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 aphid.

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

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.

9. NO TIME FOR DELAY A SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AGENDA

FOR THE 2007 FARM BILL

10. State E85 Plans OK Despite Approval Removal

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

12. Pollinators crash

13. DON'T MISS THIS FILM SERIES (and FARMERS MARKET) SPONSORED BY 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

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. 

 

Sincerely,

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

website: www.mixedgreens.org

 

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 <http://www.businessweek.com/bios/David_E._Gumpert.htm>

 

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 Hebron.

 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 BusinessWeek.com, 9/28/06, <http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/content/sep2006/sb20060928_865207.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 BusinessWeek.com, 10/16/06, <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_42/b4005001.htm> "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 milkismilk.com 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, thecompletepatient.com <http://www.thecompletepatient.com> .)  Gumpert <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 www.davidgumpert.com.

 Kathryn Russell

www.majestyfarm.com

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

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

517-353-3542

517-282-3557 (cell)

517-353-3834 (fax)

http://safs.msu.edu/

http://www.mottgroup.msu.edu/

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