Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Canola Update

Text copy from here. Image credit: New England Travel.

Oregon Appeals Court halts canola rules after farm groups say they would cause 'irreparable harm'

Responding to opponents' worry that growing canola in the Willamette Valley would cause "irreparable harm" to valuable specialty seed crops, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ordered a temporary halt to state rules that would have allowed canola planting this fall.

The court issued a temporary stay to an Oregon Department of Agriculture decision that would have opened perhaps 480,000 acres to growing canola. The decision puts a hold on planting until the court rules on objections raised by a coalition of vegetable seed farmers and food safety activists. The court may rule on the case by the end of August, according to the Associated Press.

Some farmers want to plant canola for processing into cooking oil or biodiesel fuel. They see canola as a valuable crop that can be safely grown in rotation with grass seed or grains. The state previously banned canola from a 3.7 million acre protected zone in the valley, but  Aug. 3 revised that to allow canola plantings at the edges of the zone.

Although the state decision opens 480,000 acres to canola, the agriculture department believes only a fraction of that land would be planted in any given year. Farmers would grow it in rotation with other crops, planting canola two years out of any five.

Specialty seed and fresh market vegetable growers are outraged. They describe canola as an "aggressive and weedy species" that easily cross-pollinates and contaminates other crops and carries pests and diseases. According to a motion filed with the appeals court, canola pollen is documented to spread more than five miles and canola seed can remain in the soil for three years.

The motion says the Willamette Valley grows the majority of the world's Brassica seed crops, a genus that includes broccoli, turnip, radish, mustards, rutabaga and cabbage. In addition, almost all of U.S. canola is genetically engineered for resistance to Roundup, the most commonly used agricultural herbicide. That resistance will make it harder to control escaped canola plants, the motion says, and many international buyers will not purchase seeds that contain traces of genetically modified material.

They point to an Oregon State University report that said some seed buyers indicated they would "pull all contracts" if canola production is allowed.

Canola will do "irreparable harm and damage to a globally unique agricultural resource," opponents conclude.

The motion was filed by Friends of Family Farmers, the Center for Food Safety and Willamette Valley seed grower Frank Morton.

--Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We're getting excited for Friday!

I hope to see lots and lots of folks at our Farm to School meeting this Friday! RSVPs are ringing in around 40, which is great to see! Several local school nutrition programs will be represented, and someone from Ecotrust's Farm to School Program too, and Paul Hudak, and Barbara Boyer! It's going to be an awesome conversation.

To wet you appetite for our conversation, here are a few great articles about Farm to School I've run across recently. Enjoy!

1. The USDA is doing a census of Farm to School programs this school year, with the hope of identifying barriers that they face and helping pave the way for easier adoption of F2S programs across the country.

2. The Capital Press reported recently that institutions (schools, hospitals, etc) are becoming more interested in purchasing directly from farms.

3. Colleges report that enrollment in agriculture programs is up.

4. The Farm is relevant again in this Washington school district. What a great story!

See y'all on Friday (if you need details/directions to get there, click on the "events calendar" tab above!).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

School Greens program connects students to their food

Here's another fun video--learn about what the kids in the School Greens project in New York City have been up to and what they've been learning about where their food comes from. Inspiring!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Please join us for Farm to School: a Community Conversation August 24th at 6pm

A joint presentation of Slow Food Yamhill County, the Small Farms Conservancy, and Terra Nova Community Farm.

Please RSVP so we have enough food for everyone! Contact Beth Satterwhite at beth.satt@gmail.com or 503.724.9384. Thank you!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

ACTION ALERT! Canola coming to the Willamette Valley

Hello everyone. This post is reblogged from Friends of Family Farmers. Please take action now to protect organic farmers and specialty seed growers in the Willamette Valley from the threat of GMO Canola. To read more about the spread of this crop, read this article from NPR.

Tell ODA to Protect Organic and Specialty Farmers and to Halt the Temporary Canola Rule

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) is preparing to steamroll seed and crop farmers and open up the Willamette Valley to canola production, which could be ruinous to Oregon specialty seed industry. The debate surrounding canola has been going on for some time and the most recent turn in events has vegetable and seed growers furious and fiercely criticizing ODA's process and motivation.  We are asking that ODA refrain from releasing any rules changing the protected canola planting areas until more stakeholders are heard and there is more transparency around the decision making.  There is no need to rush into what is potentially a very bad situation for many of Oregon's farmers.  Please note, this is not just a GMO issue.  Even if GM canola were excluded from planting, most of the same problems still exist for crop farmers and especially for specialty seed growers.  This is also not just an issue for the Willamette Valley - not only will other areas of Oregon be affected by these boundary changes, the way these rules are being created sets a dangerous precedent for agriculture in Oregon.

Follow the links to the full article and to sign the petition. Thank you!

For reflection on what this means for seed growers in the valley, please read this article from Eugene Weekly (reposted from here):

Growing Canola Controversy

Canola. It sounds so harmless. Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath says that the name comes from “Canadian oil,” and the moniker was devised after Canadian scientists took a plant called rapeseed and modified it to make it lower in erucic acid and thus a little more edible for animals and humans. Canola is causing a controversy among those who support local foods as well as spurring allegations about biofuels producers and suppliers such as Eugene’s SeQuential Biofuels.
The Oregon Department of Agriculture is expanding the areas where canola can be grown in the Willamette Valley — some farmers in Oregon are interested in growing canola as an energy source — but that endangers the livelihoods of specialty seed growers. 
The ODA has adopted a temporary rule starting Aug. 10 that will expire in 180 days, but allows canola planting in September. Morton says that temporary rule does not allow for public comment. ODA is also going for a permanent rule that will allow public comment, but at that point canola will already have been planted — without public input, Morton says.
He says the reason that canola was known as rapeseed is “because once you have it in your field, it doesn’t go away.” He says the seed is “very, very long lasting in the soil” and spreads like a weed. If you plant canola one year, it will come up as a weed the next year. “It’s what it’s known for,” he says, and “if you’re a seed grower and your neighbors have canola, you have a big problem as a seed producer.”
The prospect of GMO (genetically modified) canola spreading into crops in the valley makes the problem even worse. The heart of the matter, Morton says is that canola seeds can cross with rutabagas, turnips, some kales and other vegetable crops. It doesn’t just affect the seed industry; it also affects red clover growers. 
According to 2010 ODA data, Oregon’s specialty seed industry is worth more than $32 million. Canola is worth $2.5 million. Morton says that the seed industry sales are generated on only 10,000 acres, while canola takes many more thousands of acres to turn any sort of profit. Oregon sells its seeds to other countries whose seed crops are already contaminated by canola, Morton says. 
At an Oregon House Agriculture Committee meeting in 2010 when the canola issue came up, according to the agriculture newspaper Capital Press Dan Hilburn, director of the ODA’s plant division, said that during phone calls to an international panel of seed-production experts, “the department heard over and over again to be careful.” The newspaper reported that Hilburn told the committee, “All these people knew about the Willamette Valley. They said, ‘That’s a very special place. Don’t blow it.’”
So Morton wants to know why the ODA would want to bring canola in and risk an agricultural industry that brings Oregon international recognition. He says a three-year study by Oregon State University scientists that was completed in 2009 showed that canola “was a one-way street,” and that they would not advise introducing canola to the valley because there were risks to seed industry.
Some have speculated that the demand for biofuels might be part of what is spurring the ODA to change the 3.7 million acre canola restriction zone that goes from Portland to Springfield. Ian Hill, CEO & co-founder of SeQuential Biofuels, says this demand to plant canola in the valley is not coming from SeQuential, and the business flatly does not support GMO canola.
“No, we’re not in support of GMO, period,” Hill says, and he adds that SeQuential does not and will not purchase GMO oils. The rumors may have started because Tomas Endicott, a SeQuential founding partner who left in 2008, is now part of the Willamette Biomass Processors in Rickreall, and there has been further speculation that WBP would process GMO canola. However, the facility is Oregon Tilth-certified for organics, Endicott says. He says WBP has been GMO-free since 2008 and at least one of its companies, whose seeds Willamette Biomass processes, purchases its seeds in Europe to ensure they are GMO-free.
The Oregon ag department has said in a press release that “the rule does not address the production of genetically modified canola within the protected district” because genetically modified canola “has been deregulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
Hill says he feels the dialogue that has started over the canola issue is important, and while SeQuential has supported the ODA in the past in looking at oil seed crops that could be grown locally in the Willamette Valley, the company would only support crops that wouldn’t hurt others. Hill says SeQuential has let ODA know it will not purchase GMO crops. 
SeQuential is in favor of moving from Oregon importing petroleum to growing its energy in state, Hill says. He says the company focuses on waste stream-based energy such as cooking oil for biodiesel and sugar water waste from fruit drying for ethanol. Growing energy crops in conjunction with our food system is a long-term goal, Hill says, but “it’s a terribly difficult problem that will take years to unravel.”
Endicott, who was part of the advisory group that discussed the changes to the planting restrictions, says that the new planting zones are on the edges of the valley where high, dryland farmers want to rotate canola into their crops. Morton says the problem there is that growers of red clover in those areas could be affected by canola and its spread as well as the pests and diseases that accompany it.
Morton objects to the process by which the decision to change the planting zones came about. He says, “We are a world-class seed production area,” and he doesn’t want to see the “beautiful nest befouled by a plant that could become a roadside weed.”
He says the seed growers were basically told canola was going to be planted and the seed growers’ cooperation was wanted. “That’s like sort of like asking someone for permission to have a camel sleep in your bed,” he says. “It’s not collaboration if you have a gun held to your head.”
“If we are to continue to exist, we have to resist the introduction of canola in the valley. That’s the mantra,” Morton says.
For more on the canola issue, visit http://wkly.ws/1c4 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kids talk about their school gardens

One aspect of many Farm to School projects is a school garden. The notion of Edible Schoolyards was popularized by Alice Waters and her work with Berkeley, California schools, and has since spread across the nation. School gardens are wonderful outdoor learning spaces for kids, offering a chance to learn science, math, history, and more in a hands-on way. They also bring much needed green space, fresh air, tactile enrichment, responsibility, and more for kids of all ages.

Here are a couple of videos of kids talking about their school gardens from the City Sprouts program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Pretty awesome!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Save the Date: August 24th

We hope you can join us! Check back in the next couple of weeks for a series of posts on Farm to School programs from around the nation! Click on the "Events Calendar" tab above for more details.