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Summer, 2010 Vol. 2, No.

85 Publication of the Northeast Organic Farming Association

36th Annual
NOFA Summer
August 13 - 15


by Mindy Harris,
NOFA Summer Cionference Publicity

Some call it professional development. Some

call it time to hang out with organic friends.
Some call it a family vacation. Whether
you come to discover something new, meet
your soulmate, share your values, or move
your business to the next level youll find
something wonderful at the 36th Annual NOFA
Summer Conference. About 1600 participants
will all converge on UMass Amherst from
August 13-15th to celebrate farms, food and
family. This year promises to be an exciting
one with two wonderful keynote speakers,
Sally Fallon Morell, founder of the Weston A.
Price Foundation, and Dr. Fernando Funes, a
researcher at the Pasture and Forage Institute
in Havana, Cuba, and Secretary of Organic
Agriculture Group, with the Cuban Association
of Agronomists and Foresters.
Sally Fallon Morell has keynoted for NOFA
at its Summer Conference once before, and
has been very active in supporting the NOFA/
Massachusetts Raw Milk Network campaign.
Sallys lifelong interest in the subject of
nutrition began in the early 1970s when she
read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by
Weston A. Price. Fallon Morell applied the
principles of the Price research to the feeding
of her own children, and proved for herself that
a diet rich in animal fats, and containing the
protective factors in old fashioned foodstuffs
like cod liver oil, liver and eggs, make for
sturdy cheerful children with a high immunity
to illness. Fallon Morrell is the author of the
bestseller book, Nourishing Traditions: The
Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct
Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. Sally will
be delivering her keynote address on Friday
night, August 13th, and will be leading a
number of workshops during the conference.
On Saturday Sally will be leading The Oiling
of America: Cholesterol Myths from 8-9:30
am, Nourishing Traditional Diets, from 1011:30, and Principles of Healthy Traditional
Diets from 1-2:30 pm. On Sunday, Sally will
be leading A Campaign for Real Milk from
8-9:30 am, How to Change Your Diet for the
Better, from 10-11:30, and Breakfast, Lunch
and Dinner from 1-2:30 pm.
Sally Fallon Morell will join the NOFA/
Massachusetts Raw Milk Network at a preconference symposium along with Pete
Kennedy, President of the Farm to Consumer
Legal Defense Fund. The 2010 Northeast Raw
Milk Symposium will be an opportunity for
raw milk farmers, consumers and advocates to
come together to learn and discuss the issues
around access to unpasteurized milk, and to
strategize about how to work together to defend
and expand our rights. Sally Fallon Morell and
Pete Kennedy have both written and spoken
extensively about raw milk issues around the
United States and internationally. The Raw
Milk Symposium will take place on Friday,

photo courtesy of Food First

Fernando Funes guides a group of agroecologists interested in learning how Cuba survived
the almost total loss of petroleum and imports resulting from the collapse of the Soviet
Union. This picture was taken during the Special Period.

August 13, from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon, in the

Cape Cod Lounge at UMass Amherst, and is
open to the public. A nominal additional charge
for the symposium will be $20 for NOFA
members and $25 for non-members.

The second keynote speaker, Dr. Fernando

Funes Sr., is widely known as the father of the
Cuban organic agricultural movement. His
organization, The Organic Agriculture Group,
was awarded the Right Livelihood Award,
commonly known as the Alternative Nobel
Prize. Dr. Fernando Funes is a researcher at the
Pasture and Forage Institute (IIPF) in Havana,
and secretary of the Organic Agriculture
Group (GAO) of the Cuban Association of
Agronomists and Foresters (ACTAF). Dr.
Funes lifelong research reflects a strong
commitment to what has proven to be a global
model of sustainable agriculture.
Because Dr. Funes comes to the U.S. with a
very unique story, it is worth considering the
political context for his research on Cuban
agriculture. Cuba is seen by many as a kind
of global laboratory for the sustainable
agriculture movement. Following the 1989
collapse of the Soviet Union, imports shrank
by 75% and Cuba entered what is called the
Special Period. Suddenly no products were
coming into the small country, including gas
or oil. Because commercial agriculture at the
time was reliant upon industrial pesticides,
fertilizers and petroleum to operate agricultural
machinery, almost all agricultural activities in
the country suddenly came to a halt. Farmers
could not feed their livestock. There was no
grain available, so animals perished. Tractors
could not be driven. Buses, cars and other
means of transportation stopped. Products could
no longer be transported from place to place
internally. Suddenly Cuban citizens and farmers
were desperate to find solutions so that the
population could survive.
People began picking up manual equipment,
yoking oxen together, and plowing fields by
hand. Every possible slice of urban landscape
came under cultivation, as folks had to
immediately find ways of feeding themselves.
Citizens began planting vegetables in their

backyards, on their patios, in any space

available without know-how, training or
agricultural experience. Doctors, lawyers,
teachers everyone, from all walks of life
suddenly couldnt buy food, or get to
work. Bicycles were imported from China,
and survival strategies were far-reaching,
across many dimensions of human life. Many
researchers believe that due to ever-diminishing
(continued on page 47)

Inside This Issue


Natural Beekeeping
2010 Northeast Raw Milk Symposium
NOFA/Mass Late Blight Report
Obituary: Alvin Filsinger
Help USDA Conservation Programs Work 48
Sacred Expressions: Jack & Julie Tribute 49
Mycorrhizae and the Living Soil
Eco Friendly Agriculture: Who Speaks? 52

Supplement on
Farms & Regulation

Your Money or Your Life

Red Fire Farm & the Regulatory Gauntlet
Small Farms Stagger Under Regulations
My Goat Cheese Giveaway
The Farm Internship Conundrum
Connecticut Passes Pickle Bill
Lessons from the Food Safety Front
Robinson Family Swiss Start-up Hassles
Raw Milk Advocates Gather
Laws, Regulations, and NOFA


Letters to the Editor

NOFA Exchange
News Notes
Book Reviews
NOFA Contact People
NOFA Membership



S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

Small Farms and Government Regulation

by Jack Kittredge

Letters to
the Editor

Jack: I read your article in TNF on soy, and was

concerned not only about the effects on animals and
humans of soy in farm animal feed, but also about
the direct human consumption of soy products.
Many of my friends drink only soy milk, and I enjoy
Toffuti cream cheese, as well as soynuts. As I
understand your article, these are not only not good
for us, they can cause harm. The chart of other
foods containing phytoestrogens was distressing,
too. Should I spread the alarm?

I have grown soybeans and eaten them raw.
I am here to report that fact (at 84), so I guess I did
not consume enough toxin!!

Interesting article! I would appreciate your
input on this. -- Esther Braun, Bedford, MA

(continued on page 3)

The Natural Farmer

Needs You!

The Natural Farmer is a quarterly membership

journal of the Northeast Organic Farming
We plan a year in advance so those who want to
write on a topic can have a lot of lead time. The
next 3 issues will be:

Fall 2010:

Organic Farming and Money

Winter 2010 - 2011:

Organic Farming and Co-ops

Spring 2011:

Organic Tree Fruit

If you can help us on any of these topics, or have

ideas for new ones, please get in touch. We need
your help!
Moving or missed an issue? The Natural Farmer
will not be forwarded by the post office, so you
need to make sure your address is up-to-date if you
move. Those who regularly send us a subscription
fee should send address changes to us. Most of
you, however, get this paper as a NOFA member
benefit for paying your chapter dues and should
send address updates to your local NOFA chapter
(listed at the end of each issue).
Archived issues from Summer 1999 through Fall
2005 are available at http://www.library.umass.
edu/spcoll/digital/tnf/. More recent issues are
downloadable at as pdf files.

Jack Kittredge and Julie Rawson

411 Sheldon Rd., Barre, MA 01005
978-355-2853, fax: (978) 355-4046

ISSN 1077-2294
copyright 2010,
Northeast Organic Farming Association, Inc

Government regulation is a tricky topic. Virtually

everyone supports and even depends on some level
of regulatory intervention. Yet most of us bristle at
certain rules as intrusive, oppressive or stifling.
Most organic farmers, for instance, would like
to see tough regulation of GMOs in agriculture.
We are divided on the topic of the National
Organic Program itself, some supporting national
certification and others rejecting it and opting for
self- or private group-certification.
Very few farmers, however, are not constrained
by some local, state, or federal regulations about
how they do business. This issue of The Natural
Farmer takes a look at some of these regulations
from the farmers point of view. We tell the story
of how unreasonable application of federal labor
law and state farm employee housing regulations
almost destroyed a thriving organic vegetable farm
giving work to dozens of people. We look at how
out-of-date plumbing codes added tens of thousands
of dollars of expense to a struggling organic dairy
trying to start making cheese. You will hear how
the government is hounding consenting adults
for the crime of wanting to produce and drink
unpasteurized milk, or how USDA slaughterhouse
inspectors and HACCP plans make it difficult to
process animals from small farms. We will also
consider the food safety legislation currently in
Congress, discussing existing amendments and the
likely impact of that elephant when it enters the

But not everything on the small farm regulatory

front is bad news. There have been advances in
a number of states. Vermont has recently made
it possible for farmers to sell chickens at farmers
markets, deliver up to 40 gallons of raw milk daily
to customers, and register working dogs who are
exempt from leash laws. Washington state has just
passed an experimental law allowing small farms
to promote farm internships without running afoul
of the states labor regulations. This issue tells the
story of Connecticut farmers successful fight for a
brand new Pickle Bill allowing this value added
product to be made without benefit of a $30,000
commercial kitchen.
We hope these articles illuminate the struggles (and
successes) which small farmers are engaged in to
stay viable. It is practically impossible to compete
financially with industrial farming methods on
raw plant or animal products. Economies of scale,
subsidies, and vertical integration pretty well shut
that door. In places like the Northeast many farmers
are finding direct sales via CSAs, farm stands and
farmers markets can make farming sustainable.
But where customers are not right at hand, or the
product itself is among the growing number of those
deemed potentially hazardous by public health
officials, or when value is added by processing, the
farmers survival is more and more in the hands
of various local, state and federal regulators. As
citizens, we all ultimately make these rules. After
reading this issue, consider which ones make
sense to you and which seem silly or oppressive.
A few calls or letters to legislators can make a big

Advertise in or Sponsor The Natural Farmer

Advertisements not only bring in TNF revenue, which means

less must come from membership dues, they also make a
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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

Letters (continued from page 1)

Thanks, Esther. I dont know enough myself to tell you to avoid soy. But there
are certainly knowledgeable people and groups out there who I respect (Weston
A Price Foundation is one group I like) who are sounding the alarm. I think, as
most things in our environment these days, soy is so new as a major food, that
we should be cautious about it and use it in moderation. I will continue to report
whatever I think is credible on this as it comes to my attention. -- Jack
To the editor: A few years ago, we stayed on an organic farm in Tuscany, Italy,
where the farmer grew many acres of fava beans. While Italians do eat fava
beans in many dishes, his crops were for cattle feed. He said he was mystified
that American farmers dont grow them as well--they would be quite suitable for
large parts of our growing area, they are nitrogen fixers, good for the soil, and
excellent feed.

I dont think I saw any mention of fava beans in your recent issue on
alternative forage crops. Any comments? -- Leslie Gensburg, E. Burke, VT
Boy, Leslie. I dont have any. Seems like a good question. Let me reprint your
letter and see if anyone has any ideas to illuminate this! -- Jack
To the Editor: This publication of the Natural Farmer is awesome. I read it three
times. The whole thing. It was incredible. I cant wait for it to come because
there is always something I can use. It was like that all the way through this
issue. -- Charlie Dance
Dear Charlie: Thanks. Glad you liked it. Weve gotten more reaction to this
issue on Alternative Organic Animal Feeds than any previous one. Glad we hit
the mark this time! -- Jack
To the Editor: Somehow in the recent issue of TNF there percolates an air of
optimism, an encouraging background melody. Could it be that we humans
might in the end make some decisions that really are sensible and beneficial? I
am reminded of a man who has saved and stored away in his cellar and attic and
garage a great many things, and now sees that he must go through it all and toss
much of it out. An unpleasant business it frequently is to retrace our steps and
reverse our earlier wrong decisions, but necessary. It is one of the few sure signs
of intelligence. It turns out that much that our great grandparents and great, great
grandparents did, was wise. -- David Ellis, Portsmouth, RI
Dear David: Right you are on that! Jack
Dear Readers: I also received a lengthy letter from Basil Tangredi taking me to
task for my warnings on soy and suggesting I go to PubMed (website for the
National Library of Medicine database of millions of scientific articles) and
search soy health, where I will find 1418 entries, of which 313 are review
articles. He then politely disputed a number of points in my article. I had hoped
to print his letter, but it was far longer than space permits in this already long
issue. Anyone interested in his letter can get a copy by emailing me at <tnf@> and asking me to attach it to a return Email. -- Jack

Please help us thank these

Friends of Organic Farming
for their generous support!

Supporting a Food Culture that is

Kim Q. Matland

NOFA Exchange

The Natural Farmer

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

compiled by Jack Kittredge

Washington Farm Bill Allows Experimental

Small Farm Internships
A bill signed into law by Washington Gov. Chris
Gregoire establishes a pilot project in San Juan
County to allow farms with gross sales of less than
$250,000 annually to create internship programs
for future farmers who are not enrolled in classes to
work on farms throughout the state without running
afoul of regulations regarding minimum wage, industrial insurance, and other provisions of the states
Department of Labor & Industries.

In order to qualify for the program, farmers with gross annual sales of less than $250,000
must submit a written application to the states
Department of Labor and Industries for certification and include the nature of work and how it will
provide the intern with vocational knowledge and
source: The Island Gardian, March 23, 2010
US Isolated at Codex Meeting on GM Labeling
The United States, at a meeting of Codex
Alimentarius (the United Nations food standards
agency) argued for an international labeling standard which would not suggest or imply that
GM/GE foods are in any way different from other
foods, and refused to agree to comprise language
stating that Codex recognizes that each country can
adopt different approaches regarding labeling of
GM/GE foods. Of the approximately 50 countries
present at the meeting, only Mexico, Costa Rica,
and Argentina, supported the U.S. position. The issue, which required a consensus at this level, was
not resolved.
source: Food Safety News, May 11 2010

The Natural Farmer

Foreigners Buying Up Farmland

Foreign buyers have purchased 49 million acres of
farmland in poor countries in the last two years, an
area three times the size of Ireland. The land grab
is most pronounced in northern Africa and parts of
South America.
source: Reuters, May 4, 2010.
Half Worlds Wealth is Oil
The oil reserves of OPEC nations represent about
half the wealth in the world at current oil prices.
source: Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2010.
Monsanto Study of Milk Dismisses Own Findings
A Monsanto-funded study by scientists at Cornell
University measured the concentrations of hearthealthy fatty acids in 292 samples of conventional
rbST and organic whole milk. The study was
needed, according to the authors, to clear up confusion among consumers over nutritional differences
between conventional, rbST, and organic milk. The
team found significant differences in the two key
fatty acids that are higher in organic milk conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega 3 fatty acids.
CLA levels were 23% higher in the organic milk
compared to conventional and rbST milk, and omega 3 levels were 63% higher.The authors dismissed
the differences as not nutritionally relevant. In fact,
this study actually confirms what several other studies have found organic milk contains significantly
higher concentrations of health-promoting fatty
acids, especially during the times of the year when
cows are feeding on lush pastures.
source: Journal of Dairy Science, Vol. 93, Pages
1918-1925. January 2010.
Organic Fresh Produce Captures 11.4% of
Market in 2009
In the last decade, the market share of fresh organic
produce has grown from 3% to 11.4%, leading The
Packer (May 3, 2010, page C1) to write Talk all
you want about the explosion of locally grown produce and the meteoric rise of microwaveable packages for fresh produce. But, as far as produce trends
go, the steady ascension of the organics category
remains among the most bankable.
source: Organic Trade Associations 2010 Organic
Industry Survey.

Roundup-Resistant Weeds Growing Problem

Roundup originally made by Monsanto but now
also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate has been little short of a miracle chemical
for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is
easy to work with, and breaks down quickly. It has
been so successful that crops have been genetically
engineered to resist it, allowing farmers to freely
spray the herbicide without endangering the crop.
But the National Research Council, which advises
the federal government on scientific matters, sounded a warning in April, saying that the emergence of
resistant weeds jeopardized the substantial benefits
that genetically engineered crops were providing to
farmers and the environment.

The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware
soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has
spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states
infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans,
cotton and corn. Monsanto, which once argued that
resistance would not become a major problem, now
cautions against exaggerating its impact. Its a serious issue, but its manageable, said Rick Cole, who
manages weed resistance issues in the United States
for the company.

So far, weed scientists estimate that the
total amount of United States farmland afflicted
by Roundup-resistant weeds is relatively small
seven million to 10 million acres, according to
Ian Heap, director of the International Survey of
Herbicide Resistant Weeds, which is financed by the
agricultural chemical industry. There are roughly
170 million acres planted with corn, soybeans and
cotton, the crops most affected.
source: NY Times, May 3, 2010
Organic Food Sales Grow by 5.1% in 2009
While total U.S. food sales grew by only 1.6% in
2009, organic food sales grew by 5.1%,
source: Organic Trade Associations 2010 Organic
Industry Survey
Supreme Court Question Ban of Biotech Alfalfa
On April 27, U.S. Supreme Court justices sharply
questioned a lower courts decision that has prohibited biotech giant Monsanto Co. from selling
genetically engineered alfalfa seeds. A federal judge

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in San Francisco barred the planting of genetically
engineered alfalfa nationwide until the government
could adequately study the crops potential impact
on organic and conventional varieties. Monsanto is
arguing that the ban was too broad and was based
on the assumption that the companys products were
harmful. Opponents of the use of genetically engineered seeds say they can contaminate conventional
crops, but Monsanto says such cross-pollination is

Several justices appeared skeptical that the
lower court had the authority to fully ban the sale of
the product because of the pending environmental
review. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. questioned why the court issued the injunction instead
of simply remanding the matter back to the USDA.
Justice Antonin Scalia appeared even more wary,
questioning the idea that genetically modified crops
could contaminate other crops. This isnt the contamination of the New York City water supply, he
said. This isnt the end of the world, it really isnt.
Justice Stephen G. Breyer did not take part in the
case because his brother, U.S. District Judge Charles
Breyer in San Francisco, issued the initial ruling
against Monsanto.

Alfalfa, which is used for livestock feed
and can be planted in spring or fall, is a major
crop grown on about 22 million acresin the U.S.,
Monsanto said in court papers. Monsantos alfalfa
is made from genetic material from bacteria that
makes the crop resistant to the popular weed killer
Roundup. A decision is expected before late June.
source: Associated Press, April 27, 2010
Pesticide Stew in Beehives and Pollen Triggers
National Attention
At a March 25, 2010 session during the annual
meeting of the American Chemical Society, a team
of USDA-funded scientists reported finding a veritable stew of pesticides in bee hives, pollen, and
beeswax. Three out of five pollen and wax samples
from 23 states included at least one residue of a systemic pesticide.
121 different pesticides were found in 887 samples.
The average sample of beeswax contained 8 pesticides and/or pesticide metabolites and one sample
contained 39.

The finding of so many pesticides in beeswax is no surprise given what the bees were carrying back into the hive.The scientists also measured
pesticides in the pollen collected by bees for transport back to the hive.
Seven pesticides were found, on average, in each of
350 pollen samples, and one had 31 pesticide contaminants.
Out of 887 samples of beeswax, pollen, and bees
themselves, only 16 (1.8%) had no detectable pesticide residues.
sources: Associated Press, March 24, 2010., Science
News, March 21, 2010.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

Genetically Modified Soy Linked to Sterility,
Infant Mortality
Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsantos genetically
modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean
fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction.
After feeding hamsters for two years over three
generations, those on the GM diet, and especially
the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed
devastating results. By the third generation, most
GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high
mortality rate among the pups. The study, jointly
conducted by Surovs Institute of Ecology and
Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and
the National Association for Gene Security, is expected to be published in July 2010.

Surovs hamsters are just the latest animals
to suffer from reproductive disorders after consuming GMOs. In 2005, Irina Ermakova, also with the
Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported
that more than half the babies from mother rats fed
GM soy died within three weeks. This was also five
times higher than the 10% death rate of the nonGMO soy group. The babies in the GM group were
also smaller and could not reproduce.

An Austrian government study published in
November 2008 showed that the more GM
corn was fed to mice, the fewer the babies they
had, and the smaller the babies were. Central Iowa
Farmer Jerry Rosman also had trouble with pigs
and cows becoming sterile. Some of his pigs even
had false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water.
After months of investigations and testing, he finally
traced the problem to GM corn feed. Every time a
newspaper, magazine, or TV show reported Jerrys
problems, he would receive calls from more farmers complaining of livestock sterility on their farm,
linked to GM corn.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine
accidentally discovered that rats raised on corncob
bedding neither breed nor exhibit reproductive
behavior. Tests on the corn material revealed two
compounds that stopped the sexual cycle in females
at concentrations approximately two-hundredfold
lower than classical phytoestrogens. One compound also curtailed male sexual behavior and both
substances contributed to the growth of breast and
prostate cancer cell cultures. Researchers found that
the amount of the substances varied with GM corn
varieties. The crushed corncob used at Baylor was
likely shipped from central Iowa, near the farm of
Jerry Rosman and others complaining of sterile livestock.
source: Huffington Post, April 20, 2010
4 in 10 Americans to have Cancer
41% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at
some time during their life and 21% will die from
this disease.
source: Presidents Cancer Panel, 2008-2009
Annual Report.

Wisconsin Raw Milk Activist Wins Important

Court Victory
The state of Wisconsins motion to compel Max
Kane, a raw milk activist, to reveal the identities of
farmers and consumers involved in private transactions was denied yesterday by Judge Michael
Rosenborough. The judge had the option of ruling
Max Kane in contempt of court for his silence, but
instead allowed the case proceed to the appellate

Incidental sales of raw milk from the farm
are legal in Wisconsin, however a new, strict interpretation of the law by DATCP amounts to a virtual
ban on sales. Last year, the agency decided that an
incidental sale is a one-time sale, meaning that if
a dairy were to sell the milk to the same customer
twice they would be breaking the law. Todays victory will allow Maxs case to be heard in an appellate court. He is currently working on his appellate
brief with legal counsel.Ultimately, Max hopes to
obtain a Supreme Court verdict on the civil liberty
of unregulated farm-to-consumer direct trade.
source: Weston A. Price Foundation press release

Monsanto Develops Tearless Onion

The seed company has unveiled a tearless onion
dubbed the EverMild, modeled after the famous
Vidalia sweet onion from Georgia. Monsanto says
the onion is neither organic nor genetically modified, claiming it took more than twelve years of
cross-pollinating different plant breeds, and complex computer models, to arrive at the right proprietary blend of sweetness. Our focus has been more
on what makes something a successful product for
growers, things like [crop] yield or disease resistance, explains Monsanto spokeswoman Danielle
Stuart. Were looking at things with a more consumer-focused point of view now, at things that are
more interesting to the consumers sensory experience.

The trait is a little bit tricky to develop
because you cant just eat onion after onion, explains Scott Hendricks, a Monsanto breeder based
in Madison, Wisconsin. We can sample a few, but
pretty soon youve ruined your palate for the rest of
the day. So, we do rely on a lab screening technique
that weve come up with to tell us which onions
would match this profile.

The EverMild is a long-day onion that
grows best in a more northern climate. It is harvested in September and sold through March, thus positioned as a winter stand-in for the Vidalia, which
is only available from April to September. Like the
Vidalia, the trademarked EverMild will have its
own intellectual property protections. Hendricks
says farmers using EverMild seeds must conform to
growing conditions set out by Monsanto, and samples from every yield must be tested and approved
for sweetness in order to carry the EverMild label.
source: River Front Times, February 17, 2010

Thanks USDA!
Horizon Organic and our farmer partners
thank USDA for strengthening the organic
regulations with clear grazing requirements.
The Pasture Rule will assure organic milk drinkers
that organic dairy farms are pasture based.
Join us on Facebook!

Baltz Family Farm, Clayton, NY

2010 Horizon Photo by Simon Russell

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Jury Tells Bayer To Pay Arkansas Rice Farmers

$48 Million
German conglomerate Bayer CropScience should
pay a dozen Arkansas farmers nearly $50 million for
allowing a genetically altered strain of rice to escape
into the commercial market, damaging rice prices
in 2006, a jury ruled Thursday. An attorney for the
farmers, Scott Powell, said the jury decided on the
judgment after less than two hours of deliberations
Thursday afternoon in Lonoke County. The farmers claimed an experimental rice strain developed
by Bayer called Liberty Link was allowed to make
its way into the stream of commercially marketed
rice. Liberty Link was developed to withstand a
popular herbicide that kills weeds in the fields.
The suit claimed that rice prices fell after the U.S.
Department of Agriculture announced in August
2006 that trace amounts of Liberty Link rice were
found in U.S. long-grain rice stocks.

The case was the fourth to go to trial among
dozens filed by rice-belt farmers against Bayer
CropScience, a subsidiary of the German chemical
giant that makes aspirin. Bayer faced judgments
of $4.5 million so far in the three cases it had lost
before Thursday. The amount awarded Thursday
far exceeds a $1 million judgment returned against
Bayer by a Woodruff County jury in March.
source: the Associated Press, April 16, 2010
Final Organic Dairy Pasture Rule Effective for
New Operations June 17, Enforced on All by
June 2011
According to these regulations, animals must graze
for a minimum of 120 days annually, and obtain
a minimum of 30% dry matter intake (DMI) from
pasture over the grazing season. The producer and
certifier jointly will determine a regional grazing
season. Producers will choose the method of calculating DMI, must have a pasture management plan
and must manage pasture as a crop. Breeding bulls
are exempt from this rule. Any bedding which can
be eaten by livestock must be organically certified.
Temporary shelter is okay in many cases. Livestock
raised for meat must normally meet the pasture requirement, but are exempt during the finish feeding
period, not to exceed 120 days.
source: NODPA News, March 2010

The Natural Farmer

Whole Foods Stops Sale of Raw Milk
Whole Foods Market has discontinued the sale of
raw milk and raw milk products, except for raw
milk cheese.

In a statement the firm explained: The basis for the decision is two-fold: 1) the realities of the
very high additional costs for liability insurance for
both Whole Foods Market and producersbecause of
the potential risks from selling unpasteurized milk
and milk products and 2) the many unique state
regulations governing the sale of raw milk, making
it a challenge for us to create a raw milk standard, as
a national company, to satisfy all stakeholders and
continue sales. In recognition of the passionate support of raw milk by a number of our customers, for
the next couple months we will provide the contact
information of raw milk suppliers for those who
wish to continue to purchase raw milk and are looking for another resource. We also highly appreciate
the services of the farmers who have supplied raw
milk to our stores and wish them much success.
source, March 31, 2010 Email from Whole Foods
Man Convicted for Misrepresenting Products as
A cooperative investigation between USDA and
Texas authorities has resulted in the successful
prosecution of a Texas man for misrepresenting
non-organic products as organic. Basilio Coronado,
a partner in Sel-Cor Bean and Pea Inc., operating
out of Brownfield, Texas, was convicted February
26, 2010 of fraudulently selling products as organic.
Coronado was sentenced to 24 months in federal
prison, three years of supervised release and to pay
$523,692.08 in restitution. He is barred from participating in any USDA or other agriculture programs
for five years. The three counts concerned the 2004
and 2005 time frames when Coronado knowingly
misrepresented and sold over 3.3 million pounds of
conventional milo (grain sorghum), 396,120 pounds
of conventional pinto beans, and 60,410 pounds of
conventional garbanzo beans. Coronado pleaded
guilty in Nov. 2009.
source: ioiaforum, March 16, 2010

New Research: Synthetic Nitrogen Destroys Soil

Fertilizer is good for the father and bad for the
--Dutch saying
Scientists have assumed for decades that synthetic
nitrogen does one good deed for the environment: it
helps build carbon in soil. The case for synthetic N
and carbon goes like this. Dousing farm fields with
synthetic nitrogen makes plants grow bigger and
faster. As plants grow, they pull carbon dioxide from
the air. Some of the plant is harvested as crop, but
the rest--the residue--stays in the field and ultimately becomes soil. In this way, some of the carbon
gobbled up by those N-enhanced plants stays in the
ground and out of the atmosphere.

But that logic has come under fierce challenge from a team of University of Illinois researchers who argue that the net effect of synthetic
nitrogen use is to reduce soils organic matter content. Why? Because, they posit, nitrogen fertilizer
stimulates soil microbes, which feast on organic
matter. Over time, the impact of this enhanced microbial appetite outweighs the benefits of more crop
residues. And their analysis gets more alarming.
Synthetic nitrogen use, they argue, creates a kind
of treadmill effect. As organic matter dissipates,
soils ability to store organic nitrogen declines. A
large amount of nitrogen then leaches away, fouling
ground water in the form of nitrates, and entering
the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (N2O), a greenhouse gas with some 300 times the heat-trapping
power of carbon dioxide. In turn, with its ability to
store organic nitrogen compromised, only one thing
can help heavily fertilized farmland keep cranking
out monster yields: more additions of synthetic N.

If the Illinois team is correct, synthetic nitrogens effect on carbon sequestration swings from
being an important ecological advantage to perhaps
its gravest liability. Not only would nitrogen fertilizer be contributing to climate change in a way not
previously taken into account, but it would also be
undermining the long-term productivity of the soil.

Amending with Compost Plus

Generally, when growing in Fort Vee or Fort
Light, plants will have ample nutrients for
healthy growth until the media is lled with roots.
At the point of root ll, plants should be uppotted or transplanted. When it is not feasible to
up-pot, amend the media with Compost Plus,
our container and transplant booster mix. Apply
8 inch to the surface of the container by broadcasting, even through dense foliage, and water in.
Compost Plus should be added before complete
root ll of the media. Do not wait to see evidence
of stress in the plant before amending.


802-223-6049 | fax 802-223-9028 | 1996 Main Street | Montpelier Vermont 05602
We speak organic.

Makers of Living Media for Organic Growers

We speak organic.

Monsanto Faked Indian Brinjal Data

The debate on genetically modified (GM) brinjal
variety continues to generate heat. Former managing director of Monsanto India, Tiruvadi Jagadisan,
is the latest to join the critics of Bt brinjal, perhaps
the first industry insider to do so. Jagadisan, who
worked with Monsanto for nearly two decades, including eight years as the managing director of India
operations, said the company used to fake scientific
data submitted to government regulatory agencies to get commercial approvals for its products in

He said government regulatory agencies
with which the company used to deal in the 1980s
simply depended on data supplied by the company
while giving approvals to herbicides. The Central
Insecticide Board was supposed to give these approvals based on the location and crop-specific data
from India. But it simply accepted foreign data supplied by Monsanto. They did not even have a test
tube to validate the data and, at times, the data itself
was faked, Jagadisan said.

Asked to comment on Jagadisans allegations, a Monsanto spokesperson said: We have full
faith in the Indian regulatory system, which has its
checks and measures in place to ensure accuracy
and authenticity of data furnished to them. On
approval of GM crops, the spokesperson said the
regulatory process was stringent and no biotech
crops are allowed in the market until they undergo
extensive and rigid crop safety assessments, following strict scientific protocols.
US Food Waste Increasing
An estimated 40% of all food produced in America
is discarded. According to a report from the
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and
Kidney Diseases, each person in the US puts 1400
calories of food in the garbage daily. This waste figure has increased 50% since 1974. Some occurs at
the manufacturing level, some during distribution,
but researchers note that more than half occurs at
the household level.
source: Kerr Center Field Notes, Spring, 2010

The Natural Farmer

Report Exposes Gap in USDA Organic Oversight

A report released by the Office of Inspector General
says the USDAs National Organic Program (NOP)
has been severely lax in oversight. Its failures include not spot testing organic produce for pesticide
residues and not dealing in a timely fashion with
claims of false advertising of organic products, New
NOP director Miles McEvoy says that enforcing the
rules will be a high priority under his leadership,
and he plans to conduct unannounced inspections of
organic producers and retailers.
source: The Organic and Non-GMO Report, May,
ADHD in Kids Tied to Organophosphate
Children exposed to organophosphate pesticides
have a higher risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study.
Researchers tracked the pesticides breakdown
products in kids urine and found those with high
levels were almost twice as likely to develop ADHD
as those with undetectable levels. The findings are
based on data from the general U.S. population,
meaning that exposure to the pesticides could be
harmful even at levels commonly found in childrens environment.

There is growing concern that these
pesticides may be related to ADHD, said Marc
Weisskopf of the Harvard School of Public Health,
who worked on the study. What this paper specifically highlights is that this may be true even at low
concentrations. Organophosphates were originally
developed for chemical warfare, and they are known
to be toxic to the nervous system. Weisskopf and
colleagues sample included 1,139 children between
8 and 15 years. They interviewed the childrens
mothers, or another caretaker, and found that about
one in ten met the criteria for ADHD, which jibes
with estimates for the general population. After accounting for factors such as gender, age and race,
they found the odds of having ADHD rose with the
level of pesticide breakdown products.
peds.2009-3058, Pediatrics, online May 17, 2010.

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High Fructose Corn Syrup Linked to Diseases

Teams at Princeton and Duke have found that high
fructose corn syrup leads to large weight gains in
rats, compared to table sugar. It also leads to abnormal increases in body fat, rising triglycerides, and
scarring of the liver. Americans each consume 60
pounds of the sweetener every year.
source: The Organic and Non-GMO Report, May,

GE Transgenes Found Not to Degrade

Scientists in Canada found the Roundup Ready corn
transgene in numerous soil-dwelling animals, demonstrating that GE transgenes dont degrade significantly in the food web. The transgene was found in
all animals tested, including arthropods, nematodes,
insects and earthworms. These finding suggest that
the transgenes can transfer to non-GE plants and humans from GE-contaminated soil.

Julie Rawson &

Jack Kittredge
Barre, MA

Vegetable and Flower Shares, Chicken,

Turkey, Pork, Lard and Eggs available
Certified by Baystate Organic Certifiers

Offering Natural Fertilizers, Soil Amendments,

and Environmentally Compatible Pest Controls
*Many of our products that are not OMRI listed may be allowed for use on a
certified organic farm. Check with your certification representative to be sure.

Visit us on the Web: or call for

the location of your nearest wholesale distributor

Many NCO products are:

Depot Street, Bradford, VT 05033 Ph. 802.222.4277 Fax 802.222.9661

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The Natural Farmer

Shifting the Paradigm...Toward More Natural Beekeeping

by Christy Hemenway

Remember when bees werent in the news? When

they were just a normal part of daily life on the farm?
There they were, lazily buzzing in and out of their
hives, doing their bee thing... virtually ignored by
beekeepers until time to rob the hives for honey...
Whats happened? What changed that we now have
problems with acronyms like CCD, which stands for
Colony Collapse Disorder, and documentaries about
this mysterious bee disease that scientists cant even
study effectively because the primary symptom of the
problem is that the bees just disappear?
Bees lived for millions of years with no help or intervention from beekeepers, and now beekeepers can
barely keep their bees alive. What on earth have we
Think back over our short agricultural history for just
a second... and yep, a second is about all the longer it
takes to realize...
Weve been on the fast track to Bigger, Better, Faster, More for awhile now. Weve improved some
things in agriculture to such an extent that the use of
chemicals is now considered normal, even required.
Weve created an entire industrial food system that
depends upon them.
And now theres some sort of problem with honeybees. Everybodys heard that - but nobody knows
what it is, or why. Science is looking for the cause of
course, but some folks might be tempted to say that
the reason(s) is (are) obvious.

Conventional foundation wax sheet to hang

in racks in a super.
Its also important because -- do you remember
those pesticides we mentioned a minute ago that
have been used in beehives? Those chemicals
are what we call wax-soluble. This means they
dissolve into the bees wax honeycomb. And
not only do bees live on this wax, but they store
their honey in the wax comb cells, and they raise
the baby bees there! So when those chemicals
dissolve into the wax, they affect everything the
bees do. Disconcertingly, these toxins also survive being melted down and re-milled into new
foundation - so that even brand new foundation,
just purchased, contains detectable levels of these
poisons. We have made the inside of a beehive a
chemical catch-all!

Natural beeswax honeycomb formed by bees

when provided the top bar.

As with many agricultural things today, our attitude

about honeybees needs to be re-calibrated -- it needs
to move away from treating bees as machines and
return to letting nature take its course. We got pretty
far off track in a pretty short time. So far off track
that now its urgent that we learn -- or maybe we
only need to remember -- how to farm in ways that
support honeybees.
Because we have got to shift this paradigm... and
when we look at groups like NOFA, we think its
possible that we are just in time.

Christy Hemenway is with Gold Star Honeybees and

reachable at 207-449-1121 or

2010 Northeast Raw Milk Symposium

One cause may be that the use of pesticides both inFriday, August 13, 9:00 a.m. 12:00 noon
side and outside the conventional beehive has grown
UMass Campus, Amherst, Massachusetts, Cape Cod Lounge, Student Union
commonplace over the course of the last twenty-five
Open to the public, admission $20 for NOFA members, $25 for non-members
years. So we may have reached the tipping point
where the accumulated chemical treatments are mak- Demand for farm-fresh, unpasteurized milk has
state enforcement action in Florida, Wisconsin,
ing bees sick.
grown dramatically in recent years, as has the
Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. He has helped farmers
level of crackdowns on farmers rights to sell
get started in the business of distributing raw milk
Another aspect of agriculture that began to change
it, and consumers rights to purchase it. Laws
and raw milk products in many other states. He
as the Bigger is Better mindset began to take hold are inconsistently implemented and enforced,
is currently working with others to challenge the
has seriously affected the diversity of farming. Enter false public safety claims are manipulated to
federal ban on the interstate shipment of raw milk
monocropping - which allows us to be very efficient - scare people, and efforts are made to marginalize
for human consumption.
and to grow huge expanses of all one crop! Efficient consumers who seek out raw milk. Yet the virtues of
in its way, yes, but this situation creates a nutritional raw milk continue to be extolled by those who drink The Symposium will also feature a Panel
desert for bees, since outside the short timeframe
it, evidence of its health benefits is mounting, and
Discussion of raw milk farmers and advocates from
during which that one crop is in bloom, there is noth- the public outcry to demand that our food freedom
around the region, which will offer an opportunity
ing for the bees to eat!
be protected is growing by the day.
for participants to hear about specific issues around
access to raw milk in New England. This discussion
In this way the monoculture method of farming
The 2010 Northeast Raw Milk Symposium will be
will give attendees a chance to brainstorm ideas for
helped to create the migratory pollination industry.
an opportunity for raw milk farmers, consumers
how to work together to share resources and ideas
If bees couldnt live somewhere year round, then we and advocates to come together to learn and discuss aimed at broadening and preserving access to raw
had to bring the bees to the trees... and this took
the issues around access to unpasteurized milk, and
us a step further from natures original plan when
to strategize about how to work together to defend
we started trucking bees, locked in boxes, across the and expand our rights. The Symposium will feature
country to pollinate such crops as the almond trees.
talks and opportunities for dialogue with two of the
leading voices in the field of raw milk, Sally Fallon
So now perhaps, with Colony Collapse Disorder, the Morell and Pete Kennedy. Both have written and
bees are warning us - acting as the canary in the coal spoken extensively about raw milk issues around the
mine. Organic farming shows us that our systems
United States and internationally.
and methods work best when they emulate nature,
and when we work against these natural systems we Sally Fallon Morell, MA, will talk about the health
encounter devastating problems!
issues around raw milk. Sally is the president of
The Weston A. Price Foundation and founder of
The top bar system
A Campaign for Real Milk (
She is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The
The top bar hive beekeeping system does some things Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct
that help us return to a more natural system of keep- Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats(with Mary G.
ing bees... a way that promotes healthier bees by
Enig, PhD), a well-researched, thought-provoking
working with those systems, instead of against them. guide to traditional foods. Sally is also a journalist,
chef, nutrition researcher, homemaker, and
The primary feature of a top bar hive is that it permits community activist. Her four healthy children were
the bees to make all their own natural wax, with no
raised on whole foods including butter, cream, eggs
so-called assistance in the form of sheets of milled and meat.
wax known as foundation. This is important for
three reasons:
Peter Kennedy, Esq. will talk about legal and
rights issues around raw milk. Pete is president
It allows bees to make the cells in the honeycomb in of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, an
the size that is best for the purpose they will use it for. organization devoted to defending the rights of
The size of each honeycomb cell figures into many of farmers to sell what they produce, and of consumers
the workings of the hive - even down to the length of to have access to those products. He is also an
time it takes a worker honeybee to be born!
attorney and works primarily on the right of farmers
Rhode Islands Oldest Operating Farm Composter
to distribute raw milk and raw milk products direct
Quality Made Compost is the Healthiest Way to Nourish Plants
It allows bees to make the honeycombs themselves
to consumers. He has represented or assisted in
in the shape they prefer - a gentle curve known as a
the representation of dairy farmers facing possible
Mike Merner & Jayne Merner Senecal
Certified Organic Farm
catenary curve.



NOFA/Mass Project on
Organic Methods for
Addressing Late Blight

by Ben Grosscup, NOFA/Mass Extension

In Fall 2009, NOFA/Mass conducted a survey of

Northeast organic tomato growers regarding their experience with last years late blight pandemic. We sought
to discern how different practices correlated with growers experience of crop loss due to the disease. We demonstrated significant differences in yield loss estimated
by growers, depending on their use of greenhouses,
pruning, mulching, fertility, and various controls.
When freelance journalist Rebekah Fraser caught wind
of our project I told her about an upcoming workshop
on organic management of late blight to be held in
January 2010 at the NOFA/Mass Winter Conference.
She reported on the proceedings of that event, which
included a presentation of the findings from our survey,
for Growing Magazine. That article is reprinted below
in abridged form. The audio of the event is available
for free download to anyone who may be interested on
the NOFA/Mass Late Blight Resource Page:
We initially sought to show effects of different fertility practices on late blight prevalence, but the survey
was unable to compare how different fertility practices
had an impact on crop loss. Anecdotal evidence about
effects of fertility management practices on disease
susceptibility was presented at the workshop and described in the article below. Seeking greater consistency
in answering these questions, NOFA/Mass has begun
a collaboration with the Real Food Campaign on a research project they are leading during the 2010 growing
season, assessing the impact of nutrient dense fertility
protocols on crop yields and disease resistance. You can
learn about this project by contacting me:, 413-549-1568.

Late Blight Survey: Results Point to

Need for Further Research
by Rebekah L. Fraser

Defining late blight

The Natural Farmer

Buy certified disease-free potato seed (but there is

a 1 percent tolerance for late blight, so look at the
At the start of the season, scout and destroy volunteer potatoes.
Allow 2009s growing fields to lie fallow in 2010.
Grow tomatoes from seed instead of plugs, since
seeds do not carry Phytophthora.
Let greenhouse temperatures drop to freezing.
Greenhouse growers who battled late blight in tomatoes in 2009 and keep their greenhouses warm
over the winter to grow greens can allow spores to
survive the winter and re-infect solanaceous crops
in 2010.
Plant resistant varieties of tomato, such as Legend
(Territorial Seed Co.); Mountain Magic and Plum
Regal (Johnnys); Juliet, Stupice and NC03320
(Organic Seed Alliance); Matts Wild; Ferline; and
Plant resistant varieties of potato, such as
Kennebec, Sebago, Allegany and Chieftain.
In greenhouses, focus on ventilation and keeping
humidity down.
Listen to or read reports about late blight, available
from cooperative extension programs throughout
the country.
Hazzard emphasizes the importance of taking action
to protect the crop before infection. Choose the right
inputs and apply them properly.
Before applying any crop treatment, farmers should
make sure the product has an agricultural use label and
follow the directions on the label. To apply a foliar
feed on a large field, little backpacks with little nozzles
are neither effective nor safe. To apply foliar feed
properly, growers should use a well-designed sprayer.
David Fisher, of Natural Roots farm in Conway, Mass.,
utilized a sprayer with drop nozzles to foliar feed his
tomatoes in 2009.
Farmer shares his successful strategy
Despite challenges with late blight, 2009 was the best
tomato production year in Fishers 12-year history.
At the NOFA-Mass conference, Fisher shared the
methods he used in 2009 to create high yields on his
organic farm.

Because Fisher utilizes a one-year-out rotation period

for his fields, his tomato fields lay fallow in 2008.
During that period, Fisher overwintered with a grass
legume sod, which he plowed down in summer and
followed with a six-week bare fallow period. During
that time the ground was open to germinate as many
Several varieties of late blight exist; among them
weed seeds as possible. Fisher tilled the weeds under
are mating types and strains. The late blight in the
for weed control. In August, he composted with sheep
Northeast has one mating type, which needs live tismanure and inoculated with minerals and various biosue to survive. Other Phytophthora have two mating
logical inputs to address nutrient shortfalls. Finally, he
types and can survive in the soil. In 2008, strain US-8
devastated potatoes, but didnt touch tomatoes. In 2009, planted a fall cover crop of oats and peas.
strains US-14 and US-19 (both single-mating types) attacked both potatoes and tomatoes with equal virulence. In the spring of 2009, Fisher applied another round of
biologicals and minerals. Lancaster Ag products comLate blight lesions produce white fuzz on the underside posed Fishers custom dry blend based on soil testing
and consultations on his farm. The blend includes
of leaves. Phytophthoras reproduction cycle is rapid.
When the spore lands, it germinates, penetrates the leaf high-calcium limestone, gypsum, dolomite, potassium,
Epsom salts, micromate (a humate product, super conand allows the mycelium to move through it. The fungus infests stem, foliage and fruit. On the stem, it looks centrated organic matter to bond and hold these products), kelp, fish emulsion, molasses, sugar, microseed
like a canker. On the fruit, its a hard lesion with rings
treat, fungal inoculant, magnesium and zinc.
around it. In potatoes, it initially affects the stem and
the leaves. Spores can also be washed down into the
Fisher applied about 75 percent of the dry blend on his
soil and infect the tubers that way.
fields. By May 4, he planted early tomatoes in an 8inch-deep trench to create a micro tunnel in the earth.
Symptoms may appear within five to seven days of
(The soil is mounded on the sides and the tomato
when a spore lands. Once it sporulates, it produces
plants are set below the tops.) Before planting, Fisher
another large amplification of spores that move within
soaked the plants in a solution of fish emulsion and a
the plant canopy. Late blight spores also travel long
broad-spectrum inoculant called MPM, which contains
distances via winds. When we hear about late blight
in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we pay attention, be- fish emulsion, kelp and a host of biological inoculants.
By late May, he started regular primary cultivation for
cause that presents a risk to us, says Ruth Hazzard of
weed control.
the UMass Extension Program.
Phytophthora infestans is a destructive parasitic fungus
that causes late blight in tomatoes, potatoes and other
solanaceous plants.

The effects of this rapid-moving fungus can be devastating. Hazzard and her colleagues observed that once
a field was infected, it tended to go down quite fast.
When Phytophthora infected a CSA in Hadley, Mass.,
the plants were dead within a week. Around July 15,
I went to a meeting in eastern Massachusetts, and the
growers field was completely loaded with it. He had to
destroy his whole crop, she says.
Defend crops from late blight
Several methods in concert work to protect crops from
late blight. Hazzard suggests the following:
Destroy infected tissue before the new growing
season by burning it, freezing it or feeding it to

One of the few things Fisher did differently in 2009

compared to previous years was to apply regular
foliar feeds, also custom blended by Lancaster Ag
Labs, which he applied every two weeks using a drip
sprayer. The blend included bean juice (provided by
nearby South River Miso Company), micronized pearl
calcium and MPM.
He started the main season on May 26. On July 2,
Fisher saw some leaf spot on the early tomatoes. We
were pretty sure it wasnt late blight, but we got out
there anyway and started hand-pruning, he says.
Because Natural Roots farm is only 3.5 acres, this was
a manageable task. Fisher included an oxidate product
in the foliar tank to see if it would do anything to the
septoria. In retrospect, he says, it probably wasnt a

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

good idea to combine it in the foliar tank, because a lot

of the biological inoculants are killed by the oxidate,
but in the hustle we did that wouldnt do it again.
At that point, Fisher suspected late blight in his tomatoes and potatoes. On July 6, his main season tomatoes
were starting to flower. He side-dressed the tomatoes
along the surface, applying the remaining 25 percent
of the custom dry blend. On July 9, late blight was
confirmed in Fishers potatoes, so he began foliar copper applications in potatoes and tomatoes at the rate
of 4 pounds per acre. He also laid down new film. On
July 15, he mulched tomatoes with oat straw to suppress soil-borne diseases. The late blight was spreading rapidly in potatoes, and Fisher was concerned
about spreading the spores from infected plants to
uninfected plants via his equipment. To mitigate the
risk, he sprayed the least infected plants first. By the
end of the month, the potato vines were mostly dead
due to late blight. Fisher mowed the vines to try to
preserve any existing crop underground. In August and
September, he applied additional copper with the drip
Throughout the summer, Fisher took Brix readings to
measure plant health, as well as nutrient density. In
early June, tomatoes measured 9 on the Brix scale.
A minimum Brix reading of 12 would have indicated
tomatoes with a healthy disease and insect resistance.
Successive Brix readings were higher, until midAugust, when the Brix reading on Fishers tomatoes
dived down to a 5. At that time, the sap was brownish.
Dan Kittredge of the Real Food Campaign was another
panelist at the conference. He responded to Fishers information, saying, If our plants dont have sufficient
nutrition, theyll start to pull minerals out of the soil.
David illustrated this with his Brix levels. They were
going along pretty well, 10 is not bad. Then, as Ruth
showed, we had the cloudy rainy weather. Kittredge
explained that in those conditions, when there is not as
much sun for photosynthesis and the soil becomes waterlogged, the biological symbiotes in the soil asphyxiate and die and the entire biological process begins
to shut down. Under those environmental conditions,
Brix levels drop as the whole plants ability to function
drops significantly. Fishers timely and efficient response saved his crop. By September, after additional
copper applications, the Brix was back up to a 10.
Ultimately, Fishers tomato yields were 238 percent
of his previous five-year average. Seventy percent of
all Natural Roots farms crops, including greens and
chard, showed significantly higher yields than in previous years.
The NOFA Survey
Fisher was one of 327 respondents to the survey put
out by NOFA/Mass in the fall of 2009. While it is
hardly a scientific study, the survey begins to answer
questions about methods growers can use to prevent or
treat late blight in tomatoes.
On the survey, NOFA asked questions about soil fertility, growing methods, pruning, mulching and treatments.
According to respondents, late blight losses on tomatoes grown outside were significantly higher than
losses of crops grown in greenhouses. According to
survey results, mulching resulted in somewhat lower
incidence of loss than bare ground, and black plastic
mulch resulted in lower losses than other mulches.
More intense pruning seemed associated with lower
loss due to late blight both inside and outside.
Seventy-one percent of respondents sprayed nothing
on their tomatoes. Thirty-seven growers applied copper in the greenhouse; they reported an average of 15
percent crop loss, compared to a higher percentage
of crop loss among growers who did nothing. Eleven
growers applied biological treatments alone, and reported results similar to those growers who applied no
Growers were asked about the perceived effectiveness
of treatments on a scale of 1 to 3, 1 being generally
ineffective, 2 being somewhat effective and 3 being
highly effective. In each instance, each product appeared more effective in a greenhouse than outside.
The author is a freelance writer based in
Massachusetts. This article originally appears in the
April 2010 edition of Growing: Fruit, Nut & Vegetable
Production and is reprinted with permission. For more
information and a free subscription, please visit www.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


The Natural Farmer

Special Supplement on

Small Farms and

Government Regulation
Your Money Or Your Life:

Agribusiness Hinders Small Farms and Local Farming


by Jocelyn Engman

Will it soon be illegal to label milk as rBGH-free?

And if it does become illegal, who will benefit most
from its being so?

For the relief of the suffering ... our economy

proposes, not health, but vast cures that further
centralize power and increase profit . . . and these
of course are followed by more regulating laws and
agencies to see that our health is protected, our freedom preserved, and our money well spent. Wendell
Berry, The Unsettling of America

Mad Cow Disease

Even if youre a vegetarian and mad cow disease is
the last thing on your mind, continue reading to find
out your governments true position on American

I met Wendell Berry in the spring of 2007, when

he participated on a panel discussion hosted by
the Leopold Center in Ames, Iowa. Wendell Berry
wrote The Unsettling of America, a powerful book
about culture and agriculture in America that is as
relevant today as it was 30 years ago.
One of the questions for the Leopold panel: How
do we help young farmers get into sustainable agriculture these days? How do young farmers make a
living from farming without going the conventional
Answer: Tell The Government To Get Out of The
Amen! When I investigate potential value-added
agriculture ventures, it seems that everywhere I
turn, I run into government regulations that will cost
much time, effort, and money. My husband and I
have experienced regulations first hand when making herb-infused oils for our herb company, Pickle
Creek Herbal.
In order to produce our oils, we have to rent a commercial kitchen and apply for an annual permit
(which comes with annual fees and an annual inspection). People have been making these oils for
centuries without problems, and in fact the basil oils
that we infuse into our culinary products have natural antimicrobial properties. But in this century, and
this country, our herb-infused oils are considered
potentially hazardous.
Now, regulations are hitting even closer to home.
The FDA is looking into regulating alternative medicine, including all vitamins, herbs, supplements,
and other natural substances used as health promoters. I do not want to be classified as a drug dealer
for growing thyme in my backyard! I also dont
want to see alternative medicine struggle or lose
momentum under the heavy money, time, and energy drain of complying with the FDA. Alternative
medicine is both a vital supplement and a vital
substitute for allopathic medicine, and we need it to
stay in good health!
Are food and farm regulations really keeping the
consumer safe? Are they really about consumer
safety at all? As a consumer, I think that consumer
safety is a good idea. But, whats interesting is that

Agrarian author Wendell Berry

even while the FDA wants to regulate alternative

medicine, it also wants to allow irradiated food to
be sold without being labeled as such. It wants to
do this even though irradiation is banned in much of
the world and is prohibited in organic production.
And then there are GMOs: Why is it illegal to label products as GMO free? I ask this not only as a
consumer but also as a chemist who has studied the
biochemical reactions within the human body. Were
messing with genetic material, the most powerful
memory machine on earth, the source of life itself.
In a world that cries for regulations to keep our consumer safe, why arent we just a little more cautious
when it comes to GMOs?
Unfortunately, many small, local farmers have been
put out of business in the name of consumer safety.
More often than not, the government is standing
in the way of small, local producers. Meanwhile,
big corporations (the ones with influence in
Washington) are the last to be touched. Aspartame,
pesticides, confined animal feeding operations these are health hazards that we apparently can live
In fact, sometimes gargantuan agricultural corporations can influence lawmaking to specifically
put niche producers out of business. For example,
Monsanto is currently lobbying the FDA and
Federal Trade Commission, claiming that consumers are being duped into believing that milk from
rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) cows
is somehow inferior, and so it should become illegal
for smaller producers to label their milk as rBGH-

Mad cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a fatal, neurodegenerative disease of
cattle. BSE is caused by misfolded proteins called
prions. Once a prion is transmitted, it invades the
brain and spreads exponentially, usually causing
death within a few months. BSE has gained attention because in Britain more than 150 people have
died of a disease with similar neurological symptoms: variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).
Since many of the vCJD patients had consumed
tainted beef, BSE is assumed to be the mechanism
by which all affected individuals contracted vCJD.
Mad cow disease incidence also appears to correlate with slaughtering practices that mixed nervous
system tissue with hamburger and other beef. Just in
case you were wondering, three cases of mad cow
disease have been found in the United States: one in
2003, one in 2005, and one in 2006.
If BSE can lead to death in humans, it makes sense
for us to keep it out of our food system. And we
have the power to do this. There is a test for mad
cow disease that can be performed when the cow is
slaughtered and thus can prevent contaminated meat
from ever reaching the market. Creekstone Farms
Premium Beef of Kansas wanted to test all of their
cows for BSE.
Unfortunately, according to the May 29, 2007, article from The Associated Press, U.S. Government
Fights to Keep Meatpackers From Testing All
Slaughtered Cattle for Mad Cow, the Bush administration has said it will fight to keep meatpackers
from testing all their animals. Larger meat companies fear that if we allow smaller producers to start
testing meat, they, too, might have to perform the
expensive tests on their larger herds. In addition,
they worry that widespread testing could lead to a
false positive (not to mention a true positive) that
would harm the meat industry. Thus, this simple test
that can protect human life is being fought in the
name of economics.
The story gets even better (worse, actually). The
USDA says that we do need to do something to
protect American consumers from animal diseases.
Its solution is the National Animal Identification


The Natural Farmer

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Farm Bill: Does my government care about me,

or does it just care about my money?

Whos behind NAIS? Its not small farmers. NAIS

will result in many small farms going out of business. Thats exactly what happened with the animal
identification system in Denmark. NAIS is geared to
favor big-time livestock producers over small-time
producers. Big factory farms manage mass group
of animals that are of the same age and gene stock.
Under NAIS, these factory farms will be able to use
a single ID to cover thousands of animals.

Let's ask the USDA to play fair: If we must
subsidize farming, let's do it in a way that builds
rather than destroys consumer health. Surely we
can afford to re-allocate some of the money spent to
subsidize conventional grains, the cheapest, poorest
food on the planet, to something a little healthier,
such as fresh produce.

Meanwhile, the farm bill does almost nothing for

farmers growing fresh produce. As a result, the real
price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and
2000 increased by nearly 40 percent, while the real
price of soft drinks (sweetened by high fructose corn
syrup) declined by 23 percent.

Everyone, from factory farms to small farms that

sell direct to local consumers to homesteaders who
raise their own meat, will have to register their
property as farm premises and obtain a Premise ID,
tag all their animals, and submit all the paperwork
and fees.

Let's keep the FDA out of complementary
and alternative medicine.

The Farm Bill affects everyone, meat eater or vegetarian. Because of our governments policies, the
cheapest food on the grocery store shelf is the food
with the lowest nutritional value. In helping commodity farmers, the current farm bill creates cheap
sugar by subsidizing corn and cheap fat by subsidizing soybeans. Thus, by making the poorest food the
cheapest food, the farm bill promotes the consumption of food that is high in calories, sugar, and bad
fats and low in everything of nutritional value.

System (NAIS). Under this system, which is currently voluntary but is scheduled to become mandatory in 2008, every single livestock animal in the
United States will be identified, tagged, tracked,
logged, and reported to the government.

Let's also stop relying on a government that appears

to have little motivation to protect consumer health.
As long as a government entity has the power to
regulate, there will be a corporate entity with the
money and the power to influence that government
entity. Perhaps it's time for us to move beyond consumer safety and into consumer responsibility.

Who benefits from the farm bill? Not the consumer.

Not the poor. Not the small farmer or perhaps even
the midsized farmer. Big Agribusiness preserves its
system of agriculture while the rest of us experience
the joys of declining health, degenerative disease,
and factory farming. As Wendell Berry put it, The
people will eat what the corporations decide for
them to eat.

Small, traditional-style farmers, who have genetically diverse animals of different ages on their
farms, will be required to have an ID for each and
every animal. The result is that the cost of farming
will greatly increase for small farmers. NAIS is economically skewed to help big corporate farms (by
opening up the export markets to them) at the detriment of small family farms.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Support

Your Local Farmer

This system might be livable if it really did protect

consumers by cutting down on animal disease, but
notice that NAIS does nothing to stop disease or
contamination from entering the food supply. The
goal of NAIS is to provide 48-hour trace back to
the farm of origin in the case of problems. Thats 48
hours after the problem is detected.

As a small farmer and a friend of many other small

farmers, Id love to see the government stop hindering small, local farming ventures. Because we eat
what the farmers produce, we need the government
to get out of the way of small farmers.

Let's even the agricultural playing field and
truly protect the consumer.

The USDA is championing a system that would allow contaminated BSE beef to circulate in the food
system and infect unwitting consumers, even though
theres a simple test that could stop BSE meat from
ever passing through the slaughterhouse door. And
the USDA is championing yet another system that
will make business survival difficult for small, nonconventional farmers.

Let's stand up against NAIS and demand
that labeling for BSE testing of slaughtered meat be
declared legal instead.

Let's demand that labeling such as 'GMO
free' or 'rBGH free' be protected as a natural right of
both producer and consumer.

Better yet, let's not subsidize corporate
farming at all: Let's get rid of the farm bill.

Beyond raising your voice against our current food

and farming regulations, there's an easier way for
you to have your say about the issues surrounding
our current food system: Buy Local. When you buy
direct from farmers, you know exactly who you're
supporting. You know what kind of farming practices you're supporting, and you know that you're buying from a person who cares more about the quality
than the quantity of her produce. In short, you know
that you're buying from a person who cares as much
about your health as he cares about your money.
As a small farmer, my goal is to produce the absolute best tasting, most nutritious food that I can
produce - to nourish my soil so that I can nourish
the lives of my customers. Many of my local farmer
friends have the same goals. If you care about the
quality of your food and health, these are the people
you should buy from.
Every time that you buy from your small, local
producer, you're making it a little easier for smaller,
family farms to survive. Given the amount of human
effort that goes into producing high-quality produce,
we're all getting a phenomenal deal at our local
farmers market.
A CSA farmer friend of mine once joked that if you
add up all the time that goes into organic gardening,
she makes $3.50 an hour. She's probably closer to
the truth than any of us realizes. Sometimes I pay
the farmer's market vendors a little more than what
they're asking, just because I know the only thing
standing between them and quitting is a love for
what they do and how long will that love last as
regulations and other economic roadblocks continue
to close down on them?
Small, family farming is the last place where I want
to see economics win over the essential task of caring for land and community. Wendell Berry argued
that our culture has already lost so much with the
decline of the small, family farm. Let's not lose any
more small farmers.

Ultimately it is us and our decisions that must regulate our food system through the free market. In my
mind there's only one way to be safe about food:
either produce it or know who does. To truly know
that our food is safe, we need to support instead of
strangle our local producers. Lets get out of their
Author Jocelyn Engman and her husband Tim live
on a 10-acre farm outside of Fairfield, IA, where
they run Pickle Creek Herbal , creating herb-infused olive oils &
vinegars, soaps & salves, jellies & teas. Her mailing
address is: 1341 Spruce Ave, Brighton, IA 52540.
This article first ran in the Savvy Vegetarian at

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


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Red Fire Farm:


The Natural Farmer

Running the Regulatory Gauntlet

by Jack Kittredge

If there is anyone who was born to farm, it is

Ryan Voiland. He was already a local legend in
Massachusetts 20 years ago as the kid who ran his
own farm stand while he was in middle school!
Ryan started by picking wild berries and selling them at a little stand on his parents land in
Montague. Looking to add to his selection of items,
he planted a garden and started growing vegetables.
Once I got the idea of growing vegetables, he recalls, I started reading everything I could find including the NOFA publications. I quickly converted
my parents acre of yard into a growing area. Then
in high school I started renting land, buying equipment and tractors, building greenhouses.
He had a thriving business going by the time he
graduated from high school, and didnt want to let
it go just because he was going to Cornell to study
agriculture. He spent all summer farming, and managed to drive back and forth between Ithaca and
Montague every weekend during the spring and fall.
My parents were always very supportive and
helped out he says. I would Email them instructions about what to plant, when.
Being devoutly organic, Voiland had to pick his way
at Cornell. He found that professors had quite variable philosophies about farming practices.
Some were very old school, he says, and would
not hear of organic. Others had very open minds
and recognized organic as a legitimate production

photo courtesy Red Fire Farm

Sarah and Ryan Voiland show off their produce in front of their farmstand.
By keeping the business going during college
Ryan had a financial track record that stood him in
good stead. He used it to demonstrate to the Farm
Service Agency that he was a good risk. Graduating
from Cornell in 2000, with the agencys help the

next year he bought a 50 acre farm in Granby,

Massachusetts, in the middle of the states best
growing region -- the Pioneer Valley. Selling off
the farms development rights made the deal a little
more manageable.

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The Natural Farmer

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0
As a result of that worry Ryan recently bought a
farm in Montague, 45 minutes due north.
It is Hadley loam, he says, right on the
Connecticut River. But it has been farmed to death.
The organic matter there is about 2%, whereas these
soils havent been as heavily farmed and the organic
content is more like 4 to 5%. Well probably work it
so we do some of our earlier crops down here on the
lighter soils, and the later ones up there.
Red Fire Farm markets about 70% of their produce
via a CSA that goes 20 weeks from the beginning
of June to the end of October. In 2009 they had 960
shares. In 2010 it is over 1000. Some members pick
up at the farm, but most of the shares are taken to
distribution points in the Pioneer Valley and the
Greater Boston area.

The crew that works at Red Fire Farm

He chose the name Red Fire Farm in memory of

a devastating 1922 fire that had destroyed the house
and barn. He also liked the name because New Red
Fire is his favorite red leaf lettuce.
In 2005 Voiland, a life-long vegetarian, met Sarah
Ingraham through a vegetarian dating website.
Sarah was farming in Stafford Springs, Connecticut,
and they traded ideas and advice.
We talked about farming a lot, Sarah recalls.
Then Ryan brought down a spader machine he had
and used it on my farm. He stayed and helped me
with my market. Finally I switched my CSA over to
another manager and came up here to work for Red
Fire in 2007. We got married last year.
About 20 acres of the Granby farms land are suitable for vegetable production, with the rest better
for pasture. So over the years Ryan has rented an-

other 70 to 75 acres in various spots around Granby

on which he now produces vegetables.
These fields here are all of the Merrimack soil
type he says, which is pretty good stuff. The vegetables do well on it. Maybe its a little on the sandy
side. The fields are easy to get on early in the year,
and drain well. But maybe they dont hold water
quite as well as a Hadley loam. So we irrigate.
Voiland worries about the permanence of his operation, being so dependent on rented land.
Development has slowed down, he admits, but
there are still houses being built. Belchertown,
which is right next to us, is the fastest growing town
in Massachusetts. That town is just out of control.
Granby isnt developing that fast. But twenty years
ago much of this was still farmland. We need more
land than we own here, and we cant be sure it will
be available to us.

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The farm also sells wholesale to natural food stores

and restaurants, farmers markets in Springfield
and Boston, and at on-farm stands in Granby
and Montague. The plan is to do the pick your
own crops and the farm stand and greenhouses in
Granby, but starting in 2012 to do about 75% of the
field production at the Montague farm.
The Voilands also do a winter share during January,
February and March, every other week. Its root
vegetables and salad greens, mostly. And they have
a November and December CSA. April & May is
the only time of year they arent doing a CSA.
Its nice to have one time when you can just focus
on growing, sighs Ryan. The whole crew can
focus on planting. Not that we arent harvesting
then. Were wholesaling salad mix and harvesting
cucumbers. And our tomatoes are ready May 15.
But we dont have the quantities of the early stuff
that would be needed for a CSA. Its tricky because
thats the time we turn our greenhouses over to tomatoes and starts for the field. We have one house
still devoted to a spring succession of salad mix. But
its a tiny amount compared to what we had during
the winter.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

With so much production happening, of course,

Ryan and Sarah need a lot of help. By mid June they
have some 30 people on the payroll. Many of the
area farms producing at this scale hire foreign workers under the H-2A program. They work hard and
are reliable.


The Natural Farmer

We have thought about going with an H-2A crew,

Voiland says. Most of them come back every year
and learn the job and are very efficient. But we
still think it is valuable to allow an entry place for
American young people with an enthusiasm for
farming. So pretty much all our crew is recent college graduates. In fact, were one of the few farms
around of our size who hire an almost exclusively
American crew.
The nature of these workers, he continues, is that
they are moving on in their lives and may only work
one or two seasons. So that means we are always
bringing in and training a new batch of people.
Despite the inherent inefficiencies of this labor
source, Ryan and Sarah feel it is important to give
this opportunity to kids to see if they really want to
be farmers. It also somewhat changes the culture of
the farm.
Worker housing is an example. Not a lot of rental
housing is available in Granby, and the farm came
with an old house built after the 1922 fire. It has 6
bedrooms and three full bathrooms. The Voilands
have made it available to some of their core workers, who have brought in their own furniture and run
it cooperatively much like students jointly occupying an off-campus house. One even preferred to live
off on his own and, in the spring of 2009, built a
yurt on some of the farms back land.
This turned out to be a bad move.
Someone rode by on a horse and saw it, Sarah
sighs, and they called up the town and reported it.
The building inspector told us it was illegal to
camp on your own land, Ryan adds. There are a
lot of farms that have cabins, yurts, and tents for
workers. But our understanding now is that all of

The Red Fire Farm truck, implements, and back of farm house.

that is illegal. Even if you just want to sleep out under the stars, I think that is illegal.
But once the issue was raised, he continues, the
town people the building inspector, the board of
health, the fire department began looking into
which state regulations would govern our workers staying here. They hadnt had anyone before in
Granby who was providing housing for workers.

Once the local officials contacted the state

Department of Public Health, the regulatory machinery was set in motion. The decision came down
that the house on Red Fire Farm needed to be either
a rooming house or a farm labor camp. Since
rooming houses are not permitted in Granby under
the town bylaws, that left the only option being a
farm labor camp a facility rigorously inspected by
the state.
If you are housing two or more farm workers,
Sarah explains, you cant just have them live in a
house. It becomes a farm labor camp.

photo by Jack Kittredge

This regulation was initially designed to protect migrant workers -- who couldnt speak much English
and didnt know much about their rights -- from
substandard housing conditions. Now it was going
to be applied to a farmhouse where young workers
were living much as they had in college. So the state
Department of Public Health sent their own inspector, along with the local ones, to see if the farmhouse measured up.
I remember one meeting when at least six or seven
different officials were each doing an inspection,
sighs Ryan. They hadnt warned us exactly when
they would come. They looked at the yurt, but
they decided they wanted to look at the house, too.
People were living here, but they went through peoples rooms, looked around, and left telling us they
would confer and decide what to do.
It turns out they wanted us to come in compliance
with the labor camp standards within a month, he
continues. That would be June, right in the middle


S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

We had to install those. We had to have a hood over

the kitchen stove. We didnt have a house number
on the house. It was on our sign but not the house.
They made us put one up. Some of our upstairs
rooms dont have vented heat, so we had to put
electric heaters in all the bedrooms. You cant have
pets in the kitchen. Now if your pets are inside, they
go where they want, including the kitchen. So essentially you cant have them in the house. To me
it seems ridiculous to have a law saying you cant
have a pet indoors. There is one spot at the back of
the house that has persistent poison ivy. Were not
willing, as organic farmers, to use RoundUp. Even
though we cut it back regularly, each year it seems
to come back. They have given us grief over that,
even though it is not near a door or where anyone
Most of these arent bad things to have, Ryan
says, but I feel imposed upon to have to do all
those right away in the middle of the growing season. Weve done a lot of immediate repairs and
upgrades to address their immediate concerns, and it
has cost us $20,000 to $30,000.

Ryan and Sarah stand in from of their farm labor camp

of the growing season. We couldnt afford to hire

people for all this so wed have to do much of it
ourselves. But we also have to farm! If they had
given us a winter, and time to schedule the costs,
that would have made more sense.

Once you become a farm labor camp, you have to

apply every year and the state inspects you every
year. Before, the farmhouse was kind of a private
household where people do their own thing. They
would all do jobs to keep the place clean. Now, as
a farm labor camp, Ryan and Sarah had to be much
more involved than the landlord of a building normally is. Daily maintenance has to be done, and the
owners have to make sure it happens.
Were not big believers in bleach, Sarah says.

photo by Jack Kittredge

But for labor camp rules they want you to do a

daily bleaching of the shower floor, to rinse all
your dishes in bleach. They wanted designated
male and female bathrooms in the house. Luckily
we have three, so we could do that. They are
single bathrooms, without multiple stalls, so it
didnt make much sense to me. We had to put up
fly strips, hand washing signs, and signs for exiting in case of fire. We had to have a 24-unit first
aid kit stocked and ready, and throw out all our
chipped dishes. The bedding has to be washed
each week that is our responsibility although it
is peoples personal belongings.
The beds have to be off the floor by a certain
number of inches, she continues. People cant
use futons. The house didnt have screen doors.

One of the issues, he continues, is that the people

who actually live here felt pretty infringed upon.
Their personal spaces were getting invaded by inspectors every couple of weeks throughout last year.
There was one inspector or another coming through
their bedrooms and checking the entire household.
It is still going on. The towns inspectors were here
As if dealing with the local and state inspectors
about worker housing was not enough, In July,
2009, the feds came knocking.
We had a supposedly unrelated visit from the federal Department of Labor, recalls Ryan. They just
showed up and knocked at the door, declaring they
were going to do an audit of our business -- payroll,
housing, OSHA regulations, you name it.
The federal inspectors did the exact same housing inspection that the state did, which struck the
Voilands as redundant.
I dont understand. says Sarah, if the state was
already doing that, why the federals had to as well.

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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

But they arent good at communicating. They just

came and did their inspections. They did manage
to communicate that they wanted us to pay a $5000
fine for being in violation of their rules rules we
didnt even know about.
There was no effort to work out a timetable, adds
Ryan, or give us a reasonable chance to do this
anytime but in the middle of the growing season.
It would be much fairer to farms to say: We found
these problems. You need to fix them by such and
such time. If you do, youre all set. If you dont,
well impose a fine. Instead they said: Here are the
violations, and here is the fine for them.
The federal labor law people also had a problem
with the system of people only having their own water bottles out in the field. They wanted the farm to
have big jugs and disposable paper cups, despite the
fact that the Red Fire crews all had their own bottles
and preferred them.
In addition to the housing inspection the feds did,
they also did a complete audit of the farms books,
going back three years.
Sarah and Ryan had a pay structure that worked well
for them. They paid their hourly workers a straight
wage, which exceeded the minimum required by
law. But, like most farms, they spend a lot in the
beginning of the year and make money at the end.
So, for what they call the core crew positions, they
had people getting a regular salary throughout the
season, and then getting a bonus at the end -- sort
of like profit sharing. They based the bonus on the
employees pay rate, and felt people were being
compensated pretty well over the year. This wasnt
satisfactory to the Department of Labor, however.
Apparently, explains Sarah, if you pay some
workers a salary instead of an hourly wage, you
have to meet the minimum salary law. The federal
people told me the minimum salary was $455 per
week for full time people. We hadnt been paying
that much in the initial payments, but if you take
the bonuses and factor them in over the whole year,
then the salaries definitely met the requirement. But
we werent allowed to count the bonuses.


The Natural Farmer

They had also tried employing people on piecework
to harvest strawberries. They thought they could
hire high school kids and others they wouldnt normally hire and give them the chance to work hard
and make a lot of money while not losing money on
the slow workers.
I talked to a couple of other farms about what they
did, Sarah says, and based our system on that,
without looking at the law. I guess I should have
checked the law (laughs). With the piece rate people
you are supposed to keep track of what time they
started and what time they finished, to see if they are
actually making minimum wage over the time they
worked. We hadnt been doing that. If they dont
make minimum wage doing piecework, you have
to pay them the minimum anyway. So there is no
reason to do piecework. The record keeping alone is
more work than it is worth.
Finally, she continues, we were counting housing as part of the staffs compensation. They didnt
have to pay us rent and we were giving them money
for a food fund, too. But if you do that, and it is not
a payment visible to the government, then you will
have problems. It wont get counted as compensation towards the minimum wage.
They want to tax that income, adds Ryan. So
they want you to pay it and then take it back as rent.
We didnt charge for rent for several years and we
ended up having to pay several thousand dollars in
back wages to some people.
When this regulatory hammer fell on the Voilands
last Spring they wrote various letters to their state
and federal representatives and senators, to NOFA/
Mass, to the farm bureau and to other groups. They
explained the situation and asked for help. Ryan
feels that it was based on that political pressure that
they were able to negotiate a reduced fine with the
Department of Labor. It was reduced 60%, to $2000.
Although not happy with that, the couple felt that
was the best they could do without going to court
and getting a lawyer.

I think our Congressman, John Olver, was one of

the more helpful ones,\ says Ryan. Kerrys office was pretty lukewarm. Brad Mitchell from the
Massachusetts Farm bureau has been pretty helpful. He helped draft some letters and talked to some
of these people personally, I think. I talked with
Phil, the executive director at CISA, and he talked
to Scott Soares at the Department of Agricultural
Resources. There may have been some pressure
from them, although they dont really have any direct authority here. This is all under the Department
of Public Health. Eventually DPH asked for a plan
and we submitted a timeline. That worked well for
us. It was very helpful. They agreed to let us make
many of the changes over the winter. They didnt
give us a fine or anything. The feds are worse. They
are stricter, harder to talk to, and fined us right

Although she never thought of it before in the Red

Fire Farm situation, Sarah has some experience with
farm labor camps. As a student she was active in an
advocacy group for farm workers rights. They traveled around New York visiting different farms with
migrant labor camps.
There were situations, she recalls, you wouldnt
want to be in like 8 people in one room or two
stoves for 50 people to cook on. I can understand
the reasons for this kind of regulation. You have
people coming in to them who have language problems, dont understand their rights and cant advocate for themselves. I dont want those protections
weakened, or changed so people can bend them. But
you dont need those regulations for smaller farms
employing college kids.
When I was doing the whole student farm-worker
advocacy, she continues. I was pretty adamant
about how things ought to be. Now that Im working on a farm I see it differently. Like, I dont really
think there should be overtime for farm workers.
If we had that, Ryan adds, we wouldnt have any
crops in this country. Or wed have a really big crew
so nobody had to work over 40 hours. But it would
be unwieldy. Wed have to train so many people!

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The toll this regulatory nightmare has taken on the

Voilands is significant both in time and money. For a
good portion of the 2009 growing season Sarah was
spending a third of her time working on it.
We mostly have been trying to figure this out ourselves, Ryan says. We dont know of any attorney
with familiarity with these rules. And it is pretty
expensive to get a lawyer. We are concerned about
cutting our losses and not spending more than we
had to on this situation.
But the couple is also concerned that other farms
not have to go through a similar process. Red Fire
Farm had been operating for 9 years before learning
of these regulations. They know that other farms are
equally oblivious.
It would be really useful, says Sarah, if, when
people start a farm business, they automatically
got something simple outlining what you need to
do to be in compliance. We had no idea there were
all these laws. Weve made every effort we can to
comply with both of the agencies. Were trying to
do everything we can to strictly obey the law, but
it is hard because they are complex laws reams
of pages. They should give you a sense of what the
laws are, so that you dont discover in the middle of
the season that your workers all have to leave and
you cant harvest your crops.
But the way it is now, she continues, If I were
advising a new farm setting up, I would not advise
them to go to the state to try to learn all the laws -unless they want a lot of headaches.
Ryan agrees: Stay under the radar if you can! If
any of this had happened during the first four years
I was in business here, it would have put the farm
out of business. We just didnt have the resources to
deal with it all.
The following are two letters Ryan wrote to state
and federal regulators which give an idea of his state
of mind last summer and fall.

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Ryan to MDPH on June 8, 2009

Ryan to U. S. Department of Labor on 10/19/09

This letter addresses the states application of Farm

Labor Camp regulations (105 CMR 420.000) to the
housing situation at Red Fire Farm. A small-scale
diversified farm like ours must be able to provide
housing for crew members in order to be economically viable. When state officials became aware
that we had crew members living on the farm, they
had two regulatory options: to treat us as a rooming house, which is not allowed under town bylaws
in Granby, or as a Farm Labor Camp. We believe
that current Farm Labor Camp regulations are inappropriate for a farm such as ours and a burden on
our business. Smaller scale agriculture needs a legal
place to stand.

Red Fire Farm would like to request a hearing

in regard to the civil penalty notification sent on
10/15/09. Red Fire Farm has cooperated fully with
the department on this investigation thus far, and
Red Fire Farm is prepared to fix all concerns raised
by the department going forward. However, we do
not feel that the severity of the alleged violations
warrants the assessment of a civil money penalty.
Particularly in light of the fact that this summer represents the first ever audit of Red Fire Farm by the
Department of Labor or any similar agencies.

Many other farms in our area bring in dozens of

seasonal laborers from other countries every summer. We agree that regulation is necessary to protect incoming migrant laborers from exploitation,
However, these heavily detailed regulations that
make sense in a bunk-house or dormitory are impractical and incongruous at the scale we operate.
Our farmhouse houses eight people in private rooms
with two living room areas, a kitchen, a pantry, 3
full bathrooms and two porches. Our employees
treat the farmhouse as a home. For example, the
people in the house bring their own beds, furniture,
cookware and linens, and take care of basic chores
as a private household. Requiring the farm to provide all these things under 105 CMR 420.000 is unnecessary.
For smaller farms like ours that focus on employing
local people and Americans interested in pursuing careers in organic agriculture, regulations like
these are an intrusion of privacy and a burden on
the viability of the farm. Our farmhouse provides
all the basic necessities of any private household.
It also meets all of the major requirements of 105
CMR 420.000. However, the cost of compliance
with all of the details of Farm Labor Camp regulations would cause a serious strain on our resources.
These kinds of requirements weigh down smaller
operations disproportionately. We do not have extra money in the budget or people on the payroll to
cover additional time and money expenses without
drawing heavily into resources that need to be spent
on the farm business, especially during the busiest
time of the year.

In regard to the housing and farm yard Red Fire

Farm has conducted maintenance of the farm infrastructure with a careful eye to improvement over
the years, including an investment of over $100,000
in the house including the roof (removal of the old
asbestos shingles and replacement with asphalt
shingles just this spring), plumbing system (completely replaced in winter of 08/09) electrical system
(all knob and tube wiring replaced during winter of
07/08 plus installation of additional light and plug
fixtures in many of rooms), insulation (installed in
attic during 08), bathrooms (totally remodeled in
addition to the plumbing last winter) during the past
two years. As you can see we have been systematically targeting the house for upgrade and improvement over the last few years. We agree that there
are still things to improve in the farmhouse, but
none of these things are major in regard to the livability of the structure in the short term. In fact the
condition of the housing is as good as many rental
apartments and better than the conditions in many
peoples homes. We feel that it is unfair to assess a
penalty for minor concerns without first giving the
farm time to budget for and conduct upgrades in the
specified areas.
Other concerns that the Department of Labor has
cited about Red Fire Farm are similarly minor and
or hard to predict as concerns. Red Fire Farm is
prepared to address these concerns going forward,
but we feel that a financial penalty is not warranted
and will not accomplish anything toward fixing the
concerns other than to pull financial resources away
from funding solutions.
Red Fire Farm has always conducted business in a
fair and open way. We strive to make the world a
better place by conducting environmentally responsible, organic, and local food production in order to
feed our members and customers. We also provide a
multitude of jobs for local residents that most people
would consider a critical accomplishment, especially given the high and increasing unemployment rate
in our region,. We have clear communication with
our employees about their housing and compensation options. Our customers (members) and most of
the general community of citizens consider our dedication to the important job of growing quality food
to be heroic in nature. We work extremely hard to
overcome the obstacles that the weather, pests, and
fickle markets often bring to our fields and crops. As
the managers of this operation we do appreciate the
importance of making sure the work environment
is safe and fair for all who work at the farm. If you
were to survey the employees of this operation they
would agree that we run a fair and honest farm operation. As such we find it insulting to be targeted as
some kind of criminals with the imposition of civil
penalties and threatening letters from your agency.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

Small Farms Staggering Under the

Weight of Government Regulations
The Natural Farmer


by Winton Pitcoff

Like so many things, agriculture in the U.S. is being

squeezed in the middle. The result is consolidation
of larger farms into giant operations on one end of
the spectrum, and a growing number of small farms
on the other, thanks largely to specialty grower
entrepreneurs, often pursuing direct-to-consumer
enterprises. With these changes have come new
governmental regulations, imposed in the name of
health and safety. More and more small farmers are
finding that, while those regulations may be reasonable for the large operations, they are overly burdensome when applied to their farms.
Indiana farmer Greg Gunthorp has one of what is
a small and dwindling number of on-farm USDA
inspected slaughterhouses left in the country. They
raise and process about 60,000 birds a year, and a
thousand pigs. Its not really enough to justify having our own slaughter house, he says, but there
just arent other options nearby.
Being USDA inspected means having an inspector at the 2,000-square foot plant every minute that
theyre in operation. In the four years that they have
been in business, Gunthorp says theyve had at least
30 different inspectors. This is particularly challenging for a small operation like his, he says, because
each inspector has a slightly different interpretation
of the rules, each one wants to see us do something
a little differently than the last one.
Ninety percent of them are either reasonable or
apathetic, he says, but the other 10% cause all
of our headaches. While large plants have staff
people whose sole job is to work with the inspector,
his plant has only three or four people working at a
time, so when an inspector demands attention from
someone, that reduces staff and productivity by 25%
or more. The amount of paperwork is overwhelming, he says. And the inspectors higher-ups dont
seem to think theyre doing their jobs unless theyre
stirring something up, and theres no recourse when
I feel like theyre being unreasonable, because their
response is always that Im saying we should be
more lenient about food safety.
Also challenging about the inspections process is
the scheduling, says Gunthorp. The USDA sets the
dates and times when we can get an inspector, and

their shift is only eight hours beyond that is $60

an hour per inspector. If I have ten hours of chickens
to process in a week, I have to either pay for their
overtime or deal with having to set up and then
clean the entire facility twice.
Since the USDA adopted HACCP (Hazard Analysis
Critical Control Point) plans as their standard model
for regulating processors it has become our responsibility as processors, based on sound science and
reasonable judgment, to process our products safely.
It has moved so much of the process beyond the
ability of the inspectors to monitor, though, that they
couldnt even inspect the whole plant if they wanted
to. I dont know how theyre managing at the large
It took us 14 months to even get someone from
USDA to come out to look at the plant before we
could start up, says Gunthorp. That lets you know
how important small processors are for them.
Im not arguing that there shouldnt be an inspection system, continues Gunthorp, but there are

only 200 poultry processors left in the whole country and about 900 processors of red meat. We need
to have changes if little ones are going to be able
to survive. The regulations themselves arent out of
control its the interpretation and lack of continuity in interpretation, and a few rogue inspectors who
make it so difficult. They need a realistic appeals
process so that if small plants win a certain number
of appeals, that inspector is no longer eligible to go
to that plant.
In addition, the regulations tend not to be scalable,
so the same demands are imposed upon all processors, regardless of size. An expensive piece of
equipment required for monitoring refrigeration, for


S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

retail customers or institutions like schools, hotels

or restaurants. More than half of the states add additional regulations, though, and some have eliminated on-farm processing altogether.
Whats challenging, though, says Joel Salatin of
Polyface Farm in Virginia, is that even the states
that are maintaining some degree of liberty in this
regard are wildly disparate in what they consider
sanitary and unadulterated, particularly in what
kind of facilities they will allow. Salatins open-air
processing plant was initially rejected as unsanitary,
but when we had a lab test showing our chickens
were twenty-five times cleaner than supermarket
birds, they approved us.
Theres lots of room for creativity if farmers are
willing to challenge authority, says Salatin. A farmer
in Ohio managed to convince the state that the plastic walls in his hoop-house processing plant met the
standards for impermeable walls, says Salatin, and
another farmer in Washington noted that the regulations for those impermeable walls didnt say how
high they had to be, so he erected eight-inch high
walls of impermeable material around his otherwise
open-air facility. That plant, too, was eventually approved. Its important for farmers to realize that
even though a bureaucrat says you cant do that
doesnt mean there isnt some very creative simple
way around that, as long as you can show that your
process is clean and safe.
On-farm poultry processing also adds the extra burden of multi-agency regulations at many farms, with
agriculture departments overseeing the processing
and then environmental regulators setting standards
for handling of waste water often as much as five
gallons per bird.
example, is affordable for a huge slaughterhouse
with warehouses full of meat, but not for a small
plant with a walk-in cooler designed for 2,000
pounds of beef. Discussions about requirements for
ammonia carcass washes on the kill floor of slaughterhouses have concerned small plants as well,
because of the very expensive measures that would

have to be taken to ensure worker safety when operating such equipment.

Federal regulations allow farmers to process up to
20,000 head of poultry per year without inspection, requiring only that the practice be sanitary and
unadulterated. The meat may be sold to end users

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By and large, most farmers response to the principle

of food safety regulation seems to be bring it on
small scale producers are ready to stand by their
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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

have to add to their workload to comply with inspectors demands.

Over regulation isnt the only challenge facing
small slaughterhouses, says Lauren Gwin of the
Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network, but the
additional testing requirements are economically
burdensome for an industry that is already struggling. You have to be safe and have to have ways
to demonstrate safety, but we do think that some of
the requirements, particularly some that have been
proposed recently, are over-burdensome and not
The proposal she is referring to is one from the
USDAs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
that would create substantial new testing requirements for all meat processors. For example, a plant
making hot dogs and processing them according to
a regulators standards would, under the proposed
regulations, have to run additional testing at critical
control points during production to validate that the
mandated standards are, in fact, doing what they are
meant to do. Extensive research went into developing these protocols, Gwin points out, and each step
was tested and re-tested to ensure its effectiveness.
To then ask the plants to essentially re-prove that
effectiveness during production is unnecessary and
very expensive, and the Networks response to the
proposal says that Many small establishments
around the country have stated that they will either
stop processing under inspection or close entirely if
this proposal were to be adopted due to the cost estimates for compliance. According to the American
Association of Meat Processors, the initial cost
could be as much as $12,000 per product line and
then $3,600 a year to maintain.
Its really unfortunate how much subjectivity goes
into the inspections process, says Gwin. Inspectors
range from helpful to overwhelmingly bureaucratic,
she says, and even though she feels that the central
FSIS office is aware that this is a problem, the system is so sprawling that it is hard to maintain consistency. You have to push back on your inspector
when you feel like theyre being unfair, she says. I
know thats hard for small businesses, but there are
higher-ups that the inspectors have to answer to.

On the other side of the same coin, though, there

have been examples of inspectors being bullied or
threatened for doing their job at larger plants, she
says. The balance is to get inspectors to be consistent with their interpretations of the regulations and
give the plants appropriate ways to challenge decisions they feel are improper.
The paperwork is exceptionally challenging for the
small operations, Gwin adds. The way the system
is set up, for each process in a plant someone has to
monitor it, someone has to verify that it was monitored, and someone has to review the reports of the
The proposed FSIS regulations would be a huge
burden on small and mid-sized slaughterhouses,
without a real increase in food safety agrees Kate
Fitzgerald, Senior Policy Associate at the National
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Beyond Meat
The burdens of overregulation on small farms extend well beyond meat processing. The idea seems
to be to eliminate all local food and only allow
foods made in factories, says Morse Pitts, who
owns Windfall Farms in New York where he grows
greens year-round. But thats where all of the problems come from.
Ideally, says Pitts, there would be no regulations
dictating how he raises, processes and produces
his greens, because when you sell your products to
customers face to face, as he does at the New York
City Greenmarket, and people understand where its
coming from, theres no need. Direct sales and that
level of interaction with customers actually adds a
built-in level of safety, he points out, in that tracking batches of his produce would be far simpler than
for a producer that ships widely, if there were ever
a need to recall an item. And safety comes more instinctually for a small farmer, he points out, because
their lives and work are so interconnected. This is
the food I eat and Im washing it with the water I
drink. Thats not true of someone running a big food

Products from the Ocean,

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His current method of triple-submerging his greens

not only cleans the produce, but helps keep it fresh
for market day, he says. Regulations that would require greens be washed in a certified kitchen would
put many small farms out of business, he says,
because of the cost of such a facility. Pitts recalls
a regulator speaking at a conference just ten years
ago saying basic sanitation is all it takes to keep
greens fresh, and laments the fact that government
agencies have felt the need to continually prescribe
what they mean by basic sanitation, rather than
allow farmers to devise reasonable practices on their
Pitts notes the irony of the current state of affairs at
the USDA. Were getting grants from the USDA
that are geared toward operations like ours because
they say theyre trying to preserve small farms, but
then the other departments within the same agency
are writing regulations that are eventually going to
stop my farm.
When problems with food do come to light the
small producers tend to be in the crosshairs of
regulators, but its the bigger operations that are
disproportionately the culprits. A recent Consumers
Union report tested salad mixes the kind packed in
plastic bags or containers and sold in grocery stores
as pre washed and found contamination levels
at higher than acceptable standards in 36% of the
samples for coliform and 23% for enterococcus.
Regulations that put unnecessary burdens on farms
arent coming only from the federal government.
Brad Mitchell, Director of Government Affairs at
the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation, says
that farmers in that state are dealing with local
boards of health making regulations that dont make
sense for agriculture. Some are passing measures
to limit the number of animals people can have
per acre, for instance, without regard for the site or
management practices. Others are putting restrictions on farmers markets that have nothing to do
with public health issues. We dont want to be
exempt, he says. Agriculture depends on sound
public health regulations for its survival. But, he
pointed out, there are no checks and balances on
what these boards of health can do no requirement

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shipping all over the country. Weve learned enough
to know that what may seem like a well-intentioned
and well-designed program in Washington, DC can
be capricious and expensive in the field, and knock
small producers out of business.

that their regulations go through a public process

or be vetted by the attorney general like state laws
and regulations. The Farm Bureau is promoting the
adoption of such checks and balances.
Local zoning boards have also stepped clumsily into
regulating farms, says Mitchell. He cites one example of a small farmer planning a vegetable gardening operation on a 3.5 acre plot. The towns zoning
board wanted to require her to have a paved sevencar parking area, which was entirely cost prohibitive
for a farm that size. The application of residential
building, plumbing and sanitation codes to on-farm
production facilities has also been a problem for
Many Massachusetts towns have passed right-tofarm bylaws that have alleviated some of the conflicts that have arisen between farmers and their
neighbors. Complaints about noise from farming
operations are common, said Pete Westover, who
has worked with many towns in drafting and passing
their bylaws, and having such laws in place gives
farmers a little more confidence to stand up to these
complaints without just giving up in frustration, The
laws are creating more local support and local information about what farming practices are supposed
to be like. Still, some towns in Massachusetts, as
well as other states around the country, have even
gone so far as to outlaw owning chickens, citing
noise and sanitation.

Regulators do seem to understand that the rules

can be more burdensome for small producers, says
Judith McGeary, Executive Director of the Farm and
Ranch Freedom Alliance, but they dont seem to
grasp that those same small farms actually pose less
of a risk. Were not saying that small and local is
always safe and that industrial production is always
evil, were just talking about the levels of risk and
the scale of any potential problem. While to small
producers it may seem obvious, regulators have to
be educated about the fact that fewer steps in the
production process, fresher products, and less transportation actually means fewer chances for contamination of foods. Small producers are naturally
more attentive to safety issues, many people point
out, since a single illness from contamination could
devastate their entire business in ways that it simply
wouldnt for a large company.
Regulators like OSHA (the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety) recognize that there are differences and
should be exemptions for small businesses. Why
shouldnt food regulators recognize the same thing
for small farms? asks McGeary.
The biggest hypocrisy of the food safety movement, says McGeary, is the claim of a desire to find
practices that remove all risk from food. We dont
know what happens over the long term if people
eat food based on GMO crops, or reduced nutrient
foods grown from industrial methods, or foods with
hormones and antibiotics in them, but the food industry has no problem subjecting us all to that level
of risk.

There will always be people who get sick from

food, says McGeary. The idea that any measure
would mean that nobody gets sick is absurd. From
a public policy perspective, no other regulations are
designed to cover every single person from every
angle environmental regulations, worker safety
its all based on risk. We have to determine how
much these regulations will slow the growth of local, safe, healthy food. The challenge, of course, is
that fighting regulations always makes some observChange Coming But For Whom?
ers suggest that you are fighting to allow food to be
unsafe, but the problem is that the regulations dont
Under the current administration the USDA is work- really make it safe, she says.
ing in coordination with the FDA on produce food
safety issues, says Fitzgerald, and there have been
The solution, she says, is standards based upon
site visits by both agencies to a wide range of farms results, where farmers and processors have to dem big and small, diversified, organic, etc. in what onstrate that their food is safe, rather than processshe says is a good faith effort to try to increase un- based regulations like HACCP that dictate that there
derstanding on the part of the FDA.
is only one way to produce a safe product. In addition, funding from regulatory agencies should be
But the backdrop is that the FDA is going to be the diverted from inspections and toward training prolead agency in terms of food safety, she says, and grams that help farmers and processors learn about
historically they havent understood agriculture or
safe food production.
shown any real interest in understanding agriculture.
Theyve just approached farms as if they were phar- Another very real issue is whether or not the FDA
maceutical factories.
and USDA can even afford to implement and enforce more stringent regulations, since the agencies
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is
are stretched thin already. The risk of new regulaparticipating in the process as the food safety bill is tions, then, becomes one of staffing might the
making its way through Congress, says Fitzgerald,
federal agencies deputize less experienced state
in an effort to help make the outcome more favorauthorities to monitor facilities, running the risk of
able for small farms. Our approach is that its best even more inconsistencies in enforcement and of
for the government to take an education and training cost could the cost of enforcement be passed along
approach rather than use a heavy regulatory fist, so to producers in the form of fees, further jeopardizing
were working on language for a food safety trainbusinesses already barely getting by?
ing program targeted at small and mid-sized farmers and small processors and produce wholesalers,
There is some evidence that raised voices can make
with the idea that these are the least likely to have
a difference. The proposed FSIS regulations were
resources to pay for independent research or conreleased rather quietly and allowed for only a short
sultants, but who its very important to ensure are
comment period, but when comments began floodproducing their foods safely.
ing in the comment period was extended. A recent
rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Coalition is also pushing for open, public rule- that made it illegal to raise Muscovy ducks was
making on the issue of risk. The proposed legislasuspended after an outcry by both farmers and hobtion is based largely upon the 2002 bioterrorism law, byists. A ban on keeping bees in New York City was
but that template poses quite a mismatch for food
recently overturned.
safety. The FDA should be required to define more
clearly different levels of risk for different activiThe most effective way to control the disconnect
ties, says Fitzgerald. The law needs to distinguish between regulatory language and on the ground
between a small farmer crowning broccoli for a
implementation is through consistent, clear and docfarmers market and a large-scale greens producer
umentable examples addressed to the upper levels of

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

the USDA, says Fitzgerald. Farmers should participate in comment periods, go to public hearings,
and make a clear connection between the economic
importance of these small or mid-size facilities the
jobs they create and the economic multipliers of the
local economy and stress that the added scrutiny
time lost from productive time is not appreciably
improving the safety of the product. Tangible responses, like demonstrating that there hasnt been a
problem for a particular facility, can be very effective.
Regulating More than the Food
Even non-agriculture related regulations sometimes
seem to target small farms. Many farms that rely
on apprentices and interns are forced to grapple
with complex employment and tax regulations that
require a great deal of paperwork, or to creatively
circumvent the rules and constantly be looking over
their shoulder for an over-zealous inspector.
Many young people come to my farm and say
theyd be happy to live in a tent in my woods and
work without wages just for the experience, says
Salatin. Theyre allowed to go backpacking and
live like that for months if they want, but Im not allowed to let them do it here. And even if they dont
want to be paid, the government says that if theyre
working for me they are an employee, which has
tax implications for the farm and the individual,
such as workers compensation, minimum wage, and
even rules that tax the value of provided farmworker
housing however rudimentary -- as income. For
some reason, consenting adults cant make their
own arrangements.
Even the language that farmers use is under scrutiny, particularly as more and more standards are set
for qualifiers like organic and natural. Polyface
Farm, for example, was threatened with legal action
by the federal government for using the term beyond organic when describing their products, since
the farm is not certified organic. Fighting the charge
took resources and time, says Salatin.
And that example illustrates another arena of regulation that many farmers choose instead to skirt organic certification. More and more farmers who use
management methods that would lend themselves
to organic certification are choosing to not do so,
in order to avoid the fees, paperwork and frequent
compliance inspections.
Weve got a farm to run and wonderfully productive things to do, says Salatin, but all of these
regulations siphon off your physical, emotional and
creative energy.
To Preserve Small Farms: Grow the Market
Of course, all of these regulations tilt the system further toward economies of scale bigger farms and
processing facilities can better afford infrastructure
and staff to manage the minutiae of the systems and
still keep the prices of their products low. Not so on
the smaller farms. We need to charge a price that
lets us pay our employees a living wage, says Pitts.
At some point, customer resistance to those prices
will push the smaller farms out of business.
The industry is so heavily regulated, says Gwin,
because there are people who want to be able to
eat raw hamburger and feel like they can be 100%
safe. If we as consumers want this kind of food we
have to be willing to pay a little more. There are
certainly consumers for whom safety means inexpensive, irradiated food from a massive facility, but
the number who want local and specialized products
is growing, she adds.
Salatin points out promising trends within the community of people that value fresh, local, healthy
food, primarily the fact that it has grown to encompass people on all points along the political
spectrum. Culturally the movement has grown out
of the liberal background in which the government
is considered to be benign, he says, but now that
more conservatives are getting interested their tendency to oppose over-regulation could ultimately
strengthen the movement. Were not going to turn
a corner on this until its so serious that all the foodies start not being able to get what theyve been getting, he says.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

My Goat Cheese

The Natural Farmer


by John Coles

How my troubles with the law began

In January 2005, Virginia began to require permits
for all mammalian milk (including goat milk), except for one species, Homo sapiens. Is someone going to make cheese from mouse milk?
For a farm to comply with this regulation and the
required operations it would cost approximately
$50,000. The pasteurizer alone would cost $10,000.
Our cheese operation is very small. When selling directly to the final consumer (not through restaurants
or stores), at a farm store or farmers market, a home
kitchen is all that is needed.
An Unwarranted Attack on a Wholesome
Most of the cheese that I make is a fresh soft cheese
from our raw goats milk. I dont believe in pasteurizing milk to drink or to make it into cheese or
other cultured milk products. The reason is that it
is nutritionally superior with the natural enzymes
and lactic acid bacteria intact. Adding a culture to
pasteurized milk does replace the missing bacteria.
I consider the pasteurization process an adulteration
of my product. As an artisan cheesemaker, I believe
in working with nature and keeping my cheese as
natural and whole as possible. Most of my customers want my cheese because it is not pasteurized.
Farmers Need to Become Schooled in the Law to
Our farmers market begins in April, so we had 3
months to decide how we were going to make our
cheese available to our customers and not get in
trouble with the Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Fortunately, the Virginia Secretary of Agriculture
(a former legislative delegate friendly to our cause)
stated in writing that we could legally give our
cheese away.
This is the fifth year that we have been giving away
the cheese. We do accept donations that are not for
the cheese (this is very important and why it works),
but, in our case, donations are for lobbying on small
farm issues and court costs. We have been in and out
of court since 1980 and are currently in court on a
NAIS (National Animal Identification System) related issue. Other farmers giving away their cheese
would have different reasons for accepting donations, but never tie the donations to the cheese.
Other Farmers are Joining Us in the Great Raw
Cheese Give Away
Caleb Russell, son of Kathryn Russell of Majesty
Farm is giving away fresh cow milk cheese at The
Charlottesville City Market, the same market where
I am a vendor. This is his first year. He accepts donations for a barn that burned down last year.
At our farmers market I give away between 40
and 100 lbs of cheese in pound and one half pound
containers. Since giving it away is not a sale, technically, I dont have to pay the 6% stall fee. I do sell
vegetables and some composted goat manure. I pay
the stall fee for what I can legally sell.
I make as much or more money in donations than I
made prior to January 2005 when I was selling the
cheese. Most of my customers understand the significance of what I am doing and are very generous. As
I mentioned, this is the fifth season I have been giving away the cheese at the Saturday market. At least
2 people each market day tell me how much they
appreciate what I am doing. The cheese giveaway is
awkward, but the praise makes it all the easier to do.
Once in a while a person will take the cheese and
donate nothing. But this is balanced by a rare $50.00
or $100.00 bill. It is all part of the game I play with
the State Agriculture Department.

Agribusiness Pushes for One-Size-Fits All Rules

Unfortunately, thanks to the cow dairy lobby,
Virginia does not allow exemptions to the permitting
law for selling directly to the final consumer. We
need a two-tiered regulatory system. One-size-fitsall regulations preclude the existence of the small
farm. If your farmers market takes a percentage
of your sales be sure you are not just giving away
cheese. You can keep the peace with your market
manager if you are selling fruits, vegetables, etc.
That way, you can make sales and report a stall fee.
Dont be intimidated by the authorities. Unless raw
milk and milk products are controlled substances in
your state, you can legally give it away. Feel free to
contact us if you have any questions.

John Coles and Christine Solem are the owners and

operators of Satyrfield Farm in Albemarle County,
Virginia. Christine has been farming for 35 years,
John for 30. Never in the history of their farm has
their food caused any illness. The story of his problems with food safety legislation and the cheese
giveaway were front page news in the Washington
Post on October 20, 2007. John is a member of
the Virginia Independent Farmers and Consumers
Association and the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Contact John Coles by snail mail at 1836 Polo
Grounds Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911 or by
phone 434-973-6505.
Published with permission of
Visit blog for more stories on the
struggle to rebuild Americas small farm economy.


The Farm

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

by TwilightGreenaway

At any given point over the last several years,

David Retsky of County Line Harvest, on the line
between Californias Marin and Sonoma Counties,
has hosted between one and three interns on his
farm. Interns have staffed booths at farmers markets, supported his core crew of farm laborers, and
theyve had the opportunity to learn about the inner
workings of the business. In return, hes provided
them with room and board and $300 per week. Its
a resume builder and they get to find out if they really like agriculture, says Retsky. Its been a winwin. A win-win, that is, until he had a visit from a
California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement
(DLSE) official. The DLSE audited County Line
and fined Retsky $18,000 for payroll violations.
Now he turns down all of the two to three requests
he gets a week from young people hoping to come
to the farm. A number of small-scale farms have
been fined for similar offenses, and theres a growing consensus among farmers that interns who,
by nature, are compensated in nontraditional ways,
with some combination of education, food, housing,
and payment arent worth the risk.
Internships have a long-standing role on organic
farms and for good reason. Labor is generally the
biggest expense for these farmers, who rely on elbow grease instead of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Internships and apprenticeships are also seen
as crucial in the development of new farmers. In
Washington state, a law was recently passed allowing farms with gross sales of less than $250,000 a
year to create internship programs; it was said to be

helping continue the legacy of Washingtons farmers for generations to come.

Such a law could be transformative in California,
where the options for new farmers looking to get
real world experience are slim and farming education programs are often seen as costly and competitive by comparison. The nine-month apprenticeship program at the Center for Agroecology and
Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz, for instance, costs $4,800 and accepts 35-40 students each
year. Retsky gained his experience over the years as
an intern and apprentice on multiple farms, and worries about what this shift could mean for the larger
sustainable food landscape.Interns who come here
learn a sense of responsibility and a work ethic, he
says. I was a kid from Beverly Hills I didnt even
know that a carrot grew in the ground! I was raised
to use my brain and not my hands and I needed to
learn how to work. Thats the case with a lot of kids
David Little of Little Organic Farm, in Marin
County, California, has hosted many interns on
his farm over the years, but has recently taken a
precautionary measure. Since internships established through a church or nonprofit fall within the
law, Little now hires interns through Multinational
Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA), a
program that connects young farmers from outside
the U.S. to training and cultural exchange opportunities here. Little pays MESA $975 every month;
MESA pays the interns and provides orientations,
administrative infrastructure, and insurance. It
costs David nearly twice as much as he was paying interns before, but he says its worth the peace
of mind. When he gets other requests from young

people within the U.S., he says, I tell them to call

the state and voice their opinions. Little believes
the recent focus on small farms has created a climate of fear in California, and he suspects that corporate agriculture interests may have advocated for
increased enforcement of the laws. He was among a
number of Marin County farmers who met with labor officials in April to discuss the issue. The Farm
Bureau lawyer at the forum referred to this change
as leveling the playing field, he says, the good
news is that small farms are making enough of an
impact to be a threat to corporate ag.
Skills Building
Its telling that many farmers dont feel comfortable speaking about internships on the record. One
Northern California-based farmer says she is currently working with a lawyer to draw up contracts
that allow for an officially binding educational live/
work situation on her farm, but she doesnt feel
comfortable sharing her name at this point. We put
people on payroll, to fully cover workmans comp
and payroll taxes. On top of room and board, around
half their time (14-20 hours) is paid minimum
wage. The rest, she says, is designated as educational time. Were formalizing what were trying to
teach, so there will be formal tutorials on grafting,
jam-making, animal husbandry, etc. One possible
approach the farmer is looking into is charging for
an educational program, and then waiving the fee
when applicable.
The Catch 22
While interns bring youthful energy and ideas,
many farms rely heavily on farm workers who are
new to the country (as many as 70 percent of whom
are undocumented). They do most of the hardest,
most unpleasant work for an hourly wage, but have
few other options. The fact that these crews work
as hard as they do makes it tough for many smallscale farmers (working on a shoestring budget) to
rationalize paying interns full-time salaries. As the
woman farmer mentioned above sees it, you cannot hire your basic American to spend eight to nine
hours in an orchard.
Internships arent the only underground aspect of
the U.S. agricultural system; forged documents,
false identification, and under-the-table pay are also
commonplace. In a broken system, many farmers
find themselves doing what they can to make things
work. The immigration and internship issues are
very linked, says the farmer. Theyre two impossible situations, legally, and yet we have willing
workers in both cases.
Twilight Greenaway writes about sustainable food
systems for the San Francisco-based Center for
Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture
(CUESA). This article originally appeared in the
CUESA e-letter, available by subscriptionat www.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

Pickle Bill


The Natural Farmer

by Jack Kittredge

In May, 2010, Connecticut passed a bill easing a

few regulations for farmers. They will now be allowed to process and sell their farm-dressed poultry
(up to 5000 turkeys and 20,000 other birds per year)
to consumers, restaurants, and hotels. and to sell
acidified foods directly from the farm without having a commercial kitchen.
This last provision, locally known as the Pickle
Bill had been filed in previous years and died. This
year, however, it passed into law. Part of what the
legislature and the governor are focused on this
year. says Steve Reviczky, Executive Director and
lobbyist for the Connecticut Farm Bureau, is the
states economy and jobs. This would be a boost to
the states agricultural economy.
The bill was opposed by the Food and Drug
Administration, the Connecticut Department of
Public Health, the states Department of Consumer
Protection, and the Connecticut Environmental
Health Association. Opponents generally testified about the possibility of botulism, graphically
described the horrors of a lingering death from the
disease, and insisted that no exemptions should be
granted to the states network of public health laws.
Supporting the bill against this line-up of nervous
officialdom were farmers from CT NOFA, the Farm
Bureau, and an organization called the Working
Land Alliance. Jane Maher, CT NOFA Executive
Board member and specialty food manufacturer, testified in favor of the bill that she had made pickles
at home for years with a fully operational commercial kitchen. She was selling them to Whole Foods,
various health food stores, and to restaurants and
at many farmers markets. But she ultimately had to
close her business, in part because of the high cost
of overhead for her commercial kitchen. Reviczky
told the legislature of the Farm Bureaus strong support for the law, arguing for common sense. We
dont think you need to build a $30,000 to $40,000
commercial kitchen, he said, to make pickles!

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Influencing the Governmental Regulatory Process:


Lessons from the Food Safety Front

by Steve Gilman
NOFA-IC Policy Coordinator

In this modern age, Eaters in this country generally

expect that our daily meals are not going to make
us sick, let alone kill us. Whether we buy it fresh or
processed from the membership warehouse, supermarket chain, corner store, CO-OP, Farmers Market
or CSA we count on a safe food supply that is free
of pathogens and contamination. We take comfort
that the restaurants we frequent are regularly inspected for health violations. And were also part of
the equation: taking responsibility for monitoring
the fridge for spoilage, cleaning the cutting board,
keeping the picnic dishes out of the sun
Yet the News is regularly full of headlines about
dangerous food-borne pathogen outbreaks in the
food supply, which in our inherently risky industrialized food system are often distributed to
millions nationwide from a single source. For a
country claiming to have the safest food supply in
the world the statistics are daunting. The Centers
for Disease Control estimate that there are some
350,000 hospitalizations out of 76 million infections
a year due to food poisoning with some acute
case victims requiring kidney dialysis or constant
care for the rest of their lives. And theres the 5,000
deaths annually, where virulent new stains of salmonella, campylobacter, E coli (H7:0157) and the
like target the most vulnerable in our population: the
very young and the very old.
The calls for increased food safety oversight have
become a major political issue whose time has
come. The Food and Drug Administrations (FDA)
basic regulatory mandate has not been updated since
1938 and contemporary demands for action were
completely stonewalled during the 8 years of the
GW Bush Administration. The simplistic modern

mantra coming from on high is that all food should

be safe, whatever the source. But trying to insert the
realities of risk and scale into the debate often falls
upon deaf ears. In this pent-up environment it is no
longer a question whether there will be increased
food safety regulation, but rather how much and
what kind and for us, what will be the side-effects
on small scale farms.
The exigencies for increased regulation are primarily coming from consumer groups and litigation concerns. Big-budget consumer-based policy organizations such as the Pew Charitable Trust, the Center
for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers
Union, etc. have been leading the charge on Capitol
Hill and in the media, sponsoring contamination
victims visits and targeting ads in various districts
to pressure Congressmen. And in this lawsuit-prone
environment, insurance entities are requiring growers, handlers and purveyors to comply with new, in-

creasingly stringent auditable metrics and supermetrics. Whether those measures have actual scientific
validity takes a back seat to the necessity of having
a certificate on file in the office to demonstrate duediligence for protection from litigation.
Even though the small farm sector is already subject to an array of local, state and federal health and
food safety regs (see: Understanding Food Safety
Regulations for Farm-Direct Sales: A Study of CT,
MA, NY and VT at: it is now finding itself between a consumer-scare-stories rock and a one-size-regulationsfits-all hard place. Given that it is political suicide
for congressmen to go on record as voting against
food safety, some form of bipartisan legislation
is bound to pass. And, in fact, it already has. One
of Congress responses to the 911 attack was the
Bioterrorism Act of 2002, which already gives FDA
direct regulatory oversight over the family farm.

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H.R. 875
The first inkling of FDA regs coming down on small
farmers came in early 2009 when Representative
Rosa DeLauro (D, CT) released her preliminary
stab at a Food Safety Modernization bill, H.R. 875.
A victim of severe food poisoning in her younger
days, Congresswoman DeLauro chiefly structured
her bill to break up FDA into separate food and drug
agencies to get its purview out of the hands of the
pharmaceutical corporations. It was not designed as
stand-alone legislation but a vehicle to fold some
elements into the wider Dingell/Waxman bill, H.R.
2749, that was being put together in the governing
Commerce Committee.
But the next thing anyone knew, a barrage of coordinated alerts charging that H.R. 875 would spell
the end of small and organic farms went viral on the
internet. It took a while to trace the source to the
ever vigilant Supplements Industry (that includes
the major pharmaceutical corporations) who are
able to generate widespread angry public responses
to regulatory encroachment into their $61 billion a
year vitamins-mineral-herbal remedies business.
As some grassroots farmers and down home freedom-from-government activists parsed every line
of H.R. 875 like they were big city lawyers, the
bills reputation took on monstrous proportions.
Some advocacy groups used the ramped up issues
to promote their own organizations their websites
featuring a big Donate button next to the Alerts.
The irony was that Congresswoman DeLauro has
a great track record supporting small farms in her
role as the powerful Chair of the House Agricultural
Appropriations Committee and has also participated
in numerous CT NOFA farm tours and organic
events over the years.
Under the tutelage of experienced National
Organic Coalition (NOC) and National Sustainable
Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) policy people on the
ground in DC, NOFA and other farmer advocacy
groups around the country formed a national Food
Safety Task Force and made a series of trips to the
Hill to help straighten things out. Our assistance was

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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

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welcomed. Working directly with DeLauro staffers,
the scope of the bill was cut back, exempting farm
direct sales. And in the final analysis only two small
sections of her bill on standards were included in the
House markup.
(Note: NOFA first ventured into the leafy greens/
food safety issue at the Interstate Council Retreat
in December 2007. As the NOFA-IC Policy
Coordinator Ive had an intensive education in the
vagaries of authentic grassroots politics ever since.
During my 30 years of farming I sometimes wondered why I was a political science major back in
my college days in the turbulent 1960s, but now it
makes some kind of personal sense. The Lessons
presented below are a few things Ive come across.
Please pardon the clichs.)
Lesson #1: Concerted advocacy is one thing, but
self-serving, fear-based misrepresentation and vilification for its own sake is quite another. Rather than
just saying No which can lead nowhere, grassroots groups have an important role to play in working responsibly with their representatives and in
delivering straightforward messages to their members. Positive action generates positive effects. After
helping to clear the hype of H.R. 875 and subdue
the criticism theres some indication that DeLauro
in her role as ag appropriations chair was happy to
support the grassroots reaction against the National
Animal Identification System (NAIS), later completely de-funding the entire program within USDA.
Lesson #2: Its not over until its over. Legislation
and other government initiatives are a step-by-step
process and its important to maintain a wider perspective of the proceedings and the multiple opportunities for changing bad provisions. H.R. 875
folded into H.R. 2749, for example and now on the
Senate side S.510 is in the final stages with a number of farmer-friendly amendments built into the final managers markup that counteracts negative language in the House bill. The next stage is to resolve
the House and Senate versions in Conference into a
single bill and after a final vote by Congress and the
signing by the President a rule-making process will
be further open to public input.


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H.R. 2749
As the Waxman/Dingell Food Safety Enhancement
Act gained speed in early Summer 2009 it became
apparent that the organic and sustainable ag community was playing catch-up at every turn. Jurisdiction
of the bill was in the Commerce Committee, with
a wholly different set of players than the familiar Agriculture Committee. And the new Chair of
Commerce, Henry Waxman (D, CA) was determined to push the bill to the House floor as quickly
as possible.
And because the Constitution dictates that all funding initiatives have to originate in the House, the
bill included a provision requiring a blanket $500
annual registration fee on all facilities regardless of
their size. While the agribusiness giants like Dole
and Del Monte could laugh all the way to the bank,
small scale Mom and Pop processors faced costs
that could put them out of business. Pushed by the
big consumer groups who were finally smelling victory, the bill also accentuated and further spelled out
the farm oversight powers already given the FDA
under the 2002 Bioterrorism Act.
The bill was marked up for a floor vote by the end
of July 2009. The NOC/NSAC Task Force was
largely stymied in their efforts to get needed language changes but was able to orchestrate a colloquy a scripted floor debate that could later
inform the regulation-making process by providing
an intent of Congress background that FDA would
have to consider. When Representative Dingell
issued a letter in rebuttal, NSAC put together a rebuttal of the Dingell rebuttal that further codified
concerns about the impacts of the bills provisions
on small farmers.
In order to insure H.R. 2749s passage, Chairman
Waxman placed the House vote under special rules
requiring a 2/3s supermajority in exchange for
barring any floor amendments. But to everyones
surprise, thanks to alerts and barrages of calls and
letters from grassroots constituencies, the vote
failed to pass. With egg on their faces the Waxman
leadership fixed that the very next day by changing the rules to require only a simple majority and


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the bill passed the House on July 29 . The debacle,

however, illustrated for all to see that the small farm
community was a force that has to be reckoned with
giving us a major leg up in the coming Senate bill
S.510 negotiations.



Lesson #3: Perseverance works, and theres more

than one way to skin a cat via intent of Congress
mechanisms designed to inform the rule-making
process at regulation-writing time.
Lesson #4: Although they act like it, consumer
groups are not the only entities representing consumers NOFA and other grassroots organizations have highly dedicated activist consumers as
members, who are very concerned about negative
impacts on their local farmers and not shy about
expressing same to their representatives. And many
popular consumer-backed localvore projects such
as Farmers Markets, CSAs and Farm-to-School
programs depend on a healthy and flourishing small
farm sector.
As this is written, the Food Safety Modernization
Act is in the final stages with a floor vote expected
to pass in the next few weeks. This time around,
however, the Task Force has been a key player in
the development of the legislation helping to write
language and to develop the bills provisions as the
negotiations have progressed. Consumer groups
have had to back down, allowing small farm exemptions in return for a widely supported amendment
from Senator Stabenow (D. MI) which provides
funding for food safety education and training for
small farmers.
Other key amendments by senators on the governing Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP)
Committee include better facilities definitions from
Senator Sanders (D, VT); much less onerous identity-preserved traceability provisions from Sen.
Brown (D, OH); wildlife/biodiversity protection
language from Sen. Boxer (D, CA) and paperwork
reduction requirements from Sen. Bennett (R, UT)
and others. All of these are now included in the
Managers Amendment the package of provisions

Iowa senator Thomas Harkin is chair of the Senates Health, Eduction, Labor and Pensions
(HELP) Committee, which is in charge of the Food Safety Bill in the Senate.
that will be included in S.510 when it comes up for
a vote on the Senate floor.
The Task Force is also backing a floor amendment
from Senator Tester (D, MT) that would exempt
smaller scale farmers making under $500,000 from
FDA oversight. The NSAC-led group has not signed
on to an exclusive Tester endorsement, however,
in order to keep the other amendment sponsors engaged and actively supportive. Also, the consumer
group stance against exemptions is expected to
knock Testers floor amendment out of contention
when the bill comes up for a vote.
Lesson #5: Make hay while the sun shines and take
advantage of your strengths. Big entities have much
more money but grassroots groups can summon

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votes. With key senators on the HELP Committee,

NOFAs VT, NH, and CT played successful roles in
alerting their members to contact their senators to
support the Task Force amendments and get them
included in the final bill.
Lesson #6: Protect your gains, keep the wagons
circled and dont put all your eggs in a basket with
holes in it.
And finally (for now) Lesson #7: Legislation is
only as good as its funding. The $500 annual fee
in the House bill is not expected to stand up in
Conference, but even if it does the funds raised are
nowhere near what is needed to equip FDA to do the
job. That means FDA oversight will be subject to
the annual appropriations process along with everything else the government is funding. There are so
many glaring necessities needing to be addressed in
the industrialized food system that small farm regulation will remain low-priority well into the future.
This doesnt mean, however, that we should let up
on our diligence or input for one second!

Robinson Family Swiss


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The Natural Farmer

Hassles Confront Cheese Makers

in Hardwick, Massachusetts
by Jack Kittredge

The Robinson family has owned a good chunk of

farmland in the town of Hardwick, Massachusetts,
since the late 1800s. During that time various
brothers and cousins, most still named Robinson,
have carved out their own farms and homes. Ray
Robinson took over a family dairy operation 20
years ago and, along with his wife Pam, has managed to keep it going at a time when many dairies
have gone belly up.
But it has not been easy.
About ten years ago they were struggling to pay the
bills as a conventional dairy buying in feed and selling milk to the marketing cooperative Agri-Mark.
Daughter Gina tried to convince them to transition
to organic grass-based production and sell some of
their output on-farm to folks wanting raw, or unpasteurized, milk.
But there were no other organic dairies nearby, so
there was no organic milk plant with a pick-up route
anywhere near Hardwick. Without an organic outlet
for their milk, it hardly seemed sensible to incur the
costs of transitioning and buying in organic feed.
And Ray and Pam felt their rural location was too
isolated to be attractive to far-off buyers to come all
the way to the farm.
Undaunted, in 2003 Gina pushed forward by herself
with her vision. She had been given four cows over
the years by her grandfather. Pulling them out of
the herd, managing them organically, and using the
farms facilities, Gina soon had a successful raw
milk business of her own with customers coming to
the farm daily. Eventually Gina married and moved
away (with her cows) but Pam and Ray pondered
her success.
We knew we couldnt be viable forever as a
conventional dairy farm, recalls Pam. We needed
a value added product, so we decided to try raw
milk. We also decided to sell half of the herd and
downsize to graze the cows because we had the
land base to graze fifty cows. That enabled us to
transition to organic. We did that and we were
certified in September of 2009. Ginas success with
raw milk was a real catalyst. We realized we could
be a retail location.
Over the next few years the Robinsons developed
a successful raw milk business, attracting some
large groups who would pick up cooperatively.
They continued to sell the majority of their milk to
the bulk truck, even while transitioning to organic
certification. They also sold a small amount to a
yogurt company.
But clouds on the raw milk horizon have the
Robinsons nervous about having so many eggs
in that basket. In January the state Department of
Agricultural Resources issued cease and desist
orders to three raw milk pick up coops, claiming (in
error, some attorneys feel) that they are unlicensed
milk handlers rather than cooperative efforts to
conveniently secure a legal and licensed product. A
month later, Farm Family Insurance announced it
was dropping raw milk sales from coverage under
the product liability section of policies it sells
farmers. Buying that coverage elsewhere will cost
much more.
We dont want all our eggs in the raw milk basket,
Pam says. Right now all you can do is sell it at the
farm gate. And if someone claims to be sick, even if
it is not from raw milk, you can have the rug pulled
out from under you quite quickly. It feels too risky.
The couple decided a while ago that it made sense

photo by Jack Kittredge

Ray and Pam Robinson pause for a moments well deserved rest outside
their self-service sales room. They hope to add a
delicious aged raw milk Swiss cheese to their current raw milk business.

to develop a new value added venture. So they have

been working hard to learn new skills and by late
this summer they hope to be making and selling
Robinson Family Swiss cheese!
The numbers look convincing, according to Pam
and Ray. Last year conventional milk brought the
dairy farmer about $12 per hundredweight (cwt).
This year it is going for closer to $16. But out of
that you pay shipping, the coop holds some of your
money back as equity, and you also have dues,
taxes and various fees withheld. Organic milk
brings closer to $27 or $28, but that is if you can
get an organic processing plant to pick up, which
the Robinsons cant. Raw milk, on the other hand,
pays about $80 per cwt and the only extra costs are
labels, bottling and refrigeration. Cheese is even
better. Although it requires more labor, investment,
and time you can gross an astonishing $100 per
Not only that, but you also get whey the healthy
liquid full of vitamins and protein left over after

making cheese.

If you have ten pounds of milk, explains Pam,

you can make that into one pound of cheese. Its
a ten to one ratio. Whey is not worth a lot, but we
dont want to put it down the drain. It is worth
something. Neighboring farmers who raise pigs
will take the whey, by the barrel, for a cheap price.
We may eventually get pigs ourselves, but not this
year. We cant fit another project in right now! I hear
pigs are nice for keeping the edges of your pastures
Their business plan calls for Pam and Ray to use
five days of milk each week during the summer for
making cheese, and sell the rest raw and for yogurt.
The reason to dedicate a whole days production to
one use or the other is because you want to either
fill your milk tank or your cheese vat, but not half of
both. And you dont want to set up for bottling milk
on a day and not do a full run.
They figured their prices would be between $8

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


The Natural Farmer

(wholesale) and $14 (retail) a pound. How much

to charge in part depends on how young the cheese
is, and how good it is. The plan calls for eventually
selling 50 pounds of cheese a day, every day of
the year. The couple has currently lined up three
farmers markets, some restaurants and some small
specialty shops for markets beyond the core farm
stand buyers.
Marketing it is going to be a huge undertaking,
admits Ray. There is definitely a demand for good
local cheese. But marketing it will be another new
learning experience. Besides the catchy name, it
helps that there is nobody else doing Swiss cheese
in Massachusetts. And everybody knows it and
recognizes it.
Ray expects that most of their cheese will be made
during the grazing season, when the milk supply is
ample. But he doesnt think that they will ever go
totally seasonal -- getting all the cows to calve at the
same time in the spring and dry off for the winter.
Partly there is the raw milk market, he says,
which wants a supply year round. But even worse,
it is hard to get all the cows to calve at the same
time. Anyone who does it is pretty strict about
culling cows that dont fit the timing. Getting cows
bred back on time is quite challenging, also. And
when they are grass-fed, that can be even more
difficult because their cycling can be irregular.
Despite the fact that construction of their cheese
facility has been delayed by regulatory hurdles, in
December the Robinsons stopped shipping their
milk to Agri-Mark. Over the years they have tied
up a good deal of capital in the coop. Once a dairy
stops shipping milk, Agri-Mark will begin returning
their capital over 7 years with an annual check each
May. The Robinsons figure they can use that money
to help with the construction costs.
We jumped off the cliff, Pam laughs. Right now
we are only milking once per day, and selling 5
days worth per week. We dont have a market for
the extra 2 days of milk, so we practice making
cheese with it. We could get a per diem pickup from
Agri-Mark, but they pay so little for the milk its not
worth it. Were better off to make practice cheese.
For their practice cheeses the couple are currently
using a100 gallon vat Ray found abandoned in a
pasture. They have ordered a 1000 liter (264 gallon)
one from Holland for their new cheeses.
Swiss is not an easy cheese to make. In Swiss
or Emmentaler Cheese, the milk fat is originally
inoculated with a mixture of S. Thermophilus
and Lactococcus species as well as proprionic
bacteria. They convert the lactose in the milk fat
to lactic acid, and then rennet is added to facilitate

photo by Jack Kittredge

Ray holds one of the cheeses he and Pam have been making to learn the art.

coagulation.. After the curd has been drained,

the cheese is pressed and aged. During this aging
process carbon dioxide is released. It is this carbon
dioxide, collecting in bubbles within the solidifying
cheese, that forms the characteristic holes.
In order to capture these gases to make holes you
have to start with a large wheel, Ray explains. The
Robinsons plan on making a 20 to 25 pound wheel.
During this hole-forming phase the cheese also
needs a period of time when it is 68 to 72F. So
beyond the cold cave or aging room needed for
normal hard cheeses, Pam and Ray need to have a
warm aging room as well.

Another aspect of cheese making about which they

are learning is affinage a French term for caring
for the aging of the cheese. (Someone who does this
is an affineur.)
The work involves brushing and turning the
cheeses as they age, explains Ray. It helps to get a
nice rind and gets rid of molds on the cheese which
you dont want. We put cultures in the wash water
that will encourage the microflora that we want on
the rind. These are different cultures than the ones
we use to make the cheese.
You do it more in the beginning and then less
overtime. Chris Greene is our affineur and right now
she is doing it three to four times a week.
Besides the fact that aged raw milk cheese has more
flavor, it is also attractive to their current raw milk
customers. So the Robinsons will not pasteurize the
Fresh, soft cheeses, Pam explains, have to be
pasteurized. Only cheeses aged 60 days or more can
be made out of raw milk. We have all these raw milk
customers and we wanted to build on that customer
base. So that is another reason we picked to make a
hard Swiss style cheese. Most of it will be best from
4 to 6 months of age.
Pam and Ray have been doing their homework on
cheese making for some time. They took a course
administered through the Department of Agricultural
Resources (DAR) called Tilling the Soil of
Opportunity about planning farm businesses. They
have also been going for years to Vermont to learn
about the business.

photo by Jack Kittredge

Ray talks to Paul, who does some of the milking for the couple, in their milking parlor.

We ski in the winter, Pam says, and often try to

fit in a trip to a different farm when we go. I think
weve been to most farms in Massachusetts and
Vermont that makes cheese. Weve been going to
the Vermont Institute of Artisan Cheese. They have
a master cheese maker certification program. People
come from all over California, the Midwest,
Canada to go to this cheese school. They bring in
European cheese makers to do some of the lectures.


The Natural Farmer

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0
would be the licensor and would occasionally come
out and inspect our cheese once we are licensed.
There is a device called a trier which probes into
the cheese and pulls out a small sample, which
can be tested for microbial contamination. So we
started with them, to find out whether our plans
made sense. You have to write Standard Operating
Procedures (SOPs) for everything you are doing.
You have to have a Hazard Analysis and Critical
Control Point (HACCP) plan. You have to have
your building designs approved.
We started with Ellen Fitzgibbons, Pam
continues, who is the dairy expert at the DPH.
She is a wonderful woman, very personable, very
knowledgeable. She looked at our plans, said
everything looked fine, explained to us that we
should use PVC pipe for the drains because iron
will break down and the rust will create pock marks
on the inside of the pipe which can harbor bacteria.
We didnt want bacteria getting back into our aging
rooms and creating a safety issue.

photo by Jack Kittredge

Pam and Ray point to some of the excessive pipes they were required to install. Pam says it
all: The expense is all in the ground. Were standing on it. These three drains have nothing
but condensation coming into them. Yet they have to be vented and have cleanouts wherever
they take a turn. And we werent sure whether wed have to have a grease trap, so we put
the piping in the ground for one just in case. I dont know exactly what a grease trap is, but I
know each one costs $1600.

Ellen wrote a letter to our plumbing inspector in

January, Pam relates. She came and met with our
board of health, along with our plumbing inspector,
our plumber, the building inspector, someone from
the planning board, and us. We were all trying to
settle this at the local level, which is how it usually
happens. She was reiterating her points about the
PVC pipe, us being agricultural, and everything
else. At the meeting everyone relaxed and it seemed
that everything was all set. Then the inspector
said he would take the issue to the state board of
plumbing. We all hoped he wouldnt, but he did.

Weve taken probably half of the master cheese

courses -- even though theyre so expensive. A three
day course is $750, plus you have to drive up there,
get a hotel, and take the time off

Besides knowing how to make a tasty cheese, of

course, the Robinsons had to make a legal one. They
knew they would have to work with various public
agencies to get approved as a business. The state
Department of Public Health (DPH) is in charge of
making sure cheeses sold in the state are safe. The
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and
the local Board of Health (BoH) are concerned with
waste water and sanitary issues. Various building
inspectors and boards deal with construction
permits. Pam and Ray knew there would be a lot
of regulatory hurdles to jump over. But they were
surprised how tall some of those hurdles were!
The issues
The farms milk house waste wash water currently
goes to the manure pit, and is then spread on the
field with the manure as fertilizer. That is standard
practice for dairies. The Robinsons had heard
that the Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) was piloting some alternative milking
parlor waste water programs and had developed a
Memo of Understanding with the DAR regarding
their concerns about milk house waste. The pilot
programs have not been completed or approved, but
the DEP has been studying tougher regulations with
regard to manure and milk house waste. Rather than
raise questions in an area that was being considered
for tougher regulations, the Robinsons decided to
recycle their cheese making waste water by draining
it into a tank and then reusing it to clean up manure
from the milking parlor floor. That way no extra
water would be put into the environment and the
existing barn layout could be modified with drain
pipes running through the gutters to a holding tank.
As an agricultural establishment, Robinson Farm
has been able to use PVC piping for drains, and
has never had to have things like grease traps or a
separate bathroom for workers. Employees have
always been welcome to use the house facilities,
which are just across the road from the barn. Pam
and Ray reasoned that making cheese, as an effort
just to add value to their primary product, milk, is
still an agricultural venture. As such they didnt
want to be subject to commercial requirements
such as separate toilets and expensive drains and
We started dealing with the regulations in the fall,
Pam recalls. The Department of Public Health

photo by Jack Kittredge

In his milk room Ray admires his old fashioned floor drain and contemplates the extra
$20,000 he had to spend to put in cast iron ones for the cheese operation. Fresh milk from the
days milk parlor fills the experimental 100-gallon cheese vat.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer


Fitters has more power in this state than the

Department of Public Health, the Department
of Agricultural Resources, or the Department of
Environmental Protection. They are the lead power
in Massachusetts, we have discovered.
Ray puts it more pointedly: The plumbing board
is not completely about good plumbing. Its about
protecting good jobs!

On the 26th of March there was an interagency

conference call meeting about the Robinsons
situation. It was coordinated by Priscilla Neeves
from the DPH. She has expressed concern about
on-farm raw milk sales in Massachusetts and
is worried about the safety of raw milk cheese.
The meeting included DPH, DAR, DEP, the state
plumbing board, the local Board of Health and even
the Hardwick plumbing inspector was invited, but
not Pam or Ray. As of April 7 the Robinsons have
not received any information about the decisions

photo by Jack Kittredge

The Robinsons had to repair the sills and replace the walls on part of their 1960s barn. Here
you can see the floor drains and vent pipes (which will be extended through the roof) they
were forced to install in a cheese aging room.

That is when, as they say, the manure hit the fan!

The state plumbing board does not recognize

agricultural entities. Their classifications include
only residential or commercial applications. Since
the Robinsons were going to sell the cheese, rather
than give it away, they classified their cheese
operation as a commercial one and said they had to
meet commercial plumbing standards. That meant
cast iron drain pipes, grease traps, and a separate
bathroom with its septic system.

Ninety percent of our problems are related to the

plumbing code, Pam fumes. Its this commercial
designation. It turns out that the Massachusetts
Board of State Examiners of Plumbers and Gas

After the interagency meeting, Pam relates, the

DAR told us to call DEP, to find out about the
waste water disposal. We did and they came right
out two days ago. They were very nice, didnt
treat us like idiots or assume we were trying to get
away with something. They asked us if we had a
comprehensive nutrient management plan. We said
we did and we were doing everything standard in
the industry. Were recycling the waste water from
the cheese operation, so there is no net increase in
the water we are adding to our system. They had no
problem with any of it. Theyre supposed to give
us all this officially in writing next week. (Note:
on April 11 Pam faxed The Natural Farmer a copy
of the DEP letter she received. It recognized that
the Robinsons wastewater plan was in accordance

But cast iron drains are four times as expensive as

PVC, and involve at least twice as much plumbers
labor. That means for the Robinsons the iron drains
alone would cost $20,000 more than PVC ones.
We have contacts all over the country in the cheese
business, Ray explains. We asked them all about
cast iron and they said Itll rust like a son of a
bitch and laughed at us. But they couldnt supply
any studies we could use to appeal the ruling. It
should give you an indication that in 48 states you
can use PVC for drains. Just not in Massachusetts.
And the way the barn is laid out, he continues,
it would have been easy to run the pipes down
the gutters to a sump inside the barn, and pump
the waste water to a holding tank from there. But
no, according to the plumbing code you cant lay
the pipe on any existing concrete. You have to jack
hammer up a lot of existing cement and lay the
pipes underground on gravel until they go ten feet
outside the building.
Pam adds: And there had to be all these vents.
Even the aging room, which produces about a cup
of condensation a week, had to have the same drains
and plumbing as the vat room where there is a
serious amount of wash water. And of course each
drain has to have a vented trap. So the 2 by 4 walls
became 2 by 6 walls to accommodate the vents up
to the roof. Then there is the grease trap issue. The
plumbing board says if you are commercial you
have to have a grease trap, but the DPH says not to
have one that they are a source of contamination.
There is a cleaning issue with grease traps, and
besides, there is no grease in our operation.
Also there is the issue of bathrooms, she
continues. If a commercial building is 1200 square
feet you have to have a bathroom. A composting
toilet meeting NSF41 approval is permitted in
Massachusetts. But do we need a septic system for
the grey water we could easily put into the manure
pit with the other wash water? Of course there is no
place by the barn for a septic system, so we would
have to put it across the street, in our front yard, and
dig up the public road to do it. So theres another

photo by Jack Kittredge

Chris Greene is the Robinsons affineur and cares for the aging of the cheese.


The Natural Farmer

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

contamination, although it is kind of depressing

to put them on top of cast iron pipes. We have all
the vents we dont need, and put in an extra pipe
to enable a grease trap that will never see grease in
case we lost that one too.
All the excavation and plumbing installation was
done by April, when I interviewed the pair. They
were hoping to get the concrete truck out next, to
pour the floor and bury the expensive drains. The
carpentry has yet to be done, and all the finish
work as well as installation of the vat and other

Also, before the couple can get their license they

have to write their SOPs and HACCP plan. Then
they have to fill out all the paperwork and get
their labels approved and printed. This is all after
they finish the renewal of their organic farming
application. They can add on the cheese operation to
their certification later.
So right now (April) the Robinsons are hoping to be
up, running and selling cheese by late summer. The
regulatory hassles are hopefully over, and the going
now looks clear. But there as been a price.
Its taken a toll on us these last few months, Ray
states. We havent killed each other yet, but
photo by Jack Kittredge

Pam: The bucket capping that pipe is 10 feet out the door. That is where the plumbers
jurisdiction ends. Were going to put in a closed tank here to contain the water from the
cheese operation which we can then recycle and use to clean out the milk pump.
with a comprehensive nutrient management plan
and involved no additional water from the cheese
operation. The DEP agreed to allow it until the
agency comes up with a better manure management
strategy for dairies throughout the state.)
So at least on the issue of putting milk house water
into the manure pit, the Robinsons won. There will
be no new septic system in their front yard. On

everything else, however, they felt forced to comply

rather than face further delays seeking variances that
would probably be denied.
We went along with everything, says Pam. The
delay was costing us more than it would to comply.
Were using cast iron drains, were putting in a
bathroom with a composting toilet. We got stainless
steel drains to minimize the problem of harboring

Pam concurs: The thing which is most upsetting

is that were being treated like criminals. Were
law-abiding citizens. Were just milking cows and
making cheese. The plumbing code people are
taking advantage of us, but the other agencies are
really trying to help. They understand our situation
and want to do what they can to make it happen.
The DPH is trying to do their job and protect public
safety. The DEP is the same. And the DAR was
very helpful, although it doesnt seem to have much
Ray adds, wryly: Maybe we should grow
something safe, like tobacco!

Raw Milk Advocates,

Consumers and Farmers
Gather to Support the Struggle
by Winton Pitcoff

We are at war, said Canadian dairy farmer Michael Schmidt. This is a war about food rights,
which for some may appear silly but for others is
more and more of a growing concern. Schmidt
was speaking to several hundred people gathered in
Madison, Wisconsin for the Second Annual International Raw Milk Symposium in April. Todays food
is mostly looked at as a commodity by government
regulators and the industry. Those who control food
control the people, control countries, control the
world, all without a visible army.
Schmidt was acquitted by an Ontario court in
January of charges relating to selling and distributing raw milk and raw milk products. The sale of
raw milk to consumers is illegal in Canada, but
Schmidts operation is based on a cowshare model.
We have consented in silence to a food culture
which will destroy millions of years of evolution,
he said. We have consented to the loss of liberty
for the sake of convenience. We are in the forefront
not by default we are in the forefront to defend the
most important element of our society: the health
and sanity of our body, our soul and our spirit.
Schmidt was just one of nearly a dozen speakers,
each one an expert in their given area of the raw
milk battle and each one passionate about food freedom and the need to fight to preserve it. The focus
of the day was on the growing role of the consumer
in this battle.

The consumer is now an integral part of the farm,

said Tim Wightman, President of the Farm to
Consumer Foundation and the lead organizer of the
event. The raw milk movement is moving forward
because consumers and producers are exercising
their rights and staking a claim in the issue, he said.
By supporting local raw milk you are doing, at a
grassroots level, what we say we want the government to do, said Mark McAfee, owner of Organic
Pastures, the largest raw milk dairy in California.
Youre engaging in North Americas greatest economic stimulus by paying the farmer directly for
your milk, and youre engaging yourself in a wonderful health care plan by drinking such a healthy
A Microbiological Perspective
We are in a war, not really about milk, but about
control of our food supply, said Dr. Ted Beals,
retired from the Universityof MichiganMedical
School and VA HealthAdministration. Why should
the government and businesses be able to control
such a basic activity as eating? The interest in
such control, he said, is straightforward: when food
is produced commercially and in bulk, there are
more opportunities for more people to make money.
When farmers produce and sell their food directly
to consumers, that potential for others to make easy
money is gone.
Milk is the perfect symbol for this battle, said Beals,
because milk drives so much of the rest of food

purchasing and consumption. Even the way stores

are laid out demonstrate this, he said, pointing out
that the dairy section is always in the farthest corner
of the big grocery stores, since store owners know
that most consumers buy milk on a regular basis and
that making them walk through the store to get to
it, past all of the other items, will encourage them
to buy more products. The growing interest in raw
milk, then, poses a threat to many areas of the food
Those waging the war have learned that promoting fear is successful, said Beals. They tell you
that there are germs waiting to kill your children,
and that if you oppose them you could face criminal
In processing conventional milk homogenization is
necessary to hide the fact that so many components
of the raw milk have been removed for inclusion in
other products, he said. Once the milk is homogenized it then needs to be pasteurized in order to
preserve shelf-life, and that kill-step of pasteurization allows dairy processors lots of room for sloppy
practices and poor farming management. If the
laws requiring pasteurization were removed, industrial operators would still pasteurize because they
would have to, said Beals.
Unpasteurized milk is one of the most thoroughly
nutritious foods, said Beals, and was critical to the
evolution of humans as it allowed people to migrate
and bring their food sources with them. If raw milk
had truly been hazardous the practice of drinking it

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

would have died out a long time ago, he said. Its

not even on the governments list of the ten most
risky foods to eat, he said, adding I have a greater
risk of injury driving to pick up my milk than I do
drinking it.

The Natural Farmer


Bacteria are everywhere on our bodies and in

them, in the soil, in the air, in the water, in our kitchens and animals, said Beals, and its a good thing
they are. Bacteria allow us to use food. They are a
critical part of complex mechanisms that protect us
from harm. While bacteria are inventive and are
able to change and grow, bad bacteria are far more
rare than good ones because if bacteria become too
virulent they destroy their host and then cant survive.
Because the science is complex and intimidating,
many consumers dont realize that those who want
to ban raw milk are cherry picking their facts, said
Beals. I dont dispute the science, he said, I dispute the interpretation. The critical point is that just
because a certain bacteria causes illness, not all with
that name do. Some sub-types can cause illness
in one type of animal, he explained, but the majority dont cause any problems at all and many can
even inhibit the growth of the dangerous pathogens,
stimulate immunity, and aid in the bodys absorption
of nutrients. These facts are ignored by those trying
to spread the fear of raw milk.
The occurrence of those bad pathogens is particularly rare in raw milk destined for human consumption, said Beals, and regulators need to understand
the difference between that milk and milk destined
for pasteurization, where the bacteria tends to be
more prevalent. To maximize the quality of milk the
first step should be to minimize the risk that pathogens are introduced in the first place a healthy,
non-stressed cow has a far lower chance of producing milk where pathogens are present, or could even
survive and raw milk farmers, by definition, must
follow management practices that ensure just that.
It has become easier to pasteurize milk to reduce
the risk of harmful pathogens than it is to determine
where those pathogens are coming from and how to
change management practices to avoid them in the
Commodity milk is regulated with a concept of acceptable risk, but all discussions of raw milk safety
start and end with a statement that no illness is acceptable, said Beals. This appeals to elected officials, but it is an empty standard. Zero tolerance has
no scientific credibility. No risk analysis or statistical analysis uses zero. No food can be 100% safe.
People do and will continue to get sick and there
will be people who get sick from raw milk, but milk
is not inherently hazardous to the general public.
The opposition to allowing access to raw milk, he
said, is entirely disproportional to its safety record.
There is no effort to ban airplanes even though people die in crashes, he added.
The benefits of drinking fresh, unpasteurized, whole
milk far outweigh the risks of drinking it, concluded
Beals, and no government agency or corporate power should take away consumers right to adequately
reimburse farmers for a product that they want,
transport it to where they want and consume it as
they please. Beals said he looks forward to the day
when consumers can choose their milk the way they
choose their cheese or wine, based on the taste and
the dairy where it comes from.
Raw Milk and Health
Sally Fallon Morell, President of the Weston A.
Price Foundation and founder of A Campaign for
Real Milk began her talk at the Symposium by emphasizing the word real when referring to milk.
The best milk has all of the natural fat it contains
when produced, comes from pasture-raised cows,
and is not processed.
The government says there is no significant difference in the nutritional value of pasteurized and
raw milk, said Fallon, but this claim doesnt tell
the whole story. While each may contain the same
amount of calcium, she said, how that calcium is
available to and used by the body is very different in
the two types of milk nutritional content is not the
same as nutritional effects. Other nutrients that are
less available to the human body in pasteurized milk

than in raw include folate, iron, iodine and vitamins

A, D, C, B12 and B6. The proteins in many minerals and vitamins are destroyed by pasteurization,
making the human body unable to assimilate these

these incidents have resulted in press releases and

media attention blaming raw milk, but there have
never been retractions or apologies when raw milk
was eventually eliminated as the source of the problem.

Fallon cited numerous scientific studies that pointed

to the health benefits of raw milk, with it being
found to be useful in fighting off allergies, skin
problems, fatigue, prostate problems and more.
These studies found raw milk drinkers to have better teeth and better developed bones than those who
consume pasteurized milk or no milk at all.

At the advent of pasteurization in the late 1800s

there was indeed a need for a solution to the problem of unsafe milk. Many dairies were in inner cities where cows were fed swill from breweries and
lived in dark and small buildings, all conditions that
led to high levels of dangerous pathogens in the
milk. But it wasnt pasteurization that solved the
problem, said Fallon. It was the outlawing of inner city dairies, improvements in hygiene, cleaner
water, the replacement of the horse with motorized
transport for milk, increased access to refrigeration
and the certified raw milk movement that did it. The
incidence of infectious disease in the U.S. dropped
off dramatically long before mandatory pasteurization, she said, in large part due to these management

But the trail of such studies stops cold in 1943,

she points out, at the same time that an article appeared in Coronet Magazine about a town called
Crossroads where 1/3 of the residents died from
undulant fever as a result of drinking raw milk. The
article was repeated in Readers Digest in 1946, as
part of the ongoing campaign to enforce mandatory
pasteurization. The article, however, was entirely
fabricated. While the author eventually admitted
this, the damage was hard to undo and the publics
perception of raw vs. pasteurized milk had been forever altered.
The Weston A. Price Foundation has meticulously
gone through the CDC report on illnesses from raw
milk between 1998 and 2005 that attributed 831
illnesses, 66 hospitalizations and one death to raw
milk consumption. In 94% of the cases, she said,
there was no statistical association with raw milk
consumption or no valid positive milk sample, and
in many cases there was no evidence that pasteurization would have prevented the outbreak. The
first reaction when raw milk is blamed for an illness should be skepticism, because there is so much
bias she said.
Rapid testing methods that err on the side of false
positives is one ongoing problem that contributes
to this bias, said Fallon, as are the cultures used in
testing that actually promote pathogen growth. The
questionnaires used during illness outbreaks always
list raw milk as a possible source of the problem,
while often ignoring other potential causes such as
local water systems, petting zoos or travel. In some
outbreaks Fallon found instances where subjects
were omitted from the list of victims because they
hadnt drunk raw milk, even though they had the
same symptoms as those who had. Virtually all of

Some more recent studies have returned to examining raw milk consumption and its affect on health.
In a study of 14,893 children aged 5-13, consumption of raw milk was the strongest factor in reducing
the risk of asthma and allergy, whether the children
lived on a farm or not. The benefits were greatest
when consumption of farm milk began during the
first year of life according to this study, published
in Clinical & Experimental Allergy in May 2007.
There is evidence that increases in asthma, allergies and even lactose intolerance could all be at
least partly addressed by better access to raw milk
for children, she said. Many of the bioactive components of raw milk are particularly important for
building immune systems and keeping the bacterial
balance necessary in the human gut, she added, and
some bacteria present in raw milk even work to destroy potentially harmful pathogens.
Fallon laid out what she called a Fivefold Health
Benefit System in Raw Milk. Raw milk, she said:
1. Destroys pathogens in the milk.
2. Stimulates the Immune system.
3. Builds healthy gut wall.
4. Prevents absorption of pathogens and toxins in the
5. Ensures assimilation of all the nutrients.


Raw milk can mean the difference between a

healthy productive life and a miserable life, concluded Fallon, adding that the health of millions of
children worldwide is at stake.
The Wisconsin Experience
Presenters Wayne and Kay Craig illustrated the
challenges facing raw milk dairies, when they told
the story of their experience as Wisconsin dairy
farmers dealing with state regulators, a story reflected in cases throughout the country. Though the
Wisconsin statute has long allowed incidental sales
of raw milk, when Wayne and Kay began selling
shares of a small farm store to customers and providing those customers with raw milk, along with
other products, they learned that the states definition of incidental was very different from theirs.
They received a letter from the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP),
saying that their operation required a retail license.
Wayne and Kay have filed suit against DATCP,
challenging the interpretation that a members-only
establishment needs a retail license.
The Craigs spoke of the value of raw milk to their
operation. Since milk needs to be purchased every
10-14 days, having that product brings people to the
store on a regular basis, which encourages sales of
their other products like meat and eggs. That traffic keeps customers connected with the farm, the
money they spend stays in the community, and the
revenue generated creates jobs and keeps the farm
alive in the face of otherwise poor economic conditions, as all dairies are experiencing.
At the time of the Symposium, in a situation being
closely watched by raw milk advocates around the
country, the Wisconsin legislature was considering
a bill that would make on-farm sales of raw milk by
Grade A dairies legal. As the second-largest milk
producing state in the nation, the conventional dairy
industry there has long fought such proposals. At
press time, however, although the legislature passed
the bill the Governor has vewtoed it.
From the consumers perspective, Emily Matthews,
a raw milk drinker and emergency room nurse,
raised numerous questions about rights. Does the
government even have the right to forbid people
from getting raw milk? she asked, noting that no
government effort has ever been launched to stop
people from drinking raw milk from their own animals. Why are farmers, and not the buyers, the
only ones busted, unlike in a drug deal?
Those who seek out and purchase raw milk are
not ignorant people that need to be protected from
ourselves, she said. The fact that so many people
go out of their way to change their lifestyles to get
raw milk some even to the point of getting their
own livestock demonstrates the level of commitment and thought that people put into the decision to
drink raw milk, she said.
Matthews also said that the rate of raw milk consumption is higher than the government is aware,
due to a significant amount of off-the-books transactions. That fact is significant when considering the
supposed rates of disease caused by different food
products, she said if more people are drinking raw
milk than stated, then the already low incidence of
illness is even lower in comparison with real consumption.
When scientists or regulators discount raw milk advocates stories about the health benefits of raw milk
as anecdotal, Matthews said, consumers should
insist that such evidence is valid. Studies of the
sort that officials seem to need to see in order to be
convinced will never be funded by corporations or
government agencies, she said, but does a person
really need a study to prove common sense?
Wisconsin attorney Elizabeth Gamsky Rich spoke
about what she considered to be the arbitrary and
capricious way in which Wisconsin officials have
interpreted and enforced the regulations governing
raw milk in the state.
In 1995, she said, the state advised farmers that they
could sell raw milk if they added beet juice to the
milk, but then rescinded that. In 1997 regulators said
raw milk could be sold if it was labeled as pet food,

The Natural Farmer

but later took that back as well. In 2002 an administrative law judge said that cowshare arrangements
were legal, and then in 2004 the same judge said
that consumers could obtain raw milk by purchasing a share of the farms milk producers license. In
2005 DATCP began allowing the sale of raw milk
from farms that had agreements such as these, and
many farmers and consumers spent money on legal
fees to set up such arrangements. But then in 2008
the agency issued a rule invalidating all of these
agreements and in 2009 began a barrage of enforcements, inspections and shut downs of farms, ultimately driving several small farms out of business
The truth is that the agencys waffling has cost
farmers a lot of money and cost consumers a product they depend on, said Rich. DATCP has made
criminal referrals of farmers, threatened felony
charges, issued burdensome discovery requests including release of banking and customer records,
launched surveillance operations and infiltrated buying clubs. All of this occurs at tremendous cost.
How great would it be if we had taken that money
and spent it on something worthwhile?
The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has
helped Wisconsin farmers fight back, filing two lawsuits founded on the distinction between private and
public operations. Our assertion is that the government has no right to regulate private, consensual
business transactions, as distinguished from sales
to the general public, said Rich. The government
response has been that the agreements are invalid
because it involves an illegal product, which Rich
points out is not true there are no laws making it
illegal to possess or consume raw milk. The government has also responded that the agreements are
merely shams to circumvent the law. The legal proceedings are ongoing.
The legal fight is not about raw milk, its about
freedom, said Rich. Thats why everybody needs
to stand up and be heard on this issue. Even if you
would never consider drinking raw milk yourself,
you should oppose the governments contention that
they have the right to decide that for you. Each of
us has the right to choose the food we eat thats a
fundamental right of every human being.
The European Perspective
Sylvia Onusic worked at the National Institute of
Public Health of Slovenia and then at that countrys
Ministry of Health in the field ofInternational
Cooperation. She spoke about her experiences in
Slovenia, and gave an overall picture of the raw
milk situation in Europe. Raw milk has long been
the basis of many fermented products in traditional
dishes all over Europe, she said, and Europeans
generally believe that raw milk is healthier than pasteurized.
Slovenian dairy farms are not regulated in the way
that dairies are in the U.S., said Onusic, and have
few of the sanitary conveniences that are employed
here stainless steel equipment, for instance, is
rarely found at a Slovenian farm. Yet residents rely
on these farms as their source, bringing their own
containers and getting fresh milk on a regular basis.
There is no talk of outbreaks of food borne illness
from this milk, and Slovenians have the lowest rates
of heart disease and hypertension in Europe, said
Poland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, France
and Lithuania all allow raw milk sales as well, as
does England. In many European countries raw
milk is even available from public vending machines, said Onusic. When the first such machine
was installed in Slovenia, she said, a representative
from the Ministry of Agriculture and the towns
mayor were on hand and said how wonderful the
machine was. More than 1,300 such machines are
spread around Italy, many located conveniently near
schools and farmers markets. Each of these machines are operated and stocked by a single farmer,
who then benefits from the sales.
Onusic highlighted national obesity statistics, which
show the United States, Australia and Canada all
countries that restrict raw milk sales with very
high rates. In comparison, France, Italy, Austria and
Swizerland all have less than 10% obesity rates and

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

allow much greater access to raw milk.

Prof. Dr. Anthonie Baars, a professorfor biodynamic agriculture at Kassel University in Witzenhausen,
Germany, presented an analysis of studies that
have been done of farm families in Europe and the
impact of their lifestyles on their health. Children
exposed to the farm environment with animals and
hay showed lower incidences of allergies, he said.
A little dirt does not hurt, he concluded, and even
helps build immunity.
Adding raw milk intake as a factor in the studies
clearly demonstrated that children who drank more
raw milk showed less signs of asthma and eczema,
he said. In addition, he said that the long chain fatty
acids that are found in greatest numbers in whole
milk from grass-fed cows have been found to play a
role in infant IQ, childhood learning and behavior,
and other developmental issues. He also presented
preliminary results from a study showing that lactose-intolerant people were able to tolerate raw
milk. As for the issue of bacteriological contamination, Baars cited European studies that found that
the presence of E. coli, Campylobacter and Listeria
were far lower in raw milk than in meat or chicken.
Current Campaigns
Pete Kennedy, President of the Farm to Consumer
Legal Defense Fund, spoke about the legislative, bureaucratic and judicial raw milk battles currently being waged. The crackdown on raw milk has heated
up recently, with the FDA taking action against buying clubs in the Chicago area and raiding an Amish
farmers dairy in Pennsylvania.
One strategy the Fund is working on in particular
is making clear the distinction between public and
private operations like cowshares and private buying co-ops because, if constructed properly and
legally, the private ones are less vulnerable to government crackdowns.
At the federal level, Kennedy reiterated the Funds
support for the legislation to do away with the ban
on interstate shipping of raw milk for consumption (HR 778), and spoke of his concerns about the
food safety bill (S 510) moving through the Senate.
Under provisions in both the House and Senate
versions of that legislation the federal government
would be required to set performance standards,
opening the door to mandatory pasteurization nationwide. He stressed the need for constant consumer pressure against such steps, saying that without
that pressure, the powers that be will consolidate
their control over the food supply in this country.
The Fund recently filed suit against the Food and
Drug Administration and the Department of Health
and Human Services, challenging the legality of
FDAs ban on the interstate distribution of raw milk
for human consumption.
Public opinion is critical to the success of any of
these efforts, said Kennedy, citing the turnout of
more than 800 people at a hearing on the Wisconsin
raw milk bill as a major turning point in that campaign. We all need to continue to push toward food
freedom of choice, said Kennedy. That right is
yours only if you take it.
Slides from the presentations and the 2010
International Raw Milk Symposium are available
online at http://www.farmtoconsumerfoundation.
org/rawmilksymposium/ppt.htm, and an 8-CD set of
the talks are available for purchase at https://www.

Send $15 for US, $20 for foreign address to:

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S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


The Natural Farmer


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Alan and Vickie Mesman and son Ben and daughter Samantha
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Milking 140 cows with RHA 19,000 lbs (2x)
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The Mesman family (l-r) Alan, Ben, Vickie and Samantha.

We were surprised by our results with Udder

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At first we sprayed Udder Comfort on the whole
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You must preorder, however, so

send a check for the total amount
so that we receive it
by the 20th of the month
before publication. That is:
Feb. 20 for Spring issue
May 20 for Summer issue
Aug. 20 for Fall issue
Nov. 20 for Winter issue

The Natural Farmer

411 Sheldon Rd.
Barre, MA 01005


S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer



Now in DVD!

$20 each
New from the 2009 NOFA Summer Conference:

0901 Organic Pastured Poultry

Jack Kittredge
0902 Starting a CSA
Carolyn Llewellyn
0903 Keynote: The Power of Mushrooms Paul Stamets
0904 Luscious Landscape Growing Lee Reich
0905 Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms Paul Stamets
0906 Veggie Farm Machinery (Tour) Ryan Voiland
0907 Keynote: On Growing Power Will Allen
0908 Making Cultured Dairy Products Becca Buell
0909 Panel on Late Blight Michael Glos, Ruth Hazzard,
Dan Kittredge, Abby Seaman, Paul Stamets,
0910 Potatoes, Not Just Round & White Abby Seaman
Send me the circled videos in VHS DVD format.

Im sending $20/each by check to NOFA Video Project

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411 Sheldon Rd., Barre, MA 01005

for a full list of the 146 videos available, visit

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Laws, Regs and NOFA:

When Should We Enter the Fray?

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer


photo courtesy Liz Henderson

The National Organic Action Plan (NOAP) Summit, in February, 2009, was attended by Steve Gilman & Liz Henderson representing NOFA
by Elizabeth Henderson

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is
a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion,
sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our
lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and
places (and there are so many) where people have
behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to
act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if
we do act, in however small a way, we dont have
to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is
an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as
we think human beings should live, in defiance of all
that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.
-Howard Zinn, patriot, historian, and author
When Jack Kittredge first announced the topic for
this issue of TNF, there was an outpouring of stories
about laws and regulations that have made smaller
scale or organic farming difficult or impossible. It
is very easy for us all to get riled up about regulatory strangleholds and injustices. Farmer complaints
about the government, the banks, the corporations
punctuate the history of farming in this country
back to the earliest days of European settlement.
Sometimes it is hard to distinguish our anti-government rhetoric from that of right wing libertarians or
even the Militia. They are out to get us! They
will destroy our farms!
But when we talk like that, what do we really mean?
Do we want less government? Exactly what part of
the government do we want to reduce? The safety
net for sick, weak, young or aged people, protections for the environment, regulations limiting the
power of big business? The military? Or do we
want a government that is responsive to the needs of
the vast majority of the people in this country who
earn less than $200,000 a year, own few stocks and

bonds, and sit on the boards of no multi-national

corporations. This is tricky. Lots of times theres no
one position that farmers adhere to -- and it often
becomes a matter of polarized underlying belief systems -- a glorified Ron Paul/ Ralph Nadar debate on
the nature of government if you will. Do we believe
in democracy and collective action? If not, what is
the alternative? Lets have a conversation about this.
Some small farm advocates will vehemently assert that ANY government regs are infringements
on our freedom, while others maintain we should
work through regs to rein in power imbalances and
corporate hegemony. Some people in sustainable
and organic ag. just want to say NO. Meanwhile,
some of us have been working for decades, attending thousands of hours of meetings and negotiations
to try to keep legislation from bringing hardships to
family-scale organic farms. We need to talk more
about when it is worth our time and effort to work
for changes in regs., rules or legislation. What are
our top priorities and how are we going to get them
NOFA Interstate Policy Work
From 1989 until 2008, volunteers did all of the
NOFA Interstate Council policy work. In choosing
what issues to engage, the Policy Committee has
stuck pretty closely to the basic principles of organic agriculture as formulated by the International
Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
(IFOAM). With our fellow members of NOC, we
worked on the organic portions of the 2007-8 Farm
Bill. We regularly respond to action alerts that oppose GMOs, pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics for livestock. We encouraged NOFA members to participate in creating the National Organic
Action Plan. Besides food safety, we have also
taken active positions on other family farm issues
that are broader than organic the National Animal
Identification System, the patenting of living organisms, free trade, access to healthy food for lower income people, and concentration in the food system.

Since joining the Domestic Fair Trade Association

(DFTA), the NOFAs have joined in positions calling
for immigration reform and fair contracts for agriculture.
Since 2008, when we hired Steve Gilman as our
very part time staff person to coordinate the volunteers, we have increased participation by the
seven chapters and have been able to respond more
quickly to the action alerts from the NOC, NSAC
and other national efforts. Steve and I served on
the NOC committee that organized the National
Organic Action Plan and attended the Summit.
Steve has played a central role in creating a Leafy
Greens Working Group, including organic farming
associations from Maine to Florida, to influence the
food safety legislation that is in process in DC. (See
Steves Food Safety article in this issue!) And I have
taken a lead in implementing domestic fair trade.
From conversations with NOFA members, various NOFA surveys and comments to newsletters,
besides maintaining the integrity of organic agriculture, the Interstate Policy Committee has identified
these areas as top priorities:
a. To enable citizens who want to drink raw milk to
obtain it at convenient retail outlets.
b. To recreate the infrastructure needed to allow the
processing and distribution of livestock products
from family-scale farms throughout the NE states.
c. To put in place regulations that will prevent gas
mining companies from polluting the regions water
supply, yet allow farmers and the communities with
significant gas resources to share in the benefits
from those resources.
d. To establish a close working relationship with the
USDA/NRCS in each of the NE states so that the
NOFA organizations can assist in the conversion of
many additional farms to organic agriculture and
allow organic farms to access a fair share of federal
conservation dollars.
e. To implement food safety regulations on the fed-


eral and state levels that protect the eating public,

while assisting family-scale farmers in improving
the safety of their farms in a manner that is appropriate to the scale and resources of those farms.
f. To push for the enactment of immigration reform
and a solution to the current impasse on providing
an adequate, legal supply of labor for farms.
g. To establish legally recognized internship programs on farms to enable more people to enter organic farming with adequate experience and training
while compensating farmers who also teach.
For each major set of issues, we would like to establish a sub-committee of activists from the state
chapters that are concerned with the particular issue
set, with different chapters taking the lead on different issues, depending on chapter strengths and priorities. The Interstate Policy committee as a whole
could have monthly conference calls where the
sub-committees report on their work. In between,
the sub-committees, with the help of Interstate
staff, would research, discuss, strategize and come
to consensus on appropriate actions to take. The
Policy Committee is seeking funding so that we can
increase Steves hours to facilitate these sub-committees. The policy work of NOFA-NY is the model
for this plan.
If NOFA members have other policy ideas, we
would love to hear about them! We welcome suggestions from NOFA members for priority issues,
and better ways to organize. There is lots of room
for more volunteers! Ideally, we will have at least
two policy activists from each chapter. Instead of
just reacting as things come up, it would be helpful
if each NOFA chapter created a state organic action
plan. The inspiring NOAP final report is available
on the NOC website At the 2010 NOFA Summer Conference,
Steve and I will have a timeslot to meet with NOFA
members to continue this conversation in person.
Please consider attending to be in on deciding where
to go next in our policy work!
NOFA Experience with OFPA
A piece of our recent history that NOFA has been
involved in is the passage of the Organic Foods
Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 and the subsequent
institution of the National Organic Program. We
can learn a lot by reflecting on this history. For the
record, back in the 1980s, the NOFAs did not want


Alvin Filsinger -- born Oct 8, 1924 Ayton,

Ontario, died May 19, 2010, Hanover, Ontario
Filsingers farming life started in the 1930s with
community wheat harvests by wood-fired stationary steam thresher and the horse-pulled plow. A
founding member of OCIA, ACRES, and COG
(Canadian Organic Growers), Alvins Ontario apple
orchard was the original research orchard for the
Biodynamic Society at Spring Valley, NY, and was
frequently visited by Dr. Pfeiffer in the 1950s. He
harvested 68 apple crops and was the first commercial shipper of organic apples when railways
connected him to health food stores as far away as
Texas and California. His main concerns were maintaining soil fertility and remineralization, and the
nutritional content of the food produced.
-- Mike Larsson, Ontario, Canada

The Natural Farmer

a national organic program housed in USDA. Our

Interstate Certification Committee took the position that a national definition of organic agriculture
would be adequate so that organic certifiers would
stop competing with one another. Each state or
group of states could have its own certification
program and as long as we all adhered to the same
principles and recognized one another, it did not
matter if we had minor differences in standards or
even major differences in procedures. The NOFA
Interstate committee also proposed a system of accreditation for certifiers modeled on the university
system, where schools inspect one another.
But when it became clear that Senator Leahy was
going forward with the OFPA and that there was
enough public sentiment in its favor that the bill
was likely to pass, NOFA had to make a painful
choice. We could join the small group of organic
organizations that just said no led by the Ozark
Organic Growers Association. Or we could get involved in the lobbying to make the legislation as
small farm and not-for-profit organic certification
program friendly as possible. We chose the latter
and Liz spent the summer of 1989 doing 3 hour
conference calls with organic farming groups from
all over the country (MOFGA, CCOF, Washington
Tilth, Oregon Tilth, Michigan Organic Growers and
Buyers Assoc.) developing language that we submitted to Congress. The section of the OFPA on the
materials that can be used in organic production was
the work of Lynn Coody, backed vociferously by
our committee. If administered conscientiously and
fairly, this language can ensure that organic farming
will not use materials that damage the environment
or human health.
Two decades have gone by since the OFPA became
law as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. During these
years, NOFA has followed through on its commitment to organic certification and the importance of
maintaining the integrity of the organic label. For
many years, we sent representatives to the National
Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture Organic
Committee and I served as co-chair with Michael
Sligh. That committee helped orchestrate the outpouring of protests against USDAs first attempt at a
Rule for OFPA, the record-breaking 275,000 negative comments. That protest pushed USDA to withdraw the offending Rule and thoroughly rewrite it
before implementing the NOP in 2002. The second
version of the Rule was far from perfect and USDA
did not go out of its way to appoint people with a
commitment to organic agriculture to run the program. Nevertheless, despite a lot of talk about the
need to go beyond organic, the system of organic
certification has functioned decently. The growing
market for organic products has been one of the few
bright lights in US agriculture, and for the most part,
consumers of organic products are getting what they
pay for.
During the 1990s, the National Campaign for
Sustainable Agriculture Organic Committee served
as the broad watering hole where the increasingly
varied and polarized interests in organic agriculture came together to work on policy. There are
voices that blame the passage of the OFPA for the
industrialization of organic agriculture. The case,
however, can be made that it was the entry of agribusiness into organics that led to the passage of
the law and not the other way around. By the time
Arthur Harvey, the blueberry farmer from Maine,
took USDA to court for allowing synthetics in organic processed foods, it was becoming all too clear
that organic agri-business and family scale organic
farming groups did not see eye to eye on the NOP.
As a result, NOFA joined with a dozen other organizations in forming the National Organic Coalition
The National Organic Coalition (NOC) focuses
on protecting the stringency and integrity of the
national organic standards and is a national alliance
of organizations working to provide a Washington
voice for farmers, ranchers, environmentalists,
consumers and progressive industry members involved in organic agriculture. For more information,
visit NOC
seeks to work cooperatively with, and add value to,
existing organic and sustainable agriculture organizations, networks and coalitions to ensure a united
voice for organic integrity.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

From day one of the implementation of OFPA, the

meaning of access to the outdoors has proved to
be a serious bone of contention. What was then the
NOFA/Mass certification program (since morphed
into Baystate Organic Certifiers) instantly ran into
trouble with the NOP by refusing certification to
a chicken operation that provided doors, windows
and porches to its chickens, but no real chance to
run around outside. Clarifying the meaning of that
clause has taken fully 8 years of meetings, petitions,
organizing and clamor and a change of administration in Washington, D.C. As of January 2010, in its
FAQ section, the NOP declares: The rule stipulates
that continuous total confinement of any animal indoors is prohibited. With the new leadership of the
NOP, it seems hopeful that this will not be just a paper victory for family-scale organic farms. Whatever
disappointments Obama may be bringing us in other
areas, he has made good appointments to USDA:
Kathleen Merrigan and Miles McEvoy actually care
about organic agriculture and as administrator of
the Washington State organic program, Miles has a
long track record of solid work on behalf of organic
Through our participation in NOC, NOFA has the
opportunity to benefit from and work closely with
organizations that come to organic agriculture representing other groups scientists, the chemically
sensitive, the general public of consumers. Our ally,
the consumer organization Food and Water Watch
has been able to mediate between us, representing
family-scale farmers, and the other consumer organizations that have little understanding of the realities of the small farms that they love in the abstract
when they buy local.
NOFA has also continued its involvement with the
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, following the merger of the National Campaign and the
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The latest report on the food safety legislation from
Ferd Hoefner of NSAC underlines the kind of dedicated and time consuming effort required to influence legislation:
We continue to work on multiple amendments, including:
a Sanders amendment on getting a new rulemaking on which farms are facilities and which are not
for purposes of the new reg requirements in S 510,
a Bennet amendment to get scale and diversity
language into the HACCP section of the bill and
to get "paperwork reduction" provisions into both
the HACCP and the Produce Standard sections of
the bill,
a Boxer amendment to improve the wildlife/animal language in the Produce Standards section of
the bill,
direct marketing and farm identity preserved
provisions into the Brown amendment on
Recordkeeping and Traceback,
the Stabenow farmer and small processor training
program amendment, and
as yet unsponsored amendments to require
risk analysis for rulemakings on Performance
to authorize FDA to make exemptions for HACCP
for very small businesses including farms, and
to reduce the frequency of FDA inspections for
low risk facilities.
To the maximum extent possible we will handle
those as a package, and try to continue to get the
respective sponsors working together as a unit. Our
goal is to get as many included in the Managers
Amendment to the bill (the only amendment that is
guaranteed to pass), and then whatever does not get
in, we will need to determine whether to engage in
a floor fight and try to win approval as stand alone
amendments over and against the bipartisan bill
sponsors' opposition.
This is dense stuff! Saying NO is a lot easier. But
remember, Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
(Wendell Phillips, (1811-1884), abolitionist, orator and columnist for The Liberator,in a speech before the Massachusetts Antislavery Society in 1852.)
To preserve any victory we win for small farms and
organic agriculture, we must be prepared to organize over and over again. This means that since our
resources are limited, when possible, we must pick
our battles, though all too often they are imposed on
us. Food safety is a good example.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0
continued from page 1
energy reserves, or what is often referred to as
the Peak Oil crisis, which began in the 1970s,
the global community will be forced to begin
looking for ways of existing and producing food;
methods which are not dependent on petroleum
products. Dr Fernando Funes played a significant
role in Cubas aggressive shift toward a new
model of agriculture based on organic methods.
Today nearly 70% of food is grown in the cities of
Cuba, employing half a million people and using
integrated organic urban agricultural techniques.

In addition to his ongoing research, Dr. Funes,

the son of farmers, also spends his time leading
agricultural Eco-Tours of Cuba, hosting visitors
from around the world as they explore the various
sustainable farming projects that have supported
and supplied the Cuban population with organicallyraised produce since the early 1990s. Dr. Funes
brings a unique international perspective to the
NOFA conference, and will illuminate us on not
only the various organic farming techniques which
have been successful in his country, but will paint
a picture of how sustainable agriculture is possible
on a large-scale. Dr. Funes will be speaking on
Saturday night, August 14th and on Sunday, August
15th will be leading two workshops: Urban and
Suburban Agriculture from 10-11:30 am and
Animals and Crops Integration in Agroecology
from 1-2:30 pm.
To add to our captivating speakers, as always,
the Summer Conference will feature a fantastic
Childrens Conference, a Teen Conference, a
local meal, dozens of exhibitors, and a Saturday
afternoon fair. This year, the conference will also
feature a Live Auction, which will take place in
front of the Exhibitor Tent at 3:15 pm, on Saturday
afternoon. Workshops range from topics such as
Animal Care, Growing Produce, Farm Management
and Business Development, Cooking, Politics
and Policies of Agriculture, Nutrition, Health and
Holistic Medicine, Dairy Production, Gardening
and Flowers, Alternative Energy, Herbs, Food
Preservation, and much more. For a complete
list of 2010 Workshops, please visit www.
Workshops begin on Friday, August 13th at 2:00 pm
and continue throughout the weekend. Participants
who are unable to attend the entire weekend may
choose to select and register for single days, based
on individual workshop preferences. To download
a registration form, or to register online, please
php. You can also request a registration packet from
the NOFA/Mass office by calling 978-355-2853 or
email Kathleen Geary at
While adult participants busy themselves taking
notes, exploring various topics, kids of all ages
get the opportunity to explore the Childrens
Conference! Workshops on Mural Painting,
Creative Cuisine, Outdoor Sports, Wild Flowers,
Fairy Houses, Felting Fun, Angora Rabbits and

The Natural Farmer

Music Time are amongst the wonderful choices.
The NOFA Summer Conference is a way for kids
to get to know the earth and the world around them
through experiential learning. Childrens Conference
workshop leaders are all educators, passionate about
the work they do and wonderful with children. On
Saturday afternoon, at 3:00 pm, kids will enjoy a
festive parade, as they mark the beginning of the
afternoon Fair. Outdoor animal exhibits and handson activities are always a huge favorite. For more
information about the Childrens Conference, please
contact Valerie Walton at or call
(978) 689-0716.
Teenagers also have the opportunity to learn
about lots of exciting topics at the NOFA Summer
Conference. Whats the summer without Tie-Dye?
Teens will enjoy this annual favorite conference
activity, along with Angora Yarn Spinning,
Aromatherapy, Filmmaking, Global Hunger with
Heifer International, Building Small Farming
Structures, and Reduce/Reuse/Recycle: How to Bag
Waste. This is a great opportunity for sustainablyminded teens to begin or continue their journey
as conscious consumers, beginning farmers and
environmentalists. For more information on the
Teen Program, please contact Jennifer Caron, the
Teen Conference Coordinator at (978) 544-5646 or
Bring your purse, your pocketbook, your wallet,
your carryall, your suitcase, your checkbook, your
credit card, your wife, your husband, your firstborn
child! Beg borrow or steal to come to support the
Live Auction at the Summer Conference. Exciting
items include restaurant gift certificates, travel
packages and entrance passes to all the hottest
museums and tourist locations throughout New
England, holistic massage and spa packages,
agricultural supplies, products and services, CSA
shares and more will be up for bid! Chuk Kittredge
will take the helm as the auctioneer, and buyer
beware he wont take no for an answer. Saving up
for that trip with the grandkids?! Bid at the auction.
Looking for something nice for your mom for
Christmas? Bid at the auction. Thinking of adding
a little something nice to the wall in your home?
Bid at the auction. Thank you to our initial donors:
Nourish Restaurant in Lexington, Legal Seafoods,
Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, Neptunes
Harvest, Jean-Claude Bourrut, Down to Earth Farm
of Vermont, Rosalind Michahelles, Mare Tomaski.
If your business is interested in donating goods or
services to benefit the NOFA Summer Conference
Auction, please contact Summer Conference
Auction Coordinator, Mindy Harris at mindy@ or 310-663-0054. Donating an
auction item is a great way to generate visibility for
products and services. Silent Auction items will be
up for bid in the Exhibitor Tent beginning on Friday,
August 13th. Participants are encouraged to peruse
the items at leisure and make bids throughout the
conference. The Silent Auction will close at 2:00
pm on Saturday, and all Silent Auction winning bids
will be announced at the Live Auction, at 3:15. All
winning bidders should plan to claim items between
3-6 pm on Saturday, August 14th.
If you need some time to relax and reflect during
the conference, consider the NOFA film series,
which runs throughout the conference. If you have
a free slot and want to learn more about a specific
agricultural topic, a documentary film might be just
the thing. Check out www.nofasummerconference.
org for a listing of all film titles and show times
during the conference. This year, one of the featured
films will be The Power of Community: How Cuba
Survived Peak Oil. This film will be a helpful
precursor and inspiring addition to the keynote by
Dr. Fernando Funes, who will illuminate the way
in which an entire culture was able to develop
a sustainable approach to an untenable political
and economic crisis. Stop by the Camput Center
Reading Room to catch one of the films during the
Once the workshops are done and the sun goes
down, a great deal of fun begins at the NOFA
Summer Conference. Entertainment is serious

business! On Friday evening, August 13th,
participants will enjoy a contradance under the
stars, on the grass in the center of campus. Kick
off your shoes to a live band, and bring your long
skirts, your friends, and join the fun. Or if you
prefer, head over to the Student Union for renowned
world-music drummer, Steve Leicach, for a wild
drumming demonstration and performance in
the Cape Cod Lounge. Leicach is an expert on
indigenous instruments from around the world, and
will demonstrate the rhythms of different world
cultures. Saturday evening, August 14th, NOFA
presents Dirty Rice, a live Zydeco band, performing
Cajun Soul music with a Southern flair. Or, for the
urban hipsters, check out DJ Reuben, from WMUA,
UMass Amhersts radio station. DJ Rubin will be
at the sound board, cranking out the best of the
80s and 90s in the Cape Cod Lounge. All evening
entertainment runs from 9:00 pm to midnight, and
everyone at the conference will sleep well after
two days of fantastic music! For more information
on the NOFA Summer Conference entertainment,
contact Chuk Kittredge, Entertainment Coordinator
at, 978-257-2400.
If you are looking to market your product to
thousands of sustainably-minded consumers across
New England, you can become a NOFA Summer
Conference sponsor and receive pre-conference
advertising, web-links to your business, ads in the
NOFA/Mass monthly newsletter, program book
ads, and prominent logo displays at the conference.
Conference promotions will be seen by 10,000
plus potential customers. Enhance your presence
by selling product, or making presentations as an
exhibitor. Your target audience will be shopping at
your booth all weekend long. To become a sponsor,
please contact Bob Minnocci, at bob@nofamass.
org or (617) 236-4893, or to exhibit your product,
please contact Elizabeth Coe at or
(413) 528-6567.
For those looking to attend the conference at a
lower rate, there are a number of options available.
The Summer Conference Work Exchange Program
allows attendees to attend the conference for free, in
exchange for 20 hours of work during the weekend.
Work Exchange jobs include setting up tables,
tents and exhibitor space, helping with registration,
giving directions, and general management of
information for participants. Shifts are available
at all times of the day early morning, during and
after workshops. All Work Exchange participants
must be 18 years or older, should be enthusiastic
about working with people and demonstrate a
willingness to help in different areas as needed.
Work Exchange opportunities fill up quickly. If you
are planning to attend the conference and want to
take advantage of this option, please send in a Work
Exchange application as soon as possible. Contact
Adrianne Appel for a Work Exchange application: or call (781) 395-3921.
Work Exchange applications are also available at
There are two additional opportunities that allow
participants to attend the conference at a reduced
rate: the Helping Hands Program and the Farming
Education Fund. The Helping Hands program
requires participants to volunteer for 4 hours during
the conference, in exchange for a $25 discount ($30
for childcare), mailed back after the conference.
Contact Dennis Cronin, Helping Hands Coordinator
at 508-799-2278or to apply
for this.
The Farming Education Fund provides limited
scholarship opportunities for low income farmers,
or for other attendees who need financial assistance.
A small amount of volunteer work is required.
To receive a scholarship through the Faming
Education Fund, please contact Summer Conference
Registration Coordinator, Nancy Dunne at (413)
Whether youre a farmer, a landscaper, a baker, a
chef, a florist, a business owner, or a consumer, the
NOFA Summer Conference has something for you!
Enjoy the tranquil setting at UMass Amherst, while
learning about how we can make our world more
sustainable. See you in August!


Book Reviews
The Natural Farmer

Preserving Farms for Farmers: A Manual for

Those Working to Keep Farms Affordable
by Equity Trust, Inc.; edited by Kirby White
published by Equity Trust, Inc. in 2009
144 pages; $25 plus shipping through Equity Trust,
review by Fern Marshall Bradley (
The introduction to Preserving Farms for Farmers
gets right to the heart of the problem: in many parts
of the United States, and especially in the Northeast,
non-farmers can and will pay more for farmland
than farmers will. Given that reality, how can local communities protect area farms, and how can
would-be farmers enter farming?
The answer is multifaceted, and it requires new
models for ownership of farmland. This manual
provides detailed explanations, case studies, and
model documents to help landowners, government entities, and current and prospective farmers
understand the complex cooperative arrangements
that have evolved to help protect farmland. In most
cases, these involve detailed negotiations and legal
work over a period of years, with a final structure in
which farmers have secure tenure but not outright
ownership of the land on which they farm.

In very simple terms, one way to allow farmers to

farm on land that is too expensive for them to buy
(because of its potential value for commercial or
residential development or as a rural estate) is for
a third party to purchase the land and then lease it to
the farmer for a long period of time (think 99 years).
The third partys motivation is not profit or personal
use of the land, but rather an interest in seeing the
land continue to be used for farming.
Massachusetts-based Equity Trust is an organization
that has taken on this disinterested third-party role in
preserving farmland, and several of the contributors
to Preserving Farms for Farmers are from the staff
of Equity Trust or other land trust organizations, including the Columbia (NY) Land Conservancy, the
Vermont Land Rust, and the Franklin (MA) Land
The most accessible part of the book is the
case studies of Live Power Community Farm
(California), Roxbury Farm (New York), and
Caretaker Farm (Massachusetts). These case studies
show how the land trust model was sculpted to fit
the needs of the particular landowners, community,
and farmers. They describe how tactics such as purchase of conservation easements, fund-raising campaigns, involvement of CSA members, and negotiation of long-term leases with buyout options (if the

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farmers fail to live up to the terms of the lease) were
woven together to keep farmland functioning as productive farms. Each case study provides a history
of how the land trust was negotiated and enacted as
well as a short summary of the farms current status.
Its heartening that all three farms are thriving under
the land trust model.
The case studies help bring the concept of land
trusts for farmland preservation to life. But for
those who want to embark on their own real-life
case study to buy or preserve a farm, the technical chapters of the book will prove most valuable,
although theyre not easy reading. They encompass
a model agricultural ground lease, a model agricultural conservation easement with option to purchase,
and an in-depth explanation and analysis of how to
devise resale formulas. Two other detailed chapters
offer commentaries on the lease and the easement
documents. The commentaries break down each
document clause by clause, defining terms and explaining, for example, the pros and cons of allowing
particular uses of land, how lease fees can be structured, how mortgages can be administered, and what
insurance coverage should be required of all parties
Preserving Farms for Farmers makes it eminently
clear that there is no simple way to preserve farmland if it has potential for other high-value uses. But
it also demonstrates that with the right models, dedication to purpose, and lots of patience, preserving
farmland is an achievable goal.

Organic Producers: Help Make

USDA Conservation Programs
Work for You!

Now you can have a seat at the table in shaping U.S.

Department of Agriculture (USDA) policies for
organic agriculture. And, you dont need to fly to
Washington to do so. New federal initiatives, if taken advantage of, can yield greater support for organic stakeholders in every state and community across
the nation. For that to happen, however, organic
farmers must be involved in the implementation of
these initiatives at the state and local level. Much
is at stake. If organic farmers do NOT participate,
then dollars spent in each state on conservation
programs will mostly be directed to larger farms,
including CAFOs, rather than small and mid-sized
family farms. Please consider submitting a request
to serve on your Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) State Technical Committee or
Local Working Group. Read on to learn how.
The Details:
The 2008 Farm Bill contains several provisions
that expand federal support for organic agriculture, especially around conservation and natural
resource issues. Key changes include the creation
of a new Organic Initiative in the Environmental
Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Additionally,
the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) now
includes a requirement to develop a crosswalk,
bridging the programs conservation plan with existing National Organic Program requirements for an
organic systems plan. NRCS has also developed a
Conservation Activity Plan for Organic Agriculture
that recommends conservation practice standards
and aids farmers in transitioning to organic.

Successful implementation of these new organic

provisions requires the expertise of those who best
understand why and how they matter. This is where
you come in! Organic farmers and ranchers must
step forward to ensure that the USDA and the NRCS
fully understand the benefits of organic systems to
environmental and natural resource protection in
order for federal conservation programs to work for
organic farmers and ranchers. You can help make
this happen by serving on your State Technical
Committee and your Local Working Group.

What are State Technical Committees and Local

Working Groups, anyway?

Lets start with State Technical Committees, or

STCs. Serving in an advisory capacity to the NRCS
and other USDA agencies on the implementation of
Farm Bill conservation provisions, STCs provide
information, analysis, and recommendations directly
to USDA officials. These recommendations significantly shape the way federal conservation programs
are prioritized and managed within the state and
how dollars are allocated to pay for these activities.
Since 1996, STCs are required to include producers who represent the variety of crops and livestock
raised within the state, including the increasing number (and diversity) of organic producers.
Furthermore, as chair of a STC, the NRCS State
Conservationist is charged not only with ensuring
diverse representation on the committee, but with
making sure all voices are heard. What this means
is that organic producers throughout the country
have a greater chance than ever of serving on STCs
and advocating for organic interests.
Organic producers can also serve on Local Working
Groups, or LWGs. LWGs are, in effect, localized
subcommittees of the STC charged with providing recommendations on local natural resource
issues and criteria for conservation activities and
programs. Among the positive developments in the
2008 Farm Bill was the expansion of LWG membership to include agricultural producers. LWG
membership generally draws from agricultural and
natural resource stakeholders in the local community. Serving on an LWG gives organic producers
the chance to share their expertise on land, soil, and
water stewardship in their region and directly affect
the types of projects funded and decisions made on
local, state and national levels. Producers can serve
on both the STC and an LWG at the same time.
Securing membership on an STC or LWG is a
straightforward process. Interested individuals (or groups, including sustainable and organic
farming organizations and conservation groups)
should submit a request directly to the NRCS State

Conservationist in your state. Requests should explain your interest and outline your relevant credentials for membership. Contact information for your
State Conservationist can be found on your states
NRCS website. Visit to find a
link to your states NRCS website.
For organic farmers and ranchers interested in
serving on these committees, support and additional information are now at hand. As part of a
collaborative outreach effort funded by Organic
Valleys Farmers Advocating for Organics (FAFO)
committee, the National Sustainable Agriculture
Coalition (NSAC), the Center for Rural Affairs, the
Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), the
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
(MOSES), and Farm Aid are working together to
encourage and increase the participation of organic
producers on STCs and LWGs. A new handbook,
A Guide for Organic Farmers and Ranchers
to Participating on USDAs Natural Resources
Conservation Service State Technical Committees
and Local Working Groups, is now available on
the websites of many of these groups - see below for
website info.
In addition, workshops on how to participate on
STCs and LWGs will be held at key locations and
conferences around the country, including the
Northeast Organic Farming Associations summer
conference in Amherst on August 13-15.
Producers and all other interested parties can contact
any of the collaborating organizations for further
information about this exciting opportunity for organic agriculture in your state and beyond.
Collaborating Organizations Websites:
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: www.
Center for Rural Affairs:
Organic Farming Research Foundation: www.ofrf.
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education
Farm Aid:

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The Natural Farmer

Sacred Expressions:
24 Years at the NOFA Summer Conference
A Tribute to Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge

Many folks really love the pond and fountain in the

middle of the campus, both of which lend a kind of
tranquility and beauty to the setting. One downside
to using UMass Amherst, Jack regrets, is the fact
that outside groups are not allowed to bring in beer
or alcohol for evening entertainment events. At
Hampshire College, NOFA was able to get a liquor
license, bring in company-donated organic beer and
wine, and keep the revenue from sales. The loss
of this several thousand dollar income source has
represented a significant revenue loss for the conference and forced an increase in registration costs.

by Mindy Harris

To listen to Julie, you might think she was talking

about receiving the Eucharist, attending a Baptism
or a Confirmation. Not so. Julies referring to the
NOFA Summer Conference, which is the embodiment of her holiest ideal: Community. And for 24
years, with her sturdy and loyal husband and partner
Jack at her side, the Summer Conference has been,
as she calls it, a Sacred Expression.
Bringing people together to celebrate the production
of local food, nourishing bodies, minds and spirits,
while lifting each other up through relationships, are
the focal points of the NOFA agenda. The Summer
Conference is the heart and soul of the organization. And so we propose a toast a hearty tribute
to Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge, who have
served as co-coordinators of the NOFA Summer
Conference for the last 24 years. After this summer,
they will be passing the torch.
Julie first joined NOFA as a board member in 1984.
At that time, NOFA/Mass had no staff, and the
Summer Conference was a joint-effort by members
of the NOFA Interstate Council. NOFA had originated in Vermont and New Hampshire, and the conference had always been in one of those states. But
by 1986 it had fallen on hard times. That year it was
held at Vermonts Johnson State College and ran up
a facilities bill from the school of $6,000 - which it
couldnt afford to pay. The council decided to assess fees on the various chapters to help cover the
bill, which was very unpopular. No one on the council wanted to take on a 1987 conference.
But Jack and Julie felt that the conference was running in the red because it was offering unsustainable
perks to presenters and organizers - discounts
and other benefits which ate into the NOFA revenue. They went to the Massachusetts chapter and
convinced the board to make a bid for the state
chapter to run the 1987 affair. But it would be on
an entrepreneurial basis. If they lost money, the
chapter would take the hit. If they made money,
the chapter would get the lions share of the profit.
There were many older NOFA members who had
been attending the conference for over a decade, and
had some reservations about all these changes. But
there was no better option and the board approved
it. The Interstate Council was quick to accept this
proposal as well (and has voted to do the same
every year since) and so the conference moved to

Always a family affair, the kids received

awards of their own in 1989 from the Interstate Council for helping run the NOFA
Summer Conference. Here are Charlie (7),
Ellen (9), Dan (11, behind Ellen) & Paul (10)
It has always been an important goal of the conference under Julie and Jack to keep costs low. They
remember the days when they brought their four
kids in the mid 1980s, camping out, pre-cooking
and packing in food to avoid the cost of meals. So
they worked with Hampshire to keep costs low.
Unfortunately, after 18 years, financial issues and
scheduling conflicts made Hampshire College costprohibitive during the August timeframe of the conference. So, reluctantly, Julie and Jack started another site-search for 2008, to preserve the integrity
of the Summer Conference while finding a location
that would be hospitable, large enough, and accommodating to the needs of the NOFA constituency.
UMass Amherst, somewhat to the pairs surprise,
stepped up to the plate. The administration at
UMass Amherst has proven to be been supportive
of many of NOFAs needs. Most workshops are
now held in one location, the campus center, which
makes mobility easy. The exhibitors, fair, auction,
and entertainment are all located centrally on a big
grassy area outside the Campus Center, while the
dorms, camping site, and dining hall are only a short
walk away. The campus has agreed to serve only
organic food, and to work with NOFA farmers to
source the Saturday local meal which has always
been a popular favorite among attendees.

Over the past three years, however, major corporate

sponsors have jumped onboard to help underwrite
conference expenses. Since Jack and Julie began
way back in 1987 the attendance and participation has almost doubled to over 1,400 attendees, and
roughly 100 exhibitors. Success? Jack and Julie
have worked hard at not tinkering with the nature
of the conference. The program remains similar
each year, and features all varieties of workshops
designed for both beginning home-gardeners and
advanced commercial farmers.
For Julie and Jack, the NOFA Summer Conference
has really been a complete family experience. All
four of their kids grew up attending the conference, which they all saw as a family summer vacation. NOFA members know Dan, Paul, Ellen and
Chuk very well and watched them grow into
adults. Dan is now a presenter at both the Summer
Conference and in the NOFA/Mass Extension
program, while Chuk is in charge of the Summer
Conference Entertainment and Auction and is usually around at the Winter Conference as well. Of all
their kids, Chuk, in his 28 years, has never missed
a single Summer Conference. Paul, now an accomplished IT designer, was NOFA webmaster for years
and still helps with website support from his home
in Silver Spring, MD. Ellen, now a nutrition therapist, organized food donations and the local meal for
several years.
For many years the NOFA conference completely
took over the Rawson/Kittredge homestead in Barre,
Massachusetts. Chuk recalls that in the years before
the conference registration materials went online he
learned professional office skills thanks to the event.
Folks used to call with all sorts of questions, but
with their parents outside on the farm, the Rawson/
Kittredge kids had to do their best as NOFA support
staff. After the conference, as slave labor, Chuk
earned $4 an hour working for his mom and dad,

Julie and Jack took on the challenge of the 1987

conference with a small committee. They studied
possible locations and decided on Williams College
at the junction of Massachusetts, Vermont, and
New York. The young leaders felt very much that
they had to hustle in order to make the conference
The division of labor between husband and wife
has remained very much the same over the course
of their 24-year leadership. Julie is the people-person, managing large groups of staff, volunteers, and
attendees, while Jack tends to be the behind-thescenes money, policy and strategy guy, helping advise on facilities issues, finances, program development, and operational details. You would think they
might get sick of each other after 24 years, but their
different strengths and personalities complement
each other nicely and they have served NOFA as a
formidable leadership team.
When traffic patterns and facilities complications
made the conference difficult, Julie and Jack moved
it to Hampshire College in 1990. Hampshire seemed
to be the ideal location, with its farming education
program, barns, fields, and safe off-the-road setting.
Many NOFA members responded positively over
the years to the cozy summer-camp-like Hampshire
site, and attendance grew to around 1,400 people.


In 1994 the family started a decade-long conference tradition -- skits before the
Friday night keynote speech. The first one was called The Farmers Travails and
showed Julie trying to be polite (with Charlie uttering her real thoughts!)
while she dealt with various difficult customers -- played by Jack and the others.


The Natural Farmer

Even as teenagers the kids hung together at the conference. Here they are with a favorite
conference friend, Nova MacKentley, between ellen and Paul in about 1996, aged 15 to 19.

transcribing conference evaluations. When I asked

him whether this bothered him, he joked: Well,
it wasnt as if we had a choice, you know. Julie is
very good at coercion. Indeed, Jack and Julies
kids have been incredible assets to the organization,
with their hard work, good will and support over the
years. It has truly been a family affair.

One year, Jack and Julie received a remarkable offer. An attendee came up to them, and said You
know, Ive been watching your kids at the conference for a few years. Id really like to help send
them to college. The man later helped the family
to the tune of $10,000, as support for the kids in
college. Overwhelmed by this response, and by the
continuing positive energy they have received from
attendees over the years, Julie and Jack associate the
Summer Conference with feelings of love and gratitude. They feel incredibly supported by the NOFA
community, which has been, in turn, very grateful to
them for all their hard work.
Being an organic farmer is a tough proposition.
Youre often swimming against the tide of commercialism, economic remuneration, and other societal
and industry obstacles in order to earn a living and
remain true to your principles. The NOFA Summer
Conference seems to offer Julie and Jack an oasis
a respite from the Goliath battles they have fought
all their lives. They feel that they can come, kick
off their shoes, and be amongst people who appreciate their work, and are fighting the good fight alongside them.
Ellen Kittredge, who now lives in Takoma Park,
MD, feels strongly that growing up with NOFA had
a major impact on her life as a professional adult.
Running her own nutrition counseling business,
she feels like she received great business training,
watching and helping her parents manage both their
farm business and the NOFA organization right
from their homestead in Barre. Tasks such as database management, budgeting, outreach, and public
relations are all ways she feels confident now in her
career. These were all skills she developed helping
out on the NOFA Summer Conference.
Ellen also concurs with her parents notion that
coming to NOFA was a great way to interact with
other farmers and kids leading the organic, rural
lifestyle. Going to a mainstream school in her town,
Ellen remembers feeling isolated amongst her peers,
and teased for the food she ate and for the fact that
she lived on a farm. Going to the NOFA Summer
Conference reminded us that we werent weird or
strange, but reassured us that there were lots of folks
committed to the same values we were.
After college, Ellen went on to intern at the Center
for Food Safety, in DC. The watchdog organization
was engaged with monitoring various issues in the
agriculture world. Fighting against the production
of GMOs, and trying to protect the organic growing
standards from loosing any credibility or meaning,
were among the projects she was involved in. Ellen
recalls that when she interviewed for her internship
at the Center for Food Safety, the woman who interviewed her asked if she was Jack Kittredges daughter. This interaction demonstrated to Ellen the kind
of respect NOFA generates nationally, throughout

various channels in the agriculture community. She

was really proud to have earned her stripes growing up at the conference, understanding the issues
affecting the organic community, and taking the
NOFA name with her wherever she goes.
Despite the fact that the conference is largely a
warm, supportive atmosphere for Julie and Jack, it
is not without its obstacles. Registrants frequently
have issues and questions about money, housing,
keys, and other needs. Julie is constantly managing
requests and personalities. Some people tend to
take their aggression out on you, Julie sighs. She
remembers one frightening time, back when the
conference was at Williams College, when a woman, disgruntled about her dorm room, came after
Julie with her cane!
Over the years, Julie has had to set firm boundaries with people. In order for the conference to run
smoothly, policies have to be consistent and fair to
everyone. But Julie hates saying no to people.
Chuk acknowledges the mental and physical toll the
weekend takes on his mom. Julie has a meltdown
every year, usually its Friday night or sometimes
Saturday morning.she gets really tired and worn
out, running the farm and working very intensely in
the months leading up to the conference. During the
meltdown, she swears off it all, then she rests for a
while, gets back up and goes right back to work.
Julie herself agrees that every year she gets sick at
the conference, and is just trying to make it through
the three days without too much trouble. She confesses that she does have to walk away from conference demands once in a while, leave someone else
in charge, and go take a nap.
Jack and Julies kids really created quite a soap
opera at a conference in the mid-90s, when (as
teenagers) they decided to streak naked through the
afternoon Fair for giggles and kicks. Neither Julie
nor Jack actually saw the rebellious affair, but only
heard about it after the fact. Despite being a great
supporter of personal freedom, and a somewhat
rebellious child herself, Julie laid down the line
with her kids. Recognizing her leadership role with
NOFA, and worried about holding on to her job as
Conference Coordinator and Executive Director,
Julie conveyed to her kids in no uncertain terms that
they were to knock off their hijinks, or else! Luckily,
conference attendees were not terribly offended,
laughed at the kids silliness, and thank goodness
both Julie and Jack still work for NOFA!
One of the aspects of the conference that both Jack
and Julie have relished, has been the opportunity to
host and form relationships with keynote speakers.
Sally Fallon, who will make her second Summer
Conference appearance this year, along with Eliot
Coleman and Joel Salatin, who have spoken at both
the Summer and NOFA/Mass Winter Conferences,
are among the keynoters that Jack and Julie have
gotten to know. A major highlight for both Jack
and Julie was when Wendell Barry came to speak.
Berry, a prominent Southern author, philosopher,
and advocate for sustainable living, is a kind of
agricultural and literary hero to many who attend
the conference. In Julies signature persistence, she
called Mr. Berry every year for 10 years to try to
get him to come and give the keynote speech. Every

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year he declined. Finally one year, she left their

conversation saying This is the last year I am going
to call to ask you to speak at the NOFA conference.
Give me a call if you would like to come. And it
was. She stopped calling. The very next year Mr.
Berry contacted Julie and signed on as a keynoter.
One lively year, Ralph Nader and Ron Paul came
to debate agriculture policy. Jack remembers Their
positions on agricultural issues were really what
you would expect. Nader was in favor of regulations
which protect the consumer, whereas Paul was more
Libertarian, in favor of the government getting out
of the regulation-business. When asked whether
this particular conference was controversial in any
way, Jack attests Well, we got some angry letters
about inviting Nader because some people felt that
his run for the presidency in 2000 yielded a Bush
administration. Although NOFA officially does not
align itself with one political party or another, keeping up with agricultural legislation is an important
aspect of its mission. Jack is well acquainted with
the ins and outs of agricultural regulations, as an organic farmer and policy staffer. The policies made
at both the federal and state levels are of deep concern to organic farmers. Jack says, and he has done
a remarkable job keeping the NOFA constituents
informed over many years.
And so, after 24 years of hard work, sweat, love
and tears, Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge will be
taking a back seat at the NOFA conference. NOFA/
Mass has selected Ben Grosscup, who is currently
the NOFA/Mass Extension Events Coordinator and
the Summer Conference Workshop Coordinator, to
lead the way. Julie feels that as the SC Workshop
Coordinator, in particular, Ben has a wonderful
grasp of how the conference works. He is also
great at technology and communication. Julie says.
She thinks he has a personality that will allow him
to be a mediator, and navigate through the various
needs of staff, participants and presenters. Julie
feels strongly that there is a legacy to preserve,
and that Ben will not move forward with dramatic
changes quickly. Both Jack and Julie trust Ben, and
feel that his respect for the ideals and values of the
conference will be sustained, going into the future.
Ben articulates his vision as he steps into very big
shoes next year. I want to continue bringing together cutting edge innovators in the world of organic
agriculture and bringing together a broad range of
farmers, people practicing organic agriculture in
their backyards, and people wanting to support that
movement through their familys food choices and
through policy. The conference is there to support
the movement of people towards greater self-reliance and sustainability, and the knowledge that is
shared at our conference is so important for the future of our world.
When asked why they decided to step down why
now, why at all Jack and Julie reflect that they
are at a different stage in their lives. Julie doesnt
want to play chess anymore; moving people, and
pieces, and components around a chess board. She
is more than happy now to sit back and watch it all
With their kids out of college, less need to provide
for their family financially, Jack and Julie can afford to spend more time on their farm, with their
grandkids, and in their community. In particular,
Julie sees a change in her self-identity. As a young
adult, she felt very passionate about community
organizing, constantly working for change. Now, as
she looks back, she recognizes that her spirit, is no
longer yearning for that intensity. She is very happy
with her hands in the soil, focusing more on an identity as an educator passing the knowledge on to
the next generation planting the seeds, and watching them grow.
Jack and Julie will still be integrally involved in
NOFA/Mass, maintaining their staff positions as
Policy Coordinator and Executive Director, respectively, and editing the Natural Farmer. So theyre
not going too far. Jack and Julie thank you so
much for all you have given the NOFA Summer
Conference over the last 24 years. We wish you
wonderful summers at Many Hands Organic Farm,
weekends with your grandkids, and time to yourselves. You deserve it! We thank you and we wish
you well! Well see you in August!

Mycorrhizae and the Living Soil:

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The Natural Farmer


A Reservoir of Soil Carbon and Fertility

by Michael Amaranthus Ph.D
and Thomas Landis Ph.D

It might be a revelation to most people that plants do

not have roots. Strictly speaking they have mycorrhizae. Myco means fungus and rhizae means
root, and so the word mycorrhizae means fungus-roots. A mycorrhiza (plural mycorrhizae) is an
anatomical structure that results from a symbiotic
association between a soil fungus and plant roots.
In these mutually beneficial partnerships, roots of
the host plant provide a convenient substrate for
the mycorrhizal fungus, and also supply food in the
form of simple carbohydrates. In exchange for this
free room-and-board, the mycorrhizal fungus provides several benefits to the host plant. Mycorrhizal
fungi produce an extensive network of microscopic
hyphal threads that extend into the surrounding soil
or growing medium to conduct water and nutrients.

Arbuscular mycorrhizae send out hyphae into

the soil, greatly increasing access to water and
nutrients. The round structures are spores.

Mycorrhizal fungi increase plant access to phosphorus.

Literally thousands of research papers have been
written on mycorrhizal fungi and farmers are generally well versed on the subject. Numerous brands
of commerical mycorrhizal inoculums are available
but, unfortunately, some have been marketed as a
silver bullet that will cure all your farming problems. Since you are all experienced farmers who
already know how to grow crops, wed like to share
with you a tool to make them even better.
As you know, cropping systems could be more sustainable with management of mycorrhizal fungi and
less reliance on agrochemicals. New information is
also indicating that, with proper management, agricultural soils with mycorrhizal fungi can store enormous amounts of soil carbon. Tiny fungal filaments
are efficient at pulling CO2 out of the air where it is
a greenhouse gas and depositing it in the soil where
it promotes soil and crop productivity. Increasing
carbon in soil is also critically important in efforts to
stop global warming.

The shiny soil coating is glomalin, a glue-like

substance which gives soils their structure
Ninety percent of the worlds plant species form
mycorrhizae in their native habitats. This symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship is nothing
new. Mycorrhizal fungi have coevolved with plants
and soils for over 400 million years. The bottom line
is that the mycorrrhizal relationship is as common to
the roots of plants as chloroplasts are to the leaves
of plants. Plants use leaves to fulfill their carbon
needs and mycorrhizal fungi to attain nutrients and

The living soil: a reservoir of fertility

Truly healthy soil contains a prodigious abundance
of biological activity. One heaping tablespoon of
healthy soil may contain billions of soil organisms.
Just an ounce can contain numbers of organisms
equal to the earths entire human population! An
acre of healthy topsoil can contain a web of life that
includes 900 pounds of earthworms, 2,500 pounds
of fungi, 1,500 pounds of bacteria, 130 pounds of
protozoa, 900 pounds of arthropods and algae, and
in most cases, even some small mammals. This
plethora of soil organisms are like billions of miniature bags of fertility, each storing plant nutrients in
their body tissue while slowly converting them into
available forms of plant nutrients.

Managing Farms Biologically:

Incorporating nitrogen-fixing plants into farm management practices adds nitrogen and organic matter to soils in a less leachable form. An excellent
example is the use of Rhizobia bacteria inoculant
when planting nitrogen-fixing plant species such as
legumes. Eighty percent of the earths atmosphere
is nitrogen, yet despite this abundance, plants are
unable to absorb it as a gas from the air. Thats
where symbiotic, nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with the roots of certain plants come in. These
bacteria are capable of utilizing the vast pool of
atmospheric nitrogen by converting it to an organic
form that plants can use. A legume cover crop can
add and store as much as 200 pounds of nitrogen to
an acre of soil.
In their natural environments, most plants, including more than 90% of all crop species, form a root
association with mycorrhizae. In this mutualistic
association, root-attached fungal filaments extend
into the soil, helping the plant by gathering water
and nutrients and transporting these materials back
to the roots.
Miles of fungal filaments can be present in a small
amount of healthy soil. The plants association with
mycorrhizal fungi increases the effective surface
absorbing area of roots several hundred to several
thousand times. In return, the plant feeds the fungus
sugars produced by photosynthesis. Scientific studies with hundreds of various crops indicate that the
mycorrhizal relationship can improve nutrient uptake, yields, drought tolerance and root biomass.
The group of mycorrhizal fungi that are most important to agriculture are called arbuscular mycorrhizal


S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

40% carbon; in fact, glomalin can comprise onethird of all carbon in the soil and can persist for
40 years. We are all familiar with the deleterious
connection between greenhouse gases and global
warming. It has been estimated that up to a third of
all of the increase in global CO2 that has been generated since the industrial revolution can be attributed to carbon losses through agricultural practices.
Because of glomalins high carbon content, grass
crops and natural grasslands are now being recognized as potentially valuable for offsetting carbon
dioxide emissions from industry and vehicles. In
fact, some private markets have already started offering carbon credits for certain farm practices and
Rebuild Your Soil with Cover Crops and Green
Manure crops
As you know all agricultural areas are only as good
as their soil. Growing cover crops and green manure crops are excellent ways to rebuild it. Farmers
choose cover or green manure crops for their organic matter, nutrient additions or resistance to
erosion or root pathogens but now theres another
consideration glomalin- for improving soil carbon
and structure.

Studies with hundreds of various crops indicate that the mycorrhizal relationship can improve nutrient uptake, yields, drought tolerance and root biomass.
fungi (AMF): (aka endomycorrhizal fungi) - These
fungi are found on the vast majority of agricultural
plants with the exception of canola, mustard and
sugar beets which do not form mycorrhizae. AMF
also form mycorrhizae with a wide variety of wild
and cultivated plants: most grasses, tropical plants,
and understory species; some temperate tree species,
including maples, dogwoods, redwoods, junipers
and cedars.
Crop performance can be influenced by mycorrhizal
fungi in the following ways.
1. Increased water and nutrient uptake Mycorrhizal fungi help plants absorb nutrients,
especially phosphorus, nitrogen and several micronutrients such as zinc and copper. Mycorrhizae
increase the root surface area, and the fungal hyphae
access water and nutrients beyond the normal root
2. Stress and disease protection - Mycorrhizal fungi protect the plant host in several ways. The fungi
are made of chitin, the same material that makes
insect shells and mammal claws. Chitin protects
fragile root tips and acts as a physical barrier from
dryness, pests, and toxic soil contaminants. Some
fungal partners produce antibiotics that provide
chemical protection against root pathogens.

3. Glomalin: the newest mycorrhizal benefit - In

1996, pioneering research by Sara Wright of the
USDA- Agricultural Research Service showed AMF
produce a sticky carbon containing substance called
glomalin. Wright named glomalin after Glomales,
the taxonomic order to which AMF belong.
From a soil management standpoint, the most important property of glomalin is its stickiness which
gives soils their tilth. Tilth is one of those terms
thats hard to describe on paper but you can feel it
from the seat of your tractor. The best definition
that we could find for tilth is a sensory measure
of the soils ability to be worked easily, to hold
water, to smell sweet, to crumble easily into large
aggregates, and to resist wind and water erosion.
You probably know that some of the best soils in
the world developed under grasslands and now you
know the mechanism. Soils formed under grasses
are very high in organic matter due to their massive
fibrous roots and annual senescence and decomposition of their shoots. Grassland soils are also known
for their excellent structure and, since all grasses
have AMF, we now know that improvement in
structure can be greatly attributed to glomalin.
From an ecological standpoint, one of the fascinating properties of glomalin is that it contains 30 to

The species that you use for a green manure and

cover crop is critical. Perennial grasses and deeprooted legumes are the best for soil building.
Shallow rooted legumes and annual grasses are next
in line. Lush green crops decay quickly after incorporation and much of the biomass is lost to the atmosphere. Perennial grass crops are most effective
in soil building because they grow more root mass
and the AMF have more opportunity to form glomalin. Increased production results from improving
soil conditions
Scientific research confirms that fallow, tilling and
compaction, all common in agriculture areas, reduce
or eliminate the soils mycorrhizal fungal populations. The benefits of inoculating with mycorrhizal
fungi are well documented, but the newly discovered relationship between arbuscular mycorrhizae
and glomalin is particularly interesting. Arbuscular
mycorrhizae are found on a wide variety of crops
from around the world, and produce glomalin on
their roots. This carbon based sticky protein is responsible for giving soils their tilth, which is critical
to long term soil management and, conservation.
Certain crops are most effective in soil building because they grow more root mass and the AMF have
more opportunity to form glomalin. Because it contains 30 to 40% carbon and ties it up for decades,
glomalin can help counteract the buildup of greenhouse gases and lessen the effects of global warming. Were sure that well be hearing more about the
glomalin connection in coming years.
Dr. Amaranthus is President Mycorrhizal
Applications, Inc. and
an Adjunct Associate Professor at Oregon State
University. Dr. Landis is President Native Plant
Nursery Consultants

Eco-Friendly Agriculture:
Who Speaks and Why?

by Basil P. Tangredi, DVM

In the past several weeks, the mainstream media

has been a-buzz with articles bearing such headlines as: Eco-friendly Foods Not Always What
They Seem or Environmentally Friendly Food
Myths Debunked. This well-organized media
campaign is founded upon the published research
of Washington State University researcher Jude
Capper, Ph. D., in which she claims to offer proof
that modern industrial agriculture is more energy
efficient and results in a smaller carbon footprint
than organic or small-scale farms. Her views consider many food items, but I was able to track down
her actual peer-reviewed scientific article on dairy

production in the Journal of Animal Science (2009,

Volume 87, pp. 2160-2167). Herewith is my commentary.

Dr. Capper has developed a mathematical formula
a model - that takes values for energy utilization
and milk production in a given farm operation and
generates numerical outcomes for energy efficiency
and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. All the parameters she uses milk yields, cow nutritional requirements, ration formulation, methane emissions,
etc. derive from published sources; no new scientific data is presented. As an analogy, think of the
equation for producing water: a certain amount of
hydrogen combined with a certain amount of oxy-

gen will yield a very specific quantity of water.

Dr. Capper compares the typical family dairy farm
of 1944 with the corporate dairy farm of 2007 by
plugging into her model the known values for inputs
and then looking at the outputs in terms of efficiency of energy utilization and GHG emissions. Dr.
Capper begins her paper with a patronizing allusion
to the publics perception of the good old days as
opposed to the sensible logic of high-tech scientific
dairy production of today. She eventually concludes
that only biotechnology and the specialization/intensification of agriculture can feed a starving world
with least environmental impact.

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


The Natural Farmer

She first gives the average annual milk output for

a 1944 cow as being 2074 kg, compared to 9193
kg per cow in 2007. After briefly describing the
two systems, the ulterior motive for this article
(indeed the entire media campaign) is revealed:
Interestingly, many of these characteristics (lowyielding, pasture-based, no antibiotics, inorganic
fertilizers, or chemical pesticides) are similar to
those of modern organic systems. So there it is
1944 equals organic of today. This assumption
is false. Of course organic methods make use of
centuries of experience in pre-industrial farming.
But they also incorporate modern knowledge of
agronomy, selective breeding, nutrition, etc. so that
the average annual milk output of a modern organically managed dairy cow in 2005 is reported by the
USDA as being 6181 kg. This one fact alone undermines much of the impact of Dr Cappers analysis.
Now, let me address the two major findings: energy
input and GHG output.
Energy Input
In 1944, Dr Capper states that cow feed was almost
exclusively produced on the farm (hay, pasture,
some corn and soybean meal) and so the total energy input is captured within the farm unit (and
thus in her mathematical model). In contrast, 2007
feed sources are described as Total Mixed Ration
(corn silage, alfalfa hay, ground corn grain, soybean
meal), to which I would add stuff like poultry litter
found in modern cattle feed. Many of these components derive from genetically modified varieties, and
all rely upon mechanized production systems with
high inputs of artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
Since Dr Cappers model appears only to concern
on-farm energy going into the cow, all of the energy
consumed in off-farm production, processing and
transportation to the factory dairy farm is absent
from the 2007 calculation. Also, her statement touting the increased yields of GMO crops may be true
compared to 1944 conventional varieties, but such is
not true for todays.

Dr Capper also compares the energy utilization
of horses (1944) with tractors (2007) for on-farm
power. But, here again, the comparison is strictly
between the energy of the farm-produced feed going
into the horse versus fossil fuel going into the tractor, without accounting for the energy costs of oil
extraction, refining, and transportation.

All of this is distilled into a statistic giving energy
required per kg of milk output. A cow producing 7
kg of milk per day would require 2.2 Mcal of energy
per kg of milk, whereas a cow producing 29 kg per
day needs 1.1 Mcal of energy per kg of milk. Thus,
2007 systems are more energy efficient by a factor
of two! But the underestimation of the TOTAL energy input in 2007 makes that look favorable, while
the underestimation of modern organic milk production (referring now to the real agenda) renders that
system a poor second. I might also add that, logically, her statistical parameters should use the same
units: energy. The calculation should entail all of
the energy cost to production per caloric unit of energy in the milk. I know of no such comparison in
the literature, but to the extent that organic production makes use of breeds (or grades) yielding a higher concentration of milk solids than the industrial
Holstein, the disparity would be further reduced.
GHG Output
Similarly, Dr Capper purports to demonstrate that
2007 has a smaller carbon footprint per kg of milk
than 1944 (1.35 versus 3.66 in CO2 equivalents).
As with my reasoning above, the two production
systems are not compared on an equal basis, and for
the same reasons. Unfortunately, Dr Capper chose
to overlook the work of Dr David Pimentel of the
Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
who has published extensively in the peer-reviewed
literature on the environmental impact of agriculture. Among his conclusions are that organic corn
and soy production uses 30% less fossil energy,
conserves more resources and has a smaller carbon
footprint than conventional systems. In addition, organically managed soils sequester more carbon.
To make al of this clearer, let us consider another
analogy. Assume that the leading manufacturer of
electronic keyboard musical instruments desires to

Comparisons of current agricultural energy use versus that in 1944 can be tricky.
Whereas most energy in 1944 was produced on farm, most now is bought in.
Costs of off farm production, processing, marketing and transportation
must be factored in for a fair comparison to be made.
This is often ignored, making current practices look far too rosy.
increase its sales over its major acoustic (non-electronic) competitor, the piano. The person heading
the marketing division feels that an opportunity to
accomplish this exists with the environmentallyconscious musician, and that he could prove that his
product is more energy efficient and has a smaller
carbon footprint. However, he wants to avoid going
head to head with Steinway or Baldwin and decides
instead to compare his factory product with the
Flemish harpsichord of the 17th century (mind you,
I have nothing against the harpsichord; I myself
actually own and play one). So he sets up his equations, and examines the energy required to select
and process the wood from a tree near Antwerp,
hand-craft each part, and assemble the instrument.
Assume also that he does a similar calculation for
the emissions of GHG. Similar calculations are
undertaken for his electronic keyboard factory in
Korea. Then, he compares these two sets of numbers with the output: in this case the volume (that
is, the decibel level) of sound produced by the two
instruments. Finally, he initiates a media campaign
stating that he has proven scientifically that an electronic keyboard is more energy efficient to make
and has a smaller carbon footprint than an acoustic
instrument. But wait: all of the energy/GHG was
captured in the harpsichord data, but the factory
data did not include the energy or GHG emissions
involved in the mining, manufacture and transportation of the various metals, silicon chips, and plastics
that went into the electronic instrument. And what
does the harpsichord data really tell me about the
manufacture of a modern piano anyway? Finally, is
the decibel output more important than the nuances
of musics dynamics and harmonic overtones? Am
I, as a musician and a listener, more interested in the
physical impact of music on my ear than its nourishment of my soul?
It is clear to me that Dr Capper is peddling junk science and she doubtless knows better. So, what is
going on here? The answer lies with the co-authors
of her paper: Drs Dale Bauman and Roger Cady.
Jude Capper is a young post-doc and protg of
these two veteran advocates of biotech agriculture.
Since 1990, Baumans research at Cornell has been
funded by the biotech giant, Monsanto. In fact, his
name is quite familiar to me as one of the primary
early proponents of recombinant bovine growth
hormone (Monsantos Posilac), about which I wrote
in the pages of NOFA-NY News some 14 years
ago. His findings attesting to the safety of rBGH
for cows and human consumers have been refuted
by later research. During this period, Bauman was
a paid consultant to Monsanto. Roger Cady is a
former technical project manager for Monsanto,

and now works for the food animal pharmaceutical

corporation Elanco which, by the way, now makes
Posilac. So, these authors have past and present
financial ties to the multinational biotech industry
which, in my view, is a conflict of interest and biases their research. Dr Cappers recent publications
are part of an ongoing disinformation campaign by
that industry and its shills in academia and the mainstream American media to discredit organic and locally-produced food in favor of factory farming.

These shills also pervade the upper echelons of government. While Michele Obama plants an organic
garden on the White House grounds, her husband
appoints Tom Vilsack to head the USDA, the man
who once worked for a lobbying law firm for biotech corporations and later received the Governor
of the Year Award from their trade association. To
make matters more obvious, Monsanto recently appointed Jerry Crawford as its lobbyist, a Des Moines
lawyer who is Vilsacks top fundraiser, top donor
and longtime confidant. Also, consider Michael
Taylor, JD who has been dancing through revolving
doors for years: the FDA, Monsanto and the USDA.
In 1994, when in the FDA Food Safety Inspection
Service, he deregulated and privatized the inspection process and successfully had E. coli reclassified
as an adulterant to circumvent congressional oversight. Since 2000, he has published research advocating a risk-based approach to food safety, which
utilizes hi-tech fixes to treat E. coli contaminated
food rather than attack the problem at the source
(concentrated animal feeding operations). Last July,
Taylor was once again appointed to the FDA where
he will coordinate the implementation of whatever
food safety legislation is passed by Congress. So, if
Jude Capper and her ilk can drive a wedge between
the environmentally minded consumer and organic/
local farmers, the likes of Vilsack and Taylor will
follow in train, transforming the biased science
into new regulations and policies that will consolidate the market power of the their corporate sponsors.

Let me conclude with one of my favorite quotes
from Rachel Carson which is as relevant to this issue as it was to the struggle against the use of DDT:
As you listen to the present controversy about
pesticides, I recommend that you ask yourself: Who
speaks? And Why?

Basil Tangredi had a predominantly holoistic veterinary practice in New York for 30 years and his
small vegetable farm was NOFA certified from
1989-1999. He now lives in Vermont and teaches at
Green Mountain College.


NOFA Contact People


CT NOFA Office: P O Box 164, Stevenson, CT

06491, phone (203) 888-5146, FAX (203) 888-9280,
Email:, website:
Executive Director: Bill Duesing, Box 164,
Stevenson, CT 06491, 203-888-5146, 203 888-9280
Office Manager/Webmaster: Deb Legge, PO Box
164, Stevenson, CT 06491,, 203888-5146
NOFA Project Coordinator, Organic Land Care
Program, Clara Buitrago, PO Box 164, Stevenson,
CT 06491,, 203-8885146
CT NOFA Program Coordinator, Teresa Mucci, PO
Box 164, Stevenson, CT 06491,,
President: James Roby, P.O Box 191, 1667 Orchard
Road, Berlin, CT 06037, 860-828-5548, 860-8818031 (C),
Vice President: Elizabeth Fleming, 54 Four Mile
Road, West Hartford, CT 06107-2709, 860-5614907,
Treasurer: Ron Capozzi, 69R Meetinghouse Hill
Road, Durham, CT 06422-2808, 860-349-1417,
Secretary: Chris Killheffer, 112 Bishop Street, New
Haven, CT 06511-7307, 203-787-0072, Christopher.
Farmers Pledge Program: Contact the office.
Organic Land Care Program Manager: Ashley
Kremser, PO Box 164, Stevenson, CT 06491,, 203-888-5146
Organic Land Care Accreditation Manager: Clara
Buitrago, PO Box 164, Stevenson, CT 06491,, 203-888-5146
Bookkeeper: Marion Griswold, PO Box 164,
Stevenson, CT 06491,, 203888-5146


President: Lynda Simkins, Natick Community

Organic Farm, 117 Eliot Street, South Natick,
MA 01760, (508) 655-2204, lsimkins.ncorganic@
Vice President, Leslie Cox, Hampshire College
Farm, Amherst, MA 01002 (413) 530-2029, lcox@
Secretary: Elizabeth Coe, 13 Hickory Hill Road,
Great Barrington, MA 01230, (413) 528-6567,
Treasurer: Jean-Claude Bourrut, 31 Parkton Road
#1, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130, (617) 983-1417,
Executive Director and NOFA Summer Conference
Coordinator: Julie Rawson, 411 Sheldon Road,
Barre, MA 01005 (978) 355-2853, fax: (978) 3554046,
Administrative Director: Kathleen Geary, 411
Sheldon Road, Barre, MA 01005, 978-355-2853
(Mondays & Thursdays, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm), email
anytime to:
Webmaster: David Pontius, 26 School Street,
Northfield, MA 01360, (413) 498-2721,
Winter Conference Coordinator: Jassy Bratko, 28
High Street, Hubbardston, MA 01452, (978) 9285646,
Newsletter Editor/Public Relations Coordinator:
Mindy Harris, 110 Kodiak Way #2825, Waltham,
MA 02145, (310) 663-0054,
Baystate Organic Certifiers Administrator: Don
Franczyk, 1220 Cedarwood Circle, Dighton, MA
02764, (774) 872-5544, baystateorganic@earthlink.
net, website:

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0

The Natural Farmer

New Hampshire

President: Jack Mastrianni, 277 Holden Hill

Road, Langdon, NH 03602, (603) 835-6488,
Vice President: Joan OConnor, PO Box 387,
Henniker, NH 03242, (603) 428-3530, joconnornh@
Treasurer: Paul Mercier, Jr., 39 Cambridge Drive,
Canterbury, NH 03224, (603) 783-0036, pjm@
Program Coordinator: Elizabeth Obelenus, NOFA/
NH Office, 4 Park St., Suite 208, Concord, NH
03301, (603) 224-5022,
Business Manager and Local and Organic Foods
Project Coordinator: Barbara Sullivan, 72 Gilford
Ave, Laconia, NH 03246, (603) 524-1285
Newsletter Editor: Karen Booker, 44 Prospect
St., Contoocook, NH 03229, (603) 746-3656,
Bulk Order Coordinator Jennifer Quinlivan, P.O.
Box 92, Strafford, NH 03884, (603) 269-0063,
(603) 731-1182
Organic Certification: Vickie Smith, NH Department
of Agriculture, Markets & Food, Division of
Regulatory Services, Caller Box 2042, Concord,
NH 03301 (603) 271-3685,,

Food Justice Coordinator: Kristina Keefe-Perry,

(585) 271-1979, fax: (585) 271-7166, Kristina@
Organic Research Consultant: Elizabeth Dyck, (607)
Newsletter Editor: Fern Marshall Bradley, (518)
President: Scott Chaskey, Quail Hill Community
Farm, PO Box 1268, Amagansett, NY 11930-1268,
(631) 267-8942,
Vice President: Gunther Fishgold, Tierra Farm, 2424
State Rte 203, Valatie, NY 12184, (888) 674-6887,
Treasurer: Karen Livingston, 2569 Rolling Hills
Rd, Camillus, NY 13031, (315) 672-5244, delv11@
Secretary: Jamie Edelstein, 3745 Allen Rd, Cato,
NY 13214, (315) 427-8266, wylliefox@earthlink.

Rhode Island

President: Erik Eacker, Ledge Ends Produce, 830

South Road, East Greenwich, RI 02818 (401) 8845118,
Vice-President:Nicole Vitello, Manic Organic, PO
Box 425, Portsmouth, RI 02871 (401) 480-1403,
Secretary: Dave Binkley 53 Hilltop Drive West
Kingston, RI 02892 (401) 667-0585, binkled@
Treasurer/Membership: Dan Lawton, 247 Evans
Road Chepachet, RI 02814, (401) 523-2653
Executive Directors: Michelle (Shelly) Glenn, 334
River Road, Hillsborough, NJ 08844, 908-371-1111 NOFA/RI, 247 Evans Road Chepachet, RI 02814,
(401) 523-2653,
x 2,
and David Glenn, 334 River Road, Hillsborough, NJ website:
08844, 908-371-1111 x 6,
President: Donna Drewes, Municipal Land Use
Center, TCNJ, PO Box 7718 McCauley House,
Ewing, NJ 08628, (609) 771-2833, Email:
NOFA-VT Office, PO Box 697, 39 Bridge St.,
Richmond, VT 05477 (802) 434-4122 NOFA, (802)
Vice President: Stephanie Harris, 163 Hopewell434-3821 VOF, Fax: (802) 434-4154, website:
Wertsville Rd., Hopewell, NJ 08525, (609),
0194, Email:
Executive Director: Enid Wonnacott, enid@nofavt.
Treasurer: David Earling, Gravity Hill Farm 22
River Road Titusville, NJ 08560 (609) 737 8860
Financial Manager: Kirsten Novak Bower, kirsten@
Secretary: Marcia Blackwell, Blackwells Organic
323 Liberty St., Long Branch, NJ 07740 732-229- NOFA VT Education Coordinator & VT FEED
Director: Abbie Nelson,
Supervisor, Organic Certification Program: Erich V. Dairy & Livestock Administrator: Sam Fuller,
Bremer, NJ Dept. of Agriculture, 369 S. Warren St.,
Trenton, NJ 08625-0330, (609) 984-2225, fax: (609) Dairy & Livestock Advisor & Policy Advisor:
David Rogers,
341-3212 Email:
Dairy & Livestock Advisor: Willie Gibson, willie@
Administrative Coordinator: Connie Deetz, 334
River Road, Hillsborough, NJ 08844, (908) 371Community Food Security & Direct Marketing
1111 x101, Fax (908) 371-1441 General Request
Coordinator: Jean Hamilton,
Emails: Email: cdeetz@
Office Assistant and Share the Harvest Fundraiser,
Coordinator: Becca Weiss,
Education and Outreach Coordinator: TBA soon!
Office Manager:
Outreach Coordinator: Caitlin Gildrien, Caitlin@
Vegetable & Fruit TA Coordinator: Wendy Sue
NOFA New York Offices: NY Office: 249 Highland Winter Conference Coordinator: Olga Boshart
Ave, Rochester, NY 14620, Phone: 585-271-1979,
VT FEED Administrative Manager: Elizabeth
Fax: 585-271-7166; Certified Organic, LLC Office:
840 Front St, Binghamton, NY 13905, (607) 724VOF Administrator: Nicole Dehne, nicole@nofavt.
9851, fax: (607) 724-9853, Website: www.nofany.
VOF Certification Specialist: Cheryl Bruce,
Executive Director: Kate Mendenhall, (585)
1979, fax: (585) 271-7166,
VOF Certification Specialist: Gregg Stevens,
Organic Certification Director: Carol King, (607)
724-9851, fax: (607) 724-9853, certifiedorganic@
VOF Assistant: Laura Nunziata,
Assistant Director: Lea Kone, (585) 271-1979, fax:
(585) 271-7166,
Education & Outreach Coordinator: Matt Robinson,
(585) 271-1979, fax: (585) 271-7166, Matt@nofany.
Business Manager: Michelle Prohov, (585) 2711979, fax: (585) 271-7166
Farmer Educator: Robert Perry, (585) 271-1979,
fax: (585) 271-7166

New Jersey


New York

S u m m e r, 2 0 1 0


* indicates voting representative

* Bill Duesing, President, Staff, Box 135,
Stevenson, CT, 06491, (203) 888-5146, fax, (203)
888- 9280,
Kimberly A. Stoner, 498 Oak Ave. #27, Cheshire,
CT 06410-3021, (203) 271-1732 (home), Email:
* Leslie Cox, Hampshire College Farm, Amherst,
MA 01002, 413-530-2029,
Elizabeth Obelenus, 22 Keyser Road, Meredith. NH
03253, (603) 279-6146,
* Jack Mastrianni, Treasurer, 277 Holden Hill
Road, Langdon, NH 03602, (603) 835-6488,
* Steve Gilman, Ruckytucks Farm, 130 Ruckytucks
Road, Stillwater, NY 12170 (518) 583-4613,
* Elizabeth Henderson, 2218 Welcher Rd.,
Newark, NY 14513 (315) 331-9029 ehendrsn@
* Dan Lawton, 247 Evans Road Chepachet, RI
02814 (401) 949-1596
* Nicole Vitello, Manic Organic, PO Box 425,
Portsmouth, RI 02871 (401) 480-1403, Nicole@
* Enid Wonnacott, 478 Salvas Rd., Huntington, VT
05462 (802) 434-4435,
Kirsten Novak Bower, 65 Wortheim Ln., Richmond,
VT 05477 (802) 434-5420,
David Pontius, Webmaster, 26 School Street,
Northfield, MA 01360, (413) 498-2721, Email:
Jack Kittredge and * Julie Rawson, The Natural
Farmer, NOFA Summer Conference, 411 Sheldon
Rd., Barre, MA 01005 (978) 355-2853, Jack, tnf@,
Marion Griswold, Bookkeeper, 30 Hollow Rd.,
Woodbury, CT 06798, (203) 263-2221, marion@


The Natural Farmer

Monday, June 7: IPM for Organic Greenhouse

Bedding Plants. Hinesburg VT, for more info:

Friday, June 11 Sunday, June 13: Dowsers

Convention, Lyndonville, VT, for more info: www.
Saturday, June 12: Dairy Field Day, Hardwick,
MA, for more info:


Organic Gardening Classes, Hillsborough, NJ

Saturday, June 12: Feeling the Chill? Time to
start your Fall Garden!
Saturday,July 10: Managing your Weeds &
Saturday, August 14: Seed Saving and Seed
Saturday, September 11: Fall into Garlic &
Season Extenders
for more info: and click
Agriculture Programs

Wednesday, June 16: Timing Sweet Corn Plantings Pfeiffer Center Courses, Chestnut Ridge, NY
and Farm Tour, Starksboro VT. for more info:
Saturday, June 19: Summer Organic Beekeeping
Sunday, June 20: Apitherapy: Health and Healing
from the Hive
The two long weekends ofJuly 8-11 and October Saturday, July 17: Continuing the Vegetable
21-24: The Permaculture 8-Day Design Certificate Garden
Course, Hillsborough,NJ, for more info: www.
Saturday, August 7: from Garden to Table, or 908-371-1111 extension 3.
September 30 - October 2, 2010: Biodynamic

Farming and Gardening Association national

Saturday, July 10: Backyard Poultry Workshop
conference in Chestnut Ridge, NY.
Day, various Massachusetts locations, for more info: September, 2010 - June, 2011: One-year Part time Training in Biodynamics
for more info: 845-352-5020 / info@pfeiffercenter.
org /
Saturday, August 7: CT NOFA City Farm &
Garden Tour, New Haven, CT, for more info:
RICRAFT workshops
Sunday, June 27th: Integrating Animal
Production into a Diversified Farm, Rosasharn
Friday, August 13: 2010 New England Raw
Milk Symposium, UMass Campus, Amherst,
Sunday, July 11th: Soil Fertility with Erik at
Ledge Ends
Cape Cod Lounge, Student Union, for more info:
Thursday, July 15th: Urban Farming and
Herbalism with Farmacy Herbs.
Sunday, August 8th: Rotational Grazing at
Friday, August 13 Sunday, August 15: NOFA
Simmons Farm
Summer Conference, Amherst, MA, for more info: Sunday, August 22nd: Weed Control and,, or 978-355-2853 Cultivating Equipment with Skip Paul
Sunday, August 29th: Moonstone Gardens
Saturday, September 18: NOFA/Mass Fall Bulk
Sunday, September 12th: Growing Big Volumes
Order Pick-up, various locations, for more info:
on Small Acreage, City Farm
Sunday, September 19th: Bed Prep without a
Tractor: Permanent Beds and Clover Paths with
2010 NJ Summer Twilight Meetings
Red Planet
Thursday, June 10: Organic Systems Plan and
Sunday, October 3rd: Growing seed at Scratch
Farm Tour, Pedricktown, NJ
Thursday, July 8: USDA-NRCS Funded Drip
November: Winter growing at Roots Farm
Irrigation System, Asbury, NJ
These workshops will be held at local farms, for
Wednesday, August 11: The Benefits of Sunn
more info: Katie Miller atkatie.miller@gmail.
Hemp Cover Cropping, Blairstown, NJ
com(preferred) or call NOFA/RI at (401) 523for more info: 908-371-1111, or

NOFA Membership

You may join NOFA by joining one of the seven state

chapters. Contact the person listed below for your
state. Dues, which help pay for the important work of
the organization, vary from chapter to chapter. Unless
noted, membership includes a subscription to The
Natural Farmer.

New Jersey: Student/Intern $20*, Individual $40*,

Family/Farm $70*, Business/Organization $150*,
$10 additional per year for subscription to The
Natural Farmer
Contact: 334 River Road, Hillsborough, NJ
08844, (908) 371-1111 or join at

Give a NOFA Membership! Send dues for a friend

or relative to his or her state chapter and give a
membership in one of the most active grassroots
organizations in the state.

New York: Limited Membership $20*, Individual

$40, Family/Farm/Nonprofit Organization $50,
Business $115,
Contact: Mayra Richter, NOFA-NY, PO Box 880,
Cobleskill, NY 12043, Voice (607) 652-NOFA,
Fax: (607) 652-2290, email:,

Connecticut: Individual $35, Family $50, Business/

Institution $100, Supporting $150, Student/Senior
$25, Working $20
Contact: CT NOFA, Box 164, Stevenson, CT 06491,
(203)-888-5146, or email: or join
on the web at
Massachusetts: Low-Income $25, Individual $35,
Family/Farm/Organization $45, Business $75,
Supporting $150
Contact: NOFA/Mass, 411 Sheldon Road, Barre, MA
01005, (978) 355-2853, or membership@nofamass.
org or join on the web at
New Hampshire: Individual: $30, Student: $23,
Family: $40, Sponsor: $100, Basic $20*
Contact: Elizabeth Obelenus, 4 Park St., Suite 208,
Concord, NH 03301, (603) 224-5022, info@nofanh.

Rhode Island: Student/Senior: $20, Individual: $25,

Family $35, Business $50
Contact: Membership, NOFA RI, c/o Dan Lawton,
247 Evans Road, Chepachet, RI 02814, (401) 5232653,
Vermont: Individual $30, Farm/Family $40,
Business $50, Sponsor $100, Sustainer $250, Basic
Contact: NOFA-VT, PO Box 697, Richmond, VT
05477, (802) 434-4122,
*does not include a subscription to The Natural

Thanks for joining and helping support organic agriculture! Choose Your Chapter & Membership Level:

I would like to become a member of the


__________________________ state chapter


Sign me up as this kind of member:

City__________________________ State____ Zip_________


Phone_____________________ Country_________________

My annual membership dues are: $________

o farmer o gardener o homesteader o thoughtful eater
Please send this completed form to the sppropriate state chapter

(enclose check made payable to the state chapter)

o Do NOT share my address with other

organizations. Thank you!

Non-Profit Organization
U. S. Postage Paid
Barre, MA 01005
Permit No. 28

NOFA Education Fund

411 Sheldon Rd.
Barre, MA 01005

Small Farms & Government Regulation

photo by Jack Kittredge


Dairy farmers, consumers, and food advocates all rally in May on the Boston Common in support of
regulatory changes which would allow easier access to raw milk. Suzanne, a Jersey brought by
Framingham dairyman Doug Stephens, provided the wherewithal for a milk-in. This issue contains
news, features, and articles about organic growing in the Northeast, plus a special supplement on

Summer, 2010