What's New in Organic Ag for Michigan Farmers? Oct 21-31

1. State food policy panel spreading message to buy Michigan-grown

2. Mixed Greens is currently recruiting applicants to fill (5)
AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer positions

3. States Target Raw-Milk Farmers

4. NOW IS THE TIME TO FIND BUCKTHORN, the overwintering host for soybean

5. Sample your soybean fields to avoid yield losses to soybean cyst

6. New Web Marketing Opportunity for Small Farms

7. Take The Right Steps

Steps to get safe food from the farm or your garden

8. Reduce your Risk -Growers need to take action to prevent a foodborne
illness outbreak. 



10. State E85 Plans OK Despite Approval Removal

11. California Lawmakers Make Plans To Get Spinach Back On Track

12. Pollinators crash

AGRICULTURE & HEALTH ALIVE: Wednesdays 7 pm thru Dec 20th

14. Farm It Forward- Keeping the "Family Farm" in business-Conference
Jan 5-6 & March 2-3, 2007 Hickory Corners, MI

15.VEGETABLE PRODUCTION: From Greenhouse to Market 

16. Choices: Take it Slow-The conference that celebrates food and
health! March     6-7, East Lansing, MI

17. Request for Applications: Vegetable/Strawberry IPM Educator Exchange
Program Deadline Nov 30th

18. Building a Local Organic Grain Market" Plans & Possibilities for
Western Michigan Nov 6th 7 pm in Hart, MI

19. 2007 RFP: "Diversifying Public Markets and Farmers Markets"

20. Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAAWG) annual
conference Jan 25-28th, Kentucky

21. Opportunity for a Dairy Grazer in Pennsylvania 


1. State food policy panel spreading message to buy Michigan-grown
Andy Rathbun 
The Enquirer 

The Michigan Food Policy Council announced recommendations at Battle
Creek's Food Bank of South Central Michigan on Thursday to improve the
state's agricultural industry.

The 20-point report is meant to serve as a road map to guide the growth
of the state's $60.1 billion agricultural industry, according to Mitch
Irwin, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

The recommendations devised by the council include increasing the amount
of Michigan-grown products purchased with state dollars, providing
greater access to farmers' markets in urban and rural areas and
advancing nutrition education. 

The overarching goal is simple: Provide greater access to Michigan-grown
foods to boost the economy and improve the health of residents.

"It's good for our farms, good for our farmers, good for our health,"
said state Sen. Mark Schauer, D-Bedford Township, who was on hand for
the announcement.

Members of the council, which is partially supported through a $200,000
grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, said they wanted the
recommendations put to use.

"They're pretty lofty objectives, and I think the tragic part would be
if they just stayed in that book," said Todd Wickstrom, a council member
representing restaurants.

The report has been presented to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and will need
support from her office as well as the state Legislature and the private
sector to move forward, Irwin said.

"Nothing good comes easy, and we know there's a lot of hard work ahead,"
Irwin said. "That's our challenge. That's our charge."

Andy Rathbun covers City Hall and local news. He can be reached at
962-3380 or [log in to unmask] 


2. Mixed Greens is currently recruiting applicants to fill (5)
AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer positions 


for 12-month terms of service, to begin in February 2007 and run through
February 2008. The three areas of focus of these positions are Program
Development (3), Marketing/Fundraising (1), and School Garden Network
and Resource Development (1).  


This is a great opportunity for those interested in working on the
ground-level to grow the capacity of Mixed Greens.  It's a real hands-on
learning experience. 


Please read more below about the opportunities open at Mixed Greens.
Note the closing date for applications is November 20. The PDF for these
descriptions is also attached. 


I thank you all, too, in advance for sharing this with someone you feel
might be a fit for our staffing needs.  



Lisa Rose


Lisa Rose Starner, MPA

Executive Director

Mixed Greens 

1444 Lake Dr. SE

Grand Rapids MI 49506

(o) 616.301.3592

(f) 616.301.3429

(c) 616.240.6480



3. States Target Raw-Milk Farmers

Michigan is the latest to bust a provider of unprocessed milk-and its
heavy-handed tactics may put three small farms out of business  

by David E. Gumpert <
<> >


For several months over this past summer and fall, Michigan authorities
tracked Richard Hebron, 41, and his weekly truck hauls the 140 miles or
so from Vandalia to Ann Arbor. To gather evidence, an undercover agent
infiltrated an organization that was making private purchases from

 On the morning of Oct. 13, the authorities closed the loop on their
complex sting operation. Just outside of Ann Arbor, a state police
officer pulled over Hebron's truck during its weekly run, served Hebron
with a search warrant, and with several other agents began removing
goods from the truck.

 Back home in Vandalia, a state trooper accompanied by four
plain-clothes agents knocked on the door of Hebron's home, presented
Hebron's wife, Annette, with a search warrant, and fanned through their
small three-room house, removing their computer, business records, and
product samples. Later that afternoon, in Ann Arbor, four additional
agents, also armed with a search warrant, rummaged through a warehouse
that was Hebron's destination when he was pulled over, seizing more
business records.

 Expanding Investigation

 The trigger in this huge investigation? No, it wasn't drugs, stolen
goods, or terrorism. It was, of all things, raw milk and its various
byproducts, including cream, buttermilk, yogurt, butter, and kefir. The
Michigan Agriculture Dept., which oversaw the investigation together
with the Michigan State Police, sees the situation as a simple matter of
enforcing the law. Unfortunately, when it comes to raw milk, the law is
no simple matter.

 "We've had an investigation for several months now," says Katherine
Fedder, director of the Michigan Agriculture Dept.'s food & dairy
division. The investigation, she says, began with a report from a local
public-health department last spring about children who had become sick
who " had consumed unpasteurized milk." She noted, though, that the
children's illness was never traced back to raw milk or any other
specific food. In any event, a department inspector joined the co-op to
purchase milk and expand the investigation.

 "Our concern is that there's a violation of the Michigan law to
distribute misbranded products and unpasteurized dairy products out of
an MDA-licensed food establishment," Fedder says, adding that the
investigation of the computers, records, and milk products confiscated
will likely take "a few more weeks before we have a clarification."
Then, Hebron and/or the co-op could be charged with "a whole variety of
things" under a Michigan food law and a dairy law.

 Crippled Co-op

 Hebron is a farmer with about 110 acres, where he raises beef, cattle,
and chickens. He also manages the four-year-old Family Farms Co-op with
two other farm families, through which all three farmers sell their
products at the Ann Arbor outlet, as well as two outlets in Detroit and
seven in Chicago.

 One of those farm families, an Amish couple with eight children, owns
the 70 milking cows that produce the cooperative's raw milk (milk that
isn't pasteurized or homogenized). The Amish farmer doesn't have a phone
or other modern conveniences and couldn't be reached. Hebron says the
farmer has requested Hebron to speak both on the co-op's and the
farmer's behalf and not to publicize his identity. This farmer is
essentially out of business for the time being, and has had to throw out
all his milk produced since Oct. 13.

 The entire co-op is crippled, since the farmers are without their
computer, fax, or business records. And already three Chicago retail
outlets, unsettled by news of the Michigan officials' actions, have told
Hebron not to bother returning with additional products. "This is what
we do for a living," says Hebron. "We don't get unemployment checks."

 The experience has left the Hebrons shaken. "They treated us pretty
much like we were drug dealers," he says. Moreover, it's not clear if
any of the co-op members will be charged with a crime and when the co-op
may be able to resume its normal business.

 Worse than Russia?

 The Family Farms Co-op thought it had dealt with the Michigan
prohibition against retailing raw milk, which is similar to prohibitions
in many other states, four years ago, when it set up the co-op. Under
the arrangement, the co-op leases cows from the dairy farm and then
sells shares in the herd to co-op members, each of whom pays $20 a year
for their share. The co-op members purchase milk for $6.50 a gallon,
which goes back to the dairy farmer in the form of a boarding fee for
the cows.

 "It has to be this way, because it's illegal to sell raw milk retail"
in Michigan, says Hebron. Michigan law allows for people who own and
board dairy cows to consume their milk, though.

 After I listened to Hebron tell his story about the state police and
agriculture inspectors refusing to let him make a call home after
confiscating thousands of dollars worth of fresh farm products from his
truck, and then serving a search warrant on his wife and rummaging
through the farm family's home, I asked him, "Could you believe this was
happening in the United States?"

 "No," he said. "I have a customer in Chicago who says he's from Russia.
He thinks this is worse than what happens in Russia."

 Crackdown Factors

 This harsh Michigan action bears an eerie resemblance to the case of
Organic Pastures Dairy, a producer of raw milk, which California
agriculture officials shut down for more than two weeks (see, 9/28/06, <
htm> >

"Getting a Raw Deal?"). California authorities went after Organic
Pastures when four children became sick from E.coli bacteria, but an
exhaustive investigation turned up no evidence of E.coli at the dairy.
In comparison, even though 200 people were sickened by E.coli from
California spinach, none of the California spinach farms were shut down.

 What's behind these crackdowns by major states against producers of raw
milk? I suspect it's a combination of two forces at work.

 First, there's the simple matter of growing demand from consumers
seeking food with as little processing as possible, who want to buy it
from local farm producers (see, 10/16/06, <
<> > "The
Organic Myth"). Organic Pastures has seen its revenues climb 35% to 40%
annually since it switched to selling raw milk in 2000. Similarly, the
Family Farms Co-op has grown from nothing to nearly 1,000 members over
the last four years.

 Out of Proportion

 Second, as raw milk and organic milk (milk which is pasteurized, but
obtained from cows fed organic feed, with no hormones) become more
popular, large dairies are becoming concerned and exerting pressure on
agriculture officials to crack down on the raw-milk producers. Just take
a look at the Web site to get a sense of the conventional
dairies' concern.

 Regardless of what anyone may think about raw milk, the heavy-handed
enforcement action by Michigan authorities just feels inappropriate-way
out of proportion to any possible violation of the law. It smacks of a
speed-trap approach to law enforcement, except here the penalty isn't
just a fine, it's the livelihood of three family farms.

 (Note: I will be following the unfolding situation at Family Farms
Co-op, much as I have the Organic Pastures situation, at my blog, <
<> > .)  Gumpert <
mailto:[log in to unmask] <mailto:[log in to unmask]> > is
author of Burn Your Business Plan! What Investors Really Want from
Entrepreneurs and How to Really Start Your Own Business. His Web site is

 Kathryn Russell

 "As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In
both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly

And, it is in such twilight that we all must be aware of change in the
air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
Justice William O. Douglas,  U.S. Supreme Court (1939-75)



Vicki Morrone

Organic Vegetable and Crop Outreach Specialist

Michigan State University

C.S. Mott Sustainable Food Systems

303 Natural Resources Bldg.

East Lansing, MI 48824


517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)



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