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Happy 50th Anniversary Northeast Organic Farming Association!

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Excerpts from the Concord Monitor: "-The regional Northeast Organic Farming Association, now in seven states, was originally founded in New Hampshire and Vermont in 1971 by Samuel Kaymen, who went on to start Stonyfield Organic Yogurt.

Today, the New Hampshire association has 400 members, and supports organic food producers that range from vegetable and chicken farmers to home gardeners through education and advocacy.

What does it mean to be organic? “Organic” can be a squishy term when used colloquially, applied to food that appears sustainable, healthy or free of toxic materials. But there are firm standards for farms that are certified organic, set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those standards prohibit the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides to manage weeds and pests, and include practices to encourage soil health. In New Hampshire, the state Department of Agriculture certifies farms as organic under those records, requiring growing operations to submit records on crops and the use of fertilizers and pesticides and to pass yearly inspections. -Organic standards regulate what materials farmers can put on their soil and crops, but they don’t encompass all aspects of sustainable farming. For instance, a farm can be certified organic but still use practices that are ecologically harmful, according to Marley and James Stever, who started Generation Farm in 2012. A certified organic farmer can still deeply till and plow, contributing to the erosion of topsoil. “Organic doesn’t touch the amount of diesel that you use in your tractor in order to do a lot of cultivation of your field, and it doesn’t touch how much energy you’re burning to say, heat your greenhouses all winter,” Marley Stever said.

Other sustainability issues like the use of fossil fuels are on the Stevers’ minds as they begin to cope with the effects of climate change on the farm, including pests that years ago would never have appeared in New Hampshire and more extreme weather.

This year’s record-breaking July rainfall was a “nightmare,” at Generation Farm, wiping out of whole rows of greens. “We just had catastrophic loss,” Marley Stever said. The prospect of long droughts also worry the Stevers, especially since hot, dry summers can bring different pest varieties.

“We’ve had some really bad pest issues that I think are definitely made worse by climate change,” James Stever said. They are also seeing new bugs, brought north by the shifting climate. “Pests that normally wouldn’t even be in New Hampshire and plant diseases are coming in. We’re getting these diseases that we’ve never seen before,” he said.

The effects of climate change can also highlight the value of eating locally, as big agricultural states like California experience even worse droughts.

“Without being too much of an alarmist, I think the country and maybe even the world is facing a potential food shortage,” said Karl Johnson, president of NOFA-NH’s board of directors. That means a need to produce more vegetables locally, in places like New Hampshire. Other new challenges While she primarily consults with farmers on managing pests, diseases and weeds, Saunders [Olivia Saunders, a fruit and vegetable production specialist at the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension] says a recent business challenge for organic farmers comes from the growing popularity of organic food. “Now you can get this industrial organic produce that might have been from California or Mexico or from abroad,” she said. “That’s a challenge for New Hampshire producers because now they’re in greater competition with people from bigger companies.” “If you look at the higher price tag, globally, economically, health-wise speaking, of so-called cheap food, the true price tag is so much greater than the price tag that we see on an organic product that was sourced and grown locally”. Despite all that, the state has advantages for local growers. “Because New Hampshire is a smaller state with a smaller population, we have more small natural food stores and farm stands and small country stores, whereas in like other states, you just have these mega-grocery stores,” James Stever said.

That strong network of local stores makes it easier for small local farmers to get their produce on shelves without competing with big operations that can produce perfect-looking produce all year." Full Article here!

Produce Blurbs! "Sweet Potatoes The 2021 harvests of Organic Sweet Potato started out a bit slower this season but are now ramping up to get the crop out of the ground before the cold winter weather sets in. California expects good quality products as the dry conditions have been favorable. Organic Sweet Potatoes are expected to be big and abundant. " *Many of you have been wondering why the garnet yams have been giant. Now we know that it's because the dryer climate out west is actually good for some root veggies! "Lettuce Organic Lettuces from California continue to struggle entering September. Many suppliers are experiencing light supplies or gapping completely due to heat and other quality defects. Conditions are expected to remain limited until mid to late September. Quebec product will be a steady supplement through September. Organic Romaine Hearts from California are also suffering, resulting in higher pricing. Supplies are expected to be limited through September...Supplies from California will be limited and expensive." *We should enjoy whatever local lettuces we can get! Unfortunately the excess rain we got earlier in the summer did do some damage to local lettuce crops this year. Goes to show you just how perfect some crops need the weather to be in order to thrive in abundance. Lettuce is finicky and fragile!

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