Naturally, I recommend to all that you subscribe to the newsletter directly, but in the meanwhile, I like to help spread the word a bit here and there. My favorites from the August issue are on labels that mean what they say; Whole Foods Market buying local; a poem paean to windmills; and more on locavoring, in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Maine, and beyond. Please, do read on.
Grass Fed Beef, Credit Where Credit Is Due
USDA’s proposed rule to certify livestock as “grass fed” might be given some teeth, thanks to family farmers and ranchers who have established markets with consumers
USDA has finally proposed an administrative rule that would require livestock certified as “grass fed” receive a minimum of 99 percent of their lifetime feed from grass or forage, increased from the 80 percent proposed in 2002. The proposed rule, which is open for public comment until August 10, 2006, should be approved by USDA forthwith.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. Folks like Chuck and Bev Henkel of Norfolk, Nebraska, among many others, have worked tirelessly to establish a market for grass fed livestock that provides a premium for family farmers and ranchers who produce high quality meat raised in ways that consumers support.
Approval of the proposed standard will be a dramatic victory and will ensure that grass fed beef producers are able to maintain their hard-earned reputation for marketing a healthy and environmentally sustainable beef product.
USDA’s new grass fed standard is a response to an effort led by the Center for Rural Affairs, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and other organizations to improve USDA’s 2002 proposal for livestock label claims such as grass fed and free range as well as antibiotic free and hormone free.
We urge everyone to help secure this victory by sending their comments in support of the grass fed label claim. While you are at it, urge USDA to move forward with the other sustainable production labels mentioned above. You can find out more about submitting comments and view a sample comment letter at – www.msawg.org – under the action alert on grass fed beef.
Contact: John Crabtree, 402.687.2103 x 1010 or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
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Whole Foods Market Buying Initiative
Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest natural food chain, has announced an initiative to buy from small farmers that meet “animal compassionate” standards.
The announcement came in an open letter from Chief Executive Officer John Mackey in response to writer Michael Pollan’s criticism of Whole Foods’ purchases from corporate organic farms.
The company has hired a field buyer to work exclusively on “animal compassionate” sources. The initial suppliers “will be relatively small in scale,” wrote Mackey. Whole Foods is also interested in grass fed livestock and buying more local food products for its stores. Mackey wrote that “Whole Foods has established an annual budget of $10 million to promote local agriculture (especially animal agriculture)” through low interest loans.
This could be a significant opportunity to revitalize family farming and ranching through high value markets. Whole Foods is one of the nation’s fastest growing supermarkets. If it decides there is a market edge in selling products grown on small farms and ranches, others will follow. It offers the opportunity for family farms and ranches to regain market share from corporate farms.
Contact: Chuck Hassebrook, 402.687.2103 x 1018 or email@example.com.
Windmill Project Shares Poetry and More
Over and over Henry Nuxoll [I think I might know Henry’s niece. I’ll have to ask her. How many Nuxolls can there be?] has been described as a “man with a vision” who loves windmills almost as much as the beautiful countryside where he lives, a place where he invites thousands of people each year for three of the most exciting concerts in the Midwest. When Henry bought his farm, for the second time, his dream was to assemble the world’s largest standing windmill collection, but his dream has evolved to embrace his entire hometown and the surrounding area.
As he watched the decline of small communities and farms, he wanted to bring a second chance to others because he had been given new chances and new hope. His desire was realized by the formation of a nonprofit corporation appropriately named “Second Chance Ranch.” Since its inception, millions of dollars have been channeled into Comstock, Nebraska, and surrounding communities.
As the Women’s Project for Rural America began its very first Windmill Project, we headed for Comstock to visit Henry, the windmill man, and came away with much more than windmill knowledge. We came away with a vision of a man who truly understood the plight of rural America and was doing his bit to save his part Nebraska.
Henry has agreed to auction off our public art windmill renderings at his place where the proceeds will go to help revitalize our rural communities. Yes, if windmills meant life to our early settlers, a windmill project can mean life to our communities today.
By Henry Nuxoll
Windmills are like People
They point us towards Heaven
Like God’s Steeple
Drawing their Power from Sources unseen
Just as Our Life here in between
Like People, some are Big
Some are Small
Some are short
Some are Tall
Some are pretty
Some work…Some ought
Some are quiet
Some are outspoken
Some are all fixed up
Some are Broken
Man can Restore Windmills giving them Second Chances
Just as God can restore man and all our branches
Lord thank you for my failures and Second Chances
For they lead to these Roads of Better Glances.
Here’s to you Lord
WHY NOT WINDMILLS
Contact: For more information about the Center’s public arts windmill project, please feel free to contact Barbara Chamness at 402.687.2103 x 1007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Options Growing for Connecting Consumers to Local Food Sources
The number of people looking for locally produced food continues to grow. So do the number of producers, and future producers, all around us, wondering how to market their goods to fill the local demand.
Local farmers’ markets are one way to meet this increasing demand, but they do not reach all consumers. Online farm directories are another tool. Many of these allow you to search by state and/or zip code. They offer customers access to contact information about the producers and, to the producers, a way to get your name and products out in front of the consumer’s eye.
The “Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign,” a popular toolkit designed for producers by FoodRoutes, is taking hold in many states. This is a cost-effective, targeted way to launch a buy local campaign and provides a set of tools to help develop a strong campaign to promote locally grown and produced food in your area. Producers can focus their energy on grassroots organizing efforts and not on flyers, brochures, etc.
The program does have success. As shown by the Center’s 2004 report Fresh Promises, the Buy Fresh Buy Local Campaign has had huge success in Iowa. Since inception in 1998, local food expenditures have more than doubled and have had an economic impact of over $7 million. Helping in the effort has been the participation of institutions – restaurants, hospitals, care facilities, and college campuses.
As farmers continue to get less and less of the consumer food dollar and go out of business at alarming rates, corporate agriculture’s profits are continuing to increase. Corporate agribusiness profits increased 98 percent during the 1990s. Meanwhile, in 2002 farmers earned their lowest real net cash income since 1940. For more than 60 percent of farm households in 1998, farming actually lowered the household’s before-tax income.
A recent study in Maine shows that shifting just 1 percent of consumer expenditures to direct purchasing of local food products would increase farmers’ income by 5 percent. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association estimates that by encouraging Maine residents to spend just $10 per week on local food, $100,000,000 will be invested back into farmers’ pockets and the Maine economy each growing season.
This summer, Nebraska launched its own Buy Fresh Buy Local initiative. Though in its very early stages, support and enthusiasm has been high, according to coordinator Corrine Kolm. This summer, the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution declaring August as “Buy Fresh, Buy Local, and Fair Trade” month.
In cooperation with the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society, Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, and Nebraska Great Plains RC&D, a directory has been published, a label has been developed, and a grassroots campaign is underway.
So where does our food come from and why does it matter? For many of us, due to the long distances our food must travel to reach us, the location of the farmer who grew our food remains a mystery. It has been estimated that in the U.S. the average item of food has traveled 1300 miles to reach your dinner table (see the Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project).
FoodRoutes Network is working with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at the University of Wisconsin to study the origins of the food we eat. The Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project is compiling information about a variety of different food items, including tomatoes, coffee, and chicken.
What can I do?
Buying food directly from local farmers reduces the portion of your food dollar going to corporate agribusiness and ensures that farmers get their fair share of your food dollar. Local farmers will reinvest more of your food dollar in your region, in effect “creating” money and economic prosperity in your region.
Buying fair trade products ensures that farm workers and producers elsewhere get a decent wage and enjoy safe living and working conditions. Look for the fair trade label and buy fair trade products whenever possible.
Take the $10 a week challenge. Spend just 10 of your food dollars on locally grown food each week. Encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to do the same. The economic impact you and others have will multiply!
Activities for Buy Fresh Buy Local month in Nebraska, visit www.umcneb.org/pages/static/umconnect/060607_buyfresh_brochure.pdf
Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska: www.buylocalnebraska.org
Buy Fresh Buy Local Iowa: www.practicalfarmers.org/buyfresh.asp
Wisconsin Foodshed Research Project, ww.foodshed.wisc.edu
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, www.mofga.org
Contact: Contact: Kim Preston, email@example.com or 402.687.2103 x 1022 for more information on Buy Fresh, Buy Local Nebraska.