By DOUG GRAVES
GRANVILLE, Ohio — The 34th conference for the Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Assoc. (OEFFA) will take place Feb. 16-17 in Granville – and while much has been accomplished for this group through the years, experts in organic agriculture say there’s even more to be done.
“Organic is not only about not using chemicals, but really about working with nature to prevent problems and maximize synergy between the many elements of a farm with nature,” said George Siemon, one of the nation’s foremost organic agriculture advocates and CEO of Organic Valley, one of the largest organic farming cooperatives in the nation.
“We live in a time of change, yet when we look at world affairs, it is confusing to see how we can affect change. This is the beauty of supporting organic farming and family farms. It is a clear personal path that tremendously benefits our social and environmental well-being, with huge implications for personal satisfaction and health – not to mention the bonus of great food that we get to enjoy and share.”
Simeon is one of two keynote speakers at this year’s OEFFA Conference, and his address is entitled “Organic: Changing a Broken Food System.”
In 1988, he joined a group of family farmers in Wisconsin to found the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools (CROPP). More commonly known by its brands Organic Valley and Organic Prairie, CROPP has grown to become the largest organic farming cooperative in North America.
“Agriculture affects a major portion of land in the U.S. and world, utilizing an estimated 70 percent of our resources,” Simeon said. “Food and agriculture must be a large focus of the environmental movement. Indeed, one could say we could eat our way through major threats by eating food that is grown with respect to nature.”
The other keynote address will come from Nicolette Hahn Niman, an attorney, rancher and author of Good Food Beyond Factory Farms. Niman is an accomplished author who has been featured in Time and The New York Times. She and her husband, Miles, run a natural meat company supplied by a network of more than 700 farmers and ranchers.
Her talk is “Eating as We Farm (and Farming as We Eat).” “As a rancher and environmental lawyer, when I write or speak about America’s food system, usually it’s related to impacts on natural resources of air, water and soils,” Niman said, “but these last few years I’ve also become increasingly interested in knowing how what we eat and the way we eat affects our health.
“With diet-related problems like obesity and type II diabetes reaching dangerous levels, public officials finally seem poised to take action on what has grown into a crisis. At the same time, thousands of diverse individuals all over the country – from moms to school administrators to farmers – are taking food matters into their own hands. The reality is that truly changing the way America eats and produces its food will require both public and private action.”
An assortment of speakers and workshops will feature during this two-day event. Troy Bishop, known by some as “The Grass Whisperer,” has been a promoter and practitioner of grazing management for 26 years. He raises grass-fed dairy and grass-finished beef cattle on his family’s fifth-generation New York farm.
Chris Blanchard, owner of Rick Spring Farm in Iowa, grows 15 acres of vegetables and herbs for a 200-member community supported agriculture program. He will speak about food safety practices, greenhouse ideas for vegetable transplant systems and labor-saving strategies on the farm.
Dr. Guy Jodarski, a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley’s CROPP Cooperative, will discuss holistic livestock health care that doesn’t rely on antibiotics or synthetic hormones or chemicals.
Mark Shepard, who runs a 106-acre perennial polyculture farm in Wisconsin, will instruct how to design a perennial staple food crops farm. Other topics include what inputs are permitted on certified organic farms and livestock operations, organic lettuce production, the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and climate change on farmers.
Attendees can choose from workshops that address grazing management techniques and their ability to successfully manage natural resources, or learn how to control weed pressure with flame cultivation. Te register for this conference, visit www.oeffa.org/conf-register2013.php