Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's Time to Rethink the Aluminum Can

Organic Advocate
By Bill Duesing

Each week Americans toss roughly a billion aluminum cans into the landfill and roughly another billion into the recycling bin.

Our country should be leading the way toward a more livable future, but with our profligate energy and resource use, we are leading in the opposite direction.

Americans use more energy per capita than residents of any country except Canada and several small, Middle East oil producers.  Based on 2011 numbers each American uses almost 50 percent more energy than the average Russian, almost twice as much as the French, Germans and Japanese, over twice as much as the British and Italians and three times as much as the Chinese.  We use 11 times what the average Indian uses and 34 times a Bangladeshi's daily energy use!

Yet, we all have roughly the same basic needs and live on the same planet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Food and the Environment

By Bill Duesing

Should we take the environment into consideration when we eat? 


That is a very critical question because crises with both food and the environment loom large as we look ahead to the New Year and beyond.
Food and the environment are intimately linked.  Food comes from the environment. How we grow food has environmental consequences.  They can be, and currently are, very serious. 

The good news is that recent research and traditional knowledge point to ways of growing and eating that produce health both for the environment and for people.
For the first time ever, the advisory committee charged with creating the 2015 version of USDA's Dietary Guidelines was considering including environmental costs in writing those guidelines. Sounds like a good idea to me.  But not to everyone.

Language slipped into the Cromnibus Bill, that massive piece of legislation (a.k.a., the agreement) that Congress cobbled together quickly (!) and passed in December to keep the government running, squashed any hope of connecting food choices with environmental consequences:

... The agreement directs the Secretary to only include nutrition and dietary information, not extraneous factors, in the final 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Those extraneous factors are identified in the bill language as "agriculture production practices and environmental factors." Note 1.  
Biodiversity loss, the nitrogen cycle and climate change are the three earth vital signs that are way outside the safe zone.  All are directly caused by the industrial approach to agriculture, especially synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and herbicides.  An increase in any of the three makes the others worse.

If the government can't tell us about how our food choices effect the environment, we inherit that responsibility. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Organic Farming and the Age of the "Locavore" Movement- Getting Started in Organic Farming 2015

With 2014 coming to a close, it is time to look at what educational opportunities CT NOFA is offering in the new year!

On January 24th CT NOFA will be heading to Connecticut College for the 10th annual Getting Started in Organic Farming Conference where there will be a ah-mazing line up of speakers to motivate attendees to start their careers in organic agriculture. 


Organic Farming and the Age of the "Locavore" Movement
Presented by Patrick Horan, Waldingfield Farm


A discussion about the "locavore" movement , and how organic food production was a principle reason for the local food movement's rise in the Northeast. But cost of production and the availability of locally produced conventional product has made it increasingly difficult to survive. How do we survive?

Patrick has been working at Waldingfield full time since 2006. He is responsible for all marketing, sales, and operations, as well as day to day farming duties. He and wife and son, Suzie and Griffin, divide their time between Brooklyn, NY, and Washington. CT.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Winter Conference Teaser: Improving Food Access, Raised Bed Gardens and Seed Saving!

The Winter Conference is 3 1/2 months away!

We will begin counting down to CT NOFA's largest celebration of local and organic food, farming and community with a glimpse into to line-up each week showcasing a few workshops we have recently announced.  







Improving Food Access Through Farmers Markets, CSAs, and Mobile MarketsDan Gregory & Pauline Zaldonis
"In this workshop, we will give an overview of Hartford Food System's efforts to improve food access in the City of Hartford. We will also go over various low-income inclusive CSA models and how to increase market revenue by accessing state and federal initiatives such as SNAP, WIC, and FMNP."


Dan Gregory is the farm manager for the urban farm, Grow Hartford. The farm offers subsidized low-income CSA shares and sells at local farmers markets in Hartford. Pauline Zaldonis is the program coordinator of the Hartford Mobile Market and policy analyst for Hartford Food System.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Food Safety Modernization Act, Round 2; Your comments are critical, again!

By Bill Duesing 

Both organic and conventional foods can be a source of food poisoning outbreaks. However, in an organic system, theres a much higher level of microbial biodiversity, so there are more naturally beneficial microbes in the system and soil.

Studies show that when you introduce pathogens into an organic system, they often dont survive very long because the biologically rich community of organisms thats naturally there either competes effectively with them or uses them for lunch.
 -Charles Benbrook, a research professor at Washington State Universitys Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources in Pullman.

We all want our food to be "safe."  We expect those mixed greens we buy for our salads to be free of microbes that could make us sick.  That's the case whether we pick up a plastic package of conventional mesclun which comes from the other side of the country or our organic CSA share, freshly mixed from produce of several neighboring farms. *(See #2 below.)

In September, as part of its implementation of the Food SafetyModernization Act (FSMA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued the second versions of the two Rules which apply to fresh fruits and vegetables which are normally eaten raw.  The Produce Rule applies to farms.  The Preventative Controls Rule applies to facilities which process food.  In the rules there are many references to RACs.  Those are raw agricultural commodities. The extensive Table 1 in the appendix lists all the different things that are done to RACs and whether they are classified as harvest activities or processing activities.

FDA will accept comments from farmers, eaters, handlers and researchers on these new versions until December 15, 2014. Your comments are critically important.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Journeyperson Check-in: Allyson Angelini at Full Heart Farm *WinterShare*

Full Heart Farm is excited to be wrapping up our third growing season and begin planning for 2015!

The 2014 growing season produced our best harvest yet -  an abundance of vegetables, pasture-raised chicken + eggs, and pork.  We continued to provide dinner ingredients for the  50+ families that support our farm through our MemberShare Program, and are incredibly grateful for the community that surrounds the farm.  Our main harvest season is 26 weeks (six months straight!), with a smaller WinterShare program that completes the year.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fueling up in Cheyenne, Wyoming


An array of fueling options at a gas station in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Even the gasoline contains a corn product-it is 10 percent ethanol.
The wastes from making ethanol are fed to
beef and dairy cows, pigs and chickens.
Fueling up in Cheyenne, Wyoming
By Bill Duesing

The American way of eating is shaped more by the availability of low-cost fossil fuels and government crop and other subsidies than it is by nutrition, health or flavor.

I took the photo above while buying gasoline at a station in Cheyenne, Wyoming this summer. This array is an example of the ubiquitous advertising for these kinds of foods: ground beef sandwiches, often with bacon and/or cheese or processed hot dogs on white bread buns. (For the chicken nuggets, their wheat breading is the bun equivalent.)

It also made me think about the health consequences of eating this kind of food: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, sore joints, heart disease, cancer and possibly even schizophrenia!

Why are foods that may cause so much damage so heavily advertised? A rhetorical question really. The answer: profit.  Much of that profit comes because food industry accounting doesn't include many significant costs.  Health care costs are not included.   The illnesses above, and the foods that cause them, are responsible for millions of dollars in health costs.