Monthly Archives: February 2008

plugging rampfest


The Land Connection is a great organization here in Illinois. They work to, “establish successful farmers on healthy farmland, ensuring an abundance of delicious, local, and organic foods.” Every year they have a fund raiser called RampFest. Ramps are a wild leek. More HERE if you’re interested. It’s the first thing to pop up in the Spring in our woods. Want to taste a ramp? Go to RampFest and support a great cause.

Friday, March 28, 2008
7:00–9:30 p.m.
Prairie Production
1314 W. Randolph Street | Chicago
Free On-street Parking

$75 Regular Tickets ($90 after March 7th)
$120 Benefactor* tickets


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there is hope for this world

This is a fantastic story. Watch and enjoy…

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nop to be reorganized

organic sealSource: Organic Consumers Association — I’m not privy to the inner workings of the USDA’s National Organic Program, but I just called the NOP office and they did confirm that this is happening. No word yet on when it will actually take place. Reorganization could be good or bad. The person I spoke with said they’ve made some reassignments of who is reporting to who. We can hope it will result in a stronger program, but that will depend on who’s in charge and what their agenda.

From the article…

“The NOP is reorganizing into three branches: Standards Development & Review; Accreditation, Auditing & Training; and Compliance & Enforcement. Deputy Administrator for Transportation & Marketing Programs Barbara Robinson will assume overall leadership for the NOP in addition to her other duties, while Mark Bradley will assume leadership for the Accreditation, Auditing & Training Branch, and Richard Mathews will head up the Standards Development & Review Branch. No decision has been made for leadership of Compliance & Enforcement at this time.” [Read the whole article]

Just looked at the NOP website and Mark Bradley is still listed as the Associate Deputy Administrator, the main contact for the NOP. There’s nothing else on the NOP site about the reorganization.

Question is will it mean more funding for organic research and education?

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live-blogging at upper midwest organic conference WRAP UP

ico at moses

Indiana Certified Organic

OK, this “live-blogging” thing is harder than it looks. In fact, what I’ve done here probably doesn’t even qualify as “live.” I tried to keep up, but it took so much time (for me) to write the posts and download the pictures, that I ended up spending more time blogging than conference-ing. Now it’s a couple days later and I’m back in the office trying to wrap it up by memory. Hopefully I captured some of what was going on at LaCrosse. It’s a great meeting, I would say better than Eco-Farm.

The last day I attended a cover crop workshop and the general session. The general session featured Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety and International Center for Technology Assessment. Andrew spoke at Eco-Farm and his presentation at Upper Midwest was the same one he gave in California, so you can read my comments about him on an earlier post. After listening to Mr. Kimbrell we enjoyed our last Upper Midwest organic lunch and headed for home.

Before introducing Andrew Kimbrell, MOSES director, Faye Jones pointed out that they have changed the name of the conference. Now it’s the Organic Farming Conference. They have removed the words “Upper” and “Midwest” from the title. She made an off-handed comment that some other conferences had stolen their name. I almost died. We named our conference this year, the Midwest Organic Production and Marketing Conference. Not a direct rip-off, but I guess it could be perceived as similar and might even cause some confussion. We’ve change our name every year (four) as well as the location. I have to admit that I left the MOSES meeting wondering why we even bother having a conference in Illinois. The LaCrosse meeting is so good, so big, so everything, that it’s hard to think we can even compete. We’ll probably be rethinking our whole approach. I understand now that we’ve been trying to reproduce the MOSES meeting. We need to think about how we can make our meeting uniquely valuable to farmers down here and still complement the MOSES meeting that more and more folks are attending every year.

Thanks for reading!

spontaneous music

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organic fertilizers help mitigate climate change

Source: ENN — This just out! Climate modelers are starting to include farming practices into climate change models. Here now is more evidence that conventional ag fertility decreases soil organic matter and reduces the soil’s capacity to sequester carbon, whereas organic fertilizers (compost, manures, cover crops) increase soil organic matter and likewise the soil’s capacity for sequestering carbon. Increasing organic matter in soils is a win-win-win-win-win…

“…increasing organic matter in soils may cause other greenhouse gas-saving effects, such as improved workability of soils, better water retention, less production and use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced release of nitrous oxide.”

Read the whole article, but while we’re on the topic of climate change, here’s a very interesting site called Climate Debate Daily put together by two New Zealand philosophers. The site…

“…links to scientific articles, news stories, economic studies, polemics, historical articles, PR releases, editorials, feature commentaries, and blog entries. The main column on the left includes arguments and evidence generally in support of the IPCC position on the reality of signficant anthropogenic global warming. The right-hand column includes material skeptical of the IPCC position and the notion that anthropogenic global warming represents a genuine threat to humanity.”

Plus more. Seems like a great place to get both sides of the story.


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live-blogging at upper midwest organic conference 2

I am currently at the MOSES annual meeting, Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference, in LaCrosse, WI. I’ll update this post with new info as the day goes on. It’s currently -1 degrees here in LaCrosse.

MOSES Welcome Sign

8:30 AM — New this year, the MOSES folks have established the Midwest Organic Research Symposium as part of the program. The series of symposiums are on different topics. The first one this morning is on Weed Management in Organic Systems. To begin, five researchers gave short (5 minute) summaries of their work to a large group. That gave participants an idea of what the researchers were offering. All the researchers stayed on time and the summaries only took 30 minutes. After the summaries, the researchers split up into separate rooms and participants were encouraged to spend more time with the researcher in smaller groups. That’s were I am now in the John Masiunas/Ab Bicksler project managing Canada thistle with summer annual cover crops and mowing. It’s a small group of about 25 people and discussion is brisk. Lots of questions. At the 20 minute mark someone came around and encouraged folks to move around to other groups if they want. A few got up. Most stayed. People seem really interested. Canada thistle is a real problem with many organic farmers. This research offers some real hope. More info can be found here.

MOSES research symposium

This format is definitely great for exchanging high-quality information between researchers and producers. And this IS an exchange. In addition to asking questions, the producers are making some very good suggestions and telling their own stories.

1:38 PM — The exhibit hall is packed with around 150 exhibitors…

MOSES exhibit hall
The exhibit hall, 2008 MOSES

Will spend some time there this afternoon and see if there’s anything worth posting about.

In the mean time, at the general session this morning they introduced the MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year. Nicholas, Gary and Rosie Zimmer run the Otter Creek Organic Dairy in Avoca, Wisconsin. The Zimmers, “manage 1,200 acres of organic crops, including alfalfa, grass forages, corn, soybeans, canning peas, oats, barley and rye. They also milk 200 cows, have 50 dry cows, 300 heifers, 100 beef cattle, and 100 pasture-raised feeder pigs.” Impressive. They also started and run the Local Source Farm Market where they market much of their milk, cheese and meat.

MOSES farmer of the year

Gary Zimmer, MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year

Synister Dane opened the general session with a hilarious adaptation of Dylan’s classic, “Everybody Must Get Cloned.”

Synister Dane

Synister Dane, the MOSES house band

After “Dane” and the Zimmers, the morning keynote speaker, self-described investigative nutritionist and change agent, Melinda Hemmelgarn talked about Illusions in our food system, the illusions of “fruit,” the illusion of “clean and safe,” the illusion of compassion (to animals), value, “natural,” environmental responsibility, healthy choices, etc., etc. All these illusions are propagated by large food corporations using the media to control their image and the image of their products. Melinda thinks everyone should “grow some of your own food, cook most of your own food, know everything about all your food.”

Good food = healthy, green, fair and affordable. She talked much about the childhood obesity epidemic and how so many of our food issues are tied to poverty. Not sure about that, but the environment in which we and our children make food choices definitely influences our day-to-day decisions.

7:39 PM — Spent some time this afternoon wandering around the exhibit hall and found some interesting stuff…

Years ago I saw the need for software to help organic producers with the burdensome paperwork load required of them for certification. Even had conference calls with ATTRA people who had the same idea. Never happened. Now someone else has come up with a product…

sunrise software

It’s called FieldNotes and it’s put out by Sunrise Software out of Morris, MN. As you can see it can be used with a PDA. Though not designed exclusively with organic producers, it looks like it would do a pretty good job. Carman Fernholtz uses it. That’s good enough for me.

Want to protect your kids from the hell that is public school? How about this…

Scattergood Friends School

How about Scattergood Friends School? It’s a Quaker college prep boarding school for high-school aged student. From the school’s website…

“Scattergood has provided students from around the world with a college preparatory education since 1890. Unique in our approach, we emphasize living in community and are devoted to fostering the growth of the whole person. Rooted in Quakerism, the core values of simplicity, harmony, integrity, responsibility, and equality play out in everyday life. Students and staff alike endeavor daily to apply and integrate these Quaker values into the various school activities that occupy us from dawn to dusk.”


In addition to Seeds of Change and Johnny’s, it seems like there are more seed companies and organizations trying to serve the organic producer. Several were here…

seed dealer 1

Blue River Hybrids

seed dealers 2

Seed Savers Exchange

seed dealers 3

Prairie Hybrids


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live-blogging at upper midwest organic conference 1

Got here just in time to put up our poster…

poster for upper midwest

In addition to the poster session (mostly research posters) they are trying some new things at the conference.  For one part of the program — the research symposium — the format will feature a group of researchers (weed scientists, for one) who will give very short (4-5 minute) summaries of their projects. That will take the first half-hour. Then the researchers will move to individual rooms and the participants will follow, splitting up according to their interests and what they heard in the summaries. Now here’s the good part — the presenters are NOT going to give some boring presentation. No, the next hour will be spent in discussion — participants asking questions and the presenters (researchers) answering. It’s sounds like it will be totally lead by the farmers and their questions, their curiosity, their perspective. Looking forward to seeing how this works.

The keynotes tonight were interesting — young folk. The youngest was a 15-year old gal who is raising beef calves on grass. It’s her own business. She was bright and funny and the fresh new hopeful future of organic farming. The next girl was a 22-year old
PhD student anxious to finish her degree and go back to teaching kids about saving the world with organic farming and food. The last speaker was Tom Franzen’s kid. He was great too. The whole effect was upbeat and positive. In conventional farming kids aren’t going back to the farm. Organic is a different story. Young folk are open to doing things differently. They are more in tune with ecological, environmental and healthy sensibilities. They are enthusiastic about working hard on something they are really excited about.

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