Sunday, December 22, 2013

Organic Agricultural Research Supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture

Grants Awarded to Five Universities

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), on December 11, 2013, awarded five universities grants to support research, education, and Extension programs to improve the competitiveness of organic livestock and crop producers.

The Secretary of Agriculture Speaks

Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack said:
The organic industry is a rapidly growing segment of American agriculture and it is important we continue to invest in sound science to support organic producers. 
The discoveries these grants enable can help farmers who are looking to adopt the best organic practices that will make their operations more competitive and sustainable.

Universities and Grants Awarded

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, $675,719
  • Michigan State, East Lansing, $464,482
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, $718,225
  • University of Texas Pan American, Edinburg, $746,973
  • Washington State University, Pullman, $749,661

The Organic Transitory Program

The grants disbursed include more than $3 million through the Organic Transitions Program (ORG).  This program:
  • Determines "ecosystems," i.e., environmental benefits, provided by organic farming systems in the area of soil conservation and climate change mitigation, including mitigation of greenhouse gases.
  • Develops educational tools for Cooperative Extension personnel and other agricultural professionals who advice producers on organic practices.
  • Supports the organic industry to develop appropriate practices and materials to correspond with the National Organic Program's National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.

The Department's Stand on Organic Production

Officially, the Department says:
Since the late 1990's, U.S. organic production has grown significantly.  U.S. producers are increasingly turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and boost farm income.
Today, more than two-thirds of U.S. consumers buy organic products at least occasionally, and 28 percent buy organic products weekly.


Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Agriculture


Is Awake to This Trend!

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Organic Farming on the Sinai Peninsula

Who Would Have Expected This?

According to Al-Monitor, The Pulse of the Middle East, the daily newsletter summarizing reports from Middle Eastern nations, including Israel, the southern Sinai Peninsula--once a thriving tourist resort, surrounded by stretches of dry desert--is now dotted with world-class organic farms.
These farms, that continue to expand, supply vegetables and herbs for both locals and tourists in the Red Sea towns of Taba, Nuweiba, Dehab, and Sharm El-Sheikh.

How Did This Happen?

After the January 25, 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's multi-billion dollar tourism sector plunged, suffering 90% losses.  Earlier,  in 2007, Maged El-Said, a tourism investor living and operating in South Sinai since 1989, had decided to start an organic farm.  Although he raked in millions of dollars from tourism investments, he was dissatisfied, wanting a sustainable, environmentally friendly business.  People thought him crazy for attempting such a venture.
He noted that during the Israeli occupation of the Sinai the Israeli government had developed a 400-acre agricultural estate--presently, its irrigation system in ruins and thousands of trees dying.  Nevertheless, from this Israeli farm produce was exported, even flowers to The Netherlands.

A Model Organic Farm Transforming the South Sinai Region

Habiba Organic Farm, El-Said's two-acres in Nuweiba, a Red Sea town 40 miles from the Israeli border, with the help of universities and NGO partnerships, now serves as a model for Egypt's South Sinai.  The farm demonstrates how an entire region can transform itself via sound organic farming practices in the desert.

A Demeter-Certified Biodynamic Farm

In 2012, the Habiba Organic Farm (HOF) began selling its organic products as Demeter-certified.  Demeter International is the certification organization for biodynamic agriculture and a top organic certifier worldwide.  The farm was officially registered with the Egyptian Center of Organic Agriculture and declared one of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

Developing a Self-Sustaining Society


A regional organism develops where

  • Crops can be used to feed cattle and chickens on neighboring farms
  • A free-range chicken farm supplies neighboring farms with chicken excrement to use as organic fertilizer
El-Said that others now see the wisdom of organic farming.  Eniz Eneizan, a powerful leader of the Tarabyn tribe in South Sinai, has turned his farms organic.  El-Said says,
But our major success was seeing the tribal leaders of South Sinai adopt the idea and open their lands to it.

An Organic Community


Blooms in the Desert


May Many More Bloom in Deserts Throughout the World


And in Your Neighborhood!

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Preserving Farmland for Biodynamic and Organic Cultivation

Yggdrasil Land Foundation--A Land Trust--and its Associates

Yggdrasil Land Foundation, together  with its associates, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association (BDA), the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), and RSF Social Finance (RSF), work to develop and preserve organic farmland.

Loss of Prime Agricultural Land

In the U.S., from the 1980's to the late 1990's, the rate at which prime agricultural land was taken over for commercial development increased by 51%.  By 2007, the U.S. was losing 1.2 million acres each year.

Farms Across the Country

Yggdrasil, with headquarters in San Francisco,  now is helping preserve farms across the country, from the East Coast (New Hampshire), the Mid-West (Wisconsin), to the West (California). 
Yggdrasil partners with the Michael Fields Institute of East Troy, Michigan, that both conducts agricultural research and education in sustainable farming, and with RSF Social Finance, that, as its name implies, helps fund sustainable farming ventures.
Michael Fields Institute holds about 25 workshops a year attracting hundred of farmers, as well as urban residents interested in sustainable farming practices.

Example of a Gift of Farmland

Recently, as reported by the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, October 29, 2013, a 92-year-old woman, Betty Phelps Refior, has donated her 226 acre farm to the Michael Fields Institute.  The prime acreage located in the heart of Indiana's corn and soybean country, about 10 miles from Peru, Indiana, has been in her family since 1887.

The Dying of Bees Convinced Her

In 2010,Refior heard about bees dying.  Her land had been cultivated in conventional ways but she decided that she wanted her land to be a place where farmers and urban people could come to learn about the environment and how to protect the land for future generations.
Although it will take three years to convert the farm to a point where it can become certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Institute plans for the 226 acres to become a model to show how farmers can transition to organic agriculture.

May this triumvirate:


The Biodynamic Farming and Gardening  Association

The Michael Fields Agricultural Institute


RSF Social Finance


Continue to Foster and Prosper


Farmlands in America!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chemicals Destroy the Very Basis of Agriculture

They Kill Earthworms that Produce the Best Soil!

Narendre Singh of Organic India says:
Western, modern farming has spoiled agriculture in the country.  An over use of chemicals has made land acidic and hard, which means it needs even more water to produce, which is costly. 

So Says the Country With More Organic Food Producers Than Any Other!

India estimates that it has more organic producers than any other country.  Formerly, most organic products were exported. Now, they find favor with growing numbers of consumers.  According to a survey of 1,000 consumers in ten cities, 30% of Indian consumers prefer organic products and are prepared to pay  10 to 20% more for them.
But more earthworms are needed:


India Honors Earthworms


Shouldn't We All?


Long Live Earthworms!

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Friday, December 13, 2013

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association

A Valiant  David Battles the Monsanto Goliath

Seed for Thought, the December 13 newsletter of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, (OSGATA), sums up the tragic battle humanity faces--between the mighty, concentrated powers that care primarily for their own wealth and well being and the far more dispersed warriors who perceive the dangers of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and care for humanity as a whole.
The Seed for Thought newsletter says:
There is a mounting public support for GMO labeling across-the country [the U.S.A.].  Growing numbers of restaurants, grocery retailers, and organic companies are pledging to source non-GE [genetically engineered] ingredients for their products.
In the absence of Right-to-Know labeling, many consumers wishing to avoid GE foods have turned to the organic label.  Under federal standards, genetic engineering is considered an excluded method in organic production systems.


The Hidden Danger

Although organic farmers may consciously avoid the use of materials contaminated by GMOs--animal feed for example--because products apparently organic are not tested for genetically engineered content, neither farmers nor consumers can know if the products are inherently safe.

The Entire Organic Food Movement is at Risk

According to the newsletter:
OSGATA recognizes the impact of trans gene movement and contamination on the organic industry.  Compromised organic seed integrity has broad-reaching impacts on the viability of organic farms and the credibility of organic products.  Organic farmers also risk the threat of patent litigation in the face of contamination.

A Tool to Overcome the Risk

To battle the giant Monsanto--as a help for farmers, seed handlers, and seed companies--OSGATA has just issued a tool entitled The Organic Farmer's Handbook for GE Contamination Avoidance and Testing Protocols.  The handbook tells how to avoid transgenic seed contamination for crops, with federally approved GE counterparts currently in commercial production.  Testing protocols have been assessed for early detection of contaminated seed lots, to prevent further contamination through trade channels.

Cheers for Humanity!


May Humanity 


Win This One!


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Friday, December 6, 2013

Enjoy All-Organic Meals--All the Time!

Wise Shopping and Meal Planning

Make Organic Food Affordable

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) says that although 80 percent of parents buy organic food sometime and that organic food sales continue to increase by double digits annually, folks still find organic food too expensive.  An associated organization, the Organic Center offers credible, peer-reviewed scientific studies that support organic food and farming for human, animal, and environmental health.

Tips to Make Organic Food More affordable 

To make organic food more affordable, the OTA offers tips, showing how a U.S. family of four can eat organic for $25 a day, or less:


  • Buy in bulk
  • Buy in season, then store for off season
  • Plan for the month, not just the week
  • Explore private label ingredients
  • Explore local blogs and community news
  • Join buyers' clubs and loyalty programs
  • Comparison shop
  • Check out cookbooks and new publications

Who's Behind This Positive Organic Food Advice?


The Organic Trade Association is a membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America, representing over 6,500 organic businesses in 49 states.  Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, consultants, farmers, retailers, and the public.



Thank You, OTA,  for Championing Organic Food


Before a Doubting World!

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What is the Role of Biodynamics in the Overall Organic Food Movement?

The Executive Director of the Biodynamic Farming

and Gardening Association Explains

Robert Karp, Executive Director of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association in the U.S., speaking to an animated and receptive audience in Carlsbad, California, on December 2, 2013, offered these salient observations:

Medicine for the Earth

Whereas Karp enthusiastically acknowledged and welcomed the current, widespread interest in
  • organic food
  • eating from local resources rather than food trucked in from who knows where
  • the dynamic growth of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture support and distribution services)
he pointed out that the earth is sick and needs healing.
Going beyond the valuable contribution of the organic farming movement, biodynamics--which is a vital part of it--offers medicine for the ailing earth, in a way that no other part of the movement does.  He then touched briefly on the various biodynamic "preparations," designed to enhance both the soil and also crops once they appear above the earth.

The Farm as a Self-Sustainable Organism

Another essential contribution of biodynamics is the concept of the farm as a unique organism unto itself.  Although a weak farm may initially need to import manure for its fields and food for livestock from elsewhere, ultimately to become healthy, the farm needs to produce its own field manure and raise enough of its own food to feed its livestock.
Furthermore, because each farm and garden is situated in its very own landscape, with its own local weather and climate, each farmer or gardener needs to tune into the overall "personality" of the region where it is located (Something impossible for factory farms!).  As the farmer or gardener through observation of his land, his livestock, his farm or garden organism, becomes more aware of the land's own personality, he learns to work consciously to develop it--the way it intrinsically wishes to grow and thrive.

The Surrounding Community

Robert Karp sees all farms--not just biodynamic farms--as the basis of a revolutionary transformation of civilization.  During Medieval times, the city was the source, the center, that drew people to experience community.
Now, people try to escape the deadening, albeit exhilarating forces of our cities.  They seek community in a healthier locale and on a healthier scale.  Karp sees farms as a source of renewal, a "potential source of social, community renewal."   Farms now have educational programs and have become places to hold festivals.  The farm is now playing a therapeutic role in civilization.  It is an ark for social renewal. 

The Farm as Our Heart

The movement toward the farm is a movement of consciousness.  "I am not whole as a human being if I'm not connected consciously to nature, the foundation of all life"



And the origin of life is the human heart!

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Monday, December 2, 2013

It May be Tiny--But It Intends to be Organic

Tiny Sikkim Plans to be a Fully Organic State by 2015!

Sikkim, with only 610,577 inhabitants, is a landlocked Indian state located in the Himalayan mountains.  It borders Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region on the north and east,  to the east, Bhutan, and to the south the Indian State West Bengal.

Chief Minister Pawan Chamling Confirms His State's Goals

At a ceremony inaugurating a College of Agricultural Engineering and Post Harvest Technology in Ranipool, Sikkim, on November 30, 2013, Chief Minister Pawn Chamling declared:
The State Government is moving ahead to make Sikkim fully Organic by 2015.
The State has adopted organic mode in production and processing agriculture.  There has been increasing demand for organic products in the domestic and international markets.  Consumers are generally willing to pay premium prices for organic products for health and improved livelihood. . . .
Process of organic certification of our land is going on together with extensive training for our farmers and officials.  We are also building an awareness program across the State among all the stakeholders to increasingly use organic manure only in our farm land.



Pay Heed Great Countries!



You Don't Need to be Big



To be Enlightened



About Organic Food!

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