al, including CT NOFA. 

Connecticut is the first state in the nation to have a law requiring labeling of GMOs. The first state! That "Still Revolutionary" slogan is apt. This success made a number of top ten lists in the food world.

CT NOFA was an important partner in making that happen. 



Learn how to build a outdoor oven and grow shiitake mushrooms!

The Cobb Stove at the Hidden Garden and Connsoil
If you have the space on your property, building an outdoor oven is a great way to make your home more sustainable. It can also be a huge life saver if you loose power at your house (long gone are the days of eating junk foods packed with preservatives to last you until you regain power!). Also if you are a fan of Shiitake mushrooms, you will be delighted to hear they are failry easy to grow in Connecticut! 

Cynthia and Suart Rabinowitz of The Hidden Garden and Connsoil, LLC/Center for Sustainability will be presenting on both topics at the 2014 Winter Conference on March 1, 2014 at Western Connecticut State University. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Announcing the 2014 Winter Conference on March 1!

 CT NOFA welcomes gardeners, food lovers, farmers, families, environmentalists, and chefs to our annual celebration of local food and organic farms, the Winter Conference on March 1, 2014.  The Winter Conference attracted 800 of the state’s local food enthusiasts in 2013, and the 32nd Winter Conference in 2014 is expected to be the best yet! This year the conference will be held at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT. 



 Fred Kirschenmann

Our keynote speaker for the 2014 conference  will be Fred Kirschenmann, a distinguished Fellow for the Leopold Center and President of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York. Mr. Kirschenmann will be speaking on the future of agriculture through the next generation of young farmers entitled "Tomorrow's Farmer & You" . You can view his presentation on "The Future of Agriculture" .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Boulder in the Road or Kellogg Drives Pringles Deeper into Asia

The Boulder in the Road or Kellogg Drives Pringles Deeper into Asia

By Bill Duesing


Forty years ago, I already had read enough to know that food is a critical issue and that how we grow our food and what we eat have important effects on human and environmental health and on the sustainability of civilizations.

I responded to that knowledge in what seemed like simple and sensible ways. I bought a little piece of land and started raising plants and animals and planting trees. I connected with like-minded people through the just-formed Northeast Organic Farming Association, sold produce to a store in New Haven and eventually meat and eggs to neighbors and beyond. I found ways to recycle food waste from restaurants and produce markets for animal food and compost. I invited children onto our Old Solar Farm to learn about natural cycles and farming.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Last Minute Winter Recipes for Thanksgiving!


You know you support your farmers around Thanksgiving when....
  • You get a thrill hunting for the perfect butternut squash at the farmers market
  • You visited your local farm MONTHS ago to reserve your holiday turkey
  • You take a trip to High Hill Orchard to pick delicious apples for your homemade pies
  • You are counting down the days to crack open the hard cider you have been fermenting for what seems like forever
  • You have mapped out the days cooking schedule down to the minute

nom nom nom nom 
Show your family members who's boss when it comes to holiday cooking with a few of CT NOFA's favorite recipes for these cold months ahead.

My thanksgiving line-up wouldn't be complete without the Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes made fresh with the recipe from Wild Carrot Farm


Click "read more" for the full recipe!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Food Sovereignty and Our Work


Food sovereignty is a very important, emerging concept and movement these days.

According to Wikipedia,
"Food sovereignty", a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996, asserts the right of people to define their own food systems. Advocates of food sovereignty put the individuals who produce, distribute and consume food at the center of decisions on food systems and policies, rather than the corporations and market institutions they believe have come to dominate the global food system.

Sometimes food sovereignty is spoken of by name.  More often, however, it is lingering just below the surface in the great work so many people are doing in the local, fair, organic, sustainable and good food movement.

Mark T. Rutkowski presenting at the 2014 Getting Started In Organic Farming Conference

As the days are getting shorter and the nights colder, the time to start planning for the next growing season is now! A great place to start is at the 9th Annual Getting Started In Organic Farming Conference on January 18, 2014 at Goodwin College, East Hartford. This must attend event is perfect for perspective farmers or conventional farmers who are looking to transition to organic. 

CT NOFA is happy to announce that Mark T. Rutkowski of Urban Oaks Farm will be presenting at this years conference. Mark is currently a staff farmer and greens manager at Urban Oaks Organic Farm in New Britain, CT and farm consultant for the New Britain public school system. Mark's season extension experience includes growing in heated greenhouses, high tunnels and under row covers. Previously Mark was an incubator farmer at the Community Farm of Simsbury and an assistant at Grow Hartford. Mark is a graduate of Central Connecticut State University. Mark will be presenting on Season Extension for the spring and fall. 

For more information and online registration for the Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference visit:
http://ctnofa.org/events/Getting%20Started/2014_getting_started_conference_page.html


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Massaro Farm Gives Back to the Community Through Food Donations

Massaro Community Farm
Here at CT NOFA we believe that having access to healthy, organic food grown locally should not just be a privilege reserved to a small population of citizens. That's why we LOVE hearing when local farms work to provide local food to as many people as they can; Massaro Community Farm has done so through their inspiring food donation program.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts

Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts

By Bill Duesing
Organic Advocate

1. Use Nature’s methods/ work with Nature.
2. Pay attention to:
     where things come from
     where things go, and
     what the effects are at both ends and along the way.
3. Think holistically.

For years I’ve used these three points to illustrate what organic agriculture is and by extension what an organic attitude for living on this beautiful planet should be.

They have held up very well over time.

See Part one, Use Nature’s Methods here.

For Part two, Paying attention and making connections, click here

Part three: Think holistically

“The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good Local Food and the Food Safety Modernization Act by Bill Duesing

The growth of the good, local food movement has been a real bright spot in Connecticut for at least a decade. Vibrant farmers markets have been growing in number and lengthening their seasons.  More Community Supported Agriculture farms (CSAs) connect consumers directly with farms and seasonal food.  College and school farms and gardens are expanding and new farmers, young and old, are looking for a meaningful life producing our fundamental need.  

We have a common interest in feeding ourselves and our communities with fresh, healthy, beautiful and safe produce. There is very little that has so many positive effects- economic, social, health, environmental, aesthetic- as the blossoming and vital local food movement.

But watch out:  Here comes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to slow all that down, maybe even stop it, if the proposed rules are allowed to stand.  We all have an interest in commenting on these rules. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Triumphs and Disasters in Home Gardening from the Staff at CT NOFA


Executive Director, Eileen Hochberg, discusses fighting worms for her brussels sprouts!
"This year for the first time ever absolutely everything in my vegetable garden was started from seed - organic seed of course. Being a lover of all brassicas, most notably kale,
  I just had to take on another favorite, the biggest brassica challenge of all - brussels sprouts. In so doing I now realize that successfully growing brussels is a nearly year long endeavor. Having planted the seeds inside in February, I am still nurturing the plants and still fighting the cabbage worms, as I hear the brussels will improve with frost and can be left growing until November. I have to add that cabbage worms have been my biggest trial and tribulation of the season, and since the garden is filled with brassicas that has meant a real fight to determine who gets to the kale, broccoli...and brussels....first. Never again will I plant without row cover in the spring to ward off the army of cross-striped cabbage worms that followed the green cabbage worms and then the green cabbage worms that followed the cross-striped!" 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts By Bill Duesing, Organic Advocate


Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts 
By Bill Duesing, Organic Advocate
Gleanings, October 2013 

1. Use Nature’s methods/ work with Nature.

2. Pay attention to:
  •      where things come from
  •      where things go, and
  •      what the effects are at both ends and along the way.
3. Think holistically.

For years I’ve used these three points to illustrate what organic agriculture is and by extension what an organic attitude for living on this beautiful planet should be.

CT NOFA goes to Farm Aid 2013!


John and I representing CT NOFA at the Homegrown Village
Any followers of CT NOFA will know that this week had been a whirlwind of planning and organizing our fabulous Special Culinary Fundraiser at Winvian (in case you weren't there, you definitely missed out), but we now can take some time and reflect on some of the events CT NOFA has been able to be a part of as the summer officially drew to an end. One of the most exciting event we were able to participate in was this years annual Farm Aid benefit concert in Saratoga Springs, NY last Saturday. Representing CT NOFA for the day at the interstate NOFA booth were Board Member John Turenne and Event and Program Manager Stephanie Berluti (Me). 


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Japanese Food System Experience (So Far)

Greetings from Hayashima, Japan!

It's been about a month and a half since I left Connecticut to spend a year teaching English in Japan, and in that time I (and my stomach) have begun to get used to life here. I am by no means an expert on Japan's food system at this point, nor will I likely ever be, but there are some similarities and differences between the American way of producing and consuming food and the Japanese way of doing so that became clear almost as soon as I arrived.

Similarity: Both Japan and the United States have a country-wide food distribution network
This is a picture of Marunaka, a supermarket chain with a store right here in my town. This particular picture isn't of my town's store, but the one in Hayashima looks similar. There is parking available for both bikes and cars as many people (myself included) ride bikes around town. Marunaka stocks foods and household goods from all over Japan and is fairly sizable, although nowhere near as giant as a Costco or Super Walmart. Since arriving in Japan I haven't heard of or seen anything like that.


Difference: Japan's food distribution network focuses heavily on Japanese products
Or at least it does in my experience so far. And not only does it focus on Japanese-grown products, but also regional and local products. The Pione grape and white peach are both specialties of the region I am living in, and are available, seasonally, right as you walk into the store. Local fish from the inland sea near my town makes up a large percentage of the seafood selection, and even dry goods like rice have labels displaying what prefecture the grains came from.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts, By Bill Duesing, Organic Advocate


By Bill Duesing, Organic Advocate

Organic Agriculture and Thinking in three parts

1. Use Nature’s methods/work with Nature. 
2. Pay attention to:
  • where things come from
  • where things go, and
  • what the effects are at both ends and along the way.
3. Think holistically.

For years I’ve used these three points to illustrate what organic agriculture is and by extension what an organic attitude for living on this beautiful planet should be.

They have held up very well over time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Joan Allen teaches us about Plant Diseases!

Last Monday CT NOFA collaborated with the wonderful Community Farm of Simsbury to put on our forth on-farm workshop of the summer; Plant Disease management presented by Joan Allen, the Assistant Extension Educator at UConn's Home and Garden Education Center. It was the perfect day for an on-farm workshop as the temperature was a cool 73 degrees, a nice break from the recent heat wave that has struck CT.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Piglets, chickens, and kittens OH MY

Attendees admiring the feeder pigs at Copper Hill Farm
This past Sunday CT NOFA held its second On-Farm Workshop of the summer, Pasture-Raised Pigs on a Diversified Organic Farm, lead by Greg Hazelton, CT NOFA board member and the owner of Copper Hill Farm in West Suffield, CT. It was the perfect day to tour Greg's farm and listen to him eloquently speak about his experience raising pigs, chickens and growing produce as a one man operation at Copper Hill for the past four and half years. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

4th of July Piglets!

Greetings from Pond Hill Farm!

I am a little late in announcing this, but on the 4th of July last week 10 beautiful piglets were born here on the farm to a very happy mother. Every spring the farm receives two pigs to house for the summer and into the fall. The pigs come impreganted and typically the piglets are born late June or early July. We keep the piglets through the end of October until they are sent to be slaughtered (which makes me a little sad after having watched their birth) at a nearby facility. During the winter the mothers are housed at another farm (housing animals for the winter can be costly) until spring returns again and the cycle continues!

It was my first time experiencing a live birth which was quite a sight to see and I couldn't resist sharing this with the CT NOFA audience. Who doesn't love baby animals after all?

They are hungry for some of mama's milk!
All of the interns gathered around to watch. 
Look at the difference in size!
Until next time!

Katie





Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear Mr. President, please help our bees!

Bees are a big deal. I don't want to over exaggerate, but they are basically the glue that holds are ecosystem system together. It's not news to anyone that the rapid decline in the honey bee population is now a global epidemic, the population has been dropping by a third each year since 2007, and while other foreign institutions are acknowledging the issue and passing laws banning certain pesticides linked to bee death the U.S is slow in its reaction. 


Friday, July 5, 2013

Kristiane is Moving - But She Already Misses CT NOFA!

Melissa (on the right) and I at Ag Day at the Capitol in 2012
Hi All!

Today is my last day at NOFA.  And I wanted to write a brief note saying good bye.  I'm headed to the
University of Michigan to pursue a Master of Science in Natural Resources and the Environment.  I'm hoping to focus on societal and political responses and preparation for the affects of climate change.  While I came to NOFA with this interest, it has been cultivated in my time working with farmers who have to alter growing methods for the changing seasons and are some of the most affected by climate change, in our communities in Connecticut.  But the reality is, that whatever challenges affect our farmers, affect food availability and prices, and will affect consumers too.  Additionally, the same holistic, ecological principles at the heart of organic agriculture are central to climate resilience and sustainability on the local, regional and international levels.

CT NOFA's mission is to strengthen the practices of ecologically sound farming and gardening, and to the development of local sustainable agriculture. The organization's efforts give consumers increased access to safe and healthy food. CT NOFA is a growing community of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, businesses and consumers that encourages a healthy relationship to the natural world.  I can say, from my work at the organization, that our staff and volunteers are truly dedicated to this mission, and it has been a pleasure to work with this team, and with Connecticut's greater sustainability movement.

If you'd like to become involved and be inspired by the work of Connecticut's organizations and our wonderful member farmers and organic land care professionals, I encourage you to join the organization, volunteer, or visit us at one of our summer workshops!  Also, be sure to send a warm welcome to Stephanie Berluti, the new Program and Events Manager.  CT NOFA's programs and events are in good hands with her!

Have a wonderful summer!
Kristiane

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

USDA Approves Label for Non-GMO Meat


With all the excitement following the recent passing of the GMO Labeling Bill in Connecticut, environmentalist can once again revel in the recent approval from the USDA for a Non GMO label for meat and liquid egg products.  

Last week, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) approved the label for meat and liquid egg products indicating the absence of GMO entities, the first of its kind. 
The USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service “allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they meet a third-party certifying organization’s standards, provided that the third-party organization and the company can show that the claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading,” Cathy Cochran, a U.S.D.A. spokeswoman, said in a statement to the New York Times

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Farmer's Market Season is in Full Swing!

Greetings from Pond Hill Farm in Michigan! Its been awhile, but as promised I am back to update you on farm life and my adventures so far.

It is safe to say that farmer's market season is in full swing and with that I have been able to help run one of the four different farmer's markets that Pond Hill attends. I have been assigned to work at the Petoskey Farmer's Market which designates a block within their downtown district every Friday for the market.

Our stand at the Petoskey Farmer's Market 
Having typically been a customer at farmer's markets and not a weekly vendor this new opportunity has given me insight into the business perspective of running the farm and selling produce. I work with Jimmy, co-owner of Pond Hill Farm at the market and this past Friday he shared some words of wisdom on how to be successful at farmer's markets. Here are some of them:


  • Show em' what you got! Jimmy has noticed that when you display more of your product customers are more likely to be drawn to your table and buy more of whatever it is your are selling. 
  • Give em' a taste of what you got! Who doesn't love samples? It's free food after all! We started selling kohlrabi at farmer's markets and many customers had no idea what it was or what it tasted like. Samples convinced them to buy it and experiment with it themselves.  
  • Know how to use what you've got! Knowing different receipes that utilize a variety of your products will help customers visualize what they can
  • Build your customer base. Take the time to interact with your customers...it pays off in the end and doesn't cost you a dime. 

As of last month the Michigan Senate unanimously passed two bills that would allow tastings and sales of wine from small Michigan vintners at farmer's markets. This is great news for Pond Hill Farm since we produce a variety of wines that we normally sell in our tasting room on-site at the farm. This will be a  great addition to the farmer's market since it will not only boost sales but also bring a new customer base to the market as well. 

Time is flying here and I cannot believe it will be July as of tomorrow. July is our busiest month here so there will definitely be more exciting updates to come!

Best, 

Katie 



Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Quick Hello from CT NOFA's New Program and Event Manager

Good morning CT NOFA enthusiasts!

My name is Stephanie Berluti and I recently joined the CT NOFA team as the new Program and Events Manager, so naturally I would like to take a few moments to introduce myself. 
"I'm so excited to be working with CT NOFA"

I am a CT native, born and raised in Orange, but I left this great state to continue my education in Rhode Island at Providence College. My initial career plan was to become a tax accountant, but an impromptu school excursion to a local farm in Saundsertown, RI radically transformed my professional agenda. I don't know what it was specifically about digging up potatoes on a cold, dreary, November morning that made me think "Yeah, I want to be a part of this!" but shortly there after I began my studies in sustainable and local agriculture. In 2010 I became more directly involved in the RI local food scene through an internship at Farm Fresh Rhode Island and interviewing many key players of the local food movement in the state; those of which culminated in a (rough)documentary on the local food culture of Rhode Island entitled "Why RI? A Small State with a Big Garden" (check it out!).  I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Global Studies minoring in Public and Community Service.

Since graduating I have gained professional experience working various temporary jobs, but I tried to remain true to my passion for sustainable and organic food by working nights as a server and bartender. After realizing the corporate life was not for me I moved back home to Connecticut to pursue a career advocating for a more sustainable agricultural system, starting by volunteering at one of CitySeed's New Haven Farmers Markets. 

I am so thrilled to begin my work at CT NOFA and look forward to meeting all the NOFA fans at our upcoming events!

 
Stephanie


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

GMO Labeling in Connecticut

By now, if you're following the Genetically Modified Labeling Movement, you probably know that Connecticut's House of Representatives passed a law that mandates that food containing GM ingredients will be labeled. Yes, there is a trigger clause which requires that four other states must pass similar legislation and that the states represent a population of 20 million people or more.  Yes, the bill is slightly watered down and a stricter law would be more effective - but it would not have passed.  However, this legislation is a thrilling step in the right direction.  With the number of states around the country that have GMO-labeling movements and have already drafted GMO labeling bills (though they have all failed), it is clear that the momentum has shifted toward consumer rights and honest labeling. 



The Connecticut bill is also exciting, because it is purely the work of one very dedicated coalition of activists, GMO Free CT and their mobilization of supporters and partner organizations.  Tara Cook-Littman, the head of GMO Free CT has been the movement's fearless leader and tireless advocate.  If you follow us on Facebook, you also probably noticed our facebook was just re-postings of GMO Free CT's posts for much of the week.  We are so appreciative of Tara and GMO Free CT's leadership, strength and focus.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy said this law passed because  This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers’ right to know what is in their food while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage, he said in a statement.  

The bill is also inspiring because:
1. It is possible to beat the biotech industry and food industry in the legislative process

2. When constituents ask for something relentlessly, no matter where the campaign funds are coming from, your representative will listen to you!

In a year when most levels of our government have seemed ineffective, and following years of nearly unregulated biotechnology integration into our food system - this is a wonderful victory for consumers, farmers and environmentalists.

Best,
Kristiane


Friday, May 31, 2013

Today I Saw Red - Rhubarb Red

I had heard the rumors that soon, as the weather warmed and the rain diminished that myself and the other interns at Pond Hill Farm would be picking 1,000 pounds of rhubarb. Now, I am going to be perfectly honest...I don't think that before today I could have told you what a rhubarb plant looked like, let alone how one could eat it or what it tasted like. It is quite possible that I once tasted it as a kid, most likely in rhubarb pie or strawberry rhubarb jam. Obviously I hadn't thought much of it because when it was confirmed that this rumor was true, all I could think was where is the rhubarb, what does it look like, and do we really need to pick 1,000 pounds of it?

Pond Hill Farm has in total 157 acres with 90 acres under food production. This size allows Jimmy, the owner of Pond Hill to produce enough of certain crops to sell wholesale and not just to individual customers. This was the case with the 1,000 lb rhubarb order requested by Cherry Capital Foods, a food retailer that works with farmers, growers, and producers only from the state of Michigan. What I didn't know about rhubarb was that it is a vegetable perennial and as we were picking, Jimmy explained that he had planted the rhubarb 10 years ago and it had been coming up annually ever since. When he realized that very little effort was needed to maintain the crop, he decided to plant more eventually granting him the ability satisfy the demand of 1,000lb orders.



Rhubarb is in season in Connecticut so if you happen to come across it at a local farmers market or maybe even in your backyard, think of me and the 1,000 pounds and try it for yourself in these favorite rhubarb recipes:

  • 2 pounds rhubarb, sliced crosswise 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1/4 cup flour; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour and the butter. Pulse until the butter pieces are pea-size. Add brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon. Pulse to combine. Sprinkle over rhubarb.
  3. Bake until rhubarb is tender and topping is golden, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream, if desired.

This quick, zesty chutney complements almost any meat or poultry.

2 cups diced rhubarb 
3/4 cup diced red apple 
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or cherries
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup honey 
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, plus more to taste

Directions
  1. Combine rhubarb, apple, cranberries (or cherries), onion, water, honey, ginger, vinegar and crushed red pepper to taste in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until rhubarb is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes more. Serve warm or cold.
Enjoy!

Katie 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Greetings from Pond Hill Farm!

As promised, I am here to update you on my adventures at Pond Hill Farm. It has been about three weeks since I have arrived but it has felt like longer. Every day presents countless opportunities to learn something new and appreciate a day of hard work. Before I began my journey to Harbor Springs, MI I was living downstate in the small town of Brooklyn, MI. It was there that I wrote my last post and if you recall, as I wrote I was watching snow flurries fall to the ground. I remember feeling exasperated, ready for spring and slightly worried about what the weather would be like when I arrived four hours north of Brooklyn in Harbor Springs. I remember wondering how I would cope with the trials and tribulations of farming (like the weather...the snow, the rain, the sun, the heat) and promising that I would share with you what I have learned from them.

Here is my first:
Sun is Good (in moderation), Rain is Great (in moderation), Frost is Bad (always).

It is kind of ironic that as I now write my second post, it is down pouring. It would probably be safe to say that three weeks ago I would have been cursing the rain for limiting my ability to go for a bike ride or to the beach. Now I have a newly found appreciation for the rain and the ever-changing weather of Northern Michigan. Rain means the plants that I put in the ground yesterday will be thriving tomorrow. Rain means that we don't have to spend countless hours watering all the plants in the greenhouses and hoop houses and soaking up all of our precious ground water resources. A forecast of overnight frost sends everyone into a frenzied panic, frantic to put all of the warm weather seedlings back inside. Sun is always good in moderation, too much can fry the plants (and me for that matter).

Greenhouse on a rainy day. 
I know that to many, like an experienced farmer or avid gardener these inclinations may seem obvious. Yet to someone like myself who three weeks ago would have been cursing the rain, my experience so far has allowed me to gain a new perspective and appreciate how those who grow their own food whether it be to sell or for their own consumption are dependent on a factor that they have absolutely no control over. It almost sounds well, just a little crazy. Yet without these great flucuations in the weather we wouldn't be able to farm. No sun, no rain, and no changing of the seasons can greatly limit or even put an end to growth. 


The winery and farm store in the fog. 
I am looking forward to updating more about my experience at Pond Hill and about more thrilling (yet equally important) topics than just the weather. The farm has many difference facets; the greenhouses, the cafe, the vineyards, the winery, the farm store, farm education programs, the list goes. Each one has its own story and along with a lesson to be learned.

Until next time....

Katie

P.S. Happy spring!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CT NOFA is Hiring!

You get to go to fun events! And spend time outdoors!
CT NOFA is in search of two new employees! We're looking for a Program and Event Manager and a Marketing, Design and Fundraising Manager.

CT NOFA staff take food very seriously.
These are both full time positions. The Marketing, Design, and Fundraising Manager will help expand the organization's fundraising capabilities using effective marketing, graphic design, and direct networking with potential and existing donors.  View the job description here! The Program and Event Manager plans and promotes events in accordance with grant requirements, and then records and reports these grant activities.  View the job description here! Interested in applying? Send your cover letter and resume to Deb Legge at deb@ctnofa.org before June 10!

It's going to be in the 40s over Memorial Day Weekend,
at this rate you can use these jackets all summer!
If you like what we do, you might be interested in becoming involved! Melissa and I will be leaving in mid-summer - which also means this blog will need some new writers! Even if you aren't interested in working with CT NOFA, let us know if you'd like to blog.  You can write about anything that relates to sustainable food! We were thinking it might be fun to have a garden blogger, a food blogger, a shopping blogger, etc.  You can write about the experience of going to the farmers market, or interesting things you've observed in your garden, or the delicious local squash ravioli you made, or the disastrous kale smoothie you couldn't convince anyone to drink.  

If you've thought about becoming involved with CT NOFA before - now is the time! We also are still in our Spring Appeal - which means any donation of $100 or more enters you in a raffle to win one of these beautiful jackets donated by Patagonia Westport! You can donate to the Spring Appeal here!  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You Can Win a New Jacket by Supporting Our Mission!

Our Spring Appeal is in full swing, and there are prizes you can win! Donate $100 or more to be entered into a raffle to win one of these AWESOME JACKETS from Patagonia! Take on those chilly spring nights in style!









Friday, May 17, 2013

Local Seedling Sales around the State

Didn't get a chance to start your seeds this year? That's ok! You can still have organic, locally seeded veggies - from the experts!

A number of farms around the state are having seedling sales this weekend.  If you're a farmer and would like some help promoting your seedling sale, please post it on CT NOFA's Facebook.

Here are the ones we know about, one in New Haven, one in New Britain and one in Waterford:

Common Ground High School's Seedling Sale
May 18, 10:00am - 3:00pm
385 Springside Avenue, New Haven
http://commongroundct.org/events/farm-festival-and-seedling-sale/





Urban Oaks Organic Farm
May 17 (12:00pm - 6:00pm)
May 18 (9:00am - 2:00pm)
225 Oak Street, New Britain, CT
http://www.blog.urbanoaks.org/?page_id=713

Hunts Brook Farm Farm Tour and Seedling Sale
Saturday & Sunday May 18&19 (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
108 Hunts Brook Road
Quaker Hill, CT 06375
http://huntsbrookfarm.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/farm-tour-and-seedling-sale/

Also, if you're looking for some fun with the whole family, visit Flanders Nature Center in Woodbury, CT for Flanders Family Farm Fun Day on May 18 between 10:00 and 3:00!  CT NOFA will be there with NEW Farm and Food Guides!

We hope you can enjoy this weekend for some gardening, and visiting some of our states working and educational farms to get to know farmers and your food better!

Best,
Kristiane

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Food Traceability: Another Reason to Buy Local


Foodborne illness can happen in any environment, whether on a small farm, in your kitchen, or in a huge industrial food supply chain. In industrial ag, however, complications arise because it's often hard to locate the source of a foodborne pathogen.  Food Safety News recently featured an articleabout farm-to-fork traceability - how well recorded the processes are that foods go through during the time between harvest and consumption. Their report shows that cumbersome long distance supply chains like the one that provides the majority of America's food, are fraught with recording system incompatibilities and a lack of consistency, making it difficult to trace a pathogen outbreak back to its source in a timely fashion. The article weaves this tale:
Picture a pile of tomatoes in the produce section. Farms supply tomatoes to a distributor, who gives them a product code before passing them onto a retailer who may give them a different identifying code. Go find a can of diced tomatoes in another aisle and the number of changed hands and identification codes may have doubled. Find a jar of salsa — the ingredients, codes and suppliers compound exponentially.
Now, throw a Salmonella outbreak into the mix. Hundreds of people around the country report illnesses and face interviews with investigators asking them to recall several weeks of meal histories.
At first, interviews seem to point to tomatoes as the most likely source — maybe a lot of the victims ate salsa — and so investigators begin tracing back through the tomato supply chain in search of the contamination. Eventually, however, the investigation into tomatoes dries up, and it only later becomes apparent that the outbreak was instead likely caused by contaminated jalapeƱo peppers.
That’s what happened across 43 states in the spring of 2008, and while investigators were tracing back through tomato supply chains, the jalapeƱos were granted more time to sicken additional consumers.
The industrial food system has a lot of inefficiencies, and a lot of middlemen.  In such an overly complex system, problems tend to arise and are difficult to solve. As a person eating those products, it's hard to trace where each ingredient is coming from and what processes it went through, so consumers are heavily reliant on the industrial food system's faulty food traceability mechanism.  This reliance is inefficient and dangerous, but there are alternatives!

If you want to know what's in your food, there are a few easy things you can do:
  • Buy minimally processed foods that only have a few ingredients, and make sure those ingredients are things that you recognize and can pronounce!
  • Buy whole foods like fruits and vegetables that have only one ingredient
  • Buy organic. These foods are exposed to far less chemicals and don't contain any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • BUY LOCAL! If you know the farmer and the farm where your food came from, you'll not only know what's in it, but also what processes (if any) the food went through between the time it was harvested and the time it goes into your mouth.
It's easier now more than ever to buy local!  Check out our brand new Farm and Food Guide to find a sustainable farmer, business, or farmers market near you.  You can also visit the CT Farm Map online for an interactive farm location experience!

Have a great afternoon,
Melissa

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Get Ready for Spring Crops!

Although you can grow or buy a bounty of foods year-round in Connecticut, now is the time that the season for a wide array of spring and summer crops really starts to pick up.  This week as you're contemplating your grocery list, check out the above Connecticut Grown calendar (also available online here) to see what's growing in the area right now. 

Then, check out our brand new Farm and Food Guide that just came out for a listing of organic and sustainable farms near you!  The Guide provides not only a list of farms and farmers markets with maps that show where each farm is located, but also contains information about which Connecticut Grown farm products are available from each farm.  Starting right now, you can use the Guide and the CT Grown map together to get more of your produce from local sources.

And don't forget, CT farmers offer all of the produce listed in the map, plus more!  Check out the Guide to learn about additional types of produce as well as baked goods, dairy items, meat and seafood, and so much more! Buying local is an easy and delicious way to keep your food dollars where they count - in the local economy supporting Connecticut's own farmers!

Have a great afternoon!
-Melissa

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Interns Wanted!

Summer Intern Hours: 25 to 40 hours a week - weekly hours are flexible based on intern availability,
event scheduling and requirements for college credit.  The position is mostly structured for a current student or recently graduate, but all are welcome to apply.

Compensation: Unpaid

Position Details: CT NOFA’s intern position is provides an opportunity to become involved with multiple programs at the organization and gain broad experience with non-profit work. The intern’s work will primarily be in our office in Oxford, Connecticut helping to promote events, completing and compiling research, helping at workshops and carrying out administrative duties.  Interns are welcome to work remotely for some time based on their availability and location (we encourage interns to come in once a week or more).

Responsibilities: 
• Complete research about state and regional resources for gardeners and farmers and education opportunities for gardeners and landscapers
• Update CT NOFA and NOFA Organic Land Care websites
• Contribute to CT NOFA and NOFA OLC’s social media: Facebook, Twitter and a Blog
• Help event coordinators with workshops and summer events (set up, registration, clean up, etc.)

Qualifications: 
• Strong organizational skills and attention to detail
• Intern must have access to a car, outreach requires travel to different locations, mostly within Connecticut (CT NOFA will reimburse for mileage expenses)
• Familiarity with local farming or the Connecticut sustainable food movement is helpful, but not required.

About CT NOFA CT NOFA is the Connecticut Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. CT NOFA is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the practices of ecologically sound farming and gardening, and to the development of local sustainable agriculture. Our efforts give consumers increased access to safe and healthy food. CT NOFA is a growing community of farmers, gardeners, land care professionals, businesses and consumers that encourages a healthy relationship to the natural world.

How to Apply:
Please send a coverletter and resume to Kristiane Huber at kristiane@ctnofa.org.  We'll get in touch with you right away to discuss if you'll enjoy and benefit from working with us this summer!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stay Tuned: My Experience at Pond Hill Farm


About a month ago I packed my belongings, got in my car, and set my sights on Michigan. This summer I will be working as a farm apprentice at Pond Hill Farm in Harbor Springs, MI located right on Lake Michigan and in the upper northwest corner just before you reach the Upper Peninsula. You may wonder why I would move to Michigan when I could be working at one of the many local farms in Connecticut. I had my personal reasons to move (my boyfriend lives in Michigan) and well, after a year of traveling to five different states within ten month in AmeriCorps NCCC, I couldn't resist my urge to travel any longer. It was time for my next adventure.

Yet even though I am many miles away from Connecticut, I was asked to blog about my experience at Pond Hill. I was very grateful for this opportunity since I am sure I will be eager to share my trial and tribulations of true farm life to which I'm sure many of you can relate.

Jimmy and JJ 
Next Monday will be my first official day at the farm and I am very much looking forward to meeting the Pond Hill Farm family and staff. The farm is owned and operated by the Spencer family which consists of mother Sharon, son Jimmy, his wife Marci and their two very adorable children Emma and JJ. They also have a full-time farm staff as well as a hand full of interns like myself that assist them with the hectic summer months and growing season.

One of the main reasons I wanted to work at Pond Hill was because they have effectively developed their farm into a full-fledged agritourism experience for their visitors and customers. Not only do they provide herbicide and pesticide free produce and organically raised meats through their CSA and on-site market, but they also have a winery complete with a tasting room as well as a Garden Cafe that is open from May through October. Throughout the summer and into the fall, their calendar of events is packed with activities ranging from barn dances, pig roasts, hayrides, farm to table and wine tasting dinners and fall festival weekends.





A squash rocket! 

It is currently snowing as I write this post and I guess you could say that adjusting to Michigan's horribly inconsistent weather has been my first trial and tribulation of this experience. Two days ago it was 65 and sunny and today it is wet and cold. I can only look forward to the summer days ahead and all that I will learn and share with you in the upcoming months. 

Until next time,

Katie  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone! We'll be at a number of Earth Day fairs this upcoming weekend!

On Saturday you can visit us at:
Woodbury Earth Day
Hollow Park, Woodbury, CT
11:00 am – 4:00 pm
FREE Admission
Rain or Shine

Newtown Earth Day

Newtown Middle School
Queen Street
10AM - 4PM
FREE Admission
Rain or Shine

We hope you've had some time to plant your garden! On Saturday, Melissa and I went to the Peabody Museum's Earth Day celebration! What a great day - we were seated in the Peabody's Great Hall giving out pea and bean seeds to Connecticut's youngest (but most enthusiastic) gardeners.

With all the celebrations of our environment, the budding trees, sprouting plants and greening of the landscape, spring is such an inspirational time! Part of your celebration of the Earth this year might be to become involved with the legislative process.

Here's an excerpt from a GMO Free CT update:

The 2013 legislative session ends on June 5th. This gives us 45 days to pass a GMO labeling bill in CT.  We remain hopeful that with your help, CT will be the first state to give its citizens the right to know what is in their food.  As we track our bills through the legislative process, actions will need to be taken.  See below for our current action alerts.  The only way these bills will pass is if the legislators hear from you.  Please remember that every e-mail, every phone call, and every meeting is extremely important.
ACTION ALERT
HB 6519, AN ACT CONCERNING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOOD
The Public Health Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of HB 6519 with a vote of 23-4 on April 2nd.  The bill was then analyzed by the Office of Legislative Research and Office of Fiscal Analysis.  HB 6519 will now most likely be sent to the General Law Committee for a vote.  We need to ensure that the committee will vote in favor.  If your legislator is on the General Law Committee, please reach out to them and ask them to support the bill.  If your legislator is not on General Law, ask them to speak to their colleagues on General Law and encourage them to vote in favor.  We have heard that the General Law Committee is not in favor of the bill as of now.  We need your help.  If you are not sure who your local town or city legislator is, you can enter your address to find them here.
HB 6527, AN ACT CONCERNING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED BABY FOOD AND BABY FORMULA
The Children’s Committee overwhelmingly voted in favor of HB 6527 with a vote of 11-1 on March 12th. The bill is currently in front of the Public Health Committee for a vote. While it would seem logical that the Public Health Committee would vote in favor of HB 6527 as it did for HB 6519, we can not take anything for granted. If your legislator is on the Public Health Committee, please contact them and ask them to support HB 6527. If your legislator is not on Public Health, ask them to speak to their colleagues on Public Health and encourage them to vote in favor. If you are not sure who your local town or city legislator is, you can enter your address to find them here.

Whether you're calling your legislator to improve the transparency of the food system or reducing your reliance on industrial food by planting your garden - you're improving our environment and your health!

Happy Earth Day!
Kristiane

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rethink Your Cellphone and the Global Food System

For many, cellphones are used for a few primary services; communicating with others and (if you own a smartphone) staying connected to the internet and often times your Facebook page. Yet for farmers in Sub-Sahara Africa, having a cellphone could mean the difference between making a profit on your crop in the global market or none at all. 

FoodTank, an organization that has created a network of connections and information that offer solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our food system, has highlighted five major ways cellphones are changing agriculture in this region of Africa. Check them out:

1) Access to market prices: Mobile phones allow farmers to gain access to vital information about prices of crops before they travel long distances to markets. Cell phone services employ SMS text messaging to quickly transfer accurate information about wholesale and retail prices of crops, ensuring farmers can  negotiate deals with traders and improve their timing of getting crops to the market. SokoniSMS64 is one popular service used in Kenya to provide farmers with accurate market prices from around the country.
2) Micro-insurance: Cell phones are also used for a “pay as you plant” type of insurance. Kilimo Salama, meaning “safe agriculture” in Swahili, is a micro-insurance company that protects farmers against poor weather conditions. The insurance is distributed through dealers who utilize camera phone technology to scan and capture policy information through a code using an advanced phone application. The information is then uploaded to Safaricom’s mobile cloud-based server that administers policies. Farmers can then receive information on their policy, as well as payouts based on rainfall, in SMS messages. This is a paperless, completely automated process. 
3) iCow from M-Farm: This cell phone application calls itself “the world’s first mobile phone cow calendar.” It enables farmers to keep track of each cow’s individual gestation so farmers never miss the valuable opportunity to expand their herd. iCow also keeps track of feed types and schedules, local veterinary contact information, and precise market prices of cattle. 
4) Instant weather information: Mobile technology provides farmers with crucial weather data so they can properly manage their crops. Programs such as Tigo Kilimo in Tanzania give small-scale farmers instant weather information combined with appropriate agricultural tips. 
5) CocoaLink: This app makes use of western Ghana’s rapidly expanding mobile network to deliver important information to cocoa farmers. The World Cocoa Foundation created this program to provide free voice and SMS text messages about farm safety, child labor, health, and improvements in farming practices, crop disease prevention, and crop marketing. Farmers receive messages in English or their local language. 
It is amazing to see how technology is being used all over the world for more purposes than what we are accustomed to. It is also interesting to note that while we advocate for sustainable agriculture and organic farming which tends to stray from the technological advances of the modern world such as those used in industrial agriculture, people of other areas of the world are utilizing technology in a way that advances their profits and maintains their livelihood of being a farmer.

Have a great afternoon!

Katie