Makes house calls

CN-MR-2-HOUSE-CALLS-006by Laura Rodley

When travelling veterinarian Stephanie Vassar arrives in her truck and takes two suitcases out of her truck, she is not moving in. She is carrying her Universal Myrad 60 digital x-ray machine to x-ray horses’ legs, checking for arthritis and other medical issues of her patients.

“It’s super cool,” she said. When asked how much it cost, she answered, “More than my truck,” a 2013 Toyota 4-Runner. She bought the x-ray machine a month ago for her new business, Great Falls Equine And Veterinary Services based in Gill, MA that she opened at the beginning of March. She travels all over Franklin County, as far east as Phillipston, up to Southern Vermont and as far south as Southampton and South Hadley, treating sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas and smaller backyard cattle herds.

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Promoting native bee pollinators in organic farming systems

by Katie Navarra

Honey bees are the most widely known pollinator species. However, recent research shows there are numerous pollinator species and that the more diverse the species the increased pollination benefits. “There are thousands of bee species, some are solitary, some nest in the ground, others in twigs and trees,” explained David Crowder, Assistant Professor of Entomology at Washington State University.

During an eOrganic webinar, Crowder and Elias Bloom, a Ph.D. student in Entomology working in Crowder’s lab, discussed the diversity of native bees in farming systems and the roles they may play in supplement or replacing honey bees for pollination services.

“The decline of bees is a major issue globally,” Crowder added. Protecting all pollinators, including wild bees, is like providing insurance against the loss of honey bees. “If anything happens to honey bees or another species, when a rich, diverse population is present, it offsets the decrease in population,” he added.

Though findings from experimental tests are limited, the available studies suggest that as the number of pollinator species increases, seed production is also greater. “Only when there were up to 9 or 10 bee species is the efficiency similar to that of manual pollinating,” he said. [Read more…]

Driven to grow local grains

CM-MR-3-Tebbe-9by Karl H. Kazaks

LEESBURG, VA — Morven Park is a 1,000-acre property with a historic mansion that was once the home of Virginia Governor Westmoreland Davis. Davis was an advocate for agriculture and one of the founders of the Virginia Dairymen’s Association. Today, his estate is run by a non-profit organization that has a mission to serve the public in a number of ways. To meet its agriculture mandate, the park has started a farm incubator program. The first participant in that program is Three Monkeys Farm, a local grain operation helmed by Trent Tebbe. Tebbe grew up on a grain farm in Indiana, where his family grew corn and soybeans for grain and seed, as well as wheat and popcorn.

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The superstition mountains of GMOs

CM-MR-1-GMO_0456by Steve Wagner
Changing Food Trends was the theme of the 137th PennAg Annual Meeting and it asked the question on the front page of the program “do consumers drive the agricultural marketplace?” Penn State’s Ross Pifer was one of the answerers. Pifer, who is with the Agricultural Law Resource and Reference Center’s Rural Economic Development Clinic, pointed out many of the ifs, ands or buts with regard to how various states are handling some of the thornier issues. Pifer is specifically addressing mandatory GMO labeling. Fifteen years ago, the New York Times ran an op-art illustration of what the supermarket offering of GMO foods might look like in the future. Among the items were odorless fish ($5.99/lb.), rectangular zucchini (for easier cooking on the grill), and Viagra peas for 99 cents. (Don’t ask.) But since public perceptions of GMOs still runs against them, largely mountains of superstition and misinformation, Pifer focused on a specific argument using tomatoes as an example, and also how some states are managing labeling of GMO products, and also with legal developments. [Read more…]