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A Special Thanksgiving 2012

Visioning From the River Reporter
November 22, 2012 —
This Thanksgiving, you may be staying home with your family to enjoy a traditional meal, or you may be traveling and choosing to join a celebration at a relative’s or friend’s house. Perhaps you choose to participate in a gathering sponsored by a soup kitchen or church. Some may have even preferred to go to a restaurant that offers a Thanksgiving buffet with all the trimmings. (The most attractive restaurants these days seem to be those that feature a menu inspired by local farms.) Regardless of where you spent Thanksgiving Day, we are reminded that our American Thanksgiving is centered on the notion of giving thanks for the earth’s bounty and the abundance of the harvest. This year, I give special thanks to our local farmers and the many enlightened community leaders and environmental groups who have worked hard all year to educate legislators, farmers, producers and consumers in caring about our soil, forest and water resources that are nature’s support of agriculture here.
Contrary to popular belief, the number of farmers in the United States is growing, and the Northeast is no exception. We have hundreds of beginning farmers in New York State alone, and that number continues to increase. Many start by helping to cultivate land as interns on existing farms or on their own land, which might be a backyard in a suburban setting. City rooftops are turning green and barges in the Hudson River are growing food in greenhouses.
I admire the existing dairy farmers and their families, in New York and Pennsylvania, who are developing strategies to remain profitable. They diversify their operations by raising grass-fed meats, developing on-farm processing facilities and marketing milk through direct sales. Many have become artisans adding value to their already excellent milk by producing exceptional cheeses, cultured dairy products and frozen desserts that rival the finest imported specialties and far surpass any that are mass produced and overly processed.
There are beginning farmer programs sponsored by USDA and administered through the cooperative extension offices and land-grant universities, as well as private non-profits such as the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), Pure Catskills and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture ( PASA).
In 2012, we watched school gardens grow, tended by children, teachers and a corps of youth hired through the Center for Workforce Development. Farmers’ markets, farmstands, specialty stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares of a farm’s bounty, as well as eating establishments promoting locally produced food, continue to take a large share of consumers’ food dollars, dollars that are immediately returned to the local economy. Beyond providing wholesome and consumable products, our farmers enrich our lives on a daily basis by creating jobs that generate economic activity.
When I moved to Youngsville over 30 years ago, I dreamed of living in an environment where I could live in harmony with my neighbors and the environment while growing much of my own food. Today, more than half of that dream is recognized. I can walk down my road and legally buy a bottle of raw milk from my neighbor, or go to the neighborhood markets and buy exquisite fresh mozzarella and aged cheeses produced at farms very close by. My chickens produce the finest eggs anywhere, as they forage on grass and insects in the yard. The organic garden continues to yield abundant fruits and vegetables.
This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for seeing so much accomplished here by our farming community. I look to the future and see a viable economic system of an affordable, local food distribution system that will serve everyone in our community, where no one is left behind, including the growing population of seniors, many who are shut in at home or in nursing facilities; school lunchrooms; and government institutions including prisons.
Today, I am thankful to be surrounded by people with the abilities and resources to produce so much abundance. My dream is that we can all participate in sharing our local harvest. We are getting there. Let’s continue to make this Thanksgiving and 2013 a step in that direction.

[Maria Grimaldi is the Catskill Regional Representative for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (www.nofany.org) and an educator with Catskill Delaware Permaculture (www.catskilldelawarepermaculture.org).

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Filed under Beginning Farmer, EDUCATION, Environment, PERMACULUTURE

Breeding Organic Vegetables Step By Step Guide NOFA-NY


The Northeast Organic Farming Associations of New York (NOFA-NY) is happy to announce the recent publication of “Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step By Step Guide for Growers.”

A century ago, all gardeners and farmers saved their seed and planted local strains.  Today, the art of plant breeding is nearly lost.  Much of modern plant breeding uses biotechnology and caters to the high-input needs of large-scale commercial growers.  Through the work of university researchers, on-farm researchers and home gardeners/homesteaders, NOFA-NY brings practical solutions for plant breeding to organic growers of all experience levels through the Breeding Organic Vegetables manual.

The purpose of the 96 page manual is to give farmers and gardeners clear, concise and tangible tools for plant breeding through theory and techniques that allow growers to create varieties that suit their particular needs.  In addition to explaining basic plant breeding theory and methods, the authors cover all the necessary steps in a breeding project, from deciding on a breeding goal and finding suitable germplasm to performing selections and evaluations.  Five grower-breeders also share their insight and breeding “recipes.”  The authors’ goal is to not only show how plant breeding can be done, but also to empower growers everywhere to breed imaginatively, and to produce vegetable varieties that are attractive, productive, disease resistant, and well adapted to organic systems.

The recently released publication was co-authored by Rowen White and Bryan Connolly and edited by Elizabeth Dyck. In collaboration with the Mohawk group Kanen:hiio, Rowen White is the curator of an extensive collection of heirloom seeds for native communities all over the Northeast region.  She is also the author of Haudenosaunee Native Seed Restoration.  Bryan Connolly is the state botanist for the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and has authored The Wisdom of Plant Heritage, the NOFA handbook on small-scale seed production.

Copies are available for purchase for $18 (plus tax and shipping) on the NOFA-NY website, www.nofany.org/shop or by calling (585) 271-1979.  Orders of more than ten copies are eligible for a 25% bulk discount.

NOFA-NY, Inc. is an organization of consumers, gardeners, and farmers working together to create a sustainable regional food system which is ecologically sound and economically viable. Through demonstration and educational opportunities, we promote land stewardship, organic food production, and local marketing. NOFA-NY brings consumers and farmers closer together to make high quality food available to all people.

The project was supported in part from funds from the USDA Organic Research and Education Initiative Award No. 2004-51300-02229 and USDA-SARE grant LNE04-204.



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Filed under Beginning Farmer, seed saving, seeds, Sustainable Farming

Looking for Organic Pumpkins Apples Vegetables Meat Dairy NOFA-NY Organic Food Guide Online

   Looking for organic or sustainably produced foods. The NOFA-NY Food Guide is available online



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Filed under Environment, ORGANIC DAIRY, Sustainable Farming, Uncategorized