At CFSA, we’re on a mission to bring local, organic food to your table from farmers who share your values. To make it easier to shop your values and understand all of the label claims out there for meat, dairy and eggs, CFSA has created this handy pocket-sized guide that you can fold up and carry in your wallet!
CFSA Helps Farmers Grow Local & Organic
CFSA’s Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm is growing the next generation of organic farmers.
CFSA helps Carolina Ground connect Farmer – Miller – Baker, Bringing Organic Closer to Home
CFSA Has Been Growing Organic Farms in the Carolinas for over 35 Years
by Aaron Newton, CFSA’s Lomax Farm Coordinator
Providing consistent access to nutrients during the early stages of transplant development is a problem many organic growers face. At Lomax Farm we’ve developed a strategy that addresses nutrient availability in transplant production and uses some key, low-cost equipment to accomplish the task.
This fall we will be testing different seed-starting recipes, and we will share those results with everyone later this year. For this Expert Tip, however, we will focus on equipment and we’ll be using a standard recipe as an example.
By Lisa Fouladbash, Organic Policy Coordinator
When you first drive up to the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center in Hoke County, NC , in the heart of North Carolina farm country, you see a vibrant community center, tucked away on an enchanting small woodland and cypress pond. More striking yet is what you don’t see- the long, rich, tumultuous history upon which the center is built. The center, in many ways, represents the Lumbee’s fight against- and incredible triumph over- decades of oppression, segregation, and cultural silencing. Despite the adversity they have faced, the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center has become a beacon in the community, providing invaluable health, food and community services to the Lumbee community while keeping cultural traditions alive.
Of the many diverse projects Hawkeye offers, organic food and farming have become invaluable tools for fostering community engagement, sharing native cultural traditions, and providing healthy lifestyles for their youth. To begin to understand the true value of organic farming in this dynamic community; however, it’s helpful to dive into the vivid history behind the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center.
Hawkeye first started as a school of the Lumbee tribe in Hoke County, in 1924, and – like all Native American schools at the time- the Hawkeye School was segregated. With the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s came the integration of white and black children into the school. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by cultural appropriation, as white leaders in the community tried to erase the native cultural traditions and history of the school. Perhaps nothing can represent such cultural appropriation- the act of forceful stripping of one’s culture, history, and lineage- more than the changing of a name. In 1968, white leaders in the community changed the name of the school from Hawkeye to South Hoke, and it remained this way for over 40 years. In 1997, the Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center, along with another Native American not-for-profit, began to work to restore the name. It wasn’t until 2007- after 40 years of struggle- that the Lumbee were able to restore its rightful name- Hawkeye.
Today, Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center stands as a living symbol of the Lumbee’s resilience against adversity, and their unwavering commitment to preserving their rich culture. And food- organic food to be specific- has been a vital component to these efforts. After receiving a grant in 2012 for the Hawkeye Sustainable Lifeways Project, the center developed a certified organic farm to produce local, nutritious food for the community.
According to Gwen Locklear, the vice-chairman of Hawkeye, they developed the farm in response to the adverse health impacts she was seeing in her community. The Lumbee community in Hoke County struggles from astoundingly high rates of cancer and diabetes, and Gwen believes that the high use of chemicals in conventional farms and nearby textile plants are to blame. It wasn’t always this way, however. As I spoke to Gwen, she reminisced about how it used to be – when every tribal family had a garden to supply fresh food to their household. Unfortunately, with the advent of conventional tobacco and cotton practices, families began to rely more on farming with pesticides and herbicides, and less on gardens. But Hawkeye is changing the conversation, literally. Gwen told me, “The organic farm brings conversation back… older people come out and talk to the farmer and it brings back memories of how they were raised.” Some of these older generations have even been inspired to return to the farm, after coming to Hawkeye. With a positive influence like this, Gwen believes Hawkeye can directly improve the health and well-being of the community, by providing healthy organic food and inspiring people to return to their farming roots.
Importantly, the Hawkeye farm provides organic food at prices the Lumbee community members can afford. We all know that organic food can get expensive, and this often limits the ability of native communities to access it. Like most indigenous communities worldwide, the Lumbee struggle with limited access to resources, linked to a long history of dispossession and oppression. The Lumbee tribe faces an additional challenge- for though they are federally recognized (which should grant them rights and freedoms by the national government), language written into a 50-year-old government act has stripped them of their rights and freedoms, including their ability to access many basic, necessary government services, which are offered to other federally recognized tribes. Despite their many petitions to the national government to remedy this wrong-doing, the government fails to provide the Lumbee tribe with their full native rights to this very day.
Regardless of the lack of governmental support, the Hawkeye Center has made great strides towards improving the health of the community through active community engagement. And their organic farm is a true community effort! Students from ten different universities assist in the farm through volunteering and courses. They learn about cultural plants, herbs and traditions as they get their hands dirty in the medicinal gardens, beautifully arranged in traditional sun circle patterns. They are able to reconnect with their ancestral traditions, by building a traditional longhouse along one of their cultural hiking trails. Community members can also participate, and learn valuable organic strategies they can take back to their own farms. As Gwen says, “The center is like a light in the community, a place of belonging, and organic farming has brought people together”.
Hawkeye currently has 2 acres in organic production. They sell their food at a small stand located next to the center, as well as through CSAs. But Gwen Locklear has a broader vision- that this will serve as a model farm and food hub that will inspire the growth and expansion of more organic farms across the entire Lumbee tribe. The next step? To engage with and sell to the community at Fort Bragg- the large military base in their backyard-providing health organic food to the US Army.
The Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center is a living example of how a community can rise above adversity through active community engagement. But it hasn’t been easy, and the reality is that native communities nationwide struggle with some of the highest rates of youth obesity and diabetes. As the people at Hawkeye Indian Cultural Center have shown us, local, organic farming can foster community resilience, increase food security, and improve health of these communities. But government support is also vital- to recognize the rights of tribes like Hawkeye, and provide resources and funding for research and tribal programs. We at CFSA work to advocate for more resources, funding, and opportunities to continue building the local sustainable and organic, food systems that are the cornerstone of thriving communities.
Learn more about the Hawkeye Indian Culture Center’s Organic Farm at www.hawkeyeindianculturalcenter.com/organic-garden.php
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.
My 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.”
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!
“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 carolinafarmstewards.org/give
or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312.
Are you interested in learning more about the USDA NOP organic certification process? If so, take a walk on the Road to Organic Certification and watch how Candice Howard successfully certifies her sustainable farm and how Bruce Baxter successfully transitions his farm to certified organic.