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Week of May 5-May 12 Michigan Organic Farmers’ FYI Listserv update

Here is a list of what is included: Scroll down to read full story.

  • Couple says herbicide polluted their land-in Saginaw County

 

  • WEED CONTROL INNOVATIONS IN MIXED VEGETABLE PRODUCTION-In Lodi, NY

 

  • Farming ventures share risk, bounty-Titus family in Ingham county

 

  • Organic Food and Farming 2006 Background Statistics-in U.S.

 

 

 

  • ALERT: FREE THOUSANDS OF AMERICA’S ORGANIC COWS FROM INTENSIVE CONFINEMENT

 

  • HORIZON AND AURORA BANNED IN CO-OPS

 

 

05/06/2006

Couple says herbicide polluted their land

[log in to unmask]">Josh Grosteffon , Midland Daily News

 

    A lawsuit has been filed in Saginaw County Circuit Court concerning the alleged misuse of weed control chemicals by The Daltons of Indiana Inc. during roadside spraying in Saginaw County.

     Marilyn and Ronald Pokrak of Saginaw County's Taymouth Township allege the company oversprayed the Dow AgroSciences chemical Tordon K, active ingredient picloram, while performing chemical roadside brush control throughout Saginaw County. The lawsuit also alleges various other violations, including the spraying in wetlands. There are 16 counts in all.

    The lawsuit also names the Saginaw County Road Commission and specific Michigan Department of Agriculture employees, including Director Mitch Irwin, as defendants.

    The lawsuit alleges that, because of the overspraying by Daltons, the chemicals entered the Pokraks' water table and cost them a chance to obtain certified organic farm status. The Pokraks are seeking damages related to their property and well-being. They also want "a stop to this pollution of our land and waters," the lawsuit states.

    Two separate MDA reports show Daltons workers committed state violations while performing the application near the Pokraks' property on Bell Road in Saginaw County.

    In an investigation prompted by a complaint dated July 19, 2002, an MDA investigator found that Daltons did not keep proper records of where they sprayed, as regulations require. The report relates to the company's 2002 applications of picloram and metsulfrom methyl. The complaint states that 20- to 30-foot trees were killed by roadside sprayings. An inspector found no evidence of taller trees killed by the sprayings.

    In another report responding to a complaint filed by the Pokraks in 2005, the Pokraks stated their property was sprayed again, killing trees and brush past the 33-foot road right of way.

    In the ensuing investigation, an MDA inspector found Daltons had sprayed with Tordon K at twice the rate called for on the label, and that the company did not properly advertise the active ingredients in the legal section of a local newspaper as state law requires.

    Tordon K's label calls for two quarts of chemical per acre. Application records showed areas of up to four gallons per acre in the sprayings. The spraying had occurred in September of 2004.

    In the report, Marilyn Pokrak said she had "no-spray" signs posted. The signs were from the Saginaw County mosquito abatement program and not the road commission, the report stated.

    Midland attorney Jack Pulley is handling the case for the Pokraks. Dalton Inc. has worked in Midland County for the road commission in the past, but not since 1996, said superintendent Jim Young.

    It also has done work in Isabella County. The lawsuit states it has worked in 30 to 40 other Michigan counties.

    Midland County will take part in roadside brush control this year, but has not awarded the contract. Last year, work was done by Owens Tree Service.

    Saginaw County Road Commission Engineer/Manager James Lehman said the commission was reviewing the suit before turning it over to attorneys. As of now Daltons are scheduled to spray this year, Lehman said.

    Calls made to Dalton headquarters in Warsaw, Ind. and the Michigan Department of Agriculture were not returned for comment Friday afternoon.

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WEED CONTROL INNOVATIONS IN MIXED VEGETABLE PRODUCTION

Lou Johns, Blue Heron Farms, Lodi, NY

 

My name is Lou Johns. I took up organic truck farming a few years after finishing school in 1981 with my partner Robin Ostfeld, near Chehalis Washington. We moved to our current residence and farm in Lodi, New York in 1987 where we grow 10 to 12 acres of certified organic vegetables and strawberries for fresh market sales in the Ithaca  New York area (at the city's farmers market and one retail store, plus a few local restaurants) and two wholesale accounts in New York City

 

Our farm operation consists of 10 - 12 acres of permanently bedded fields on moderately sloping land on the eastern side of Seneca Lake. The soils here are shallow silt and clay loams under laid with clay and silts from decomposing shale (our bedrock).  Glacially deposited granite stones 2-6 inches in diameter float freely and plentifully in the topsoil. In addition to these acres of cropped beds we manage another 5 acres in fallow fields or old beds as part of a rotation plan We have two 24X48 plastic skinned propane heated greenhouses that are used for both in-ground cropping (mostly early spring salad mix and greens) and transplant production.  We have also been playing around with fall lily growing in them the last two years, pretty flowers but the jury's still out on their profitability. Two 14X72 high tunnels (unheated) are used for more season extension growing usually salad mix and greens and early tomatoes

 

Our growing season starts in mid to late February (in the greenhouses) and runs through mid December.  Our marketing season last year round, or very close to it.  We have developed refrigerated facilities on the farm to handle the wide range of root crops and other storage crops we grow specifically for sales in the  "off" season.  In addition to our few wholesale accounts that we continue to supply throughout the  winter we operate a winter time CSA offering customers a box of produce every two weeks during the months of January, February, and March (the months when the Ithaca Farmers Market is closed)

 

Weed Management through cultivation.  Our current strategies include:

 

Cover cropping: fall planted rye vetch, over-wintered, mowed repeatedly in spring then tilled in as ground is needed for spring planting.  Spring planted oat pea mix, mowed once then tilled in for main season and fall cropping.  Late spring planted buckwheat, mowed once and tilled in for late summer and fall planting.

 

Transplanting: used instead of direct seeding and thinning.  This allows for an additional full tillage before setting plants in the field

 

Tractor mounted cultivators: we use a Farmall 350 with belly-mounted beet and bean knives for early  (1st and 2nd cultivations), a Ford 1710 offset tractor with belly mounted wide sweeps is used for 3rd and 4th cultivations. This routine is used in our 4-row planting schemes (4 rows on 16-inch centers on a 6-foot wide permanent planting bed).   The beet and bean knives are set to work either side of the planted row  (in both direct seeded and transplanted crops) and the between row space.  The sweeps on the 1710 are set to run only in the space between the rows where they disturb some soil next to the crop row and move soil toward the row.  Some of our cropping is done in a two-row scheme on the same 6 foot wide bed at 36 inch spacing, with these crops we use rear mounted 3 point hitch cultivators, Lilliston rolling spider gangs are used for early passes, these allow for moving dirt into the planted row while uprooting weeds.  Later weed control is done with older Ferguson type C shank cultivators set to run between and outside the rows or in the case of potatoes large sweep type hillers are used

 

Hand and hoe weeding: most crops are hand weeded at least once during their season; some crops mostly those set out as transplants will be hoed using long handled garden hoes.  This work is done primarily for in-row weeding and is often incorporated into hand thinning of some crops (turnips and rutabaga)

 

Full width tillage: we use a 6 foot tractor- mounted rotovator as our primary tillage implement for compost and cover crop incorporating and use it as a secondary tillage tool for seed bed preparation. An attempt is made to create a somewhat stale seedbed by tilling in a weed germination just before planting a crop.

 

Comments on the practical application of these strategies:  With our two-person management team (my partner, Robin and me), the size and diverse nature of our cropping, and the seasonal and generally inexperienced nature of our labor force, the time available for tractor work is limited.  This often causes problems with timing of tillage and cultivation, which can lead to weed crops becoming more established in the planted crop than desired.  Our growing seasons might be characterized as managed chaos with weekly routines of marketing giving it some balance.  The weather always plays a heavy-handed role in our operation, delaying or advancing planting schedules, interrupting field preparation, slowing or accelerating crop maturity and harvest (true for planted crops and weeds), forcing time demands towards irrigation operations and away from other scheduled operations such as tilling, cultivation, or hand weeding work. 

 

The growing seasons also have their regularities regardless of their individual nature; in reference to weeds, spring (mid March to early June) is relatively weed free, summer (June thru early September) is our weed season, and fall (September thru mid December) is weeding free and focused mainly on harvesting but includes cover cropping when time and weather allows.  Weed management decisions can run the gamut, from total abandonment of a planted crop (only in newly emerged direct seeded crops) to well managed rows of crops cultivated timely and needing little hand work.   The former decision, that of abandonment, can be just as important as the one that got you to the latter scenario, one has to constantly be evaluating many factors and some times starting over can be the best choice out the many options confronting you (though replanting is not really starting over, you still have all you seed bed preparations done and by tilling in a harsh flush of weeds you won't be trying to cultivate and/or hand weed them later).  Lastly, weed management in a diverse vegetable operation is one of a host of management issues that the farmer must juggle throughout the season, as you may have gathered, some of your choices will play out in your favor and some will try your soul, weeds are to be lived with.

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Farming ventures share risk, bounty

Growing movement picks up in Livingston

Source:  Heather Ashare / Special to The Detroit News 5/8/06

 

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Ricardo Thomas / The Detroit News

Paul and Rose Titus plant leaf lettuce on their Ingham County farm. Their farm is among about 70 in the state to participate in Community Supported Agriculture, which sells shares in harvests to consumers. [log in to unmask]" alt=go>See full image

Going to market

Howell Farmers' Market
Open: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, May 7-Oct. 29
Where: State Street, downtown Howell
Call: (517) 546-3920
Brighton Farmers' Market
Open: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, May 6-Oct.28
Where: Cedar Street, downtown Brighton
Call: (810) 227-5086
Hartland Farmers' Market
Open: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, May 6-Oct. 28
Where: Hartland Educational Support Service Center, 9525 Highland Road
Call: (810) 632-7498, Ext. 24

 

HOWELL -- Paul and Rose Titus are a husband-and-wife team who own a 40-acre farm, where they grow the typical fare of carrots, sweet corn, beans and other produce as well as dozens of varieties of flowers. The couple earns a respectable living by selling their harvests at local farmers' markets throughout Ingham County, but it isn't easy.

Farming can be risky business, and with the growing number of farms in the county and state shrinking, the Tituses have found a way to ensure a successful season. The couple has become members of Community Supported Agriculture, a national program that has been gaining momentum across the state. Without the support of the CSA program, the Tituses, who both grew up on farms, said they would struggle to make it in the farming business.

"With the rise in gas prices and as my husband and I are getting older, we needed to do something," said Rose Titus, 60. "CSA is a great solution for us and for our customers."

CSA allows customers or members to buy shares from a farmer's crop and in turn, receive weekly fresh produce from the farmer for the duration of the growing season. The initial cash investment allows the farmer to finance crops and in turn the shareholder enjoys locally grown and quality produce every week for about four months.

"CSA farms are growing so quickly. Both the farmer and shareholder share both the burden and bounty equitably," said Laura DeLind, a senior academic specialist for Michigan State University, who has been researching Michigan CSA farms for the past eight years.

DeLind said the number of CSA farms in the state tripled from 1999 to 2002 and has since doubled again. CSA-Michigan, a consortium of CSA farmers that tracks data on the number of Michigan farmers and registers them in a database, has recorded approximately 70 CSA farms in the state.

DeLind's research finds in all CSA farmers and members a shared value in the land, the food supply and the community.

Tom and Robin Leonard of Pinckney are small-time farmers who own a farm which sells part CSA and part wholesale. Even though most CSA farms grow their food according to organic principles, their 36-acre Garden Patch Farm is certified organic. The designation allows the Leonards to sell their organic products to grocery retailers like Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor as well as offer CSA shares to their customers.

Their decision to become CSA farmers was driven by both economics and customer satisfaction.

"We wanted our customers to directly experience the operations of a farm and we needed the extra financial stability that CSA provides," said Robin Leonard, 39.

The Leonards will be selling produce as well as CSA shares at the Brighton Farmers' Market on Saturday. The Tituses will be bringing produce, flowers and CSA shares at the opening of the Howell Farmers' Market on Sunday.

The Tituses will offer their customers five to 10 pounds of fresh produce and some fruit for 19 weeks. Customers can either buy a produce or a flower share and can pick it up at a designated location each week. As a different supply of produce is received each week, "it allows the customer to experiment with new vegetables and dishes," said Rose Titus.

The Leonards started their farm in 1997 but it was not until 2004 that they decided to offer CSA shares to their customers. "Ever since we introduced CSA farming, our demand is so great. It's hard to keep up," Robin Leonard said.

With the addition of more vendors and CSA members to the Howell Farmers' Market, manager Chris Clausen-Brinker of the Howell Chamber of Commerce, anticipates another great season. But she hopes that the weakened economy does not negatively impact local farmers.

"They have such a tough life as it is, we would really like for this year's customer base to be as solid as it has been in previous years."

Heather Ashare is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.

 

Interesting facts about organic food production (source-MOSES web site http://www.mosesorganic.org/update/march06.htm#mid )

Organic Food and Farming 2006 Background Statistics

 

Consumer Demand

n      U.S. consumer demand for organic food has been growing at 20% per year for the last 15 years – Organic Trade Association (www.ota.com)

n      Consumer Reports 2005 survey – Nearly two thirds of U.S. consumers bought organic products in the last year

n      Whole Foods Market national survey completed in August, 2005 found that 65% of Americans had tried organic foods and beverages, up from 54% in surveys conducted in 2003 and 2004

n      Nutrition Business Journal projects U.S. organic food sales to continue to grow at 10-15% per year ($2 billion additional sales per year) from 2006-2010.

n      The supply of organic milk is only meeting 85% of consumer demand, according to Organic Valley’s  Theresa Marquez (Cheese Industry News, May, 2005)

On-Farm Financial Benefits

n      The base pay for organic milk is $20 to $23 per hundredweight vs. $13-15 per hundredweight for non-organic milk or about 50% higher, as reported in Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin, 2005 Status Report

n      Farmers raising organic corn and soybeans sell their product at two to three times the price of their conventional counterparts.  On February 15, Cashton Farm Supply was paying $5/bushel for organic corn, three times more than they were paying for non-organic corn ($1.73).  Organic soybeans were being sold there for $12 per bushel, more than twice the price of non-organic beans ($5.19).

n      The net income in 2004 for organic farmers in Wisconsin was 25% higher than non-organic farmers --  Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin, 2005 Status Report

Wisconsin Organic Agriculture Statistics (Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin, 2005 Status Report)

n      On the national level, Wisconsin  is #1 in organic dairy farms,  #1 in organic livestock, #2 in organic corn, #1 in layer hens, #3 in beef cows

n      On the national level, Wisconsin is  #2 in total certified organic operations (behind California), and has increased by 25% from 512 in 2003 to 640 certified growers in 2005

n      Of the 6 Wisconsin counties with the highest number of certified organic producers, 5 are in the southwest quadrant of the state:  Vernon County (113); Monroe County (33); Grant County (32); Clark County (25); Dane County (24); Trempeleau County (22).   Other counties with a significant number are: Lafayette (20); Wood (15);

                Dodge (17); Chippewa (15); Columbia (15); Marathon (16); Crawford (14); 

                Buffalo (14); Iowa (14); Dunn (14); Jackson (12); Richland (13).

        Minnesota and Iowa Organic Statistics (USDA Economic Research Service 2005

        report)

n      Minnesota is #1 in organic corn and soybeans produced;  Iowa is #3 in organic corn and #2 in organic soybeans

n      Iowa is #4 in number of certified organic farmers (448) and Minnesota is #5 (392)

Compiled by Doug Nopar, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, 507-450-7458

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ALERT: STOP THE USDA’S LATEST SNEAK ATTACK ON ORGANIC STANDARDS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, no doubt hoping to limit public controversy, has announced a very short public comment period (ends May 12, 2006) on proposed new federal regulations that will weaken organic standards. USDA’s proposed amendments, supported by grocery store chains and large food corporations, will allow so-called organic dairy feedlots to continuously import calves from conventional farms—where the calves have been weaned on blood, dosed with antibiotics, and fed genetically engineered grains and slaughterhouse waste. USDA’s new rules will also allow over 500 artificial (synthetic) substances in organic processed foods without prior scrutiny and review by the National Organic Standards Board. USDA’s latest efforts are basically an attempt to codify last fall’s controversial “Sneak Attack” in Congress, when industry players and the Organic Trade Association convinced the Republican Party majority to attach a last minute rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill. Take action now and tell the USDA to back off on lowering standards! http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm

Please send a donation to the OCA so we can continue to fight to preserve organic standards!

Donate Now!

http://www.organicconsumers.org/donations.htm

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ALERT: FREE THOUSANDS OF AMERICA’S ORGANIC COWS FROM INTENSIVE CONFINEMENT

The USDA is also seeking public comments on revisions it has made to the National Organic Program regarding pasture access for organic dairy cattle. Two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), a supplier to Wal-Mart and many health food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats and others, are purchasing the majority of their milk from so-called organic feedlot dairies where the cows are kept in intensive confinement, with little or no access to pasture. Together, Horizon and Aurora control nearly 65% of the organic dairy market. Recent scientific studies have shown that humanely raised, grass-fed dairy and beef are qualitatively better for human health and the environment. Take action to close the loopholes in organic standards that currently allow factory farm dairies to call their products “organic.” http://www.organicconsumers.org/nosb2.htm

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HORIZON AND AURORA BANNED IN CO-OPS

One month ago, after a poll of our members, the Organic Consumers Association called on consumers to boycott dairy companies like Horizon and Aurora for their practice of raising "organic" cattle on intensive confinement feedlots. A number of natural food stores and co-ops across the U.S. are beginning to respond to concerned consumers and removing suspect dairy products from their stores. The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the second largest co-op in the U.S., no longer carries Horizon products. In Colorado, the Boulder Co-op Market, has also discontinued stocking Horizon products. Amy Wyatt, Assistant General Manager for the Co-op, says, "Based on our concerns regarding Horizon's practices, we didn't feel that continuing to carry this company's products was consistent with our mission and values.” Dean Foods, Horizon’s parent company, is also starting to come under fire for abandoning U.S. organic soybean farmers and importing cheap soybeans from China, where organic standards are dubious, and farm labor wages and conditions are abysmal. Dean Foods now controls the nation’s largest organic soymilk brand, Silk, as well as the largest organic tofu brand, White Wave.    Learn more: http://www.organicconsumers.org/2006/article_400.cfm

 

 

Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Specialist

C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems

CARRS Departent of Community, Agriclture, Recreation and Resource Studies

303 Natural Resources Bldg

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI 48824-1222

Phone: 517-353-3542

Cell: 517-282-3557

FAX 517-353-3834

E-Mail:  [log in to unmask]

 

Don’t forget! A carrot a day may keep the doctor away but an ORGANIC carrot a day, grown locally will taste good, support your farmer neighbor AND may keep the doctor away!!!

 

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