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Mar-Apr 2009 Passages Newsletter, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

Mar-Apr 2009 Passages Newsletter, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

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Serving the Community of Sustainable Farmers,Consumers and Businesses Throughout Pennsylvania and Beyond 
Number 77March/April 2009
Newsletter of thePennsylvaniaAssociation for SustainableAgriculture
Sustainable Food and Farming Systems
sustainable growing practices as a student atthe University of Florida. Enrolling in theuniversity’s environmental horticulture pro-gram proved to be an eye-opening experi-ence for the former art student.“I found the program in environmentalhorticulture…and I thought, ‘This soundsgreat.’ Then I found out that horticulture isone of the most polluting industries of themall,” he said.Highland decided to combat the conven-tional wisdom that dictated fertilizers andpesticides were the way to lush plants. Heturned his attention instead to the soil. “Ifell in love with soil. I love soil,” he said. After graduating, Highland moved toOregon and worked on an organic farm forthree years before opening his own landscap-ing business. While working, he continuedto research soil and soil amendments. Even-tually he earned a master’s degree from theUniversity of Delaware, where he studiedcompost amended potting soils.Highland founded the company in 2006, with just one blend of soil, the PremiumBlend. The company has since developed arange of five different blends and is current-ly wrapping up seedling trials for a germina-tion mix that will be available this fall.“We think we’re on to the best germina-tion mix ever,” said Highland.Organic Mechanics Soil’s formula of combining a high-quality product with envi-ronmental sustainability is working well.Highland has projected the company’s salesdoubling in 2009.“We have a product that is high demandright now. Not only is it organic it’s local and we’re adhering to environmental principals.”
Interview with Mark Highland, page 11.
mental impact of coconut fiber is muchlower than that of peat. The fibers are driedand compacted and shipped on a containership. Once the fiber reaches the company itis reconstituted.“When we get one container of thiscoconut fiber in it’s like getting in five con-tainers because it fluffs up to five times itssize,” explained Highland.In addition to replacing peat withcoconut fiber, Organic Mechanics Soil is working towards using rice hulls as a substi-tute for perlite. Perlite — a naturally occur-ring siliceous volcanic rock — is primarily harvested in Africa and requires further pro-cessing once it reaches the United States.The rice hulls are a byproduct of rice har-vesting in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, which shortens both the shipping and therefinement processes.“Environmental sustainability is a corevalue of what we do,” said Highland.Highland became interested in soil and
By Michelle Isham, PASA Member 
Great plants start with great soil. That’sthe philosophy behind Organic MechanicsSoil Company LLC, a West Chester, Penn-sylvania-based company that blends special-ty-potting soils for farms, wholesalenurseries and retail outlets.“I got into horticulture and saw thateverything began with the soil,” said Mark Highland, president of Organic Mechanics.Organic Mechanics Soil offers environ-mentally friendly peat-free potting soilsblended from compost, pine bark mulch,coconut husk fiber, worm castings, rice hullsand/or perlite. Highland chose to make hisproduct peat-free for two reasons — thenegative environmental impacts of peat har-vesting and shipping the peat from Canada— where the vast majority of all horticultur-al peat sold in the United States is harvested— to Pennsylvania. According to Highland, despite shippingcoconut fiber from Sri Lanka the environ-
The OrganicMechanics SoilCompany LLC
Greeningthe Garden
Mark Highland of The Organic Mechanics Soil Com- pany LLC works in his garden.He believes environ-mental sustainability is a core value of his business.
 The Organic Mechanics will be hosting aPASA field day on Saturday,May 30th.Seepage 8 for details.
21Business Member Profile3Returning Directors Welcomed to PASA Board4Conference Review5Conference Review — Benefit Auction6Directors Corner7PASA Board Perspective8Educational Outreach9Regional Marketing10Fundraising Update12Farmer Profile14Is There A Gas Lease in Your Farm’s Future?15Consumer Outreach16Membership News18Classified Ads/Employment22Calendar23Membership Form
:Michele Gauger
Kim Seeley,Bradford County
Vice President:
Brian Moyer,Berks County
Mary Barbercheck,Centre County
Louise Schorn Smith,Chester CountyJerry Brunetti,Northampton CountyMelanie Dietrich Cochran,Cumberland CountyJennifer Halpin,Cumberland CountyJohn Hopkins,Columbia CountyJohn Jamison,Westmoreland CountyDon Kretschmann,Beaver CountyChristopher Lent,Luzerne CountyJeff Mattocks,Dauphin CountySandra Miller,Cumberland CountySusan Miller,Chester CountyRita Resick,Somerset County
 At-Large Board Members
David Bingaman,Dauphin CountyJamie Moore,Allegheny County
PASA Headquarters
Phone:814-349-9856Brian SnyderExecutive Directorbrian@pasafarming.orgLauren SmithDirector of Developmentlauren@pasafarming.orgCarrie GillespieDevelopment Program Assistantcarrie@pasafarming.orgAllison ShaugerEducational Outreach Directorallison@pasafarming.orgRachel SchaalEducational Outreach Associaterachel@pasafarming.orgMichele GaugerDirector of Membershipmichele@pasafarming.orgBrandi MarksOffice Coordinator/Bookkeeperbrandi@pasafarming.org Teresa McFeelyBookkeeping Assistantteresa@pasafarming.org
Consumer Outreach
Phone:412-246-0990Chris FullertonDirector of Consumer Outreachchris@pasafarming.org
Southeast Regional Office
Phone:610-458-5700 x305Marilyn AnthonySoutheast Regional Directormarilyn@pasafarming.orgKendra AndersonAssistant Program Directorkendra@pasafarming.org
Western Regional Office
Phone:412-697-0411Greg BoulosWestern Regional Directorgreg@pasafarming.orgMia FarberConsumer Outreach Associatemia@pasafarming.org
Contributing Writers &Photographers
Marilyn Anthony,Greg Boulos,Sara Eisenfeld,JennHalpin,Mark Highland,Michelle Isham,Pat Little,Lor-raine & Bill Mineo,Gayle Morrow,Brian Moyer,RachelSchaal,Kim Seeley,Allison Shauger,Louise SchornSmith,Lauren Smith,Brian Snyder
PASA in the News
— Have you seen articles aboutPASA in your local newspapers or other media? PASAis active across the state,and we’d love to know whatcoverage we are getting in your area.Please clip anyarticles you see on PASA and mail them to our Mill-heim headquarters to the attention of MicheleGauger.
Do you have a great article idea for
Want to share a farming practice with members? We’dlove to hear from you.Please contact the newsletterstaff at newsletter@pasafarming.org.Deadline for May/June 2009 Issue:
May 4,2009Advertising Sales
:Michele Gauger,PASA office,michele@pasafarming.org
:C Factor
Pennsylvania Associationfor Sustainable Agriculture
P.O.Box 419Millheim PA 16854Phone:(814) 349-9856Fax:(814) 349-9840www.pasafarming.org
PASA’s Mission is…
Promoting profitable farms which producehealthy food for all people while respecting thenatural environment.
PASA is an organization as diverse as the Pennsylvania land-scape.We are seasoned farmers who know that sustainability isnot only a concept,but a way of life.We are new farmers look-ing for the fulfillment of land stewardship.We are students andother consumers,anxious to understand our food systems andthe choices that must be made.We are families and children,who hold the future of farming in our hands.This is an organi-zation that is growing in its voice on behalf of farmers in Penn-sylvania and beyond.Our mission is achieved,one voice,onefarm,one strengthened community at a time.PASAis an Equal Opportunity Service Provider and Employer.Some grant funding comes from the USDA and complaints of discrimination should be sent to:USDA Office of Civil Rights,Washington,DC 20250-9410.
Passages is printed on recycled paper 
March/April 2009
See the calendar of 2009 Field Day Events,page 8Farmer Profile,page 12
Mary Barbercheck
Centre County
Mary is a Professor inthe Department of Ento-mology at Penn StateUniversity. She receivedher Ph.D. in Entomology from the Uni-versity of California. Her research hasfocused on organic crop production sys-tems, which involved the transition of land at the university’s Rock SpringsResearch Station to certified organic.Mary also maintains a research interest inthe area of women and gender issues inagriculture, science and technology.Mary was first elected to the PASA board in 2003 and currently serves asSecretary. She is on the Personnel and theEducational Outreach committees andhas co-chaired the Conference PlanningCommittee. She has also volunteeredon several committees at PennsylvaniaCertified Organic.“Active involvement with organiza-tions that serve sustainable and organicgrowers is central to who I am. I believeresearchers need to be fully engaged with,serve, and learn from the people who areproducing the best food and agriculturalproducts in the most sustainable way. It
Jerry Brunetti
Northampton County
 Jerry is a soil and cropconsultant for livestock farms and ranches. Afterattending North CarolinaState University, Jerry operated a cow/calf operation in West Virginia and was themarketing director at the National Farm-ers Organization in the Northeast. In1979, he founded Agri-Dynamics, Inc., acompany for which he now consults.Currently, Jerry assists farm operations asthey adopt the practices necessary fororganic certification while focusing onimproving crop quality, livestock per-formance and health. Jerry also speaksabout his cancer diagnosis and the pathof nutrition, detoxification and immunemodulation that he took to wellness…apath he links to healthy soil, nutritiousfood, and profitable, sustainable farmingpractices.has been my greatest privilege to serve onthe board and to help move PASA’s mis-sion and programs forward. I am very honored PASA members have allowedme to serve a third (and sadly, because of term-limits, final) term.” Jerry was appointed to fill a vacancy on the PASA board in 2008. He has beena conference and field day presentermany times. In 2008, Jerry receivedPASA’s Sustainable Ag Leadership Awardand Acres U.S.A. Eco-Agriculture Achievement Award. He serves on histownship’s Environmental Advisory Council and is involved with otherorganizations dedicated to rebuildinglocal food systems and local democracy.“As PASA leads and trailblazes notonly the practices of sustainability, butalso those of regeneration and resurgence,the grassroots communities will be thefirst to follow, eventually affecting themainstream community.”
Jennifer Halpin
Cumberland County
 Jenn is the Director of the Dickinson CollegeFarm near Carlisle. Afterattending ProvidenceCollege, she joined the Peace Corps,becoming interested in sustainable agri-culture while working with farmers in West Africa. She currently managesDickinson’s 15 acre farm raising all-natu-PASA’s 2009 Board of Directors election process beganat the annual conference in early February and continuedthrough March 7th with our absentee balloting system. Weare pleased to announce the winners with their biographiesincluded below.Board members are elected to a three-year term and may serve three, three-year terms. We also strive to have repre-sentation on the board from all sectors of agriculture and allregions of Pennsylvania, so that our board truly reflects thediversity of the membership it serves.Many members have noticed that this year’s election hadthe same number of open seats as the number of candidatesrunning for election, and all candidates were incumbents.This follows a period of three or four years over which themajority of the board turned over due to term limits.For the past few years, PASA has also been developingregional advisory committees made up of members who arevery active in the sustainable farming community and helpPASA do the best work we can in their particular region. Itis our hope that most board candidates will come fromthese regional committees in the future. With that in mind, we reached out to each of the regions, as well as placednotices in
in our attempt to broaden the slate of candidates. This year we had very little response and sever-al messages of “thanks, but not interested in serving at thistime.”To finalize the slate of candidates, the board presidentselects the Nominating Committee, which includes at leasttwo members of the board and at least two members fromthe general membership. This committee carefully consid-ers each candidate and makes sure that all procedures arefollowed in attempting to find and select candidates forelection.Most importantly, and as determined by our bylaws, allelections are indeed competitive, because each and every director elected to the board must individually receive amajority of the vote cast. As our regions develop, I am confident we will see moreand more potential leaders coming to the surface like Jersey cream. In the meantime, I am very pleased to note that astrong majority of those PASA members who voted weresupportive of each candidate nominated this year.
Returning Directors Welcomed to PASA Board
By Brian Moyer, PASA Board Vice President 
continued on page 11

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