Family Farms Mean Business Event Draws Farmers, Local Food Supporters to Oregon Capitol

Local chefs and farmers celebrating local, sustainable agriculture at the 2017 Family Farms Mean Business Day at the Capitol in Salem.

On Tuesday, April 4, Friends of Family Farmers held our fourth ‘Family Farms Mean Business’ Day at the State Capitol in Salem. The event drew over 100 farmers, ranchers, students and local food supporters to the Capitol building to talk with legislators and rally in support of efforts important to Oregon’s small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers and family-scale sustainable agriculture.

Gratefull Gardens from McMinnville helped represent the importance of Community Supported Agriculture at the 2017 Family Farms Mean Business Farmers Market inside the State Capitol.

The event included a ‘farmers market’ inside the Capitol in which local producers gave out free samples and talked with legislators about the importance of farm-direct agriculture and strong local food systems.

Alexis Taylor, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture delivered opening remarks to policy workshop attendees at the Family Farms Mean Business Day in Salem

Morning policy workshops drew dozens of local farmers and farm supporters from across Oregon, with welcome remarks delivered by Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Alexis Taylor.

Farmers, ranchers, chefs, farmers’ market representatives, local food supporters and school kids rallying on the Capitol steps at the April 2017 Family Farms Mean Business Day at the Oregon Capitol

In the afternoon, event attendees met with Legislators from across Oregon to talk about bills to support beginning farmers, address problems with poorly regulated genetically engineered crops, provide funding for Oregon’s Farm-to-School program and regulate air emissions from the growing number of ‘mega’ dairies coming to Oregon, including a recently approved 30,000-cow confinement dairy operation in eastern Oregon.

We’d like to thank everyone who came to Salem for this great event.

A list of priority bills that Friends of Family Farmers is supporting this year in Salem can be found here.

Please contact your State Legislators to let them know you support these bills as well.

Additional Materials:

SB 1037 Fact Sheet – Local control over genetically engineered crops

SB 197 Fact Sheet – Air pollution rules for large dairy operations

HB 2739 Fact Sheet – Patent-holder liability for financial harm to farmers caused by genetically engineered crops

HB 2038 Fact Sheet – Funding Oregon’s Farm-to-School Program

Our Statement on Oregon’s Decision to Approve Major New Mega-CAFO

Statement from Ivan Maluski, Policy Director, Friends of Family Farmers, on the March 31 decision by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon Department of Agriculture to issue a permit approving a controversial new 30,000-cow mega-dairy in Eastern Oregon

“The state’s decision to grant the water pollution permit for a new 30,000 head mega-dairy in eastern Oregon is disappointing but not surprising. Two state agencies have now spent countless hours and public dollars to be able to permit this operation, which improperly began construction last fall because it assumed today’s outcome was inevitable.”

“We are particularly disappointed that the state did not conduct an economic analysis to look at the impact to small and mid-sized dairy farms in Oregon should this operation be built. Oregon has lost over 75% of its dairy farms, mostly small and mid-sized, since the first mega-dairy came to Oregon in 2002. These huge operations create an economic climate of boom and bust milk prices that have made it harder and harder for family dairy farms to survive.”

“This decision also exposes Oregon’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach for air pollution from mega-dairies. We would expect this kind of approach to major sources of air pollution from the Trump Administration, not Governor Kate Brown. A consensus proposal the dairy industry signed on to a decade ago would require air pollution monitoring and regulation for this operation, but to date, no such program exists. We urge the Legislature to move forward with SB 197 to address the significant air pollution issues this operation is likely to create.”

Sustainable: Exclusive Film Showing on January 31 at InFARMation in Portland

Tuesday, January 31 at the Holocene (1001 SE Morrison St, Portland)
-Doors open at 5:30
-Program begins at 6:30

*Exclusive screening of the award winning film*

Sustainable

The future of our food system determines the future of mankind

Click the photo above to view a trailer of the film Sustainable


This month at InFARMation, we have on tap an exclusive showing of the new, award-winning film Sustainable. Sustainable is a
 vital investigation of the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system, from the agricultural issues we face — soil loss, water depletion, climate change, pesticide use — to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it. Sustainable is a film about the land, the people who work it and what must be done to sustain it for future generations.

An Overview of Sustainable: There is no hiding from the facts – rising temperatures, drought, soil loss, chemicals in our food, antibiotic resistance, declining bee populations, obesity, diabetes, shorter life expectancy – America needs help. Sustainable reveals the crisis facing America’s food system, and the community of leaders who are determined to fix it. Amidst the cornfields of Illinois lives the hero of the film – Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agribusiness. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago. Greg Wade, a visionary young breadmaker, works with Marty to revitalize ancient grain production in the Midwest, joining an artisan bread movement that’s sweeping our country. Together, they prove that traditional bread is not only healthier, it is also better for the environment. From Klaas Martens’ Einkorn fields in rural New York to Bill Niman’s cattle ranch off the Pacific coast, industry pioneers around the nation join in to reveal the profound connection between human health and environmental protection. In Iowa, Matt Liebman discovers a solution to combat the trifecta of drought, flooding and soil runoff, and a young Amish man in Ohio emerges as an agricultural leader who will feed the world despite climate extremes and limited natural resources.

Additional key interviews include Rick Bayless, Dan Barber, Mark Bittman, Marion Nestle, John Ikerd, Kelly Brownell, Nicolette Niman and Fred Kirschenmann. Sustainable is a story of hope and transformation, about passion for the land and a promise that it can be restored to once again sustain us.

AWARDS and ACCOLADES for Sustainable:

Best Cinematography, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

Best Health/Environmental Documentary, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival

Winner, Spotlight Platinum Award

Winner, The Accolade Global Film Competition

“A persuasive and refreshingly positive eco-foodie doc.” The Hollywood Reporter

“Sustainable is what a farming documentary should be.” Documentary Drive

“A vital perspective to mankind’s relationship with the planet.” Screen Space

“Deserves broad exposure on TV and video.” The Hollywood Reporter

Filmmaker Biographies:

Matt Wechsler, Director/Cinematographer/Editor, Hourglass Films – Matt is an award-winning filmmaker from Chicago and the founder of Hourglass Films. His 2012 New York Emmy-nominated documentary, Different is the New Normal, aired nationally on PBS and was narrated by Michael J. Fox. In 2014, he shot and edited a 30-minute documentary, I Am For Peace, which also aired on PBS. Sustainable is his first feature film.

Annie Speicher, Producer/Editor/Audio, Hourglass Films – Before joining Matt at Hourglass Films in 2013, Annie edited several television shows including Mexico: One Plate at a Time featuring Rick Bayless. She has been nominated for a 2013 Midwest Emmy for her production work on Grannies On Safari: Colors of Cuba, as well as a 2016 Daytime Emmy for Mexico: One Plate at a Time. Sustainable is her first feature documentary.

Speaking up for Family Farms at the Oregon Board of Agriculture

The Oregon Board of Agriculture listens to a Farm Service Agency at its December 2016 meeting.
The Oregon Board of Agriculture listens to a Farm Service Agency panel at its December 2016 meeting.

Every few months, the 10-member Oregon Board of Agriculture meets somewhere in the state. The Board of Agriculture ‘advises the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) on policy issues, develops recommendations on key agricultural issues, and provides advocacy of the state’s agriculture industry in general. In addition, the board issues a biennial report to the Governor and Legislative Assembly regarding the status of Oregon’s agriculture industry.’

Because of this, FoFF often speaks at Board of Agriculture meetings to talk about issues important to small and mid-sized family farms in the state.

At the Board’s most recent meetings, held November 29 – December 1, we provided testimony raising concerns about the proposed Lost Valley Ranch 30,000 head mega-dairy moving into north central Oregon. We believe the proposal underscores several serious flaws in Oregon’s permitting process for livestock operations of this scale that need to be addressed. You can read our full testimony to the Board here, but we raised several key points including:

  • Water Quality – A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) of the scale of Lost Valley Ranch should not be sited in the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, a region with significant groundwater contamination issues related to runoff from manure.
  • Air Quality – Mega-CAFOs like the nearby Threemile Canyon Farms are already major air pollution sources in the region, releasing ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane. A state task force in 2008 recommended the creation of a Dairy Air Quality program to reduce air quality impacts from these kinds of operations, but to date, no such program exists. The state’s failure to establish air quality rules for large CAFOs is a major breakdown in oversight and accountability, and such oversight must be in place before Lost Valley Ranch is approved.
  • Land Use – While Oregon’s land use system protects agriculture, local communities have little or no power to say ‘no’ to industrial scale factory farms that threaten local agricultural communities, rural quality of life and the environment. The state must consider upgrades to the land use system to allow local communities to say ‘no’ to factory farms.
  • Impact on Smaller Farms – Both the US and Oregon have seen large numbers smaller family-scale dairy farms go out of business as the number of larger confinement dairies has grown. But the Oregon Department of Agriculture does not conduct any sort of impact analysis on the economic tradeoffs and potential harms to smaller farms when large CAFOs move in. ODA must consider the economic tradeoffs of these operations before it issues permits that could end up putting family scale farms out of business.

We hope that our concerns will not be lost on deaf ears. Please contact Governor Kate Brown and urge her to deny the water quality permit for the Lost Valley Ranch mega-CAFO, to enact long-overdue air quality rules for large livestock operations, and to protect small and mid-sized family farms and rural communities in Oregon from factory farms that threaten their livelihoods.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture will be making a decision on a key water quality permit needed for the Lost Valley Ranch proposal in the coming months. The next Board of Agriculture meetings will be held February 15-17, 2017 at the Oregon Department of Agriculture headquarters, at 635 Capitol St. NE in Salem.

 

Stocked and loaded!

fyp-2016-collageWe are consistently impressed by the community’s commitment to fortifying a vibrant food system. The second Portland Fill Your Pantry exemplified the extent to which Oregonians engage in our regional, sustainable agriculture by supporting local producers.

The 2016 online sales surpassed $36,000 (up from $23,000 last year), and vendors sold an additional $14,000 worth of local food during the three-hour event! That means, Fill Your Pantry shoppers directed over $50,000 dollars to local producers!

Check out the chart to see the breakdown of sales by product.  fyp-graph

The value of this event reverberates beyond the financial impact to our local economy because that $50,000 translates to thousands and thousands of pounds of healthful possibilities. Whole foods like winter squash, beans, honey, grains, root veggies, etc. have made the migration from the fields to home kitchens where creativity and handcraft will morph them into nutrition and sustenance.

fyp-2016-collage-3For those of you who participated in this event, we hope your experience was positive and that your pantry is prepared to sustain you throughout the winter! For those of you who missed it, save the date for FoFF’s first Salem Fill Your Pantry on January 28th!

 

Pizza Party for FoFF!

Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for farmers. Price of tickets include pizza & salad, one drink ticket, ice cream, chocolate, music, a raffle ticket, and a donation to FoFF!  Additional drink tickets may be purchased for $4. Ages 21 and over.

Get your tickets here!

Money raised at this party will fund our Urban Outreach Program which includes events like InFARMation, Fill Your Pantry, hands on workshops like the one with Sandor Katz, farm visits, and much more. It is important that FoFF facilities educational experiences for urban consumers so that they know who is growing their food and with that knowledge, feel empowered to vocalize the kind of food system they want to see in Oregon.

We have some awesome silent auction items available for the taking, too! Products have been donated from: Patagonia, Breitenbush Hot Springs, Equal Exchange, Coava Coffee, Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply, Nel Centro, Worthy Brewing, Duck Pond Cellars, Dove Vivi Pizza, and more yet to come!

Verdant Hills Farm: FoFF in the Field

img_8209“All of my grandparents escaped the farm. Sometimes when I’m working, moving cow manure, I think to myself, is this what I envisioned myself doing with my life, you know, when I was 16?”

Michael laughed. We were in his kitchen, having wrapped up a tour of Verdant Hills Farm, which he has operated with husband Rich and 12-year old daughter Emily since 2013. Around us their 80 acres fanned out like a great skirt – a “throwback” to times when farmhouses stood at the heart of the land which supported them.
calf-2

Our first stop on the tour had been to visit the newest addition to the farm: a calf born just that morning, curled up in the “deep bedding” layer of straw in the loafing shed. She was joined by the other recently born calves and the new mothers of the season, licking their calves to keep track of which were theirs – as they primarily tell by scent, until the calf picks up its signature “moo”. Beyond the loafing shed in the pasture there was another group of cows with more mature calves, and in a third area – a group of yearlings, born the previous year. They’re approaching the target population of 27 cows: 9 cows, 9 yearlings and 9 calves. They’re a closed herd, meaning no other cows come onto the property; new genetics are introduced via artificial insemination.

shade-and-mistersIn today’s confusing and sometimes misleading landscape of labels, Verdant Hills Farm has found strength in directly marketing to customers who can know their farmers and determine if their values align. The core value of the meat production aspect of Verdant Hills Farm is the humane treatment of the animals. Butchering is done onsite by a local certified butcher, and the meat sold by the ¼ cow (vs. by cuts) to avoid sending them off to a USDA-certified slaughterhouse. These Angus cows, selected for docility and marbling, are 100% grass-fed using intensive rotational grazing, and all of their feed (pasture and haylage) is produced on-farm. The farm, near McMinnville, previously produced grass seed for lawns, and had to be replanted in forage-grade seed. They’re in the process of transitioning from annuals (ryegrass and clover) to a perennial mix with more forbs (chicory, Boston plantain) and have a no-till drill to accomplish re-seeding with as little erosion as possible. “We look at ourselves as forage farmers first,” asserted Rich. herd-3

Verdant Hills Farm has recently joined the Oregon Pasture Network, a program of Friends of Family Farmers that works to support the growth of pasture-based farming in Oregon for the benefits of connecting with other producers as well as more potential consumers.

We visit the flock of 16 layer hens in the pasture, next to their mobile chicken coop, and toss them a treat of watermelon rinds. Their job is to help control pests (flies) by breaking up the cowpies and eating the fly larvae. They also produce marvelous, orange-yolked eggs; Emily pulls out two this afternoon – one blue and one brown. They are sold at a weekly town drop-off; customers are also able to add on whatever produce is spilling over from the numerous raised beds right outside the kitchen window.

cow-farm-dogLast stop is the beautiful silvery cedar wood barn. The requisite cats are found snoozing atop the remaining strawbale towers – soon to be joined by many more bales in anticipation of winter bedding needs. Throughout the farm, Michael, Rich and Emily’s love for their animals and land is evident. From the loafing shed, which has had a passive rain shelter added on to it, to the portable shade structures built to be moved in the pastures to follow the cattle, to knowing just where on the head to give a little scratch – this family loves their animals and the land and life they help support. Verdant Hills Farm embodies the level of care that can and should go into food production – the delicious baby elephant-sized melon they sent me off with is proof positive! 

-Written by FoFF volunteer Ellen Mickle

Statement on ODA Director Katy Coba’s Appointment to Head Oregon’s Dept. of Administrative Services

The Oregon Board of Agriculture was treated to lunch at the Threemile Canyon Farms/RD Offutt facility in Boardman, September 2015 just after Threemile General Manager Marty Myers was appointed to the Board.
The Oregon Board of Agriculture and ODA staff were treated to lunch by Threemile Canyon Farms & their parent company RD Offutt in September 2015, shortly after the controversial appointment of Threemile’s General Manager Marty Myers to the Board.

Statement on Appointment of Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba to Lead the Oregon Department of Administrative Services from Ivan Maluski, Policy Director, Friends of Family Farmers

“We wish Katy Coba the best in her new role with the Department of Administrative Services. Her long background in state government should serve her well. But we also believe that a change in leadership at the Oregon Department of Agriculture is needed and hope that Governor Brown will use this opportunity to proactively shift the agency in a direction that better represents the strong commitment that Oregonians have to supporting sustainable, family-scale farms and agriculture.”

“Over the last several years at ODA, we’ve seen a growing shift towards promoting large, corporate, factory-scale farming operations in Oregon even as the state has been losing small and mid-sized family farms in large numbers. We’ve also seen an unwillingness by ODA to support common-sense state-level regulations to protect Oregon farmers from the significant economic risks and harms associated with poorly regulated genetically engineered crops. Whether it’s the growth of factory farms or the agency’s unwillingness to regulate genetically engineered crops to protect at-risk farmers, all too often ODA has stood with out-of-state agri-business interests.”

“In recent years, the ODA has also embarked on controversial efforts to open the long-standing Willamette Valley Protected District’s world-class seed producing region to genetically engineered canola, putting hundreds of family farms that are part of our valuable seed, fresh market vegetable and organic industries at risk. Friends of Family Farmers and a number of family-owned Oregon seed companies were forced to sue the agency over its 2012 decision to use a ‘temporary’ rule for such a significant decision, with the Oregon Court of Appeals calling the ODA’s justification ‘legally incorrect’ and ‘unreasonable.’”

“While we have not always agreed with Coba’s decisions or the stances of the Oregon Department of Agriculture during her tenure, we’ve appreciated being able to raise issues of importance to sustainable, family-scale farmers in Oregon and wish her well in this new position. We look forward to engaging Governor Brown and her staff as they search for a new Director for the Oregon Department of Agriculture and believe this appointment presents a key opportunity for the Governor to leave a legacy that reflects the importance of supporting sustainable, small and mid-sized family-scale farms and agriculture in our state.”

Groups Seek Rejection of Oregon Mega-Dairy

August 5, 2016

Groups File Comments Seeking Rejection of Oregon Mega-Livestock Operation

Cite Significant Impacts to Water, Air and Public Health

Salem, OR – This week, a wide range of environmental, family farm, public health and animal welfare organizations jointly submitted comments urging the State of Oregon to reject a proposed 30,000-head confinement dairy operation near the Columbia River. The facility would be one of the nation’s largest dairy confined animal feeding operations and poses a major threat to ground and surface water, air quality and public health in the region.

The facility, Lost Valley Ranch, is seeking a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the Oregon Departments of Agriculture and Environmental Quality. Though the facility would produce more biological waste than most Oregon cities, it is proposed for the Lower Umatilla Basin Groundwater Management Area, which is impacted by elevated nitrate concentrations in groundwater that in many areas exceed federal safe drinking water standards, or which contain excess pathogens from manure and bio-solids.

“We are concerned about the potential human health problems of adding more nitrogen and pathogens into the Lower Umatilla Basin aquifer,” said Kelly Campbell, executive director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility.

In addition to water quality concerns, the facility would be a significant new source of air pollution in a region already impacted by emissions from several nearby large confined animal feeding operations and industrial sources. The Oregon Dairy Air Quality Task Force in 2008 found that dairies and other animal feeding operations emit a wide range of pollutants including ammonia, nitrogen oxides, methane, volatile organic compounds, hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter, all of which pose public health risks in a region with declining air quality.

Despite this, the state has no plan to regulate, or even monitor, air emissions from the facility. “By ignoring the air pollution impacts of these kinds of mega-livestock operations altogether, Oregon is in effect subsidizing factory-scale livestock production,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director with Friends of Family Farmers, a small and mid-size farm advocacy group that served on the state’s Dairy Air Quality Task Force.

The proposal would produce roughly 187 million gallons of manure each year and use over 320 million gallons of water annually, raising questions on long-term impacts to the Umatilla basin and Columbia River as water becomes more scarce due to drought and climate change.

“The Oregon Department of Agriculture is tasked with both promoting and regulating agribusiness, and its conflict of interest is apparent in this proposal to permit a massive factory dairy, despite threats to water quality and public health,” said Tarah Heinzen, an attorney with Food & Water Watch.

“We urge the Oregon Department of Agriculture to deny this project,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This factory farm would use over 320 million gallons of water each year, taking water from endangered species like salmon and putting drinking water at risk.”

“The establishment of this factory farm would take a harmful toll on farm animal welfare, the environment and public health, and it would also be a step toward putting more of Oregon’s family farmers out of business. The Oregon Department of Agriculture should reject this proposal,” said Scott Beckstead, director of rural outreach for The Humane Society of the United States.

The organizations submitting the comments are Food & Water Watch, Columbia Riverkeeper, Friends of Family Farmers, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club Oregon Chapter, Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, The Humane Society of the United States and Center for Biological Diversity.

The comments can be read at http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/FWW-et-al.-Lost-Valley-Ranch-NPDES-Comments-2.pdf

FoFF in the Field at Naked Acres Farm

IMG_0649When envisioning Naked Acres Farm, one might imagine empty fields or uniform row crops. This farm is nothing of the sort. It is a wonderful specimen of diversity, a bouquet of heritage animals and heirloom vegetables, a lovely juxtaposition of the plant and animal kingdoms. Seeing as how the farm is so full of life and colors and characters, my guess is the adornment missing from this naked farm scene is a veil of synthetic chemicals and confinement infrastructure for their animals.

Naked Acres Farm is the result of dedication, long days, and tenacity. Farmers Gus and Margo manage the 3 ½ acres every day while juggling two farmers markets and off-farm jobs. Having an off-farm income is critical for many, if not most, beginning farmers.  The high cost of land and water, particularly urban land and water, equipment and amendment costs, and the inherent risk of working at the whim of Mother Nature makes farming a high investment, low return sort of profession. Naked Acres accounts for this precarious formula by growing the farm incrementally as to avoid debt, even if it means the physical growth is slower than their reveries.

IMG_0644FoFF’s Urban Outreach program recently teamed up with IRCO (Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization) to organize a farm tour for parents enrolled in the Seed to Supper programs at Gilbert Park and Lent Elementary. Most of the folks who attended the field trip had never experienced a commercial farm setting nor met a farmer producing food in their own community. IMG_0648

Naturally, the tour kicked off with the most amusing feature, the animals. Gus described the process of raising animals humanely and why they concede extra labor and additional space in order to ensure their animals receive the highest welfare possible. It shows. The chickens, hogs, goats, sheep, and even a llama all exhibit their natural behaviors, outside in fresh air, with plenty of space to scratch and jump and root around for hidden treasures in the dirt. Due to their commitment to humane and ecologically responsible animal husbandry, Naked Acres Farm serves on the advisory board of Friends of Family Farmers’ Oregon Pasture Network.

IMG_0646Livestock animals are not the only creatures tended to on the farm. Beneficial insects, the kinds that feed on pests like aphids and mites and pollinate crops, are catered to with hedgerows, spray-free management practices, and forage abundance. Their vegetable production is an arduous one because, like everything else on the farm, Gus and Margo opt to take time to hand-weed rather than using herbicides. Thanks to the additional time, labor, and love they devote to the land, farm visitors are free to touch and taste with ease and enjoyment.

Naked Acres hosts an open farm a couple of times per year. If you are itching to witness hilarious goats and happy hogs, email Gus to receive notifications.