Showing Up and Speaking Up – CFSA Advocacy Work Makes a Difference

ONE OF OUR 2015 INSPIRING MEMBER STORIES

By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Kat Spann of Prodigal Farm in Rougemont, NC, knows first-hand how important it is for our legislators to hear our stories and see the direct impact their policies have on their constituents and the communities they represent.

“We all need to work as a team with CFSA,” she says, “being willing to step up and do something – attend Ag Day and other local, county and state agricultural gatherings, send an email, make a phone call, and, sometimes, show our face.”

Kat encourages us all to “be authentically yourself and tell your own story.” She tells her own story of the day she was all dressed up to speak before the Durham County Commissioners about zoning ordinances for farmers markets. While waiting for their issue to come up on the agenda, she was called back to the farm to care for a doe having trouble delivering her kids.

A couple hours later, after suffering her only loss of a doe during birthing, she checked back in and found that the Commissioners had not yet gotten to her item on the agenda. She decided to head back to the meeting and speak, covered in manure, urine, placenta, and her own tears because “this is what farmers look like.”

Spann-EOY-2015 - GIVEIt was a powerful image. Farmers are often out of sight and out of mind for elected leaders. It is up to us to put a face on the issues that affect farmers. Many elected officials don’t know a farmer, but we can change that.

CFSA staff, members, partners and friends work together to advocate for fair farm and food policies. We work to change agriculture laws and regulations to benefit local and organic small and mid-sized farms.

Kat’s advocacy work isn’t new for her. When Kat and partner, Dave Krabbe, moved to the farm from New York City, they learned that a biocontainment laboratory for the study of diseases that threaten both America’s animal agricultural industry and public health was planned to be built down the road from the farm. This was alarming since it would put research on diseases which have no current cure or treatment right in their community. Plans for the farm were put on hold as they spent more than a year in full-time grassroots advocacy and lobbying. Some of the lessons learned were how important research, verification and credibility are for successful opposition as well as showing legislators the real impact of an action on the constituency they serve.

Prodigal Farm was established by Kat Spann and Dave Krabbe in 2007 and has grown toProdigal Farms (21) become an Animal Welfare Approved goat farm and licensed farmstead cheese dairy. Kat names each of their kids each spring – 175 this year – and knows most of them by name and personality. Building and licensing their milking and production facility was another opportunity for policy, advocacy and lobbying work, this time on issues of appropriate dairy waste systems. Kat eventually spoke before the House and Senate Ag Committee which resulted in the introduction of a scale-appropriate law which now is beneficial to goat and cow dairies, as well as wineries, pickle making, and other value-added farm businesses.

“We all need to work as a team with CFSA,” she says, “being willing to step up and do something – attend Ag Day and other local, county and state agricultural gatherings, send an email, make a phone call, and, sometimes, show our face.”

Kat, along with her senior farm hand Will Bahr, Genell Pridgen of Rainbow Meadow Farm, and Suzanne Nelson of Haw River Ranch, were recognized by CFSA this year for hand-delivering a letter signed by 40 farmers to Gov. McCrory in opposition to House Bill 405 (known as the Ag Gag bill). Kat insists that she didn’t “do much” in this case but again emphasizes that each farmer must be willing to step up and do something.

For Kat, CFSA is an essential part of the team farmers need. Farmers have little time to read the full legal briefs and parse the nuances of the regulations but they do care passionately about the outcomes. So does CFSA.

CFSA staff can do the research, develop the connections, and build the relationships to provide the strong foundation farmers need on which to do their part. Kat reminds us “CFSA knows when our stories need telling – and our role is to show up and speak up!”

Prodigal Farm is a finalist in the national Good Food Awards – read more here.

Read more about the advocacy work of CFSA at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/advocacy/

Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give

or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312

 

Why Food Councils and Food Networks?

ONE OF OUR 2015 INSPIRING MEMBER STORIES

By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Grace and Cary Kanoy, of Davidson County, NC, believe putting down deep roots in a place and being an active part of a community are important. They are always being asked, “Why do we need a food network?” and “Why is food so important to you?”

Kanoys-EOY-2015 - GIVE“For a thriving community to exist,” Grace explains, “residents need to be healthy. Health comes from clean air, clean water, healthy food, physical activity, and a loving, supportive community. A healthy community that feeds itself is an independent and stable community. This is the kind of place we want to raise our family in.”

From a business standpoint, when residents, neighbors, and family members are healthy, it means healthy workers and better productivity. A healthy workforce attracts businesses and companies. Healthy students mean better attendance, better school performance.

CFSA is working with Grace and Cary to establish the Davidson County Local Food Network. CFSA staff provides resources, support and technical assistance through our partnership with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems’ Community Food Strategies initiative. Food councils are being formed at county, regional and state levels to create intentional networks around food system issues and to provide members with the skills and knowledge to identify local solutions to food systems challenges.

A healthy community that feeds itself is an independent and stable community. This is the kind of place we want to raise our family in.

Grace and Cary are filmmakers and photographers by day and concentrate their professional work as well as their community service on issues of social justice. “We have particularly valued CFSA’s efforts to affect and influence farm and food policy both in our state and on a federal level,” says Grace. “Through our relationship with CFSA and learning about other members’ efforts, we realize how much federal and state policy affects our local economy, community and even our family’s health.”

In their volunteer work helping establish the Davidson County Local Food Network, the Kanoys have learned much to share with other groups forming across the Carolinas: the greater impact that can be made working together as a community, taking time to weave a diverse network of community leaders committed to a shared purpose, building a sense of community responsibility and accountability, and sharing actual stories, both successes and failures. The Kanoys credit the leadership, experience and involvement of CFSA staff in helping establish credibility and facilitating positive change in their county.

“CFSA is our go-to resource for agriculture policy and sustainable ag resources for us in our own homestead and for our community network,” says Grace. “CFSA has had an enormous influence on our lives, introducing us to a wealth of experts, leaders and role models – from participating in farm tours, the Sustainable Ag Conference, learning about food councils and food policy, and becoming part of a larger community who are trying to live honest lives and make the world a better place.”

Read more about CFSA food council support and development at: www.carolinafarmstewards.org/food-councils/

Family Farm in South Carolina Increases Market Sales with Organic Certification

ONE OF OUR 2015 INSPIRING MEMBER STORIES

By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

When Lisa Rees and her husband, Taylor, moved back to their family land in 2013, their neighbors warned them, “You can’t grow organically down here.” The admonitions didn’t stop Lisa and Taylor of Five Forks Sustainable Farm LLC in Pageland, SC. In 2014, Lisa received a Dow Scholarship to the CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Then, in just two years, with the expert technical assistance of CFSA Farm Services staff, Five Forks Farm has completed a Conservation Activity Plan (CAP) and an Organic Certification Transition Plan.

Lisa-and-Taylor-Rees-EOY-2015.jpg

“We got our organic certification in August, and our sales at the Farmers’ Market increased by six-fold this week!” shared Lisa. “Thanks for all of your help and advice . . . I’m sure we would not have come this far without the help of CFSA!” Lisa and Taylor have big plans for their farm in the next ten years. Although they are currently farming only about two acres of vegetables and fruits, their 382 acres was part of an original land grant from King George and they hope to pass on a family legacy of healthy, natural, beautiful land producing an alternative to conventional agriculture. Lisa’s grandfather raised beef cattle on the land from the 1930s to the 1990s. “When he passed away the farm was just left to die,” said Lisa.

“Since there are not many organic farmers in our area the network of CFSA farmers has been a lifeline for us. We don’t feel so alone and we have a wealth of resources and farming friends to draw on and learn from.”

Lisa and Taylor spent 30 years living and working in Boone, NC, where they supported the progressive farming community there. Lisa is a CPA and Taylor worked as a truck driver. A visit to the homestead in Pageland for a holiday a few years ago renewed their appreciation for the abundance of the land and their commitment to family, healthy food, and stewardship of their family legacy.

When considering a move back to the family farm, they were excited to learn that CFSA serves both North and South Carolina. They took advantage of workshops, resources, and building connections to other sustainable farming members. To prepare for the move and beginning farming, they also interned on a local farm, learned how to process chickens and visited Polyface Farm in Virginia. CFSA staff helped the Rees’ complete a Conservation Action Plan for the farm and become Certified Organic.

Lisa credits their success at the Union County Farmers’ Market in Monroe to CFSA advice and encouragement. As they continue to learn and grow, their plans over the next few years include expanding the market garden, raising heritage pastured hogs and poultry, and returning cattle to the land in rotational grazing. “Since there are not many organic farmers in our area,” says Lisa, “the network of CFSA farmers has been a lifeline for us. We don’t feel so alone and we have a wealth of resources and farming friends to draw on and learn from.”

Read more about CFSA Farmer Services at:  www.carolinafarmstewards.org/farm-services/ Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give

or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312

 

What Mazie Learned About Food You Can Trust

ONE OF OUR 2015 INSPIRING MEMBER STORIES

By Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Why does a retired school teacher become a member of CFSA and a champion of sustainable farming? Ask Mazie Smith of Swan Quarter, NC, and she’ll quickly tell you how she believes her own health was seriously affected by adverse reactions to defoliants being sprayed on the cotton plants in her area. She will enthusiastically go on to convert you to CFSA membership and support for local, organic food!

mazie-EOY-2015 - GIVE“I became intent on learning as much as I could about what is sprayed on plants around me in conventional agriculture and the impact on humans and animals,” Mazie shares. “My research led me to an NC State University webpage on Organic Farming Information. It was here that I learned of the work CFSA accomplishes and the resources, workshops and other learning opportunities provided by CFSA.”

CFSA members know that where your food comes from and how it was grown is very important. As Mazie learned, CFSA members believe that food you can trust starts at the source – with the farmer.

“I now seek out local farmers and farmers markets to find humanely and organically raised meat and dairy products, along with vegetables that I can feel safe eating, preserving and serving to my family. The things I have learned from CFSA have empowered me to ask better questions and to seek out those food businesses that take stewardship of the land seriously. I take comfort in dealing with businesses that are already CFSA members and to encourage those who are not, to join. I am truly excited to be a new member and I look forward to continuing to learn and make a difference – for the health of us all – together with CFSA!”

Read more about CFSA and membership at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/what-we-do/

Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give

or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312.

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…Farm

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…Farm
by Jim Dykes, Hundred Acre Wood and Sanctuary Steward
photos provided by Hundred Acre Wood

 

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts by current CFSA members during our Winter Membership Drive.


 

Hundred Acre Wood cows on pasture

 

I am a retired physician, now farming. I have been a part of CFSA for more than 35 years. I was at the first organizational meeting of CFSA.  I’d love to share a story about that meeting.

 

But first I need to tell you just how I happened to be there. In my second year of Duke Medical School a grateful patient gave me a book of poetry: “Farming, A Handbook,” by Wendell Berry. The book changed the course of my life.

 

I would read his poems whenever my work on the wards would let me catch a moment of rest. I’d put on some fresh scrubs, find an empty stretcher in a quiet room, and read. A Man Born to Farming,” is the first poem in the collection. I began to wonder if I too might be such a man.

 

Though I was doing well in school, I started to believe I was called to be a farmer, not a doctor. To the consternation of parents and medical school faculty, I dropped out.

 

Back in those days, Graham Center in Anson County, NC, was the mecca for those interested in sustainable agriculture. It was a joint project of the Rural Advancement Fund and the National Sharecropper’s Association. I went to learn to farm organically and connect with others who had similar dreams. While I was there, what would become the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association had its first organizational meeting. 

Rosie the dog, Cathy, daughter Lia, Jim and goats

 

The room was packed with farmers and would-be farmers. There was a general consensus that the name of the organization should be Carolina Organic Growers. But at some point in the discussion, a farmer from Virginia stood up and gave an impassioned, impromptu speech about the necessity of stewardship.

 

 As farmers, our relationship to the land is vitally important. A good steward manages things in a way that
fosters the long term growth of the good, that improves circumstances rather than exploits them. Good farming is
more than our choice of fertilizer, it requires compassion for the land and the creatures on it.  It requires stewardship.

 

So Carolina Farm Stewardship Association was proposed as a name and was adopted unanimously by all present. I was proud to be there.

 

Although I eventually returned to Duke Medical School and practiced medicine for almost 30 years, I have remained a staunch supporter of CFSA.  Now, like I did 35 years ago, I retired from medicine to farm.  My farm, the Hundred Acre Wood Farm and Sanctuary, is on the CFSA fall farm tour.  I hope those who visit can  see signs of good stewardship. Nothing could make me more proud.

 

Farm-fresh dinner overlooking the garden

 

Scaling Up Without Losing our Souls

SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis

SAC 2010 did not skirt around any issue. The soul of the movement is on the line, and on everybody’s mind. And 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday was a perfectly acceptable time to address it, first thing in the morning.

THE PANEL: “Taking Sustainable Agriculture to Scale without Losing our Souls”

THE PURPOSE: Local and organic is a growing movement. But can we grow the supply of sustainable food and fiber in this country without losing our values?

THE MODERATOR: Scott Marlow, RAFI-USA

THE PANEL:

Rick Larson – Natural Capital Investment Fund

Ruffin Slater – Weaver Street Market

Matt Boulanger – Enterprise Farm (Massachusetts)

Sandi Kronick – Eastern Carolina Organics

Uli Bennewitz – Weeping Radish Brewery

Phil Barker – Operation Spring Plant, Prize in the Harvest Coop

If any of the audience members in the Grand Pavilion that morning felt groggy, they masked it perfectly with wide-awake faces and an eagerness to listen. The farmers, consumers, organizers and activists among the attentive audience and experienced panel discussed the changing, growing market and how the smaller players can win. The bottom line: yes, the game is changing. Buzz words saturate brands and media, and the movement has become a trend. For everyone involved from the beginning, “shouting into the wilderness” as Scott said, it’s their job to protect the values behind it, so as not to “lose our soul”. At the end of the day, everyone in that room, at the conference, is considered “an activist entrepreneur with the power to bring about social change.” Below is a list of highlighted topics and tips from the panelists, in their own words.

Protect our values. Scott Marlow: “Markets do not stay static – ever. As there becomes more and more value in what we do and what we’ve created, and we address certain problems [climate change, peak oil, obesity] there will be more and more people who want to take advantage of that value and cut out the piece themselves. So the big question is: How do we do this and make it real?” [After the panel, he added]: “If we don’t protect our ground, our values get syphered off, our integrity gets eroded, it all goes away.”

Keep it local. Ruffin Slater: “It’s important to look at the supply chain. I think we have amazing success stories at every part of that chain. When these parts of the chain are locally owned, there are no problems with values, with the soul of the movement. It’s a big loss when locally-owned stores are bought out by national chains. If we can learn how to grow grapes and produce wine organically, we can learn how to run an institutional cafeteria.”

Know your neighbors. Phil Barker: “I think that we can’t just move in our pastures anymore. We have to look at what our neighbors do, and how do we work together to make this work? There’s a big difference now in the way we think about how we make profit. The dollars are going to begin to drop down for certain growers. As we move forward, I see ourselves as pulling together and investing our dollars in the community.” [Later he added]: “Our small farms are the backbone of our agricultural system. We have to keep our small farmers on the land as owners.”

Drive the volume. Sandi Kronick:” Greatest innovation is the direct market distribution. There’s obviously a lot of challenges in it, but what’s exciting is there’s nothing linear about it. We’re all kind of bumping into each other in the market, but we’re blessed by having the same values. It’s trust, it’s what happens when you’re working with people. We’re all moving in the same direction. How do we maintain the identity of that farm and the integrity, so the prices are what they need to make and not driving it down? It’s ultimately how quickly it can get to the vendor. The fewer steps, the more money goes to the producer.”  [Later she said]: “Network. There’s no reason why the middleman can’t be a food advocate.”

Sell in more than one outlet. Rick Larson: “I think it’s important as growers to have more than one outlet for your product. The market is fluid, it’s always changing. You have to have more than one way to move your product. It helps a lot if you do. If you’re just a CSA farm, and you have a few consumers, that’s it. In coming up with capital, a cost share can be very effective.”

Maintain relationships to maintain integrity (versus the big guys). Uli Bennewitz: “One thing we are completely underestimating is the trust of the public in small farms. That’s the biggest asset we have – integrity and trust. There is no way Smithfield or Tyson can prove where their product came from. “

Old Salem and Reynolda House Show Off Winston-Salem’s Garden History

Savoy cabbage takes over Salt St. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis

Savoy cabbage takes over Salt St. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis

SAC 2010 Guest Blogger, Victoria Bouloubasis

Growing up in Clemmons, I remember trotting over to Old Salem in guided school tours as a kid. By the time I hit my teenage too-cool-for-school phase, I wasn’t interested in the nerdy history, except for that one tasty bit: the bakery.  Once the leaves started to fall and the air turned crisp, my friends and I would take a trip to sit under the fiery orange trees and devour a gooey Moravian sugar cake, the crystalized, indulgent evidence splattered on our chins.

Gourds with a nice view in Old Salem's Horticulture workroom. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Gourds with a nice view in Old Salem's Horticulture workroom. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

The sugar shock must have been more like a haze, because from bakery to favorite tree, we completely bypassed another historic food gem. It wasn’t until now, a decade later, when I learned the Moravians did more than just bake to earn a place in gastronomic history. The very first Moravian settlers cultivated vegetable gardens. Our tour guide, gardener Eric Jackson, led us through the newly revamped Single Brothers Garden on Salt St. The original garden was first started in 1769 out of necessity to provide the boys choir with food grown in their backyard. After 45 years, it became a community garden (there’s that trendy buzz word!). The original plot no longer exists, but the recreated landscape on Salt St. serves as the museum’s example of Moravian sustainable agriculture. The enormous, sprawling kale, cabbage, lettuce and other vegetables aren’t treated organically in the greenhouse, though Eric did make it clear that after planting, they are cared for with organic methods only. Old Salem currently employs three vegetables gardeners, one greenhouse manager and one flower gardener. Unfortunately, the gorgeous, edible leafy greens are usually left to wilt, only there for show.

On the corner of Walnut and Marshall Sts. sits a lair of heirloom seeds! Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis

On the corner of Walnut and Marshall Sts. sits a lair of heirloom seeds! Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis

The museum does, however, maintain heirloom seeds and conduct extensive research on a variety of native NC crops. We were lucky enough to snatch some heirloom onions to plant in our own backyards, as well as get special access to the Horticulture Workroom. There I spotted a former JIF peanut butter jar now slapped with a handwritten label touting the Southern heritage inside: “Peanuts. Pre-Civil War.”

Touring through Reynolda's Formal Gardens. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Touring through Reynolda's Formal Gardens. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

We then slipped over to the Reynolda Gardens (formerly of the Reynolda house; now of Wake Forest University). While wealthy industrialist R.J. Reynolds only enjoyed his estate for just a few weeks before he died, his wife, Katherine, took advantage of her wealth and the popular Country House Era sentiment to create an expansive model farm from 1912 to 1924. According to our guides, Preston Stockton and David Bare, 350 acres were under cultivation by 1917. The farm itself included all the best meat and dairy: Jersey cows, Tamworth swine, Shropshire sheep. The Reynolds-Conrad family, neighbors and employees all enjoyed the fruits — and vegetables, milk, meat– of their labor. Our particular SAC tour led us through the Formal Gardens. Mrs. Reynolds strategically planted the most beautiful, noteworthy and exotic vegetables in the “upper garden” within view of the town, using cutting-edge methods. When in season, fig trees, grape vines, asparagus, strawberries, leeks and more adorn the rows along Reynolda Rd.

“Mrs. Reynolds specified that she wanted the gardens open to the public to represent modern horticulture,” said David Bare.

Most of the produce goes to volunteers who tend to the garden, but Winston-Salem residents can catch their share of history and fresh, local produce at the Reynolda Village Farmers Market every Friday. The grounds are open from sun up to sun down to the public. Take advantage if you’re in town, and don’t forget to get a glimpse into the impressive greenhouse –vanilla beans and Meyer lemons are just a few of the gourmet treasures inside.

Creating Abundance Through Permaculture – Chuck Marsh

Guest post by PL Byrd, The Byrdfeeder

Just so you know:

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system.”
-Bill Mollison

Last Hurrah

Love Light Shining

Permaculture design expert and friend of the earth Chuck Marsh is calling us to action, and we are listening. Key philosophical highlights of his grand lecture are featured in this post.

  • You’re already walking around with your love light shining. Click to High Beam, fellow travelers, because the world really needs you to engage deeply in the work of healing and creating abundance. You are the front line.
  • Your heart assignment is this: step forward and take back your life, your community and your future. You are part of the Grand Design, and are needed to help fix the destructive patterns of the past. Your light illuminates the curves and shadows; your good vibration tunes the path, and your resonance helps others find the way home. Friend, you offer knowledge, love, and joy. Share it! (Sounds wu-wu, doesn’t it…but you know it’s true because it feels right.)
  • We have many friends and allies in this effort, and much progress has already been made. A cautionary note: the local food issue is getting a lot of attention from institutional levels. But, institutions aren’t going to fix us. Dogs, fleas…fox, henhouse…lipstick, pig. Beware.
  • Our world appears to be unraveling, but She (our Mother Earth) is simply making room for the next big adventure. This is a positive thing! It’s time to replant our beautiful garden, to create more abundance in the world. For a dose of inspiration, check the joyful fun of Bountiful Backyards, a landscape collective in Durham, NC by clicking here.

Must permission be granted in order to create common spaces? What if budding orchards simply start to appear in peculiar places, say, City Hall, or the local church yard? What if…

The Takeaway: we can rebuild our world back to health through individual and collective actions. Permaculture is a whole system design approach that lives and breathes! It’s nutrition-based, which turns me on beyond measure. It’s HOLISTIC! It’s affordable, beautiful, heart-centered, and meets the needs of a family on a small budget.

Permaculture requires maintenance, and according to Chuck, maintenance is love.

Maintenance is Love!

Maintenance is Love!

I cannot sit still with my countrymen in chains.
I cannot act mute
Hearing the world’s loneliness
Crying near the Beloved’s heart.

– Hafiz

You know you’re onto something big when a Permaculture workshop starts with a Hafiz poem.

To learn more about Chuck Marsh and Permaculture, please visit Useful Plants Nursery here.

To learn more about the life and poetry of Hafiz, click here. (Daniel Ladinsky is my translator of choice.)

Add – on value: to view Cal Lane’s exquisite metalwork, click here. She’ll light you up.