Is it organic or is it natural?

by George Looby, DVM

As the designated shopper makes his/her way through the aisles of the supermarket with the square wheel of the shopping cart not quite in sync with the other three one cannot help but be somewhat confused by the array of designations given to even the the most basic of foodstuffs. Not that long ago eggs were Grade A Jumbo, Extra Large, Large etc. Now one of the more basic of our dietary needs has been given additional designations and making sense of it all becomes a bit confusing. Free range, natural, organic, GMO free … just what do all of these designations mean or do they mean anything at all? [Read more…]

Gabe Brown: Writing on the back of the check is better

CEW-MR-3-Gabe Brown1by Troy Bishopp

TOWANDA, PA — When North Dakota’s soil health evangelist Gabe Brown speaks: Farmers listen. They also fill fire halls and fields to visit with him about the finer points of regenerating soil, improving profit and actually having fun on the farm again.

The candid rancher spoke in front of over 150 farmers from three states at the Wysox Volunteer Fire Company as part of a 3-day soil health roadshow in Pennsylvania with Dr. Bernard Sweeney, Director of the Stroud Water Research Center and Norm Conrad from the Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). [Read more…]

Rotational grazing for maximum fertility and soil health

CN-MR-2-ROTATIONAL-GRAZING-4101by Sanne Kure-Jensen

Farmers have understood for centuries that animal manure helps return vital nutrients to crop fields. Many farmers pull mechanical spreaders behind fossil fuel-burning tractors to move manure into fields, but at Polyface farm, livestock spread their own manure. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley advocates rotational grazing; they blend livestock and pasture species to puzzle pests.

Well managed grazing concentrates livestock in one area for a short period and then move them on. At Polyface farm, portable electric fences contain grazing beef herds. Farmers move the fences and livestock daily. Salatin said his animals look forward to their fresh “salad bar” each morning. The cattle graze forage at a sustainable level. They trample their manure patties ensuring good soil contact and starting the decomposition process. [Read more…]

Fighting Fire Blight

CN-MR-2-FIRE-BLIGHT4940by Kristen M. Castrataro

The 2014 growing season was surprisingly difficult for many apple and pear growers in Southern New England. The warm, wet spring resulted in widespread fire blight, a bacterial disease whose symptoms include blossom blight, shoot blight, cankers, fruit lesions, and in extreme cases tree death. To help farmers combat this emerging disease, the Rhode Island Fruit Growers’ Association invited Jon Clements from University of Massachusetts Extension to address fire blight at their annual meeting held on March 18, 2015 at the RI Farm Bureau offices in West Greenwich, RI. [Read more…]

New England Farmers Union

CN-MR-1-NE FARM UNION(2)by George Looby, DVM

The New England Farmers Union (NEFU) was founded in 2006 as a chapter member of the National Farmers Union, an agricultural advocacy organization founded in 1906. With headquarters in Turners Falls, MA, it is a membership organization committed to enhancing the quality of life for family farmers, fishermen, nurserymen and their customers through educational opportunities, co-operative endeavors and civic engagement. The members engage New England elected officials and public agencies to implement and enforce laws and regulations that will strengthen and support New England agriculture and fisheries. Regional legislators look to NEFU for advice and counsel when deciding on how to vote on issues pertaining to the Union’s mission. [Read more…]