Madison County ag retreat looks at crops and profit

The Madison Press, Michael Williamson, 11/3/17

“Grow More Vegetables, Make More Money,” was the theme of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) two-day retreat at the Procter Camp and Conference Center just outside of London Friday morning through Saturday evening. OEFFA started in 1979 by a collection of farmers dedicated to the growth and promotion of ecological and organic farm systems. The goal of the workshop was to inform farmers on practices that could enhance their management plans and advance their earning potential.

“This particular workshop is geared towards farmers who are already farming mixed vegetables, specialty crop-growers who are kind of at a certain scale where they’re looking to expand their operation and implement more efficient mechanization and systems on their operation in order to sell to larger buyers,” said Kelly Henderson, the Beginning Farmer Program Coordinator with OEFFA.

Linda Halley, an expert in organic farming from Bryn Farm in Wisconsin, led the workshop. This is the second time Halley has presented this workshop to interested farmers, the first time being in 2013.

“From talking to a lot of our farmers, they’ve implemented a lot of the practices that they’ve learned at that workshop,” Henderson said. “So it was really important for us to be able to bring that opportunity back again.”

Although the two-day workshop focused on what OEFFA calls “Early Career Farmers,” — people who have been farming for their whole career — their programs extend to both seasoned farmers and beginners.

In August 2016, OEFFA received a three-year, USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant which allows the organization to bring best practices education to farmers just starting out. The grant allows them to work toward their goal of bringing information and skills to farmers to get the most out of their operations.

Eric Pawlowski, Sustainable Agriculture Educator with OEFFA, said they’re working to get the farmers to a place where they can do wholesale distribution of their produce and not be so concerned with the marketing side of farming.

“The farmer’s wearing a number of hats. He’s a business manager, he’s a farmer, he’s handling produce but then he’s got to take the other side of the coin in marketing. And now it’s a direct market,” Pawlowski said. “We’re trying to get efficiencies on the production end so that maybe the farmer can stay on the farm and have a volume, a scale at an appropriate level where they can get into wholesale distribution where they don’t have to be the marketer as well.”

Some of the topics of the workshop included direct seeding, how farmers can meet the demands of business partners and even information on the picking and packaging of their produce for sales.

OEFFA has a number of programs in place to help farmers of varying experience. Henderson is at the head of a whole farm planning course that is not yet available for registration but will be presented next year. The program allows farmers to attend 60 hours of in-class training to assist with putting together a whole-farm business plan.

Their next large event is the 39th annual OEFFA Conference in Dayton which will be held Feb. 15-17 and will feature a number of workshops and speakers. The opening day will also have a scheduled time that will be open to the public for anyone interested in the organization and their programs.

 

Business of Ohio’s organic farms is growing

The Columbus Dispatch, JD Malone, 11/2/17

Ohio’s big corn and soybean farmers haven’t seen much in the way of sales growth the past few years, but that can’t be said for some of the state’s smaller players — those who produce organic produce, grains and dairy products.

Ohio’s organic farmers reported sales of $101 million in 2016, a 30 percent jump from 2015, while both the number of organic farms and acreage grew year over year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Certified Organic Study. Ohio ranks seventh nationally in number of organic farms — 575. That’s up from eighth in 2015.

“The 2016 survey illustrates the strength of organic production and sales in the state,” said Amalie Lipstreu, policy coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, in a news release.

“Organic” is a designation for food and other products produced under specific guidelines, including which fertilizers and pesticides can be used on crops and how much pasture and outdoor access animals have, enforced by the USDA’s National Organic Program.

For example, organic practices bar the use of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the housing of animals completely indoors.

Ohio has more than 54,000 acres in organic production, which is tiny by agricultural standards, given that Ohio’s largest commodity crop, soybeans, covers more than 4 million acres. But given that organic farming only really put down roots fairly recently, it has been an achievement.

Byron Kauffman was one of the state’s pioneers in organic farming. He started growing organic crops 25 years ago on his Mac-O-Chee Valley Farm in West Liberty. He worked as a school teacher and farmed as a side gig because it was something he felt strongly about.

“There were not too many markets for products back then. You really had to search for a place to sell your goods,” Kauffman said. “That is not so much the way it is now.”

The number of venues has grown from just farmers markets and specialty grocers decades ago to major chain groceries.

Sales of organic products, especially of food, have grown by double digits every year for at least two decades, according to the Organic Trade Association. Organic food sales are growing at about triple the rate of ordinary food. Overall organic sales jumped from $3.6 billion in 1997 to more than $43 billion in 2015.

Kauffman has grown a lot of crops over the years, from soybeans and oats to spelt and popcorn. Popcorn has become his niche. Surprisingly, spelt is something of a hit in Ohio. The state has more spelt growers than any other.

“It’s a good crop,” Kauffman said of spelt, a type of wheat prized for its nutritional value. “It’s vigorous and competes well with weeds.”

He worries now that organic food has become so popular that he is now competing with foreign sources of crops like spelt.

Ohio’s other big organic crops are milk — the state ranks ninth in the United States for its production — as well as eggs and vegetables.

Overall, the United States experienced a 23 percent rise in sales by organic farms in 2016, totaling more than $7.5 billion.

California is by far the leader in number of farms and sales. Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and Iowa round out the top five states for organic farming.

Kauffman has enjoyed the boom in organic production, and he thinks it has moved from fad to trend as more people have embraced organic food.

“At first, I just wanted to see if I could do it, and it just became more and more as the market grew,” Kauffman said.

“In one sense, I am not surprised because the demand for healthier food is real now,” he said. “It’s a good thing for everybody.”

OH Farmers Apply “You Are What You Eat” to What They Farm

Public News Service, 11/1/17

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Harvest season is winding down in Ohio, and sustainable-farming advocates say it’s a great time for growers and producers to learn more about what it takes to go organic. In some cases it’s a matter of making the personal professional.

Renee and Alan Winner, dairy farmers in central Ohio, have been selling into the conventional milk market for years, but now are transitioning the four dairies they and their children operate. Renee Winner said switching to organic was important for them because their farming practices didn’t mesh with their personal lifestyle.

“For the last 30 years, we have eaten organic,” she said. “To be able to marry the way that we live and how we make our living is really something that we’ve talked about and planned about for years, but just didn’t think we’d be able to get it done.”

The Winners began the process with help from organic transition services available through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. They just finished their third year of transition and recently had their official organic inspection.

Ohio currently ranks seventh nationally for the number of organic farming operations. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, organic sales in Ohio rose more than 30 percent between 2015 and 2016.

In order to stay viable, Renee Winner said, they felt they needed to “get big or get out,” and made the decision to go organic.

“Being a smaller, organic dairy is still viable,” she said, “where in the conventional market, everything is trending to larger, so you lose the ability to be yourself and to farm as a family.”

She encouraged those curious about transitioning to organic to speak with other organic farmers and organic inspectors, adding that services available through the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association also are very beneficial.

“They have people there that will help you though the transition,” she said. “That’s been phenomenal for us, because you don’t know what you don’t know. They’re there to tell you, ‘No, this is the way to go,’ and to lead you.”

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association has education staff who can explain the Organic System Plan, review transition applications and provide mock inspections. There are an estimated 950 organic farming operations in Ohio.

More information is online at oeffa.org.

Government survey ranks Ohio No. 7

Tribune Chronicle, Virginia Shank, 10/22/17

It’s no surprise to Jonathan Woodford that a new government survey ranks Ohio at No. 7 in the nation when it comes to its number of organic farms.

Woodford, who operates SugarWood Acres — the West Farmington farm his great-grandparents established that his family still owns — has seen evidence that interest in “growing organic” is increasing.

“Just in the past year to year-and-a-half, a lot of people seem to be transitioning to organic from conventional,” Woodford said. “I think a lot of it depends on the type of farming they’re doing, or amount of crops they’re growing and what they’re familiar with.”

Ohio is seeing double-digit growth in the number of organic farms, organic land in production and organic sales, illustrating the role of organic production in economic development, according to the 2016 Certified Organic Survey of U.S. organic farms. The report, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, shows Ohio’s organic sales increased by more than 30 percent since 2015 and the number of certified organic farms in Ohio is up by 24 percent. Since 2015, Ohio moved up from 8th to 7th in the nation in the number of organic farms.

As of Thursday, of the 18,262 farms certified organic, 952 were in Ohio and five were in Trumbull County, according to the USDA. California had the most with 4,903 and the District of Columbia had the fewest with nine.

Overall, the U.S. saw $7.6 billion in organic sales, as well as an 11 percent increase in the number of organic farms. More than 5 million acres of certified organic acreage are in production in the U.S., up 15 percent since 2015.

“The 2016 survey illustrates the strength of organic production and sales in the state of Ohio. Organic production continues to be a bright spot in U.S. agriculture,” said Amalie Lipstreu, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association policy coordinator. “As more farmers move land into organic production, it is important that we make sure we are doing all we can to support their success.”

For Woodford, 34, going organic seemed like a practical approach when he started running the farm about five years ago. Although he was raised on the land his family bought in the early 1930s, he said he “wasn’t really raised farming” and had “little to no” experience farming. There had been about a 15-year-gap from the time his grandfather retired until Woodford resumed operations.

This summer marked his fifth growing hay that is now certified organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.

“I didn’t have a lot invested in equipment or supplies,” he said. “So, I could start from scratch. I didn’t have much money to put into it, so I just went the least expensive way I could and for me that was organic. I don’t have to add anything, so I don’t.”

Woodford works in maintenance for the Bristol Local School District, where his wife is a teacher.

His grandfather, who grew row crops, was a conventional farmer, using techniques that rely on technology, pesticides, chemicals and other synthetic, or man-made, tools to cultivate.

Woodford’s neighbor introduced him to growing organic, a farming approach that limits or excludes synthetic elements. Woodford uses chicken manure for fertilizer that isn’t chemical based. His farm, spread across 160 acres, where his grandmother, Martha Woodford, still lives, also produces maple syrup — a product his grandfather continued harvesting even after he retired. He has grown small grains like corn, wheat and oats.

To maintain his organic certification, Woodford follows national operating standards with a set of procedures and protocol.

Basically, each year he fills out about 30 pages of paperwork, sends it into the association, which then reviews it and sends out a certified inspector to walk the property and make sure he’s doing what he says he’s doing and following the necessary steps to operate an organic farm.

“I didn’t have fertilizer or the farming equipment you’d associate with conventional farming,” he said. “I was starting out fresh. My neighbor did organic farming and when I saw what was involved with both options I went with that. “

Woodford said his farm is part of the local supply chain, providing hay other area farms need to feed their animals.

“I think growing organic is still pretty new to a lot of people,” he said. “I can tell it’s been growing. You see more and more organic products in stores. There’s a market for it. Some people are afraid of conventional for whatever reason. They like seeing labels that say organic.”

Woodford said four out of five farms he delivers to along the same stretch of road are classified organic.

Despite the growth and strong consumer demand, investments in organic research through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Institute represent an average of just two-tenths of one percent of overall funding each year and Ohio has no extension educator positions dedicated to serving organic farmers.

“Organic production has not been able to keep up with demand, so this is a good time to review our agricultural funding as well as state and federal agency services to make sure investments are made in this growth industry so more Ohio farmers are equipped with the information, resources, and support they need to take advantage of this economic opportunity,”concluded Lipstreu.

Investments in organic farming could have larger economic impacts as well. According to a Penn State research paper on organic hotspots, on average, county poverty rates drop by 1.3 percent and median household incomes rise by more than $2,000 in counties with high organic activity that neighbor other high organic counties.

“I think many people go with what they know,” Woodford said. “If I were raised in conventional farming, and I was invested in that, I might have chosen that option. I’m not saying that conventional isn’t safe. I think a lot depends on what you’re farming, growing, producing and the amount.

“I personally stay with organic because it is natural. I can see the benefit. Hey, the earth has made it this far taking care of itself naturally. Why would I want to interfere with that?”

Ohio ranks high for number of organic farms

Akron Beacon Journal, 10/18/17

COLUMBUS: Ohio ranks seventh in the nation when it comes to the number of organic farms, according to a new survey.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2016 Certified Organic Survey shows Ohio’s organic sales increased by more than 30 percent since 2015 and the number of certified organic farms in Ohio is up by 24 percent. The Buckeye State also moved from eighth to seventh in the country for the number of organic farms.

“The 2016 survey illustrates the strength of organic production and sales in the state of Ohio,” Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association policy coordinator Amalie Lipstreu said in a prepared statement. “Organic production continues to be a bright spot in U.S. agriculture.”

Overall, the U.S. saw $7.6 billion in organic sales, as well as an 11 percent increase in the number of organic farms. More than 5 million acres of certified organic acreage are in production in the U.S., up 15 percent since 2015.

With the growth, the government needs to invest more in organic farming, the association said. The USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Institute spends an average of two-tenths of 1 percent of overall funding each year on organic farming, and Ohio has no extension educator positions dedicated to serving organic farmers, according to the association.

“Organic production has not been able to keep up with demand, so this is a good time to review our agricultural funding as well as state and federal agency services to make sure investments are made in this growth industry so more Ohio farmers are equipped with the information, resources and support they need to take advantage of this economic opportunity,” Lipstreu said.

OEFFA releases food safety planning guide

Farm and Dairy, 11/2/17

COLUMBUS — A publication released by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.

Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.

OEFFA Education Program Director Renee Hunt said they hope these case studies will help produce growers be less intimidated by food safety planning.

FSMA. Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in covered produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.

The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk.

“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator Eric Pawlowski. “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”

The new report, along with additional resources, are available at policy.oeffa.org/foodsafety.

New report helps farmers with food safety planning

OCJ, 10/27/17

A publication released by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.

Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms” features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.

“Our hope is that farmers, whether or not they are certified organic, will see themselves in these profiles,” said Renee Hunt, OEFFA Education Program Director. “We want these case studies to give produce growers ideas of what they can do and make food safety planning less intimidating.”

Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in Covered Produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.

“Food safety is everyone’s concern,” Hunt said. “But it shouldn’t mean farmers have to quit raising fruits and vegetables because they find the compliance process confusing or think it will be too costly to meet the standards.”

The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk. For example, Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, Ohio, had built its packing area prior to FSMA. The open sides of the packing area — where produce is made ready for restaurants or to take to the farmers’ market — posed a contamination risk. The farm addressed the situation by enclosing the area with half-inch hardware cloth sides and doors.

“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said Eric Pawlowski, OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator. “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”

The new report, along with additional resources, are available at OEFFA’s food safety web page.

Statement from the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association on Repeated Delay of USDA Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule

For Immediate Release:
November 10, 2017

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator—(614) 421-2022, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, OEFFA Communications Coordinator—(614) 421-2022, lauren@oeffa.org

COLUMBUS, OH—Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released notice that they are delaying, for the third time, implementation of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule.

“The USDA’s move this week should be seen for what it is: a clear attempt to let industrial agriculture interests usurp the legitimacy of the organic label,” said OEFFA Policy Program Coordinator Amalie Lipstreu. “This rule has been in the making for more than 10 years and has been fully vetted.”

The OLPP final rule would amend production requirements for livestock and poultry under the USDA organic regulations. This rule adds new provisions for how livestock are handled during transport for slaughter as well as avian living conditions. The rule also expands and clarifies existing requirements covering livestock care and production practices and mammalian living conditions. The OLPP final rule was scheduled to become effective on March 20, 2017.

Instead, last spring, AMS published a notice of proposed rulemaking asking the public what direction USDA should take with respect to the rule. In yesterday’s release, the USDA noted that more than 40,000 of the 47,000 total comments received supported implementing the rule immediately. Only one commenter suggested the rule should be delayed.

“The public has high expectations for food that carries the organic label. These expectations are being met or exceeded by more than 90% of organic farmers, who also overwhelmingly support the implementation of these rules without further delay. We should not be catering to the interests of those few producers that do not believe in the values of organic agriculture,” Lipstreu stated.

New Report Helps Farmers With Food Safety Planning: Features Case Studies of Ohio Organic Farms

For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2017
.
Contact:
Renee Hunt, OEFFA Program Director, (614) 947-1642, renee@oeffa.org
Eric Pawlowski, OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator, (614) 947-1610, eric@oeffa.org
A publication released today by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will help produce farmers understand what it means to develop a farm food safety plan and meet new federal food safety rules.
  .
Food Safety Planning Down on the Farm: Examples from Ohio Certified Organic Farms features eight vegetable and fruit farms of various scales and serving diverse markets.
.
“Our hope is that farmers, whether or not they are certified organic, will see themselves in these profiles,” said OEFFA Education Program Director Renee Hunt.  “We want these case studies to give produce growers ideas of what they can do and make food safety planning less intimidating.”
.
Produce farmers face new regulations with the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While the law exempts the smallest farms (those selling less than $25,000 in Covered Produce, such as lettuce, strawberries, and radishes), some buyers may require those operations meet FSMA standards as well.
   .
“Food safety is everyone’s concern,” said Hunt. “But it shouldn’t mean farmers have to quit raising fruits and vegetables because they find the compliance process confusing or think it will be too costly to meet the standards.”
   .
The publication identifies challenges and discusses changes that reduce risk. For example, Jorgensen Farms in Westerville, Ohio, had built its packing area prior to FSMA. The open sides of the packing area—where produce is made ready for restaurants or to take to the farmers’ market—posed a contamination risk. The farm addressed the situation by enclosing the area with ½ inch hardware cloth sides and doors.
 .
“Many times, farmers are already doing the right thing,” said OEFFA Sustainable Agriculture Educator Eric Pawlowski.  “It is just a matter of codifying their practices and documenting the actions they have taken.”
  .
The new report, along with additional resources, are available at OEFFA’s food safety web page.
.
This publication was financed through a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) provisions. This is a USDA SCBGP-supported publication. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

Ohioans can have direct impact on environment

Cleveland.com, Kate Williams, 10/15/2017

Guest columnist Kate Williams, CEO of 1% for the Planet, advocates for donating to SEED Ohio. Donations, she writes, "enables you to make a single donation that directly impacts your home state, city, and the park lands, rivers and lakes you enjoy with your families."

Guest columnist Kate Williams, a lifelong advocate of the outdoors and the environment, has been CEO of 1% for the Planet since 2015. Previously, she served as Board Chair of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) and as Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.

Citizen action and voice have never been more critical to the future of our planet. Across the globe, it is a time of extremes – storms, drought and politics to name just a few. Here in the United States these extremes are accompanied by significant reductions in federal funding to address environmental issues.

As global citizens, we must take action. Businesses and individuals are urgently needed to make up for the shortfalls in funding that keep vital programs running.

I lead an organization called 1% for the Planet. Our growing movement of businesses, individuals and nonprofits around the world creates positive environmental impact through annual commitments and everyday action.

Ohioans concerned about environmental issues facing their state have an opportunity to join this movement through SEED Ohio. SEED (Solutions Elevating Environmental Donations) benefits a curated and vetted group of Ohio nonprofits representing six environmental issue areas: land, water, climate, food, pollution and wildlife.

One donation to SEED Ohio will support the Western Reserve Land ConservancyOhio Ecological Food and Farm AssociationOhio River FoundationCuyahoga River RestorationBuilding Value and Clean Fuels Ohio. These partners work to keep Ohio rivers clean and free of pollutants, to preserve land for farming and recreation and to promote green deconstruction so building materials can be salvaged and reused. They plant trees, protect native habitats and help Ohio businesses adopt cleaner fuel practices. Their efforts focus on repair, prevention and education. Collectively, they plan and anticipate for a more uncertain future.

Two of our partners, Western Reserve Land Conservancy and Cuyahoga River Restoration, are based here in Cleveland. Western Reserve Land Conservancy has preserved more than 680 properties totaling 50,000-plus acres, planted thousands of trees in Cleveland and created more than 150 public parks and preserves. Cuyahoga River Restoration has provided shade, shelter and food for more than 400 catfish, bass, shiners, sunfish and other native fish species.

We understand that it can be difficult to discern which nonprofit organizations are most deserving of your hard-earned dollars or to understand where the most acute needs might be. Like you, I want to see the tangible results of my investment and know without a doubt that my giving has immediate impact. SEED Ohio is designed with clarity and credibility in mind – you can trust that your dollars are driving real impact.

I invite you — and all Ohioans — to join our global movement by making a difference in your own backyard. The SEED Ohio platform enables you to make a single donation that directly impacts your home state, city, and the park lands, rivers and lakes you enjoy with your families. By donating through SEED Ohio, you will join with other businesses and individuals who care about the future of Ohio and the future of our planet. Together, we can make a difference.

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