Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Note from Neil Young & Dave Matthews to Washington State Voters About Genetic Engineering

JenNeil Young and Dave Matthews sent this email to voters in Washington State today:

Dear Washington voter:

Vote YES on 522 for Freedom of Choice at the grocery store. No on 522 takes your Freedom of Choice away. It’s that simple.

You should have the right to know and choose what's in your food. You feed it to your kids. The big multinational food, chemical, and pesticide companies would rather keep you in the dark. They have paid millions to convince you to vote NO on 522.

That's why we support our right to know if the food we buy for our kids has been genetically engineered. Then we can decide for ourselves, armed with knowledge. That is real freedom. We want Freedom of Choice in our markets.

Raise your voice for transparency in our food system by voting YES on I-522, an initiative that would require mandatory labeling of food made with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients in the state of Washington.

Join us and Farm Aid and raise your voice for Freedom of Choice in our farm and food system. Vote YES on I-522 and mail your ballot today! Thanks for reading this.

Signed,

Neil Young & Dave Matthews
Farm Aid board members

While nearly 60 countries mandate GE labeling, there are no federal or state regulations that require labeling here in the U.S. You should have the right to know and choose what's in your food—in fact, in polls 90% of us agree on this. As Neil and Dave point out, the big multinational food, chemical, and pesticide companies would rather keep you in the dark.

Washington can change all that. And with GE labeling efforts kicked off in a dozen states, change is definitely coming. If you’re in Washington, be sure to vote yes on 522 and mail your ballot by November 5th. Stay tuned to FarmAid.org for updates on efforts in other states.

Labeling GE food is good for family farmers and all of us who eat. Labeling GE foods will help family farmers who do not plant GE seeds to have a stronger market for selling their goods. It will make finding non-GE seeds easier and more affordable. It will help ensure organic farmers can stay organic. And labeling GE foods will let all of us decide what kind of food we eat and feed our families.

For more info, go to farmaid.org/ge.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Farm Aid Music Monday, With Jack Johnson at Farm Aid 2013

MattToday's edition of Music Monday features Jack Johnson at Farm Aid 2013, which took place last month in Saratoga Springs, New York. This was his second year performing at the show (see last year's set here), and his first year touring the HOMEGROWN Village in disguise. Yes, during the afternoon, Jack donned a cow costume and took in the sights of interactive exhibits, took photos with unsuspecting fans (who just thought it'd be nice to have a photo with a cow), and took part in a little drum circle action with children. This segment from our live webcast tells the secret story of his trip through the Village:

Later that evening, Jack treated the audience to these nine songs, all seen in the video playlist below:

  • Better Together
  • Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
  • Radiate
  • Bubble Toes
  • Banana Pancakes
  • Shot Reverse Shot
  • Flake (with Lukas Nelson)
  • Whole Lotta Love / Staple It Together / Merlo Rap
  • At Or With Me / Crosstown Traffic

See lots more videos from the Farm Aid archives on our YouTube channel.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The #1 most important thing you can do this Food Day — FIX FSMA!

HildeIn it's third year, Food Day — held October 24th — is a nationwide celebration and movement for healthy, affordable, sustainable and fair food. If there's one thing you can do this Food Day — just one — to ensure that this celebration can continue, it's to call on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to FIX FSMA!

In late 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first major update of federal food safety law in over 70 years. Thanks to the hard work of many of our partners and concerned farmers and eaters just like you, a number of critical provisions passed as part of FSMA that would make the new food safety regulations appropriate for farms of all sizes, conservation-friendly, and accessible to certified organic and value-added producers. Earlier this year, the FDA released its draft plan for putting FSMA into practice. Unfortunately, the FDA's "proposed rules" miss the mark on the positive provisions referenced above, putting small-, midsized- and sustainable farms at risk.

The proposed FDA food safety rules are not yet final, which means they are not yet law. This is why it's so critical that you take action today – Food Day – to stand up for family farms and good food for all.

Step one: Sign our petition, telling FDA that it's unacceptable for new food safety regulations to put safe farms out of business, harm farmers' soil, water, and wildlife conservation efforts, or shut down the growth of local and regional food systems. We'll submit the petition for you.

Step two: Take a few minutes right now to submit a comment to FDA either online or through the mail. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition has put together comprehensive materials to help you do just that – click here to learn more.

If Food Day is all about ensuring healthy, affordable, sustainable and SAFE food for all – there is no better way to do so than demanding we don't put the very farmers and businesses best positioned to meet these goals out of operation.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Devastation for family farmers and ranchers in Colorado and South Dakota

JenFarm Aid has activated its Family Farm Disaster Fund to respond to farmers and ranchers affected by two natural disasters.

In September, heavy rain caused catastrophic flooding in Colorado that destroyed crops just before harvest, swept away topsoil, and wiped out roads and water systems.

In October, South Dakota had a freak early blizzard that dropped more than four feet of snow and winds exceeding 60 miles per hour. While South Dakota is no stranger to extreme winter weather, this storm followed very warm weather and hit before cattle in grazing lands had been brought closer to home for the winter. The timing was especially bad because it struck just before the time when calves are brought to market, from which ranchers earn a large portion of their income. The impact is still being assessed, but estimates say that tens of thousands of cattle have died.

Here are two stories from the areas impacted.

Kari, a Farm Aid staffer based in Denver, reports on the Colorado flood:

The September flooding in Colorado has devastated the northern region of the state, with over a dozen counties experiencing epic damage. The area near Boulder saw over 18 inches of rain in just three days. To put it in perspective, this area of the country normally receives an average of 20 inches of rain annually.

Damage estimates in the state are over $1 billion and climbing. And though flood waters have receded, rivers and waterways are still running much higher than normal. Farmland is covered in mud, or the topsoil has completely washed away. Another concern for farmers locally is the debris that has been left behind, and what damage that could do to equipment when harvest resumes.

Hundreds of miles of highways and roads were destroyed, along with bridges leading to market opportunities for family farmers across the state. This increases time and fuel costs to an already razor thin profit margin.

Last week I traveled north to meet with Peter Volz of Oxford Gardens, a four acre market farm near Niwot, about eight miles northeast of Boulder. Oxford Gardens started vegetable production in 2007, and they sell locally at the Boulder County Farmers Market and to area restaurants. In addition, they have a CSA operation. Peter believes in growing soil, not just vegetables. That's what made seeing what was left from the flood waters so devastating for me. There was a stark difference between where the water had been and where their remaining crops were still growing.

Peter gave me a tour, complete with a freshly harvested carrot, to see what remained and what areas would need to be addressed before next year's planting season. He estimates his losses at roughly $15,000, with another $35,000 likely lost next season in productivity and soil costs. Typical of most farmers, Peter is rolling up his sleeves and figuring out what needs to be done, and quickly.

The flood was a flash in the national news, but the community is continuing to come together to figure out how we can rebuild and reconnect. Farm Aid has committed $10,000 in emergency disaster relief for family farmers in Colorado, and we will send more if we can count on your support. We are on the phone almost every day with organizations in Colorado to plan ahead of the next step in recovery. Every dollar you give to the Family Farm Disaster Fund will go directly toward helping family farmers when they need it the most.

An update from South Dakota:

Ranchers are a proud, independent breed, but above all they are caretakers of their animals. The hardest part of the stories about this storm are the details: the photos of the cattle completely buried in snow; the ranchers having to unbury their herds from snow to bury them in the ground; the need to remove the ear tag for each lost cow or calf; and the way the ranchers are coming together to help each other in their grim tasks.


Photo © Jessica Deering

This week I've been talking with one particular rancher, Gary Deering, who is a fifth generation rancher in Hereford, SD, who hopes to pass the legacy on to one of his three sons. Gary has yet to account for seven of his cows and while that's a terrible loss, it doesn't compare to the losses of his neighbors. At nearly 40 years old, Gary's a young rancher and his neighbors are too — just getting established in their 30s and 40s. The losses they've suffered might take them out of the cattle business altogether. And that's a terrible impact, given that most young people are already leaving the tradition that Gary loves so much. One of Gary's neighbors has lost about 95% of his herd, a loss he may never be able to recover from. Another young rancher could find only five of his 100 cows. A day later, another six turned up. While the result is grim, the discovery of another six that survived gave hope.

As Gary says, none of them got into this business thinking it was going to be easy, but what they've experienced since this blizzard is beyond hard. It's enough to destroy a person. And yet, together, these ranchers and farm families are coming together to do what they have to do now, to plan for the recovery period, and to offer a little hope to those who were hit the hardest.

Farm Aid emergency grants do just that — they offer to hope to farm families during their hardest times. We can't cover the extensive losses that these ranchers face, but we can help put groceries on the table and show them that people across the country care. I hope that you'll join us in supporting the ranchers who work so hard to steward our land, care for their cattle and bring us good food.

Please give today.

It's National Farm to School Month, and today is Farmer Resource Day!

HildeToday, in partnership with National Farm to School month, we celebrate farmers and all of the good food they provide for our schools. But the farm to school partnership can be mutually beneficial—both farmers and schools can offer each other the resources they need to thrive.

Below are some ideas for building a strong, synergetic farm to school relationship.

Schools Benefit Farmers

With nearly 12,500 Farm to School programs across the country, schools notably increase the market prospects for local and regional farmers and can offer important income for farm families. Last year, Farm to School programs purchased almost 13 million dollars worth of food from local farms. There are many ways for farmers to get in on this opportunity:

  • Sell your products to schools. Start by identifying your school district's Food Service Director and talk to them about their sourcing policies and capacity to buy directly from you. Be clear about your production capacity, harvest schedule and pricing options.
  • Get the word out about your other ventures. Let the school know if you have a CSA or if you sell at a local farmers' market. If there's enough interest, consider having a CSA pick up location at the school. Think of other channels where you can advertise your work, like attending a PTA meeting or introducing yourself on the school's website. These are all great ways to make sure students, parents and employees know about you and the wholesome products you provide the school.
  • Don't forget about other similar partnerships like colleges, universities, hospitals, and local businesses. Leverage your participation in one institution as a way to get your product into another!

Farmers Benefit Schools

Farm to School programs offer kids access to high quality and nutritious foods. As a school, make sure that you're also tapping into the vast knowledge that farmers can provide.

  • Host a Meet Your Farmer day. Invite farmers who contribute to your school's food programs to speak about what they do; perhaps they can even help plant an edible school garden! Give them an opportunity to share their knowledge of where our food comes from and answer students' questions. Students will be excited to meet farmers and will likely become more interested in their food as a result.
  • Create a photomontage of the farm-to-fork process—from seed to fruit, or cow to cheese! Post photos from participating farms in the school's cafeteria, and think of creative ways to incorporate food and the farming season into your classroom curriculum.
  • Craft a farm fresh menu. Farmers are very in tune with the seasons. Invite them to help your cafeteria staff create seasonally appropriate menus or have farmers write up their favorite ways to cook featured fruits and vegetables throughout the season.
  • Take a farm field trip. Deepen your school's connection with your local farms by taking the classroom on the farm. Use the field trip as a way to give students real-life, hands on experience in food and farming. They'll love it!
  • Compensate fairly. Farming is an incredibly labor-intensive and time-consuming job. We recommend considering thoughtful ways to compensate participating farmers (both financially and otherwise) for any extra time they lend in the classroom or on their farm.

Farm Aid fosters connections between farmers and eaters by growing local and regional food systems and promoting good food from family farms. For more family farmers to thrive, we must expand the reach of good food, including bringing it to schools everywhere. Farm Aid's Farmer Resource Network helps farmers make these important connections. This online catalog of resources links farmers to valuable organizations — like the National Farm to School Network — that can help them run a smooth and efficient farm to school program. Here are a few additional resources from our Farmer Resource Network partners to check out:

  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers has developed a number of resources for farm to school, including this great guide for farmer field trips.
  • The Farmer's Legal Action Group (FLAG) offers comprehensive guides to contracting and marketing, and this tip sheet for selling directly to schools.
  • This guide by Vermont Feed includes strategies for marketing local food to schools. 

Spread the word about today's theme and Farm to School Month:

Twitter:
How can farmers benefit schools and schools benefit farmers? Find out on today's #F2SMonth Theme of the Day page: http://j.mp/FarmerResources

Facebook: 
Celebrate both farmers and schools today by learning how the Farm to School partnership can be mutually beneficial! http://j.mp/FarmerResources

Photos above used by permission. © Patty O'Brien

Monday, October 21, 2013

Music Monday Celebrates Willie Nelson at Farm Aid 2013

MattToday's Music Monday brings Willie Nelson's set from the end of Farm Aid 2013. As always, he played last and brought some friends up on stage to collaborate, like Lukas Nelson, Lily Meola, David Amram, Neil Young, and lots more.

Enjoy the video playlist below containing twelve videos of Willie's performance.

Our YouTube channel has 1,300 other Farm Aid videos from 28 years of Farm Aid concerts.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Genevieve’s Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveA freak, early blizzard in South Dakota dropped more than four feet of snow and killed tens of thousands of cattle. Said a local rancher, "If this event had happened to one rancher, if he had lost everything that he owned, you would not hear one word from us. We would pull together and make him whole. But how do you do that when you're all in the same boat?"

A North Dakota farmer discovered a massive oil spill while harvesting his wheat crop. Spewing 20,600 barrels of oil over 7 acres of land, the pipeline rupture has made the land unsuitable for farming for the next several years.

Concerned over the threats of pesticide pollution nearby, a small group of Iowa farmers, or "drift catchers," are utilizing air-monitoring technology to fight possible contamination to their crops.

This year's pear harvest is predicted to be one of the biggest on record. However, a lot of the fruit is rotting in the orchards due to a lack of experienced agricultural workers to pick them.

California passes a new law decreasing property taxes on 3 acres of land or less if the owner grows food for at least 5 years, a huge step in promoting California urban agriculture.

Genetically modified material has contaminated a Washington farmer's non-GMO alfalfa crop, making it unsuitable for export. The USDA claims that the incident doesn't warrant any government action, and will not address the issue.

In celebration of World Food Day this week, it is important to "embrace the farming we want" by recognizing issues regarding global food security, climate change, and conserving biodiversity, says the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Farm Aid Music Tuesday Celebrates Neil Young at Farm Aid 2013

MattDue to the holiday weekend, I missed yesterday's Music Monday. But fear not, there's no rule against making it a Music Tuesday. Today I've got Neil Young's set from this year's concert. It was an interesting setlist, with a couple of Neil's classic songs along with several cover songs from a diverse range of artists. Add in a little storytelling and Neil's response to an audience heckler during "Changes" and you've got a very memorable performance.

The video playlist below contains:

  • "Blowin' In the Wind" (Bob Dylan cover)
  • "Early Morning Rain" (Gordon Lightfoot cover)
  • "Old Man"
  • "Heart of Gold"
  • "Since I Met You Baby" (Ivory Joe Hunter cover)
  • "Reason to Believe" (Tim Hardin cover)
  • "Changes" (Phil Ochs cover)

Our YouTube channel has 1,300 other Farm Aid videos and we'll be bringing you more Farm Aid 2013 videos soon!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The food and farm system we’re building is at risk!

HildeIn late 2010, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first major update of federal food safety laws since 1938 (yup, that's 72 years). Thanks to the hard work of many of our partners and concerned farmers and eaters just like you, a number of critical provisions passed as part of FSMA that would make the new food safety regulations appropriate for farms of all sizes, conservation-friendly, and accessible to certified organic producers and value-added producers. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its draft plan for implementing FSMA. Unfortunately, the FDA's "proposed rules" miss the mark on many of the positive provisions referenced above, putting small-, midsized- and sustainable farms at a comparative disadvantage. The proposed rules are not yet final, which means they are not yet law. This is why it's so critical that you weigh in today.

Just a couple weeks ago at Farm Aid 2013 in Saratoga Springs, NY, panelists gathered on the HOMEGROWN Village stage for a press briefing outlining how the proposed food safety rules unfairly burden family farmers, target sustainable and organic farming, and reduce the availability of fresh, local food in our communities. Farm Aid partnered with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) to give concertgoers the opportunity to sign a petition calling on the FDA to ensure that FSMA is implemented in a way that promotes a safe food supply, strong on-farm conservation of natural resources, and thriving family farms. And now it's your turn to do the same!

Sign our petition, telling FDA that it's unacceptable for new food safety regulations to put safe farms out of business, harm farmers' soil, water, and wildlife conservation efforts, or shut down the growth of local and regional food systems.

Just sign and we'll submit the petition for you. Simple! That's step one. Here's step two: Take a few minutes right now to submit a comment to FDA either online or through the mail. NSAC has put together comprehensive materials to help you do just that – click here to learn more.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Music Monday Celebrates Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds at Farm Aid 2013

MattIf I had been looking more carefully at my Farm Aid Calendar, I would have dedicated today's Music Monday to John Mellencamp, since today is his birthday. But, I guess I jumped the gun by posting his Farm Aid 2013 set last week — so check those videos out while you blow out a few candles in his honor today.

In any case, today we'll look at videos of the performance by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds from Farm Aid 2013 (Dave's 16th Farm Aid appearance. This year, they performed:

  • "Save Me"
  • "So Damn Lucky"
  • "Grace is Gone"
  • "Corn Bread"
  • "If Only"
  • "#41"
  • "Two Step"

Our YouTube channel has 1,300 other Farm Aid videos and we'll be bringing you more Farm Aid 2013 videos in the coming weeks!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Genevieve's Farm and Food Roundup

GenevieveAccording to the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA (RAFI), the government shutdown is predicted to cost more than 1,400 farmers their farms. These farmers are waiting on their USDA direct farm operating loans that have already been approved, but they are unable to receive those funds until Congress passes a budget and ends the government shutdown. In total, the shutdown is affecting more than 6,300 farmers in other ways as well.

In Forbes, a start-up entrepreneur tells how he uses the lessons he learned growing up on a farm in his career.

In Maine, a new farm product has hit the market: blueberry moonshine. The white whiskey is made with blueberries, barley from Brunswick and maple syrup from Unity.

A new technique called "dry farming" has become popular among California farmers. These small producers have discovered that they can grow sweeter tomatoes, apples, grapes, melons, and potatoes by simply depriving the plants of water. Who knew?

The FDA's recent food safety rules to prevent contamination in the food supply has raised concerns among small farmers in New England. These local producers feel threatened by the paperwork and expensive monitoring systems that these regulations would require, potentially put them out of business.

Vermont family farmers are getting involved in the wedding business by holding ceremonies and receptions in their barns. These weddings have helped saved Vermont family farmers by supplementing their income, and allowing them to share their farm with the public.

With Upstate New York being called "the Silicon Valley of yogurt" and home to more than 40 yogurt plants, dairy farmers in the region are finding it hard to keep up with the Greek yogurt boom. While the boom has created a greater demand for milk, farmers are concerned that they need to acquire more land and invest in bigger equipment and barns.