Week of June 12-16
*** How to Support Your Local Farmer
Livestock inputs make importing manure a concern, even for composting
***Organic farmers are safe under NOP rules but need to know what they’re getting and how to manage it.
*** Cultivating your
***Organic Power Struggle: Are factory farms flattening family farms?
***NATION'S LARGEST DAIRIES TRYING TO AVOID MONSANTO'S BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE
Ants take the bait
for less toxic solution
*** NATION'S LARGEST DAIRIES TRYING TO AVOID MONSANTO'S BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE
***BIODYNAMIC PREPARATION 500 APPLICATION LEARNING AND PRACTICE OPPORTUNITY-June 20
How to Support Your Local Farmer NEW YORK TIMES
By GEORGE SAPERSTEIN
Published: June 9, 2006
TOWARD the end of the “I Love Lucy”
television series, which ran from 1951 to 1957, the Ricardo family moved from
Oddly enough, that moment marked the beginning of the mass exodus of upwardly mobile New Yorkers to the suburbs of the metropolitan region — and the beginning of the end of animal agriculture in this state.
When I moved to
Of the approximately 1,000 dairy farms in the state in
the late 1970’s, 169 remain. But while skyrocketing land values are an
acute problem for farmers, the biggest threat to animal agriculture in
So who’s to blame? Aggressive real estate agents? Greedy developers? Consumers who want strawberries in January? While we can try to place blame, it’s not productive. The system is what it is, and farmers have struggled to adapt to it.
There’s an old saying in
Making farming in
With a grant from the United States Department of
Agriculture, my university is collaborating with the
The master brand is called Azuluna, and we are using production methods more typical of 1950 than 2006, getting the animals back outside grazing instead of cutting the feed and bringing it to them in the barn and letting calves raised for veal nurse from cows on pasture rather than confining them and feeding them milk replacer. These kinds of animal husbandry procedures from our grandparents’ era create the highest-quality, best-tasting products on the market.
The animals in this program spend their lives with access to fresh air and sunshine while consuming a balanced diet. We are now test-marketing Azuluna pork from pigs rooting in fields, lamb fattened outdoors on the farm of their birth with grain and mother’s milk and blue-shelled eggs from chickens that are truly free-range, not simply cage-free, which usually means kept on the floor of the barn instead of in cages.
As these tests prove successful, we are recruiting
State and local governments and
Local planning and zoning boards should recruit and accommodate businesses that directly support agriculture. For example, if a landowner requests a zoning change from agricultural to commercial for a parcel to build a farm supply store, the proposal should be viewed as supportive of farmers, not as a ploy to sell out to Wal-Mart. State grants, tax incentives and other forms of assistance could be created to attract and retain more of those businesses.
If we want locally produced meats, we need local slaughterhouses and meat cutters, and the state should offer tax breaks, initial financing and training to people interested in creating these kinds of small businesses and pursuing these jobs.
Unfortunately, there’s a sense among the agriculture community that it’s too late to save our farms and that soon all our meat and dairy products will be trucked in from out of state. But I’m here to say that it’s not too late — we just need a little more optimism and some good old-fashioned Yankee ingenuity.
George Saperstein is the chairman of
the Department of Environmental and Population Health at
The New Farm, Rodale Press June 12, 2006
inputs make importing manure a concern, even for composting
By Maggie Fry-Manross
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June 8, 2006: The ideal sustainable livestock farm is a closed system made up of crops grown to feed the livestock and humans who live there, and manure that is returned to the soil to ensure fertility. As with everything else in life, however, the ideal is rarely attained.
Vegetable farmers need manure to feed their crops. Dairy and meat producers usually have more manure than they can use. It would seem the perfect arrangement for vegetable growers to haul away the manure from a nearby farm (in some cases, your neighbors are happy to deliver it) to apply it to fields. But modern agricultural inputs—especially those used in confined, intensive settings—means that growers, especially those who are certified organic, need to ask a few questions before accepting that generous offer.
Recent studies have shown that manure can contain residues of antibiotics and other medications routinely given to livestock, as well as pesticides and heavy metals such as copper, zinc, arsenic, cadmium and lead. Appropriate composting may take care of some of these substances, but some it will not.
Organic certification standards allow raw manure to be spread on fields at least 90 days before harvesting crops where the edible portion does not touch the soil (i.e. sweet corn) and 120 days where the edible portion does touch the soil (lettuce, carrots, onions, etc.). All other animal manure must be composted, and standards require that manure be shaped into a windrow, turned a minimum of five times in 15 days and achieve a recorded temperature between 133°F and 170°F in order to be considered finished compost. Anything else is termed “raw manure,” regardless of how long it has been piled up behind the barn.
Organic standards prohibit the use of sewage sludge, sometimes called biosolids, because of the possibility of heavy metal contamination. Municipal yardwaste, such as grass clippings and leaves, fall under the same category as manure—not prohibited, but demanding scrutiny as to possible contamination from pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers.
such as tetracycline, are routinely fed to swine, poultry and dairy cattle.
Residues of antibiotics and other drugs, such as Ivermectin, a popular
worming medication, have been found in animal manures, and traces of these
drugs can be found in plants grown in soil where residue-laden manure was
applied. In a study published in the Journal
of Environmental Quality in October, 2005, Kumar et.al. found
that antibiotic residues were detected in green onions, corn and cabbages
grown with the addition of manure containing antibiotic residues. In another
article in the same publication,
Other substances that can contaminate manure are metals such as copper and zinc, which are part of the recommended minerals added to livestock feed, and cadmium and lead, which can enter the chain through crops grown in contaminated soil or air pollution in industrial areas (see sidebar). In a paper published in The Scientific World in 2002, researchers Allan Barker and Gretchen Bryson found that composting can significantly reduce pesticide residues and can bind heavy metals and reduce their uptake by plants.
One substance of particular concern is arsenic. Recent news stories reported that arsenic was found in several commercial brands of chicken and samples from ten fast food restaurants. The study was conducted by Dr. David Wallinga, Director of Food and Health for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (www.iatp.org), a Minnesota-based, nonprofit advocacy group promoting sustainability and family farms.
Arsenic is included in Roxarsone, a medication sometimes fed to broilers raised in confinement to protect against outbreaks from coccidia. The fact that arsenic is detectable in the meat of chickens begs the question: How much is ending up in the manure, and where is it going then?
Arsenic: common additive, complex agricultural contaminant
Baker, research director of the Organic Materials Review Institute (www.omri.org), located in
Arsenic was one of the first-generation herbicides and was used as a pesticide in apple orchards. Soil scientists noticed that orchards with high arsenic content in the soil couldn’t grow clover (another nitrogen fixer) as an under crop.
“Organic farmers don’t want arsenic in the soil,” Baker pointed out. “It will accumulate in crop tissue and can pose a human health hazard. Everything goes somewhere. We've been looking at [arsenic] levels in the 30-40s ppm range. We’re not sure yet what the levels should be, but it definitely should be a concern.”
If a grower has to choose between manure that may contain antibiotic residue and manure that may contain arsenic, Baker recommends staying away from the arsenic. Antibiotics break down quickly, and the composting process should take care of them. Not so with arsenic. “Heavy metals are more of a concern,” Baker said. “Organic growers are better off with dairy or layer manure.”
So perhaps organic growers should avoid importing manure altogether and stick to buying compost and fertilizers? That isn’t a fool-proof solution either. Prepared fertilizers are expensive, and Baker recommends staying away from commercial compost unless growers can be absolutely sure what is in it. According to Baker, during the debate on whether to allow sewage sludge in organic farming, the question of manure from factory farms was raised. Unlike the European Union, The U.S. has no definition of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or “factory farms” and does not prohibit this manure from being used by certified-organic growers.
Many scientists and sustainable farming activists are of the opinion that manure from factory farms contains as many heavy metals as sewage sludge and should be prohibited in organic agriculture. The EPA limits the amount of heavy metals in sewage sludge, but manure from factory farms is unregulated. “There are operations that will take sludge, CAFO manure and urban green waste and make it into commercial compost,” Baker said.
Always know your source and their ingredients
best insurance with imported manure is to know your source. An organic grower
for almost 20 years, Darrell Frey of Three Sisters Farm in northwestern
The manure was then driven back to the farm and composted. Some of it was formed into windrows to be used in the vegetable gardens outside and some was loaded into bins in the bioshelter, or solar greenhouse, to be used in the indoor planting beds and in potting soil. The composting process also provides bottom heat for starting seedlings on top of the compost chambers, and fans can be used to circulate heat through the indoor growing beds.
Like many vegetable growers, Frey doesn’t have the time or space for farm animals. The bioshelter is home to a flock of laying hens that are fed organic feed from which they produce enough manure in a year to fill one of the compost chambers. To meet the rest of his compost needs, Frey must either import manure or use approved fertilizers. Fertilizer can be expensive, but manure has its drawbacks, too. “My biggest problem with imported manure was weeds,” Frey said. “Every year we seemed to find new varieties.”
Frey is currently getting his manure from a nearby farmer who owns horses and other livestock. Before making the agreement, Frey went to the farm and checked out the agricultural practices to ensure that he wouldn’t be bringing anything onto the farm that he didn’t want.
According to Baker, this is a good idea. “No matter what nutrient source you use, it's not going to be perfectly clean,” Baker said. “Feed sources need to be monitored as well. Choose manure from feed sources that are relatively uncontaminated.” Baker also recommends layering suspect poultry or dairy manure with high-carbon organic matter during composting. This should take care of antibiotics and pesticide residues.
Where, what and how
The most important considerations when importing manure are these:
A grower’s best bet is horse manure, because antibiotics are usually not a concern, followed by dairy and layer manure. Baker recommends staying away from manure from factory farms, particularly hog and broiler operations which may rely heavily on drugs. Another consideration is that manure from confined hogs often contains high levels of copper.
As with most aspects of sustainable farming, education is your best bet. Talk to neighbors about what they are feeding their animals and the possible effects it could have. Chances are they will be just as concerned about what is going into the soil as you are—especially if they are buying your potatoes and chard. [log in to unmask]">
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Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist
C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems
303 Natural Resources Bldg.
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