by CFSA Members, Lee and Larry Newlin of Peaceful River Farm in Chapel Hill, NC | May 26, 2017 – 
Preparing a farm dinner at Peaceful River Farm

Preparing a farm dinner at Peaceful River Farm

 

A Diagnosis Leads to Education

It was a personal concern for health that unexpectedly led us into sustainable farming. We are Larry and Lee Newlin of Peaceful River Farm, and we purchased an 18-acre tract on the Haw River in southern Orange County in 2010. But it was Lee’s 2005 diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that started us on this journey.

In January 2005, we met Lee’s oncologist for the first time at Greensboro’s regional cancer center. He didn’t bother to look up from his clipboard as he apologized for keeping us waiting. “What do you know about your prognosis?” he asked.

“We were told by the surgeon who performed the biopsy that the cancer is not aggressive,” we responded.

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By Marianna Spence, CFSA Membership Coordinator | Jan. 25, 2016 –

Fabian and Sandra

Their children, Fermin and Fiamma, were four and five years old when the Lujan family moved to the United States 16 years ago to an apartment in Burlington, NC.

In Argentina Fabian and Sandra were beekeepers, with more than 80 hives at one point. Even so, they considered beekeeping a side job and wanted to take the next step as farmers.

“We were about to move to a very isolated farm with the idea of being self-sufficient,” said Sandra. “We got the place ready to move and a gigantic flood ruined the space. We lost 20 hives and couldn’t access the farm for three months because of washed-out roads. It wasn’t a good way to start.”

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ONE OF OUR 2015 INSPIRING MEMBER STORIES

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

Ardis and Henry Crews, of Henderson, NC, don’t let any moss grow under their feet. Instead they are transforming their community by growing micro-enterprise urban farms called Micro Market Farms. In the past 18 months they have helped establish seven of these urban farms and the city of Henderson has agreed to give them fifteen more abandoned lots to work with.

“We grow more than vegetables,” says Ardis, Founder of SOFFA (Southern Organic Female Farmers Association). “We grow community,” explains Henry, Founder of NC Green Rural Re-Development Organization.

“We grow viable small businesses for local folks, places for youth to learn, and relationships with neighbors who re-learn how to be neighborly. The garden opens doors and neighbors begin to share ideas and act together for community re-development.”

SOFFA truck photoHenderson is Henry’s hometown and Ardis grew up in Rocky Mount, but they never thought they would return to North Carolina. They lived in Chicago for thirty years where Ardis was a college administrator and Henry owned and ran an electronic business. After they retired, they would come back to Henderson to escape the Chicago winters and to visit family and friends. On one of these visits, they admired the garden of neighbor Marian Brodie Williams. Ardis impulsively said, “If I had more land, I’d do more gardening.” The very next week they plowed up a small field and began a community garden.

With their background in higher education and business entrepreneurship, they immediately saw the garden as a tool for entrepreneurial job opportunities, rural re-development, and community transformation. They decided to start first on the string of small houses they owned in a blighted and high-crime part of town.

Ardis and Henry’s words tumble over each other as they eagerly share their story and all SOFFA garden photothey have accomplished in this brief time. In addition to establishing the Brody, Crews, and Marrow Farms, they have become certified bee keepers, put in a worm farm and an aquaponics tank licensed to grow tilapia, certified their land as a wildlife habitat, were approved for Safe Farm Certification, received EQUIP cost-share funds for three hoop houses (and passed a city ordinance allowing hoop houses in the city), and won an award from Vance-Granville Community College for their business plan.

The first seven cooperative farms have begun selling at a local Farmers Market, an on-farm market, to Farmers Food Share, and to restaurants. Realizing that big conventional tractors would not work on city lots, Henry even became the NC Distributor for Grillo and Hoss to make these tools available to the micro market farmers. Training in how to maintain and repair tools will become another micro-entrepreneurship business opportunity for the community.

The first Micro Market Farms were personally funded. Now they are applying for and receiving grants and funding from government and municipal agencies, churches, non-profits, and businesses.

CFSA has partnered with Ardis and Henry to train members of the SOFFA co-op to become GAP certified, to complete a CAP plan, host a two-day workshop on High Tunnel Construction, and to consult and provide resources.  This coming year they will be selecting and training new members of the co-op to establish gardens on designated abandoned city lots and build their own small agricultural businesses.

As they continue to develop the Micro Market Farms in Henderson, we have no doubt that they will grow a strong future for their community. As Morris White, Vance County Extension Director said, “If you turn your back on them for five minutes, something new will have been done already.”

Read more about CFSA Farm Services at www.carolinafarmstewards.org/farm-services/

And a recent article at The Conservation Fund: http://www.conservationfund.org/blog/1163-micro-farms-making-an-impact-in-henderson-north-carolina

SOFFA-EOY-2015 GIVE

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.

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.

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

 

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/

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

 

by Lisa Fouladbash, CFSA’s Organic Policy Coordinator

Miss December reached out a long pink tongue and licked my hand. It was the first time I had been kissed by a cow, but I couldn’t say I minded; she was a beaut, after all.  As I watched her lazily chewing cud on the grassy pasture at Reedy Fork Organic Dairy Farm, I listened to Ben Miller, family dairy farmer, explain how she got her name. In their cow calendar this large, beautiful brown Holstein cow starred as the December spread. Though Ben tries not to let on, I can tell he has his favorites- and Miss December is one of them.

Cute Brown Cow from Reedy Fork Organic DairyMy visit to Reedy Fork was my first visit to a dairy farm. It was a picturesque, pastoral scene of healthy, happy cows sleepily grazing on sunny pastures. And each cow had a story. Ben pointed out another cow, a lovely Holstein-Jersey breed, and became pensive as he told me how one snowy day she and her calf didn’t come back to the barn. He was worried they’d slipped on the ice and went to look for them. You can see that he was relieved like a parent when he found mother and daughter safely huddled together for warmth in the corner of the field. I could tell that Ben has a special bond with the cows that only a farmer could have.

The farm wasn’t always like this; until 2007, Reedy Fork was a conventional dairy farm. Then, Ben made the decision to pursue organic certification for the farm. A shadow passed across Ben’s face as he told me about how, on particularly hot summer days before he switched to organic practices, the cows would struggle with the heat in the barn, which was paved with concrete. One day he saw a cow suffer from heat stroke. “Does that still happen?” I ask, and he tells me no, that with the grassy pastures and trees, the cows find plenty of shade to cool down. “Are the cows happier now?” I ask him. “Yes” he replies emphatically, “Our cows are much less stressed.” He explains, “Our cows have greatly appreciated our decision to transition to organic. They’re not stuck on concrete all day. They are out on green pasture-eating what they are made to eat”. I ask, “Do you share a closer bond with the cows now that you farm organically?” He tells me that yes, now that the cows are less stressed, and he works with them more closely, he can come to know each one better.

It’s clear to me that this is how cows were made to live – peacefully roaming on green fields and eating a lot of fresh grass. This is what USDA Certified Organic is. Yes, it reduces chemicals, pesticides and herbicides to protect the environment and improve our health. And it’s more than that; it requires that livestock farmers set up an environment where their animals can “exhibit natural behaviors”. In other words, a place where a cow can be a cow. And a happy cow, let’s face it, means a happier farmer.

“Organic is better for you, the soil, and the entire ecosystem on the farm. When you buy organic, you are helping support local farmers…. Farmers that are better to their animals, where their cows can live a better lifestyle.” Ben explains. When you buy organic food from a local farmer like Ben, you know you are helping keep your dollars here at home.

Take the advice from Ben Miller (and Miss December!): “This New Years, make it a resolution to buy as much local organic produce and meat and vegetables as you can. Help support a farmer around you, help support farmers that are doing the right things for you and the environment, and for their animals.”

Cow at Reedy Fork Organic Dairy

From the Editor: It is my great pleasure to introduce to you a particularly special set of essays written not by professional journalists, or accomplished food bloggers, or even veterans to the local food movement. No, this next group of essays was written for CFSA by a class of English 102 students at UNC, whose professor wanted to give her students something truly important to write about. Thank you, Erin, for being such a great role model to these students and for sharing your love of all things delcious, nutritious, oh yeah, and sustainably-local!

by Julian Moten

Atop a grassy hill, a white, one-story house overlooks Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm. This farm is one of the largest buffalo farms east of the Mississippi and is owned by Jack and Sandy Pleasant. Jack, a former professor in the School of Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, was interested in buffalo from a very early age, ever since his days as a boy scout and a camping trip to Philmont Scout Ranch. “You never know what little things you do in life will stick with you,” he explained to me with a smile. Today, the land on which his buffalo roam was originally a farm that had been in his family for years. When the time arose, Jack decided to re-cultivate the “once upon a time farm.” This time, however, it would be a buffalo farm.

Jack takes great pride in his livestock. Each and every day he attends to all needs of the buffalo on his nearly self-sustaining farm. This process begins with the growing of hay that is then harvested and bailed. The bails are then wrapped in a plastic and allowed to “ripen” so that when they are unrolled the buffalo get the maximum nutritional value out of the hay. Feeding the buffalo such healthy hay also decreases the amount of waste produced, which, in turn, reduces the strain on the land since the livestock requires less feed. Jack can also control the quality of his hay using this procedure; if he grows the food himself, then he knows what the buffalo are eating and can ensure that his livestock get the best quality of food. He chooses to use hay over commercial feed because in his eyes, it is more ethical to do things the way that nature intended.

When the buffalo are not eating hay, they are free to graze in the fields. Two herds of buffalo rotate through different feeding plots to reduce the environmental impact. This rotation allows the buffalo to fertilize the fields that originally fed the buffalo in a self-supporting cycle, which is as close to nature’s way as Jack sees possible.  He does, however, use a small amount of commercial fertilizer on the fields to not only assure that there is always enough food for the livestock but to also help fight the erosion of topsoil with strong, healthy grass.

Another part of the job involves continuously weighing the buffalo herds, which is truly a labor intensive process. First, the buffalo must be herded from the field—a task which itself can take hours. Then, one by one, the buffalo must be guided through a system of gates that ensures the security and safety of both the animal and the farmer. This endeavor can, at times, take hours per animal. While the weighing sessions take place, antibiotics are usually administered to ensure the health of the livestock. While there are not “feedlot industrial” conditions at Sunset Ridge, the weather in North Carolina isn’t nearly as dry and naturally resistant to bacteria as the western feed lots, so bacteria populations tend to thrive in this climate, which can wreak havoc on livestock. At Sunset Ridge, the buffalo undergo around three antibiotic treatments per year, whereas buffalo on industrial feedlots may undergo as many as six. And while the use of antibiotics does disqualify Jack’s buffalo from being certified organic, he says that he would rather do all he can to both ensure the quality of his buffaloes and protect the consumers. “The relationship with the customers is a huge part of farming and something that I enjoy,” Jack told me, again with a smile.

But Jack’s hard work doesn’t stop here—we can’t forget about how he sources his herds in the first place, which, as Jack informs me, is quite an endeavor in itself.  For starters, he has to acquire buffaloes both from live births on the farm and from outside sources. The herd itself is built from many different types of buffaloes to ensure that genetic variation within the herd remains at a high level, which in turn keeps the genetics of the herd strong. The herds contain buffalo from North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Ohio.

But despite all of this hard work and the long, long (did I mention long?) hours he must put in, Jack still feels that sticking with it has been worth it. You can tell by the smile that comes over his face when he shares stories about his farm that he gets great joy out of his interactions with the buffaloes.  He enjoys the sun on his face, the wind, the smell of fresh dew, the smell of the grass and the sounds of buffalo hooves in the distance. He also says that nothing can compare to the interaction with the customer at the farmers market. Even though a relatively small number of buffalo farms exist, there is a huge demand for buffalo meat, so there are always people who are excited to buy it. In fact, demand is so high that Jack has had numerous offers from major grocery stores that are willing to buy all he can produce. He has turned them all down, however, due to his beloved interactions with the people and the “little things” that make his job as appealing as it is. This is what sets Jack and his farm apart: he does it not for the money and not for himself, but for the people who love what he does, and for the joy of being a part of something larger than himself—the system of a self-sustaining, local, coherent food system.

Jack believes that we should be working toward a local system that has its own infrastructure, its own economy, and its own self-supporting and self-sustaining job market—one where everyone offers their own special goods or services, and where each play their own roles in “keeping it local.” This is what Sunset Ridge Farm is all about.  Between the feel and spirit of the buffalo, the natural feeding methods, the low impact grazing techniques, Sunset Ridge Buffalo Farm is truly a one of a kind place.

by Jennifer Sparks
Updated by Angie Lavezzo, CFSA Communications Coordinator, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023

Tucked away just a short distance off Highway 123 in Liberty, South Carolina, a local mushroom farm has a big story to tell. Off a small side street, it sits back from the road and is easily missed the first time, but with one quick turnaround, I found it and received a very warm welcome, both from the owners and one of the friendliest dogs on earth, appropriately named Enoki. Sitting down to a shaded picnic table with fresh cold watermelon slices and local blueberries, I was told the story behind this unique experiment that the owner/farmer believes could heal a plethora of human and environmental ills. The operation is Mushroom Mountain, and the owner is Olga Katic. Olga has spent the last 15 years building up his farm on its current site. The property includes “the world’s first interpretive mushroom farm,” complete with walking trails, composting, and “mycogardening” demonstration areas, all of which we toured together, and she described each in promising and expert detail.

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