Movie

This movie will be my last post. The purpose of this movie is to raise awareness about some of the effects of the pesticides used in conventional agriculture. I want to encourage people to develop an interest in where their food comes from and how it is produced. Hopefully, consumers will begin to see past the price tag and see the value of producing food in a sustainable manner.

 

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Coturri Winery

The Coturri Wineryis run by Tony Corturri in the Sonoma Valley. The winery has been producing organic wines ever since it was founded in 1979. Tony’s brother, Phil, tends several vineyard in the surrounding area and grows the grapes used for the wines. The Coturri wines are made without any sulfites or other additives/preservatives. In video #2 on his blog, Tony discusses sulfites as well as the issue of truth in labeling. Currently, wines are not required to list their ingredients, so consumers have no idea what they are putting into their bodies. However, one of the requirements for a wine to be certified organic is that it contain no sulfites. Being in the organic wine business is especially difficult because the demand for organic wines is very small.

Tony Coturri in one of his vineyards

Recently, many other farmers in the Sonoma Valley have also begun to practice more sustainable methods. While most winemakers have not become certified organic, they have been implementing alternative solutions to pest control, such as bats and owls. Many farmers have also planted nitrogen fixing crops, such as beans, between the vines, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers.

Reference

“Organic and Sustainable Wine Production Expanding Rapidly in California”  http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/wine012104.cfm

 

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Heartland Mills

A recent article at newfarm.org profiled Heartland Mills in Marienthal, Kansas. The mill mostly processes organic wheat, but also organic oats, barley, rye, spelt, corn and millet from local farmers. A group of farmers founded the mill in 1986, at the forefront of the organic movement. These farmers had switched to organic after witnessing a rapid decline in the quality of their soil. The mill’s current General Manager, Mark Nightengale, who was a farmer at the time, describes how the soil had become compacted, had lost much of its capacity for water retention and had lost 90% of its organic matter. Faced with this problem of deteriorating soil, Nightengale and others switched to organic farming, even before there was a market for organic foods.

Heartland Mill

Heartland Mills

The organic pioneers of the mid-eighties were definitely swimming against the current. Nightengale remembers how “Some people told us we were going to the loony bin.” However, despite the obstacles, the founders of Heartland Mills stuck with it and the mill now processes around 160,000 lbs of grain per day. The mill and many of the farmers in the area are to be commended because they were willing to alter their farming methods back before the added incentive of their organic produce commanding a higher price.

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It’s a Bug Eat Bug World

Increasingly, farmers and researchers are exploring ways to control pest populations through the use of predator insects. Many bugs such as lacewings, preying mantises, ladybugs and parasitic wasps can be used to keep various pests in check. Many common cover crops, such as clover and buckwheat, can be used to attract beneficial insects.

These predators are an ideal form of pest control because they work for free. Purdue University Entomologist, Bob O’neill estimated that soybean farmers could save $10-$12 per acre on insecticides if they would use pirate bugs to help control the aphid populations. However, when farmers use insecticides, the good insects are killed along with the bad. As O’neill said, “It’s sort of akin to taking the bank guard out of the bank.” Many of these beneficial insects are quite efficient. A ladybug can eat 30-40 aphids per day.

pirate bug eating an aphid

pirate bug eating an aphid

 

References

University of Connecticut Article

Purdue Article

Beneficial Insects

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Sweet Success

Beekeeping is an important profession nationwide. It is especially widespread in Florida, where $11 million dollars worth of honey are produced annually. Even more important than honey production are bee’s roles as pollinators. However, bee populations around the country are threatened by a certain hive beetle which takes up residence in the hive and chases the bees away. Between 2004 and 2006, SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) funded research to develop a trap for the beetles. The traps were baited with a certain yeast released by the beetles which attracts more beetles. These traps were placed right next to beehives, eliminating the need to spray the hives with chemicals which would leave residues in the honey.

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researchers checking traps for hive beetles

These traps and other similar innovations such as pheromone traps are very encouraging because they lure pests away from various crops, making the application of pesticides unnecessary.

References:

SARE Project Report

SARE Article

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Marin Organic

Marin Organics is an association of farmers in Marin County, California. The organization is directed by local farmers with support from the UC Cooperative Extension. One of the goals of Marin Organics is to increase the number of organic farmers in the county as well as supporting established organic growers. This has been accomplished through a variety of programs including apprenticeships, workshops, marketing assistance, and organic certification assistance.

Marin has also sought to increase public involvement in agriculture through various events such as farm tours and farmers markets. One program in progress is the Marin Organic School Lunch and Gleaning Program. The goal of this program is to work with schools to offer organic lunch options by providing purchased and “gleaned” produce to school cafeterias. The gleaned produce consists of fruits and vegetables that could not be harvested and sold because of unpleasing appearance. This produce would otherwise be left in the fields and can constitute up to 20% of what was grown.

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Mike Gale and his grass-fed cattle

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strawberries from Sartori Farms

I think that Marin is an exciting organization to watch because they are encouraging many small-scale, local farms (many of which are 10 acres or less). These small farms are generally less concerned with making massive profits and more concerned with growing quality produce without having a negative impact on the environment. Marin is also to be commended for reaching out to the public in an effort to increase awareness about the sources of our food. As more people begin to question the sustainability of large-scale factory farms and agricultural chemicals, I hope that more organizations like Marin will spring up.

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Crystal Organic Farm

The video below features Nicholas Donck, an organic farmer in Newborn, Georgia.

I think it is interesting that although Donck earned a degree in international business but decided to become a farmer because the business world was “too much talk.” I’m sure Donck doesn’t make as much money as he could in business, but, more importantly, he clearly has great satisfaction growing organic and selling locally.

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