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Organic Broadcaster Online Issue 19.4 July/August 2011
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Table of Contents
- Growing Organic Edible Dry Beans in the Midwest
- Fifth Season Cooperative Taking Local Production to the Next Level
- News From MOSES
- Inside Organics Food Safety: Throwing Out the Farm with the Wash Water
- In Memorial: Kevin Brussel, Organic Activist
- Book Review Beekeeping for Fun & Profit
- Fences and Other Wooden Structures on the Organic Farm
- Food Legumes for Organic Systems in the Upper Midwest
- Perennial Sunflower
- Hows and the Whys of the Pasture Rule
- NOSB Review of Decisions from April Meeting
- Raising Stress Free Claves Quiet Weaning
- News Briefs
Growing Organic Edible Dry Beans in the Midwest
By Jody Padgham
Edible dry beans are not a very common crop in the Midwest. Visions of dry beans may lead more naturally to the huge rolling hills of western Washington State, populated with endless lentil and garbanzo fields. However, dry beans can be a successful crop addition for Midwestern row crop farmers and are an important U.S. food crop, both for domestic consumption and for export. Jim Sattelberg, third generation Michigan dry bean producer, explained his techniques for successful Midwestern dry bean production this winter at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference.
Jim Sattelberg farms with his family on two farms in the "thumb" of Michigan. He describes the land as rich, flat, bottom land, in a fertile area with a history of large diversified vegetable operations. The Sattelberg home farm is Bayshore Farms, about two hours north of Detroit. In 2001, Jim was looking at very low commodity bean prices for his hundreds of acres of conventional bean crops. Knowing his two sons wanted to come back to farm, and desiring to live a healthier life, Jim decided to try organic production, and bought a second farm 41 miles away with 750 acres of certified organic land. The family has since gone through the 3-year transition on the home farm, where they now have 1,800 acres of organic production, for a total of 2,550 organic acres.
The second farm, Thistledown Farm, came with an elevator and custom cleaning and bagging business. With five years previous experience as part owner of a conventional dry bean marketing association, Jim was comfortable taking on the marketing for his new business, though it meant he needed to get up to speed on the organic market. The processing business is named Ever Best Organics, and located in Snover, MI.
Is Edible Dry Bean Production Right for You?
Jim recommends any producer consider the following points before they decide to go into edible dry bean production:
1. Are there good markets available, and can you grow what the market wants? Jim tells the story that when he bought the mill there was a bin of navy beans that had been there for two years. The producer had not been able to line up a buyer. No one will succeed if the crop can't be sold.
2. How does growing dry beans fit into your operation? Do you have the right equipment, and enough of the right storage? Some years you will need a bin for each crop, as the best market will generally not be at harvest time.
3. Will dry beans do well in your area? Do you have the right growing season, the right climate? Jim explains that dry beans are a fussy crop - they won't set if it gets too hot, and will dry up. If you plant a determinant variety and they get too hot, they won't reset and you'll lose the crop. Indeterminant varieties, however, will reset if it cools off.
4. Do you have good weed and pest control abilities? Dry beans are not good competitors and suffer from weed pressure. Conventional farmers use a lot of chemicals to manage them; the organic producer needs to be a very good manager.
5. Do you have a good fertility program and soil structure? Dry beans are very finicky. The better your soil biology, the better your crop.
6. What bean varieties will best fit your farm? Should you grow bush, vines, or upright varieties? The varieties will determine the equipment needed.
If these questions lead you to think that dry beans might be a good fit, Jim has numerous tips for successful edible dry bean production. The tips from this experienced farmer will also be useful for all organic row crop producers.
Be Aware of What the Market Wants
Jim points out that there are variations in what the different markets expect in dry bean quality. Both the canning and package markets require the beans at a similar moisture level (generally 16-17% or less, sometimes 15%- dependent on the buyer), but from there they differ. The canning market requires better quality seed, with less than 8% checking in the seed coats. The package market will tolerate up to 20% checking. This is because as the beans are cooked in the cans, any cracked skins and loose protein will break away and float up to the top, making a very unattractive presentation when the consumer opens the can.
Cleaning is very important for both markets, requiring that dirt balls, split beans, and stones all be pulled out. There is a zero percent tolerance for stones in dry beans.
Black, pinto, and navy beans are the most popular in the market. If you wish to grow dark reds, light reds, kidneys, adzukis, garbanzos, or any of the less common beans Jim cautions that you must have a contract or a sure market before you plant.
Equipment: Standard, Specialty, or Customized
Much of the equipment needed for dry bean production can be the same as that used for soybeans, though it will need to be customized for the various sized beans. You will want a planter that offers different sized plates. Jim plants navy and black beans at 120,000 per acre with 22 inch rows, or 100,000-110,000/acre with 30 inch rows. Pintos are at 80,000-90,000 per acre in 22 inch rows. A thick planting helps the beans to compete with each other, with the result that they will grow bigger and faster. Dry beans do not need to be planted with an innoculant, though Jim adds a cultured soil biology treatment to help them along. He uses foundation seed from out west, and tends not to save his own as he can't assure a disease-free seed. He expects about a 1,500 pound per acre yield before cleaning.
For harvest, Jim uses a rod puller to disengage the plant root balls from the ground. The rod puller has a square shaft that runs two to six inches below the ground and scuffs the plant out of the ground. He runs that with an attached Pickett windrower that picks up the plants and windrows them. The combine will then pick the plants up out of the windrow. This pulling/windrow system is needed for bush and vining varieties, any that will have pods hanging on the ground. You must be careful to not let the windrows get rained on, as that will vastly decrease bean quality. Jim has found that these machines are pretty available in used equipment lots, as most conventional bean growers have gone to cutters, which are faster.
Alternatively, a knife cutter, with a long angled blade cutting the plants above the ground, can be used for any upright beans. Use a combine with a pickup head with air tubes that can be adjusted close to the ground. The air blows across the top of the knife and lifts the pods, reducing the shattering of beans on the knife.
If you have a combine with a floating header you can adapt it to work, especially on the smaller bean varieties. However, if you are out shopping Jim recommends getting a conventional cylinder with teeth, not a rasp bar. You can get specialty bean combines which work well from companies like Lewiston. Jim uses a peanut combine, which has spring teeth cylinders for threshing that work really well for kidney beans and other large seeded beans - it is gentler on the seed coat.
Jim cautions that taking care of the seed coat is of primary concern when harvesting. For this reason, he uses a dump truck rather than an auger to unload - it is easier on the bean skins. Once the beans are threshed you don't want to run them through an auger unless you really have to. If you have to move the beans into or out of storage, he recommends setting up belts. Inside any storage bins that are taller than 15 feet Jim uses a bean ladder, which is a frame with short eaves-troughs to lessen the distance that the beans fall. (Jim has bought these from Meridian Manufacturing, and has also had them custom made.) The dryer the beans the more fragile they are.
Cleaning and Bagging are Critical
Having equipment to do your own cleaning is a real plus. If you don't have specialty equipment available, you can use a rotary cleaner to get the major dirt out of the beans. Pre-cleaning before storage is important, as any green stems left with the beans will float to the top and then work their way down the sides of the storage bin. As this residue gets covered up with good beans, it will rot and heat up, causing bean spoilage.
Jim uses a sequence of a clipper fanning mill, a gravity table and a de-stoner to clean the dry beans. Because of the zero stone tolerance, and the difficulty of getting stones out, Sattelbergs have gone to an electric eye stone sorter, which works really well. It is an expensive piece of equipment, but well worth it, Jim says. What his other cleaning setup misses, the eye will catch. It can be programmed for each kind of bean, and adjusted for the specifications you are trying to meet.
Jim concludes that all his cleaning equipment works really well if it is adjusted perfectly, but that it is a real art to get it adjusted right.
Growing the Crop: Rotations are Important
Dry beans do well when planted after wheat or spelt that has been interseeded with clover. The beans can also be planted after corn, as long as a cover crop is used in between. If you want to plant dry beans after soybeans, you will need to plant something like cereal rye to suppress weeds in between.
Cover crops are invaluable for increasing organic matter and soil biology in the soil and breaking weed cycles. Jim's favorite is to interseed red clover into small grains. He frost seeds the red clover with a spreader on the back of an ATV at the rate of ten pounds per acre. Jim uses an old variety medium red clover seed that grows into the spring, and then gets moldboard plowed in.
One of the reasons Jim likes growing dry beans is that they can be harvested as much as a month earlier than soybeans (from late August to mid September), which allows you to get good growth on a wheat planting after the bean harvest.
Good Soil = Good Crop
Jim emphasizes developing and maintaining good soil texture and biology in order to grow good dry bean crops. He does soil tests on a third of their acreage every year, using a GPS map from the soil service to assess specific soil conditions. He uses compost, compost tea, and cultured biology products for fertility. Poultry compost is applied at about a ton per acre, adding nitrogen and diverse fertility to the soil.
Jim has learned that the activity of the soil microbes takes away the environment for weed growth, so he is careful to cultivate them with such practices as adding a liquid fish product to the soil in the spring. He says that he can clearly see the difference in his soils that have been organic longer, that weed growth and other problems really decrease over time as he works to increase the soil biology.
Dry beans need very good surface and sub-surface soil drainage in the fields, as the plants "don't like wet feet." Jim's bean fields in Michigan are tiled on a 25 to 50 foot grid, so that the water from heavy rains won't sit on top of their heavy clay subsoil. Standing water will drown a crop out, creating an opening for weed growth and then weed seed sources that lead to future management problems.
Cultivation is Key for Weed Management
Cultivation practices for edible dry beans are much the same as for soybeans. Jim starts with a tine weeder, doing a blind cultivation two to three days after planting. A rotary hoe is used two to seven days after the tine weeder, just after the plants reach hook stage. Jim has found that it does an even better job if you can go over the same field twice on the same day, so they've custom built the hoe with a second gang in the back, offset from the first, so that with one pass the row is getting weeded twice.
Row cultivating is done when the beans are big enough to handle the soil movement, two to five days after the rotary hoe, in the first or second leaf stage. Jim uses a single sweep cultivator, using 16-inch sweeps down the 22-inch rows. He recommends you don't cultivate more than three times with the single sweep, and he hopes to only have to do it twice most years, as the beans will soon canopy in and shade the weeds out.
Crews of 10 to 25 migrant workers from Texas help out in the fields to do hand weeding as the crop grows up. If you don't have access to this kind of field labor, Jim recommends you set up a weed cutter (using a tool bar with a drive system and lawn mower blades) to cut the weeds above the level of the bean crop. This makes threshing a lot easier, with reduced bean damage and staining, and will lower the weed seed in the seed bank.
Proper management in the first six weeks after planting will dictate the success of your crop. Jim walks the fields every two days to monitor weeds, insects, and white mold levels. He has found that as his soil quality and soil biology improve, his weed and disease problems have vastly decreased. When asked about problems with nightshade (a big problem with beans, as its berry is the same size as many beans, and stains the beans) he relates that he really doesn't see problems with this weed anymore since he has become a good organic manager.
Thistles and grass infestations can indicate soil compaction and are helped by good cover crop management, and by spreading gypsum or high-cal lime.
Maintaining healthy plants is the best solution to any pest problems in dry beans. "Pests like sick plants," Jim notes. "If you keep the plants healthy your pest problems will go down." A fall application of enzymes, microbes, bacteria, and fish fertilizer helps to rejuvenate the soil. In the spring Jim comes back with another dose of the fish, microbes, and biology. "I use a sprayer now more than I did when I was conventional," Jim says with surprise. He is pleased with foliar feeding, and plans to spray liquid potassium (helps with reproduction) and liquid biology at first bloom, when there are blossoms on 50% of the plants. He sprays a neem oil blend to control aphids and leaf hoppers. The neem is absorbed into the plant and then taken up by the insects through the sap. He walks the fields, and if he sees more than 5 leaf hoppers per plant knows that it is time to spray neem. He tests the pH of the plant sap, so that he knows what pH he needs for the spray - if the pH of the plant is less than the spray, the plant won't absorb it. He adds the alkaline liquid fish if he needs to bring the spray pH down.
Jim ran out of time to go into disease management, but again suggested that starting with disease-free seed, good soil biology and mineral and nutrient management will be the best control (prevention) for problems.
It is clear from the questions and comments in the room at the end of the session that there is a lot of interest in growing edible dry beans in the Midwest. Dry beans require specific management, as they are a finicky crop, but can be raised with a lot of the same equipment used for soybeans and offer a good alternative in a rotation and in the marketplace. If an organic row crop farmer explores the market and finds opportunity for a kind of bean that fits into their operation, edible dry beans could be a good diversification.
Jody Padgham is the Organic Broadcaster editor. She can be reached at email@example.com
Fifth Season Cooperative:Taking Local Production to the Next Level
By Joe Pedretti
Organic farmers have been at the forefront of the direct marketing revolution from the beginning. Whether it is tried and true models like roadside stands and pick your own, or more advanced strategies like on-farm retail stores, CSAs, and farmers' markets, organic farmers employ many techniques to reach their consumers. Retail markets, especially through co-ops and natural food stores, have opened up additional opportunities for selling product. The ever-increasing demand for locally produced, high-quality food has also prompted chefs to buy direct from the farm.
The most challenging local market to break into remains the institutional market - hospitals, schools, and universities. The large volume, the complicated logistics, the increased liability insurance requirements, and the need for specialized processing have made this market unobtainable for most small to medium-sized producers. The interest from these institutions is there. Hospitals and schools are looking for local production, but they lack the ability to manage producer relations. What is needed to break the barriers is an entity that links the producers with the buyers; an entity that can manage production, coordinate distribution and sales, and collectively meet food processing and safety needs. Few such models exist in the United States, but that is changing, and it is happening right here in the Midwest.
A sustainability meeting in La Crosse, WI, between Western Technical College, UW-La Crosse, Gunderson Lutheran Health System, Organic Valley, and others served as the epiphany moment for Sue Noble, Director of the Vernon Economic Development Association, who was also at the meeting. All of these institutions expressed an interest in buying local food, but all of them also stressed that "it has to be easy." The major issues they identified:
•They cannot call eight different farmers to order - they require one-stop shopping.
•They need specific items in specific forms i.e. broccoli florets, baby carrots, hot dogs. Most institutions don't have the budget for preparation labor. Some processing is necessary.
•They need to order through traditional delivery channels.
•They need liability insurance guarantees ($10 million).
•They need handling and food safety guarantees.
With these requirements in mind, it was apparent to Sue that a coordinator was needed to work with the buyers, so she suggested applying for a grant. They grant she applied for was a "Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin" grant, which was designed to support the consumption of locally produced food in Wisconsin. One of the stipulations of this grant was a dollar match, which was provided by Organic Valley. It was also Organic Valley that suggested that the coordinating organization be a cooperative, one that joined producers and buyers together. Just such a cooperative model existed- the Producers and Buyers Cooperative, which had been formed June of 2009 in the Chippewa Valley to link producers with Sacred Heart Hospital and other institutions in the west-central area of Wisconsin.
With a model and a match in hand, Sue submitted the grant proposal and was informed that they had won the Buy Local grant in late 2009. At $40,000, the grant was the largest one of its kind given in Wisconsin. The grant paid for the expenses associated with getting the new cooperative off the ground. To accomplish this, a "meeting of the minds" occurred in February of 2010. This group included local farmers, local businesses, local schools & institutions, and community organizers. A number of committees were created, each tasked with creating the policy and logistical frameworks necessary to create the new cooperative. By August of 2010 the cooperative was incorporated, a Board of Directors had been selected and a name chosen: Fifth Season Cooperative, which refers "to the various ways people preserved food in order to continue enjoying the harvest well beyond the growing season."
Much of the early work centered around the "how" of the workings of a cooperative that would have multiple membership classes, but still adhere to the "one member, one vote" foundation. In the end, they created six membership classes, each with different equity requirements:
•Producer/Farmer- $250 total equity requirement. $25 in Class A Voting Stock and $225 in equity stock.
•Producer Group (Pools & Organizations)-$750 total equity. $25 in Class A Voting Stock and $725 in equity stock.
•Food Processor- $750.
•Institutional Buyer- Must purchase product twice per year minimum.
•Cooperative Workers- $250 total. $25 in Class A Voting Stock and $225 in equity stock.
Fifth Season is also accepting non-voting equity memberships from the community at large. While this membership class does not have the same voting rights as other types of members, they do receive a generous 5% annual dividend on their investment. "Our goal is $100,000 from the community, and we are a third of the way to that goal," notes Nicole Penick, the Buy Local Coordinator for the cooperative.
Fifth Season is currently accepting new buyers in the Seven Rivers Region of Wisconsin. They will add new producers as they grow and demand increases. Nicole stresses that "we try to be clear with producers - we have to be able to sell your product first."
There are membership questionnaires on the website that potential members should fill out and mail in if they are interested in joining: http://fifthseason.coop/membership/how-to-join/
To run a business that sells locally produced food products, you need a number of key pieces of infrastructure: a loading dock, a cooler, a freezer, and office space for staff. In 2009, the Vernon Economic Development Association (VEDA) had acquired a large 100,000 square foot building and 15 acres of land in Viroqua (formerly NCR Manufacturing). In September of 2010, Sue Noble learned that the project had been awarded a $2 million dollar US Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant for structural improvements to the building. In the spring of 2011 VEDA closed on a $2.3 million financing package that covers further building projects not covered by the EDA grant.
Renovations are underway, with plans for Fifth Season Cooperative to become the first tenant in the new building this summer. In preparation, the cooperative has hired its very first employee, an Operations Manager, who will begin in July.
At first, the cooperative will focus on selling grass-fed beef products, produce, and dairy products. Premier Meats, a certified organic meat processor in Viroqua, has worked to develop new products, including "Apple-Dogs," which use applesauce to improve flavor and texture. Premier sells directly to Fifth Season Cooperative, as does Westby Cooperative, and Organic Valley for the dairy needs.
The Problem with Produce
"We found that institutions are very interested in ordering, but they don't actually use much fresh produce. Mostly they use specific, ready to prepare forms like baby carrots, broccoli florets, and baby red potatoes," notes Nicole Penick. With this in mind, Fifth Season is focusing on ten produce items that are in demand. Producers send an availability list to Fifth Season and buyers place their orders on Friday. Producers send in their produce on Monday to the warehouse and then the orders go out on Tuesday and Wednesday for final delivery.
Farmers are responsible for getting the food to the distribution hub in Viroqua. Fifth Season handles storage, sales, and distribution. Fifth Season is in discussion with Reinharts and Sysco, well-established institutional food distributors in the upper Midwest. "Institutions are used to the convenient ordering systems these companies offer. They also have the distribution trucks and established lanes in place and they are always looking for back-haul opportunities," adds Nicole.
Cooperative Sales Goals
A business plan was created with the assistance of the Cooperative Development Services in St. Paul, MN. Nicole Penick said that "our goal for the 1st year is to generate $270,000 in sales and within 2-3 years we need to reach $1 million in order to cover our operating costs and begin making a profit." Any profit will initially be put back into infrastructure, training, education, and marketing. Later the profit will be given back to the members. The cooperative is budgeting for a 20% margin.
Produce will be the greatest challenge. According to Nicole, "Institutions are struggling with their labor dollars, and they increasingly want vegetables in a form that requires extra processing (on the manufacturing side)." Fifth Season is considering adding processing capability in the future, but will also continue to work with local processors and farmers to provide "ready to use" product.
Fifth Season anticipates an increased demand and need for grass-based beef. Nicole points out that "the Driftless Area lends itself well to grazing systems and customers are asking for meat produced without grain, hormones, and antibiotics. We need to educate consumers on the true cost of producing meat. We have an opportunity to put a lot more farmers on the land."
To learn more about the Producers and Buyers Cooperative 715-579-5013
Joe Pedretti is the MOSES Organic Education Specialist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
News from MOSES
by Jody Padgham
Early summer is always a busy time, as we dig back into outdoor work, and wait for the weather to give us the opportunities that we need. The first crop of hay has been successfully harvested in my community. I enjoy the big smiles as my neighbors succeed in producing another rain-free crop.
At MOSES we've successfully begun the field day season. We hope that one of the events we have planned will make it on your calendar this summer or fall. We've highlighted one fun day below, you can see the full listing on our event calendar.
It is with great sadness that Harriet wrote the memorial for our good friend Kevin Brussell (page 4). Losing someone so vibrant so early in life is an absolute tragedy. Our hearts are with Juli, Kevin's wife. Juli has asked that those wishing to contribute in Kevin's honor do so through a fund to help beginning farmers. You can find out more at http://www.mosesorganic.org. We will honor Kevin's life at the 2012 Organic Farming Conference.
In this issue we bring you more helpful tips and suggestions to make your farming more productive. Any row crop producer will learn something from Jim Sattelberg's wisdom on cultivation and soil fertility in the article I did on his organic dry bean production. Joe enjoyed exploring the new model that the Fifth Season Cooperative has put together - we will let you know how their activity unfolds over time. Harriet offers lots of suggestions for treated wood alternatives on page 14. NODPA shares a great update on complying with the new pasture regs for ruminants on page 12. And, as always, there is much more. Enjoy!
Best of luck in judging the weather and in keeping your weeds under control.
Jody Padgham, Organic Broadcaster Editor
Field Days Offer a Diverse Education
Organic Dairy Pasture Walk & Farm Tour
Wednesday, August 24th, 1-4pm
John and Kay Wiemer Organic Dairy Farm
If you've been considering going to one of the many MOSES field days this summer, perhaps this organic dairy tour at the Weimer Farm in Arcadia, WI, should be the one!
The Wiemer farm consists of 157 acres owned and another 293 rented. With the help of family and one full-time employee, the farm produces corn, barley, rye, alfalfa and pasture to feed 85 milking cows and their young stock. Intensively grazing their cattle has reduced their input and labor costs, improved health and longevity of the cattle, and reduced soil erosion and manure runoff.
Beginning and experienced farmers are welcome to join John and Kay as they discuss their pasture conversion experiences, their rotational grazing system, organic pasture management, waterway conservation practices and manure management. Organic Valley veterinarian Dr. Paul Dettloff will be on hand to discuss organic herd health management.
Light refreshments will be served. This event is free and all are welcome. Be prepared for the weather and a walking tour of the farm. This pasture walk is sponsored by Organic Valley and MOSES. To register, or for more information, call 715-778-5775. For more info on other MOSES field days, see the event calendar.
MOSES Farmer of the Year Nominations
MOSES is seeking nominations for our 2012 Organic Farmer of the Year award. Please take advantage of this opportunity to properly acknowledge the efforts of an outstanding organic farmer.
The criteria used in selecting the Organic Farmer of the Year include:
1. Current organic certification
2. Innovations in organic farming/livestock management, including crops and crop rotations; weed, pest and disease management, strategies, development of value added products and marketing.
3. Excellence in enhancing farm resources: soil, water, wildlife, and biodiversity.
4. Inspiration and education of organic farmers, consumers and/or others in the organic community.
As in years past, the award will be presented at the Organic Farming Conference, to be held next February 23-25, 2012 in La Crosse, WI.
We ask those nominating a farmer to fill out a simple nomination form. You can get the form, and read more about the award and past recipients at http://mosesorganic.org/foy.html or by calling the MOSES office at 715-778-5775.
The deadline for submitting nomination is September 15, 2011.
Inside Organics: Food Safety: Throwing Out the Farm with the Wash Water?
By Harriet Behar
Sicknesses and deaths caused by food pathogens are a serious issue. But, in numerous food borne disease outbreaks around the world, including the recent E. coli in Germany, many of the proposed "fixes" are being done in a panic. I have learned in my life that when there is a crisis, the worst thing you can do is panic. Your mind is not clear and the snap judgments made don't take into account the long term consequences of your actions. Food pathogen problems are a serious issue that need both short term preventative action and long term food system scrutiny to get at the root of the problem.
Rather than look at systemic issues, such as large factory scale farms, loss of biodiversity, consolidation in processing, and long distance food miles, which have contributed greatly to the huge impact a food borne pathogen can have, instead we have reacted with stringent oversight and promotion of a sterile environment on all sizes and types of farms. The panic reactions we've seen do not take into account that protecting our food supply is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach.
Proposed food safety regulations are broad and generalized, and especially challenging and cost-prohibitive for small farms to comply with. The factory farm model certainly needs more accountability, since the system itself is inherently full of food safety hazards. However, smaller scale farms, with a tight distribution area and close control over operations, can address food safety concerns in a much different way than factory scale farms.
Previous Agreements Stunt Small Growers
In a panic, the private sector in California put in place a "voluntary" Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement more than 5 years ago. This is a set of protocols involving numerous inspections (paid for by the grower) that farmers must follow in order to sell to wholesale markets. Even though it is not mandated by the government, many California buyers now require this as a way to protect themselves from liability as well as to advertise to their customers that they have strict accountability in place to assure that their food is safe. This agreement has caused many markets to close to smaller growers who can't afford to meet the complex and time-intensive paperwork and traceability requirements. Required capital improvements and environmental changes are either cost prohibitive or abhorrent to some growers. For example, required removal of all vegetative matter surrounding leafy greens fields (i.e. vegetated field borders) gave some farms a "scorched earth" appearance. The removal of these brushy areas does not recognize the benefits they provide in trapping dust particles from adjoining livestock operations, or as habitat to important predatory species that prey upon problematic insects.
Now the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) arm of the USDA wants to implement their own "voluntary" National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which could result in greatly limiting marketing options for family-scale farmers.
Now, wait a minute. Didn't Congress pass a bill last year that dealt with this issue? Well, yes, they did. That bill gave the FDA the mandate to develop regulations overseeing food safety. And are the FDA and AMS working together? The answer is no. And why is the AMS getting involved, since they are economists with no knowledge of the science of food safety? The private sector (Big Agriculture) has been pushing for this marketing agreement. Large companies that have the capital and infrastructure in place now to meet these stringent requirements see this agreement as a way to consolidate their hold on the market. Believe it or not, the local food movement has made inroads into their sales, and is seen by some of these companies as a threat to their profits.
Imagine trying to keep your farm in compliance with a variety of different, and in some cases conflicting, protocols, paperwork and oversight from various government agencies, not to mention the fees attached!
Well-Crafted Safety Regulations Already in the Pipeline
Congress recently addressed food safety through the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed last summer and not yet implemented. While not a perfect bill, it was developed through a deliberative and democratic process and contains protection for small scale, local, sustainable and organic farmers. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was instrumental in bringing common sense to this bill, lessening the impact on family-scale farms from regulations and fees that would drive them out of business, while also providing tools to help them do a better job with sanitation and handling. Many members of NSAC and NOC (National Organic Coalition) spent countless hours on conference calls, writing letters, attending hearings, and working with their constituencies on action alerts to make sure that our interests were heard and addressed. The FDA is developing their regulations based on this law passed by Congress and has reached out to the sustainable and organic agriculture community to make sure that small, mid-sized, and organic farms are not shut out of the marketplace by the demands of the law.
The AMS National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, if implemented, proposes additional, and conflicting, regulation beyond the well-crafted FSMA. Its challenging protocols could lead to the loss of wholesale market access for numerous small and mid-scale farms.
Food safety is a very important concern, but the answer is NOT to have only a few large, highly regulated companies handle all of the fresh produce produced and sold in the U.S. Recognizing that locally produced and eaten vegetables have a much lower risk of causing large scale health events should lead us to encourage local and organic food systems.
With proper training, small scale farms can prevent contamination in the field and in the washing and packing of produce just as well, or better, than large scale farms. Consumers want to purchase food from their local family farms, and should have that choice. The U.S. should not implement any agreements that lessen consumer choice and damage the viability of this important sector of our agricultural economy, the small and mid-sized farm. Don't throw out the farm with the wash water!
Even though this proposed AMS marketing agreement is only for leafy greens, this is just the beginning of a long list of farming practices that could be regulated in the future. Comments on this duplicative and unnecessary National Marketing Agreement Regulating Leafy Greens can be received by the USDA until July 28, 2011. If you grow produce or want to purchase it from family scale farms, a short email from you can help to stop the National Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement from being implemented. NSAC has provided a few points for you to make, in your own words, in your email comments:
1. The Agricultural Marketing Service is NOT a food safety agency and it should leave food safety regulation to the Food and Drug Administration. AMS staff is made up of economists and marketing specialists who convene industry to reach agreement on orderly marketing of produce. They are NOT food safety scientists.
2. The governance structure for this agreement is dominated by processors and distributors and provides only token representation for farmers and consumers. The standards developed under this rule are likely to be driven by the most powerful voices and the largest players in the leafy greens market to the detriment of small and mid-sized farmers and processors.
3. Consumers expect food safety standards to apply to all produce, not just those subject to a marketing agreement. Food safety should not be used to gain a competitive advantage in the market place.
4. If a final rule is issued it should include those provisions in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that provide food safety alternative compliance measures for small and mid-sized producers and processors. Food safety must be achieved without obstructing the growing interest and investments in producing for local and regional food systems. Broad access to these growing markets is vital to rural economic recovery, public health and nutritional well-being.
Subject line on your email: Exception to PMA No. 970, 76 Fed. Reg. 24292
Harriet Behar is the MOSES organic specialist. She can be reached at email@example.com.
In Memorial: Kevin Brussell, Organic Activist
Kevin Brussell, 56, a long time organic activist, researcher and working organic farmer, was tragically killed on Saturday, June 11.
Kevin, and his wife, Juli, have been part of the MOSES organic family for many years. Kevin's clear vision, energy and calm demeanor have been present at many organic conferences and educational events around the U.S. for decades. Kevin was the superintendent of Organic Dairy Research at the University of New Hampshire, overseeing the first working organic dairy farm at a land grant University. Through the Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative, under OFARM (Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing), Kevin provided leadership in the volatile area of organic commodity crop production and sales. Kevin received the Spirit of Organic Award from the Organic Trade Association in 2008, recognizing his broad influence on the expansion of organic agriculture.
Kevin Brussell had thirty years of organic production experience on his family's fifth generation grain and livestock farm in southeastern Illinois. In 1978, as a representative/dealer for the Wonder Life Corporation, he raised his first crop of organic soybeans. Finding little resource support for organic agriculture when he began, he attended many biological farming workshops and conducted extensive production research experiments on his own farm.
Kevin took leadership roles with the Illinois Sustainable Agricultural Society, the Southeastern Illinois Sustainable Agriculture Association, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, and the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. He served as president of Ag Organics. He also helped coordinate on-farm research and demonstration projects with the University of Illinois Agro Ecology Program, and was a part of the research committee for the Illinois Council on Food and Agricultural Research (CFAR), and co-chair of the CFAR Rural Economic Development working group.
Promoting crop diversity, Kevin helped to establish and was elected president of the Buckwheat Growers of Illinois and the Illinois Wheat Growers Association. As founding board member of the Illinois Chapter of the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA), he served on, and chaired, the certification committee. He became a certified organic farm and processing inspector, and has taught "Transitioning to Organics" seminars at major organic conferences across the country. Kevin provided impetus for the formation of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Association (NODPA), then served as a non-producer board member for that organization.
Kevin had an infectious enthusiasm for organics and enjoyed sharing his knowledge. He put his heart and soul into helping others to be successful.
Kevin will be missed throughout the organic community, and MOSES extends sympathy to the Brussell family for their tragic loss. At the 2012 MOSES Organic Farming Conference, there will be a celebration honoring Kevin's life.
Kevin's wife, Juli, has established a scholarship fund in memory of her husband. The Kevin Brussell Scholarship Fund will support beginning organic farmers. Donations may be mailed to MOSES, PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767 or online. Contact Faye Jones or Nancy Frank with questions 715-778-5775.
Book Review: Beekeeping for Fun & Profit with Cindy Belknap
Reviewed by Jay Gilbertson
It used to be that beekeeping was considered an art. That the beekeeper and his/her bees were a harmonious team off to an adventure-filled summer of pollination heaven leading to a bountiful harvest, flourishing flowers and culminating in honey-bliss. Then the bees began to disappear.
Author Bellknap has assembled a collection of beekeeping how-to steps as well as beekeeper interviews and many facts and figures to help you begin your journey because she realizes—we can't give up!
"Honey bee researchers are encouraging people to take up beekeeping to help reverse this decline in population—properly managed hives have a much better chance of survival than hives in the wild."
With chapter headings like: "Beekeeping Basics," "Working the Hive," "Organic/Natural Beekeeping," "The Business of Bees" and "Cooking With Honey," Belknap manages to cover the gamut. A side benefit of this particular guide is that the author incorporates many other beekeepers advice as well as case studies from various professionals with interesting facts and figures to consider.
"In the northern states that experience winter, bees need 60 to 70 pounds of capped honey to survive. This is equal to 10 deep frames of capped honey."
I've read many a bee book and this is the first time I have come across the above and it's exactly how much honey I left with my gals—they disappeared anyway. BUT, am I giving up? No way!
One drawback to this particular book is the lack of useful information concerning 'Natural Beekeeping,' which is what I do. There are a very few guides available for pesticide-free beekeeping. Belknap does (at least) have a chapter on keeping bees without the use of chemicals, but she fails to inform the reader how much, or in which combination, essential oils can and should be used. I found this a tad frustrating as she sure can tell you how to use the countless chemicals, and to use them a lot! With names like Apistan, CheckMite+, and Apiguard would you want to eat honey from those hives?
On the other hand, there are tons of great honey-related recipes such as: Honey Lemonade, Bee-Sweet Banana Bread, Honey Cream Cheese Tea Sandwiches, and (of course) Caribbean Honey-Spiced Chicken with Mango. Imagine that.
At the very end, author Belknap created a month-by-month 'Beekeeping Calendar' which I found really helpful. She also suggests that beekeepers keep a log of each bee-yard visit and jot down any unusual observations as well as positive sightings, such as if the queen is busy laying eggs, are the frames getting drawn out, is there nectar being stored and if you can notice any pests that may have moved in.
Lastly, there is a list of bee factoids, some of which are really interesting:
"In a lifetime, a worker bee will produce 1/12 a teaspoon of honey. A hive of bees can make and store up to 2 pounds of honey each day. In one collection trip, a worker bee visits up to 100 flowers."
Yes, last year in May I did a Beekeeping Review and I hope to do another next May, as beekeeping is just so darn important. Please consider becoming a beekeeper—imagine all that honey, and you get to wear a cool outfit too!
• You can find this book at your local library.
• Beekeeping is FUN!
• Feel free to contact me (unless I'm in my bee-yard) at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jay Gilbertson is the author of The Madeline Island Series. (www.jaygilbertson.com) Along with his partner, they produce the nations first, organic pumpkin seed oil. (www.hayriver.net) They chase chickens, chop wood and happily thrive on an 80 acre farm south of Prairie Farm, Wisconsin.
Fences and Other Wooden Structures on the Organic Farm
By Harriet Behar
Summer is the time for building or improving infrastructure on the farm, from fencing to retaining walls, raised beds, livestock corrals, loafing sheds, feeders and more. Organic farmers have the extra challenge beyond designing and building, they also need to choose materials that are durable AND meet the National Organic Program Regulations. The rule states:
205.206 (f) The producer must not use lumber treated with arsenate or other prohibited materials for new installations or replacement purposes in contact with soil or livestock.
Let's approach this sentence piece by piece.
"Lumber treated with arsenate or other prohibited materials" refers to all of the treated wood products on the market. Arsenate treated lumber has been removed from the market due to its toxicity. Studies had shown that plants will absorb some of the toxins that leach into the soil from this type of lumber. Treated lumber that is now available does not contain arsenate. However, at this point, there are no synthetic materials on the National List of approved materials for organic production which are approved to preserve wood. That means that all commercially available treated lumber is prohibited.
The statement "for new installations or replacement purposes" has a tricky consequence. Since it refers only to new or replacement wood for certified operations, transitioning-to-organic producers can still use any type of wood (including treated) until the point that they are certified organic. These folks will want to have any treated wood installed before their first organic inspection date. Any treated wood that was previously installed before certification will be grandfathered in as acceptable for the organic operation.
Once a producer is certified as organic, wood that has been treated with a synthetic substance not specifically approved on the National List, (ie, all treated wood) cannot be added in a situation where it may present a risk to organic integrity.
The statement "in contact with soil or livestock" includes wherever organic crops are grown, for human or livestock consumption. Situations where organic livestock could rub up against, or eat grass growing around, the base of wooden structures is also an area to consider what materials can be used. Greenhouses, tree braces, deer perimeter fences, and raised beds are problem applications for horticultural producers.
Options Are Available
However, there are good options for organic producers. Choice of building material should consider the use and location. Will the structure be moist, such as a greenhouse environment or a fencepost in a swampy area? Is this a long term installation, such as a retaining wall, or short term, such as bracing for young fruit trees?
For longer term construction such as retaining walls, stone or concrete might be a better choice than wood. Uprights on a structure such as a loafing shed, where it is difficult to find 24 foot long 8" x 8" untreated posts, could pose a problem. An option is to put in treated posts and cover them with untreated plywood for the bottom 6 feet. This protects any livestock from directly touching the treated wood. This would be allowable, but only where no vegetation will be growing around the base of the treated wood. If two by four construction is part of your plan, metal dimensional lumber may be an option for you.
For certain applications, composite lumber of 90% recycled plastic and sawdust, although expensive, might be the better choice. Using this type of material as a baseboard of a greenhouse, for the sides of a raised bed, or for a livestock feeder will provide a longer-lasting option than untreated lumber. Unfortunately, this lumber is not strong enough for building structures. If a decking material is needed, this could be the solution. The lifespan of this recycled product is still being tested, but is currently over 30 years, and probably more!
There are a variety of options for fencing, starting with naturally decay-resistant wooden posts such as red cedar, juniper, black locust, or osage orange. Most of these untreated woods have a lifespan of 20 or more years. Since the local lumber yard doesn't usually carry all of these types of wood (except perhaps cedar) a few phone calls to local sawmills, or even an ad in the paper searching for posts made of black locust might bring you luck. I built my greenhouse using black locust for the moist areas, purchasing it from a variety of direct sources. Honey locust, hickory, and even mulberry also have a lifespan of 15 years or more, according to the Nebraska University Extension.
Metal or fiberglass fence posts can be used, especially on straight runs, but what to do when you have a corner and need to brace it? You may use a treated post in corners if you then run a separate wire across the hypotenuse of the right triangle to keep the livestock back from the treated corner post and braces. This should be sufficient to prevent the cattle from eating grass growing around the base of the treated posts. Just remember that the grass will get pretty tall in that corner where it is not grazed. If your fence is electrified, you can use an electric strand of wire to keep the animals back from the posts. There is no specific distance to keep them away listed in the regulation, so check with your certification agency for what type of setback they would like to see if you have newly installed treated fence posts on your organic land.
Short term uses such as tomato stakes or tree bracing can use any type of raw wood. A hardwood like white oak would offer more seasons of use than a pine stake.
Perimeter fences around vegetables, berries, or fruit trees can be made of treated lumber as long as there is sufficient distance between the crop and the treated lumber. The mature crop's root system should probably be a minimum of five feet from the perimeter treated posts. Arbors used to trellis grapes or hops, where the crop is growing in close proximity to the posts, must use untreated wood.
To give your untreated wooden posts a little more longevity, dig the hole deeper than you need for the post and put a couple of shovels full of gravel before setting the post. This encourages water to drain away from the bottom.
With a little bit of planning and some creative designing and sourcing, organic producers can build sturdy, serviceable structures without resorting to treated lumber. Good luck with your next project!
Harriet Behar is the MOSES organic specialist. She may be reached at email@example.com.
Proof Positive: Food Legumes for Organic Systems in the Upper Midwest
University of Minnesota Graduate Student Adria Fernandez won the 2011 MOSES Research Forum poster contest, held at the 2011 Organic Farming Conference. The following is her project summary.
The purpose of these experiments is to expand the range of legume options for diversified organic cropping systems in the Upper Midwest.
We focused on two crops, lentil and dry field pea. Though lentils are mostly grown in semi-arid regions, we wondered whether this crop has commercial potential for Minnesota. We believe that organic lentils would be extremely well received on the markets for local foods in Minnesota, where growers could receive wholesale or retail prices for them. Field pea is more common in the region, but planting recommendations are usually designed for conventional systems.
This project involved two experiments. One experiment looked at the performance of seven pea and lentil varieties across three planting dates in weeded and unweeded treatments. In the other, peas and lentils were planted with five different cereal and brassica intercrops. In each case, the yield and weediness of the legumes were compared across treatments. We found that both peas and lentils yielded most when planted as soon as the ground could be worked in the spring, regardless of whether they were weeded. We also found that lentil yields were strongest at the very dry Becker research station on the Anoka Sand Plain. Lentil yields ranged up to approximately 2000 lb/A, but were near zero where weed pressure was high.
Our findings suggest that lentils may be a crop worth considering, particularly in dry areas or on sandy soils, for diversified rotations and direct marketing, but weeds are a major constraint.
Delaying field pea and lentil planting for stale-bedding did not improve yield or weed pressure. We did not find that any of the intercrop treatments gave a per-land-area yield greater than the single crops; however, the long history of intercropping in world lentil and pea production suggests that these techniques deserve further investigation.
Adria Fernandez, University of Minnesota, Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics (651)434-3344 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proof Positive: Perennial Sunflower
A colleague of Adria's at the University of Minnesota, Mikey Kantar, is doing breeding work on a perennial sunflower.
A crop with energy applications that doesn't have to be replanted every year has obvious ecological benefits, says Mikey Kantar, a Ph.D. student in agronomy and plant genetics. He's cross-breeding annual sunflowers with Jerusalem artichokes to get a perennial plant that produces harvestable sunflower seeds and regenerates its own growth via tubers.
A perennial sunflower has enormous potential as a multi-functional crop because it would mean less erosion and soil nutrient loss. But creating a perennial version of a plant grown for its seeds isn't as simple as it sounds. "There are tradeoffs," Kantar says. "Why would a plant invest in both seed organs and perennial organs? Logically, it makes sense that there will be some negatives, but we just don't know the extent of them yet."
His goal is to keep selecting crosses with the best chance of surviving from year to year but that also maintain 75 percent to 80 percent of the yield that annual sunflowers provide. Ideally, perennial sunflower seeds would contain enough oil to make biodiesel, but for now the goal is to breed a plant that will survive and produce enough seeds to be economically viable.
Perennial grain crops aren't a new idea, nor are sunflowers a new crop, Kantar says. "People have been talking about this for 80 years," but new breeding technologies make the idea more feasible. Sunflower has been a major North American crop for centuries, but a volatile market for the seeds and complicated growing techniques have slowed its growth with Minnesota farmers.
"People are good at growing corn and soybeans, so it's tough to convince them to do something else," Kantar says. "If there was a viable perennial alternative, and you could provide economic incentives, there would be a lot of interest."
Hows and the Whys of the Pasture Rule
By David Johnson, NODPA Vice President
This article was first printed in the May 16, 2011 issue of the e-newsletter of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) and is printed here with permission. For more about NODPA, which is open to all, go to http://www.nodpa.com or call 413 772 0444.
As we get knee deep in grass (or mud depending on your location) this spring, the pasture rule is now reality, and full compliance will be the focus of the certifiers this year.
While most of us honestly hate to conform to rigorous standards imposed on us by others, we seldom object when those same rules are imposed on others. We need to recognize the benefit of having a standard numerical value of Dry Matter Intake (DMI) required from pasture even though we may not like it and find it difficult to implement. We asked for a level playing field, with all certifiers using the same criteria for defining access to pasture, and that is what we got in the 30% min DMI from pasture for the grazing season, a minimum of 120 days.
There are two areas of confusion and concern that I hear most from my discussions with dairy farmers regarding the new rule. First, some, particularly those reluctantly putting the cows out on pasture while kicking and screaming, (the farmer, not the cows), see the 120 days as the extent of the grazing season that can be required. But the rule clearly speaks to the fact that the grazing season depends on the location, along with microclimates, soil and water concerns, and management practices. The grazing season is very much defined by the farmer based on their farm and their grazing practices, but it must be defendable and consistent with what other producers are doing in the region. The rule is not intended to require a certain management style, but it is intended to encourage excellence in grazing practices. Instead of seeking bare minimums, organic farming has historically raised the bar, advancing the science and art of farming with nature.
As Graziers, we have more tools at our disposal than ever (be it stockpiling, summer, fall or winter annuals, no-tilling, irrigation, strategic fertilizing applications) to extend the grazing season. Many of today's grasses and small grains thrive in cool, wet climates, grow very fast, and barely notice a frost. They wake up early in the spring and are the last to go dormant in the fall. Some grains like rye, triticale and wheat often stay green and seem to photosynthesis even under some snow cover. I will stick my neck out here, but I would suggest well over 120 days of grazing is achievable anywhere in the northeast. I see farmers in my area exceeding 180 days of high quality grazing, an area that only has 110-120 frost-free days and sticks with 85 day corn. More days on pasture is a win-win situation for the farm's profit bottom line, with every pound of higher quality grazed feed always lower in cost than a pound of stored feed.
The second area that makes for some confusion and concern, are the questions: "How do I figure pasture intake?", and "Do I have enough to be in compliance?"
Both of these questions cause more stress than I think is warranted, as I have worked with mathematically challenged farmers with limited land bases that have an epiphany when they see; Yes! I can do it! Then they get excited about pushing the pasture intakes even higher, knowing it makes for an even better product and better profits.
Most certifiers have now developed simple worksheets and spreadsheets that can be used to determine DMI from pasture using the subtraction method; subtracting what is fed in the barn from the total Dry matter demand of the cow based on size, breed, and production level. Ask for help, it is available from many sources. The accompanying worksheet from PCO is the one I am most familiar with in doing their pasture training workshops. Each separate component of the feed ration, like dry hay, corn silage, baleage, grain mix, etc. can be listed separately, so the total Dry matter from non-pasture sources can be calculated. If you are not sure of the dry matter content of feedstuffs, use standard book values, ask your feed supplier or nutritionist, or run a test on a sample yourself. Ensiled feeds tend to have the most variability and unpredictability, so make sure to get that one right.
Remember this kind of worksheet needs to be done for each animal group and for each ration period. For my farm, I find a spring transition, summer (full grazing), fall transition, and maybe a summer slump or a fall stockpiled ration period covers the significant changes during the grazing season, so I end up doing a feed ration worksheet for my entire milking herd for 4 or 5 ration periods. Although not required from the certifiers, I also do one for winter feeding (no pasture intake) just to confirm that the feed amounts used match up with the dry matter demand figures and are accurate estimates. And estimates is not a dirty word here. We heard that exact term, "accurate estimates." from the top NOP administrators in their explanations of the pasture rule requirements.
If you have different production level groups fed differently, you will need to do the numbers for each group separately. It is easy for me with a seasonal herd since the entire herd is at the same stage of lactation at any given time, and the entire herd is fed the same. Remember that the real reason for doing all this number crunching is to demonstrate to your certifier that you are meeting the requirement of the rule. You may be asked to get more exact or do additional work to document feed amounts if your certifier suspects that the amount of pasture intake is marginal or not reaching the 30% minimum. Be generous with pasture and they should be happy with your "accurate estimates."
If an organic farm is well managed in a favorable climate for growing forages, it is not unusual to see 4-6 tons of dry matter production per acre, so it does not take much acreage per cow to meet the 30% DMI intake requirement. 30% from pasture during the grazing season is only about 10.5 # a day for a 1000# milk cow. That is only about 1 ton of forage for a 180-200 day grazing season. ¼ acre per cow could do it with 4 t/a of production from that paddock. And if maximizing the use of pasture (the intent of the rule) is the goal, most farms far exceed that 30% for much of the season, so that the lower spring and fall transitional period intakes, when pasture DMI falls under 30%, are offset by the high % DMI during the peak grazing season. If farms are tight on acreage, I have recommended they need to consider reducing "crop" (non-grazing) acres or graze what was traditionally reserved for "crops," double cropping, purchase more off-farm feed for winter, reduce the herd size, increase the farm production with fertilizing or irrigating some land, or seek a partner for raising youngstock elsewhere.
The key for farmers now is to keep records; get your farm and paddock maps in order, write a grazing plan, record when you start grazing each group of animals, how much you are feeding from other sources, when a significant change in the ration occurs, dates you are unable to graze. Use a calendar, notebook, whatever is convenient for you. Get your hands on the worksheets you intend to present to your certifier and start filling them out. Figure out the pasture DMI, and think of ways you can improve pasture utilization. And when you tired of keeping records and crunching numbers, go out and watch the cows dance as they go into a new paddock and chow down, then join them for a ruminating nap. It will help make your efforts to comply with the new pasture rule just a little more bearable.
For your reference, download the feed ration calculator sheet from Pennsylvania Certified Organic. Your local certifier probably also has a similar worksheet available.
For more information on the pasture regulations, see the MOSES fact sheet "Pasture and Living Conditions for Ruminant Animals".
Dave Johnson operates a pasture-based spring seasonal organic dairy and crop farm known as Provident Farms in Liberty, PA. Certified since 2001, he has served on the board of NODPA and PASA, and has been involved right along with the development of the recent USDA "Access to Pasture" rule, also working with PCO in developing record keeping forms and training for PCO farmers.
National Organic Standards Board: Review of Decisions from April Meeting
By Harriet Behar
National Organic Standards Board votes to remove sodium nitrate and sulfur dioxide to extend the use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline until October 2014 and relist numerous other currently approved synthetics for organic production.
The last week of April, 2011, the National Organic Standards Board, (NOSB), as well as a wide variety of others in the organic community, met in Seattle. Almost two full days of public comment centered on the use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline for fire blight control on apples and pears, extending the limited use of sodium nitrate, and the proposed animal welfare standards. In addition, even though GMOs were not on the agenda, farmers, consumers and handlers all gave testimony expressing the risks that these novel life forms present to the integrity of organic.
To set the stage: NOSB votes must be reviewed by the National Organic Program and published in the Federal Register before they are actual requirements in USDA organic production. For all items that appear on the National List of approved and non-approved substances in organic production, the NOSB must vote to approve or deny inclusion on the list. The NOP cannot put on or take off any materials without NOSB action.
Both steptomycin and oxytetracycline were approved for fire blight control in apples and pears only until October 2014. These materials could have been removed as early as October 2012, but the NOSB gave fruit tree growers a few more years to find viable alternatives. The organic tree fruit growing community has been given clear warning from the NOSB, that these two items are not popular and the NOSB would like to see them removed permanently.
Sodium nitrate, or Chilean nitrate, was being reviewed as part of the five year "sunset" provision, where all items must be reviewed again by the NOSB and voted to be kept on the list. This product was NOT RELISTED, and will probably publish notification in the Federal Register sometime before the sunset date of October 2012. Growers who are currently using this product have two more growing seasons before they need to find an alternative source of nitrogen. The fact that this product is not allowed on organic crops in the European Union, Japan, or Canada, was one factor in the board's decision to remove its limited use in USDA organic production.
Sulfur dioxide, for underground rodent control (smoke bombs), was also NOT RELISTED, and it is anticipated it will be off the approved list in October 2012.
Synthetic nickel was petitioned for inclusion on the crops listing and the NOSB voted to not allow it.
The following items that were up for their five year renewal were all approved for another five years on the National List of approved synthetics in crop production: chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite, copper, alcohols, newspapers (mulch), plastic mulch, pheremones, Vitamin D3, lignon sulfonate (both listings), magnesium sulfate, ethylene gas, and sodium silicate.
Two contentious items, the animal welfare/animal slaughtering recommendation and the discussion on corn steep liquor's status as a synthetic or nonsynthetic were not decided and will be brought up again at the November meeting in Savannah, Georgia. For processed products, Attapulgite was voted to be added as a nonsynthetic to 605a. Calcium acid pyrophosphate and sodium acid pyrophosphate did not receive enough NOSB votes to be added to approved synthetics in organic food processing. Enzymes, potassium iodide, nutrient vitamins and minerals, Tocopherols, and chlorine materials were all voted to be relisted for another five years.
Harriet Behar, the MOSES organic specialist, loves to go to NOSB meetings! She may be reached at email@example.com.
Raising Stress-Free Calves: Quiet Weaning
By Jody Padgham
Whenever I get the chance to spend time with my neighbor Mark Eslinger, an organic dairy farmer from Stanley, Wisconsin, I learn something new. When I asked this "out of the box" guy what was new this weekend, he told me about his new method of raising and weaning calves.
One of the unique things about Mark's 55 cow, seasonal, grain-free, mixed breed organic dairy is that he has been leaving the calves with their mothers for the first three months rather than taking them away for feeding at day one. Mark is convinced that this grows healthier animals. While it does decrease his milk production, Mark believes that the loss is offset by the good prices he can get for his calves and the strong, healthy, fast-growing animals he has for replacements.
Mark has recently added two modifications to his calf program. The first is his use of nurse cows for calf raising rather than keeping individual calves with their mothers. He has found that cows that aren't fitting his parlor system make great nurses - especially those with a dry quarter. He runs the "nurses" and the calves at a ratio of about two calves for every cow. He puts the new calves with their designated nurse for a few days for bonding, but then they go into a group. Mark says he's surprised to see that a given cow seems to "decide" to let milk down, and then he'll see five or six calves nurse on her before her milk runs out. When the calves get hungry again, they'll move to a new nurse. It's all very interesting, Mark says, and he's been really pleased with how well it seems to be working, with even less impact on his milk supply than his old system.
One stress in the cow-calf system he's been using is at weaning time. Just like in a beef operation, the calves get used to being with their moms, and it is very stressful for them when they are separated at three months. Mark used to separate the calves, who had been running with the entire cow group, into a new area where they could see their mothers, but not touch them or nurse. This always created a lot of noise and agitation. His new method is a little more labor intensive, but is much quieter and relatively stress-free for all of the animals.
At the three month weaning time (which, considering Mark is seasonal, is a fairly small window for all the calves), Mark brings out the local veterinarian. The vet uses a mild shot to put each calf to sleep. The calves are de-horned, and each given a nose-ring (or "non-invasive nose-flap" as the manufacturer calls them). Once the calves wake up, they can still run with their moms, and can graze and drink water, but can no longer nurse. After ten days, Mark collects the calves into a pen, crowds them tight, removes the nose rings, and then lets them back into the herd. Everyone is happy, and the calves are healthy, stress-free, and weaned.
If you go online and google "quiet wean" you'll find several companies that sell nose ring implements that are pain-free, easy to apply, and reusable. The main source is the Canadian company "QuietWean" (http://www.quietwean.com. 306-262-6618). On their webpage they advertise that the nose flaps "decrease bawling by 95% and increase grazing by 25%."
Mark read a study in which pedometers were attached to both ringed calves (with their mothers) and separated calves, which found that the ringed calves walked seven miles less PER DAY than the separated calves. That is a lot of energy expended in pacing that should be used for eating, not to mention the stress that is represented.
I look forward to my next visit with Mark, and will let you know the latest innovations!
Jody Padgham is the Organic Broadcaster editor. She lives on a farm outside of Boyd, WI.
USDA Accepting Comments on 12 Materials Used, Prohibited in Organic Agriculture
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the scheduled expiration of 12 substances allowed or prohibited for use in organic agriculture. The National Organic Program (NOP) is initiating a review of the exemptions and prohibitions granted on the National List and is inviting comments from the public on these provisions. Comments must be submitted on or before August 1, 2011. http://www.ams.usda.gov search AMS No. 058-11
Organic Seed Alliance Seeks Organic Vegetable and Field Crops Variety Trial Reports
The Organic Seed Alliance, the University of Wisconsin, Oregon State University, Washington State University, and Cornell are partnering on the Northern Organic Variety Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC), a four year USDA-funded project to identify and breed vegetable varieties for organic systems. As part of NOVIC, they will be hosting a database of organic variety trial results from institutions across the country. This database will be publicly available on eOrganic. They are looking for scientific trial reports conducted in organic systems and would like your help compiling and sharing organic variety trial results with farmers and gardeners across the country. If you have vegetable or field crops trial results to share and are interested in participating in the database, contact Jared Zystro, California Research and Education Specialist at the Organic Seed Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Organic Program Announces New Tools and Documents
The National Organic Program and the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) have developed several new tools and reference documents: Sample organic system plan templates, Sample documentation forms, and Overview of the NOP's Access to Pasture Rule. These publications have been incorporated into the NOP Program Handbook to serve as optional compliance tools for anyone exploring or undergoing organic certification, and are accessible online. http://www.ams.usda.gov click on "NOP Newsroom"
Organic Seed Growers Conference Invites Proposals
Organic Seed Alliance invites you to help shape the Sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference, scheduled for January 19-21, 2012 in Port Townsend, WA, by providing suggestions for content and speakers and submitting proposals for presentations, posters, panels and roundtable discussions by July 1. http://www.seedalliance.org/alias-4/
Discrimination $$s Available to Women and Minority Farmers
The U.S. Government is establishing a claims process to make available $1.33 billion or more to farmers who alleged discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) based on being female, or based on being Hispanic, in making or servicing farm loans during certain periods between 1981 and 2000. If you qualify and submit a timely claim, you could receive an award of up to $50,000 in cash. USDA will also provide a total of up to $160 million in debt relief to successful claimants who currently owe USDA money for eligible farm loans. You can request a Claim Package, which will include forms and instructions for filing a claim at www.farmerclaims.gov or call 1-888-508-4429. Information is available in both English and Spanish.
ATTRA Organic Livestock Feed Database
ATTRA now has an online searchable database of organic feed sources in the U.S. and Canada. It is searchable by state or by type of product, and allows submissions of new suppliers. Check it out, and add your local supplier today. https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/livestock_feed/index.php
Healthy Food Financing Initiative
In coordination with the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Community and Economic Development (CED) program will provide up to $10 million to CDCs for projects located in food deserts and designed to improve access to healthy affordable foods by developing grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets that will make available nutritious food in these areas. Applications are due July 11, 2011. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/grants search :"Healthy Food Financing."
USDA Farming Systems Research Conference Materials Available
This conference on organic research, held March 16-18, 2011, was the result of a cooperative effort by multiple entities within USDA: ERS, ARS, NIFA, OSEC, OCS, and stakeholder organizations: Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA). Several sessions were captured and posted on the eOrganic community of practice on e-Xtension via webinar: http://www.extension.org/pages/33545/usda-organic-farming-systems-conference-webinars
New Land Stewardship Project: Local Food Directory
LSP's 2011-2012 Stewardship Farm Directory is hot off the presses and is now online at http://www.landstewardshipproject.org/cbfed/buy_food.html. For a paper version, call Abby Liesch at 612-722-6377. This edition features over 200 LSP member-farmers who direct market meat, milk, cheese, eggs, produce, Christmas trees, honey, flowers, wool and more. It also features LSP members who operate businesses that support locally produced foods and farm products.
Organic Farmers Win Top WI Conservation Award
Organic farmers John and Dorothy Priske of Fountain Prairie Farms in Fall River, WI, were recently honored as the Wisconsin Conservation Farmers of the Year. The Priskes produce organic pasture raised Highland beef which they sell to local restaurants and specialty markets. Read more at http://thecountrytoday.com search "Priske."
MISA Releases New Farmstay Publication
Farmstays are a type of agritourism gaining popularity across the country. A farmstay is lodging available to paying guests on a working farm or managed forestland. The newly released publication "Farmstays: Diversifying your farm business through agritourism: A how-to manual for establishing a farmstay in Minnesota" guides readers through a series of questions that range from "Is operating a farmstay for me?" to "How do I manage reservations?" The Farmstay Manual is a collaboration of the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, Renewing the Countryside, and STEP (Stimulating Economic Progress). The entire publication is available on line at: www.misa.umn.edu Farmers considering establishing a farmstay at their farm can request a print copy by contacting MISA: email@example.com or by calling 612-625-8235, or 800-909-MISA (6472.)
For Sale: 8N Ford, 3 pt implements; Dearborn 6' back blade; 7' rotary hoe; 7' cultivator; 7' tandem disc; 12' single disc. $1000 for all or can split. 507-234-6815.
For Sale: Red Dragon 12 row 30" flamer, hydraulic fold, 500 gallon tank, stored inside. Located in central Illinois, transport available. $4900.00. 217-229-3013.
For Sale: H & S Model 125 manure spreader is ideal for smaller organic farms. Always washed after every use. Like-new condition. Hartford, Wisconsin. Verne. 262-673-0807
For Sale: Hiniker 6000 cultivator, like-new - only 400 acres. Always stored inside. Hartford, Wisconsin. Verne. 262-673-0807.
For Sale: MF 5-14 steerable; IHC 4-14 steerable; JD 494 4rw, 290, 999 planters; pull type 4 section rotary hoe; JD 4rw cultivator; JD 55 combine, cab, cornhead; Case 2-14 pull plow. All very good. 641-751-8382.
For Sale: 1000 gallon "earth tea" compost tea brewer. Excellent condition. Lynn Brakke. Moorhead, Minnesota. 701-729-1220.
For Sale: 20 head black/white face 2010 calves. 11 months old. Grass-fed. Storm Lake, Iowa. David Williams. 712-732-7405.
For Sale: Organic feed, wrapped and dry hay big bales, corn and oats. Can deliver 608-574-2160
For Sale: Certified organic 2011 hay. 4x5 round bales. High quality-tests available. Wrapped or dry. Hauling available. Wonewoc, Wisconsin. 608-553-1136.
For Sale: Organic straw. Wheat or oat. 4x5 round bales. Hauling available. Wonewoc, Wisconsin. 608-553-1136.
For Sale: Grass/Alfalfa Mix and Grass Hay For Sale. Analysis Available. Certified Organic. Call Randy. 612-669-6892.
For Sale: Alfalfa grass hay; Indiana certified organic. Sparta, Michigan. Jay. 616-260-9838.
For Sale: Certified organic alfalfa and alfalfa/grass hay. 3x3x8 bales. Good test results. Located in Linton, North Dakota. Dave Silbernagel. 208-867-9939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Sale: Organic hay, straw and oats. Dry & silage bales. Sno-Pac Farms – delivery available. 507-725-5281.
For Sale: Organic hay, small squares, medium rounds, large rounds, net wrapped, alfalfa clover grass. Excellent condition. Organic Corn. Gaylord, Minnesota. 507-237-5235.
For Sale: OCIA alfalfa hay, big square bales. Spring wheat. Wilbur Novacek, Warren, Minnesota. 218-745-5827.
For Sale: Certified organic corn, ear corn or shelled, $10/bushel up to 1600 bushels available. Certified organic hay, 1st crop, 300 small squares, $1.75/bale. Ray Borntreger. N2955 State Road 54, Melrose, Wisconsin. 54642-8133.
For Sale: Certified organic oats. 39# test weight. Dave Silbernagel. Linton, North Dakota. 208-867-9939 or email@example.com.
For Sale: 40 acre certifiable farm, Richland Center, Wisconsin. Renovated farmhouse, 2 story barn, pole building, MUST SEE. $299,000.00 MLS#1621535. Chris Anderson. 608-647-0000
Opportunity: Certified organic dairy farmer, Stanley, WI, looking for family to transition to farm ownership. Seasonal, 100% grass, 50-70 cows, parlor, on 158 acres owned and 180 acres rented. Other enterprise ideas welcome. Mark Eslinger, 715-644-5368 firstname.lastname@example.org
AGRIGUARDIAN Dealership Opportunity: Innovative products that allow producers to grow higher quality, better yielding crops while reducing costs! Bob Koestler. 608-391-0832 or email@example.com.
Weeds are a product of poor soil environments. The book "Weeds and Why They Grow" lists over 800 weeds and factors encouraging their growth. Other control tips included. 116 pgs, $25 postpaid. Contact: McCaman Farms, PO Box 22, Dept OG, Sand Lake, MI, 49343-9554. 800-611-2923.